Philadelphia Metropolis


Personal essays about the trials and triumphs of everyday life

Metropolis Is Closed

After three years on the web, Metropolis has ceased operations. The reason is simple: We ran out of money. This always was a shoestring operation and the string finally broke. We depended on support solely from local foundations and others interested in public affairs journalism. Our audience was small -- our latest count was 22,000 unique visitors a month -- but we attracted a solid corps of readers who cared about issues in Philadelphia and its neighborhoods. We tried our best to bring them our best analysis and in-depth journalism. With VoxPop, we also brought them a multitude of voices with personal essays about life, love and the human comedy. We thank all of our contributors and our loyal audience. The site will remain open for several months so people can have access to our archives. (Comments)

Who Will Tie Their Shoes?

By Kat Richter » By the time I reach the coffee shop in Mt. Airy on Friday afternoon, I am exhausted. I've spent the past week administering band aids, untying shoelaces, retying shoelaces, chaperoning bathroom breaks and trying to convince one of my students--an unusually well-dressed five year old-- that dancing will help him feel better about the fact that his mother has left again. Technically, I'm a teaching artist at a preschool for low-income families in Germantown. But "creative movement" doesn't even begin to describe what goes on in my classroom. It's part Tchaikovsky indoctrination, part Michael Jackson impersonation, part therapy, part recess and part contact improv, the name I decided to give to my students' numerous collisions). (Comments)

Life Between the Covers

By Marnie Quinlan» There is a placard in my local library which bears a quote by Jorge Luis Borges. It reads "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library". When I first strolled past these words on my way to Adult Non-Fiction, I had just moved to Philadelphia from the east coast of Australia and couldn't have felt more like a fish out of water. I'd made a decision to end my career as a lawyer and leave my family, my friends and the hometown in which I'd grown up to relocate to a country where I knew no one; to a new job, a new city and to surrender my life as I knew it to my first and only true love - my writing. Nothing was familiar. I didn't know the area, I was learning (and I use the tem loosely) how to drive on the right side of the road, my accent was a dead giveaway that I didn't belong, I hadn't made any friends, I hadn't written a thing since landing at JFK, I was (Comments)

Riding Their Bikes

By Lucien Crowder» There are two kinds of bicyclists in South Philadelphia. If you think I am over-generalizing, go to the corner of Ninth St. and Washington Ave. and try to find a third variety. You'll be standing there a long while. Let's call the first kind -- my kind --the South Philly Cyclists. Let's call the second kind the Passyunk Pedalers. These names aren't terribly descriptive, but what's the point to life if there's no alliteration? We South Philly Cyclists are new to the neighborhood. We are interlopers. We are the educated types, or the creative ones, or occasionally even both. We are young, or despite appearances we pretend to be. We are female as often as male, but uniformly white. By (Comments)

Make 'Em Laugh, Make 'Em Laugh

By Rachel Semigran» I am single. I spent five years in college with nothing more than a few awkward drinks and "hook-ups" that got me nowhere. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons (excuses) for my chronic single-ness. It could have been my lack of enthusiasm for the Drexel crowd. Light-wash denim shorts and tube socks combined with greasy pony tailed hair just didn't do it for me. Or it could be that God has spited me and placed a giant neon sign above my head that says "Run away! She'll chop your balls off!" only visible to those I find myself even mildly attracted to. There is, however, one answer that holds up. One of my best guy friends once told me at a party, "Guys don't date you because you're too funny." At the time it seemed ludicrous, but it buzzed around in my head, like a pesky fly caught between two windowpanes. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was true. (Comments)

Learning to Sink

By Lewis Helfand» Modern man is strong. Modern man is athletic. Modern man is...actually none of these things, which is why he is always at the gym. I did my part to contribute to the American gym culture and began working out and running, morphing from a couch potato to one something more resembling a thick steak fry. But something was still missing. Modern man is also supposed to have no fear. Being completely ripped won't matter when gorgeous woman asks you to join her for a swim and you have to sputter in reply: "I don't swim. I'm afraid of the water." (Comments)

Zumba! Zumba! Zumba?

By Kat Richter» I know from the moment that the curly haired brunette steps onto the elevator that this is a mistake. Why? Well, for starters her parachute pants come complete with bondage straps and these straps bear the official fluorescent green Zumba insignia. She's also wearing a Zumba t-shirt and even though I can't see her entire bra, I'm willing to bet that it too is a registered trademark of the "fitness party" program. Her t-shirt has been cut, fringed and tied back together with all the flair of a 13 year old at summer camp--and adolescent summer campers have quite a bit of flair. Nonetheless, as the elevator reaches the fourth floor and we step out into the lobby, I can tell she's a woman who takes her mid-week trip to the gym seriously. Any minute now she's going to be the one elbowing her way to the front of the class, trying to intimidate newbies like myself with her Zumba pride. She's probably the teacher's pet--maybe that's how she's acquired all of this Zumba paraphernalia? Maybe she's been voted "most enthusiastic" or "least likely to look like an idiot (Comments)

