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Broad Street is the longest straight street in America. At least that's what Philadelphians tell their children. That's what they told Bruce Buschel after he was born on Broad Street and his father died
on Broad Street and his mother worked at a nightclub on Broad Street.

Later, he went to college on Broad Street and sold cameras and bought drugs on Broad Street. He worked at the Inquirer on Broad Street and met his wife on Broad Street and then found out the street was neither the longest nor straightest street in the country.

But it is the sagging spine of his dear Philadelphia.

Buschel returned to Philadelphia to walk the 13 miles of bad road, from suburb to river, through the worst and best parts of town, through the slums and the gentrification, past the theaters and the sports arenas, right through City Hall. He intertwines his own history with the city's and discovers how everything stays the same even at is changes. He talks to an old Italian tailor who lives down the corner from a Chinese Mennonite pastor. He stops by the Jewish funeral home across the street from Bilal, the Muslim restaurateur. He finds livestock on Broad Street just a few steps from Joe Frazier's gym. And the newly dubbed "Gayborhood" is just a stone's throw from the home of the heartbreaking Eagles. A world-class ballet rehearses at the Rock School while outcast rockers practice at the Paul Green School. The gas station attendant on Broad Street may be a recent immigrant, but he has already adopted the brusque manners of a fourth-generation native. Naturally, William Penn oversees the whole gloriously insecure mess from his perch atop City Hall.

Philadelphia is America's smallest big city or America's biggest small city and surely America's most American city. Wedged between the hustle of New York and the power of Washington, it suffers a series of complexes and insecurities. It used to the nation's capital, the industrial hub, the music headquarters. Then it fell into hard times that lasted a half century.

Then came 9/11, and Americans were magically drawn to Philly's authenticity and history. The city is in flux. Happily depressed locals are trying to adjust to Funkydelphia.

Buschel went home to find out what was happening on the street, the main street, Broad Street. It's exactly the same as it always was. And totally different.



Looking for the Heart
of Brotherly Love

By Bruce Buschel
Simon and Schuster


The author on Broad Street, 1972


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