I AM A NATIVE Philadelphian now living in Tennessee. When I return to Philadelphia on visits, I am thrilled with downtown Philadelphia and the friendliness of its people, but I am also spending several hundred dollars a day.
Philadelphia is a much friendlier, hipper, more heterogeneous and attractive city than the one I grew up in (around Broad and Olney and Mount Airy). I think it has a great future because it is 60 miles upstream from the ocean, so less vulnerable to storms and rising seas of the future than New York, Boston or any beach town. It also has a stock of rowhouses within walking distance of stores and an excellent rail transportation infrastructure in place. Its radical freedom of speech (which it takes for granted) and its combination of high culture and lower-class skepticism make for a uniquely vibrant culture (which I think you have to be an older person like myself to appreciate). The new innovations such as the boardwalk and bike paths are marvelous.
I fear it is becoming a victim of its success, with prices for restaurants, parking, concerts, hotels and so forth becoming out of reach for most people. I fear the rash of high-rise building is going to ruin Center City and its open, walk-around feel. I fear the authenticity of South Philadelphia is disappearing as South Philadelphia disappears to gentrification and high-end restaurants. (I am a devoted fan of the Oregon Diner.) I am glad that Penn and Temple are no longer slum-looking schools, and that Drexel is coming up fast, but I could appreciate them more if I did not have to park several blocks away to avoid parking meters.
I think the city has an unreported issue with reverse racism in some of its offices, such as the Office of Vital Records at 8th and Race streets and the lot in South Philly where cars are towed and must be paid for to be recovered.
Overall, I think that the city is underappreciated by the people who have lived there all their lives, but that the cost of living and the recent flaunting of wealth may make daily life a tougher jog for many.
In response to Len Trower's Monday letter, "Another perspective," fortunately, Mr. Trower, the idea of world diversity is not confined to your outlook. If it is a white-supremacist-dominated world, it has as much to do with you as it does the rest of us. People take what they can get and if you allow them to take more than that, it's your fault they do. I know you as a black man (and I do know you) who advanced in a white world using your intelligence and drive to get ahead. Why is that same formula not used by more people of your descent? Is it too hard; is it impossible to attain? Well you did it, Len, why don't more? I for one am growing tired of how tough it is for the black man to get ahead. I was discriminated against for being Jewish, Italians were discriminated against for being Italian, Irishmen for being Irish, Asians for being Asian. It's time to stop crying and start doing! Don't tell me it can't be done; history proves it can. And if you think your letter will draw vitriolic responses, think about the aftermath of this letter.
Stu Bykofsky, I too am a reformed smoker. I quit on Feb. 1, 1999, after visiting my best friend who had just had a heart attack and as a result had stents installed. I left his hospital room in Scranton, and threw the pack out the window of the car on the turnpike on the way home to Abington. It was the hardest thing I ever attempted, and I can proudly report I never had another cigarette, cigar, etc. Yet, as I was well over three packs a day and in a tremendously high-stress job, I was sorely tempted many times. When a past foreign-exchange student visiting from Norway brought me a box of Cuban cigars, I was sorely tempted. But at that point I knew if I took one puff, I'd be back on the damn things.
My wife claims I did not speak to her for three months. While she is exaggerating, I know that I was rather "touchy" for about that time. At one point I was in my office in a construction trailer on a job and someone walked in with the smoke preceding him. I did not look up and stated very calmly for him to get the (expletive) out of my office with that cigarette, and he left, put out the butt, and re-entered, at which point I looked up at man who had to duck to get through the door, and who turned out to be a steelworkers union business agent. He could have easily reacted otherwise. I was embarrassed, but explained I was trying to quit and he understood. He even wished me luck when we had completed our business and he departed.
Eventually, the desire eased. But I can assure you that after smoking for more than 40 years, the desire does not go away completely even after all these years.
I wish you success in your endeavor. You can do it! Even if you happen to light one up, remember you do not have to light up a second one.