10 Philly Comforts We Hope to See Again in 2021
From cheap ballpark hot dogs to the warm human embrace of our neighbors, it's time to start reclaiming the things we missed out on last year.
Now that 2020 is in the books, it’s time to start planning for a better 2021.
Among the many hardships of 2020 was the way the institutions and rituals we’d depended on for normalcy were snatched away without warning. From restaurants and childcare to the arts, sports and block parties, anything that involved gathering with people outside our very immediate bubbles stopped immediately, adding a terrifying sense of sudden isolation to a terrifying sense of sudden, um, terror over a deadly microscopic virus. At the moment we so needed to commune with friends and family, we had to huddle at home around the pale glow of our screens.
A new year — with new vaccines — means there’s hope we’ll get back some of the Philly comforts we’ve missed. Such as:
We missed live sports something fierce in 2020 (even though, save for the Union and the Flyers, our teams were largely un-fierce). And summer just wasn’t summer without Dollar-Dog Nights at Citizens Bank Park, with the Phanatic trying to brain you with a Hatfield frank. Attempting to replicate the dog-an-inning challenge at home just felt pathetic.
Though block parties could technically be safe if done right, lots of them were canceled in the name of social distancing, and others were shut down for not observing guidelines. May the summer of 2021 be bountiful with your neighbors’ sun-warmed potato salad.
The COVID shutdown forced many of us to abandon commutes in favor of working from home, leading to plummeting ridership and ballooning budget deficits for SEPTA. While transit lovers went through withdrawal immediately, even SEPTA skeptics have reported unexpected longings for old, familiar routes. Which is why hopes are high all around for a financial stimulus package that could help transit agencies bridge the gap — so when that mythical “return to normal” happens, SEPTA will be there, more or less on time.
Happy Hours at Dirty Franks. And Parc. And Everywhere In Between.
Remember trying to wedge between two stools to get the bartender’s attention? Remember taking turns ordering pitchers? Remember waiting for your songs to come on the jukebox? Remember sitting in booths? Remember getting together with friends and griping about, well, just normal stuff like work or school or your crummy love life? Remember?
Speaking of happy hours, why is it that a can of Pabst and a shot of Beam taste better at Bob and Barbara’s than at home? Asking for a friend.
The Performing Arts. All of Them.
What the arts community has endured this year has been brutal. We love the resilience we’ve seen — the Zoom productions, the site-specific plays, the pivots to filmmaking and home recording. But honestly, we just can’t wait until we can cram into FringeArts, the Kimmel, the Academy and the Fillmore to give you a standing ovation.
Indoor Group Exercise
I know you can do yoga anywhere. You can compete against the world from the comfort of your stationary bike. There are all kinds of YouTubes and Tik Toks that’ll help you work out alone, together. For some people, that’s like hitting a ball against a wall and calling it tennis. If you’re one of those people for whom fitness is a community thing, admit it: You miss the smell of other people’s sweat. And that’s okay. Until it’s safe to go back into the gym, there are lots of intrepid folks offering group fitness outdoors, never mind the plummeting temps.
Coffee Shops. And Working in Coffee Shops. (And Working Anywhere But in a Hastily-Set-Up Home Office)
There was a time, not as long ago as it seems, when coffee shops referred to themselves as “third places” because many of us had two places (two places!) — home and work — and that felt like not enough places. My kingdom for a second place.
Museums (and Other Places Where You Can Dawdle)
I’m the kind of person who — when not sheltering at home — can spend all day in a museum. I drink in every exhibit and painting. I read all the little cards on the wall. Drives my wife nuts. These days, though, the moment I step foot indoors anywhere that’s not my home, I’m following arrows and standing on dots; I’m drifting away the moment someone gets too close; I’m plotting the quickest route out. The idea of lingering for hours at a museum? That’s become anathema. With a clutch of Philly institutions announcing today that they’ll be reopening their doors soon, may we all feel comfortable enough to dawdle in the near future.
Hugging Neighbors on the Street
I’ve got a very social block. Lots of us do. Down here in my corner of South Philly, we’ve had to severely curtail extemporaneous stoop hangs. We keep mental lists of whose kids are in day care and whose aren’t. And when we let our progeny run up and down the pavement together, we essentially play defense lest they decide to embrace, or hold hands, or breathe near each other. It’s unneighborly. Here’s to being neighborly again in 2021.