Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Creation of Our Nation

    I woke early Friday morning and had a breakfast of cereal and toast in the basement kitchen.  It was well stocked for a hostel kitchen – pots, pans, stoves, couple fridges.  I looked over my maps, googled some potential destinations with my Droid and headed out.  I took a tour of Independence Hall and saw the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation were signed.  I saw a few of the other buildings in the area – Congress Hall, the Old City Hall where the first Supreme Justices met, the Great Essentials building (didn’t live up to its name).  Out of all the places I’ve visited on this trip, these old government buildings in Philly definitely felt like the most historically significant.  This was where our country became a country.  There was one room, perhaps in Congress Hall or something, where the first peaceful transition of power in the history of Western Civilization occurred (according to park ranger).  Apparently people didn’t just hand off power to another person just because their time as ruler had “expired” back then and many, many people came to watch it happen.  I guess the world was watching, at a distance anyway.  GW could have stayed in power as long as he wanted.  The ranger said there lots of people were crying when John Adams was Presidented.
From Philadelphia Days 1 and 2 Album
    I walked into Carpenter Hall where the first formal meeting of the founding father’s occurred.  They met there because the British were meeting in Philadelphia Hall (later Independence Hall).  I talked to one educated older man there.  He said the British probably knew about the secret meeting of the colonists, but weren’t concerned about it.  He told me about this Carpenter group too.  Apparently in the 1300s, they were the primary architects and builders of buildings in England.  Then this big fire occurred in London in the 1600s.  The workload was too great for one company, so a whole bunch of companies either sprung up or came in from other areas.  After fifteen years or so when a lot of the city was rebuilt, there was not enough work for all the companies, so this Carpenter group went over to build Philadelphia with the Quakers.
    I ate a healthy lunch and headed back to the hostel, tired of museums and government buildings and ready to do something new.  I talked to the thin girl at the front desk who spoke with an accent.  I’m guessing she was Eastern European.  I took her recommendation of walking down to South Street.  On the way there, I passed some old residential areas.  It was nice to be away from all the tourists.  I walked down South Street to the Delaware River and then headed in the other direction, back towards town.  There were lots of stores and restaurants.  I passed an old market where farmer’s used to come into town to sell their vegetables.  I saw one poster in an art store that had headshots of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Barrack Obama, and Malcom X in it, side by side.  The text below said Peace, Power and Respect.
    When I got to Washington Park, I read some of On The Road and watched a mother and her daughter throw cheese puffs to a squirrel.  I then headed down 7th.  It was early afternoon when I passed the African American Museum, and, in my state of trying to get alternative perspectives on history, I decided to check it out.  My favorite exhibit there was this collection of big screens that showed life sized videos of actors representing different AAs from Philadelphia.  You could push one of three buttons to ask them a question and they would answer.  The first lady I went up to claimed a life span of something like 1686-1813.  She pulled people back and forth on a ferry most of her life and, whenever people were mean to her, she’d pretend to be asleep when they wanted to come back to the other side.  “I’m old and I can’t hear so good when I’s asleep.”
    There were about a dozen or so of these videos, others of which showed a singer, a painter, a man who earned the highest rank in the Army an AA had ever been given, and a scholar.  It was interesting to me to see how many AAs were able to live good lives in the North.  Another thing about the museum that sticks out in my mind was a video of this group of several hundred people (mixed white and black) that went up and down a highway somewhere in Maryland or something with the plan to desegregate restaurants.  Each group of about four would walk into a restaurant with at least one AA in their group and order.  If they were refused service, they would read a script from this paper stating their cause, and then refuse to leave.  And then there were the marches.  I won’t forget those videos anytime soon.
    I strolled through Franklin Park and then decided to find Elfreth’s Alley.  I wouldn’t have gone to this place or even known about it if a couple hadn’t asked me how to get there while I was walking down South Street.  It’s supposedly the oldest street in the city that still exists as it did when it was first created.  It’s a residential strip from the first days of the eighteenth century.  I used a combination of my Droid and my street map to find it and then took a stroll.  It was an alley.  It was old.  Check the pictures for more.
    I had a Pepperoni Pizza Philly Cheesesteak and headed back to the hostel.  Goof had visited this small private art exhibit that wasn’t well known and had a few billion dollars worth of art in it.  Mostly impressionist stuff that was all owned by a Robber baron.  He said the Philadelphia Art Museum planned to “acquire” these pieces by means of what I’ll call bullshitery.
    I went to bed that night glad I had the opportunity to see so many historic things, glad to have met many people, but definitely ready to be back on the road, surrounded by nature.


Ferg said...

That sounds like a great day. I haven't been to Philadelphia since I was in the 8th grade and I really need to go back and re-learn about our nation's history. Out west we folks have cowboys and mining towns, but nothing like that!

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