Philadelphia means it

Photo by Jeremy

Scotty Amid the Mummers

For years, I’d heard that Philadelphia was the place to be for New Year’s, and with the arrogance of a proper New Yorker upon hearing anything is good somewhere else, I thought, yes, I’m sure it’s lovely, dear. We have plenty of opportunities to vomit in public right here at home. As for some kind of wild parade on the first day of the year, well, it’s my personal tradition to spend that whole day wishing I were dead and trying to remember where I left my underwear.

Trixie and Farrell tried to get me on board the mothership last year, and it couldn’t be done, but this time I decided to beam up. I still feel like I’ve just gotten back from somewhere with a lot less gravity. But maybe the problem is just that New York has too much of it. Fun is harder here.

Philadelphians, I have learned, stone-cold don’t give a shit. Instead of a time for cranking back together the creaky old engine of life after a hard, long night out, New Year’s Day is when the party really starts. Around one pm, I was just becoming conscious enough to wonder if I wished I were dead and if I had underwear on when the street started to get seriously rowdy three floors below. I came downstairs to find the house full of folks slurping Bloody Marys and heading out for the Mummers Parade. You’re about to walk outside with a drink in your hand? Classic New York downer. Philly doesn’t even have real police today.

The Mummers Parade isn’t like the clean, art-directed events I’m used to, with pretty girls and politicians waving from a float sponsored by a bank. And it’s not the frantic mania of Mardi Gras, either. It’s a lot of people in Day-Glo hats drinking and yelling, overtired kids honking vuvuzelas and mummifying each other with Silly String, and guys who have the mien of union workers thumping somberly down the street wearing Strawberry Shortcake and furry outfits. There were definitely some people in white body stockings that I would not have guessed would relish the opportunity to wear white body stockings. Mostly there is a lot of drinking in the street and yelling, and no one is in a big hurry to get downtown.

Wikipedia offers this gem: “Henry Muhlenberg, writing in 1839, reported, ‘Men met on the roads in Tinicum and Kingsessing, who were disguised as clowns, shouting at the top of their voices and shooting guns.'” Hank was apparently, like me, very hung over when he experienced the event.

The strippers at the bar across the street didn’t disappoint that night, either. My previous experiences with strippers have led me to believe it’s just one of those things I don’t really get. It’s like theater for one, in which the play is a prank whose punchline is that you are not actually attractive to the actor. In the past, I tend to just put a dollar somewhere and hope the whole thing blows over quickly. But these Philly girls know how to do it. My favorite was the young lady in the middle with giant furry legwarmers and a thong wielding a plastic lightsaber in a way that didn’t need to be any more suggestive than it was. She seemed to be experiencing joy in what she did, and I can take great pleasure in that.

I guess that’s part of the thing I felt about the difference between partying in Philly and partying in New York. In New York, we go out to be seen, or watch other people who want to be seen, giving out and receiving attention in pharmaceutical doses. There seems to be little pleasure for its own sake sometimes, and especially on New Year’s Eve. In New York, we get fucked up because life is stressful and anxious, and it’s impossible to get the kind of love we want. In Philly, they party because it’s fucking New Year’s.

Thanks to all of you who made me feel so welcome.

9 responses to “Philadelphia means it”

  1. Tim says:

    Loved it.

  2. I was just thinking for some reason: if only, say, Pride were a little more like Mummers’, more louche and slovenly and WTF, I might go.

    A conversation at the not-exactly-a-strip-club also has me trying to think what, within the realm of pop music, would make for the very worst song to shake your parts to. Nick Drake seems like a good place to start…

  3. ScottyGee says:

    Extremely well stated, Ms. Bear.

    Remember ’11 is about Mummers and not Bummers…

  4. A White Bear says:

    Antony and the Johnsons? My roommate seems to be able to listen to them without wristslitting, but I am not among the immune.

  5. A White Bear says:

    I was reading this article from the NYer ( yesterday in which it is explained that, in the realm of taste (as in the ability to distinguish flavor), there are supertasters, tasters, and nontasters. You’d think that the world’s great chefs and sommeliers would be supertasters, but they’re not. Supertasters tend to be the kind of people who dislike a lot of foods because they’re too sensitive to the flavors; everything is too spicy, too sweet, too sour, etc. Nontasters eat nondiscriminately and without particular relish. Tasters are those with a balance between perception and toleration.

    New York fun, in general, often seems like supertasting. Yes, its discrimination is unparalleled, but to the point that nothing is actually enjoyable. I am already plagued with craziness in this area, and wonder if moving away will be good for me. (Oh God I have an interview in two days holy crap.)

  6. lane says:

    oh shit i’m just seeing this now, typical, commenting with out being up on the content . . .

    i’ll get back to this . . .

  7. lane says:

    OK, I got this far,

    “Philadelphians, I have learned, stone-cold don’t give a shit.”

    no, Trixie and Farrell don’t give a shit! . . . and that is why we love them!

    (and THAT is commenting with Bave Darber, and many years of his drunken lawyerly humor filtering through.)

    I’ll read on . . .

  8. lane says:

    Philly is the Ogden of the United States!

    and THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!!!!

    great post.

  9. trixie says:

    wait. what? isn’t ogden the ogden of the USA? maybe i am missing something.

    lane. what are your new years resolutions?


    carrie. this is a fantastic post. thank you for sharing your NYE with us. finally!!
    we loved having you with us. please come back again soon.

    much love from philly.