Primer on “Angry Philadelphia”

Next week, if all things go according to plan, I’m planning on finally riding from New York to Philadelphia.1 It’s one of those rides that all New York City bicyclists talk about doing, such as riding to Montauk, but I’ve never headed that far south on a bike. I am really looking forward to doing that.

Despite now living in New York City for almost thirteen years, I’ve only been to Philadelphia four times.2

  1. The first time was for a baseball game at Veteran’s Stadium. It was Labor Day 2003, the game was between the Red Sox and the Phillies, and it was Mike Schmidt Bobblehead Day. The nine-inning game lasted about four hours, the score went back and forth, and the game was decided by Trot Nixon hitting a grand-slam off maligned Phillies reliever Turk Wendell. My friends and I drove home after the game.
  2. The second time was for another baseball game, between the Dodgers and Phillies at the new Citizens Bank Park in 2005. Although the two ballparks were located close to each other, you can experience the difference between a 1970s cookie-cutter, multiuse stadium and a 2000s retro inner-city ballpark. You really can feel the forty year time-warp. Again, we drove back the same day.
  3. The third time did not involve a baseball game. It was for a talk at the University of Pennsylvania. While I didn’t drive this time, I did take the “ghetto train,” using SEPTA and NJ Transit, with a connection in Trenton, back to New York City.
  4. Last April, Sarah and I needed to burn a free night at the Omni Hotel, and we booked a one-night stay around it. It was the first time that I got to explore the city a bit, and I really liked it. I immediately regretted that we didn’t book a second night.

But next week, after cycling through New Jersey and crossing the Delaware, George Washington–style, I am going to stay not just one, but two, two, two nights. Sarah is taking the train, and my friends from Washington, D.C. are also coming up to spend Bastille Day weekend in one of our nation’s earliest capital cities. To bone up on the city and its people, I listened to an episode of the podcast, Like I’m an Idiot, where a guest explains a topic to the host, Josh Cagan, like he’s an idiot. In this episode, native Philadelphian Mike Monteiro explains why Philadelphians are angry.

The episode reveals that the anger stems from various nationally known incidents, such as fans throwing batteries at sporting events and Frank Rizzo, the mayor of Philadelphia, ordering the police to bomb a part of his own city in 1985. We also learn that Philadelphians now wear that anger as a badge of distinction. Good for them!

Towards the end of the episode, Cagan reveals that despite living in New York City for many years and on the East Coast his entire life, he only went to Philadelphia three times.

You see? I’m not the only New Yorker who doesn’t go to Philly!


  1. I’ll technically start pedaling either in Jersey City or Newark to shave off some miles and riding through some automotive wasteland, specially US-1/US-9 between Jersey City and Newark. 
  2. I did pass through Philadelphia as part of a vacation/mileage run to Portland, via Houston and Seattle, back in April 2011, but I’m not going to count it. 

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