Posts Tagged 'Philadelphia'

Camera Man

Here are some of my favourite photos so far:

Philadelphia back streets

By the roadside

Constitution Centre

Italian Market

Murals

Inside the City Hall

LOVE in JFK Memorial Park

The album is here.

Going several (thousand) steps too far

Okay, I may have overdone it a little.

I was in Philadelphia very early today – before 8 – due to Nailbunny having some business to attend to. And then I sort of ended up doing this. On just under 5 hour’s sleep, with some kind of illness starting up. Not smart, Phillip.

Still, all in good fun. I popped into the Ritz on Market Street for laughs – it’s quite reasonable, you know, only $250 for a night… Either way, it’s very nice in there; an absolutely massive front hall. Beats the Bellevue down the road – all horrid rococo stuff. Full of those shops that only stock three or four items and don’t have price tags. Young bright things swanning about in suits hand-stitched from the bayeux tapestry… etc.

Anyway, I finally reached the art museum, and managed to see the majority of it. Lots of great stuff in there; the photography and print section had some ridiculously powerful material in – very lip-wobbling. And then upstairs there was a massive armory: plate mail, flintlock pistols, and swords that make your average final fantasy protagonist look really quite reasonable. Oh, and they’re all made in Germany. By this time I was feeling considerably light-headed and very cold, which was less than good. I headed back outside to the steps made so famous by Rocky, and lay in the sun for a while, willing myself to become solar powered. It seemed to work, just about. I got to the station with three minutes to go and fell asleep on the couch as soon I got here.

You might be able to tell I’m still a bit blasted. I can feel how clunky this post is. I think that shall be all for today; I’ll make up for it by putting up a post with my photographs so far. I start my journey south tomorrow, heading for Baltimore and DC.

Oh! I tried Dunkin’ Donuts! It was underwhelming!

The Streets of Philadelphia

I think I should have said I was here for ‘business’ when they asked me. A whole lot of organization is going on behind the scenes!

But of course, the scenery is the fun bit, so let’s ignore the sweaty men manning the ropes.

Today I was driven into central Philadelphia by the ever-generous Mr. Bunny, after missing the train. I crashed out pretty hard last night, having not slept for almost 50 hours or so (couldn’t sleep the night before I flew out, and then add seven hours for time travel, etc…), and thus was even more ill-suited to consciousness than usual.

I picked up my greyhound pass, slightly disappointed at the station’s lack of resemblance to a gaping maw-o’-hell, then trundled into East Market Station on the opposite side of the street. This is where I found out that my camera battery had expired, I had no sunglasses, I may have possibly left my guidebook – and therefore my maps, in my backpack, and the same with my suncream.

Looking good.

There was nothing I could about my camera, but I managed to grab a pretty cheap map from a newsagent. Spilling out blinking into the sunlight, I immediately began being slow-roasted by the sun, but without the slow bit. Sticking to the shadows, I threaded my way north into Chinatown.

And then out. Philadelphia’s Chinatown is small. But there’s people everywhere, so I am going to go ahead and assume that folks around there live on some kind of shelving. Maybe a filofax.

From Chinatown, I looped around to the east via Franklin Square, where I squeezed just enough juice from my Olympus to get a snap of a rather impressive sand sculpture, and from thereon plunged south through the verdant strip of history that goes by Independence National Park. On the plane, my fellow passenger told me, with a sort of worried smile, to not tease you guys too much about your modernity. ‘Bless them,’ she said, ‘they get excited at anything over 200 years old’. And you guys certainly take that sliver of history seriously. No-one’s denying, you know, a lot happened – a lot of big important things! But one does wonder if you’re compensating

Anyway, driven by the sun to seek shelter, like some sort of small furry thing that lives in a desert , I ducked into the Constitution museum. Very interesting, all very good and stirring; lots of trumpet swells etc. Surprisingly tasteful, even, the show they put on. I noticed Bush’s perennially bemused expression pan briefly across the montage of projected images, but the end of the exhibition was characterized by his curious absence. Instead, a smiling Obama reached one Presidential hand off-screen, presumably to the future, world peace, aesthetically pleasing puppies, and so on. I did then find out that Bush had been removed the instant Obama was elected – to the minute – by a museum guide who was doing a really bad job at hiding her elation.

