Philadelphia Day 1

A public service announcement to all of yinz in the Philadelphia area: Jessica Shull will no longer be taking your tired, your poor excuses for decency with a grain of salt. If you're expecting the royal princess treatment: beware. She's traded in her tiara for a pair of brass knuckles and a strong taste for blood. She can chew nails and spit fire. Of course, if you're on her good side, then you still get the fun-loving Jess from Miami you've realized you've missed. At least I did, and was glad that I was able to come out to visit for a weekend. We managed to find an excellent Italian restaurant late-night on Friday when we both got into town. Saturday, however, is when the real adventure began near South Street, where this building was built.

Part of a collection of bodies and faces coming out from a wall, this poor child lost her face.

The new Jess. Gentlemen, keep your space. She's taken.

The stained brickwork distinguished each building that coalesced into a city block. The stained skinwork wasn't nearly as attractive, and invariably more admonished and temporary.

Flowing down the street.

Urbanwear for men, their babies' mamas, and their bearded, lipstuck child hoodlums.

Although it wasn't hard to find cheese steak joints on the strip, we had to carefully plot one worthy to christen as my first. We looked high, we looked low. We looked down this street.

Ultimately, Jim's Steaks won. So did I. While Jess and I sat on the second story making sense of life between hearty mouthfuls, the rest of Philadelphia carried on streets below. People in that apartment complex didn't bother us much.

Food. Check. Museums devoted to an annual parade where men dress in fancy women's clothing? Check. Fortunately, we found the Mummer's museum on 2nd street. We parked in the lot behind, where some houses were loitering like vagrants.

A mummer enlists into one of four distinct types of troupes: Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades in increasing complexity. Every New Years, the mummers put on the mummer parade with music, costumes, floats, and fancy. The Fancy Brigades, however, have grown so large and elaborate that they can't fit their backdrops in the parade to perform. Instead, they lease a theater and perform a routine more elaborate than typical Broadway. This troupe won best costumes for 2008. Two people fit into the lion.

A rudimentary comic's wench costume. Wig and a dress. I want in.

The museum featured some of the best costumes over the ages. Costume work for a mummer is a craft in itself. Just look at the fine detail of this fish suit's sequins.

Grown men aren't the only folk dressed up in ladies' clothing at the parade. Suits are designed for children as well. This outfit probably fit a 6 or 7 year old boy.

A suit for a fancy brigade that embodied the wizard of Oz.

An old crow suit.

More of the winner's costumes. Jess and I were climbing down the stairs from the costume showcase.

A beautifully old wall with moss and dried ivy roots before a gated window.

The previous night, Jess and I ran into another tourist who was going to a ghost tour saturday night. We figured it would be a safe bet for a good time, so Jess dropped me off downtown to find tickets while she played in traffic. I've never seen a girl enjoy urban traffic as much as she did...

Waiting for Jess to circle around, this was the glass wall of words and shade on the front of the visitor's center. Inside, costumed men were making candles and rope from scratch.

Flood tires for all of the rain that dumped in the area. Very practical.

Lonely smokestacks waiting to exhale.

Manayunk is the coolest. It's a small town northwest of the city filled with shops and water ice. Jess heard about it from one of her housemates who unsecretly fancies the town. Here, a cat in a shoe store window.

One of my new favorite shots of myself, this was sitting in front of a mirror near the window in a collectibles store.

Powers that be.

Downtown Manayunk.

In emergencies, the silly police can rig the fire pumper pipe to blow bubbles for the masses.

Water ice is to Philadelphia like Rocky is to, also Philadelphia. Rita's is by far the most widespread. Jess and I didn't realize that a Rita's was a few blocks down the street, but we did get some from a smaller, family owned store. Lemon was clear. Jess got tasty red.

Really impressive metalwork for sale under the bridge.

Laural Hill is a sprawling cemetery impressive enough to be a national historic landmark. While a simple headstone may be enough to keep down a common man, some of the wealthier folk just can't leave their wealth behind. Pharaohs were buried with toys and trinkets, but some modern folk, like Geist here, were cast into solitaire mausoleums to keep them from haunting and meddling with exheritances passed through their blood. For some they say you can't take it with you. Fortunately, my God allows two carry-on items, so long as all scissors are under 6 inches.

A pair of puppies for a boy Ben.

Bradd's won for best headstone. A bench and an invitation to spill your guts.

Belmont plateau is a small park northwest of the city. The city may be the land, but belmont is the view. A beautiful tree and two gents with a pooch.

Jess happy take it in.

A trunk view of the the branches from the cool tree.

Killing some time while Jess caught up with Adam on the phone.

Some growth between the stone stairs.

Before the blossoms ebb from the trees, early spring reminds me of a warm winter day when the air is still brisk and empty. The grass is still leftover from last summer but fresh to the touch for those that haven't stopped to reach down since they dropped their keys. I sat underneath the tree along with the dulled embers of broken glass just to take in the sight of a city and a friend anew.

Saturday night we finished with a tour of the universities and the bridge near a park to play. A subway ride to Jones followed. Perfect time caught us at the ghost tour just in place. There, two men emerged into the darkness. One had been giving this tour for 7 years with proper diction and volume. The other, well, became lost in a frenzy of masculinity while donning a cape and candlelight. Although it was to make fun of the latter for a few minutes, I new I couldn't survive an entire hour at his expense, so I hastily pushed our tickets to veteran and learned of Benjamin's big Benjamin, the hordes beneath Washington square, and a haunting doctor who smoked pipes to unwittingly survive the yellow fever epidemic. Even with a late start, today was long... but a lifetime opportunity to catch up with Jess again. She is missed.