You Know You Live in West Philly If …

Our city’s neighborhoods have a talent for giving themselves away

I grew up in Center City, which always surprises people. Where?, they ask incredulously, as if the only answer could be a teepee in front of Robinson Luggage on Broad Street. It just doesn’t seem like a residential area, I guess. But any time I’ve lived in Philly as an adult, I’ve been in Center City. I always insisted I couldn’t survive anywhere else. Center City, c’est moi.

Funny, then, that I now live in Southwest Philly instead. The transition was pretty easy; the shoes are far more comfortable on this side of the river. And not only have I forsaken Center City entirely (how could anyone live there?), I now insist I can’t survive outside of my natural habitat of South 48th Street. West Philly, c’est moi.

I guess you could say I have an addictive municipal personality.

Sometimes, though, I get a jolt of my old self, and the fact that I live here—in a neighborhood I wasn’t allowed to visit as a kid—seems surreal. I think that kind of thing happens to all of us from time to time. For a brief instant, often after having inhaled something, we see ourselves from the outside as if we’re characters in a really long and boring novel. In my case, I always see myself in the morning, waking up to a bludgeon of birdsong (I believe that’s the collective noun), bleary-eyed and ready for a day of sandal-wearing, and I think: Our protagonist lives in West Philly? Really?

It’s a strange sense of dislocation, but in case I have any doubts, the sights and sounds of my neighborhood effortlessly remind me where I am.

So I present to you—with the wry, paint-peeling wit of a Huffington Post slideshow (only without the slideshow part)—a new neighborhood feature:

You Know You Live in West Philly If …

  1. Your building handyman annoys you by constantly blasting the radio—and it’s always NPR.
  2. Local band practice begins and ends punctually, unless that guy with the shekere gets too polyrhythmic about things.
  3. The fellow who comes to fix the roof has “VIVA SOMOZA” spraypainted on his van.
  4. The box of “trash” on the curb is filled with books about gender, three pairs of Rocket Dog flats, and a candlemaking kit.
  5. You go to someone’s house for a party and the host asks to take your coat—and your shoes.
  6. Your local coffee shop consistently runs out of half-and-half and clean spoons, but always has agave syrup at your disposal.
  7. The new chairs and tables at the park aren’t nailed into the ground or chained up because because park planners feel the residents will do the right thing.
  8. The neighborhood thrift store owner says she ran out of bow ties because “all the females who date females buy them.”
  9. The local pickup joint is in the back of an Eritrean restaurant.
  10. The men who staff your polling place often look like John Brown.
  11. Your neighbor hangs her wash on the line in the backyard instead of using the dryer—and keeps her wooden clothespins in an adorable cotton sack.
  12. The older residents of the ‘hood set out for their morning constitutional geared up like they’re hiking the Appalachian Trail.
  13. The kids at the local park forgo Tag and Cops and Robbers in favor of roleplaying games that involve foam weaponry.
  14. In addition to lottery tickets and rolling papers, the convenience store sells organic laundry detergent for $13 and special-orders grass-fed beef.
  15. You buy your produce from a French-speaking African who sells high-quality broccoli from the back of a graffitied truck.
  16. The white people describe themselves as “pioneers,” and they’re not making a Willa Cather reference.
  17. The month of May means you’re about to acquire a lot of Ikea furniture and numerous computer peripherals for free.
  18. A casual conversation on a neighborhood Internet forum can get ugly very quickly if someone says something mean about cats.

How about you, dear reader? Got any of these about your own neighborhoods?

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  • Anna

    I love the way you write!

  • andrea carroll

    You say you live in Southwest Philly, then you say you live in West Philly. I say West Philly. Do you know the boundaries? By the way, I am not trying to be a wise guy.
    I love West Philly.

  • Jennifer

    Ha! I’m your next door neighbor and know your npr blasting handyman. And that lovely clothesline. As far as West vs SW Philly, I say it’s both : )

  • http://www.jchtv.com John Coffey

    I call the area West Philly, but technically I think South of Baltimore gets the SW Philly tag.

