Searching for my Mainline: The Social Geography of Manayunk

The assignment started off with Frank Kogan requesting “social maps,” to his readers’ high school lives and otherwise, in his interrogatively inspiring ’90s fanzine Why Music Sucks. An impressive roster of respondents replied: Liz Armstrong, Renée Crist, Jane Dark, Phil Dellio, Laura Morgan, Luc Sante, Sara Sherr, Rob Sheffield, Mark Sinker, Scott Woods, on and on. So did I, both with a piece that merely compiled inscriptions people had scrawled in my late ’70s high school yearbooks, and with the essay below, which is pretty much a sequel to a supposed Shania Twain review I had published in Dellio’s Radio On a year earlier except in retrospect even more embarrassing, if that’s possible — certain Philadelphia characters, whose names have again been redacted for privacy, tend to recur. Let’s just say my life was on the verge of taking some drastic turns; I just didn’t know it yet, though it should’ve been obvious to anybody reading the piece.

I do like, though, how it digs some into class resentments of a Middle Atlantic white ethnic Catholic blue-collar enclave — the sort of place that, 20 years later, would fall for Donald Trump…Well, almost. Turns out, in 2016, “Trump won a significant number of votes, relatively speaking, in the 21st ward, which encompasses the Roxborough and Manayunk area. However, Clinton still beat Trump in that ward by nearly 10,000 votes.” Then in 2020, “Manayunk, Roxborough, Center City and its surroundings saw Democratic turnout increase by thousands of votes in some instances, with gains that topped nearly 25%.” Up-and-down gentrification over the years was presumably at least a factor.)

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