There are blocks of half or full empty buildings and store fronts. There are entire neighborhoods of new or old homes that are in some state of abandonment. What were once thriving residences where people lived and worked, laughed, cried and buried their dead are now, themselves, in some serious state of decay or death. I know that sounds all very dramatic but let’s stop kidding ourselves. The ability of our consumer culture to provide us with insulated environments with rose colored windows (aka – iPads, Smartphones and the ubiquitous TVs) has not stopped the decay. It’s simply hid it out of view.
There are so many empty store fronts, condos, and buildings of all kinds that I was struck by how the City is managing at all. One block feels just fine full or cafes, bars, restaurants that one presumes to be full apartments or offices. But go another block east or west, north or south and OMG, real devastation. It’s not the Beirut kind but the Great Depression kind certainly. It was awe-inspiring, but not in a good way. It’s subtle, though, like much of the poverty in the US. Hidden in plain view so that those of us who prefer not to look, don’t have to. I’m not saying Philadelphia is any better or worse than other cities. It just happens to have been where I was.
As artists, as people, we need to own up to our responsibility for all this. Everyone has some culpability in how this came about. Each one of us bought into the fast and easy life we imagined was real, all the time having that little tickle in the backs of our minds saying, “This ain’t right.”