Philadelphia, PA, July 6-9, 2004
I had wanted us to go to Philadelphia with Allan for years, to see Penn and do some sightseeing in the city. I had never been back to do that.
A few years earlier, we took a bus to Philadelphia for a rally in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal. (Allan had a terrible experience on the bus.) We left the rally at City Hall, and walked over to 1221 Walnut Street. The building was different, but the doorway and address were there. "There it is," I said. "The scene of the crime." We stood and looked at it, I shed a tear, and when we walked away, I felt better. I had gotten past on obstacle I didn't even realize I had.
After that, I planned to go, but we just never did. There was always someplace better to go. When the National Constitution Center opened, I read about it, it sounded great, and then the Phillies got a new ballpark. Finally, once we decided to leave NYC, I knew if we didn't go to Philadelphia before we left, we never would. We went for four days, July 6-9. We took Amtrak there and back, cabbing from 30th Street Station to the Latham Hotel, a very nice small-ish hotel just off Rittenhouse Square.
I won't be able to recall the entire weekend in order, but I can write about the highlights out of order. I'm sorry I didn't write about it at the time. It seemed silly to keep a journal for a four-day trip. I won't make that mistake again!
We visited the National Constitution Center [Arch Street between 5th & 6th] , which to me was a celebration of people's movements in the United States, of the movement towards democracy and greater inclusiveness. Everything is excellently displayed and curated. The exhibits are not propaganda, but an honest appraisal of the Constitution - how the US failed to, and then was forced to, live up to its promise, and also the times when the US clearly went against the Constitution.
We visited the Rosenbach Museum and Library [20th Street and Delancey Place, a beautiful area], a gem of a small museum very near our hotel in the Rittenhouse Square area. It was a bizarre mix of literary memorabilia (with an emphasis on James Joyce and Maurice Sendak) and baseball. A brilliant few hours for book lovers. I had never heard of it, but Allan found it in the guidebook.
We walked through Society Hill, ate cheesesteaks both at Jim's on South Street and Pat's in South Philly, wandered through the Reading Terminal.
We took the subway to the new ballpark - right across the street from where Veteran Stadium (the Vet) used to be, and saw the Phillies beat the Mets. It's a beautiful park, we had good seats and had a good time.
One night, we picked up food and wine at the Reading Terminal Market, then stayed in the hotel to watch the Red Sox game on ESPN. Another night we sat at the hotel bar and listened to retro piano lounge singer perform in a time warp without a trace of irony.
We visited the Penn Campus, which of course has drastically changed. The fraternities have been moved off Locust Walk - which I had read about, but it was so great to see it in the flesh. We couldn't get into quad without ID, it was all locked up, so the outside of that had to suffice.
We walked all around campus, although it was a very hot day. Bennett Hall, home of the English Dept, and where I spent a lot of time in my college days, was about to be closed for renovation - naturally, the last building on the campus to be renovated. A professor, walking out with a box of stuff from his office, told us they were being moved to temporary quarters on 40th & Walnut! In other words, far off-campus, and in a seedy neighbourhood. Figures!
Off-campus in the other direction, north of the school, we stumbled on a fantastic political bookstore [A House of our Own, 3920 Spruce Street], all lefty and feminist stuff, in a big Victorian house. We talked to the older couple who owned the place, somehow mentioned we were moving to Canada, they were really excited for us. I learned that the bookstore had been there during my time at Penn - yet I had no recollection of it, even though I once lived only a few blocks away. Could it be I had missed it entirely? Allan said I must have gone there but had forgotten.
Also near Penn, we had a drink at La Terrasse, still there, but now shabby.
We visited the Rodin Museum, still excellent, and walked up Ben Franklin Parkway to Boathouse Row. We wandered through a water-works exhibit in back of the Art Museum, and walked into the Art Museum, but didn't go.
Every morning, we had breakfast a few blocks from our hotel at a light, airy breakfast/lunch spot with delicious fresh food. We toyed with the idea of going to a really nice restaurant, then decided not to spend the time or money.
There was an Ing Bank Internet Café right across the street from our hotel, so we had coffee, checked our email and visited our moving-to-Canada money!
We went into little shops and restaurants on South Street, saw some funky furniture, had a beer or two at a good bar, looked at some music. I bought two bracelets, one a bit expensive for us, but I was very happy.
We walked around a lot in pretty neighbourhoods like Society Hill and Rittenhouse Square. There were a lot of Kerry signs - but also some HUGE Bush signs on big Society Hill houses - and considered whether we should deface them. I had some MoveOn stickers that we put on newspaper boxes.
From a bus window, I saw the hospital where I stumbled into the emergency room in the middle of the night, then the building where I lived. Ancient history.