One of my best friends, a Philly girl born and raised but now living in North Jersey, came back to the 215 for her birthday.
She was adamant about going into Center City and visiting the Love Park Christmas Village (are we still allowed to say Christmas?) and Philadelphia’s City Hall apron full of ice skating, Starbucks, horse carousels, and kiosks hawking holiday ornaments, Philly-centric T-shirts, waffles, s’mores and hot chocolate/mulled wine and shots of whiskey.
Another birthday wish was to head over to Macy’s and watch the Holiday Light Show and strut through the Dickens Village, reliving the oldie-but-goodie tale of “A Christmas Carol.”
Both December babies that get gypped out of worthy birthday presents not lumped into joint Christmas gifts, we both reminisced about our mothers, hers gone 25 years now, taking us on the Market-Frankford El back in the 1980s and giving us a December Day in Town.
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To us, it was a special treat. For families today, it’s a risky dice roll and most parents, if they can afford it, will just Uber into Center City and leave the urine soaked, hypo-needle carpeted train stations that are drug havens full of addicts, prostitutes, fentanyl dealers and homeless for national news shows looking for shock value during sweeps week.
Upon entering Macy’s, we were met with a tornado scene of clothing strewn about and racks closest to the Market Street front doors bare like the bones of a tray of wings after the Eagles Super Bowl win. A few hangers were still see-sawing in the wind, due to a brazen shoplifter simply walking in off Market Street, grabbing an arm full of men’s blazers and outerwear and pivoting around and walking out to a waiting car.
I refuse to call it a getaway vehicle because they didn’t peel off or do an illegal u-bie on 13th and Market. No, these thieves (are we still allowed to say thieves or are we hurting their feelings?) even used their left turn signal to merge into traffic. My bet would be the driver didn’t have valid insurance, a legal registration sticker and the temporary paper license plate on the back of his Dodge Charger with tinted windows was from Maryland and probably fake too. But that’s just my ignorant, un-woke opinion.
Now, both my friend and her hubby are in the retail industry and have decades of experience with a very big national chain. They are both workaholics and take pride in their stores, working their way up to management after cutting their teeth with thousands of folded clothes, callous fingers from working the register and can spot a shoplifter a mile away.
“They are really trying hard to keep this store up, I feel bad for them,” my pal said as we stepped over racks of Adidas sportswear that was thrown everywhere but the shelves. “This used to be my dream as a teenager to work here…”
The light show was an hour away and the Dickens Village was sold out so we decided on the Reading Terminal for lunch. As we made our way through hurricane alley of misfit clothes to the Market Street exit, they both needed a restroom break.
“Oh, you are not using the bathroom at Macy’s,” I forbade my 40-something attractive blonde friend, giving her the Cliff Notes version of a woman being raped in the Philadelphia Macy’s bathroom on a Sunday shopping trip a few years ago by a rapist with a record who easily entered the woman’s restroom and waited for his prey because NOBODY wanted to upset the progressive pronoun apple cart.
Remember, this building used to be the fairytale John Wanamaker’s — a store that had the finest fixtures of the gilded age complete with a beautiful mosaic crest with a cursive “W” hand laid on the walls and crystal chandeliers above.
When you shopped at Wanamaker’s, you felt you were in the movies, and if you were a good girl that year, maybe, just maybe if the Teamsters gave your dad a COLA raise, you’d have lunch in the Crystal Tea Room, sharing a chicken salad on a croissant with your sister, even though you’d both be happier with a Happy Meal from the McDonald’s in the Gallery instead.
However, as we left Macy’s through the foyer — a small and once luxurious cubbyhole of the Great Gatsby Era — our noses and throats were sucker-punched with the smell of human feces.
There, in the corner, a guy who looked like the stunt double for the horror villain “Candyman”, complete with big, filthy fur coat, decided to drop his pants and christen Macy’s foyer with his own kind of chocolate candy.
(I would never make it in the adult entertainment industry because I have the most horrible gag reflex. In fact, I believe I am banned by the Philadelphia Zoo because once, in 1985, John the Gorilla (RIP) spit a loogie the size of a yellowish runny tadpole at me on the plexiglass and I threw up not only all over the primate house and a family of lemurs, but also the Route 15 trolley all the way back to Port Richmond as my mom held my hair back and rubbed my back. To this day, my plastic elephant key still smells like PB and J).
Gunshots ring out more than the Salvation Army’s red kettle bell, and we have so much more to worry about and then, ignore and pretend we saw nothing.
Most of the people rushed out of there, doing the Philly Shrug, pretending our City isn’t as horrible, dangerous, violent and just plain vulgar because like the portal to Dante’s Inferno, we’ve abandoned all hope from here on out.
The majority of Christmas tourists probably couldn’t believe what they just saw and smelled and in all honesty, is it their responsibility to stop him mid-squat or at least offer him tissues? Is this in the pay grade for Macy’s sales associates?
Because opening your mouth, airing your grievances, and calling out that the Emperor in City Hall has no clothes will get you canceled and probably registered as the 2022 murder victim 490 or above, depending how bad this week is in Philly. (As of this publication, there have been 488 murders in Philadelphia in 2022.)
Oh, I gagged.
My eyes rolled back in my head and I wretched and used all 250 pounds of my Polish/Italian defensive back figure to push through the heavy brass doors onto Market Street. The Septa bus exhaust never tasted so sweet and delicious.
Only in Philadelphia is public defecation in Macy’s foyer and literally stealing pieces of City Hall in broad daylight and putting them in a shopping cart like a loaf of seeded Sarcone’s the norm — because gunshots ring out more than the Salvation Army’s red kettle bell and we have so much more to worry about, and then ignore and pretend we saw nothing.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski matriculated in the Philly Riverwards and recommends the bathrooms in The Notary Hotel, just off of Juniper Street, when you gotta go. Cancel culture emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.