Volume 30: My Love/Hate Relationship with Philadelphia

“The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.”

-Alexander Jablokov


            Today I took a moment to think about the love/hate relationship that I have with Philadelphia. With the exception of my college years, I’ve spent my entire life here in the self-proclaimed City of Brotherly Love. Hailing from one of the nation’s largest cities has been a double-edged sword; there are many things that I am continually grateful for…and there are times where I’m left wondering, What If? Philadelphia is a very aggressive city, filled with aggressive people. The job market is scarce and if one works in the arts like myself, finding a great paying job here can be harder than finding a soul mate for the world’s fattest, ugliest woman. But there are times when I love the city that has given me my charismatic charm, my wit, and even at times my ability to be a sarcastic bastard. Just when I’m about to give up on Philly and run away to New York City, my hometown will find ways to give me reasons to stay and be proud…

            Two weeks ago, on virtually every news channel here in Philadelphia, there was an Amber Alert for a 9-year-old missing girl named Julia Rakoczy-who lived in Bucks County, a suburb right outside of Philly.  Her Mother is Bonnie Sweeten, a 38-year-old Mother of three.  

Bonnie Sweeten is facing charges of identity theft and of making a false report after her remarkable tale of survival. She claimed she and her daughter were kidnapped by two black men on Street Road (a very busy street) and forced into the truck of their Cadillac. Allegedly, Sweeten used her cell phone to call 9-1-1 from the trunk of the car. Funny how my Blackberry won’t work in an elevator for me, but a white lady from the suburbs can make a call from inside the trunk of a Cadillac. Problem is…when the dispatcher traced the calls, they were coming from towers in Center City, Philadelphia and not from Bucks County like she claimed. After 29 hours of searching for these allegedly kidnapped people, they were spotted. But they weren’t spotted in Philadelphia. The Mother took her own child and went to Orlando. They were caught at Disney Land, where the Mother was arrested and charged with several offenses, including identity theft-which she stole a coworker’s license and $12,000 in cash to head to Orlando.

            I’m personally tired of the “A scary Black Man did it” ploy. I was actually shocked that all she was charged with was a misdemeanor. Damn it must be good to be white! Shit, a black Soccer Mom woulda been getting 8 years for that shit. I am coming to grips with the fact that SOMEONE LIKE ME SHOULD NEVER BE A JUDGE-Why? Because I think punishment should be tailor made to fit the crime…in order to better punish someone. In this case, since she wants to commit a crime and blame it on black folk, I think that she needs to go to jail and her cellmates should be some real-life scary black people from Philadelphia!

I can see it now; Lock her ass up with Jarmeena, Shaquanda and Raineesha. 3 times a week, force her cellmates to watch all the volumes of Roots, followed by Rosewood and Amistad, then allow her back into the cell with them. Let her know what it’s like to be around some REAL NIGGAS, and not some make believe racial stigma from BET or the local News reports.

            Last week, Philadelphia had one of the most disturbing media stories that I had ever heard in a long time.  An 11-year-old girl and her sister had been walking in Philadelphia’s infamous Kensington section, on their way to their respective schools, when a man began to walk beside them. Around 8:20 a.m., the girl escorted her sister to her day care. The man tried to follow them inside, but was turned away from a staff member. Afterwards, the 11-year-old girl began her walk to her middle school. The man approached her again, and threatened to shoot her if she did not walk with him. He forced her to walk about six blocks to the back of a house on Westmoreland Street, where he repeatedly raped her for over an hour. She was found bleeding and crying a few blocks away by a pedestrian.

            The rape was so ferocious, that she required several surgeries. The News of this attack spread all over the city. The attacker was described as a light-skinned Hispanic man in his 20’s, about 5-foot-8 with a thin build, black hair and some facial hair. A police sketch of the man was released and the city was on a frantic manhunt to find this idiot.

            I thought about the family of the victim, as the father was interviewed by several news cameras. His voice quivered with rage, as he struggled to fight back tears. The news reporters continually described the attacker as a “Monster” and a “sick Man.” I wondered to myself if a man disturbed enough to rape an 11-year-old could ever truly be normal. Could a lengthy prison term rehabilitate his desires to prey on a young girl-a girl who doesn’t even have a developed body yet? I thought about this city and the “Stop Snitching” Mantra. After years of watching hundreds of crimes go unsolved, I figured this is Philadelphia. That bastard is somewhere sitting in the house, playing Playstation with his boys, and eating a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. No one seems to give a shit about other people here.

            As soon as I began to question the integrity of the community, I saw a Developing Story flash across the TV. It was a surveillance video of the beating of a rape person caught of tape. It showed a latino man walking down the street, when out of nowhere, residents ran up behind him and began to beat him with wooden sticks, their fists and their feet. Moments later, a dozen or so people showed up and were kickin’ and stompin the living shit out of him.


The victim was identified as Jose Carrasquillo,26, who was beat for several minutes and was beaten so bad that he was actually in critical condition and ironically required several surgeries to save him…just like the little girl he raped. I thought about those West Kensington residents who were beating his ass like a runaway slave…and perhaps the sadistic side of me that laughed out loud and said, “Now that’s the Philadelphia that I know.

Vigilante Justice! Am I sick in finding satisfaction-and humor- in a rape suspect having his ass beat down in the streets? The News replayed the video as I stared intently, grinning from ear to ear. The tape showed him being attacked and then chased by 3 people; one of them was hitting him with something that looked like a bat or just a big ass stick! As they chase him, a crowd gathers. A Police Officer shows up…probably laughing his ass off, and the video cuts off.  No charges were filed against the neighbors. (laughing)




            Just when I begin to lose home in this city…just when the reputation of the city is best known as one of random violence, murder and ignorance…residents will show that they do indeed have a heart. Granted, their display of unity and concern came in an act of random violence…but it showed that there are things that my hometown will not stand for. There are times where we witness that you can actually take the law into your own hands. I wonder sometimes why we as Philadelphians can’t band together and beat down drug dealers on their respective corners, Roll on Murderers while they play the “let out” at a club, or Kick the shit out of thieves in the local mall as they shop. I doubt that these recent acts will create a desire for the community to step up, but I guess it’s a start. 2009 looks like it’s gonna be a hot summer, and if you know anything about The City Of Brotherly Love…it’ll be a very violent one. Hopefully when it’s all said and done, I will still have a desire to stay-unless New York makes me an offer I cant refuse. Yep…I’ve got a serious love/hate relationship with this city.



“This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” –Plato


…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…