  • Amity

    I lived in West Philly and it was nothing like you described. Sure, there are a lot of hispter influences that are starting to show now, but let’s not forget the shootings, mugging, cat calling, trash, derelict abodes, and general despair that permeates the area. I lived near Dock St Brewery, the “real” west Philly, and was scared for my personal well-being on a daily basis. When a shooting occurred on the block up from me and the police officer on the scene told me I’d “better get used to it,” that’s when I gave up and retreated back to the suburbs after trying to be a West Philly “pioneer” for a year. Call it what you will, I call it awful.

  • Lou

    Sounds like any place where the “hipsters” moved into. You know you are REALLY from West Philly when your mayor decides to firebomb you.

  • Amara

    @Amity, I live near the Dock Street Brewery and do not recognize the neighborhood you describe. Not sure when you lived here but you are welcome to stop by and see Liz Spikol’s West Philly. It’s the Best Philly.

  • Kensington Gardens

    I’m over by Greensgrow Farms… in Kensington, er “Port Fishington”, er… “East Kensington”, er.. “Extended Fishtown”, er… no, that’s not it… “Flat Iron”. The civic however is named “Olde Richmond”.

    The only Flatiron that I know of is the building in New York, one of the first skyscrapers to rise in Manhattan that still stands today. It did not occur to me what Flatiron was until I had asked more people who have lived here a lot longer what this area was. The name derives from all the industrial that used to line Aramingo Ave as far as the eye could see, most of it corrugated steel factories, a lead-paint Dutch Boy plant, and parts mills. Most of it is gone now, with a few traces of the hulking buildings left behind.

    Personally, I love the name Flatiron… as it evokes urbanity, gritty luster and a work ethic now abandoned. And I’m north of York Street, so I’m definitely a part of Kensington, which is a large area of the city most urbanites have no familiarity with other than the despair located closest to the EL.

    If we ever get the money to put up those cheesy banners on our street poles, I hope the name Flatiron isn’t forgotten. It sounds so much better than some of these new-fangled esoteric names like “Newbold”. It evokes more masculinity than “Fishtown”, unless of course you happen to be a fish wife.

    If we ever get yoga centers and all-you-can-eat tofu snack shops invading us, they’ll be the Andrew Dice Clay version of a yoga center or a tofu snack shop. Because after all, this is Flatiron.

  • Tania

    I lived in “West Philly” for over 20 yrs. Like every big city there are hot spots for crime as Amity describes. I lived near 49th st and had neighbors of different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and loved it.
    I was one of the newer pioneers, I made friends with the original pioneers. They loved the area, the architecture and the freedom to be whoever they wanted to be. I guess the newer younger residents now enjoying West Philly for the Coffee shop mecca it has become enjoy their freedom as well. They slip into a diverse wonderful area that still retains the “neighborhood” feel that brought all us pioneers there in the first place. My contribution to ” You know…. ” is ” ….when someone yells “they’re back” and everyone curses U of P.”

  • Brian Siano

    “… when the OK Cupid meetups always have some guy explaining Noam Chomsky.”

  • Gina

    Not one word about yoga instructors, dog walkers, or yoga instructors who are also dog walkers? I’m shocked :)

  • S. 49th St. neighbor

    Love it.

  • Rebecca Howe

    I find this article and the thread of comments to be lacking integrity. To live in West Philly and not include any part of your non-white (most of whom are not criminal) neighbors and cultures in a list of stereotypes highlights a gross disconnect from the real neighborhood and many of your neighbors. Your article does little more than illustrate that you feel comfortable in West Philly because there are enough people like you around, and enough just-odd-enough businesses for you to hang out in with those people.

