Friday, April 6, 2012

Every ghetto, every city, and suburban place I've been

New location alert. It isn't Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or even San Francisco. It isn't even a city. It's a suburb. A suburb of Philadelphia, but still a suburb.
Outside of Philadelphia along the Media/Elwyn line (the R3 for those who refuse to change with the times) is Swarthmore, PA. Home to Swarthmore College...and that's about it. There are nice houses, little shops, a coffee shop, a church, a this, a that. Nothing is open past 9:30pm. It's a hip and happening place. Also, it's dry. The closest bar is 2 miles away. According to, "Swarthmore is a tree-lined residential community of distinctive homes and quiet neighborhoods, anchored by the campus of Swarthmore College. At the center of Borough is a downtown core of unique, independent shops and services." To summarize, Swarthmore invented the yawn and underage drinking. In tandem possibly. 
During my brief moment of gainful employment in this town, the most interesting thing that happened to me was telling teenage boys not to pee on the side of the building in broad daylight. Well, that was before the exciting day when I found this inside my place of employment:

On the ground, resting with pride and a certain sense of knowing it didn't belong, was this weave. I almost swept it up, thinking it was an unwieldy clump of dust. I caught myself just in time; I pretended I didn't notice it, tucked my phone in my apron pocket, and took a picture while "wiping down" a counter or something. Overjoyed by my discovery, I found work tolerable that day.
The only thing that made my day even better? This:
No, I wasn't glad to see that even in Swarthmore someone made a mistake like littering. See that black smudge? More weave. Xmas had come late, but just in time for me.
While I will not disclose the name of the store for the sake of my pride (who gets fired these days?), I will talk about Swarthmore.
That place is tiny: it's 1.38 square miles, and the population is about 6,100 people. The median income is $119,315. That's a pretty penny. Almost everyone is Catholic, or of a mainline Protestant division. Obama led the election in Swarthmore in 2008 (61% to 39% for McCain). An impressive 8% of the population is using alternative energy. That's an impressive amount for a tiny borough.
Here is the racial breakdown: 79.6% White, 9.4% Asian 'alone', 4.8% Black 'alone', 2.9% Hispanic, 2.5% two or more races. and 0.8% other. Has anyone figured out what other means yet? When you do, let me know. It is not very diverse in terms of religion, race, type of reusable shopping bag, or socioeconomic status.
Again, there are a lot of very pretty homes and clean apartment complexes. Lawns and exterior paint jobs are well maintained. Lots of families go out for breakfast or take walks together on Saturday and Sunday morning. When I went to  the municipal building to pay my $5 parking ticket, the woman working in the office gave me an apple and told me to have a beautiful day. It's like living inside of a Stepford wife.
Here's another anecdote about Swarthmore: one my co-workers (just one) was a black woman.  She still works there, and is all around pretty cool. There are a handful of black families that frequented our place of employment, and event more white parents with adopted black children. The following story involves non-black people who have seen black people before. On a daily basis, my coworker has white people ask about her hair. She wears it natural, and this is a never ending source of amazement for a number of white patrons. They ask how she maintains it, if they can touch it, if she can teach them how to care for it (if they have an adopted child who is black), etc. Many of these questions seem intrusive, rude, and sometimes condescending because they are. They're forcing an appreciate of "other people" to the point of being offensive. Swarthmore is full of people with good intentions who have stumbled down the wrong path for a brief moment.
Do you understand my shock at seeing these lost pieces of weave?

 Thank you to Swarthmore for reinforcing the status quo
Thank you to Lauryn Hill for "Every ghetto, every city"


Guest Starring: a mustache

In all my days I've never seen someone lose their mustache on the street. A clean, full mustache tossed aside like an unwanted candy wrapper. A few days ago I received an email from a good friend who is currently traveling about on a cruise ship, playing in the band. He spends his free time searching high and low in tropical places for lost hair extensions for me. He failed in that endeavor, but he found me a mustache. Since receiving that email from him, I've woken up every day with thanks in my heart and a smile on my face.
Syke out. It's not a real mustache. This little emerald farce was found in Tampa, FL in the port district. But like this mustache, Tampa's port isn't even the real deal. It ranks second to Miami's port in terms of the number of cruise ships that regularly stink up the coast with boring tourists who will all probably get a flesh eating bacteria. At the least Tampa has the honor of playing host to Wikipedia's server farm and other Wikimedia Foundation projects. What a fabulous place indeed.
Stay with me, dear readers, as I've never reviewed a location based on fake facial hair, only faux follicles found for the head. The mustache is a St. Patrick's day throw back, but Tampa isn't exactly the capital for St. Patty's celebrations. Ok, train of thought. Chuga chuga choo- let's just look at tourism in Tampa, and maybe some stats about St. Patrick's day in general. That's a holiday rife with tradition and stoicism.
After some shoddy internet based research, I gave up after I found; the most recent statistics they have are from 2010. What are they doing down there that prevents them from providing me updates? Serves them right that their tourism dropped by 7.4% between 2009 to 2010 to a measly 13.9 million people. All they brought in was a paltry 3.2 billion dollars. That's only equal to winning one lottery these days. I did cease my high speed reading and mockery at this though: tourism brought in around 47,384 jobs and $1.3 billion towards wages for those in the service industry. Total cruise passengers at the Port of Tampa reached 845,918 for calendar year 2010, which represented a 6.6% increase over 2009 figures. I'm sure my good pal is glad to be part of that statistic for 2012. International visitors made up 13% of tourists that year, and most of them came from Canada. Not impressed. If you have any questions about those things, feel free to contact Travis Claytor, communications manager for Tampa Bay & Company. His information is listed on the aforementioned site.
Apparently St. Patrick's day in Tampa was like St. Patrick's day in all cities in United States: the law looked the other way while drunk people really tested the limits of public decency while bars served them green beer. They're trying to improve their tourism around the holiday, and it's working ok. I guess. I doubt most people care where they are on St. Patrick's day, as long as you're with people who will protect you from yourself and/ or others. One gem I found was an H&R block office in Apollo Beach offered free reviews all day on March 17th. What exactly prompted the owners to do this, I will never know. Hopefully their offices were respected by responsible persons hoping to get their finances under control. No green puke in the bathrooms or urine on the sides of their building. If this rather nice picture has taught us anything, it's that people cannot let this mustache craze end.

 A special thanks to Tampa for being there.
And even more special thanks to David for providing this picture.