The Berkeley Lecce
Philadelphia in Our Hearts
Daniel Heim’s Philadelphia proved a lovable place, as only someone come from the country can love a metropolis seen just over the horizon in childhood. He began life on a farm near a hamlet smaller than the half-dozen letters that spell Philly and moved on to spend four years at Temple University in one of the more crumbling precincts of the “City of Neighborhoods”.
It’s natural then that the picture he gave us ranged from innocent idealism to hard-nosed realism, from “The Cradle of Liberty” to “Filthydelphia”. It was very much the polarity in how the expression “Philadelphia Lawyer” changed since its first appearance 1788. Then, Wikipedia tells us, it meant “a lawyer who knows the most detailed and minute points of law or is an exceptionally competent lawyer.” But from 1950 on, the Nixon years, it came to mean “the ultimate in crooked lawyers.”
Empathy was easy for Lecce residents who well understood the “Quaker City’s” feisty backtalk to traffic wardens. It was like their own verbal fireworks, no hard feelings, a letting off of steam, bluster. On the other hand, Leccese found incomprehensible—a North American freak-out—the 1985 aerial bombing by the “Birthplace of America” police of a house supposedly harboring a black-power group, also supposed to be dangerously radical. Toll of "The City That Bombed Itself”, 11 dead, 61 homes destroyed, and 250 people left homeless.
All the same, at end of the evening, caught up in Daniel’s homesick affection, we wanted to sing along with the "Dust Bowl Troubadour”, Woody Guthrie:
“Way out in Reno, Nevada,
Where romance blooms and fades,
A great Philadelphia lawyer
Was in love with a Hollywood maid.
Now tonight back in old Pennsylvania,
Among those beautiful pines,
There's one less Philadelphia lawyer
In old Philadelphia tonight.”