Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 35: Streets of Philadelphia II

Keys to Community!

“Keys to Community”, a 2007 work by James Peniston, is a one-ton bronze Benjamin Franklin covered in casts of 1000 kids’ keys, funded by the local fire department and 1.8 million donated pennies.

Yep, we’re still in Philadelphia. While Anne had her own objectives to pursue on our second foray into the City of Brotherly Love — largely centered around American history — my own to-do list was simple: I just wanted to see Philly up close — roam the streets, feel the vibe, see downtown up close, and just plain experience it instead of merely driving through it with the doors locked…or as we’d done on our first go-around in 2010, when we rode a trolley past several highlights without the power to stop and appreciate at will.

So on Day Five we wandered a bit, we shopped a little, we took a plethora of photos. This set is the daytime half.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.

We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…

street musicians!

Street musicians outside and underneath the National Constitution Center.

Philadelphia Conference!

Historical marker for the 1979 Philadelphia Conference, because there was indeed history made in Philly after 1800.


Message of the day at The Outrage, a clothing store for our times.

Humphry's Flag Company!

Colors flying at Humphry’s Flag Company, down the street from the Betsy Ross House.

Brave New Worlds!

Day Five was a Wednesday, which meant New Comics Day at comic shops nationwide. Along our path was Brave New Worlds, which in a bit of great timing was positively profiled a few weeks ago at the Comics Beat.

For fun and for curious fellow readers: my new-comics purchases for the week of July 11, 2018, were Domino #4, Exiles #5, Farmhand #1, Ms Marvel #32, Plastic Man #2, Relay #1, She Could Fly #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #18, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #34, and Wildstorm: Michael Cray #9. Hats off to Brave New Worlds for actually carrying all of those — especially the amazing She Could Fly, which became an increasingly frustrating challenge to keep up with over the course of four irritatingly underordered issues.

independence parking mural!

Random mural at a parking lot down the street.

art gallery!

A bookstore/art gallery that caught my eye with that EC Comics deluxe reprint set in the window.

Wine Lion!

Tiny pet lion outside a wine shop.

bell spine!

In this erstwhile capital of our nation, virtually every other business is America-, independence-, freedom-, or liberty-themed. And who doesn’t want liberty from back pain?

First National Bank!

The First National Bank dates back to 1863, but later became part of Wells Fargo and relocated somewhere boring. The historical building they gave up now belongs to the Science History Institute.

Second Bank of the United States!

It sounds younger, but the Second Bank of the United States dates back even farther to 1818, and went out of business in 1841 well before the not-so-First Bank opened during the Civil War. Today the building houses a free art gallery. We might’ve stopped in if we’d known that, but it somehow evaded our research.

After our long walk around downtown from the National Constitution Center to the Betsy Ross House to the Museum of the American Revolution and back to Independence Hall, we returned to the car and drove a whole mile through slow rush-hour traffic to our hotel. Once again our street directions nailed every turn perfectly. The hotel’s own instructions for reaching the parking garage, on the other hand, came up lacking. The entrance was on the far side away from the street, obscured further by a delivery truck parked in front of it. We ended up driving an extra lap around the block, thankfully getting inside the second time after the truck left.

While I drove and fumed, Anne took a few bonus photos as we inched near and through Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Shakespeare Memorial!

The Shakespeare Memorial, a 1926 sculpture by Alexander Calder, in front of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s dozens of locations. (That’s just what they call their library system.)

Kosciuszko statue!

1978 statue by Marian Konieczny of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, an engineer whose assistance to our side in the Revolution was invaluable.

City Hall!

Beyond our hotel was Philadelphia City Hall. We’d get a little closer to it later that evening.

After we checked in and relaxed for a spell, dinner was many stories below at the hotel’s own restaurant, an Irish eatery that seemed like a good idea at the time. The food in itself was above reproach, I’ll give them that.

Irish wallpaper!

Possibly the only establishment in America boasting How Green Was My Valley wallpaper.

grouper with couscous!

Anne’s dinner of grouper with couscous. She’s quite the seafood fan.

blackened shrimp risotto!

As for me: blackened shrimp risotto.

roasted Brussels sprouts!

The true winner on our table: roasted Brussels sprouts with kielbasa and shaved Parmesan.

Everything tasted just fine once it was eventually served, once the staff was in the mood to deliver on their promises. Or perhaps Thursday nights are quite the party time for their clientele. Whatever the reason, we were in there a good ninety minutes or more, far longer than we’d imagined. After a while I stopped keeping time except to note that one or two other places we’d thought to walk to afterward would be closed by the time we were released. We saved a little time by skipping dessert. I was still hungry at the end, but when a business upsets me, I’m all about brainstorming reasons to give them less money. And the meal wasn’t cheap to begin with.

Insult to injury arrived around 7:00 or so — live music in the form of a dude with a mike and an acoustic guitar. Since I rarely go to bars, pubs, or nightclubs, I’ve never developed a tolerance for local cover bands. A set that included sensitive Starbucks-CD renditions of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, “Stir It Up”, Hootie’s “Let Her Cry”, and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was not the best serenade for two unhappy, tired customers with better things to do. (My photo of Anne capturing our emotions in that moment was featured in a previous entry I wrote after we got home. Note the ennui.)

About a week after we came home from vacation, in an extremely rare feat for me, I obliged the hotel’s email request to review our stay and provide comments. I was candid about our restaurant experience. Two different managers emailed me later with apologies — one from the hotel, one from the restaurant. Nice of them, I suppose. As a former restaurant manager myself, I know bad nights can happen, but I also know that’s precisely why you have to stay on your toes. You never know whose night you’ll mess up if you don’t. We live 650 miles away and aren’t really in a position to accept a free appetizer or whatever on our next visit as an apology. We have no idea if or when we’ll be in Philly again, let alone on that block. All we know is it was another downside to our already long day. By this time, long drives and longer waits were were wearing us thin.

Regardless…as the sun began to set and we exited at last, we were definitely done with dinner, but we weren’t done with their city yet. We tried to put our remaining minutes in the day to better use.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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