I am sitting in a cafe over on 3rd street in Olde City Philadelphia. Almost 10 years to the day, I sat in this cafe (at the time it was Quarry Street cafe), writing out Christmas cards. The place has been renovated and is now called the Cafe Ole, the walls rich warm colours (burnt yellows, salmon red, bright sagey greens…. ah, my favorite palette!) and the vibe is south american with the music playing and prints of pastoral scenes dotted with colour. A print of Macchu Picchu hangs above me on the wall (I recall my promise to Opie— we’d go there before his 40th birthday. That’s coming up in two years).

I find myself  back here in Philadelphia, warm and in love with the world. I have a chest cold and feel a bit feverish. I spent the morning walking around Center City and then Olde City, dropping into coffee shops when I got too cold or wet (it’s been raining all day). I remember this perch 10 years ago, watching the snow begin to fall— it was the only time I saw it snow in Philadelphia. I walked home the 20 plus blocks in the snow— a storm that produced big fat snowflakes that melted as soon as they hit the pavement. It was beautiful. It was magical.

I wonder who was that girl who sat at a similar table, looking out at the cobblestone street as the rain turned to snow? Where is she now? Who has she become? I am no longer a girl and I am no longer lost or scared or unsure of who I am. And yet, I still do not know where I belong. At this moment, I am here and I do not wish to be anywhere else in this world. In this warm space, I am comforted by all the miles between then and now. And yet, in my heart, I am counting down, holding each site here in Philadelphia dear, tucking it away in my memory, for tomorrow, I go back to California. I’ve needed this break… to sort out my hopes, dreams, the life that I dream of, the life that awaits my return to CA. There is much to return to— and yet, there is much I would rather do without, yet I have high hopes for 2008.

For another hour, this thoughtful mental space is mine to wander, ponder, and relax. I shall sit and enjoy these moments, smile at the pigeons that come wandering in through the side door—wandered in as I did, attracted by the warmth and the smell of espresso. Soon, I will pack up and head over to the Benajamin Franklin post office on Market and mail cards. I’ve spent some quality time with myself and also heard from a few old friends this afternoon. Melissa would like to come to CA for my tree trimming party (from Minnesota!!). CA friends have checked in to let me know that all is quiet on the western front— Siddhartha and Pea are well.

Beginning this morning, I began walking about, shooting pictures of the streets, sidewalks, and structures that hold cameos in my dreams. Once I’d gone through the photos, I chose to post these pictures  in the order they were taken—a photo essay of my day. They are heavy on olde city Philadelphia with very little taken downtown and none in West Philly (though I have many from West Philly—which I may add here in a bit). May each of you see a bit of the lure I feel and the love I have for this city when you view Philadelphia through my eyes.

And now, my walking tour of Philadelphia…
I got on the subway over at the 30th street station. Arun gave me tokens and guided me to my proper stop. I began my tour at Broad and Walnut, just out of the subway, staring up at City Hall. I was so struck by its presence, I didn’t take any pictures— just too moved to do anything but stare. I stare at this structure each time it comes into view on the skyline. When I’m moving through traffic on the street level, I crane my body upwards to see its strong lines and stunning stone curves. I love this building. The clock face glows harvest moon yellow at night and is visible throughout the city. This shot was taken at the end of the day after Carrie picked me up and we were driving home.

Fergie’s Pub on Samson street, east of Broad.
This was a favorite hangout of ours. Many nights wandering down this stretch of Samson. Great bar food, warm hardwood interiors, warm guinness, amazing jukebox, and of course, the owner Fergie. A funny, warm guy with a lovely accent. He also owns another resturaunt (Monks) which serves all Belgium beer and decent dinner food. I prefer the casual warmth of the pub. Ah, to spend Thursday nights there playing quizo… that was fun.

Washington Square, Tomb of the Unknown Soliders
This is a special place for me. This square is one of the original five set aside by William Penn when the city of Philadelphia was laid out, grid-style. During the Revolutionary war, during cholera outbreaks, the squares became potter’s fields. How many layers are beneath these walkways and grassy spans? What strikes me are the words on the monument: “Freedom is a Light for which many men have died in Darkness.” Somber, on hallow ground, and yet, simultaneously warm and comforting with an eternal flame and quotes from Washington’s farewell address. I know there is much wrong with this country, the political system, etc., but I believe in the pillars upon which our country has been established.

Chesnut and 5th Street intersection
Regardless of the season, this street’s bustle coupled with the brick sidewalks and walls makes my hardened heart soften. I become lost in time and my thoughts slow; my eye is drawn to the simple lines and curves that are the brick outlines and fallen leaves superimposed. These streets and the trees whether lush in summer or golden then bare as fall changes into winter.

The Signer
This piece is located on the south side of Chesnut behind a tallish brick wall immediately west of the second bank of the US. I am drawn to this piece and I return to it every visit. I walk around the circular path, counting my footsteps. We’ve brought Kamal here  and he’s done laps around it. Today I could not resist taking a closer shot, one that would show the rain glistening and dripping off.

Walkway between the 2nd Bank and Carpenter’s Hall complex
This alleyway has been a favorite of mine for years. I imagine Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and the like pacing up and down, back and forth, rushing to and from the Continental Congress’ sessions. The thick brick walls along the hall (on right) such a striking contrast to the colder bank facade. My eye draws to the brick wall, discoloured from wear. The decorative ironwork along the street is quite beautiful and dresses up the otherwise plain structures.

