the 1871 Philadelphia novel moves into final design, and Dangerous Neighbors prompts an afternoon reverie
Saturday, September 15, 2012
I left the desk at last to take a walk. Meandering through my streets, I discovered Kathleen, a very special green-eyed woman, who had, she told me, read Dangerous Neighbors a few weeks ago. Kathleen grew up in Philadelphia at a time when circus elephants walked the streets of Erie and Broad, and in Dangerous Neighbors, a book about Philadelphia during the 1876 Centennial, she discovered many details that resonated with her. Standing there in the glorious afternoon sun, Kathleen told me stories about the Oppenheimer curling iron, the fifteen-cent round-trip trolley, the ferry one took from Philadelphia across the Delaware, and the shore years ago. Kathleen's grandmother was an eleven-year-old child during the time of the Centennial, and so Kathleen remembered, too, whispers of the great exposition.
I had published an essay about the Jersey shore in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few weeks ago, and that story prompted for Kathleen memories of her own trips to the sea as a child. We spoke, then, of this, too—this shared geography that has been transformed by time and yet remains a signifier, a home.
As much as I often wish I were back in the city living the urban life, I am tremendously grateful for the streets where I live. I am grateful, too, for the people who enter my life—for Quinn now on the verge of her career, and for Kathleen with her storehouse of memories.