I, FOR ONE, am sorry it's over.

The courtship, I mean.

The five major candidates wooing us day and night, on the radio, on television, in person, by phone, by mail.

All desperate to marry us. Us! Philadelphia! Let's face it, Phoenix we're not.

Crumbing infrastructure, pervasive poverty, a crime crisis. We can be balky, indifferent, parochial, untidy - why, some folks still call us Philthydelphia, much as we've improved our hygiene.

But we must still be attractive. Look how hard these five competed for our affections.

What a fine bunch they were overall. How many cities can boast such an array of impressive political suitors?

And what an exuberant few months it was, with the five men so visible, so engaged, so willing to talk with us about what they think and what they planned for our years together.

It certainly was a change from the moody silence we've endured in recent months from our current Significant Other, John Street.

Oh, sure, every now and then he comes out to say a few words, but mostly he seems to be in seclusion, apparently nursing his wounds. Tells everybody we don't appreciate him.

Not that our relationship has been all bad these past seven-plus years, of course.

Still, he's become so emotionally inaccessible that it's a relief to be finalizing the split-up.

And while we're talking about former Significant Others, what's up with Uncle Ed? Why did he wait so long to say Dwight Evans would be best for us?

If Rendell had spoken up sooner, we might have been more inclined to lean that way.

Seems like he waited until his words wouldn't influence the outcome but would earn brownie points with Dwight, whose cooperation he needs in Harrisburg.

How brazenly self-serving can you be? What a disappointment!

In any case, I'm proud - and yes, amazed - at how chivalrous and well-behaved the five suitors were all of these months.

I worried when the courtship began that they'd stoop to ugly ways to win our hand, like all the others did over the years. But they were respectable gentlemen this time - until that little skirmish at the end, over who was the true Catholic, for God's sake.

That was dumb and despicable and worthy of disqualification, but nobody owned up to it. Of course.

But it was short-lived. And since we're not above a certain naughtiness, we were amused when Mr. Poise, Michael Nutter, called an opponent a "scumbag."

That's because the whole dirty dust-up was an aberration. For the most part, the suitors told us their ideas and made us wonderful promises.

Some of the ideas were admittedly goofy - like Chaka Fattah's proposal to impose a punitive toll on cars coming into the city to solve a problem we don't have to begin with.

And other ideas, like "stop-and-frisk," were flame-throwers. But

you've got to give Nutter props for having the guts to propose it.

Ideas. Guts. Enthusiasm.

Sigh. How long has it been since

we've seen that afoot in this town?

How long has it been since our civic arena was abuzz with uplifting debate and deep conversation?

Yes, it was a great courtship.

When we consummate the relationship in January, we'll find out the truth.

Were the promises just empty words meant to win us over? Will the creative vision be implemented? Will the grand ideas translate into reality?

Will the vows be kept - of change and new fidelity to the virtues that we care about?

All we know at the moment is that the fun part - the earnest and animated campaign for our affection - is over.

And I, for one, am sorry it is. *

E-mail porterj@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5850. For recent columns: