Summer in Northwest Philadelphia can look and feel a lot like a post-Rapture Earth. Suddenly, neighbors have disappeared.
Summer in Northwest Philadelphia can look and feel a lot like a post-Rapture Earth. One minute you’re walking along the crowded sidewalk, headed to Kilian’s for some obscure thingamabob that doesn’t even show up in a Google search, and the next minute you are exiting the hardware store onto a nearly deserted street, wondering where everybody went.
Suddenly, neighbors have disappeared. It’s as if they’ve been lifted out of this existence and deposited somewhere foreign and exotic. Those of us left behind know their geographical location only by code names that sound as if they were created by the Secret Service. “The Vineyard.” “The Cape.” “Coastal Maine.”
This is not to make anyone who is fortunate enough to “summer” feel bad about getting out of Dodge for a couple of months to enjoy breezy, sun-soaked, salt-aired locales while the rest of us swelter.
When you are gone, we sinners (a quick call back to the rapture analogy) benefit from shorter lines at Weavers Way, fewer cars driving around with turn signals blinking unceasingly, like a traffic light in a one-intersection town, or getting a table at a favorite restaurant. It’s like heaven . . . we can only assume.
We will be just fine on our own. Besides, you have no idea how many great things there are to do right here in your backyards . . . I mean, in our own backyards. And I’m not talking about lawn darts. (Though, I am also not not talking about them, either. Just know they are illegal and have been since 1988. So be careful, and don’t get caught.)
There are so many activities and attractions right here that I have created a new word for the embarrassment of riches we who stay behind can enjoy. My new addition to the English vocabulary was developed by combining the words stay and vacation. I call it Vacayistan. Please do not confuse this with Tajikistan. Because of the similarity, our lawyers are requiring me to include this travel advisory issued by the state department:
The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens reconsider travel near and along Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan. U.S. citizens should remain alert and avoid activities that develop predictable patterns of movement. If documenting travel on social media, please ensure your privacy settings are appropriately set.
I assure you, no such alert has been issued for Vacayistan. But, for the purpose of public safety, and to avoid any confusion, I will now refer to Vacayistan by its more commercially recognized sobriquet, staycation. [Yawn]
A staycation is vacation time spent close to home, mostly doing what tourists to the area would do, apart from the out-of-towners’ fashion faux pas. You don’t want to head out for the day in dress socks and sandals.
No one knows exactly when the first staycation was taken. But I suspect it was 1968 in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. And I believe it was my parents who developed the novel concept. They never locked down the intellectual property rights, and thus never reaped any financial benefit. And that is why, to this day, I don’t “summer.”
Sometime during the dog days of 1968, my parents called a family meeting to announce to my siblings and me that we would not be planning a vacation that year, but rather we would be taking a few day trips and we would be dining out at a restaurant every night for a week.
We were a family of seven, and we rarely went out to eat. When we did it was a real treat. My dad managed a paint and wallpaper store, and my mom did not work outside the home. We lived in a one-story, three-bedroom house. That intellectual property money could have really come in handy.
My sisters and brother and I were very excited by the news. And at the sweet age of 6, I knew just what I would order, no matter where we went to eat: spaghetti and meatballs. And that is just what I did, Monday through Friday, setting myself up to complete the double hat trick on Saturday night.
My parents had saved our favorite restaurant for the final day of our staycation: Alberini’s in Niles, Ohio. Even at 6 years old, I knew they had the best spaghetti and meatballs in all the land. So, when the day came, of course that was what I gleefully ordered.
The problem with eating the same dish day after day after day after day is that, eventually, your body starts to reject that dish as it would an organ from an unmatched donor. Things can appear to be going well, and then . . . mayhem.
Shortly after voraciously finishing off the Alberini’s spaghetti and meatballs, and declaring its superiority to all other spaghetti and meatballs anywhere in the world (or at the very least in the vicinity of the Pennsylvania/Ohio border), my body made the rash decision to forcefully expel the spaghetti and meatballs from my stomach right there in the teeming dining room of Alberini’s in Niles, Ohio, making it ground zero for the first staycation disaster on record.
I can’t help but think I might have played some small part in delaying the takeoff of the whole staycation concept. I did for staycations what the Hindenburg did for dirigible travel. Witness cries of “Oh, the humanity” were common to both tragedies.
Nonetheless, fast forward 54 years, and the summer staycation (gosh, I wish I could add a registered trademark symbol after that word) is a popular choice for off-peak travelers everywhere. It has reached such a level of acceptance that this week America’s foremost weekly newspaper, The Chestnut Hill Local, with some help from Visit Philly, has devoted this week’s entire Chill section to readers who have stayed behind to hold down the fort. It offers myriad ideas of things to do and see, and nearby places to go from their Northwest Philadelphia staycation home.
Finally, as one of the unpaid founders of this concept, let me offer you a few things you might want to try to make your staycation house feel more like your home away from home:
Have a great summer!