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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Philadelphia Diem


Philadelphia Diem
A Day in the City of Brotherly Love: 5/18/11
         
I
 stand next to the empty, dark Papa John's, quite different from the scene during the hustle and bustle of the semester with students going in and out—but 9 am is usually when things are dead until noon—waiting for the 104 from West Chester University to 69th Street. As I look out towards Church Street in fear of missing the bus I never took before and praying that the blackened sky with gray clouds didn't open up in the familiar downpour of rain—this May has felt more like an April.
        Finally! The bus was here—five minutes early than what the Septa site had said and unlike the 92 that is usually late. I stepped onto the double decked bus and handed the driver the day pass I was given by a nice gentleman I usually talk to on the 92. This 104 bus driver, brand new since an older woman dressed in Septa garb stood behind him to watch, was nice and jokingly asked me, "is this pass real?" with me timidly replying "yes," "well, how do you know?" I was about to say the nice man on the 92 wouldn't lie to me because his daughter, as he explained works for Septa, but the driver just punches the May and eighteen as swiped the card while explaining to me that I should swipe first before the driver stamps it.
      I settle down comfortably in my seat and drifted away to the heavy metal blasting on my iPod and the beautiful, almost rural, suburban trance of Newtown Square, Havertown, Haverford, Bryn Mawr—
     "God, I hope we're almost there," I think to myself. The beautiful scenery around me transforms into a concrete, dingy jungle that separated Havertown from Upper Darby and the outskirts of Philadelphia.
     "Thank God, almost there," I hear a black guy behind me sigh and stretch.
     I turn around and proceed to ask him "What is there to do on 69th Street?"
     "Not much of anything."
     "Okay, I'll just go into the city and go to the Academy of Natural Sciences. What should I take to get there?"

    "The ell to 15th street," just like the 92 driver had said to me earlier this morning.
    "Okay, thanks."
    "Mhm," I get a mumble and turn around. The bus finally pulls into the station, I stretch before getting off and after stepping down onto the dirty concrete and being bombarded by car horns, I text Dave about a favor—
          “What kind of favor?” his text reply read.
          “Could you google piercers in the Philadelphia area for me, please?” I type back.
          “Couldn’t you do it?” the quick reply read.
          “I am already in the city.”
          “Alright, I’ll look.”
          “Thank you J
          Accessing Sixty-Ninth Street and finding it to be more like a prison with steel bars on every window; I grab the handle of the door and walk into the transit center. Much fancier than the transit centers in King of Prussia and West Chester, I am lost instantaneously in this strange jungle of buses, trains, subways and taxis.
          Noticing one of the girls that rode the 104 with me, I walk up to her and ask her where the ell is.
          Smiling, “sure, it’s over there. Just follow the signs,” and points to the first sign.
          Seeing the sign that read “elevated train à,” I thanked her with a smile and followed the sign to a dark tunnel that led me to a ticket booth.
          Walking up to the booth, I find the teller and speaking through the intercom, “Good morning, do you accept these day passes?”
          The African American teller kindly replies, “Yes ma’am,” and I slide it under the glass for him to punch and slide.
          Noticing the ell I needed to take to Fifteenth Street, I quickly run through the gates and into the car before the door closed. Once on, I notice not many passengers utilizing the ell, but it wasn’t surprising to me for a Wednesday morning at 10:15. Situating myself into the uncomfortable seat, I whip out my phone and notice a text message from Dave asking me a question about one piercing location. I type back, but alas! no signal. He’d have to wait the ten or fifteen minutes I’d be on the ell.
          I’ll admit, as I sit looking out the window, that I fear a little terrified because of the editorial in the Inquirer (or Times Herald, not really sure) nan showed me the day before about a gay man being beat up by thugs with the writer calling for a fight on local terrorism instead of abroad. I am wearing my Clay Matthews t-shirt because I am a huge Packers fan—for a moment I worry that a crazy Eagles fan will see it, become disgruntled about me being a traitor to the city and punch me (hey, I may be a girl, but some hoodlums and thugs don’t care). I continue to look out the window to take my mind off the editorial. As the gray sky disappeared into a dimly lit underground tunnel, the fury in which the engine roared and the beating-clanking of the tracks intensified. At the stops a bunch of people would get off, and then a new set would climb aboard. Watching different people from all walks of life get on the bus was fascinating, that at times I forget to listen to the faint feminine voice that announces stops. However, the sign markers alert me, that I am off and strolling the streets at the right stop.

