Consider the possibilities
Imagine if this kind of "welcome" sign catches on:
Welcome to Mount Airy. Just minutes from Chestnut Hill.
Welcome to Bridesburg. No, not Tacony. Can't you read?
Welcome to Grays Ferry. We're not gentrified snobs like those new people flocking to Southwest Center City. We'll tell you right away if we don't like you. In fact, we'll tell you right now.
Welcome to Fishtown. Can you believe people used to think we lived in Kensington?
Welcome to Fairmount. And keep driving if you're looking for some place called the "Art Museum Area."
Welcome to the Badlands. You can almost see Camden from here.
Welcome to Lawncrest. A lot like Burholme, only easier to pronounce.
Welcome to Somerton. Bensalem with more cops and higher taxes.
Welcome to Morrell Park. Nobody knows where it is or how to get here, and we like it that way.
Welcome to Overbrook Farms. No farms, no brook, no foolin'.
Welcome to Queen Village. Not nearly as gay as Society Hill gossips say.
Welcome to Girard Estates. Just joking about the "Estates." We're as South Philly as organized crime. Which doesn't exist.
Welcome to East Oak Lane. Cheaper than Cheltenham by a mile.
Welcome to Devil's Pocket. Seriously, there's a neighborhood called Devil's Pocket and someone has to live here.
Welcome to SoSo. Because the name didn't sound nearly so stupid back in the '90s.
Welcome to Taney. Formerly confused with Schuylkill.
Welcome to Powelton Village. Still too proud to answer yes to University City as an address.
Welcome to Rhawnhurst. Because the name Bratwurst was already taken.
Welcome to Tioga-Nicetown or Nicetown-Tioga. Whatever. Just don't say we live in Swampoodle.
Welcome to Port Richmond. Because the "Port" part still sounds kind of classy after all these years.
Welcome to Germantown. You'll never guess from which country our first settlers emigrated.
Welcome to Holmesburg. Imagine Mayfair with a big prison.
About a mile west of the new "Welcome to Wissahickon" sign, in downtown Roxborough, there is a mural of a huge turtle called "the Ridge." The spine of the happy turtle is identified as Ridge Avenue, with the major north-south cross streets clearly marked. That mural tells the story of the universe in a nutshell. Or a turtle's shell.
In A Brief History of Time (Did you read all of it? Yeah, right. Me, too), the physicist Stephen Hawking writes that many ancient cultures believed the Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars — everything — were resting on the back of a giant turtle. And modern philosophers of the cosmos still get a chuckle at Hawking's answer to the perfectly sensible question, "What does the turtle stand on?"
His response? "It's turtles all the way down."
Looking at that charming mural at the top of the hill in Roxborough the other day, I better understood the concept of turtles all the way down. Even more, I saw how it took more than one village to make a neighborhood.
I can't imagine what Roxborough would be like as a place to visit and live in without the communities of Manayunk and Wissahickon, so similar and yet so different, holding up that turtle on the Ridge. What makes a great city? It's neighborhoods all the way down.
E-mail Clark DeLeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.