Philly Vignettes

Today was hot, but not as hot as yesterday. Still, the air was stale and it doesn’t help that it is garbage day. Unlike my old neighborhoods in California where they use automated trucks that lift and empty the standard cans with hinged lids, Philadelphians put their plastic garbage bags out on the curb. On occasion, you will see the blue recycling receptacles, but hardly anyone in Philly recycles. The point is, garbage day smells in this city. Walking down 45th, there are three thrift shops: one for household items, one for clothes, and one for furniture. They are all owned by the same company. Sometimes I’m amazed that they are still open, considering their rather dismal inventory. I stopped in the household items store. A wiry thin Black man who was younger than he appeared due to the ravages of substance abuse walked in. As he strolled to the back of the store he began to say, “Let my people Go!” to the white woman at the counter who also looked as if she lived a hard life of partying and despair. He said “Let my people go!” again and she replied with her back turned, “I hear ya!” The man said it several times. Then with a slightly ironic voice, “Power to the people, fight the power!” After he left, I continued to stroll through the store with two hipster/anarchists who typically roam this West Philly neighborhood. Like a proper nonconformist, they too had tattoos on their forearms and calves. Both apparently found useful items. Before walking out disappointed, I overheard the woman at the counter talking to another woman. She said that the doctor told her that if the bumps weren’t from mosquito bites, they they may be from bed bugs or scabies. She said her friend had them and said you could only get them from lying in bed. I made my way out of that store, vowing not to buy anything from there. I strolled down 45th street, a little bit more unnerved by the grunge of this city. All the houses had set out their garbage and household junk. I noticed a woman picking through a pile of discarded blankets and comforters. I thought about the lady with bed bugs and shuddered. I stopped in CVS and wandered around for a bit looking for cleaning supplies and storage units. The woman who helped me at the counter was holding a conversation with her coworkers about paying back her girlfriend money. Although her weave wasn’t over the top, I did wonder why she felt the need to put on fake eyelashes. She, like nearly everybody else in this town, had arms covered in what looked like prison house tattoos. Black folks tattoos are never as fancy as the anarchists. On my way back, I kept smelling something terrible. I began to wonder if I stepped in something because no matter where I went that smell followed me. People love dogs in this city and very few people have backyards. So they have to walk their dogs and follow them with a bag to pick up their dog’s feces and drop it in one of the rare receptacles designated for that purpose. The immigrants in this neighborhood don’t have dogs, but the hipsters are more on point about picking up after their dogs than the Black folks who walk their dogs in Muhammad Park. Even as I walked the length of the parking lot, I kept smelling the terrible smell. After checking my shoes I realized it was just the smell of West Philadelphia on a hot summer day. I just got in, time to shower the Philadelphia grime off me.