How people are keeping the Philly spirit alive during quarantine — from savesies to Citywide Specials
“I make sure to boo my neighbors a few times a day.”
When you love something as much as the people of Philadelphia love their city, not even a pandemic can break the ties that bind you together.
As humans displaced from their homelands have done for centuries, the people of Philadelphia — forced to self-quarantine from going out in the city they love — are working hard to keep the cultural identity of Philly alive at home.
From Citywide Specials on rooftops to practicing orange cone savesies with parking spots, here are a few of our favorite ways people are being their best Philly selves at home during the coronavirus self-quarantine.
Taking in the view
Aimee Cicero’s Zoom meetings are so lit they’re like The Electric Street mural on Percy Street, which is where she recently held one of her meet-ups on the video chat platform.
Cicero, 40, of Pennsport, the public relations events manager at Brownstein Group, switches her Zoom background to a different Philly spot every day. She’s taken calls at the Magic Gardens, Rittenhouse Square, the Italian Market, and Cherry Street Pier. She can even link up with colleagues and clients on the field at the Linc during an Eagles game.
“Even though we’re all under a stay-at-home order right now, I still wanted to be able to enjoy the city that I love so much so I figured this would be a good way to pay homage to Philly,” she said. “It also gave me a chance to ‘travel’ and feel some sort of normalcy in what is a very odd time for all of us.”
A 33-year-old event marketing manager who asked only to be identified by his very Philly Twitter handle, @SeptaJawn, said he took his conference calls out on the real Graffiti Pier in Port Richmond last week.
“Walking out to Graffiti Pier is something that I do regularly on lunch or after work whenever I can,” he said. “It helps me feel connected to the city still as I’m used to going to all kinds of different events regularly and am now quarantined.”
Matt Monroe, 44, of South Philly, said he’s watching Dispatches from Elsewhere “primarily to vicariously live through the recognizable scene locations and the show’s obsession with Fishtown." The AMC mystery series, filmed in the city last year, portrays Philly as the beautiful, strange, and enigmatic place we all love — and miss.
Bryn Mawr native Ricky Sayer, 21, who is riding out the self-quarantine in his off-campus apartment at Syracuse University, is keeping his Philly spirit alive by drinking out of his Wawa coffee mug while staring at artwork of Philly’s skyline.
Sayer also has a healthy supply of Tastykakes in his freezer and a few gallons of Wawa water to get him through.
"So I’ll admit I have preferred water ‘tastes’ and am pretty fond of their water taste,” he said of his Wawa water stash. “At the same time, there’s a good chance I like it so much simply because it has the Wawa name and goose on it.”
Keeping up the Philly attitude
Philly’s got attitude. You know it. You love it. Or else, you wouldn’t survive here.
Without tourists to confuse or fans from opposing sports teams to mess with, Philadelphians have found interesting ways to keep their attitudes in shape.
“I occasionally open my window and cuss random strangers out,” joked Montiese McKenzie, 41, a lifelong West Philly resident. “Doesn’t get more Philly than that.”
Out in Mechanicsburg, Eagles fan Brennen Dickerson, 28, is keeping his Philly attitude fresh by dishing it out to those who live nearby.
“I make sure to boo my neighbors a few times a day,” he joked.
On Twitter, other Philadelphians said they’ve kept their Philly attitude in tune by “swearing a lot” and “throwing chicken bones on the floor." One person even claimed to have “brutally killed a robot."
Makes sense. If there was any time to fear a robotic uprising, that time is now. We knew hitchBOT was on a reconnaissance mission in 2015. It’s why we offed him.
One of the illegal time-honored expressions of Philly attitude — the parking-spot savesie — is being kept alive and well in Fairmount by resident David Semel.
“Practicing putting orange cones and lawn chairs in a parking spot in case it ever snows again,” Semel, 50, said, with tongue in cheek.
Josh Jablonski, 33, of Abington, said he’s home-schooling his kids on the Philly attitude by “Putting Crisco on the light poles and forcing my children to attempt to summit them.”
We’ve got an early contender for father of the year here.
While, alas, Jablonksi was kidding, he said his family did all wear their Phillies gear on what was to be the team’s opening day.
Jablonski isn’t alone in his desire to keep Philly fandom alive, while there are no live sports happening.
Ryan Wall, 23, of Germantown, said he’s watching Gritty nonstop on every social media platform “like every good Philadelphian should” and “exclusively listening” to the Eagles Super Bowl Parade playlist on Spotify.
“Being in quarantine really makes me miss the energy of the city. I think everyone has fond memories of the Eagles parade, and how the city came together in that moment to celebrate," Wall said. "Now, we’re just coming together in a different way — albeit in our living rooms instead of jam packed on the Parkway.”
Julie Bartha-Vasquez, 48, of Burlington Township, N.J., said her son Joseph Vasquez, 14, is practicing the birthright of all Philly sports fans by "second guessing Eagles offseason moves.”
“And we are all keeping Gritty in our hearts,” she said.
Liz Kaminetz’s family put on all their Eagles gear and rewatched Super Bowl LII at their Audubon, Pa., home.
“The next night, we watched Roy Halladay’s perfect game decked out in our Phillies best," Kaminetz said. “We’re really trying to keep up our spirits here and watching sports where you know the wonderful outcome is very therapeutic during a scary time."
The Citywide Special
As customs go, the Citywide Special is a Philly institution.
Legend has it that you can walk in any dive bar in Philadelphia and order a “Citywide,” a “Special,” or some variation of the two words and you’ll get a cheap can of beer (usually PBR) and a cheap shot of whiskey (typically Jim Bean) for about $3.
When I asked people on Twitter last week how they were keeping the spirit of Philly alive, Harold Burnett, 35, of Fishtown, responded with the simple words: “At home City Wides." He included a photo of a can of PBR and a Phillies World Series shot glass full of whiskey.
Inspired by Burnett, I proposed a self-quarantine citywide Citywide. At 5 p.m. Saturday, Philadelphians near and far toasted to the city they love — and the frontline workers keeping it running — under the hashtag #PhillyCityWide.
From clinking cans on Philly rooftops under dark skies, to toasts in kitchens full of Philly totems, for a few moments, we shared a drink, alone together, to keep the spirit of Philadelphia alive, and to keep all of us who miss her so much right now, together.
Perhaps nobody said it better than participant Chuck Bonfig did in his #PhillyCityWide toast: