City Life and Some Thoughts

I went into Philadelphia on August 9. My husband had to go to a meeting and so I hopped aboard the opportunity. I thought I’d take a walk through some old haunts.

I don’t go into the city much now, but I worked there for over a decade in the 80’s and 90’s, and my job required me to go all over the town, in the car and on foot. But the Center City and historical district areas were where my offices were – I never changed employers but I worked in a lot of different locations.

I started to work in Philadelphia as a newbie full-time grown-up in 1980. I wasn’t born here but this is where I have spent my life. So you can imagine that many scenes have layers of memory for me. I could go on and on and in such fascinating detail! But I’ll just do a few sights here, and maybe I’ll have some more to tell you about later on.

Today, I think I’ll show you common sights on the streets.

First up, people. People are always walking around everywhere.

I encountered a guy on a street corner shouting out a non-stop stream of words. City life has taught me not to let on that I am paying any attention, even when I am.

In my experience, people talking to themselves on the street fall into a couple of categories: they are preaching or speech-making, religious or political, to passersby; or they are in their own interior worlds and speaking to the people there. I realized on this trip that I needed to add a category: people who were talking on their Bluetooths.

I saw some of each classification during this day.

There are lots of places to get something to eat if you are hungry. I’ve had my share of meals from the food carts on the street.

You might need a magazine, bag of candy, lottery ticket…so you stop at a newsstand.

I saw groups of motorcycles all huddled together and I didn’t know what they were doing. Just parked on the street like that! I caught on quick after I passed a couple of similar locations. There are designated motorcycle mini-mini-parking-lots now. Like this one.

I also remarked to myself about how many more bicycles there are. Bikes are parked all over and there are plenty of official bike racks (as opposed to chaining your bike to a convenient tree). And I wasn’t counting the bike-share locations. I will tell you, in 1980, no one rode a bike to work.

Pipes still grow right out of the sidewalk; that hasn’t changed. I liked this group. It looked to me as if the big ones were protecting the little one.

I watched this bus unload itself. It stopped right on Market Street at about 8th; the people poured out, the suitcases were wrangled out of the hold by the driver, riders were waving papers and asking questions, lots of people on their phones, and people going further on the journey sitting in the bus in comfort, looked like to me (I sidled up and peered in a window as if I were looking for someone…no one paid any attention to me).

I didn’t know Megabus stopped in Center City; I’ve seen their buses at the train station, though, wheeling around the building in a flashy kind of way. Now, I made some bus trips in my teenage years; for instance, I remember very well being let out at a gas station in rural Indiana to be met by the people I was visiting, suitcase pulled out of the bus’s stomach by the driver, who kidded me about how heavy it was. Take away the double-decker shiny blue, the phones, the city location, and this scene felt familiar.

All right. That’s enough for now, I think.

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Day After Thanksgiving, Part 3

Here is the last installment of the trip into Center City Philadelphia that my husband and I took on the day after Thanksgiving. When I left off in the previous post, we had walked down Chestnut Street to Dilworth Park to visit the Garden Maze and to check out the craft fairs. There was one more thing to see, though, and you might have noticed something about it in this picture:

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Ice rink! Ice rink!

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I’ll tell you right away, I didn’t skate. I last got out on the ice in 2004 and in that session I broke my elbow. With my balance issues and the memory of how long it took for that elbow to heal, I have no business ice skating, but…I do like to watch others doing it!

This rink (sponsored by a large orthopedic institute, something I found amusing, especially since the doctor who treated my broken elbow is associated with it) is a real ice rink, not an artificial-surfaced one. And it’s here all winter, open day and night. I’d love to see those sparkly little lights in the evening…We spent some time watching people go around the circle, all kinds of people, with all levels of skill (including none). When you look at the pictures, notice  the smiles.

Above the scene, William Penn stood, as he has since 1901, at the top of City Hall Tower, and took it all in.

