The Sixth Borough
Like any Jewish child born in the post-WWII era, I have an uncle named Arthur who is a doctor. Besides being a great guy and good uncle, hes also handy to have around just in case anyone needs late night medical advice, a last minute flu shot or an update on how the U.S. insurance companies are slowly squeezing every last ounce of joy out of the medical profession. But, when we were younger, being a doctor also meant that he needed to be on call and couldnt take his family on vacation during holiday break. So, instead of going to Disney World or some other family-approved tourist destination, he used to take my cousins to a local hotel for an imaginary vacation every winter.
In certain ways, I feel the same way about taking a trip to Philadelphia: the City of Brotherly Love, the home of the cheesesteak and, most recently, New Yorks Sixth Borough. I used to think Philadelphia was far away, but when I started seeing Phish there and in nearby scenic Camden, I realized that not only was it close, it was possible to do the entire drive in less time that it takes to listen to the full version of the 70 minute Reba. In fact, one of my good friends from college even commutes from Philadelphia to New York every day, so he can balance his girlfriend and job as well as his apparent need for both fresh bagels and cheese steaks.
But since Philadelphia is a full two states away, I always feel like I am going on vacation whenever I take a trip down I-95, more often than not to see the Disco Biscuits. And there is something fun and strangely liberating about taking an imaginary vacation: sleeping in a hotel, eating unhealthy food in the name of trying something new and staying up late to do things Id never dream of blogging about at home. All in all, depending on the Disco Biscuits tour schedule, Id say I average about 2-4 imaginary Philadelphia vacations a year, which is usually enough to assure me that I still live in New Yorks best borough.
My latest Philadelphia adventure took place this Sunday when I what haphazardly ended up jumping on tour with my friends for an overnight adventure to Philadelphia. It kind of makes sense that Philadelphias two most prominent styles of music are hip-hop (Will Smith, The Roots) and electronic-rock (The Disco Biscuits et. al.) because kidz in Philadelphia definitively have that look, from the sideways baseball caps to the baggy clothes. And while that may see obvious to some of you, I still find it funny that two distinct, different cultural subsets can emerge within a nights drive from one another, even in the global age of the internet.
Not that I had too, too much time to think about all that since being in Philadelphia meant I was ON VACATION and could do things that I rarely do back home, like hosting an all night party in my hotel room or letting someone else figure out how we were getting to New Jersey or, even, including a piece of melted cheese on my trademark tuna fish sandwich. For the first time in a short while, I also drove down and stayed with an entirely new group of friends, each of whom I picked up outside my usual college/high school/_Relix_ comfort box (in fact, I even met one at an indie-rock show). But while on vacation the rules of space and time are suspended in that summer camp kind of way and, by 4 hours in, we knew each other well enough to harp on each others insecure quirks.
Usually, when I leave town, even when it is only to Philadelphia, or say, New Yorks Upper East Side, I try to taste a bit of local culture, be it a restaurant, museum or local landmark, in order to try to convince my parents that Im not one of those lot kidz for whom seeing Phish in 72 cities really meant little man than seeing 72 Best Westerns and Waffle Houses. But, with a new group of friends comes new rules and regulations, and this time I used our hotel as a Lost in Translation-like springboard for all my adventures, rarely leaving, mingling with my fellow guests and interacting with the local hotel staff as if they were speaking another language (which in many ways they were since, apparently, you can only order sushi at 2 AM in New York and L.A.).
You also learn a lot about new friends by staying with them in a hotel room and, even If they are just platonic pals, I kind of feel like your relationship changes in a small way after youve seen them in their pajamas. Its kind of like jumping from casually dating someone to sleeping with them or, more accurately, going from having a playdate to a sleepover party. Slowly, you begin to figure out which of your friends gets all deep when the lights go out, which one of your friends builds a little pillow fort around herself and which one of your friends gets up way too early in the morning and feels compelled to wake everyone else up by accident, like a dog licking his masters face in the morning.
All in all, it was great fun and I even discovered that they make Philly Cheesesteaks without the bread for people on Atkins. Now thats progress people