Out here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Having a ball. Having fun. I’ll give the the rundown at some later stage. I’ll tell you all about our holiday and the places that we visited. For now I’ll just say that Riegelsville is an amazing little town. And that I want to live in New Hope or Lambertville. Yes, Lambertsville, New Jersey. It doesn’t smell! Hah! Beautiful little village. Not Atlantic City at all. Sorry Boss – love your music, but don’t want to live in those towns you sing about. Oh, and I have no idea why anyone wanted to fight over Easton just north of Bucks County in Northampton. Maybe fight over who can have it. But more like – “No, you take it! I don’t want it!”. A bit like Northampton in England… But more on that later in another story. For now we’ll just do a bit on Philly.
We went to Philly today. Our first time there. The place where it all happened. Back then. The birth of the US of A. Before that. Just A. No US. Hah! No us. A few things stood out about Philly. Stuck in my head. Here’s a few highlights. Just three random notes on my experience and observations while in Philly – and I’ll start with the heavy one.
1. Independence Hall is way small
It’s amazing how small Independence Hall really is. Not a big building or even a big hall really. I mean really. It is a pretty insignificant-looking building. Brick and mortar. Pretty square with a little tower on top. Two floors and that’s it. You wouldn’t notice it if you drove past. Okay – take away the Rangers and you wouldn’t know it was much of a historic place. Especially not if you compare it to some of those buildings in England. No castle this. Not Windsor. Not even a wing in Buckingham Palace. Hardly a maids quarter in Downing Street. I mean really, even my living room is bigger. Well, almost. Not really. But you get the idea. It really isn’t that big a place.
It’s so small you can’t even change your mind in there. And the “entertainment area” upstairs isn’t much to write about either. Smaller than most boardrooms. But in its day one of the largest rooms in America. They even hired it out for weddings back in the old days. (Sorry – they don’t do that anymore. So don’t even bother asking.) Yes, the building and rooms are small. Very small. But it fills a huge space.
What is amaziing is that from the most humble beginnings we have the most powerful nation and notion in the world. Not just in military and economic power. More than that. Way more than that. That will come and go. But from this little crappy room came an idea. An idea that inspired people across the world. And continue to inspire people everywhere. And drive fear and hatred into others. The idea of “the people”. To rule themselves. To be free. To be equal (eventually). Not bound by king or religion. But by “the will of the people”. A-bloody-mazing. All from this little room in Independence Hall. I felt underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. It is so appropriate that this room be so small. So insignificant.
Because it tells us that the freedom we seek is not in big symbols. Not in a big White House. Or a House of Parliament (in the UK and elsewhere). It is in the heart of us all. It is small. It starts small. It starts with us. And then it builds. And grows. And the single heart (or small hall) is a drop in the ocean. But the meaning we give it and the struggles that go with it make the dam fill and will break the walls. The walls that keep us chained. We are the freedom. We are the people. We can be the driver of change no matter where we are. In our houses in Boston or Baghdad or Beijing. It doesn’t matter. The will of the people starts anywhere. And everywhere. No matter what the size might be. The heart is to big for that room. Or your room.
Man, I am glad that the Independence Hall is so small. Because the power of that is just so huge.
Oh – hang on. You know it isn’t actually called the Independence Hall? No. It is actually the Pennsylvania State House. Again. Beautiful. Call it what you want. The people will give it a proper name.
I like that it is known as Independence Hall. So American. So to the point. Say it as it is. If it was the English? They would call it the Great Hall of Change. The French would call it Hall de Magnificant. South Africans would call it Die Moerse Groot Hol. But no. Americans just call it Independence Hall. Not even Hall of Independence. Just two simple words. And to the point. Good on you. Keep it simple. Keep it straight. And say it like it is.
Another lesson – especially for Americans. You don’t need the big car to make a difference. You don’t have to make it bigger to make it better. These Founding Fathers got together in this small little building and wrote a one page little document. The Declaration of Independence. And then, about 11 years later, another one. A simple one page document that started with a simple preamble…
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
All this from a small room in a little nondescript building in Philly. You don’t need it to be bigger to be better. They didn’t use a word they did not mean or need. They just did what worked best and what was needed. Scale back baby. They gave you the right to pretty much do what you want. But you would celebrate them more if you remember what they did and that you carry the same responsibility today. So drop the big car and super sized meal. You don’t need it. Your ego doesn’t need it. They didn’t need it.
The smaller the better. Less is more. God bless those dudes in the small house. Job well done. Wicked man. You were way cool. And you didn’t even have air conditioning.
Yeah! Went up the Rocky Steps! Sorry, Philadelphia Museum of Art. My wife really wanted to see it. And so did I. Kids didn’t get it. Kept on asking, “Why the heck do you guys want to go up there?” And we’ll look at each other and laugh. And start humming, “Duh, duh, duh … duh duh.” You know. The Rocky song as he ran up the steps! We just had to go.
