Saturday brought back memories aplenty and created new ones that I’ll treasure. Returning to my corner of Philadelphia always does that for me, and being able to visit Philly and talk about a book that is very much about the city’s life is an author’s dream. To do so as a conversation with a journalist that I respect and admire—and to have that happen in a super-inviting indie bookshop located on the street that becomes almost a character in Mortal Things—well, what a gift!

It was a hometown crowd, full of faces I hadn’t seen in a decade or so, and talking with them warmed the chilly afternoon. I was home. Though passing trolleys no longer cause buildings on Germantown Avenue to shake, I felt close to my childhood, adolescence, and to so much of my adulthood. Our childhood neighborhoods remain but they are no longer the same. Though they don’t exist the way we knew them, being there transports us no less than those trolleys did. (Pictured above, the fabled 23 Trolley a few miles down the Avenue from “booked.” and more than a couple of decades removed)

Mortal Things offers a deep look at Philadelphia, but our talk ranged well beyond things Philly. We talked about losses and grief and healing. And joy and laughter and acquired families. Things that happen no matter where we call home, things that make us human.

I was bowled over by the love and support I felt from the people who filled that sweet bookstore. Thank you so much!

Live in Philly and crave a place in which to find and curl up with a special book? Owner Deb is doing a brilliant job of making “booked.” an important cultural meeting place in NW Philadelphia. Brava and best wishes for growing this lovely enterprise.

Thank you to the brilliant, kind, and insightful Ronnie Polaneczky, who guided the conversation and kept everyone involved. You are so Philly.

I recall an elementary school geography textbook that called Philadelphia the city of neighborhoods. Even then, textbook writers from who knows where grasped that Philly differed from other metropolitan areas. Its identity didn’t come from a Big City core. The place consisted of dozens of well-defined, self-contained neighborhoods. Yet boundaries were permeable, enabling residents to feel like they belonged to more than the one city nook in which they found themselves.

Popular culture myth attributes the “degrees of separation” thing to child of Philadelphia, actor Kevin Bacon (whose mother taught along with me in the Community College of Philadelphia faculty).  Of course, it’s not exclusively a Philadelphia thing, but ask a stranger from Philly a few questions, and you are likely to discover connections.   

I’d not known Ronnie Polaneczky before finding her through Facebook, but it’s Philly, so no one is surprised to learn that her husband is that same Noel Weyrich who worked at CCP decades ago. He reminded me of the slogan of the Counseling Department volleyball team, of which I was a member hundreds of years ago. He’d quoted it in an in-house piece. “We may be old, but we’re slow.” We kind of rope-a-doped our way to victory over far more athletically gifted teams. Got Philly?

That slogan kind of captured a certain Philadelphia je ne sais quoi—conjuring up that forgotten Philly memory for me.

All these years later, Ronnie (pictured above) stepped up and did a mitzvah for a fellow Philadelphian, someone who, given a few questions, would probably come up with a dozen mutual friendships.

Thank you, Ronnie, Deb, and all the folks on Saturday who brought love and energy to that spot on the Avenue.

Thanks for reading this post. If you like it, I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @nedbachus, at nedbachus.com, and that you’ll Like the Facebook Page, Open Admissions.

Mortal Things, my novel, can be ordered online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org at the bottom of this link:  https://www.treeoflifetreeofjoy.com/mortal-things OR you can order it at your favorite local independent bookstore! And they’ve got signed copies of it at booked.!!!

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