known reason, say they’re from Philadelphia.nBut South Philadelphia isnclannish to an extreme—ask a SouthnPhiladelphian where he’s from andnhe’ll mention a particular street intersection.nKate is originally from South Philadelphian(no, make that Broad andnOregon) and is used to all this. But mynsuburban sensibilities are being challengednby what looks to me like anmore-than-mild case of anarchy innpractice. The “teeming masses” are nonliterary allusion here. Up the corner,nthey’re teeming all over the place, andnat all hours of the day and night.nWe live on an extremely narrownstreet in a rented house whose structuralnintegrity is questionable. There isnnot a right angle anywhere in it or nearnit. A nail placed to hang a picture willneither go completely through a wallnand disappear into the foundation ornelse ricochet back out, striking an innocentncat on the ear. Operating thenelectric can opener and washing machinensimultaneously courts the dangernof a neighborhood blackout.nFrom our backyard, an eight-footnsquare swath of concrete, we can looknin (or lean on) the window of thentypesetting firm next door and watchnSouth Philadelphia’s own newspapernof record being put together by annarmy of paste-up artists, many ofnwhom claim to be real artists waitingnfor the big break. At night, the highintensitynlights of the stat camera lightnup the backyard and alarm our dogsnand cats.nFrom our front window, we can seenthe back side of the Woolworths andnother stores on Broad Street, and herenis a good example of how the rulesnwork here. Eight families live on thisnone-way alley of a street, but dozens,nperhaps millions, of truck drivers considernit a shipping and receiving dock,nforever blocking it with smelly trucksn(often at both ends and pointed thenwrong way) while they unload whatevernit is that Kate and I will find annirresistible buy later on at Woolworths.nMost mornings, I have to depart fornwork traveling backward in the wrongndirection.nNonetheless, we like the house because,nnext New Year’s Day, we willnbe a few steps away from the MummersnParade and can retreat inside tonwarm up whenever we like, which isnthe only way to watch grown-ups withnbanjos and peacock feathers paradingnin the dead of winter.n* * *nDodging cars stopped in placesnwhere cars aren’t supposed to benstopped is one of the basic skills onenmust learn in order to live in SouthnPhiladelphia. You can spot visitors easily.nThey are the ones sitting in a longnline of cars in the right lane, waitingnfor a light to turn green somewhere,nunaware that they are sitting in annimpromptu parking lot.nOn-street parking spots in SouthnPhiladelphia are considered to be anform of private property. (Years ago, ancampaigning pol was pelted with tomatoesnin South Philadelphia becausenhe had suggested a fee for residentialnon-street parking.) Nearby is a widenstreet so heavily populated that cars arenparked three deep, each car always innthe exact same place. If your Dodge isnblocked in and it’s time to go to work,nTony down the street knows that, andnhe’ll move his car just in time for younto depart.nThe logistics required to unravel thenparked cars on a South Philadelphianstreet would baffle a Harvard-trainednMBA who’s done research on queuingntheory. But it’s no problem here,nwhere generadons of the same familynlive a few doors or blocks apart, suggestingnthat a genetic memory of thencomplex system of on-street parking isnstamped on local chromosomes.n* * *nThe culturati of South Philadelphiancan be found, usually at 3:00 A.M. onna Saturday, at the Melrose Diner, an24-hour operation that captures thenessence of South Philadelphia nightnlife, for this is where they all comenafter the bars are closed, the weddingnreceptions have run out of steam, ornthe police have shut down the blocknparty.nIt is difficult to describe the Melrose,nexcept to say it would be nonsurprise to learn that George Lukas gotnthe inspiration for the bar scene innStar Wars after eating there. Herenhigh-life, low-life, and everything inbetweennmeet on common ground,nand the great sport is pointing outnoutlandish apparitions attempting tonorder bacon and eggs.nThe Melrose (where 78 percent ofnthe waitresses are named Pat andnwhere waitressing jobs are handedndown through generations of Pats) isnone of South Philadelphia’s great institutions,nalong with what suburbanitesncall the Italian Market (locals call itnNinth Street).nNinth Street is full of stores andnsidewalk stalls where you can buynsome of the best, freshest and cheapestnfood in the city, as well as clothing thatnhas been rejected by the thrift shops.nYou can get taken too, especially onnSaturdays, when the tourists come innfor a day of mingling with real people,nand the locals stay home. You maynhave seen it in Rocky, which was set innSouth Philadelphia (though filmednmostly in another neighborhood, Kensington,nprobably because parking wasneasier there).nIt’s said that when Philadelphiansn(i.e., suburbanites) want to be touristsnfor a day, they skip the Liberty Bellnand other historic attractions in IndependencenNational Park and visitnSouth Philadelphia instead. The bigntreat is to eat a cheesesteak, a legendarynPhiladelphia culinary inventionnmade best in South Philadelphia, butnonly in private kitchens. The awfulnsecret of the Philadelphia cheesesteaknis that you can’t buy a really good onenanywhere. You’ve got to make yournown, or you’ve got to know somebodynwho can do it for you.nMOVING?nLET US KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!nTo assure uninterrupted delivery ofnChronicles, please notify us in advance.nSend change of address on this form withnthe mailing label from your latest issue ofnChronicles to: Subscription Department,nChronicles, P.O. Box 800, Mount Morris,nIllinois 61054.nName_nAddress.nCitynnnState_ _Zip_nNOVEMBER 1987 I 47n