Making a Philadelphian Acquaintance

by Olivia Ortiz

You could say that I’m new to Philadelphia. 

Four years living near the end of the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail line and boarding at least 20 flights to and from the Philadelphia International Airport doesn’t come close to cutting it when you don’t know which cross street is which.

And yet Philadelphia is the first city I’ve ever come close to knowing. Lunches at Reading Terminal Market, missed buses and trolleys, my first cup of boba tea, my first catcall—the time I’ve spent in Philadelphia up until now is sparse, but it gave me a glimpse of the city and left me wanting more.

Something about Philadelphia, whether it was the abundance of murals or the proliferation of uneven sidewalks, made me decide to stay. As of a few weeks ago, my boxes and I have settled into an apartment in West Philadelphia and I began work at the Philadelphia Parks Alliance as a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Philly Fellows.

So now I’m here, looking to deepen my acquaintance with the City of Brotherly Love. One of the friendships I’m most excited to make is with the many facilities associated with Parks and Recreation.

For example, I haven’t been to a pool in Philadelphia. (Strictly speaking, the only pool I’ve been to in all of Pennsylvania was my college’s pool, and I was only there to pass the swim test.) This city has the largest number of pools per capita and since I’ve moved in we’ve been in the middle of a relentless heat wave. How I’ve survived I’m not sure, but with the SwimPhilly initiative making Philadelphia pools extra-inviting, I’m looking forward to finding my nearest pool.

Another example: I’ve only walked the Schuylkill River Trail up to the Museum of Art. Yet I have friends who have taken it from University City to Manayunk and back. I’ve never been to Wissahickon Park. In fact, I’ve only been to one park—Fairmount—three times.

Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. It’s blackberry season, so hopefully I can find some brambles growing around the city parks. Maybe I’ll invite a friend to walk up the Schuylkill Trail or take a dip in the pool—really anything to escape the summer heat and learn a little more about the Philadelphia I’ve yet to meet.

** Cover photo taken at Red Top Mountain State Park, not far from the north Georgia hills Olivia’s family calls home.

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