When I moved to Philadelphia in 1999, I knew I had a great deal to learn: how to navigate from Pashunk to the Skookl, the Boulevard to the Parkway; the right way to order a Yuengling (a lager); and the correct usage of jawn (OK, that I still don't really understand).
Now that I've been here, on and off, for 15 years, I'm starting to wonder: Am I a true Phuluffyan yet? Given that I still sometimes order a sub at a hoagie shop, the answer seems to be, "Not quite."
So, 2015 is the year I'll aim to make it official. My plan: Complete my Philly bucket list, a tally I've been keeping of all the weird, wonderful and one-of-a-kind places and experiences tucked into this city's neighborhoods, alleys and side streets.
I start tomorrow, when, if all goes well, I'll be strutting in the Mummers Parade, on the ground that it's possibly the Phillyest thing a person can do without paying off a ward leader. Friends keep waiting for the punch line when I tell them I'm mumming with the Vaudevillains New Years Brigade, part of Murray Comic Club.
But, I explain each time: "As a Philadelphian, it's something you just have to do at least once."
It's an explanation I've used innumerable times in the last 15 years.
It was grounds for joining the Broad Street Run, which passes the quirky Philadelphia Doll Museum, a Masonic Temple, and the Academy of Music (all essential stops for the well-rounded Philadelphian). It propelled me through the Philadelphia Marathon - or, as it ought to be advertised, a 41/2-hour tour of the city featuring extreme, total-body pain.
At this point, I've dispensed with the obvious. I ran the Rocky steps, shopped the Italian Market and Reading Terminal, toured Independence Hall and Elfreth's Alley, and checked out the bell. I wandered South Street, drank $3 Citywides and soaked them up with a late-night slice at Lorenzo's.
I saw games at the Vet, and got up early one morning to watch its implosion. I went to sweaty shows at the Unitarian church, saw things that couldn't be unseen at the Mutter Museum, wondered at the strange logic of Albert Barnes, soaked up free wine and mediocre art at First Friday, and saw naked people in the Fringe Festival. I ate water ice, and complained about the Phillies.
But my to-do list goes on - a full year's worth.
This spring, I'd like to get a community garden plot. And then? Organize a block party. Open a hydrant on a hot summer day. Go for a swim in the South Philly secret pool, or at least spend a day at the Swimmo. Rent a Shore house. Go to the Rosenbach Museum on Bloomsday (or, for that matter, read Ulysses - but that's a different to-do list).
In the fall, there's the Puerto Rican Day parade, and homespun Halloween haunted houses in neighborhood parks and libraries. This winter, I just might get into a neighborly argument over street parking. I'd like to sled down Lemon Hill, and tour South Philadelphia's Christmas lights.
There's local arcana that requires lifelong study: develop a comprehensive understanding of neighborhood boundaries in Philadelphia (and use it to correct others: "Holmesburg? I think you mean Tacony.") I'd be more Philadelphian yet if I could get to know my parishes.
At the least, I could help paint a mural (or be portrayed in one, far in the background behind some local civic leader.)
Then, there's master's-level Philadelphiana on my itinerary: Be able to speak about Fishtown dive bars with authority. Attend a beef and beer in the Northeast, and a DIY punk show at a West Philadelphia warehouse. Celebrate Mario Lanza's birthday at his South Philly museum. Row on the Schuylkill. Become a member of a private social club.
The to-eat list, alone, is daunting. I've had pretzels - but never made the pilgrimage to the pretzel factory at midnight, via the Tuesday-night bicycle ride from the Art Museum steps. There are pierogies to be sampled in Port Richmond, roadside empanadas in North Philadelphia, Korean food to be sought out in Olney and West African food in West Philly. There are Russian banquet halls/nightclubs in the Northeast that demand my attention.
As many only-in-Philadelphia experiences as I've checked off my list - the Fairmount Park disc-golf course, Sunday morning petanque in Clark Park - I'm always learning about more: bowling at St. Monica's in South Philadelphia, gospel roller-skating at the Carman Garden rink in North Philadelphia, the annual Procession of Saints in the Italian Market.
There's Kelpius' cave to visit in the Wissahickon, the Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum to be explored in Powelton Village, and a tour of the Magic Gardens mosaics to be done. There is a selfie to be taken at the geographic center of Philadelphia, near the intersection of Sixth and Erie.
While I'm on the topic of things I've yet to do, I may as well make a few confessions. I've covered plenty of meetings in City Hall, but never been to the top of it. I haven't been inside the Betsy Ross house, or cheered the cyclists at the Manayunk Wall. I've seen only the first Rocky. Arctic Splash has not crossed my lips.
I've taken out-of-town guests to Pat's and Geno's, but I haven't actually sampled a cheesesteak.
In some ways, I may never be a Philadelphian. I plan to continue to avoid Wing Bowl. I lack the swagger to get into a brawl at a sporting event. I'll never have the confidence required to park in the center lane of Broad Street. I missed my chance to grow up playing half-ball on the sidewalk. In the age of cellphones, I may never need to meet someone at the Eagle.
But the beauty of this city is that it's unknowable: the Philly to-do list is ever-expanding.
Which means, I've got a lot to do. Tomorrow, I'll get started - on Two Street with gold shoes on.