Friday, July 29, 2011

Philadelphia (Part 1)

(Thursday, July 21)

I held my breath for wishes as we passed under mountains via the Pennsylvania Turnkpike tunnel highway.

This megabus drive (a triumphant $5) marked not just a change in landscape,   
Walls of trees.
but also a change in the nature of the journey—from unfamiliar cities to cities I’ve been to. Many times.

And suddenly I was back:

(photo from
The iconic / ironic City of Brotherly Love.  
The mid-point of my journey (distance-wise)-- And a place that marks not just the birth of our country's independence, but also my own.

When I first moved to Philly for college, I was afraid to walk alone at night (even in relatively safe neighborhoods).  As I walked away from the megabus stop, it occurred to me that I had just traversed half the country solo.

Over the past 11 days, I’d soaked in three cities worth of my hosts’ pride.

And as I passed the Cira Centre:

(Cira Centre. One of those cool buildings that on the right day perfectly reflects the sky.)
I remembered how thrilled I’d been when it joined the Philly skyline. It’s amazing how quickly the pride for a place can come back to you-- especially Philly pride.

But this trip to Philly wasn't about the historic sites- there wasn’t any time:

Not the liberty bell
Always free to visit.

Not Independence Hall
Walk-up tickets for a tour are free at the Independence Visitor’s Center in the morning--

 Not The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount park and Boat House row 
The first Sunday of each month, Philadelphia Museum of the Art is pay what you wish.

Not The Independent Seaport Museum ( – often overlooked. 
Pay what you wish 10-12 every Sunday.)-  (photo courtesy of the Independent Seaport Museum.

Not Christ Church Cemetery

Ben Franklin's grave.  Another great wishing spot. Wishes are pay what you wish: suggested amount- a penny.

Or my  favorite places:

Isaiah Zager’s Magic Garden

A house on South Street entirely covered in mosaics. A tour of the inside has long been on my bucket list.

 The clothespin:

Claes Oldenburg’s work at 15th and Market Street.
 Lorenzo’s pizza on South Street, where the answer is always “No.”
My college friends used to speculate that the secret ingredient in their sauce is grape jam.
Not even one of my favorite annual haunts...

Eastern State Penitentiary:

Where 12 Monkeys was filmed and where trees grow through old bunks. A popular ghost hunting destination.
I didn’t revisit any of these sites. (photos compliments of google images)

Instead, straight off the bus, I walked instinctively to:

Is it weird to feel nostalgic for your old grocery store?

In honor of my friend, Jake, who used to work there (who I hadn’t seen since I left), I got into a line with a guy at the register with curly hair just like his. And then he looked up. AND IT WAS HIM.
I forget that it’s only been three years since I left Philadelphia.

I left Trader Joes not only with a banana, but a place to stay Sunday night.

After catching a show, I headed to my Thursday night couchsurfer’s place (not far). A condo on Rittenhouse Square.
Rittenhouse Square.
 Where for a night, I had a room with a view:

(actually from my phone camera)
and a great conversation with my host, an Options Trader.  It's always enlightening to spend time with somebody whose only occupational similarity involves the word equity (Actors' Equity vs equity securities).

We probably would have talked into the next day. But we both had early mornings.

I caught this at sunrise before I had to head out on the hottest day of the year. Can you see the heat?


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