W
alking into day light once again, I grab my phone out of my black capris pocket to answer Dave back. I see a new message from him telling me the address of Infinite, a shop that was recommended to me by Victoria and Anna because they were APP[1] approved (Anna used to be a professional piercer and was trained through the APP). Also, by walking into the day light once again, I shock my senses. My eyes were also shocked by the concrete jungle that surrounds me—the realization of never traveling alone in Philadelphia finally sank in.
          Instead of panicking, I make my way on the surface of the city and approach the first street vendor I see to ask which way I ought to go to get to Nineteenth Street. The hot dog man points me in that direction—let me tell you, getting around Philly wasn’t too hard—I only was lost once on Sixteenth Street because the one sign pointed in the opposite direction, and the blocks are short; good for a fast walk.
          As soon as I neared the Parkway, I spot Love Park and I had the urge to visit. When I approach the Park, I could see a lot of people there—out of towners who were getting pictures underneath the LOVE sculpture to brag to relatives back home that they were apart of Philadelphia’s living, walking history. I meet a few girls that ask me to take their picture and I have them take the picture of me standing underneath as well. I don’t mind when the out-of-towners ask because I love capturing memories for them (I guess that is the scrapbook artist in me). http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/225840_1781095014922_1465830223_31657522_1674369_n.jpg
The few moments in quietness around the bright blue hue of the fountain, I look down upon my watch and notice it is 10:45 and that if I want to see the entire exhibits of the Academy of Natural Sciences, eat lunch and get pierced before I had to take the 3pm train home, I have to hurry along across the Parkway. It wouldn’t take me long, except for the whimsical insect and animal designs in the bushes for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. The maidens that guarded the fountain in the Whimsical Park[2], like that of the Siren, entrance me and I must capture their images.
Despite the few minor setbacks at Whimsical Park and looking at the country flags as I entered the Parkway, I arrive at the Academy of Natural Sciences at 11. As I approach the door, I notice the handles are in the shapes of bones. I chuckle to myself for a brief moment, think it’s cool and walk in. I am greeted by two young women; I present my West Chester student ID that brings my ticket down to $10. I am asked if I want to see the Butterfly exhibit and I smile and say, “Of course,” for an extra dollar, I am given a tag that designates me as a “Butterfly Attendee.”
I notice on my left-hand side that there is a dinosaur exhibit and I rush over and stand in front of a raptor skeleton. Like the dork I am, I whisk out my cellphone and take the picture to send to Dad and Dave. As I read the information sign in front of the skeleton, an employee (or volunteer, he was gray and possibly older) walks over with three distinct fossils that he explains are a dinosaur egg, a tooth and a nail, and lets me hold them to test heaviness and to feel the smoothness. I thank him and continue to walk to the room where paleontologists were cleaning and cataloging the fossils. About three elementary schools were there for a fieldtrip and situated (rather loudly) in the classroom.
          Dave responds to my text, thinking the dinosaur display is cool. He also states that before he wanted to be a history teacher he wanted to be a paleontologist. I confess that biology is a third or fourth love of mine and if I did better in Dr. Waber’s biology class in the fall of 2009, I would have had a third minor in biology (specifically botany)[3].
Double Bracket: The opossum exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences.          In order not to disturb the children on their fieldtrip, I quietly walk to the exit that leads me to the Wildlife of the World exhibit. What can I say? I love animals and learning about the different species. I had a longing for these animals—whether opossum[4], gazelle[5] or polar bear—to be alive and moving instead of taxidermied and stiff. However, in front of the gazelle showcase, I meet a nice Jordanian family and have a brief, basic Arabic conversation in which I meet Timothy (he must have been born in the US or they are Christians instead of Muslim and using the Biblical name instead of the Qur’anic), Laila and I can’t recall the father’s name.
          As we part ways, I come to the Butterflies! exhibit. I make sure that my “Butterfly Attendee” badge is visible on the neck line of my Clay Matthews shirt. After the thorough check, I walked through the brightly coloured (in blues and purples) doors and into the steamy, humid room that butterflies (and moths—the dreaded moths[6]) crave.
          I walk around and keeping what the sign hanging beside the door states—be mindful of where you walk! Butterflies are everywhere, even floors!—I keep a lookout on the ground. There is an Owl Butterfly resting on the ground near one of the gardens. I near him and extend my hands hoping that he would fly to me. He doesn’t. Two of the volunteers join me and we talk for some time.
          “A few years ago I went to Butterfly World in Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Your exhibit is just as beautiful as that place,” I say.
          “Thank you. I never heard of it, I’ll have to check it out,” he replies.
Double Bracket: A swallowtail resting amongst the flowers.          “It’s a neat place. Huge. They have all sorts of gardens too and Joe Pye weed and Dutchman ’s Pipevines hanging everywhere!”
          I mosey around the humid, brightly lit room, and see small and big butterflies flying around. Fortunately, the moths were sleeping. I will admit though that the lunar moths did look pretty. Many were feeding on the banana slices and other fruit slices. I watched them intently eating with their proboscis that quickly unrolled out of the ball for resting position, and suck the nectars out of the fruits like a vampire. Most of the butterflies that were feeding were the Owl Butterflies.
          The female volunteer, that looked to be about my age, walked over to me and started to admire the feeding scene as well (to outlookers, we probably looked strange because we were so engrossed in Mother Nature). Finally I turn to her and ask,
          “I know moths only come out during the night, but the ones flying towards the light, are they moths as well?”
          “Probably not. But, butterflies love light as well.”
Double Bracket: Proboscis—Owl Butterflies feeding on banana slices.           I thank her and the gentleman, and walk out after an half an hour tour. My hair was frizzy and I wanted to get back into the air conditioning. As I walk out the door, I notice children lined up in groups, also on a fieldtrip, waiting to go inside. I make my way to the library room and search for the ornithology[7] exhibit, but notice it’s not there like the website claimed happened on Wednesdays. I walk back down to the receptionists’ desk and she politely tells me that the meetings are actually every Thursday. I thank her and notice my stomach is growling; I walk out the door and find the nearest restaurant or the restaurant with the yummiest sounding (and cheapest) menu.

