Reflections from the (Fair)mount: Living in the ‘Pope Zone’

     A window display at The Fabric Workshop (1214 Arch Street) features an array of waving Pope Francis statues. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    A window display at The Fabric Workshop (1214 Arch Street) features an array of waving Pope Francis statues. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Well, for a citizenry who collectively had white smoke coming out of their ears over the citywide shutdown for the papal visit, we apparently managed some hospitality. Every tourist I spoke with proclaimed Philadelphia a friendly city. Probably they were on the way to confession.

    As a lapsed cradle Catholic, I’m taking time to reflect. I can now say I walk like a pope — in the sciatica way, not the high-moral-ground way. After several confusing weeks not knowing where I could drive or park in my Fairmount neighborhood, I couldn’t help but turn to Romans 12:19 — “Vengeance is mine, I will repay sayth the Lord” — as Mayor Nutter’s car broke down and was towed in front of the Basilica. It was oh so wrong, but I felt oh so gleeful.

    As for the extreme mark-up on Aramark concessions — it’s no different from Citizens Bank Park. Have you ever tried to feed a family at a ballgame? Although, it was refreshing to hear that Wawa was donating food to volunteers.

    There were even a silver lining to having my neighborhood turned into a police state. I’ve always had a weakness for a handsome lad in uniform, and there were two guards on each corner of my block. It is the first and last time I can leave my house unlocked, no doubt. And, living on a heavily traveled street with three bus routes, I finally know what it’s like to live on a quiet block.

    Except for when the unannounced fireworks went off, and I found myself diving under the couch.

    Guys … with all the military around, a heads-up would have been nice.

    Now that the pontiff has come and gone, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the onerous security wasn’t breeched, it’s time to take stock. After Pope Francis arrived, the lockdown aggravation morphed into brotherly love. Everyone on the street was friendly and courteous. Even the bicyclists. I’m hoping some of that lasts now that the traffic and the hustle of daily life has returned.

    Speaking, of that onerous security, I sure hope the powers that be figure out how to be a world-class city without turning into Brigadoon. There has to be a way to keep the security sites rotating rather than shutting down an entire downtown and making it disappear for days. Public transportation should keep moving, and whoever is in charge of rerouting buses should actually ride a bus. It was ridiculous trying to get to work all week.

    I feel for the restaurants and businesses that took a hit for this event to happen. You can say this is ultimately good for city tourism, but that doesn’t help cash flow after a slow summer. The best thing we can do is go out and support them in the coming weeks — and tip your servers well to make up for their lost income.

    Finally, if I can pontificate a bit myself …  While I found much to agree on with the pope, I have to take issue with his definition of family. My gay and lesbian friends have beautiful and courageous families who bring much to the fabric of society. I hope the next World Meeting of Families remembers them.

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