Three hometowns, compared

I’m spending the holidays with my family in South Carolina, after studying and working in Tokyo for the past year or so. Next week, I’ll be headed off to Philadelphia to finish my studies, then back to South Carolina to hunker down behind bar review books. Coming back after all this time reminds me of why I love this “home,” and also why I love my other “homes.”


Shibaura canal

  • What’s great:
    • Low-fat diet and high-activity lifestyle means that it’s easy to stay healthy even if you never go to the gym.
    • Minimal crime. Homeless people don’t even ask you for money.
    • Mobile phones and toilet seats are totally awesome.
    • No fatties.
  • What isn’t great:
    • Even though people act like they’re trying very hard, nothing ever gets done.
    • You have to guess whether somebody is actually meaning to say “no” when they say “we can look into that.”
    • Fruits and vegetables cost way too much.
    • Can’t buy a shirt off the rack because the sleeves are always an inch too short.


Farm in South Carolina

  • What’s great:
    • There are actually trees. And birds and rabbits and cetera. It’s like a giant Disney movie, only without the sappy music.
    • People are actually friendly in a genuine manner, unless they’re from north of the Mason-Dixon line, in which case it sounds kind of fake.
    • There are seasons, but the weather is never really too hot or too cold.
    • An overabundance of outlet malls means that it’s easy to find clothes without spending a ton of money.
  • What isn’t great:
    • Too much fat and no exercise means that everyone is always a few stone overweight and in some stage of terminal illness.
    • Food is generally bland, with the only flavor coming from some form of grease.
    • Everything is a 20 to 30-minute drive from everything else, meaning that you either need a good music library or a lot of people to bullshit with on the phone in order to avoid dying from boredom.
    • Thanks to this lack of convenience, you don’t want to run around to different stores most of the time, so you just end up buying whatever Wal-Mart happens to stock.


City Hall

  • What’s great:
    • Cheesesteaks (but not from the “famous” places) and “wooder ice” and cheap diners.
    • The presence of a ton of American history and plenty of inspiring Greek revival architecture.
    • Easy and cheap to take a day trip to New York or Atlantic City.
  • What isn’t great:
    • An overabundance of racial tension, crime, homeless people and general malaise.
    • Bone-chillingly cold winters where you have to trudge through snow.
    • Liberal economic policies, conservative social policies, and a general failure to care.
    • Penn kids.

Philadelphia is at the bottom of my list, and I probably won’t be going back after I finish school. South Carolina is passable, but not at this stage of my life: it’s a better place when you’re old and you just want to plop your hind end in a plush leather seat and drive everywhere without ever worrying about having to face a flight of stairs with an armful of groceries. But for now, while I’m young and full of piss and vinegar, Japan is probably the place to be.

4 thoughts on “Three hometowns, compared”

  1. Hear hear! I’m in Tokyo now and it’s so amazingly peaceful. The big difference from Bangkok other than the temperature: I can actually breathe! Disgusting smells and polluted air are fucking depressing. All three of your hometowns still beat Bkk hands down in my book.

  2. I didn’t find Bangkok that bad, but if I’m going to ever spend a lot of time in a big, polluted Asian city it’s most likely going to be a Chinese speaking one, since I’m actually studying that language and have zero interest in learning Thai.

  3. I’m not a Philadelphia resident, per se – I live in a western suburb – but I have reason to visit the city on a regular basis. (In particular, events of PSFS, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.) Unlike Joe, I can’t compare it to anywhere as exotic as Tokyo; not yet – though I plan to visit Yokohama for the “Nippon2007” World Science Fiction Convention this summer.

    For those points on which I’m qualified to comment, I concur with Joe. Parts of Center City and the University District are very nicely furnished. The skyline is fantastic on clear days. The tangled web of subway tunnels is fascinating. But yes, the homeless people in Center City – panhandling, sleeping on benches, the smell of urine in those tunnels – are distressing and distracting.

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