Tale of Two Cities

My birth city. Philadelphia.

It was the best of times, it was the better of times. Or something like that. It’s been said that people either love the place they grew up in or they hate it. So many people spend so much time trying their hardest to “escape,” to get out and move on with their lives, because they don’t appreciate the place that raised them. While others are quite content to live and grow old in the place of their birth, around the people who have always been around and who will always be around.

I’m a bit different. I love where I grew up but I don’t still live there. Philadelphia is the most amazing city in the world. I was just there last weekend, and every time I go back it both reminds me why I love it, and why I still miss it so much. Of course I haven’t lived there since late 1998, a span of over 15 years, but it’s still a version of  “home” that I treasure more than almost any other place in the world.

There’s just something to be said about that Philly atmosphere, even though I’ve never had one of those famous cheesesteaks (it’s the first question I get asked whenever anyone finds out I’m from the city of Brotherly Love). I mean, that Philly vibe is one of the most unique I’ve ever been around. I liken it to being a fan of a football team. You might adore the team, but when it does something stupid you scratch your head and complain. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love the team. You’re just so invested that you feel a part of it, even when you have no say over it.

My destiny. Dublin.

And then there’s Dublin, the city I’ve felt was my destiny since I was a young child. As much as I always loved Philly, I knew that Dublin was over there somewhere waiting for me (honestly, I would put push pins on my map to designate the distance between the two cities). I dreamt of that city at night, and daydreamed about it in the daytime. I remember asking my mom about whether I’d ever get there, and she said maybe someday. I held on to that for dear life.

I finally made it there, too, in 2003, and again in 2008, and it was every bit as magical as I had expected, even more so. If there’s a city I am supposed to be in besides Philadelphia, Dublin would have to be it. My wife and I have debated what our next great trip should be. We’ve talked about England, about Greece, and about Australia, but if I had my way we would just keep going to Ireland, and specifically to Dublin. We would go back and walk across the bridges, visit the pubs, drink in the atmosphere of a place steeped in tradition but still inviting enough to those who did not grow up there.

My feet are firmly in both cities now, the one exciting because I know it inside and out, and the other because I want to know it better than I even know myself. I’ve dipped my toe in the Dublin’s pool, but I want to immerse myself completely underneath the idea of it, deep into the culture that envelops that old city. I’ve flown into both cities and seen their skylines, their silhouettes outlined across the expanse of sky, and I’ve fallen in love, not just with the cities, but with everything the cities embody. And I wish they were right next to each other so I could live somewhere in-between and visit each liberally.

But alas, all I can do is remember, and get back to both as often as I physically can.



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