As another Memorial Day approaches, we pause to reflect on how quickly it’s arrived. People plan barbeques, make plans with loved ones and lament another year of promises to build the perfect beach body that never quite came to fruition.
Memorial Day in Philadelphia is also a time for personal celebration that goes beyond just remembering the men and women (my Grandparents included) who served our country with bravery and honor. It’s become one of my very favorite times of year in the city for one reason above all others…because so many people leave.
Parents pack up their kids and drive to the Jersey Shore. Local university students have already traveled home for the summer. Gays leave nothing but “tumbleweave” to roll through the empty streets of the Gayborhood as they caravan to Rehoboth.
With every year I’ve lived in the city, I’ve become more and more agoraphobic. From the Parkway on the 4th of July to LGBT Pride to various block parties sprinkled across the city, Philadelphia is a city with a tradition of great outdoor gatherings that draw throngs of people. Lately when I attend these events, I not only bring friends and a drink enclosed in a brown paper bag but also a sense of creeping dread that makes me want to stay on my couch.
Take, for example, the Rittenhouse Row festival this previous weekend. It’s billed as a street festival that offers you a chance to experience the food and wares of various businesses and restaurants in the Rittenhouse area. It draws thousands of people to a 4-block area on just one tiny street. That equals a great many people sweating on me then knocking me over to wait in line for a $5 hotdog from Rouge. I shut down like a robot running out of power, and my boyfriend had to lead me to a park bench where I could enjoy my overpriced Cheesesteak Spring Roll with a side of personal space.
What’s strange is that big, fun events are something that I always used to look forward to. I grew up in a very small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and it was always my dream to live right in the middle of an exciting, diverse group of people. I still enjoy the amenities and benefits of a big city and all the fun they bring. I just wish they were all a better-kept secret.
This might just be a function of my old age. Meyers Briggs tests indicate that I test as a strong extrovert, and my family can tell you that I’ve always been a people person. Then again, I grew up in a funeral home family, so they may have been using the very low bar of comparing me to corpses and those who mourned for them.
So with summer upon us, I am going to try my hardest to reverse this particular trend. I suppose if I want to enjoy the beach, I’m going to have to put up with a whole lot of people with designs on a similar sunny repast. You can’t get to your seat at a Phillies game without running the gauntlet entering Citizens Bank Park. And I won’t be able to exchange cooking tips with Beyonce at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival without admitting to myself that I won’t be the only person in attendance.
But until those opportunities arise, I am going to enjoy Philadelphia as a Memorial Day ghost town.