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After an evening of last minute packing and cleaning, I now no longer reside in the little one bedroom, second floor corner apartment that I’ve lived in for ten years. I moved there in April of 2005 with my not-yet wife who moved to Philadelphia within weeks of graduating college to be with me. We were living in a house in a shot-up, low-rent drug neighborhood with some college friends when she turned to me one night as we were going to bed and asked “When are we getting out of here?” That was that, and a month later we were moving into the then not-so-hip East Passyunk neighborhood. Over the next decade, we would watch what a neighborhood coming up looks like first hand as it happens. Here’s a hint: when a high-end sushi joint goes up just down the block, it means things are changing. Add a doggie treat bakery just down the block a few years later, and you’ve got Gentrification with a capital everything.
This is not an out-the-door-up-yours to my old hood. Not at all. I love my old neighborhood. I love that I was steps from the subway. I love that I was steps to the supermarket, great bars and restaurants, used-record stores, coffee shops, and little Italian bistros that had been there since Truman. I loved that every Christmas, the fish market would bustle non-stop for about three days straight as all of the old-timers in South Philly would ready themselves for the Feast of the Seven Fishes (a tradition I had never heard of before moving there). They shot the last two Rocky movies outside my front door. I was within strutting distance to South Broad for the New Year’s Day Mummer’s Parade for its elaborate costumes, set pieces and beer-fueled shenanigans.
And here’s the thing: I still live in South Philly. A handful of blocks west, a few more south, and it feels both the same and very different. It’s quieter over here. There are no 20-somethings screaming under my window on weeknights as they wander around between the subway and the bars. You can actually find a parking spot more times than not. There’s a good-sized Indonesian presence, complete with cafes and markets. There’s a gorgeous cemetery behind the Lutheran church that looks like something from Europe. And the bells of Saint Monica’s chime every hour during the day. It’s home now. Not just because we own the house, but because Philly is home, too.
This week’s guest, Daniel De Jesus, was the last guest I had in the old 25 O’Clock studios. Not so much a studio as my butcher block table with my laptop and a couple of microphones, but it served me well. I started this show in my apartment, and I’ve moved it to my house. It’s fitting that Daniel was the last guest, because his music is about taking the familiar, the known, the comfortable, and moving past it into different territory. You may find it challenging, even strange at first, but he arrives at a place that you’re glad you took the ride for. A classically trained cellist, he takes the comforting, somber tones of the cello that we all know and works in pop melodies, electronic textures, themes of myth and legend, and gives us something as far from rote and regular as we can get. And if you want a crash course in what the Latin Alternative scene is about, get a pen for when he starts name dropping.
I could ramble on for pages about the uncertainty of the future, the comforts of home, and how to make both of those things work together. Instead, go listen to my talk with Daniel, you’ll love his story and you’ll love his performance at the end. He’s the first non-guitarist to grace 25 O’Clock.
Be well over the next couple of weeks. Sorry for the delay this week in the episode, I was without that most precious of things: Internet service. Got that sorted now, so on we go. Hope you’re enjoying all the past episodes, and that you continue to enjoy what I bring you every show. We’re almost twenty episodes in, and I’m still as excited about it as I was when I started.