Philly/New Jersey, USA (7.6.10 – 7.11.10)

After a brief hiatus due namely to readjusting to and reestablishing life in Phoenix, I’m back… so, now I’ll tell you about Philadelphia!

The bus ride to Philadelphia from Washington DC was uneventful, and upon arriving at the station, I was picked up by my friend Neil, with whom I would be staying for the next few days. We took it easy that night and ended up watching some Doctor Who, which is always fantastic. Neil had work early in the morning, which meant that I also would be getting up early, but despite this we stayed up too late watching the Doctor. We were both skeptical about Matt Smith to begin with, but he grew on us both within the short course of a couple of episodes.
On Wednesday, Neil drove me to the train station before work and I went off to see the city. I spent the day exploring on foot, continuing in the tradition of the preceding year. I walked to the City Hall, which is a magnificent specimen of a building, and it stands next to the Masonic Temple. I was intrigued by the temple, as I am fascinated by the idea of secret (and not-so secret) fraternities and orders that have survived through the ages, so I went and joined a tour. Unfortunately, I ended up being rather disappointed by the tour, as I had been hoping to hear a history of the organization, and an explanation of the significance of various symbols and the various rooms in the building. Instead, the tour centered around the architecture of the building and the design of the various rooms; the guide spewed a lot of facts about the dimensions of the various rooms and how many people each can hold… it wasn’t what I had been hoping for. After the tour I went and got lunch, then headed towards the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I went through the Liberty Bell visitor center first and got to see the Bell, which was interesting, but somewhat overrated in my eyes. After that, I crossed the street to visit the Independence Hall, which was the sight of the signing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitutional Convention. By the time I arrived, there were no spots available on any of the day’s remaining tours, so I sat in the courtyard for a while, pondering life, the universe, and everything before walking to the train station to return to Neil’s. Once at the station closest to Neil’s house, he picked me up and we returned to his house. I showered because although I should be used to the heat, being from Arizona, the near 100°F weather, coupled with the intense humidity was near crippling. In short… I was in need of a shower. Once refreshed and feeling human once more, we went to go get dinner; I had the first Philly Cheese Steak of my life! How perfect that I would be in Philadelphia for such a momentous occasion. It was greasy, filling and delicious– everything that one could hope for. After dinner, we went to the Irish pub where Neil’s dad bartends and had a couple of beers before heading back to Neil’s. It was nothing short of a spectacular day. Once back, we watched more Doctor Who before calling it a night.
On Thursday, we rose early once more and Neil took me to the station so I could go into the city. I had a bit of a slow start because I decided to camp out at Starbucks and write for a while before exploring the city. Once on the move, I did check out the Reading Terminal Market, and then the Rodin Museum. The market was full of culinary delights and I had to muster extreme restraint not to stop at every booth along my path through the market. The Rodin museum was superb, as was to be expected. The Philadelphia museum has the largest Rodin collection outside of Paris. I then headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but upon discovering that the entry prices were a little too steep for my liking, I decided to skip it. I did however sit on the steps outside the museum for about an hour, watching countless people run up the “Rocky steps” to recreate that famous scene; it was delightful and endearing, especially so when large groups of small children did it. I returned to Neil’s and we passed the hours before going to the airport around 11PM to pick up Jeff and Tyler. After procuring the boys, we began the drive to New Jersey, where we would be spending the weekend at Neil’s parents’ beach house. We arrived around 2 something in the morning, and unloaded our bags before walking a whole two blocks to the beach. For the first time in my life, I saw the Milky Way. For someone who is about to begin studies in Astrophysics (more or less), this was staggering and overwhelming, and so, so perfect.
On Friday, we lazed about until we went to the beach, where I spent the next three hours reading Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors and working on a fantastic sun burn. After returning from the beach, we all showered and headed to the land of bars and Happy Hour, where we indulged in beer after beer, due mainly in part to the kindness of Neil’s mother. We feasted on pizza, and then headed to a bar called Ocean Drive, which had no cover that night, and an excellent band to add a soundtrack to our debaucherous night. We had started drinking fairly early in the evening, so by 12:30AM, I was already prepared to call it a night, and thus I took my leave and walked back to Neil’s.
On Saturday, Neil’s parents took us to eat at a restaurant just down the road, after which we lazed about for a while before heading our for another night of revelry. We started the night at a bar a couple of doors down from the one we had frequented the night prior, and then headed once again to Ocean Drive to enjoy more beer and more live music. The night was even better than the night before, and we left at last call. We walked back to Neil’s stopping for pizza on the way, and made it home exhausted and pleasantly inebriated.
On Sunday, we took our sweet time in the morning, and ended up loading up the car around 1PM. We headed back to Philadelphia so that I could begin my journey to Providence, stopping in New York on the way. With more goodbyes said and done, I was on the go once again.

The LOVE statue in Philadelphia.

The Town Hall

One of the rooms in the Masonic Temple

And another…

A stained glass window in the Temple. The guide said that it is full of important Masonic symbols, but felt no need to explain what they were.

The Masonic Temple

Independence Hall

The Liberty Bell

Rodin’s “The Cathedral.” This is probably my favorite piece of his work.

The Burghers of Calais

The Gates of Hell

The infamous Rocky steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philly skyline

Neil and Tyler!

Jeff and Neil’s mom, Maureen!

Neil!

Tyler!

Jeff!

Maureen!

Maureen and Jeff dancing was basically the best thing ever.

But Kelly, Neil’s sister, and Maureen dancing was also pretty spectacular.

I managed not to get any pictures of the beach time, but I can assure you that it was excellent.

Now. Providence!

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