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Entries in Philadelphia (2)

Monday
Nov082010

Bury Me In My Jersey

Bury Me In My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly

Tom McAllister

Villard Books, 2010

I used to consider myself a pretty big Eagles fan.  Knowledgeable, passionate, and long-suffering, like so many others who call Philadelphia home.  But after reading Tom McAllister’s Bury Me In My Jersey, I feel like a bandwagoner who needs to be reinitiated.  In his first book, a memoir, McAllister pours fanaticism onto the page like a blitzing Eagles defense.  While detailing the often painful history of the franchise, he also comes to terms with his own pain, interweaving his story of self-discovery with the evolution of the team.  Coping with the loss of his father, who first taught him to love the Eagles, McAllister struggles to make sense of his obsession and how it shaped his identity. 

Bury Me In My Jersey is an honest, thoughtful book that tackles issues of manhood, grief, isolation, and love within the unique context of sports fandom.  While McAllister’s experiences are particular to Philadelphia and the Eagles, the challenges faced and lessons learned reach beyond provincial allegiances.  Anyone who knows the zeal of a true fan or has felt the loss of a loved one can relate to this story. 

As most people who follow the NFL might know, Philadelphia Eagles fans have a certain reputation throughout the country.  And while there is no mention of Santa Claus in Bury Me In My Jersey, there are plenty of scenarios that lend credence to the allegations that Eagles fans can be a rather unruly bunch.  But McAllister writes with such wit and self-awareness that even accounts of some of his more questionable behavior serve as points of insight and enlightenment.  One can’t become a man without making the mistakes of a boy, right? 

One of my favorite aspects of McAllister’s writing is his frequent use of footnotes.  They act as a sort of aside that allows for a deeper glimpse into the author’s thought process, often providing a chuckle along with their extra information.  Funny moments abound in Bury Me In My Jersey, and are helped along with some creative descriptions, my favorite a reference to former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi as “date rapist smug.”  McAllister crafts some really great sentences, which can either make you laugh out loud, start to tear up, or just nod your head in appreciation as you reread them. 

I’ve read a lot of memoirs, and even studied them as a literature student, but this is the first time I have actually known the author personally.  I was a classmate of McAllister’s for eight years, we are still friends, and there are even a couple oblique references to me in the book.  This fact did allow me to appreciate some of the stories and references in a more personal way, but as a student of the genre, it intrigued me even further to analyze how McAllister recounted certain events with which I was familiar.  It was fun to think about what I would have included, left out, or emphasized if I had been writing about the same event.  The experience reiterated my love of memoir for its inherent subjectivity, and I felt like I was learning about Tom from a completely different angle.

Bury Me In My Jersey is an impressive example of modern memoir, especially for the distinct perspective achieved through the lens of Eagles fandom.  It’s a must-read for any Philadelphia fan, but is absolutely rewarding on many other levels.  The struggle to overcome grief, to learn how to be a man, and to own one’s identity is a journey that transcends football, and can teach each of us something about our own life story. 

Tom McAllister will be reading portions of Bury Me In My Jersey, as well as signing copies, this Wednesday, November 10, on campus at La Salle University.  The event, sponsored by the English Department, will start at 6:00 p.m. in the atrium of the Holroyd building.  

Monday
Sep202010

Apartment Hunting in Philly

If moving into a new apartment is the worst ordeal ever, hunting for that apartment might be a close second.  As you may know, I've recently relocated to the Philadelphia area, and as much as I enjoy spending time in the town and house in which I grew up, I need to get into the city, fast.  After five years living in a city as vibrant as Chicago, suburban Lansdale just doesn't cut it. 

Several factors limit my choices when it comes to finding an apartment in Philly.  First and foremost is budget.  I'm in the enviable position of looking for a job and an apartment at the same time.  So while I'm able to put a deposit on a place today, I want to make sure I can stay there for more than two months. 

Right now, I'm looking for a one bedroom in the $800-900 range.  I've committed to getting a place on my own, because even though I've had good roommate experiences in the past, I feel it's time to live by myself.  This automatically makes an apartment more expensive, and most likely smaller. 

This price range eliminates some neighborhoods in Philly right off the bat, because even though real estate here is not as pricey as New York or Chicago, it's still a major city with many desirable neighborhoods.  So, based on prior knowledge, friends' advice, and some research, I limited my search mostly to the following areas - Fairmount / Art Museum, Graduate Hospital, Northern Liberties, and Passyunk Square.

The next factor is demand.  I'm not the only one who realizes these are cool neighborhoods with good bars, restaurants, shops and necessities like pharmacies and supermarkets.  So many of the apartments closest to the hot strip or whatever are not going to be opening up anytime soon.  This has resulted in the "fringing" trend, as I'm naming it right now, of people renovating apartments that are just at the edge of these cool neighborhoods and advertising how close they are to all the cool stuff, when in fact it's a tiny box of a place eight blocks from anything good. 

That brings me to another fun factor of apartment hunting - Craigslist.  Unless you're looking to buy a condo or live in a high-rise, you don't tend to go through real estate or management companies.  That leaves me dredging through the same shitty listings every day on Craigslist, trying to find that one shining gem that indicates a good space in a good location with a sane landlord.  This can be frustrating, but I can't hate too much on CL considering how useful it's been to me. 

Compromise is key when choosing an apartment, because with my limitations, I'm not going to be living like royalty anytime soon.  I've seen enough bad apartments to know a good one when I see it, and I'm ready to make a commitment quickly if that's what it takes.  But I have two lists when I look at an apartment, my wish list and my dealbreaker list. 

My wish list includes things like a roof deck or patio, central air, and heat included.  My dealbreakers include no laundry in building, old appliances, and not enough space.  I've seen apartments that have a lot of space, but look like a squatter's been living there.  I've also seen apartments that are in a great location, but are basically a bedroom and a kitchen.  It's tough to find that balance. 

So, I'll keep diligently getting out there and looking at places, and I hope to move into an apartment in Philly sooner than later.  I'm ready to find my new home.

I'd love it if you share any tips on apartment hunting in general, resources in Philadelphia, or lessons learned the hard way in the comments below!