something about everything

America in 500 Feet

It rises out of the ground floor by floor.  Cement trucks arrive like locusts to deliver the mixture that will hold the enormous weight of the 56-story building. The construction workers begin to look like ants as each floor reaches toward the sky. The sun shining on the corner of Arch and Eighteenth streets will soon be a thing of the past.


A homeless man sits against the fence of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church. His hair is dark and unkempt. He stares ahead, oblivious to the massive structure rising in front of him. In his hands, he holds a dirty cardboard sign that says Homeless but not Hopeless. On the ground is a wrinkled baseball cap holding change and a dollar bill.

Around the corner, the original Comcast Center stands higher than any building, and when the new Comcast Tower is completed, they will dwarf the skyline of Philadelphia.


The homeless man wants something to eat. In the near future, a restaurant 900 feet above him will light up the night sky and look down upon William Penn on top of City Hall. After the last French truffle is served, the garbage dump will overflow with enough food to feed a thousand homeless people.

What it could look like

The Caviar Crowd Look Down on the City

Someone said that 10,000,000 television watchers around the world, most of whom could never afford to eat in the top floor restaurant, paid for the cost of each floor.

In the 500 feet between the homeless man and the Comcast Tower and what it represents, all of America exists.

Where are you on this continuum of American life? Most of us are closer to the homeless man than we would like to believe; but you can only see it…if you open your eyes.


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2 thoughts on “America in 500 Feet

  1. Andrew Paterna on said:

    John. Great piece of writing. You are terrific!

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