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Well, that’s the end of the travelogue. After we finished at Dilworth Plaza, we did take in a little shopping – but for art supplies, at the Dick Blick store a couple of blocks away. It’s a treat for me to go to the store itself rather than buying online, so I can’t count it as shopping, exactly…and at the store, I won a $5 gift card when I spun the wheel for a prize. Couldn’t do that online!

Then we drove home. Nice day we had, wasn’t it?

Day After Thanksgiving, Part 2

More about how we spent an afternoon on Friday, November 25, in Center City Philadelphia. When I left off in the previous post, my husband  and I were walking east on Chestnut Street. Where were we going?

Our destination was Dilworth Park, where City Hall is located. Named for a former mayor, the park is one of the five original ones put into the street grid when the city was laid out by William Penn. It was appropriated for the location of City Hall, a massive building constructed from 1871 to 1901. The structure is as solid and imposing as a mountain and is a city landmark, although many city office are now located in more modern buildings nearby.

Dilworth Park was recently remodeled and is now used very often for city events and festivals. Right now it is hosting the Wintergarden and the Capital Garden Maze, and that is one of the sites I wanted to visit in the city.

The Maze is an installation of plants, topiary, and twinkly lights and will stay in place all winter. It’s a project of  Greater Philadelphia Gardens, a consortium of 30 regional gardens.

We spotted the event from across the street. The white tents are those of a craft fair also taking place on the plaza.

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Here is the entrance.

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We saw people sitting in café areas – the weather was gloomy but mild enough to sip a hot drink and talk to a friend. And the birds like the leftovers the people drop…

Then we came to the Maze. It was filled with people exploring it.

There are some fantastic topiary animals.

I was intrigued by the metal markers scattered in the beds. Each names a garden in the consortium as well as its mileage and direction from this location. I think this is a nod to the fact that this park is the center square of Penn’s plan, and is as such the very center of the city, from which distances are measured.

The plants in the boxes are ones that grow well locally and will have something to show of themselves all winter.

City Hall is a giant hollow square – and right now the courtyard is filled with another craft festival. We took a quick look inside. And, I took a picture of the tower. This is the landmark local people think of when they picture downtown Philadelphia; the historic area is a mile to the east, away from the main business and shopping area, and not the place residents go to as often as Center City.

All right – more later!

Day AfterThanksgiving – Part 1

Today, Friday, November 25, is Black Friday. Lots of people think about shopping. Me, I don’t. I don’t like shopping and so a special day for it doesn’t excite me. But, being the day after Thanksgiving, my husband took the day off, and so we decided to get out into the world, avoid shopping, and do something for fun.

We decided to take a trip into Center City Philadelphia. I had a few sights in mind to check out. I’ll take you along with me in the next couple of posts – I took a lot of pictures.

I worked for many years in the section of the city where we were going. I have 35+ years of memories everywhere I go around here. Things have changed a lot in that time. I marvel at the new buildings and I celebrate each renovation or repair to old familiar ones. But the city always feels the same to me – as I walk down the sidewalks I am the same person who came here in 1980 and has never left, and never wants to.

Starting off, we parked the car in a garage, ate a quick lunch, and walked down Chestnut Street going east. This street now is a major shopping street, revived after a decline of decades. Plenty of people with shopping bags and lots and lots of tourists. You wonder how I can tell who is from out of town, and I answer: I just can. And then I laugh and I tell you the secret – it’s in how they approach crossing a street. If you are from around here, you barge out. If not, well, you are more cautious about stepping off the curb, and your hesitation reveals you…

Buildings along this street are a mix of old and new.

I like to look at store windows. What they do to make them intriguing. And then, I enjoy looking past the display into the stores themselves. First, some glamor.

Now, people at work. In this shoe store, the man was buffing up pairs of expensive

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You also have to look up sometimes if you want to catch what is going on. Here is what I saw when I stopped to pay attention to this hair salon located on the second floor. Street life goes on while upstairs, the stylist concentrates while the client sits in the chair, ready to be transformed.

