What’s the deal? Ever-alert for injustice, Jim Harris points out that this “Welcome to Mt. Airy” sign on Wadsworth Avenue is actually in Cedarbrook, about one mile from the Stenton Avenue border of East Mt. Airy. Does this mean that Mt. Airy officials can put up a sign on Mt. Airy Avenue saying “Welcome to the Main Line?” (Photo by Z. Schulz)

by Jim Harris

I was driving home from Glenside the other night, and just as we crossed over Cheltenham Avenue into Philadelphia, my wife said, “Oh, that’s a nice sign, ‘Welcome to Mount Airy.’” “Mmmm,” I replied, as I often do when I’m pretending to listen. About two blocks later, it hit me.

“What? Mount Airy? That can’t be.” I made a screeching U-turn across two lanes of traffic and returned to the scene of the crime. Sure enough, right there on the first block of Wadsworth Avenue was a big wooden sign welcoming all to “Mount Airy.” There was also a pothole that was so big, it had its own gift shop.

“But this is Wadsworth, not Mount Airy” I screamed. “What are they talking about?” Could this be the yawn of a new era? Then it suddenly became clear to me; Wadsworth had stolen Mount Airy’s name to get more panache. It’s like Fishtown people saying they live on the Main Line! Maybe they think this will increase property values. Bedbugs will not be able to afford to stay in Wadsworth any more. Dogs licking themselves in the neighborhood will think they can start charging men $5 each to watch. Republicans will no longer want to replace Social Security in the area with scratch-off Lotto tickets.

Back where I come from (the REAL Mount Airy), we call that name-jumping, pardner, and we don’t take kindly to it, pilgrim. So apparently, Wadsworth had decided to stop calling itself part of West Oak Lane and hitch its wagon to a bigger star. With their increased standing in Philadelphia, men in the neighborhood will no longer have to buy their vasectomies at Super Cuts.

I guess I can understand a neighborhood not wanting to call itself “Wadsworth.” It’s not very cool. It sounds like a bad 1960s’ sitcom about a British chauffeur. “Oh no, Wadsworth drove the car into the swimming pool! He will not be able to make any cucumber sandwiches for the rest of the day.” They could have called themselves Most East Germantown or even North Mount Airy, but nooooooo, they brazenly chose to altogether kidnap another neighborhood’s name — “hoodnapping,” if you will.

Now, occasionally I’ve heard people from the north end of Mount Airy say they live in Chestnut Hill (by the way, if you’re wondering what’s the actual dividing line between Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, it’s about $200,000 a year), but this sort of wholesale, community-wide misrepresentation can only lead to chaos and anarchy.

“But what’s the big deal,” you might ask. “Do names really matter?” Yes, they do. Without names, we’d all be like animals. Okay, yeah, some animals do have names, but they don’t know their names. All right, dogs know their names, but that’s it. Cats definitely don’t know their names. Hold on, I seem to have lost my train of thought.

Oh, right, Mount Airy. And as the faux Mount Airy puts down more and more roots, the real Mount Airy will gradually lose its unique identity. Eventually the real Mount Airy will have to change its name to something else, like Funkytown or Brigadoon. Maps will change. People looking for “Mount Airy” in search of its legendary demographic and architectural diversity will find neither.

So, I am organizing a sunrise rally at the offending “Welcome to Mount Airy” sign. In true Mount Airy style, it will be a potluck event (please bring a covered vegan dish, of course, and a lesbian), and there will be folk music provided by 550 of Mount Airy’s top singer/songwriters. By law every block in Mt. Airy must have at least one yoga teacher (otherwise, Mount Airy would lose federal funding), and they will all be there teaching classes. Suggested donations will be on a sliding scale from zero to $500. To insure maximum media coverage, we will be asking attendees to chain themselves to the “Welcome to Mount Airy” sign. Please bring your own chains.

I personally will show up with a bullhorn at 12 o’clock (just in time for the Live-at-Noon TV news), shout “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this sign!” and then go back home for lunch. (I have low blood sugar.) Wow, I must say it feels good to be back on the protest trail again, fighting injustice. I haven’t felt this alive since I boycotted grapes for two whole days back in 1969 and since I had a crush on my high school teacher. (And I was home-schooled.) So, I’ll see you at the protest. Working together, we can secure our borders and keep Mount Airy for Mount Airyans in perpetuity.

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