Eye of the Philly
Two weeks ago, I took a weekend trip to Philadelphia, the Pennsylvanian capital of cheesesteaks, hoagies and Rocky. As is my custom, I did my due diligence on the Friday night by watching Rocky so that I’d feel ready for the city on Saturday morning. I then timed my regular Saturday morning run to finish at the Museum of Art so that I could end it with a run up the stairs, just like Sly. That was certainly a memorable moment and I was much faster than the other tourists.
Philly is famous for its cheesesteaks so I procured one from a famous fresh produce market and sat down to sink my teeth. Boy, was I unimpressed. There’s supposed to be some perfect combination that has to be achieved between the sliced cuts, the greasy sub, and the liquid Cheez Whiz, but in the end, it’s still just meat and grease with something yellow poured on. Keep your cheesesteaks, Philly, and we’ll hold onto our pizza, bagels, doughnuts, cupcakes and cronuts.
The most interesting site that I visited was the defunct Eastern State Penitentiary. It was a new concept at the time, back in 1829, and aimed to keep prisoners in silence and isolation so that they’d come to a point of penitence (hence the word penitentiary). The walls were thick and sound-proofed, the guards wore socks over their shoes, the prisoners each had a private, outdoor pen to stand in for 1 hour per day, and the cells were bare apart from a bed, toilet, and bible. It sounded like a good idea at the time, and it was copied around the world, but it was never proven to actually bring about lasting change in the prisoners. The isolation factor required an inefficient and therefore costly use of space, plus there was a fear that so much silence and isolation would drive people insane rather than into the arms of Jesus, so it eventually became used as a normal prison until its final closure in 1971. It was interesting to see the unique shape and design of the place and read the stories of notable prisoners over the years, including Al Capone and Pep the Dog, who was jailed for murdering a cat (seriously).
While out and about in Philly, I managed to see a few other interesting things including: Amish people, a Rodin museum with The Thinker, Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest alley in America), and the hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. My take is that Philadelphia seemed a nice, livable city, with some proud history and old charm to offer.