Dear Philly, I don't know how to say this, but it's been a long time coming. When I was living out in the 'burbs, I thought I knew you. I'd see you every so often for an afternoon, ride in on the stale-smelling R5 and spend the day falling in love with your cupcakes, your markets and yes, even your brunch. I wrote off the scoffs of haters who called you dirty and your citizens rude. I looked past your flaws and saw things differently: I thought your grit gave you charm and thought Philadelphians were honest and real.
Then, after two years of long-distance, I decided to commit. I moved into the city, doe-eyed and waiting to experience all that you had to offer. Trips home to car-dependent Connecticut affirmed my decision to live in Philly. I had a city life. I had things to do within walking distance. I had food trucks. I had ethnic restaurants. I had options. I tried new restaurants, I poked around new neighborhoods, and, for a little while, things were wonderful.
In my entire life, I had never once wanted to go to the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Portland, Vancouver. None of them had any appeal. They made me think of grey skies, rain, and salmon, three things I don't particularly care for. Even the shoreline wasn't enough to draw me in. Instead of sandy shores, I saw trees... and more rain. I had no idea what made so many of my friends rave about the PNW [is that even a 'thing?' like a hashtag #PNW? If not, can I make it one or am I just trying to make 'fetch' happen?]
I purposefully got window seats on all of my flights. After missing out a flight over the Grand Canyon recently, I had a feeling that the western half of the continent had more in store for me than beautiful red rocks [I was right].
MOUNTAINS! Yes, that's right, kids. I, Kelly, had never seen a real, live *actual* mountain before. If you've never met me, I can tell you that I'm a pretty animated person and forget to control myself when I'm surprised with glee. Such was the case with the mountains out my window. When I saw them, I audibly gasped, making the eight year old B.C. native next to me giggle at my naivety. I spent the next hour with my nose glued to the window, amazed at how much better of an artist God is than Bob Ross (though, let's be serious, Bob *did* inspire me to ask for his Master Artist paint set at 8, so clearly he's got talent beyond just painting happy trees...and as we can tell by the number of paintings I haven't sold, that whole 'master artist' thing didn't exactly pan out for me).
When I got off the plane, things were pretty much a continuation of that initial beautiful surprise. I would turn my head to look down a busy street, see a mountain and gasp in surprise, both at its presence and its grandeur.
Maybe it was the flowers that seemed to spring up everywhere, bringing life, beauty and the sweet smells of summer to sidewalks and seawalls and unassuming railroad tracks...
Or the amazing Asian cuisine I ate--sizzling bowls of bi bim bop, crispy pork strips in bento boxes on the beach, cold buckwheat noodles in a tangy sweet sauce, perfectly chilled wasabe ginger tuna, the rare ancient treat of delicate strands of hand-pulled dragonsbeard candy, and even common sake--most were new to me, some were consumed overlooking the ocean, a few simply on concrete steps or under awnings of tents in the amber-glow of sunset during Asian night markets.
Whatever it was that stirred my insides and got my brain buzzing, I still can't pinpoint. What I can say is that by the time I left, I had changed for the better. First of all, and most shockingly, I became a lover (strong word, yes, but accurate) of salmon. In sushi, in dijon sauce over quinoa, and even in jerky or candied nugget form (as unappetizing as that once sounded to my salmon-tyro self a week ago, I can assure you now that it's delicious). Secondly, I realized that I hadn't completely fallen out of love with Philly; I was just naive to think that once I fell for a place, the feeling would be permanent. That's not to say I won't stick around Philly for a while, it just means that I'm keeping my options open. After all, there are markets all over the world that need strolling through... .
So Philly, while I don't know what this means for our future, whether I'm with you for a thousand sunrises or just a few more, but I hope we can enjoy each other's company until the sun sets on our time together.