Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chris stands in the place where he lives.

Hey there, gang!  The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler, and a new school year is about to begin.  That’s right, Internuts, summer is drawing to a close.  I, for one, will be greeting autumn with open arms!  Fall has always been my favorite season.  I love the cool weather, the changing leaves and the opportunity to cover my beer gut in a hooded sweatshirt.  Since I’m already filling you in on my seasonal preferences (and beer gut), let me tell you a little bit about the spot where I’ll be carving jack-o’-lanterns this year.  It’s my adopted hometown of…


You can see me if you squint.

I originally put down stakes in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania to be closer to my office (as many of you know I am a wealthy haberdasher and bon vivant).  Thankfully, “Conshy” has provided me with more than a short commute over the last few years.  Conshohocken is about one square mile in size and situated on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, a few short miles from Philadelphia.  The name “Conshohocken” is taken from a Native American phrase which means “Pleasant Valley.”  As a resident who is required to correctly spell “Conshohocken” on a regular basis, I can attest that “Pleasant Valley” would have sufficed just fine.  Here’s an insider’s trick: make sure you always include a “hoho” when you write “Conshohocken” and if that fails just write illegibly!

This doesn't end well...
William Penn, namesake of the pencil*, purchased the land around Conshohocken in 1683 from the Tammany Indians.  Penn then installed hardwood floors and a finished basement and “flipped” the land to local Quaker, Jasper Farmer (a farmer) for a tidy profit.*  William Penn would go on to build and, subsequently climb to the apex of, City Hall in Philadelphia where he was ultimately shot to death by bi-planes.*  Jasper Farmer went on to divide his land between a number of other Quaker families who would begin the industrialization and incorporation of Conshohocken.


Yes, this is a strip club.
Conshy would go on to play an important role in the Revolutionary War.  The aforementioned role being an escape route for terrified retreat from the British.  In 1778, General Lafayette led 2000 troops across the Schuylkill crying “Mettons-nous la baise outta esquiver” or “Let’s get the fuck outta Dodge.*”  Another hero of the Revolution was Edward “Ned” Hector, one of the few free African American men to fight for the Continental Army.  Hector holds a special place in my heart because I happen to reside on Hector Street.  Hector Street: home of two bars, a nut store, a deli, a strip club…and me!  Take that, Redcoats!!!

*Tremendously untrue.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves!  A census tells us that, in 1833, Conshohocken had one store, one tavern, one rolling mill, one grist mill and six houses.  Not a strip club to be found!!!  Following the war, Conshohocken began an industrial boom that would last well into the 20th century.  The natural resources of the area combined with easy access to the Schuylkill (and later, railroads) made Conshohocken a major supplier to the growing metropolis of Philadelphia.   To bastardize a quote from The Simpsons, Conshohocken was a city on the…grow!

A helluva town.

It's a proud day as Springfield Conshohocken is declared one of America's four hundred fastest-growing cities.  And why not?  Business is booming!  Half the country wears Springfield Conshohocken galoshes.  And say hello to the state's first Aqua-Car factory.  Keep 'em coming, boys!  The city's even in the celebrity business.  Everyone knows Professor Rubbermouth hails from Springfield Conshohocken. Everybody's chipping in; even this fellow [a dog pulling a wagon with a sign, "I'll pull for Springfield Conshy"] has Springfield Conshohocken's can-do spirit.  So watch out, Utica: Springfield Conshohocken is a City On the...Grow!

According to a respected history of Conshohocken, the booming town attracted “young, unmarried transient men.”  This would explain how I wound up here with a hobo’s bindle and a song in my heart.  By 1900, most of the “unmarried transient men” had become married and decidedly less transient.  While earlier residents began to plant their roots in the community (if you know what I mean) a surge of immigrants arrived to work the many factory jobs available.  Most represented among the new arrivals were the Irish.  The Irish neighborhoods were known locally as Irishtown, Whiskey Lane and Cork Row.  I think it’s safe to say that people had some hang-ups about the Irish back then.  Luckily, a recent influx of college students and young professionals has restored Conshohocken to the whiskey-soaked Gomorrah it was meant to be!

The industrial boom continued through the middle of the 20th century while the factories of Conshohocken produced sorely needed supplies for both World Wars.  Eventually, the need for steel and rubber declined and the leaders of industry started to “mettons-nous la baise outta esquiver.”  Many of the pre-industrial factories closed or were repurposed.  The roving hoards of drunken Irishmen became married and decidedly less drunken.  Conshohocken was slowly being deserted. 

Luckily, urban redevelopment began in 1974.  Most of the deserted factories were cleared away and new businesses began to spring up (including the office I currently work in).  The completion of the Matsonford Bridge connected Conshy to the main thoroughfares of Eastern Pennsylvania (Routes 76 and 476).  A large section of land next to the Schuylkill was transformed into luxury condominiums.  Things were looking up…

Until 2008, when this happened…

Oh boy...

A fire began in an unfinished building of the Riverwalk Millenium apartments (where the sprinklers had not yet been installed).  The fire spread to the other buildings of the apartment complex until it was an 8-alarm blaze.  86 fire companies were called in to battle the inferno.  Thankfully, no lives were lost in the fire (with the exception of a few slow-moving cats) and the apartments have since been rebuilt and opened for new residents (with LOTS of working sprinklers).  The property damage was estimated at $80 million.  Burn.

And that brings us up to present day!  I’ll share one damning anecdote before I loudly sing the praises of my new home.  I never shared this story with my parents so, Mom and Dad, I didn’t want to worry you unnecessarily and I hope the statute of limitations has expired on this particular story.   Here we go!  A few months after moving to Conshy I spent the night in Philadelphia with a friend of mine.  The next morning, I received a troublesome text message from my roommate informing me that we had been robbed.  After a tense (hung-over) train ride home I learned that someone had broken into our house, stolen a bunch of high-priced electronics and rolled.  Included in the purloined goods were an HDTV, a laptop, a few cell phones and various other prized possessions.  The Conshohocken Police were notified and it didn’t take long to realize that one of the stolen cell phones had a tracking feature.  Jump to a few hours later when a call was placed to the phone and the police could HEAR IT RINGING inside a local residence.  All the stolen goods were found and the perpetrators were summarily incarcerated.  The entire investigation lasted about 6 hours.  Needless to say, alarms were placed on the doors and windows shortly thereafter.

My stint as a local crime fighter notwithstanding, my time in Conshohocken has been fantastic!  I can walk to work.  I can walk to several phenomenal bars and restaurants!  I can walk to a train to go into Philly!  I can walk to Edwards-Freeman Nut Store (THE SAME NUT STORE I PREVIOUSLY REFERENCED)!  Conshohocken is a perfect mixture of big city excitement and small town convenience and I plan to reside here for the foreseeable future.  Alrighty, my Internuts, that’s all for now!  I’ll meet you back here real soon!  

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