By nature, Philadelphia is a hectic city. The people are tough. The suburbs extend forever. The highways are always congested. Plus it was Christmastime, and family obligations amplified every stressful second. Philly is not my hometown, but I often dread visiting as if it was.
“I have an appointment,” my girlfriend said. “Do you want to hang out in Newtown for like an hour?”
“YES!” I exclaimed, then decided to downplay my enthusiasm. “I mean, sure, if that’s easiest for you.”
She dropped me off on State Street, and Philadelphia’s deafening clamor was suddenly mute. Much of Bucks County is a boundless wasteland of strip malls and housing developments, but Newtown is a little slice of Colonial quietude. At 2,000 residents, Newtown is still a small town, with quaint gift shops and cafés and friendly pubs.
Maybe it’s my New England upbringing, but visiting Newtown is like coming home. Even in the frigid air, a cute coffeehouse (the Zebra-Striped Whale) was a warming sight. Armed with a latte, I slipped into an art supply store and perused the racks for drawing pads.
The hour passed all too quickly, but I started feeling more at ease. I saw a sign outside the Black Horse Tavern. “Join Us for New Year’s Eve,” the sign read, adding: “Jazz Tonight.”
I pictured my girlfriend and me at the Black Horse, holding mugs of beer and gabbing with her high school friends as freestyle bebop played in the background. Newtown could do that for us. Where else did wreaths look so thoughtfully hung? Where else could I walk from a Starbucks to an antique shop(pe) in only a few strides? This was the kind of yuppietopia I could embrace this holiday season.
My phone rang.
Time to go back.