    The use of the word “pioneer” in some of the comments smacks of racism and a culture of privilege conquering the “lesser other.” When did it become acceptable again to speak of human beings this way? There are many terrible acts of crime and poverty in the world, and to enter those places and set up businesses and schools and “community” that blindly benefit only those who have “pioneered” in to do it, is disgraceful and sad. That goes for non-white and non-American immigrants who have opened many businesses in working class neighborhoods in Philly and not established ways to be positive forces in those neighborhoods.

  • Liz Spikol

    @Rebecca: I didn’t mention race at all … so how do you know the people I wrote about are white? Weird assumption on your part. I think your own prejudices played into that perception. I guess you don’t believe nonwhites do any of the things on my list? Very limited view of the world.

  • Liz Spikol

    @Brian: Perfect.

  • Liz Spikol

    @Gina, I did include both yoga and pitbulls in a prior version but ran out of space. So funny!

  • Rebecca Howe

    Hey Liz,

    I believe many people who have a progressive view of class and race in Philadelphia neighborhoods, has spent some time in West Philly, and was being thoughtful could agree that many of the items you listed have an obvious audience that is a particular brand of West Philly neo-crunch and for the most part of-privilege (and white). The comments section further established this audience and extended it to older (and wealthier) neo-hippies who have been in the neighborhood longer.

    Further, your publications media kit boasts: “phillymag.com targets the educated, the upscale, and the affluent consumers in our area,” so it makes sense that your article is shaded so heavily with one colored pencil. It’s how you keep your audience engaged, subscribing, and coming back. It’s why your editors like your writing.

    I agree, any of the stereotypes you listed can apply to any race in theory, but making that argument is an oversimplified dismissal of the real conversation. Stereotypes can be fun because they are steeped in so much truth about one particular type of people, and it is obvious which type you singled out in your article. I’m not arguing that you don’t think about, or agree on, many of the same topics of race and class that I bring up. But I am expressing dismay that such an obviously over-simplified portrayal of a neighborhood can be used to form camaraderie among privileged citizens, who have as of yet only congratulated you on the way you have pinned them!

    For anyone who is curious, every major magazine gives you free access to their media kit, which gives details on it’s reader demographics. phillymag.com’s media kit can be found here:
    http://www.phillymag.com/images/uploads/photos/shell/287_shellfile.pdf

  • Jakey

    The use of the word “pioneer” to describe yourself is just disgusting and racist. Come on people. That makes the people who don’t look like you, what? the noble savages? People are definitely being forced west. purposeful or not the word is gentrifiers. F that lewis and clark bs.

  • David Adams

    I work the polls as a clerk and I don’t look like ‘John Brown'(whatever that means). There are many good people and good places in west philly. My family has been in this area for 100 years and we don’t have the snippy negative attitude that Daily News writers display toward Philly. Maybe if Liz used the word ‘some’ she would be closer to the truth – but why spoil a good put-down with truth?

  • Ricomo

    You know you live in West Philly if the comments turn to the racist overtones of the article being commented on. Interesting and funny short piece and interesting and thought provoking comments. Welcome to my world, formerly – and still partially, to varying extents – the world of African Americans, before that Jews, before that middle class professionals fleeing Center City overcrowding, before that the estate of Andrew Hamilton, before that the home of Swedish and British colonial farmers, and before that the Lenape (I think) American Indians. Not to mention the annual influx of grad students and undergrads that aren’t too afraid to or are temporarily poor enough to have to venture this far past 40th Street. And the new families who move into the Penn Alexander School boundaries and Penn faculty and non-out-sourced staff who have been lured by the University’s financial incentives to buy a home here. And let’s not forget that Penn isn’t the only university out this way; there’s also the University of the Sciences and in a slightly more northern direction, Drexel. University City, part of West Philly, in the 1980 census, was the most diverse neighborhood in the country. And by the way, let’s welcome the latest wave of “pioneers:” recent African, and Southeast and South Asian immigrants. Now, about all those feral cats….

  • Liz Spikol

    Hi all. This is a pretty interesting discussion, which is good. I would like to clarify some things, however.

