Being a proud Philadelphian doesn't require being born here
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
This week, I finally went to see Silver Linings Playbook, a brilliant commentary on relationships-and-mental-illness, football-and-mental-illness and the wisdom of ordering raisin bran on a first date.
Not being a film critic, I'd never presume to assess the technical wizardry of the direction, the caliber of the performances or the quality of the screenplay. That will be left to the Academy, in February.
But you don't need to be Leonard Maltin to know when specific clips of celluloid matched to carefully selected snippets of music become — through the alchemy of good company and a dark theater — cathartic. The friend I was with loved the movie as much as I did, although he was happy that it focused more on relationships than sport. Given the fact that he's a Pittsburgh fan, I'm not exactly surprised that a consideration of one man's obsession with the Eagles might annoy. But since I happen to believe both love and football are games of chance, and can equally send you to perdition or paradise, the even balance between the two sat well with me.
The real reason that I loved this movie was that it reminded me of why, at this advanced age, I can be nothing more nor less than what I am at this moment: a desperately proud Philadelphian.
Lately, some local writers have waxed eloquent about what they believe to be the quintessentials of the city, those things that make you truly "of" this place instead of simply "in" it. I read a fairly good assessment in Philadelphia Magazine by another woman named Christine who comes to us via Nashville and who, it seems, is quite happy to live in the city of brotherly confusion, delusion, collusion and — ultimately — effusion.
Then there are the bloggers who consistently tell us what is "best of" and who is "in the know" and which beautiful people look "stylish" and, even here in our own paper, which Philadelphia singles are "sexiest." There are lists for everything under the sun, and the people who make them up usually don't come from here to begin with.
Actually, I don't come "from" here either. On a cold Dec. 4 in 1961, I was born at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, home of the Johnny U Colts (hurray!) and Nancy Pelosi (oy vey). I only breathed one month's worth of Charm City air before I moved back to my ancestral home, but I will never truly be able to say I am native born.
And yet, when you spend a half century marinating in the waters of the Schuylkill, you get a sense of place and ownership, which is what I have and what I lay claim to, despite my family's insistence that I am a southerner. That's why, when watching Robert DeNiro portray an Eagles-crazed fan in Silver Linings Playbook, I understood the visceral pull and tug on the heart that comes from seasons of tickets and tailgates and crisp autumn skies.
And when the pivotal date scene between native boy Bradley Cooper and the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence took place at the Llanerch diner, a few blocks from my home, a sense of pride and recognition started wending its way up from my toes to my heart, with a small detour through my intestines in honor of some questionable meals I had there in the mid-'70s.
And when I saw the familiar corridor of Jeweler's Row decked out in Christmas lights and looking far more beautiful than any Thomas Kincaid painting, I felt gleeful that on any given night this week I could trek there myself and just ... gaze at the glory.
This movie reminded me, as if I needed a lesson in remembrance, that we are all of us creatures of place. I am as anchored to this city and this region by blood and desire as a child is to a mother, as a teenager is to her first crush. Sure, there is the probability that you will move away and move beyond the finite limitations that marked your youth.
But there is also that possibility, more so with Philly than with practically any other large metropolis, that you will not move away. That you will, in fact, stay and be faithful to the place that defines you.
Even if the damn football team is 4 and 9.