Phirst Time in Philly


Earlier this month I flew into Philadelphia to meet up with one of my greatest friends Jess Giffin. A few months ago, Southwest had an amazing sale and I couldn’t help but buy the $175 roundtrip ticket. Jess and I decided to hit up Philadelphia, Washington DC and NYC/Brooklyn in the five day trip.

Our friend Reed, who I also met in San Diego, now lives in Philly and nicely offered to let us stay with him and his awesome dog Chuy. I met them on the sidewalk a block away from the Liberty Bell, fitting for I had just arrived in the first city of my Northeast trip and was feeling quite free. Bwahaha. After some catching up in Reed’s quaint Old City apartment, we walked a few blocks over for yummy barbecue and delicious beers at Khyber Pass Pub.

Reed, Jess and me
Reed, Jess and me

After din, we stopped into a palm reading storefront (which was really someone’s home) where a young child watched TV with his mom and dad. The mom led me to the small back room, stared down at my open hand and told me nothing that stood out poignantly. We worked our way over to another bar to grab more beers and Reed recommended the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA from Delaware. It was so delicious I barely even noticed the 9% alcohol by volume, but I’m sure Jess and Reed were aware of its effect on me as we “life-talked” about how each of us thought people could change the world. Later we walked Chuy in Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River (or atleast that’s what I think we did).

Jess and I took off on a day’s adventure Friday morning, aiming only to see Ben Franklin’s grave. I am of the opinion that when in a new city, you should just start walking and see what you run into. Of course it’s good to have goals in mind of which sights you want to see, and to also know if there are any neighborhoods that aren’t safe to visit, but traveling the lack-of-expectations way has never, ever, failed me. Our day’s events ended up being the perfect tour of Philly.

IMG_2266
the ghost of Ben?

The two of us started walking in Old City and the first thing we came across was a cool church that appeared to be open. Then suddenly Benjamin Franklin himself walked towards the church. He was followed by a group of teenagers that we’d later find out were field-tripping from Brooklyn. Of course it wasn’t really Ben, but we followed everyone inside, thinking us tall, 28/29 year old white girls could sneak our way into an inner-city high school field trip. To our excitement, everything was free anyway, and we listened to an exuberant speaker discuss that this was in fact the very church that Ben Franklin, George Washington, Betsy Ross, William Penn and other revolutionary-era leaders attended each Sunday. We were in the Christ Church, founded in 1695. I could tell the speaker was very passionate about the church and its history, noting that the traditions had never really changed over time. The church has never missed a service since the day it first opened. Weddings are still performed there. Though you can go see the Liberty Bell that is protected and maintained, the bell that rings at the Christ Church is the very bell that rang when George Washington sat in his church pew. His talk was the perfect way for us to start our day trip in such a historically-rich city.

A guy that worked at the church and who was wearing some sort of fur jacket told us to continue walking down Arch Street and we would run into a whole bunch of things to see. He recommended Khyber Pass Pub, and we told him we were a bit hungover from our visit there the night before. His response was that he still smelled of beer. A lovely church representative that I instantly liked.

From Christ Church we came across the Betsy Ross House. Betsy Ross was the woman who made the first American flag, or so the legend goes. However, there is apparently no credible evidence supporting this. Jess was a bit annoyed by Betsy for no particular reason, and I think it was because she was envious that Betsy was the female icon of Philadelphia history. She probably also thought it wasn’t fair that Betsy got to have three husbands.

While Betsy may have been an important figure, there is no doubt that Mister Benjamin Franklin played a huge role in our nation’s history. Ben was the freaking shit! His face or his name is everywhere in that city! I developed a bit of an infatuation with the guy and all his glorious achievements. For the rest of the day, we talked in high-pitched renditions of what we presumed to be early New England accents and I pretended Ben was my boyfriend while Jess pretended she hated Betsy. It’s easy to be taken back in time when surrounded by tangible evidence of an earlier era.

We basically made a giant loop around Philadelphia and in the approximately 6.5 mile Journeyfoot we covered China Town, Reeding Terminal Market, the Convention Center, Philadelphia City Hall, the Thinker at Rodin Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art (aka Rocky Steps), Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, South Street and more. After eating a famous cheese steak at Jim’s – Yum! – we headed towards the Liberty Bell.

Liberty Bell (the best shot I could get)
Liberty Bell (the best shot I could get)

Turns out it really isn’t that cool, but I guess you gotta see it because it’s right there. The meaning of it is cool, but you can get that feeling from any of the old bricks or cobblestone streets throughout the city. We tried to walk up to some building near the bell, but it didn’t go over so well. I still don’t know what was so special about the place. It was dark and rainy and hard to see. Plus Jess and I were busy discussing (in our accents) Betsy Ross’ close stitches, getting our leather shoes re-cobbled, and my escapades with Ben that were the real cause of the Liberty Bell’s crack, so we didn’t notice we were doing anything wrong. I still don’t know what we did wrong. But suddenly gun-carrying, sniper-like men dressed head to toe in black came out of the shadows and hollered at us to “TURN AROUND”. Eesh.

As we quickly strolled away from what I now know was Independence Hall and back towards Reed’s, we passed by the Fox News building. It just so happened to be 5 o’clock so we stood outside of the big windows like people do on the NBC Today Show. The only difference was we were the only ones doing this. We got to read the teleprompters aloud to each other though…

Still slightly hungover, we decided to close off the night with a movie. As a result of Jess’ urgent desire to watch the 90s “classic” Cutthroat Island, Reed and I agreed… hesitantly. About a half hour in, we had to turn it off. Jess claimed it wasn’t the same as she had remembered it back when she was ten. We put on Adrift, an elegantly truthful film that left a lingering taste in my mouth even the next day, and I fell asleep with visions of the sexy Vincent Cassel adrift in my head.

Five hours later at 6AM my phone chimed out its version of “wake up”. I sleepily pulled on my clothes with only the crack of the bathroom light seeping out into the dark room. We loaded our packs onto our bodies and bid our farewells to Reed and Chuy before stepping out into the dark, cold air of the Philadelphia morning. By 7:45 we were on a Greyhound headed for our nation’s capital.

Jayme Welch

I write. I explore. I think. I write some more.

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