    1. I used the word “pioneer” ironically. It is a racist, classist term with an ugly history, suggesting that the people who lived in the neighborhood before the gentrifiers don’t exist. I object to it and think the word is only appropriate in a Willa Cather setting. Interestingly, the idea of urban pioneership isn’t only about race. Fishtown is an interesting example of that. Talk to the longtime residents and you’ll hear their frustration with new homeowners who, these longtime residents feel, are acting like they discovered Fishtown. That tension is more about age and class, since both populations (new and old) are largely white.

    2. The John Brown remark was supplemented by a link to a photo of John Brown, so that’s what I meant. I did not imply it as a put-down, but I should have said “some”; my landlady works the polls and she doesn’t have a beard.

    3. My article, Rebecca, isn’t written with a one-colored pencil — you are viewing it through a one-colored lens. It depresses me to have to do this, but the implications here are pretty serious: that I’m a neo-crunch person of privilege who is only referring to and appealing to people like her (I’m not sure why you think you know me so well. You see my ostensible whiteness and base your conclusions on that? Hmm).

    -Your building handyman…: white.
    -Local band practice…: Latino and African-American.
    -The fellow who comes to fix the roof…: Latino.
    -The box of “trash” on the curb …: the books were reddish from the rain making the covers run.
    -You go to someone’s house for a party …: biracial.
    -Your local coffee shop … I don’t think syrup has an ethnicity, and the shop is staffed by white, black and other.
    – The new chairs and tables …: ethically diverse organization.
    – The neighborhood thrift store owner …: African-American.
    -The local pickup joint …. Eritrean with a very mixed population.
    -The men who staff your polling place: white.
    – Your neighbor hangs her wash: African-American.
    -The older residents of the ‘hood: depends, doesn’t it?
    – The kids at the local park: white, black, biracial.
    – The convenience store…: EXTREMELY diverse customer base. Asian-owned.
    – You buy your produce from a French-speaking African: black (not a French white colonialist).
    -The white people who describe themselves as “pioneers”: white, yes, and ridiculous.
    -The month of May: white, Asian.
    – A casual conversation on a neighborhood Internet forum: I have no idea. Do you?

  • nicole

    I dare you to walk down to 55th and Baltimore by yourself. then write your article.

  • James

    I moved to West Philly (53rd & Osage) a couple months ago, so most of these stereotypes don’t make much sense to me. I’m white, and I’ll admit I did feel a bit like a “pioneer” at first, but only because I spent 2/3rds of my life living in less-than-diverse suburban areas in Texas. After reading this article, however, the notion of a “pioneer” seems disturbingly arrogant, so I’ll take shelter in humility.

    This article and the comments have certainly given me perspective and incentive to want to smash all the aforementioned stereotypes, including any I might fall into myself. That being said, I fully expect to spend the next few months awkwardly acclimating to this rich and culturally diverse area of town, dodging stereotypes and feverishly tweaking my own obsolete thought structures. I love it here.

  • nicole

    I dare you to walk down to 55th and Baltimore by yourself. then write your article.
    you do realize that west Philly extends all the way to Cobbs Creek don’t you?
    People who have lived in west Philly before you are frustrated by the way you describe this place. you are describing university city, not southwest philadelphia or west Philly. have you ever walked or driven all the way down Kingsessing westward? have you shopped at the 52nd street corridor?

  • Brian Siano

    “You know you’re in West Philly when… casual jokes and light humor articles about your neighborhood turn into lengthy and convoluted debates about gender, race, sexism and privilege.”

  • Liz Spikol

    Hey Nicole, oh my god, have you ever tasted the “doubles” from Brown Sugar Bakery on the 52nd Street corridor? They are incredibly delicious.

  • Slain
  • Drew Lane

    I’ve lived in West Philadelphia for two years and can’t relate to any of the items above. Some even come across as inside jokes. For example, I would be shocked hearing anyone from West Philly blasting NPR. I don’t find this particular situation to be a common occurrence. Maybe I’ve walked around with blinders or maybe this is just one view about what it’s like to live in West Philly.

