Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Christ made it to 33…

Saturday was my birthday, and I’m 33. I wasn’t thinking about it too much, beyond plans Jon and I had for a short trip, but the arrival of an Amazon package brought the reality to my doorstep.

I opened the outer box after consulting Jon, to find two gift-wrapped packages. One from my in-laws, the other from Rudy, their Jack Russell. It must have been very hard for Rudy to work that mouse to place the order, what without an opposable thumb and all….

I very much enjoyed my birthday weekend trip to Philly. Jon and I must add another Tack to our worldmap. The weekend was too short to see all the fifth largest city in the States has to offer, but we managed to cram a lot in between Friday evening and Sunday lunch.

On arriving at the excellent Mariott in Center City, old Philly, I was awed. The hotel was next door to the world’s largest statue, a 37.5 foot William Penn that tops City Hall, is astonishing. It’s Big. It's also the creation of Alexander Milne Calder, grandfather of the modern sculptor Alexander Calder, known for his mobiles.

After checking in, we hopped a cab to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, I live down the road from the largest museum complex in the world, so my standards are higher than they might be if I lived in New York. (Yes, Metro DC has a little feud with NY.) The museum, is large by even Smithsonian standards, crowded with good art. Really fine pieces, and lots of them. Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Dali, and a Rodin sculpture garden. The museum is open late on Friday nights, complete with Jazz and appetizers in the center hall. Jon and I wandered the maze of Sunflowers and Waterfalls to the far-off beats and thrum of fine jazz.

After an uninspiring dinner at Champions in the hotel, we slept, images by Rodin and Pissarro dancing in my head.

Saturday morning, we ate late at the Mezzo deli in the Reading Terminal Market, an old farmer’s market next to the old Reading Station. Full of Pennsylvania Dutch fresh food stands, and odd little stalls, it was a fun place to dawdle a while before heading to our one pre-scheduled event: World Heritage Site Independence Hall.

I learned something on this trip, hard as I was trying to enjoy my birthday by goofing off. The Declaration of Independence, ratified July 4, was not signed until August 2. So, Jon and I were visiting on the anniversary of the signing. Cool.

After a long wait, we saw the famous hall, the inkstand which was (probably) used in the signing, and heard some interesting historical tidbits, including that sticking your knees through the balusters while leaning on the balustrade is a no-no. In the heat, many a tourist has had their leg swell during the short talks, getting stuck. This tickled Jon, and when the speaker said (rhetorically, I thought), “Guess what happens to you then?” Jon retorted from the back “You starve us out?”

Ah, no.

Apparently, they will NOT saw a centuries-old balustrade open, either. The solution remains unclear, though she hinted it involved Vaseline and none-too-gentle park rangers.

After a few photo ops, Jon and I hit the line at the Liberty Bell. Encouraged by a line-less entry to the security checkpoint (as opposed to the gad-awful one that morning), we zipped into line and settled in for a 40-minute wait. Was it worth it? Well, I’m a collector of moments, and a photo in front of the famous bell is a great birthday present. Besides, my mother told me to.

“Liberty be proclaimed throughout the land!”

Then it was off to Jim’s Steaks, a recomendation from The Food Network's $40-a-day show. Though a tasty sandwhich, I wonder how much my hunger was augmented by the 45-minute wait.

A short walk and a shorter ride on the Phlash Bus, and it was back to the Hotel for R&R (Reading and snoRing). A few lazy hours later, and we were off to dinner at the absolutely fabulous Bistro St. Tropez, an elegant, cozy, and not-too-formal french restaraunt with the fine touches (fresh silverware with every dish, white linens, though I was confused by the addition of white paper over the cloths, and felt as if I were at a crab house). Too late for the early-bird special, we nontheless enjoyes a three-course meal (no room left for dessert!). I started with the steamed PEI mussels (better, perhaps, than I've had at Le Manequin Pis, which I know is near heresy,) followed by a forgettable Mesclun salad. The main course was the best meal I've eaten in years: Rascasse--Potato goat cheese and olive crusted striped bass, escarole and French lentils, tomato caper coulis. Oh my gosh, that meal is going into my personal archive of favorites. I'm always going to let Jon pick the restaurants....

Even though we lingered over the last of the Terra Rosa Cabernet Sauvignon, we still got back to the hotel in time to soak our sore feet in the whirlpool.

Sunday. Lovely Sunday. We slept in.

After checking out, we walked over to Chinatown, where I wandered into a giftshop with our few spare minutes, and bought some lovely chopsticks (I love chopsticks) and a small black satchel with lovely red "Chinese embroidered" insert--not too fancy, but a bargain at less than $10. Here was a real Chinatown, enmeshed in the bustle of the city. Against DC's block of shops plopped down where city planners decided it should be, there was no contest. The main clue was the abundance of actual Chinese people on the streets, speaking Chinese. It was vibrant and colorful and real.

We met Jon's college friend and her husband for Dim Sum at the Imperial Inn (recommended). Both Jon and Cheryl are mathematicians married to extrovert artists, which led to a fun and vivacious conversation. We looked over the wedding pictures. (Last week I joked to Jon that we'd have to get a new tack-color for our worldmap -- for every place we've dragged the photos.)

Lastly, a lovely ride home in the last of the sunshine. All in all, possibly the most enjoyable birthday I've ever had, my 11th-birthday party not excepted.

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