Tag Archives: Germantown Ave.

Cleaning up

2 Jun

One of the things I dislike most in the world is litter.

That makes it challenging to be in Philadelphia, a city with a serious litter problem.

Trash bag, broom and TrashStik

Today I spent about 30 minutes picking up trash in Germantown. I ended up with a pretty large bag full. In the photo you can see my TrashStik, but actually I used my hands and the broom the most. (I wore gloves.)

Some things I noticed:

  • Plastic, plastic, plastic. Almost everything I picked up was plastic. Thinking about how much plastic trash our culture produces reminded me of Nancy Farmer’s book The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. The book is set in a futuristic society where kidnapped children labor in the “plastic mines” of ancient trash.
  • Comfort. Most of the items I picked up were related to soda, fast food, cigarettes, or some kind of mood-altering substance  (cigarillo holder, beer bottle). I think this speaks to people’s need for comfort, especially in a poor neighborhood where the options that more affluent people use are less available.

(I credit Barbara Ehrenrich’s book Nickel and Dimed with helping me to grasp how taking a cigarette break could feel like important, nurturing “me time” for low-wage workers with little opportunity to meet their own needs.)

I don’t have a specific plan for how often I’m going to do this kind of cleanup, but I’ll get to it from time to time. I’m also on the lookout for more data on why people litter. Obviously some of it is blown trash from appropriate receptacles, but that’s clearly not all of it.

N.b. Needless to say, I don’t get any benefit from linking items for sale, such as the books above. I just do it because I like being able to click and learn more when I’m reading someone else’s post, and I figure others may be the same.)

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Classical color

27 Apr

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Haas & Hahn mural project in the 2500-2800 blocks of Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia.

MetroPCS store signThere has been a lot of press on both the beauty and the challenges of the project. I am inclined to focus on the former.

I particularly like the way that the artists incorporated the businesses’ existing signs into their artwork. For example, there’s a MetroPCS store that uses purple and orange.

And this Gentle Dental, in blue and white. Gentle Dental sign and mural

The Hair of Elegance salon is definitely my favorite. Hair of Elegance sign and muralSo sunshiny!

People’s fears about gentrification are very real, and some of the media coverage has had a decidedly insulting tone (implying or straight out saying that the area is a “slum”).

But you don’t have to buy into an impoverished or stereotyped view of North Philadelphia in order to acknowledge that everyone deserves beauty in their lives.

A while back I had the privilege of hearing Bill Strickland speak about his work in Pittsburgh.

I won’t attempt to summarize his extraordinary accomplishments here, but I will quote him on the importance of making his educational center a beautiful place. (The context is Strickland seeing a Frank Lloyd Wright house for the first time, and being struck by the use of light.)

I thought, “If I could ever bring that light into my neighborhood — bring it to people who deserved it and would respond to it as wholeheartedly and creatively as anybody — then I was home free.”