Friday, July 21, 2006
Phone Camera Tour: Philadelphia
A round trip a couple nights ago from Philadelphia to Syracuse and back. Flying back into Philly, I was able to orient myself somewhat to what I'd seen before as I walked in the city, to recognize some basic features of this city I only half know. Over the past five years, I've been here for maybe a total of five days, and so while I've become familiar with certain areas, there's still a lot even of the inner city I haven't seen. And then there's the perennial surprise at how different things look from the air versus how you think they'll look from the air when you see them on the ground.
After New York, I think Philly has been my favorite place to fly in & out of, and the city reminds me of NY, maybe because it has some of the same density and electricity. It's a good deal smaller, but similarly busy and hectic, and it still has this heavy-duty urbanness about it. The streets are narrower, and there appear to be no setback regulations to ensure that sunlight gets in, so there are lots of dark urban canyons as you roam around downtown. In this it is like lower Manhattan, though the streets in Philly are on an orderly grid (as is the rest of Manhattan). Fabulous architecture abounds.
New York feels all about the NOW, like every day is the debut of some new thing and the city can be counted on to produce this; there is a lot of history in New York, but that seems coincidental. In the here & now, it's so much a living, ongoing thing. Philly is ongoing too, but it seems to have more of its present persona invested in its past and in the country's rich history in which it has played so large a role. The old in Philly is cultivated and celebrated, whereas in New York the old buildings just seem to mean that The Donald hasn't gotten around to buying and razing this particular block. Both places are informed by a prominent river presence. In Philly, there's even a shipyard and the Navy has a whole bunch of huge ships tied up in storage. Bridges are similarly noteworthy in both places, though there are far more of them in NYC.
I wondered tonite if I've not been prevented by circumstances from a life of wandering. Romantic notion, I suppose. I guess I do wander a bit as an integral part of my job, but I've had, like a serial monogamist, a long series of steady homesteads during my adult life. In my relationships with people I tend to be quite steadfast and settled. But that doesn't seem to apply to everything. I have the tendency to nest, I suppose, but I have a wandering eye towards places. It's one of my characteristics about which people joke, that each new and interesting place in which I find myself seems to trigger a desire to immerse myself, to get to know things to a degree that is impossible with a short visit. I think it's not a question of ownership, really, but one of desiring a full experience.
Ah, well. Here's a few photos which I snapped, like a craned-neck tourist, as I roamed around during this recent visit (avoiding the obvious tourist sites--some of which I've already seen).