In comic books, Bizarro is a twisted version of Superman, an imperfect duplicate who wants to be the same but ends up being different. His planet, Bizarro World, is square while Earth is round, he causes disasters instead of saving people from them, the S on his shirt is backwards (but you usually can't see it because unlike the humble Superman Bizarro wears a homemade sign proclaiming himself to be #1), he is vulnerable to blue kryptonite instead of green, and so on.
Bizarro stories always annoyed me when I was little, but the Superman animated series gave me a better appreciation for him. In his send-off episode, the last time we see him on that show, he frees an animal from a zoo with the comment, "Why am you locked up? Me bet it am for something you not do," and I suddenly understood, and felt bad. At heart, Bizarro means well. He wants to be good. He just doesn't know how, and his essential nature fights against it. He wants to be Superman, but he'll always just be an imperfect duplicate.
I was thinking about Bizarro last week because I learned, from a commuter request form, that just down the road from me there is a Bizarro village of Philadelphia. I've mentioned before that my hometown is Philadelphia, NY, a small village that sits on Route 11, so I was surprised to learn that there's a Philadelphia, TN, and it also sits on Route 11. It's Philly, but not Philly! It's, as I said, Bizarro Philly, and I immediately wanted to go see it.
(Before anyone argues that our Philly is the Bizarro Philly, I'll point out that ours was founded first. Sorry, Bizarro Philly.)
I didn't know if there actually would be anything to see there, but Bryan offered to drive, so off we went on Saturday morning. It turns out that Bizarro Philly really is like our Philly, but different in small, odd ways.
1) We both have a closed gas station on Route 11. At home, ours is the Agway. In Bizarro Philly, I'm not sure what it is, because the sign is gone:
The whole building is gone, actually, but they left some lovely ruins behind:
2) Nothing important happened in our town, ever. Bizarro Philly, on the other hand, was the sight of the apparently famous Battle of Philadelphia:
According to the plaque next to the Civil War Trail sign:
the Battle of Philadelphia was fought a short distance away on Federal Hill:
It was the first Union defeat in East Tennessee, and allowed the Confederacy to capture a number of guns and supply wagons. Bizarro Philly is historically important, while our Philly has contributed nothing important to the historical record.
They sometimes claim to have invented cream cheese, but this is a lie.
3) Our town has a lot of churches. Bizarro Philly also has a lot of churches:
Is it just me, or does the "including you" come out sounding a lot less welcoming than it should?
The historical plaque was on the lawn of another church, and there was a non-photogenic Baptist church past the Presbyterian Church. We didn't stop because we were trying to find this church:
I have no idea what a cowboy church is. Bryan and I tried to follow the signs to find it, with a slight caution from me: "If we pull up and it looks like snake handlers or 'Children of the Corn', just drive away. I'll try to take a picture without getting out of the car," but we must have missed a turn or something because we just ended up doubled back to a street we'd already come down.
4) Regular Philly sometimes has graffiti problems:
So does Bizarro Philly:
5) Regular Philly is smack in the middle of dairy country. Bizarro Philly also has a dairy:
Their sign said that the cheese shop was open, so we went in, and there was so much cheese:
Case upon case of cheese, and the whole back of the store is glass windows into the cheese processing area, so you can see the presses and vats and drying areas. Even better, when I starting talking to the lady at the counter, whose husband owns the farm, I was explaining that I was from dairy country in upstate New York and she explained that her husband was, too! He's from Cortland, the town where I went to school for my undergrad. We started trading New York towns, and I went on to explain that the whole reason we were in Bizarro Philly was that my parents live in Philadelphia, New York.
"There's a Philadelphia in New York?" she exclaimed, eyes wide. "I never knew that!"
She probably thinks ours is the Bizarro Philly.