I was ordering dinner in the Couch Tomato Cafe in Manayunk, one of my favourite pizza places in Philadelphia, if not in the world. (It isn’t a stereotypical “Italian” place, it’s more of a funky cafe/salad bar). After you make your order at the till the customers supply their name. The cashier stared hard at me.
“I’m trying to remember your name….let’s see…no, I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten it.”
I tell her with my name.
“Yes, Claire! I thought it was that…I’ve not seen you in a while.”
“It’s OK: I have been out of town for over a year…”
Back in September 2010 I boarded my return flight from Philadelphia International Airport to London Heathrow. I finished my job. I closed my bank account. I terminated my rental contract. I sold my bike. I threw out/gave away all my belongings that I could not cram into the luggage requirements for international British Airways flights. I did not renew or extend my J1 visa. Everything was tidied up and wound down.
I boarded the place…but I never really left. Two years down the line and I’m still here in Philly.
It is hard for me to explain why it is that I’m applying exclusively to graduate schools on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA – because I want to be as close to Philly as I possibly can. It’s not like I can provide a rationalised explanation as to why it is that I love Philly above all the other cities I’ve visited in the States. The nearest I can get is this: it isn’t as “city-like” as Manhattan/NYC (which is too built-up, crowded and sprawling to comprehend) but isn’t a town by any means either, it’s kinda in the middle.
I love this place. I love cycling down the Schukyll River path at night and watching the summer lightening storms in the distance. I love sitting in cafes in Manayunk watching the world go by. I love the cobbled streets of the Old City.
What I love more than anything though is the Swann Memorial Fountain. I can’t explain why I love that, either…I just do. Love doesn’t have to be logical, I guess.