The best part about living in Philadelphia is that we always have lots of stuff to talk about whenever we leave town.
I travel a lot in my business, and people are always interested to hear what we are up to and how things are going. Philly's tough image intrigues them.
For writers, there are few cities better suited for the craft than Philadelphia. This town has a distinct culture and an in-your-face personality. We make others feel at home by sharing our intimate thoughts. It is a fact that strangers here dispense more advice than pharmacists. Over the years, passersby have told me they didn't like my lipstick color and my outfit, I should take off my weave (it is not a weave), my shoes were awful and I should smile more.
My most interesting street encounter came once when I was walking home from the grocery store. A young man I had never seen came up to me and put his hand on my rump, and I'm not talking about my roast here. Then he smiled as though he were waiting for my phone number.
"I can arrange for you to spend the night in jail, if you wish," said I, with addytude. "Just try that again." You should have seen his expression. "Oh, you must be from New Jersey," he said.
Excuse me? Given all this, it might surprise you to know that of all the places I have ever lived, Philadelphia is my favorite. Why? The people make it special. OK, maybe we have our priorities skewed and we ought to be outraged by inadequate school funding more than hoagie bans but, at this moment, I am willing to overlook that fact.
People here are real. What you see is what you get. They don't pretend to be something they are not. I don't think we should get mad when people poke fun at us because the city dares to be so different. Things could be much worse.
As a cub reporter, I asked a new city manager in Germantown, Tenn., if he had moved into the fashionable suburb in which he now worked.
"No," he said, adding that he had moved to Memphis. "There is too little diversity in Germantown," he said. "It reminds me of two pieces of white bread with mayonnaise in between." Not long thereafter, he received an invitation to resign.
The moral of this story is that Philadelphia should tout and sell its quirky culture. After all, what tourist wants to visit a city that looks just like the one he left?
Still, out-of-towners need a little help getting used to us. I thought I might offer them some tips for getting along:
When you need directions, look for a city dweller with a smile on his or her face. Confront natives wearing frowns at your own risk.
If a Philadelphian criticizes your clothes, hair or makeup, be grateful. For us, criticism is an act of acceptance and love. It explains how we can claim, truthfully, to be "The City of Brotherly Love."
If you run into a menacing cast of characters, thrust your fist into the air and yell, "Long live the hoagies." People around you will immediately think you are crazy, and call the police.
If you want to fit in with the locals when you go out on the town, complain about issues such as trash (we're against it), snow removal (we're for it), and toss in the fact that cops don't want us to park cars in the middle of busy streets (we're certain this is addressed somewhere in the Bill of Rights).
Enjoy your stay. If you like us, we have extra room. Besides, we need help paying the high taxes.