1,706 words / 12:51
It took a couple centuries, but Whitetown, USA has been successfully integrated, meaning that the blighted streets of Philly’s notoriously low-rent, white-trash Kensington neighborhood are now a place where everyone, regardless of race, can share needles and drop dead together like a righteous coalition of rainbow-colored flies.
Fifty years ago, Kensington was a rough-and-tumble but nearly all-white neighborhood about five miles northeast of Center City. It’s now a multicultural open grave. Its crumbling streets are littered with zombie amputees limping around while so doped up that they’re higher than cosmonaut chimpanzees. It’s like a concentration camp where no one is able to concentrate.
There are now countless YouTube channels devoted exclusively to depicting Kensington’s endlessly ghastly waking nightmares. Simply search the word “Kensington” on YouTube, and you’ll likely have to scroll through several pages before you see anything about the high-rent London area from which Philly’s Kensington stole its name.
Kensington, until very recently unknown to most Americans, has become such an infamously emblematic American hellhole that it was mentioned in the same breath as Chicago’s south side last week in the Republican presidential debate by the hyperactive, brown-skinned, Brahmin boy wonder Vivek Ramalamashimmyshamma.
Chicago’s south side and Kensington are both open-air shooting galleries. The difference is that in Chicago, people shoot each other up with bullets, whereas in Kensington, they shoot themselves up with narcotics.
Although never posh and always trashy, the people who lived in Kensington used to be proud, crass, flinty, and cocky. In a listicle published last year by 78-year-old Kensingtonian Harry Hallman called “101 things I did Growing up In Kensington, Philadelphia- 1944-1972,” he mentions such quintessentially Philadelphian customs as eating Scrapple, playing stickball, soaping windows on “soap night,” bribing bums to buy you liquor when you’re underage, and how he “sledded down the hills of McPherson Square” during those bleak and slushy winters.
Local yokels now call McPherson Square “Needle Park,” and it’s where addicts shoot up and nod out in broad daylight. It’s where everyone is a bum except for the occasional paramedic who tries to summon limp-bodied overdose victims back from the dead.
Kensington has become saddled with such monikers as “Philadelphia’s Skid Row,” the “Walmart of Heroin,” and “the largest open-air narcotics market on the East Coast.” Over the past couple of generations, its hapless and hopelessly doomed residents have repeatedly downgraded their favored intoxicants. They went from hard-drinking Irish barflies . . . to meth-snorting, gap-toothed cardiac casualties . . . to smacked-out blue-collar junkies . . . to fentanyl fiends . . . and finally, to scab-addled, brain-dead centaurs hooked on xylazine, a highly addictive horse tranquilizer known on the streets as “tranq.” A 2021 survey by Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health found that “90% of street opioid samples contained xylazine.”
Xylazine leaves its users in trance-like, frozen-yoga states, standing up but folded at the hip like pocket knives with their heads nearly touching the ground. Even more charmingly, tranq leads to bleeding open sores that get infected with germs and infested with fleas. Then comes rotted flesh that stinks all the way to New Jersey, exposed tendons and bones, and, if you’re really hardcore, amputation of fingers, toes, and entire limbs.
I shudder to think what new drug will occupy the step below tranq on the stairway to hell. Probably some kind of sedative for blue whales that decapitates you in one minute — but it’s the best minute of your life.
Kensington wasn’t always this way, but then again, nothing in this country was always this way. So what happened?
Some will blame the Democrats, forgetting in their haste that the greatest politician in Philadelphia’s history — and probably world history — was the mighty and illustrious Frank Rizzo, who was the city’s police commissioner from 1968 to 1971 and its mayor from 1972 to 1980. Rizzo was a Democrat.
Sure, some blame can be placed on latter-day, soft-on-crime Democrats who at first allowed Kensington’s burgeoning homeless population to camp out in a railroad gulch and under train trestles near the intersection of Kensington and Lehigh Avenues. Then they raided those camps, only to push the homeless-junkie population to seek out refuge elsewhere, finally landing in places such as Needle Park and outside the elevated subway station at Kensington and Allegheny Avenues — known as “K&A” to locals — which is now the nexus of most of those junkie-porn videos you see on YouTube.
Speaking of junkies, porn, and YouTube, there are entire channels devoted to surprisingly sympathetic interviews with young-but-bedraggled women who calculate how many daily paid “dates” they have to arrange with men to support their drug habits. If there are no factory jobs anymore in Kensington, and really no jobs to speak of, how else are all those young ladies going to pay for their dope apart from giving blowjobs?
