by Dylan McKeon
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Dylan McKeon documents and reflects on his walk to school.
I am often surprised by how closely I stick to patterns in my life. One of the strangest might be the path that I walk to school. I have constantly kept to a specific pattern throughout my entire life. The three school buildings I have attended have all been within a few blocks of each other, with the furthest being around fifteen blocks away.
I turn left after leaving my house, I pass my neighbors' houses—one purple and two yellow. The first yellow house has a window garden calling large bees to inhabit the area in the warmer seasons.
I turn walking down 22nd, past another row of houses. The last house used to have a cat in their window. I once took my dog past that way and she would always love watching the cat. The owners moved a few months later but my dog would continue to look at the window for several weeks afterwards looking for the cat. I pass Fitler Square where I spent much of my childhood playing and going to events there.
I pass more buildings, each bland and unmemorable. I pass Bacchus, a nice little cafe I would often visit after school when I was young to get a snack after a tough school day.
I pass more buildings sharing a bland business exterior, before reaching a row of small identical two story homes with garages. I walk past this image of architectural boredom staying aware of garages opening and cars leaving.
Afterwards there is a loading dock and garage—both considered small obstacles to my daily walk. The loading dock only caused me trouble once when a massive white truck stood in my way and I was forced to consider whether to crawl under it or go into the street to go around. However the biggest obstacle for me is Walnut St. where cars speed by and the traffic light takes an eternity before letting me pass.
Then I walk past a street with a small pet store and a nice Indian restaurant at the end. At that point I will have reached Albert M Greenfield school, my middle school, a brick building where I spent eight years of my life learning basic knowledge of the world.
Even after my graduation, my path leads me past it often walking down the row of shops on 22nd Street. At the end of the street there is a dry cleaner, that was once a corner store, and a different dry cleaner before that.
I pass by an old building, likely a church, now converted into two different stores with my old church and pre-school, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Philadelphia, sitting next to it. Past this is a nice garden and the Mutter Museum. I’ve never visited the Mutter, I tend to overlook it as I‘ve walked past it so often.
When I get to the next block there's an empty lot of grass and fencing. When I walked past here in my freshman year there was a Salvation Army thrift store. However the building collapsed in June of my freshman year in a tragic accident.
I walk across another busy street where I find myself in a crowd of others students emerging from the trolley line. We walk past an office building and a parking lot for Trader Joe's.
Then I walk another block, under two bridges before reaching my high school. In a few months I will graduate from here, I will go to college where I will be about an hour and a half away from Philadelphia. I will stop following this path, so I write this to prepare my goodbyes to this path I walked.