Good Old Neon

Philadelphia, PA

After arriving in Philadelphia, I struggled with a wave of depression for the first couple days. It makes me nervous writing that, especially in such an early post. That’s not the tone I expected to roll out of the gates with. Why wasn’t I exhilarated, a blazing lone ranger ready for adventure? And I felt guilty too. I’m in a fortunate position to travel, with a job that allows me to work remotely. It’s something others in different circumstances would love to do. So I debated even mentioning this, but I figured I’d go for it in case anyone has felt similarly. Your mental and physical health does not always cooperate with your travel plans, event plans, or life plans, and it can be frustrating1. You can arrive to a new destination with a flurry of ambitious intentions, only to spend the night holed in an Airbnb in front of HBO Max.

It wasn’t until a few days later, walking back from my friends’ house in South Philly that I felt more centered. It was late Sunday evening and places were winding down. The summer heat was finally suppressed. I passed the touristy intersection of Passyunk Avenue & South 9th Street, where Geno’s and Pat’s face off. While other places were closing, 24-hour Geno’s Steaks was still buzzing, crowded but in a pleasing way. As I walked by diners sitting on orange benches under white lights, it didn’t feel lonely, not the way it does to walk past mid-Sunday brunch groups when you’re by yourself without plans. And although I hate fluorescent lights in indoor offices, at night outside I think they’re beautiful. They’re also one of my favorite things to photograph.

Standing under or near them has a calming, soothing effect on me. And this whole section of Philly is like that, full of neon treasures. It’s “Cheese Steak Times Square” as my friend Alex called it. And later in the week, two other local pals, Zach and Ashley, took me to The Electric Street alley.

Oh, good old neon. I grabbed an Italian ice at Rita’s and the guys at the counter agreed I had picked the best flavor, Swedish Fish. And then I kept walking, for forty minutes back to where I was staying. I didn’t even listen to music or look at my phone. Yes, I thought, walking around at night when a city is a little sleepy — that’s when I’m in my element.

Three local articles

Two local publications

  • cinéSPEAK: a Philadelphia-based cinema and film publication that engages diverse audiences through globally-minded contemporary and repertory independent film programming. They create space and center the stories of individuals and communities that are often underrepresented in mainstream cinema.

  • Voicemail Poems: an online magazine that highlights the intimate and raw voices of new and established writers of all styles. Poets submit to the magazine by reading their work to a voicemail box.

One IRL literary event

  • Rachelle Toarmino and Jakob Meier bring their Rascal Hearts tour to Philadelphia TONIGHT, Saturday 8/14 at 6pm, Hothouse Bok Building. w/Alina Pleskova, Ava Wolf, Dan McKeon, Sebastian Castillo, and Zach Blackwood. I’ll be cheering in the audience, see you there. <3


Traveling with physical or mental limitations is something I’d like to explore in future posts, but I’d love to include experiences beyond my own. Got an idea for an essay? or reply back to this email.