Of course we wanted to sound all superior. Didn’t want the “people” to know we are going to the Rocky Steps. We waved down a taxi and jumped in. I sat in the front seat because it would be a squeeze with four of us in the back. The cab driver looked at me and asked, “Weh ya’ll goin?” (Or something like that.) My response… “Philadelphia Museum of Art. Please.” He looked at me and mumbled, “Rocky Steps?” I was like a kid and gave him my idiot smile and said, “Yeah!” I am not sure if he rolled his eyes.
But we got there. My wife and myself were like little kids. But we had to go to the Rocky statue first. Get our photo taken. Wife and daughters stood while I took a photo. And then came Blainy. A dude hanging around as the “official” photographer. Offered to take a few shots of us as a family at the statue. And made us do all these poses. Arms in the air like Rocky! Man it was cool. Sylvester is way bigger than I imagined though.
Blainy handed back the camera and said he “accepted tips”. A bit of a shame really. I was going to pay him a decent wage. But a tip is 15% of the pay – so I gave him 15% of what I was going to pay him originally. He lost out on that one.
No. Not really. But I thought it would have been cool to tell him that.
And then the steps. My wife went up and I took a few shots. And then I had to go up. I wanted to run up those steps like Rocky. But I had the Oakley backpack stuffed with maps and toys and drinks and food and more things for the road. So I just slowly made my way up the steps. But in my mind I was running up those steps. With the music playing. “Duh, duh, duh … duh duh.” I got up to the top at last. Sweating more than Rocky did after he ran up the steps. But hey, he did it in winter with no backpack. And he got paid to look good.
But it wasn’t just us. Everywhere people were running up those steps. Old people. Young people. Middle-aged people. Men. Women. Kids. And all of them ran like Rocky. And when they got to the top? Like Rocky. Jumping up and down with their arms in the air. It was a sight. It was great. Rocky rules.
The Rocky Steps. More impressive than that little room back in the Pennsylvania State House. But almost as inspiring. At least it worked off a few of those Philly Cheese Steaks.
3. Philly Cheese Steaks are awesome!
A friend of mine – let’s call him Slacker – told me to have a Soft Pretzel and a Philly Cheese Steak (and a Hoagie). Never had the Hoagie. I mean really. How much can one man eat in a day? The Pretzel was great. But the Philly Cheese Steak was awesome! Wow. They really knew what they were doing with this one. Meat and cheese. Mixed and melted together. As simple as that. I dropped the onion. I love onion. But onion doesn’t love me. We have… hum… issues. That always needs some dealing with later in the day… And counseling doesn’t help. Neither does Pepto Bismol. Still. The Philly Cheese Steak was awesome. But also troublesome. For reasons other than the onions.
You know that Philly is the fatest city in America? No wonder. How many Hoagies and Soft Pretzels and Philly Cheese Steaks can you eat before you start swelling up? I had to flee Philly before I “forced” myself to eat another Philly Cheese Steak. And I already had one-and-a-half! (My wife didn’t have all of hers.) Man, they are damn good. Too good. Way too good. And it shows. In the waistline. And waste line. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing at all.
Philly – take note of the Founding Fathers and their lack of “size”. Cut back on those Philly Cheese Steaks and Soft Pretzels. And Hoagies. Get out and run up those Rocky steps a bit more often. Be lean. Like the Founding Fathers with words. Wait. Now I know why those Founding Fathers kept on meeting up in Philly. It’s those damn Philly Cheese Steaks. They just couldn’t say no. Or stay away for too long. I thought they looked a bit “rounder” than I expected…
Note: Friends make the world go round. I must tell you just a little about us being in Bucks County. We are staying in a gorgeous house in Riegelsville. It is really beautiful. A dream house for anyone who need to get away for a few days. Or forever. All thanks to my good friend M and his husband R who gave us their house for the week. Actually, I never checked if they are married. I haven’t met R yet. But looking at his house – he knows about making a home. And making it beautiful. But that’s just it. They have this stunning house and they just gave it to us for a week. I didn’t aks. M just asked me if we don’t want to go there. Almost begged me to go. And R hasn’t met any of us yet. And M only knows me. Haven’t met my wife or kids. We have known each other for about two months now. Become really good friends. But still. They gave us their house for a week. And the fact that R gave us their house without having met me or my family. What can I say. Some people are special. And they are for sure. More than special. Just two of those people I am honored to know. And even more honored to have as friends. M even phoned today to check how we are doing. Wanted to know if we were enjoying ourselves. M&R – salt of the earth. But with taste.
I am just so happy that they didn’t see the t-shirt I bought today. It’s brown with two simple sentences in 70s style blue writing. “49% trailer, 51% trash”. Love it.
Oh – why are the postcards of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall printed in China? Really people…
We’re having fun. We’re having a ball. See ya later.