Good For One Fare is story about a Philadelphia that no longer exists.
Long before the New York Times covered the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, we had all already felt the change in our neighborhoods. They were always rough places, but rough in a way that we understood.
First heroin, and then later Oxycontin and other pharmaceutically manufactured drugs changed all that. People became afraid. Others were simply desperate, unable to escape the influence of drugs on them, their family or their friends. I struggle to think of a person that I grew up with, regardless of upbringing, race or economic class, that hasn’t been somehow touched by the plague of both legal and illegal narcotics.
Philadelphia retained centuries of entrenched tradition and pride, despite being damaged by decades of post-industrial economic decline. It existed in a cultural and social time-warp. A bizarre confluence of economic circumstance and cultural juxtapositions created a metropolis full of complexities and contradictions seldom found in other American cities.
One timely example is the paradox of the city’s housing market. Because Philly was too poor to maintain a productive tax base, much of its pre-war housing and infrastructure was never modernized, simply because the money to do so did not exist. Today these same old buildings and Belgian block streets attract real estate investors and gentrifying home buyers, drawn to the city for its “authenticity” and burgeoning urban lifestyle. They luckily missed out on the history of poverty and neglect that produced an attractive under-priced housing market.
The twelve short stories in Good For One Fare take place before all of this came to pass. The characters are mostly unaware of the conditions they live in, conditions that for many others would appear to be those of the second or third world, not of the fifth largest American city. They haven’t yet used social media to compare their lives with others in different cities, or as a method to copy the latest trends in dining or fashion and replicate them at home. They live in a fully idiosyncratic world, a world reliant on its own codes and customs, opaque to the outsider.
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