Irredeemable Hellscape: An Amateur Anthropologist's Take on Philadelphia

It's been a couple weeks since my last post. Given that I'm trying to avoid resting on my laurels in 2018, I figured it was time to sit down and write again. Speaking of resting on laurels, I recently visited a city that has been resting on its laurels since the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. 

I've purposely waited to a few days to write this in an attempt to let some of my raw emotions cool down. It was the only way to avoid a post filled with sadistic thoughts such as "Well, if North Korea is determined to use a nuke, it wouldn't be that bad if it landed on..." 

First: The Good

The historical section of Philadelphia - which includes the Liberty Bill, Independence Hall and other sites - was very cool, despite nothing being open as a result of an unfortunately-timed shutdown of the federal government. 

A second positive is that my day in Philadelphia has taught me to appreciate the comforts of home. As I worked to remove over a foot of snow the other day I did so with a smile on my face. Why? Because I wasn't in Philadelphia. 

Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

The Bad 

It won't seem like it after you read this, but I swear I am an open-minded person who appreciates the opportunity to experience new locations and cultures. Until this trip I've never had a bad thing to say about anywhere I've visited in the world. This includes a diverse array of major cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Francisco, Memphis and San Diego, as well as sleepy haunts like Boise, Salt Lake City, Spokane and Helena. My international travel is more limited, but includes Vancouver, B.C., Jamaica, and Belize. 
The night before I left I said the following in jest when my son asked where I was going: "I'm going to Philadelphia to observe a lesser class of people in their own habitat." This was a tongue-in-cheek response to the number of people who had been warning me about my upcoming trip. I thought there was no way it could be THAT bad. I was prepared for the worst (or so I thought) but expecting to have an enjoyable time in a popular east coast city. Unfortunately, my comment to my son turned out to be entirely accurate. 

What The Hell Is In The Water? 

The flight in to Philadelphia concludes with a view of South Philly and the nearby industrial yards along the river. There were large globs of a floating substance that some passengers naively suspected were floating chunks of ice despite temperatures in the 50s. The globs looked more like garbage and/or sewage to me. Little did I know that it was only just the beginning. 

What's That Smell? 

"It's piss. Yes, that's definitely piss."

It wasn't always piss. At other times it was body odor, rotting building materials, strewn garbage, and sewer gas. But, mostly, it was piss. Center City, particularly the subways, reeked of urine. Much of Philadelphia smells as if they've forgotten to change the city-wide urinal freshener since the age of Rocky. 

What's With The Trash? 

No, not the trashy people; I'll cover them later. I'm literally talking about the trash that seemingly covers every sidewalk, tree lawn, park area, step, and lobby in this city. Every step you take is through a scattered field of food scraps, wrappers, papers, and things I decided not to identify in order to preserve my own health. 

I was taught at a young age to pick up after myself and don't consider putting an item in the trash to be heavy-lifting. Apparently this is not part of the parenting handbook in Filthadelphia. Sitting at the city's Irish Memorial, near a literal pile of trash bags, I had a thought: "If this is supposedly the good side of the Delaware River, how awful is New Jersey?" 

Why Is It So Damp In Here? 

Every time we were in the subway, it was a struggle to not face-plant as a result of the slippery floors. My longtime friend and I kept commenting, "Why is it so damp on the stairs in here?" Looking back I have a guess and it rhymes with hiss...

That wasn't the only issue with transportation. The kiosks for purchasing fares were often inoperable, the airport is laid-out like a Rube Goldberg device, and nothing was open in the airport as we awaited our fight back home. Not even a bar was in operation at a time when I wanted nothing more than to drown my post-game sorrows in Yuengling. 

Where Are The Onions? 

I was actually really looking forward to taking in some of the local cuisine, which means a cheesesteak. I ordered mine "one with whiz" which means one cheesesteak with fried onions and cheese whiz. It wasn't until my last couple of bites that I realized they forgot the onions. It was an innocent mistake that became more annoying as the overall trip grew worse. Each subsequent indignity caused me to dwell more on the lack of onions until mid-flight back I told my friend I was going to go home, drink a whiskey, and fry an entire onion before going to bed. Once I arrived back home I thought better of it. 

What Is Wrong With You People?

Philadelphians have an awful inferiority complex, likely driven by the fact they lie halfway between the first class cities of New York and Washington, D.C. As we rode the Broad Street line to Lincoln Financial Field, I couldn't help but think "What happened to you folks? Were you all touched by an uncle?" 

Speaking of the game, I have two young children at home and my friend is getting married this summer. Needless to say we intended to make it home injury-free and were well aware of the reputation Eagles fans carry. We wore Vikings gear, but also had zip-up hoodies so we could go incognito when necessary to avoid being targeted. This came in handy during the gauntlet that is the tailgating lots. 

The AT&T stop is the end of the Broad Street line, dropping you off in the midst of one of the lots. It was immediately clear that we had entered a post-apocalyptic hellscape that was nothing like the parking facilities near U.S. Bank Stadium back home. For those who have seen the videos taken by others before the game, they are indeed an accurate reflection of the pregame scene. 

I understand that a fan base is under no obligation to and should not be expected to welcome opposing fans with open arms. Verbal jousting is one thing, but throwing full beers at opposing fans, beheading the opposing team's quarterback in effigy, threatening to rape women and beat up children, and resorting to violence in the restrooms is a different story entirely. The first-hand accounts we received from fellow fans on our return flight included tales of being told to "fuck off" by an 8-year-old, being physically assaulted in the concourse, and urinated on in the restroom. 

For those saying "it's not all of them", you're wrong. It may be a minority that engages in those acts, but everyone from surrounding fans to the mounted police officers makes a conscious decision to look the other way. Philadelphia's Finest, my ass. 

What Is That Guy Doing In That Bag? 

The finest person we encountered in Philadelphia is most likely homeless. As my friend and I turned a corner near Market & 15th, we witnessed a man shitting in a plastic bag. Clearly, this man has endured immense hardship in his life and things have not worked out to this point. Despite this, he has maintained his dignity as well as respect for his surroundings. That basic human decency and respect for the city was severely lacking elsewhere during our 20 hours in Philadelphia.  

What About The Super Bowl? 

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles football team, who played and coached a tremendous game and deserve to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Eagles fans do not deserve anything positive, let alone a Lombardi Trophy. Go Pats. 

Good Luck To The Beleaguered Folks In Charge of Philadelphia Tourism

For my final thoughts, I'll leave you with a slightly updated quote from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, one of my favorite shows. It's fitting that the show is about a bunch of drunks with no redeeming qualities.

Eagles fans deserve to rot in jail, though having to spend every day with each other in that vile city is a decidedly greater punishment. That is why I decided not to retaliate, leaving them to live in the hell on earth that they've created for themselves.