Later I was in Washington Square. This is a small-ish park that has the American Revolution Deluxe edition of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, watched over by Washington’s marble eyes. There was only one other in sight, bending down at the knee in front of the tomb’s proud pyre. Very touching, I thought – until he arose with a lighted spliff and ambled off across the greenery. Disrespectful? Almost certainly. But perhaps fitting. The quote above the tomb: “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness”. It was certainly a light for someone.

In all seriousness, though, the freedom to do that? Significant.

Speaking of freedom, I accidentally draw the ire of a security guard. I crossed a pathway that suddenly became a road, and in a bid to make my ‘lasting impression’ of America something that wasn’t a smear on the cobbles, I ducked underneath a low chain-fence. Automatic fail, do not pass go, etc. The guy – a kind of tubby middle-aged fellow with a loud voice and a louder ego – then proceeded to rail on me for a good thirty seconds. I was of course conciliatory, apologetic, but just as I was getting a little fed up – I get the point, sir – I realized ‘oh good lord they all have guns don’t they I am going to die’. Luckily, I did not die, but I’m not sure how reassured I am knowing someone with that short a fuse has something with that short a safety.

One more day in Philadelphia, then I start goin’ south.

And then I’ll really have to keep my mouth shut.

Brobdingnag

I am in America! Nailbunny’s condo just outside Philadelphia is my first hostel, and very nice it is too. But let’s rewind.

I rolled up at Gatwick this morning having been driven by my dad through the glorious english summer morning, and, after some struggle, navigated Terminal S. Deserving of mention was the wonderful cockney usher who, in between keeping a dozen unruly lines in check, effortlessly deadpanned all incoming questions. “Where’s gate 19? Why, it’s in the airport, sir!”

May he inspire us all.

The flight over was about as well as I could have hoped for. My companions were an intelligent, chatty, social worker wife-of-a-professor, and a mildly obese woman who sometimes dozed, often broke wind, and always smiled faintly. Upon landing 7 hours which were actually 2 hours because oh god time travel later, I was given a brisk, professional check-over at immigration. Which lasted twenty minutes. Ho-hum.

Overwhelming impression is that I am suddenly in the titular land of the giants. Flying over the coastline – the vast, vast coastline – the sense of scale is just staggering. There are huge houses in huge suburbs in huge forests. The land spills out everywhere and rumbles away from any sense of discipline. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Looking down onto England, you’ll see a tame patchwork of fields and carefully contained, hedge-fringed spaces. America just has so much space. It’s just… it’s so big.

Not only geographically, too. The cars are big, the food is big, the houses and roads and trees are big… And, quite often, the people. I saw my first truly morbidly obese person today, heaved belly-first onto a shopping trolley that scraped its way out of Best Buy. Unsettling. One of the supermarkets I went to was simply called ‘Giant’. It was kind of touching in its unabashed honesty, I thought. Here is a store that is not pretending to be anything other than as big as inhumanly possible. There’s not ever any suggestion that America is prepared to do things by halves. It puts our Tesco ‘superstores’ in the shade, and I haven’t even seen one of the notorious Wall*Marts yet.

Nailbunny and his girlfriend took me out to a local eatery of sorts, where there were five different TVs with five different channels on the walls and American Rock blasting from the speakers. It seemed very apt, but nothing would prepare me for the size of the ‘small’ nachos I had picked out from the menu. It was not a meal. It was a minor geographical feature. The tortilla chips were stacked a good four-and-a-half inches high, and there was enough cheese in there to entirely fill two Mills and Boon novels. The two plates it was on were so hot that they melted the varnish and fused to the wood beneath. Men have died for less.

I’m not sure how I’m going to cope with all this scale. I’m only a diminutive chap, after all. Suddenly I am a very small fish in a very big pond, and the pond has salsa dressing and jalapeno peppers.

There’s also a lot of little weird things about America too, especially the omnipotent domination of capitalism, but that’s another post. I saw some of Philadelphia today, including South Street, where I bought a phone. Hooray! I will post it in the PA thread in the form of an image. It’s now 11:30 at night and I am absolutely shattered, having not slept for… I don’t know, I think I may have to borrow someone’s DeLorean. I head back into Philadelphia for further exploration tomorrow.

Nailbunny is tall.


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