    Either way, I’ve always known the “You Know you’re from [blank] if…” to be only filled with universal stereotypes, often completely outrageous. Hence why books with these titles are found in the comic book section. Maybe this article was too subtle with its humor or maybe it was suppose to be serious. Either way, I feel the title wrongly assumes a majority of West Philly can relate. “I know I’m from West Philly because…”may be a more suitable title.

  • Liz Spikol

    Hi James. So you’re pretty close then to Malcolm X Park, which is kind of a neighborhood hub. There’s a Friends group for the park, and joining a group like that is always a great way to get involved in the neighborhood.

  • James

    Thanks Liz, I’ll see what’s shakin @ Malcolm X…

  • Amy

    Very funny list… it inspired me to submit one of my own however. As a 29 year resident of 48th Street, I’d like to submit a more relevant list for us “old school” West Philadelphians who have grown up in the neighborhood…

    You know you’re from old-school West Philly if…

    1. You scoff at the hoards of hipsters moving in and give them names like “tattooed nation”
    2. You know what the Purple Fox is
    3. You helped build a community garden (now taken over by apartments)
    4. Many a childhood weekend was spent painting over graffiti
    5. You know the best cheesesteaks came from James’ Grill at The Firehouse Market (now Dock St)
    6. You remember when the Green Line only meant the 34 trolley
    7. You never had to worry about Penn students being brave enough to come West of 40th St.
    8. You got your steaks from Fred and Gary
    9. Three words: West Coast Video
    10. You knew a guy named the Carrot Cake Man
    11. You got your hair cut by Benny
    12. You remember when Nick still ONLY owned Nick’s 99 cent store
    13. You remember good old-fashioned block parties
    14. Your first bank account was through the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union

    Thats the West Philly I remember! I welcome any additions :)

  • Wilma de Soto

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know what is we called “The Dusty”.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you remember Al DiPalma’s Hoagie Shop.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you’ve ever eaten at The Beef and Beer and know where the Italian enclave is.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know where “Black Oak Park” is.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know if you couldn’t wait to buy water ice at Overbrook Water Ice Stand.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know the original location for Murray’s Deli.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know who the “Orange and Blue” versus the “Black and Gold” are.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know if you can name the streets where “the lines” are between areas good and bad and are VERY familiar with the phrase, “but that’s over the line!”.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know if you know the routes to get to Fairmount Park by either going “over the top” or “down the bottom.”

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you have ever walked the bridle path on Cobbs Creek Park.

    • You know you ARE from West Philly if you know if you realize the person who wrote the other article would not have the faintest idea of what is on this list.

  • LalaAli

    I read the article and did not understand it at all. But, I think you have to live around 48th Street right off of Florence Ave., to understand the article. These people live in this little “Lala” land where they are robbed, accosted, harrassed and picked on daily and yet, no one on the next block has any problem. Maybe Liz lives on that block. I bet they understood the article.
    *shruggin shoulders*

  • LalaAli

    @Amy……thumbs up!

  • john english

    f

  • john english

    i have only lived west of the schuylkill river for 3 years now so i don’t consider myself some kind of expert on “west philly”. but from what i can tell, spikol is talking about university city. she’s obviously referencing fu wa and the guy on 48th and pine with the fruits and veggies. nice area. this is around where i live now, and i do love it.
    but i’ve also lived west of 50th st and experienced what i would consider the “real” west philadelphia – west of 50th. plenty of nice neighbors but also a ton of gunshots at night and some scary characters. i learned to stay away from certain blocks after dark. as another commenter said, west philly goes way west. great, spikol gets some of her sweets on 52nd street. but seriously, if you’re that confident that you think you can stroll around all of west philly, 52nd street and beyond, and that there’s nothing worth getting freaked about or alarming, you’re eyes must be closed. it’s not a nice area and has NOTHING to do with university city up to 50th st. it’s a whole other ballgame.
    spikol is one of the main reasons i stopped reading philadelphia weekly. she tries so hard to “get” philly when it’s painfully obvious she’s living in some other world.

