Fortunately, the airport security screeners didn’t seem to think so. I didn’t receive any unusual attention, except for the sweeps with the handheld metal detectors after I triggered the walk-throughs on both trips. (Note to self: no more flying in Wranglers. Having every rivet on my jeans carefully checked out might be fun if the screeners were female, but they weren’t). Unfortunately, my encounter with the National Park Police was a little more frustrating.
The trip didn’t provide much time for recreation. But
Tuesday afternoon, when my colleague Victor and I realized we were done and couldn’t fly out before Wednesday morning without paying a ridiculous surcharge, we decided we at least had time to see the Liberty Bell. That plan was thwarted by a Homeland Security policy which barred a law-abiding taxpaying born in the USA citizen from viewing one of the most tangible icons of the freedom this country used to stand for just because I was carrying a common tool of my trade, similar to what one might expect to find in the pocket of any truly prepared Boy Scout.
We had stopped at the hotel after leaving Sungard, and I could have left the “weapon” in my room, but it never occurred to me that it would be considered a danger to the security of the Liberty Bell. I’m not sure whether they thought I was going to carve my initials in the bell (I hear the damn thing’s already cracked anyway), or hold the guards at knifepoint while Victor carried the bell away. As we entered the park, a large sign warned about “weapons, including pocketknives”, but I naively thought they weren’t really serious. As we reached the security checkpoint and saw the metal detectors, I realized they were serious and there was no way I was going to slip through. So I opted for the straightforward approach, showing my “weapon” to the guard and asking if it would be a problem. He was friendly and sympathetic, and handed the knife to someone else and said “see if that’s OK”. When told “you know she’ll say No”, he said “ask anyway”. Sure enough, the unseen “she” who possesed the ultimate authority over my entry said “No.”
Right behind me was another would-be liberty-worshipper with a similar, albeit smaller problem. (You call that thing a knife? I’d be embarrased if mine was that small). I hung around outside the entrance to see if “she” would be any more sympathetic to a man with a smaller tool. Apparently not, because he soon came back out. Then I watched him stash the knife in the ground for later retrieval and go back in, and wished I’d thought of that. Unfortunately, he didn’t get any points for creativity; he was immediately escorted back out by the guards.
Aside from not seeing the Liberty Bell, there’s not much else to say about the trip. But (never being one to shut up just because I don’t have anything to say), I’ll have to admit that wandering around in the Philadelphia Historic District is enough to make even a hard-core country boy admit there are some advantages to urban life. Sunday night, after getting checked into our hotel and having a few drinks in the hotel bar, we decided to venture out in search of more solid nutrition. Consultation with the bar staff sent us on a quest for the Race Street Cafe, which they told us was one of a very few places serving food that late on a Sunday night.
I didn’t have high expectations for a place whose strongest point was that it was open when no place else was. But I’m adventurous and not terribly picky, so I thought that it was worth the hike. I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a wonderful example of a small, friendly neighborhood bar/restaurant. The tempting and varied menu was supplemented by a board listing the daily specials, which included a seafood ravioli that turned out to be as good as it sounded. As I was searching the menu to see if it offered anything even better (lots of tempting choices, but nothing topping the ravioli), Victor criticized my priorities and grabbed the beer list, looking for a good local draft. He wasn’t disappointed; he shoved the list in my face saying “There ya go .. right there at the top … Doggie Style Pale Ale”. Of course we had to try it, and I pronounced that it was the best Doggie Style I’d had all week (remember it was only Sunday).
As we walked back, feeling very philosophical as a result of lots of good Doggie Style, I looked around at the variety of shops, bars, etc., with apartments above them, and admitted that living in one of those apartments, within stumbling distance of ample entertainment and shopping opportunities (Reading Terminal Market is way cool), definitely would have some advantages, even if it meant giving up the peace and solitude and wide open spaces I’ve gotten used to. I’m not completely sure I could adjust to it (the therapeutic value of being able to walk out of your house in the middle of the night and hug a horse is hard to explain to anybody who hasn’t been there), but I can begin to see how some people are attracted to it. Of course, I’d probably choke if I found out what kind of rent people pay to live in that environment.