Place Where You Live:

Mount Airy, Philadelphia, Pa

Germantown Avenue, Mount Airy, on an early November morning.

The Shangri-La of neighborhoods

When we came to Mount Airy in 1996, I was skeptical.

We had just moved from the Garden State, which, actually, wasn’t all that much a garden, into the hippiest enclave of the 4th largest metropolis in America.  Adjustments were sure to be made.

Would I have to reduce my carbon footprint? Was I going to have to drive a hybrid car? Would we be forced to eat granola? Fortunately (or unfortunately), none of that was true.

Mount Airy turned out to be a warm, welcoming neighborhood, green and cool, and way, way different from what we expected.

Oh, they ate granola to be sure; in fact, the Weaver’s Way co-op stocked 22 different kinds, but no one forced us to eat it, and honestly, when we tried it, it didn’t taste all that bad.

We were strangers in a strange land, unsure of the odd customs here, but the locals welcomed us into their earthmother-y bosoms, and showed us the lay of the land: The Co-op.The street festivals. The trees and flowers everywhere you walked.

The friendly, convenient shops dotted here and there all throughout the neighborhood (All within walking distance! Try THAT in Jersey).

The neighbors who actually stopped and talked to you, and were genuinely curious as to how you were!

We loved the diversity of thought, of viewpoint, of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, everything.

We chatted over coffee with our Italian immigrant neighbor, barbecued later with our gay neighbors, and in the evening had beers with our hard-core Republican neighbors.

And the strange thing was, none of those labels mattered.

They were our neighbors. Just our neighbors. We had stumbled on the lost Shangri-La of neighborhoods, the legendary El Dorado of friendship and togetherness, the Holy Grail of… well, you get the idea.

And we soon discovered how community aware Mount Airy is.

Everyone seemed to be involved in local organizations, groups, and committees.

Everyone was far too busy making this place a better place to live, to argue and gossip.

Soon, we joined too. Park cleanups, Co-op committees, Babysitting groups, we got involved with our friends and neighbors, and the more we worked, the better we got to know how lucky we really were.

Now, after 14 years of living in Mount Airy, we sometimes think of how green the grass might be on the other side.

The New York Times deliveries at 4 a.m. wake us up. The traffic can be stupidly miserable. Parking can be tough to find. Police helicopters? Got ’em.

But then we think of how, on Halloween night, hundreds of kids swarm all over our streets, transforming the neighborhood into a spooky free-for-all, how the first zucchinis get distributed all through the neighborhood (whether you want them or not), and how on warm summer evenings, we all sit out on our adjoining porches, beer in hands, swap stories, tell jokes, and listen to the man 3 doors down softly play his guitar.

There’s no place on earth I’d rather live. No place.