Saying No to a Bitter End

By Stacia Friedman» I grew up in a secular Jewish family in which death did not exist. We children were not allowed to go to funerals or cemeteries. We had no concept of Heaven, other than a once-a-year excursion to the Concord Hotel in the Catskills where we were allowed to stay up late and hear comedians tell obscene jokes with Yiddish punchlines. Even better, there was no Hell. At least not after my parents put my sister and me in separate bedrooms. So what happens when we die? "Nothing," said my father, the doctor. "It's like unplugging a TV." I accepted this with an air of superiority. When religious friends of all stripes spoke wistfully of dear, departed relatives being "in a better place," I rolled my eyes. (Comments)

Living in the Darkness

By Jamila Harris» Every day I felt the same. It did not matter what the weather was. The sun could be shining brightly or it could be storming. It could be summer or the winter. I could live in the South Pole or under the wonderful skies of Miami, but internally I felt the same way all the time. I couldn't seem to find any joy. I was living under continued darkness. I was a prisoner of my mind and my days all seemed to be bleak. I am suffering from depression caused by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress syndrome). Until my diagnosis I assumed depression was just a temporary state of mind that people (Comments)

Easy as Riding a Bike

By Beth Moulton» I'm afraid to lift my feet. They say once you know how to ride a bike you never forget, but they don't say what to do if you're sitting in the driveway on your bike but you're afraid to lift your feet off of the ground. I thought I was prepared. At the bike store I didn't let them sell me a bike with gears and handbrakes because I didn't want to have to think too hard about riding. "It's easy," the teenaged salesperson said. "You just squeeze the handbrake when you want to stop." "No, that's OK. I don't want to have to learn anything new. I learned to stop a bike by peddling backwards, and I learned to ride uphill by peddling harder. That's the kind of bike I want." (Comments)

Sugar, Spice, Slugs and Snails

By O.K. Pham » My youngest son started kindergarten this year, so the other neighborhood parents and I rallied at the bus stop on the first day of school. A mother who was sending off her firstborn cried as the bus drove away. I tried to console her by saying it does get easier, and that by the time she sends her third kid off to school, there would only be tears of joy. This cynicism is a hard-earned by-product of the fierce love I have for my four children -- two girls, aged 15 and 12, and two boys aged 10 and five. None had to endure the regimen of daycare, all because my husband and I have never been able to trust our kids to anyone else' care. The cord wouldn't be cut until they went to kindergarten. Instead I took a pay cut to stay at home with them during their formative years. I can tell you that full-time parenting offers its own crash course in sociology. (Comments)

Eggs in A Broken Basket

By Katie Bambi Kohler» The mirror which reminded me daily I was not the fairest in the land started to tell an even grimmer tale. My face became moon shaped, the wisps of upper-lip hair -- an Italian rite of passage -- became darker. Acne speckled my face. Most noticeably, I got fat. Like when people pretend to be pregnant and put a pillow under their shirt. Eight years ago, I was 24. Like most people in their early twenties, thought I was immune to any type of disease or catastrophe. I went five years without medical insurance, only visiting the doctor for severe colds and forgoing the important annual OBGYN appointment required for women of a certain age. "We are going to be married this year, and then I will be on your health insurance," I reasoned to Tom, my fiancĂ©. (Comments)

The #@%& Joys of Library Work

By Roz Warren» I've worked behind the circulation desk at a suburban Philadelphia public library for over a decade and I'm happy to report that most of our patrons are pleasant, reasonable people who are a joy to deal with. And then there are the others: The mother who admonishes her kids, at the top of her lungs, "Be quiet, you little turds. This is a library!" The man who refuses to pay the overdue fine for returning a DVD late because he didn't enjoy watching it. The dude we catch trying to steal a Bible. (God doesn't want you to steal a Bible from your local public library. He wants you to check it out properly and return it on time.) The guy who approaches the reference librarian, hums a few bars of a song, then asks, "Does the library have that CD?" (Comments)

A Random Act of Kindness

By Ada Kulesza» It was a January night and the coldest night of the year when I first met Eren. I was walking south down Second Street, glad to be moving in the frigid air. I was already late and my boyfriend was waiting at the Ritz movie theater. I could see its lights when I saw a man with a grimy outstretched hand and a feeble voice that said: "Please, can you help me out with some change?" I stopped and pulled some change from my pocket, and noticed that the face, snot-nosed and bearded, looked very young. "Here. Hey, I hope you don't mind me asking, but how old are you?" (Comments)

Mascara & Me

By Robin Lentz Worgan» As I got dressed to attend my first boy/girl dance in seventh grade, my mother came in and offered to put some of her mascara on me. I had never worn makeup before. It seemed decadent and mature so I said yes. My mother handed me an eyelash curler and told me to hold it for 20 seconds. After I did this, she pumped the mascara brush in and out, squinted at my face and said, "Now look up." I looked up, but while she tried to apply the mascara my eyes watered and I kept looking down. After several attempts she eventually succeeded in applying the mascara and drove me to the dance. Inevitably, each time after this when my mom made me up she got mascara on my face because I could not stop moving and my eyes constantly watered. "Oh for God's sake Bird, hold still!" And finally one time she got so fed up she said, "That is it! You have to do your own eyes." But I never did. (Comments)

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