The next morning we walked in the rain to the Reading Street Station, an indoor market reminiscent of the markets in Mexico. There were butchers with fresh meat and fish sellers, candy and cookies, and, most importantly, several Pennsylvania Dutch eateries. We sat on a stool at one and ordered breakfast (fresh-squeezed OJ, bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a kaiser roll for me; two eggs over easy, turkey-bacon, wheat toast and coffee for Mrs. Klipper). The food came in less than five minutes (are you effin’ kidding me!), cost less than $12, and we were on our way.
The rain was pouring, the wind was blowing, and the bust-ass umbrellas given to us by the bell stand had long since stopped stopping rain. Mine simply broke in half, Mrs. Klipper’s broke all it’s limbs and looked like a parka on a stick. People looked at us funny as we walked through the pouring rain, getting soaked, carrying our umbrellas at our sides. I complained, Mrs. Klipper was a trooper, soldiering on, calling me a wimp and saying things like, “Good Lord! You lived in Oregon for Christ’s sake! Suck it up!” Eventually, we made it to Independence National Historical Park, home of the Liberty Bell and “...a more perfect union”.
It took a while to find the right security entrance, and another little while to actually get through the airport-like security. We had to take off our soggy jackets, belts, watches and jewelry; empty our pockets and put our bags and bodies through an x-ray machine and metal detector. Nobody thought my sparkling wit was either sparkling or witty as I commented on the irony of the situation: a strip-search, pat down to view the birthplace of liberty. There was private security and armed state policemen everywhere! “Move along, sir!” they said with their eyes, “Freedom isn’t free”.
The liberty bell was eh. It’s a cracked bell and it didn’t do much for me. Independence Hall, on the other hand, kinda sucker-punched me and made me all teary eyed. This was the building where it all started! I stood in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed! In that same room 11 years later, the constitution of the United States was written! They had the actual chair that George Washington sat in while delegates from every state argued, cajoled and brain-stormed the piece of paper that represented the culmination of Western Political thought and created the best government seen by humankind so far.
The tour guide had cute stories about Ben Franklin looking at the rising sun on Washington’s chair and commenting that the sun was rising on a new nation. He told us how the delegation from Connecticut saved the day by proposing a bicameral legislature, and all kinds of other historical sound bites. But for me, standing in the room where this famous group of rebels plotted the overthrow of a powerful government and created a better one, gave me hope beyond measure. It made me think about freedom, liberty, and justice, and reminded me that these words mean something beyond the heart and soul-less rhetoric vomited from the mouth of our own King George. The people that met in the room where I was standing worked harder than any of us can imagine and were willing to give their lives for the cause they believed in. The work they did, the government they created, makes it possible for all of us to strive for something better. They provided the framework for us to improve our lives and the lives of others. They created a government to look out for the interest of the people. The people ... it echos in my head.
But I digress. Mrs. Klipper and I did the history thing and moved on to the dead bodies. It was fascinating and I’m glad we went. When we moved back to the east coast a couple of years ago we thought about moving to Philly, but when I came back to check it out I was unimpressed. It felt big like New York but without the charm and I thought “If we’re gonna live in a big-ass city it might as well be New York, where at least we’ll be in New York”. I felt the charm in Philly this week, I felt the history and I certainly felt the cheap, delicious food! I don’t think I’ll be moving there any time soon (B-more’s been pretty good to us) but I’ll definitely head back for a visit!