From Center City to West Philly

Everyone's commute is a transition: from work to home, from the office setting to the family setting, from memos and meetings to housework and homework. In my case, there is another transition: from Center City to West Philly.

By day, I crunch numbers, meet with high-powered developers and high-ranking public officials, and think on hard problems with some of the brightest minds around. And then I pack up my stuff, hop on the subway, read a book or magazine for 10 minutes, and emerge at 52nd Street Station.  And it's clear I'm no longer in Kansas anymore.

While 52nd Street is many years past its prime, it is still a bustling commercial corridor. And the commerce begins as you exit the station. With hundreds of other passengers during rush hour, I walk through the gauntlet of vendors hawking various wares (DVDs, scents, taxi service), cross a busy auto street (Chestnut), and arrive at the West Philadelphia Y, which is swarming with camp kids and the parents who are there to pick them up.

I sign out my two, go to the gym to pick up one and the classrooms in the back to pick up the other, get their two scooters out of the locker room, and away we go. By now, we've mapped out a relatively smooth path home, but of course many of the sidewalks are cracked and raised, adding an element of danger to their ride. Some blocks are solid but others are sketchy, with higher concentrations of boarded-up homes and weed-choked front areas. Walnut Street is packed with cars heading westward out of town, and the sidewalks and stoops are also pretty busy, as kids and grown-ups are both home and socializing.

It's about a 20-minute walk home from the Y. As we putter down Walnut, the Center City skyline can be seen from a distance. It looks so far away.

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