On Wednesday, June 6th, Mony and I boarded the train and set out for Philly with our sights set on Eastern State Penitentiary; She, looking for some photo ops, me seeking some creative inspiration (and getting suckered into being her model), and, maybe secretly, hoping to find a few ghosts captured on film. Aside from that primary objective, we had planned to check out the historic city of Philadelphia and take in a few sights, some history, an authentic cheese steak and really just be inspired. What everyone has to realize is I’ve been to Philly before, I’ve seen the city, had the cheese steaks and enjoyed the urban landscape; just like most places I’ve visited…been here and there. Wherever there’s a city, as an urbanite at my core, I’ve made it a point to get to that city and experience the concrete jungle and it’s culture, Salt Lake, Vegas, San Fran, NYC, Miami and so on…but what makes this different now is, Mony.
It seems as if the colours are brighter, the details are greater, as if it’s all new, like I’m seeing it for the first time and I’m wow’d, awe struck, and inspired. It all has a newness to it I can’t quite explain, regardless of whether or not I’ve been there, tasted it, scene it, walked it, smelled it…so a historic city like Philly would be a smorgasbord to the eye. I’m sure you can understand this if you’ve ever had that feeling that comes with love, where there is just this polish to even the dullest of surfaces and the world seems to have been painted on, that’s how it’s been for the last year, and Philly was no different.
We got into 30th Street Station, and found we had gotten off two stops to soon, we were supposed to get off at the Convention Center, our hotel right there on Race Street…but alas, like any good tourist, we messed up and Mony was right when she thought we might have to wait for another stop…nope, not afraid to admit when my baby is right. Anyway our first experience with the citizens of the city was with a train conductor. I asked if the train that pulled in would take us to East Market, that we had just gotten in from Jersey and got off at the wrong stop…and I finished with ‘how much are tickets?’…to which the gentleman replied, just get in this last car. And we followed the conductor’s orders…two stops later, we weren’t charged for the ride and we made it to the convention center…Thanks Mystery Conductor, wherever you are.
We took the long walk around the Convention Center through a small section of China Town, which made me hungry, but we weren’t there for Chinese food, got to our Hotel, The Travel Lodge, where the desk person was kind enough to print out directions and bus info so we could get to our destination, Eastern State. We checked in, and headed out, walked to the bus and hopped on; asking the driver if we were getting on the right bus, he said yes and would let us know when we arrived at our destination. The ride wasn’t that long and it seemed as if everyone knew everyone…at least that’s the sense I got, even if it was a big city…maybe it was just the fact that I was with Mony and nothing could bother me. This was a trip to another city, I love cities, but because it was with Mony…it was a new trip to an old city that I could only see through new eyes…so it seemed different to me. Anyway, we made it to our destination, and hopped off…walked to the front gate and patiently waited to be let in.
Once inside we walked around, I followed Mony, as this trip was her idea so she could wield her lens around hundreds of years of history…Truth is I was just happy to be with her and do something I would probably have never done on my own. It was a great place and as interested as I was in it, I was more interested in what she saw through the lens…and despite the bit of inspiration I got for some new artwork, I could have cared less…I was sharing something she wanted with her and it felt amazing to see this place through my new perspective. Three hours later and we were done, back on the bus and deciding what to do next.
Mony told me about a trip she once took to England, which she told me of the cheddar cheese over there and how different it is from here in the states. To which I whipped out the trusty ‘Droid’ phone, ran through the restaurant app (www.menupages.com) and looked up British Food, in the city that was founded on the backs of citizens fleeing British Rule, (what better place to find ye olde English pub). I took her straight to a Pub/Restaurant called “Dandelion” and we drank a couple of overpriced cocktails and ate their famous British Cheese Board (which was overpriced as well, but good)… She looked at me and said “you really listen, you really heard me”…I just smiled. I don’t know if I really listen or hear her, I just know I want to make her happy.
Once done there we headed back to the hotel, and decided to grab a bite to eat, first rule of travel, go the the local joints because the places where the tourists go is designed for them…we want the real food of the city, none of that booshie fusion tourist crap…and we found Jake’s Pizza right on Race Street…we ordered a cheese steak, which wasn’t classic Philly, but was classic Italian style, and sat outside a couple of tables away from a few locals who were enjoying a few beers. These locals were the people to talk to when it came to finding a local dive bar, and sure enough they knew…but before I could say thanks, they offered to have me and Mony sit with them and drink…once again the city of brotherly love comes through. I respectfully declined, since neither of us drink beer, and we went back to the hotel to dump our pack, freshen up, and turned back around to head over to the West Tavern.
Terri the bartender at the West Tavern was great, she mixed us the perfect Long Island Iced Teas and Mony and I drank to a blissful drunken state, but not before we had a juke box war with a couple of locals, where the music battle consisted of My Chemical Romance vs. Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin vs. Blue October, and many more songs going back and forth ranging from before our time to today. And before the spirits completely consumed us, I challenged this wonderful bartender to a drink…I asked Terri if I could amaze her with my story, would she buy me and Mony a drink…to which she politely stated “Don’t be insulted if I don’t find it amazing’, and we had struck our deal. Needless to say, I launched into the very short version of my life, leading up to meeting Mony for the first time as teens, the heartbreak I caused, to the divorce from hell and back to June 2011… Apparently, Terri was so amazed that not only did she buy Mony and me a drink, she poured one for her, came around the bar and toasted to our continued love story. Terri not only honoured our agreement, but she was genuinely happy for us…and to top that off, she showed us that she is the epitome of the City of Brotherly Love. When you travel to Philly, head over to the West Tavern ask for Terri the Bar Tender…trust us, she is awesome.
We closed out the bar and stumbled back to our hotel, where we closed out our night on one of the hardest beds we had ever experienced…waking in the morning, a little beat up, and absolutely happy for the experiences we had, we scrapped our plans for the rest of Philly and headed out. On the trip home, Mony laid her head on my lap and we traveled back to our normal comforts…happy to have done the trip, a bit sad it had to end, but Philly’s only a few hours from here so we’ll definitely head back for more inspiration and brotherly love.
As an urbanite at my core, I can live in almost any concrete jungle and never feel as if I’m losing the beauty and wonder of nature, but now, with Mony in my life and my heart and soul feeling at peace, I see these places with a new set of eyes, and Philly is a whole new city to me, as I stated earlier in this post… I realize now, I have to get back there, if not with Mony, I’ll take my children because now I can really see the city in a way I missed so many times before. Is this what true love, true happiness and true peace bring? New vision? I’m sure it does because I am experiencing it…from every angle I see the old places I’ve been in a new perspective, and maybe some might think I’m just being a fool in love, and maybe I am, but I’d rather see the wonders of the world through the eyes I have now, than without Mony.