Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pictures From Trip to Philadelphia

This trip was back in July. I am sure I will do a few more picture posts covering the summer within the next few weeks. (I am talking to myself here).

Philadelphia is where my relatives live, and, having so many small children, including an infant, no one was really up for undertaking a more ambitious vacation. I suppose one of these years we should get a beach house rental, if we can find a suitable place. I've always liked the houses along Long Sands in York, Maine. They're old, neither ostentatious nor trashy, very respectable-looking, packed in close, right on the road across which the beach is in clear sight, somewhat reminiscent of the English seaside style, but only slightly. Yes, something like that.1. My oldest boy. While the aggression affected here is not really his personality, I am relieved to see that all capacity to make a display of physical spirit and lustiness has not been drained out of him yet, as had already happened to me by the same age. He is considerably stronger and more physically capable than I was at the same age too. There is a hill near my mother's house that he can already ride his bike up at age seven that I could not manage until I was twelve or thirteen at least. The case is similar with monkey bars, tree climbing and the like, with which I am very pleased. There is no benefit in going through life as a 98-pound weakling if one can help it.
2. I am only putting this picture up because I am confident no one will see it. As the children are still quite young, they did find seeing the Liberty Bell actually exciting. We have a replica of it at our statehouse downtown, which I assume is part of the same set that the one on the St John's campus belongs to--I believe every state got one, though these two are the only ones I have so far found. I had not been down to the historic area in Philadelphia for some years, and I was sad to see all the rules and gates and security around Independence Hall. You used to be able to walk right up to it at any hour of the day, and when it was open you could enter as you pleased, without any guide, and look all around at the rooms and displays. Now you need a timed ticket, which is still free at least, to get past the gates, however the day we went they had already all been distributed by noon. I liked the old system better. I am wearing glasses here by the way not as a fashion statement or to affect irony, but because I had some kind of infection in my eye which prevented me from wearing contact lenses for a while.
3. This is my father's backyard in beautiful--and his neighborhood, which dates to the 1930s, actually is beautiful after a fashion--suburban Elkins Park. As you can see he has a golf hole there.
4. This is a glazed piece of giant anthracite coal that the children are sitting on. This is in Jim Thorpe, Pa, which, being in a very economically depressed area in the Poconos, and having a fairly well-preserved old center with a train station and a long association with railroads, is trying to transition to the 21st century by going in for tourism. It is an attractive enough place, so it isn't a terrible idea given the limited options available. However, the local population, those who desperately need and are supposed to benefit from the new tourist-related jobs, need, I hate to say, a lot of work. They are a rough, coal mining and railroad yard sort of people--the lumpenproletariat, we might as well say it--and their ideas of the duties entailed in say, working in a store, seem to be that they involve supervising the customers and making sure they are following all the rules. Making people feel comfortable, or welcome, or expressing enthusiasm for the attractions of the shop or the town in general are as yet apparently foreign concepts. As a kid I used to go up to this area, Allentown/Bethlehem and so on, quite often (one of my uncles lived in Bethlehem for a few years), and while the majority of the people were always working class, VFW/bowling alley types, the educational/political/socioeconomic divide did not seem so vast, and certainly not so hostile, as it did to me on this trip. It does make me sad, Pennsylvania being my native state I have always felt enthusiastic about all of the different parts and identifying features of it, and been eager to explore them. Perhaps I am finally seeing and understanding things as they really are. On the other hand, the surliness and hostility and isolation from any contact with education or even middling culture of the struggling white working classes seems to me to be getting worse and worse with every passing year. I am starting to be very concerned about both the growing numbers of people who have this attitude and the direction in which they seem to be going, which looks to me some kind of collective nervous breakdown. Believe me, I don't find the smug, spiritually diffident, semi-educated and sometimes actually educated white urban liberals much more palatable, although they don't worry me as much, because they have more options in life, and they tend to have a fluid enough, if often confused, thought process that if they become possessed of really bad ideas there is some hope that they can in time modify or change them. The people of the hinterlands who are increasingly suspicious and feel themselves dispossessed I find myself feeling less and less confidence in.
5. This is in a small military museum near Independence Hall, in the two storey building that housed the original war department of the United States, i.e., the ancestor of the Pentagon. When it began operations in 1793, it had seven employees. The museum had a small collection of uniforms, weapons and other gear from the Revolution and the early days of the Republic, as well as a couple of dioramas. I have come to like these kinds of small museums, that you can go through slowly and read and absorb everything in the place in around an hour. These kinds of places rarely have big crowds, and this, combined with the leisurely pace, makes the mind receptive to the impressions to be made on it. There was another place we went to which produced a similar effect which I may do a picture series on in a future post.

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