I love Philadelphia. I was shocked at what a great city this is. For me, it is the cat’s pajamas. I love everything about it. I love where I live. I love the people. I have been met with such kindness and affection here.
– George Dzundza
The night of our housewarming party for my current home, someone broke in and stole my Wii.
A few months later, my roommate and I were walking our dogs and someone rolled by in an SUV and shot us with paintballs.
Not long after that, I was on a first date, waiting to cross a street and someone in a turning car threw and hit me with a half-eaten cheesesteak.
Today, sitting on the steps of City Hall, waiting for groups of students on a scavenger hunt, I was spat on by a half-naked homeless man whose indiscernible ramblings led me to believe he was also mentally unstable. (He wasn’t the first homeless person in Philadelphia to spit on me.)
Philadelphia has literally and figuratively thrown quite a bit at me.
Aside from the time a homeless man punched me in the face in Denver, when I refused his request for $20, I’ve never actually felt assaulted by a city.
While none of these incidents has defined my time in Philadelphia, they’ve collectively shaped my perception of the city.
I’ve made friends here I will keep for the rest of my life. They have supported me, helped me grow and welcomed me into their lives.
I’ve taught at a school like no other I could hope for. It’s asked me to experiment, learn, grow and reconsider what I believe.
Still, someone threw food at me – food they’d eaten part of.
The thing that makes me wonder and that I can’t explain logically or understand about these moments is my role in them.
For the positives, those things I’ll treasure and count as the best pieces of Philadelphia, I was an active participant. In my teaching and my friendships, I sought out experiences and people with whom I could connect and learn.
When I was robbed or paintballed, I was a passive participant. These were things done to me. I posted no sign daring people to enter our house and take my stuff. I wasn’t yelling obscenities at the SUV as it rolled by. I was just there.
This is what’s made it difficult for me to fall in love with Philadelphia, to let down my guard the way I did in Sarasota or Normal.
Something is angry or unhappy about Philadelphia. Were it a friend seeking advice, I’d recommend Philadelphia get itself into therapy before starting a relationship.
“You’ve a lot of great qualities,” I’d say, “There are a million reasons people could fall in love with you. I’m just worried you’re angry about something and haven’t come to terms with it.”
I realize this is my experience. I fully own that these events are not representative of the entire city.
My time here has been a net good by far. Not one of these events warranted its own post in this space. I don’t dwell on them daily. In fact, I don’t remember them until another something awful occurs. I’ll probably never write about these events again.
Still, these things happened.
More than one person spat on me without my ever having said a word to them.
That’s not ok.