Text Box: The restaurant’s motto is “there are no strangers here, just friends that haven’t met yet,” which is painted above the bar, and is a motto that the waiters and waitresses live by. My waitress was very friendly, warm and quick to lend me advice on the quickest way to get to South Fourth Street from the Parkway. She was also helpful when it came time to order alcoholic drinks—all I had to tell her was that I am a Jack Daniels fan, she suggested and the drink was awesome and not too strong for a beginner drinker. The food was amazing, quick and cheap as well. I spent about $20 for lunch (without the alcohol it would have been $12).
Located at the Windsor Hotel on 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Con Murphy’s is a delectable, friendly and charming small restaurant that is new to Philadelphia. According to their website, Con Murphy’s is an Irish Pub paying tribute to an old friend from Ireland, Con Murphy, and a tribute to the Irish in Philadelphia.
The site goes on to describe the namesake as, “Con was, like many an Irishman, both a gentleman and a scholar. He had a healthy aversion to work. Con never lied but was often careless with the truth and never allowed it to get in the way of a good story. He treated your money like his but his generosity knew no bounds. Con was a raconteur and a rogue but, above all, he was a character who brought a smile to your face and warmth to your heart which is what this Pub aims to do also.”


 
Description: Narrow horizontal
          As I walk out of Con Murphy’s, feeling some of the effects of the Irish Russian, I make my way underground to the ell again. The waitress told me that I should take the ell on Fifteenth Street to Fifth Street, then walk to block to South Fourth Street, which is also part of Old City. This time, I’d be on for a shorter period of time because eleven stops were a lot better than the 35 or 40 stops from the Sixty-ninth Street Station.


