Friday, July 27, 2007

Philly Cheese

My last day in Philly and must say that I enjoyed my stay. Except for a dickhead Secret Service guy (I know, he was just doing his job. Could have been polite about it, at least) nearly everyone I've met is friendly.

First I need to mention my friend Donna, who I worked with for the past three days and may have the most severe case of attention deficit disorder I've ever seen. I lost count of how many times she started a sentence only to be distracted halfway through and leave me imagining what it was she was going to say or ask. At one point I had to clap my hands and tell her to 'FOCUS!! What are you trying to tell me?' Donna also had some bizarre rash show up on her face, which wound up spreading to her arms and ears and sent her to the doctors. Doc gave her steroids, which made her sick to her stomach, which means she had to call in sick. So I am sitting in her office, by myself, attempting to finish up her project and not getting lost in the neighborhood when I head out for lunch. If you don't think this will be a liquid one, then you really don't know me at all.

Keep in mind the following impressions are from my two night, three day stay here and that I only saw the main downtown area. I have to recommend walking around a city to get the feel for it. I walked about six blocks from my Marriot to the office and like the way the city is setup. Doesn't look like it's great for driving as there are lots of rotaries and one way streets, but it also gives it a European feel.

One thing that struck me immediately is how many statues, monuments and works of art are all over the city. Take a look at this one:





It's titled 'Government by the People'. Looks more like a bunch of naked guys fighting oppression, but maybe that was the artist's subtle critique of democracy. Either way, it's a bit off putting. There are also statues of people I've never heard of all over the downtown area.

Something else Philly is big on (I guess) are fountains. There is one right outside the building, another one by city hall that has a big, square LOVE sign in front of it (see pic above), and yet another enormous one further down the main road. I like the effect though. Combined with the layout of the streets and the architecture of the old buildings, it really does feel like I'm in another country. Take a look at their city hall:



How cool is that thing? You can't see the details from that crappy picture, but there are statues of people looking down at you and anyone can stroll right through the middle. Plus it's massive. It takes up an entire city block and the rest of the city is planned around making that it's centerpiece. Must give props to the city planners on that move. Here's a shot from the other side. This is what you see looming in front of you when you drive into the city.



Directly across the street from City Hall is this:



This is the Masonic Hall or Temple or something. It has the Mason's symbol on the corner, but not sure if it's still in use or more of a historic landmark. Either way this entire area is impressive and I wouldn't mind just hanging out enjoying the scenery during my lunch hour.

Speaking of lunch, all you hear about when people mention Philly are the cheesesteaks. So, of course I had to try one. Guess what? It's steak and cheese on a sub roll. We have them in Boston, too, only we call them steak and cheese subs. What a gyp! I thought they were supposed to be something special down here? Donna, who lives here, says we really need to go to one of the specialty places, but let's be honest, this is steak and melted cheese we're talking about. How much different can it be? It's not like you can screw it up. I suppose if you get top of the line steak cuts, but they fry them up with onions and peppers, so the taste gets seared out of it anyway. I'm completely confused about the cheesesteaks.

Hey, French, can you get some nutritional info about those cheesesteaks when you have time? Want to know how clogged my arteries are at the moment and whether chest pains should be expected. Thanks.

Was delighted to find a Magianno's right outside my hotel. If you remember, I discovered one in McLean, VA and they have the most incredible cheesecake I've ever had. Plus good entrees, too. If you're wondering, I do believe I've gained back all the weight I lost in March during my three days here.

This might also explain why most of the people here are...um......let's just call them 'pleasantly plump'. I imagine that this city ranks, oh, let's say in the bottom 5 of healthiest cities in America.

I tried to get a picture of the river that runs through the city here, too, but couldn't do it justice. If you Bostonians think the Charles River is bad, then you obviously have never seen the Delaware. I don't even know how to describe the color. It's a combination of green and brown, but the worst possible combination imaginable. Let's just say if you accidentally fall in expect to look like this guy when they pull you out:


One final note. I had the best cab driver ever here. I snagged him at the airport and he got me to downtown, during rush hour, in less than 15 minutes. It was a work of art. Taking exits off the highway that weren't technically exits, cutting down side streets, acting like he was going straight then cutting over to take a left at the last minute (thus cutting off about 150 waiting vehicles), finding back street shortcuts and bridge off ramps that only a native and professional would know about. I was in awe. The best part was they have a flat rate from the airport to downtown - $26. Fantastic.

Heading home later today. Found out an old high school buddy of mine is a limo driver and I now refer to him as 'My Driver'. I think I might start calling him James just for the hell of it. Say this out loud to get the feel of it: 'My driver is picking me up at the airport tonight.'

Huh?!! Nice, isn't it!! And, in fact, he will be picking me up at the airport tonight and hanging out at my place to catch up when he drops me off.

Life is good. Enjoy your weekends, friends.


Today's distraction: Take a Philadelphia quiz. Since I know nothing about the city, I did horribly. I did get the last one right, though!

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