  • nicole

    yes, you can google 52st bakery Philadelphia and find brown sugar bakery and reviews of their “doubles”.

  • Amara

    You all realize if Liz used “University City” or something instead of “West Philly” people would be crying out, “No, it’s West Philly – University City is a marketing scheme!” and then arguing about the boundaries of University City versus West Philly. (Anyway, it is Lenapehoking – West Philly is colonialism)

    Given Philly Mag’s largely suburban readership, is it so bad to provide a short list of quirky and fun things about the area? The same magazine ran an article last year where the author (not Liz) said that when out-of-towners ask him about nice places in Philly – he leaves out the ENTIRE WEST PHILLY REGION.

    Here is a list of West Philly Neighborhoods:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Philadelphia_neighborhoods#West_Philadelphia

    Perhaps you all could go through and flag all the ones that aren’t “real” West Philly? Because I get the feeling by the time it’s done, all we’ll be left with is Cobbs Creek and maybe one or two others.

  • http://www.kimwoodbridge.com Kim Woodbridge

    The article is about East West Philly – I can’t stand the term University City although I guess that is the actual neighborhood (marketing scheme). I’ve lived here 10 years and have never heard the white people refer to themselves as pioneers – maybe I’ve been lucky enough to avoid those choice individuals.

    The guy with the Viva Somoza van also loves to sing.

  • http://www.westphillylocal.com/ ReallyWestPhlly

    Police are still searching for a male in his early 20s who stabbed and robbed a woman near 45th and Pine Streets on Monday night.
    The victim, who police described as an 18-year-old Asian woman, was stabbed in the back three times and robbed of her cell phone. Police say the suspect was black male in his early 20s wearing a white t-shirt.
    The robbery took place at about 11:30 p.m. The victim was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and was in stable condition.

  • Liz Spikol

    @Nicole: And if you do Google “Brown Sugar Bakery,” you’ll find a video about the Bakery that I made in 2007.

  • nicole

    ok. you’ve got some credibility now! thanks I appreciate that. but why didn’t you mention the bakery in your article? I think it would have provided a little balance to what many people consider “hipster” characteristics that you desrcibe in your article- especially when one has witnessed the transformation of the neighborhood in the area you describe. I think some of your readers get upset (myself included) when a picture is painted of West Philly with organic grocers and agave nectar when the vast majority of West Philly residents do not enjoy these things in their neighborhoods. Most of WP is filled with danger, drugs, poverty and abandoned properties (well most of Philly in general is).

  • peggy

    Hey guys, some of Liz Spikol’s best friends are black, so it’s okay.

  • ashley

    Where’s this fairy land the author writes about? Someone got stabbed outside my apartment this week. I wish I could live where the care bears chase butterflies and agave nectar drips from rainbows.

  • West Philly Girl

    You know you live in West Philly (or are addressing a West Philly audience) if someone brings up the fact that you, white person, are indeed a racist. No matter your perspective. Or, in fact, the truth that West Philly includes some areas that are not considered to be “safe”.

    Or, even better, those who lament what West Philly used to be. I like to point out that at one time, the area was considered the suburbs of Philadelphia.

    It’s all relative.

  • Carlos

    We need more cops in Philly; we need to follow Giuliani’s example with NYC in the 90s. This town cannot grow and develop if outsiders (and even city residents) continue to be afraid of so many of the neighborhoods here.

    Social problems, crime, and poverty related to race and class – a legacy of the USA’s history of rampant institutional racism – will not disappear any time soon, no matter how many social and economic initiatives are undertaken here and elsewhere.

