philadelphia and vibecamp

Monday, June 12, 2023

I grew up in Wisconsin, and I live in Houston. I've spent hardly any time at all in any east coast cities.

This week, I'm staying in Philadelphia for a few days before going to Vibecamp, so I'm forming first impressions of the city.

Philadelphia is grungy as fuck.

H/T to Samuel for supplying this adjective, which really is the perfect descriptor.

The city is full of trash, it smells like sewage and body odor, the buildings appear to be cobbled together from whatever materials were on hand after a wrecking ball destroyed the building next door, and every corner of every space is densely packed with mismatched furniture, inexplicable man-made junk, and exposed pipes and wires.

And all of this somehow synergizes to spawn an irrefutably charming aesthetic that could only emerge organically from generations of habitation by East Coast American human beings.

It feels alive and lived-in. It feels like the inevitable emergent habitat of the particular type of sapient animals that live in this region. Philadelphians stack red brick and sheet metal into habitable structures the way a beaver piles up branches and twigs into a dam.

I've been in this city for 18 hours.

In that time, I've sat on the subway across from a skeletal, trembling woman with scars and track marks crisscrossing both arms.

I've seen two dads going for a walk with their baby strapped to a front-facing carrier on their chest.

I've been warned to avoid a certain neighborhood with open-air drug markets.

I've been told by an Uber driver that a major highway recently caught fire and literally collapsed.

I've watched an apparent real-time montage of gentrification unfold around me as I walked just a mile from one neighborhood to another.

And I've still got a week ahead of me.