When approaching Philadelphia on I-95 South, there’s a moment just before exit 30, when the highway inclines and, in the distance, the city’s skyline appears. The expressway quickly dips back down and sight of the buildings is lost for a few miles, but for some of us, the image remains.
Since April, 2013, I have been commuting 76 miles each way in the car and, much like the lookout on a long voyage at sea, the sight of that skyline pulls me out of my traveling malaise. It also serves as a symbol of home and a reminder of the past decade-and-a-half of my life.
Aside from a three-month stint in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2002, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for all of my thirty-four years on this Earth, the last sixteen within the city of Philadelphia. I love the city. I love its history, its charm, its vibe, its character, and its characters. It is my home.
Or, more accurately, it was my home.
By the time you read this, I will have moved out of the city and the state that has been a part of me for my entire life.
I went to undergrad and business school in Philadelphia. I spent the first decade of my career here.
My parents were born and raised here. I watched the 1983 76ers championship parade and the 2008 Phillies parade on Broad Street. I met Nas on South Street. I attended Live 8. I proposed to my wife at the top of the City Hall observation deck overlooking the entire city and threw an engagement party at McGillin’s immediately afterwards. I snagged a reservation at the toughest table in America. I made countless friends and almost as many enemies in Philly, with several occupying both spheres.
Philly made me. I will miss it.
I’ll miss the passion of the city and those that inhabit it.
I’ll miss the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and City Tavern.
I’ll miss being an unofficial tour guide for friends and acquaintances that come to visit.
I’ll miss sitting at Penn’s Landing, staring at the water of the Delaware River, serenely contemplating life.
I’ll miss tailgating for Phillies games and buying soft pretzels in a bag on Pattison Avenue.
I’ll miss seeing heroin addicts nodding off on the EL while commuting to work.
I’ll miss driving however I want because there aren’t really any traffic laws within the city.
I’ll miss being a short drive from either of my alma maters.
I’ll miss knowing which food trucks are good and which ones to avoid.
I’ll miss Dalessandro’s and, my favorite, Memphis Taproom.
I’ll miss the feeling I get when I’m on 676 and it feels like you’re driving directly into the heart of the city (because you are).
I’ll miss Stephen Starr and his twenty-plus spots around the city that made the city cool and made it okay for chefs and other restaurateurs to plant a flag in Center City.
I’ll miss the entire character of the city. Proud, working-class, with a chip on its shoulder and an inferiority complex in relation to New York City and Washington D.C., the city is the embodiment of its residents. We love Rocky and Buddy Ryan and Allen Iverson.
It is by no means a perfect city and there are things I will not miss, of course. However, it’s been my home for the second half my life and was the closest city to me for the first half too.
As I was leaving the city, I looked in my rear view mirror and stared at the skyline, the one that had been a symbol for decades and a welcome sight to a weary commuter for over a year.
As I watched it fade behind me for the final time as a resident, I couldn’t help but shed a tear.
Philly made me and I will be forever grateful for that.