M
uch like the waitress said, Fifth Street was Old City. Walking past the Betsy Ross House and the American Jewish Museum, I was maybe about ten minutes away from Fourth Street when the black sky opened up in a downpour of cold rain. A Septa bus is on break and I ask if he was going to Fourth Street and he sadly said no. I hailed a cab and I slid into the backseat. He is definitely Middle Eastern and we talk for a bit, but we’re both too busy trying to find Infinite after I give him the address. I’m glad no one was behind us because we were probably going fifteen miles an hour trying to read the numbers on the buildings. I finally spot it and I excitedly say, “here it is!” I get out and pay the fare of $8.


Description: Narrow horizontalDouble Bracket: Above: Kellan, my piercer. He was awesome. I would recommend going to him! He was so caring and sweet.
Below: Me with my tragus piercing. It didn’t hurt too badly—reminded me of getting a shot.
I
 like the atmosphere of Infinite. When I walk in, the owner gives me a warm welcome and asks what I want done.
“I’d like to get a tragus done, please,” I respond.
          “Sure, let me get the studs out you can choose from. They are all $20.”
          “I just want the plain silver one.”
          “Are you sure? You can get the gemstones if you want.”
          “Nah, I like the industrial look.”
          He laughs at me and tells me I strike him as that type of person. We talk for a bit and he senses that I have a tough personality and could handle anything. He then informs me that Kellan would be my piercer for today. And oh my God, he is so cute (sue me, his innocent, blue eyes just melted my heart). We introduce ourselves and instantly he feels like an old friend (he also loves my Claymania shirt). He brings me into the room, and still being wet from the downpour outside, I slide on the chair.
          “My friend used to be a part of the APP. She’s the one who did my cartilage when I went to South Carolina in March 2009.”
          “Really? What was the name of the store?”
          “I think it was Todd’s Piercing Place or something like that. I can’t remember the name. But, her name is Anna Seiler.”
          He gently swabs my ear with the cool alcohol rub and tells me to breathe in and out, much like how Anna instructed me in 2009. The piercing was done instantaneously and it felt like getting a shot at the doctors. Making sure I didn’t have an episode like I did last year at Main Line Tattooing and Piercing where I passed out after getting my nose pierced[8], Kellan told me to stay seated for a few minutes. This time I made sure I was hydrated and well fed beforehand, so it wasn’t much trouble. I walk back to the receptionist area and had a brief conversation before I went back out into Old City, which sadly nothing opens until Thursday and closes Monday through Wednesday. I walk back to the ell, and take the route (minus going to West Chester and taking the trolley to Bridgeport) as I took coming into Philadelphia to go home to relax after the busy and beautiful day in the city.



[1] APP stands for Association of Professional Piercers. The mission statement of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) is a California-based, international non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of vital health and safety information about body piercing to piercers, health care professionals, legislators, and the general public. www.safepiercing.org/
[2] I have likened it to that name because without the shrubbery, it almost reminded me of the Mad Hatter’s abode.
[3] People always muse that I have many interests, but sometimes it can be a pain because a free spirit like myself wants to do them all and doesn’t have the time or money. I could have easily had four minors and perhaps two majors if money and time were no objects.
[4] Opossum are of the marsupial family and are the largest marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. They are also commonly called possums, though that term technically refers to Australian fauna of the suborder Phalangeriformes. The Virginia Opossum was the first animal to be named an opossum; usage of the name was published in 1610. The word opossum comes from the Proto-Algonquian aposoum, pronounced *wa˙p- aʔθemw, meaning "white dog" or "white beast/ animal".
[5] Gazelles are any of many antelope species currently or formerly in the genus Gazella. Gazelles are known as swift animals – some are able to maintain speeds as high as 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for extended periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the deserts, grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest and central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. They tend to live in herds and will eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves.

[6] Don’t ask why, but I am deathly afraid of moths. I love butterflies, but I can’t stand moths. It baffles me too.
[7] Ornithology is the study of birds.
[8] Kellan did say that this is common because all the noses he pierces, people feel faint.


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