Monday – Day 46
Posted on 7th September 2012
Today was pouring with rain and as per usual, I had a bit of a frolic in it getting various things done in the morning and though the student clubs fair was cancelled due to the inclement weather, I made the most of my early hours. I made a mad dash for breakfast was Thea Walton, a fellow aussie, and we munched ferociously outside on the benches during a break in the storm before we were soon overwhelming by battering winds and refreshed rains.
After returning to my room to dry off, I headed out on a trolley tour of the city. The photos that follow are still from my phone but, I am pleased to report that after the end of this day, I soon had my camera charger back!
First up on the tour was a visit to the White House that was established in Philadelphia before the relocation to Washington D.C. It was interesting as at least for our tour guide it represented the forming of ‘a more perfect union’ of the states however, black slaves still toiled under its roof, representing an imperfect freedom.
Just across the road was the line to enter to see the Liberty Bell. Suddenly it began to pour and we made a beeline for the limited shelter provided by the pavilion housing the bell.
After a short wait in the queue and a brief discussion over its significance as a symbol of liberation and freedom, I stood before the bell with its hallmark crack (actually formed during attempted repairs of a hairline split) and had the requisite photo in front of it.
Just opposite the pavilion was the first full court-house of the United States and also stood a building that I recognized; Independence Hall, featured in National Treasure and quite a well known monument, though no longer in use.
After that the rest of the group needed lunch and so they headed to yet another location for a cheesesteak. By this point in my trip I was quite tiring of the whole cheesesteak thing yet, dutifully followed them to wait in the queue at a supposedly famous location ‘Joe’s’ or something of that ilk.
After a good twenty minute wait, it was back on the trolley to see Reading Terminal Market and the railroad station above it. Unfortunately due to labor day, on our arrival we found it closed and so were forced to see the remnants of the train terminal from behind bars up at the Philadelphia Convention Center, a half of the repurposed terminal.
Next was a trip inside a neighboring hotel where atop it we could see a grand view of the city’s skyline.
From there we could also see the large statue of William Penn standing on top of city hall.
Our guide then told to us the story of “The Curse of William Penn”, a tale by now familiar to me. The statues of Penn atop the City Hall stood above every building in the city, watching over the welfare of Philadelphia and the success of its sporting teams. After hundreds of years, in the mid eighties, skyscrapers were built that surpassed Penn’s height. From that moment onwards, no local sports team was able to secure a major title. Loss after loss, year after year, the cities teams were destitute of victory.
Finally, in 2008, a new tallest building in the city was under construction: the Comcast Tower. A disgruntled engineer, upset by the curse hatched a plan. While working on the top of the tower he relieved himself of duty to go down to City Hall to purchase a mini souvenir William Penn statue. Having done that he returned to the top of the tower and welded it on to the top so that once more William Penn and his hat were again above all in the city. That very year ‘The Phillies’, the local baseball team, took out the national title.
A fascinating note about Philly is that all major building projects must contribute 1% of their budget to public art. Comcast being a media firm running cable TV channels spent over three hundred million dollars building its skyscraper and so we headed over to the building to see how they reinvested into the city.
In typical American fashion, they had spent three million dollars on the installation of the world’s largest LED television with a resolution far surpassing that of any other television in existence. When we walked into the building to see it on display this is what we saw.
A regular wall with not much of interest on it. However, moments later the scene changed abruptly.
The wall darkened to reveal itself as the multi-million dollar screen in question. We stayed to watch for a few minutes, oohing and ahhing at the amazing pictures. However, I still felt that all that money could’ve been better invested.
After returning home to Rodin House, it was a quick change to get ready for the last social event of NSO: A Night At the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Transported on school buses, the entire crowd of exchange, transfer and freshman students, all dressed up in their best and finest headed to the gallery for dinner, a dance and, a chance to view the exhibition privately. Rumours flowed freely as to the cost of the event and none of them were below six figures.
The atmosphere in the gallery was rather odd, as in the main atrium loud dance music was playing between the people dancing next to marble pillars and a sumptuous buffet. I personally took this as a great opportunity to learn from the curators and guides within the museum and was soon exploring all it had to offer.
Inside I met a few Art History majors and also gleaned a little more knowledge from them, albeit laughing at their description of a fauvist painting as ‘pokemon-esque’. Later I met up with a lovely japanese girl Saya and her friend Royston to explore the Asian and Indian sections of the gallery before heading back home.
However, that wasn’t it for the night! The office of alumni programs was hosted a ‘host your own murder mystery’ game and I headed out to that, narrowly missing the first session to start. And so, in typical Shaanan fashion, I had a little play around on the grand piano in the waiting area. Soon a number of people were gathered round and I was fielding song requests. Just before leaving into the next session I was recommended by the head of the office to apply to play in a band and music competition for homecoming, the largest gathering of the year wherein alumni return to join with students in watching the Penn football team play a home game.
After that it was a round of the murder mystery and then quickly to sleep, before dropping from what was a seriously busy day.