    This city’s crime issue needs to be brought under control.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/sandysmith80 Sandy Smith

    Okay, one question that should sort the wheat from the chaff:

    40th and Walnut or 56th and Chestnut?

  • Jesse Seitel

    This article should be titled “You Know You Live in University City If…” and number 19 should be “white people talk about your secluded part of the neighborhood as if it resembles all of West Philly.

  • Natalie

    I would add:

    You know you live in West Philly when…

    your apartment building burns down and your neighbors actually raise money and have events to support you, but they also protest to save the cats.

    You can eat-out a different ethnic cuisine every day of the week and only have hit a fraction of the places in a two block radius.

  • Didi

    I had a really awesome West Philly experience the other weekend…which was to see West Philly High alumni gathering for their reunion, to have mentioned this to a friend’s mother and to have her tell me she went to Immaculate Conception and West Philly Catholic “back in the day.”

  • schnarf p. butkis

    You know you live in West Philly if your reaction to anyone’s attempt to describe the neighborhood in terms other than what matches your experience exactly is one-upsmaship in the form of stories about the good and/or bad old days, or cries of illegitimacy due to racism, classism, gentrification or better yet all three as part of some grand Penn conspiracy.

    You know you are a newbie to West Philly if you are even the least bit surprised that your good humored, if naive, attempt at encapsulating the neighborhood in list-form is met with any of the above reactions.

    You know you are a relatively less green, if perhaps more jaded, newcomer to West Philly if you are able to make the wry observation above, ingenious and insightful though it is, and realize you ain’t even scratched the surface. :-)

    Finally, you know you are in West Philly if some kid who just hopped off a freight train can accuse restauranteurs who’ve owned a business in the neighborhood longer than he’s been alive of gentrification, and even one person thinks that’s a legitimate response.

  • Chris Baker

    Not the same West Philly I grew up in in the 70’s…

  • Teri B

    Uh…. this is more like “you know you live within a very specific 3-5 block radius of West Philly.” Seriously, everything described here doesn’t go one block off the “nicest” part of Baltimore Ave, which in itself is only 3 blocks. I’m not even saying the rest of West Philly isn’t nice, but this list is ridiculously sheltered.

  • Teri B

    So, to clarify: no, this list isn’t necessarily “racist,” but it IS overwhelmingly, kind of eye-rollingly privileged and segregated from the wider community.

  • Sarah

    I’m a white Penn grad student who’s a recent transplant to 49 and Baltimore. Rather than bash anyone else, I’m adding the most complete from my life right now.

    I know I just moved to West Philly when:

    – I walk by 5 blocks of friendly neighbors to go to a mostly-white, vegan potluck.

    – I go to Center City and brag about how “down-to-earth” and diverse my neighborhood is.

    – I “love West Philly” but only search for apartments within a tiny area of the neighborhood (Baltimore from 46-50).

    – Most of the businesses that I frequent primarily serve white people, with the exception of the liquor store and bars (the equalizers I guess).

    – In moments of honesty I realize that if I bought a house or had kids I would move closer to Penn (or Germantown, Mt. Airy, etc).

    – It’s taken me a year to learn the names of my neighbors, but only a couple months to know everyone at the coop.

    – I do my best to be friendly and accountable, trusting that we’re all doing the best we can!

    – I don’t know anything on Amy or William’s West Philly lists. I do recognize everything on the original article.

    – I still (naively?) love that a simple list leads to in-depth discussion about who we are as a neighborhood.

  • Buffalo Springfield Avenue

    Schnarf: great comments.
    West Philadelphia is a diverse and constantly changing neighborhood. Why can’t people accept that instead of feeling compelled to assert that some particular part of west philly in time and space (54th and Baltimore on June 6th, 1982) is the “real” west philly every time a discussion like this comes up?

  • Marcelo

    How about yall live in west, and not try to define it?

  • Darvis

    Anybody know why Viva Somoza is spray painted on the van? Just curious…

  • jerry

    That is the area called the bottom