I paid a visit to my old stomping grounds over the holidays–even took in the old Wanamaker holiday light show at Macy’s for the first time. You’d think in six years living in Philadelphia (fifteen if you include my time in the suburbs) I would have done that earlier. We took a little walk through South Philly to check out the house lights, too. It still feels like home.
A quick study in contrasts.
Here’s how apartment searching works in Philly:
You find ten apartments on Craigslist that suit your needs. Five of them are fake, and someone asks you to send money via Western Union. You ignore these. The other five you go visit. You pick your favorite, put down a deposit, and you have an apartment. Huzzah!
Here’s how apartment searching works in NYC:
- You spend hours perusing listings on the web, finding apartments that meet your needs. On each of these listings is contact information for a broker who reps that property.
- You contact the broker about that apartment, at which point the broker says “oh, that apartment was just rented.” This means “that apartment is fake. I use it to get you in the door.” Because you’re already in touch, you walk the broker through everything you are looking for: price range, size, location, amenities, etc.
- The broker ignores everything you have just said, looks through his or her records, and sends you to see a few properties that in no way resemble the description you supplied. Likely these are the same apartments they have been trying to move for several weeks by sending every single person to see them. Several of them are broom closets, one is a rooftop with a vinyl tarp and an army cot, and one is literally an old-timey wooden outhouse in an alley behind the United Nations.
- For this “service,” should you happen to trip over an apartment that IS right for you (or if the broker manages to get one right, almost certainly by accident alone), you get to pay the broker 15% of a full year’s rent, though most suggest this is negotiable down to 8.4%.
Saturday I attended the monthly Philadelphia Writers Group meetup, which is always a terrific experience. If you’re a writer and you aren’t finding some opportunity to discuss your craft and your work with peers, you simply must remedy that – meetup.com is a good place to start looking.
A few of us went for drinks after the meeting, and the conversation turned to Occupy Philly. At the time of our November meeting the encampment on Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall was thousands strong. On Saturday it was gone, cleared away by police so construction crews can start tearing up Dilworth for a major renovation project. In that same month, everyone at the table agreed, Occupy managed to squander considerable popular support and goodwill and alienate most of Philadelphia.
In October I wrote a post about my participation in the Occupy movement. Others at our table had taken to the streets, and voiced their prior support. Yet by December we were all fed up, and everyone agreed on the reasons: Occupy Philly stopped being about a message we supported [my attempt at summary: to counter the Corporate power-grab in America and fix the system that privatizes profit and socializes loss] and became a petty squabble over Dilworth Plaza. Continue Reading