Carpenter’s Hall
Such a simple building, really, with few key details. And well, beauty is in the details, no? the shutter hooks. The mid-level brick work, the roofline dented detail. The cobblestone, the brick, the craftsmanship. The people it has entertained throughout Philadelphia’s history. We should all be truly grateful that these landmarks still exist for at one time, they were proposed for demolition.

The Libary of the Philosophical Society of America

Anyone else find the fourth line ironically, subjectively funny? I do. “promoting useful knowledge”
hmmm. that’s a very broad or narrow range depending upon one’s definition of “useful.”

Independence Hall.
The classic colonial architectural construction. The arching walkways. The widow’s walk. This building, so simple and yet, it and its surrounding commons has seen such history. Occupation by the British, Revolutionary war soldiers rioting Congress to demand back wages. Demonstrations. Trials. Where the Declaration of Independence was debated, edited, and signed.

Middle arch, looking beyond to the new National Constitution Center. I used to walk through the middle arch to and from my way to work. I believed the ritual would provide safe passage through to the next day with the hope of bigger and better things. Sometimes, I would pause, plop down, smoke a cig, and watch the tourists take snapshots. Tourists are like squirrels, they will come up to anyone if they think you’ve got something to give them. In a tourist’s case, it’s where to find X and where to go for Y. I always indulged them and only ONCE did I send a person in the opposite direction on purpose. Most of the time, I interacted with a smile. I believed it was in my best interest, as a citizen of Philadelphia, to help visitors find what they’d come to see.

Ballast rock between Independence Hall and Ben Franklin’s house. I love the way the heels of my clogs click on the rocks. I love how my cords swish as I walk carefully to avoid the larger puddles, looking down at the fallen leaves, lost in daydreams.

Ben Franklin’s home

This steel structure was constructed in the late 1970s or 80s. The carriage house and the buildings along Market are original to the same period as his house. His grandchildren had the home demolished. This stuns me— after he took such great care crafting the house, providing lengthy instructions to the builders and endless letters sent back and forth to his wife negotiating the structure’s features and furnishings….and they demolish it less than 100 years after it was built? hmph. Ingrates.

The courtyard, buildings original. I spent many a lunch hour drafting letters on those benches and under the arched pergiola.

Through the archway is the Benjamin Franklin post office. Once you walk through the courtyard tunnel, modern day Market street greets you with a blast of car noises and busy pedistrians rushing past.

Sparrows perched on a tree in the Franklin house gardens.

North of Market, 3rd Street

A few blocks later, heading north on 3rd. The sidewalks narrow a bit, become more craggy and the modern day buildings and renovations fall away to odder combinations like the pizza joint townhouse. Old City Pizza is a great lunch joint. My boss would always get us breakfast sandwiches from this place. All processed cheese, white buns… grilled. Interesting, really.

Betsy Ross house’s cat fountain
I was pulled in by the presence of the pumpkin… I like this little courtyard. It is right across the street from the Mulberry Market, where I purchased many a bagel and hot coffee.

A lovely Italian resturaunt whose food I’ve not tried, though I passed it nearly every day for a year. In summer months, the sidewalk would be littered with men, sipping coffee, and talking in Italian.

The old Quarry Street cafe
dressed up a bit but still charming.

New Mural
The mural of the dude drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette is long gone, replaced now by this more upbeat mural. I like its warm colours but find it a good example of how a neighborhood goes down hill when it transitions through gentrification.

From this second hand and yarn shoppe, I purchased a few skeins of yarn and looked over the costume jewerly. There were a few pieces of a whimsical nature that caught my eye, but ultimately, I decided just to get the yarn (as a present for a friend of mine— she’s long overdue for a WS scarf!)

I love these little shoppes— window shopping is a great way to fill an afternoon.

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This little alley with its fallen leaves strewn about the ballast rock gave me pause. I watched the lady with her dog and wondered how Siddhartha would like these streets? He does prefer the sidewalk to bare ground— I imagine him prancing down the streets of Philadelphia.

The building where I used to work, first floor.

The Borse

After finishing up at the post office, I strolled over to Independence Mall and the new National Constitution Center. I didn’t take any pictures because, well, the NCC looks rather modern, looming, harsh upon the landscape. And still, I am quite attracted to the structure but more so for what it holds than its architecture. However, the NCC has quite the view.  Independence Hall across the mall and the Borse to the east. Quite lovely old building. Now holds shoppes and resturaunts.

Reason 365 I sometimes want to move back; just need to find a kid to take with me! Who wouldn’t LOVE to go have breakfast with Ben Franklin? I mean, COME ON!

US Post Office — 30th Street Station
Look at the wood ceiling! The whole building is very deco inside and out. It’s giant facade, square-jawed eagle. The interior is warmed by the ceiling and the brass accents. This was our last stop before heading into West Philadelphia. Arun picked up beer (which was quite hoppy!!) from the Dock Street Brewery and we ordered Indian food (yes, again… I’m addicted to it) for dinner. Overall, a quite lovely last night in town!

Family

Nina Beans (Photo by Arun)

Arun chilling out before dessert

Einah and Bob relaxing before Thanksgiving dinner

Carrie basting the turkey.

Kamal checking out the 3-D glasses (these are AWESOME) used to look at christmas lights.

Nina swiping my fort with whipped cream on it


Kamal and Carrie. Sunday November 25, 2007. Photo by Arun

Love to all.
Jennifer

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