A long, long time ago, there used to be jobs in Kensington beyond prostitution and drug dealing. Since the area is close to the Delaware River, much of the early available employment centered on seafaring ventures such as fishing and boatbuilding. In the early 1800s, things shifted toward steel and iron manufacturing. After the War Between the States, Kensington became one of the world’s leading hubs of the textile industries, especially carpeting but also yarn factories, woolen mills, cotton mills, and dye works. If you’ve ever seen a Stetson cowboy hat, you may have assumed they were made in a cowboy-friendly place such as Texas. Well, they are now — but from 1865 to 1971, they were manufactured in Kensington.
Then came the Highways Act of 1956, and with it the rapid development of suburbia. After that came the globalization of the American economy. Between 1955 and 1975, three-quarters of Philadelphia’s industrial jobs had vanished.
Compounding it all was the Great Migration of blacks from the South into Northern and Midwestern cities from around 1910 to 1970, as well as a huge influx of Puerto Ricans into Philly in the 1950s. By the time most of the jobs were gone, you had a whole new crop of colored people angling for the remaining jobs. Never forget that all the endless chitter-chatter about “racism” and “diversity” was often little more than a cynical cover for the importation of cheap labor, the exporting of factories, and a way to keep the proles at one another’s throats.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently described Kensington as one of “the poorest neighborhoods in the nation’s poorest big city.”
Of course, there will be self-appointed judges, juries, and executioners who say that every last rotten Kensington junkie whose worthless flesh falls to the ground in bloody, maggot-infested scraps is a dysgenic lump of street trash who deserves a slow and harrowing death. But if I’m known for anything, it’s my boundless compassion. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I believe in the law of cause and effect. I’m not such a simpleton that I think the only reason Kensington went from a bustling, nineteenth-century factory district to a postmodern hellscape is that one day a bunch of incurable losers woke up, rode the subway to the K&A station, and decided to act like a bunch of complete jerks.
But neither am I saying that these repulsive addicts are innocent. I don’t think anyone is innocent, and that includes your grandmother.
Republican Philadelphia mayoral candidate David Oh is fat and Asian, but for now, I won’t hold those things against him. He proposes a fierce crackdown on Kensington’s junkies using drone surveillance and a newly-invigorated police force:
If we get rid of Kensington Avenue as a place that exists in this region, the better off people will be. . . . The most important thing is to communicate to them [is] that these things will not be tolerated. No more open-air drug dealing. No more public injection of heroin or other drugs. No more public nodding off and being out of control. No more wandering into the streets. No more living in and defecating on people’s property.
Okay, but should the whole “get rid of Kensington Avenue as a place that exists in this region” thing be taken literally? Is he just going to drone-bomb it off the map? It reminds me of an infamous incident in May of 1985 — about a month before I left Philly for good — where the black mayor Wilson Goode ordered bombs to be dropped on a Black Nationalist compound in West Philly, and in the process killed 11 people and torched two city blocks.
Assuming that the obese Chinaman’s plan doesn’t directly involve killing all of Kensington’s junkies, what does he plan to do with them? Teach them how to code? I don’t think there are many jobs left in Philly, or America in general, for steel and textile workers. I’d love to be wrong about this, but I suspect that automation will eventually, possibly in our lifetimes, render everyone’s job obsolete. Once the machines take over, they may decide that we’re all useless eaters, so I’d caution you all not to get so uppity.
Or perhaps the sinister Mr. Oh is simply an agent of China’s barely-concealed plan to wreak vengeance against the West for the Opium Wars?
A friend recently sent me a picture of people riding the Moscow subway these days. It definitely looks cleaner and more functional than Philadelphia’s Market-Frankford Line was even when I used to ride it back in the early 1980s. It looks more orderly than any American city does nowadays.
And things rapidly seem to be getting worse. After COVID and riots and inflation and a nation where most of its inhabitants have nothing in common with another, is it fair to even call it a “nation” anymore?
I would love to be optimistic about where this country is headed. Optimism is nice — in theory. But is it realistic? Can we grin our way out of this mess?
Kensington may just be the tip of the iceberg — or the tip of the needle.
Maybe I’m just in a bad mood, but it feels like it’s midnight in America, we’re driving without headlights, and all roads lead to Kensington.
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