I passed this sign on the street for a needlework shop. The store is on the second floor and so it needs a street-level presence. To get to this shop you have to follow the instructions on the sign. I might have walked by the sign, not being interested in needlework, but – I visited this shop with my friend Diane several years ago. What a warm colorful place it was, I remember.

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I noticed the tile details around the windows and doors of a store. It’s not usual to see this kind of decoration. Our climate is hard on tilework. You can see the effects of seasonal changes on this sample.

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A lot of people ride bikes through town. There are bike parking stands everywhere. And I’m not counting the bikes for hire that are available – these are bikes that belong to a particular person who’s elsewhere at the moment, while the bike waits.

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Well, that’s it for today. I’ll tell you more next time.

Pittsburgh Sights #5

Here are a couple of things that caught my eye in our recent trip to Pittsburgh for our son’s wedding. I guess these are examples of  little everyday oddities, maybe?

First, how about this door, with so many ways to communicate with those inside? As my husband said, there are generations of devices to summon entry or to effect it – buzzers, intercoms, card readers…no wonder there is a need for the “door bell” sign. I couldn’t have found it without the help.

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The, as we were walking along the street, I was startled to see how self-important a simple fire hydrant could be. “God”, indeed? Seemed a bit much to dub yourself as such – but then I realized that it was meant to be “600”, designating this hydrant as being at the 600 block of the street.

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Never mind…

Pittsburgh Sights #4

When we were in town for our son’s wedding in late September, my husband and I walked around town poking our noses into the city’s nooks and crannies. Here are a few things we saw.

I love alleys. I’d rather walk down an alley than a street full of fancy stores. Look at these pictures and tell me you don’t feel the same.

Like any city, Pittsburgh has buildings in various states of repair, construction, disrepair, or demolition. This former Salvation Army building looks like it was being renovated but the project lost momentum. Well, I think sooner or later things will pick up again for this structure, but right now the abandoned and stopped clock in the room upstairs says it all.

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I really enjoyed the look of this parking garage. It seems as if it were molded rather than constructed in the conventional manner, doesn’t it?

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And a walk wouldn’t be complete without a photo of window reflections. I love how the oddest items get juxtaposed in these shots.

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Pittsburgh Sights #3

My continued adventures in the city of Pittsburgh, where we attended our son’s wedding on September 26:

Right down the street from our hotel was the Mellon Square Park. It’s a park built above an underground parking garage and occupies a nice big space with fountains and benches and greenery. Buildings face down on it on all sides. One afternoon my husband and I sat for a while in the park and while there, I noticed this man looking out his office window.

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Well, there is certainly a story here; in fact, many of them – the one that the man is living out. and the one I’ve constructed to explain his state of mind and why he’s leaning on his window, and the one you have imagined yourself upon seeing this picture.

This moment is exactly why I love the details of everyday life so much – there is always always always something mysterious going on…

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Pittsburgh Sights #1

As you know, I attended my son’s wedding in Pittsburgh a week or so ago. While there, my husband and I went sightseeing. We’ve been to the city several times before, so we’ve done the tourist rounds and we have a little familiarity with things. This time we were occupied with wedding events and so our sightseeing was more fragmented.

By now you know that when I go places I don’t see the same sights most people do – museums, shopping, etc. Though I visit them, of course, my preferred activity is just wandering around. I find all kinds of things interesting and I find them in plenitude just walking down the street. It’s a good trait to have – I never get bored, do I?

So my travel photos tend to involved different views than many other people take. I’m going to prove it with the next few posts – my trip to Pittsburgh, a very interesting city.

I’ll start with buses.

I love the buses in this city. They are painted all kinds of colors, and there are a lot of them. I can’t tell you how interesting it makes the streets to see all these big colorful creatures roaring around. I’ve written about them before – they got my attention right away when I visited my son, who was living here at the time, in 2013.

Here’s the current group of photos, and I want to say I think buses are a Pittsburgh monument.

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