Earlier this week I left for work on a cool crisp sunny morning at 6:30 am. Traffic seemed lighter than usual. Even the Schuylkill Expressway was moving smoothly. I just knew it was going to be one of those rare 45 minute uneventful commutes. Boy was I mistaken. Half way down the Schuylkill traffic came to a grinding halt. I flipped on the traffic report and found out there was a bad bus accident near Girard Avenue blocking two lanes. My delightful commute had turned into a house of horrors. We inched along at 5 mph for the next five miles.
My Plan B was in effect. I’d get off at Belmont Avenue and take that to Girard Avenue (Route 30) and then down to 34th Street where I usually end up in the morning. Of course, hundreds of other drivers chose the same Plan B. The ramp to get off the Schuylkill and onto Belmont was jammed. I eventually got onto Belmont and proceeded past City Line Avenue and into the jungles of West Philly. My day got even better when there was an accident on Belmont in the right lane that delayed my commute further. But I eventually made it to the intersection of Belmont and Girard, making my left turn into Squalor.
I only had to traverse these means streets of West Philly for 10 blocks to gain the relative safety of the Zoo area. Of course, these ten blocks were a different type of zoo, with it’s own unique habitat and wildlife. One problem. The route was gridlocked because so many cars were trying to go around the accident on the Schuylkill. This meant I got to inch along for ten blocks and observe the Squalor in minute detail. As I have documented in dozens of previous articles, the depravity, decay and degradation of West Philly cannot be overstated. It has to be seen to be believed. A once thriving neighborhood in the 1950s now looks worse than downtown Baghdad after shock and awe.