City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia, PA

October 7, 2001

Today we drove into Philadelphia, from our campground in New Jersey. To me this has always been where our present government got its beginnings. This is where the Declaration of Independence was signed. And this is where to this day, the Liberty Bell resides. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 it was nice to go somewhere that we could just immerse ourselves in the freedoms that this country is famous for. As we drove into downtown Philadelphia, it seemed strange to see parks everywhere with yellow caution tape stretched across their entrances. We finally found a parking place (no easy task in downtown Philadelphia even on a Sunday) and we wondered off to find the visitors' center. We found it with little difficulty and got a map of the area under the National Park Department. This included a good portion of the downtown historic area. We were told that we could take a tour of Independence Hall and/or a tour of the Liberty Bell. We had forgotten that this was Columbus Day weekend and hence a definite influx of tourists. We went past Independence Hall and looked at the line. Not at all encouraging. Then we went over to the Liberty Bell and the line was more reasonable. As we were standing in line we struck up conversations with several couples around us and found out that the National Park Service had closed a number of the park areas around the country because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. They seemed to think that it was easier to control the situation with all the tourists if they limited the area that they could be in. While we were waiting in line there was a news-crew taping interviews with several people standing in our line. They were mainly trying to get their reaction on the bombing in Afghanistan that had started today. Well, guess who they picked? My esteemed partner and webmaster. I thought his answer to the interviewer's question about how he felt about the bombing was certainly politically correct. He told her, "I believe that the politicians need to do what they need to do." Whew! talk about intense! I was holding my sides to keep from laughing. After a short wait in line (about 20 minutes) we got in to see the Liberty Bell itself. One of the National Park Rangers gave a short speech on how the bell came about and how it was used over the years to celebrate various occasions. Unfortunately because of the crack that is now in the bell it will never sound again. For some reason that gave me a sad feeling. But after all it was just a symbol. As we came out of the Liberty Bell exhibit there was a group of people protesting the government's actions in Afghanistan. A number of people around us said that somebody ought to shoot down the protestors. I turned around and looked at them and asked them if they didn't understand anything about what they had just heard on freedom. I certainly don't agree with what the protestors were saying or doing, but it was our very freedom in this country that gave them the right to stand and issue their protests. Across the street the locals cops were lining up to make sure that the protest remained peaceful on both sides.
After we left the Liberty Bell we decided to take a trolley ride and see an overview of what was to be seen in the city. Unfortunately, we only left one day open to see the sights around Philadelphia. Otherwise there were any number of things that I would have liked to have seen in more detail. We passed through Philadelphia's Chinatown. The ornate gate over the entrance was really beautiful. We also passed a Rodin Museum. We were told that the admission to the museum was free due to a grant that was left to the city. In another quarter we passed the first penitentiary in the U.S. There have been any number of prisons and jails prior to this but this is the first one to be called a penitentiary. OK trivia: Why was this particular jail called a penitentiary? It seems that the Quakers created it for anyone who had fallen from the righteous path. If you were convicted of a crime, you were put into a very small room, by yourself, with just a Bible. In order to be released you had to fall on your knees, confess your sins, and repent. Therefore, it was called a penitentiary. At least, that's what our guide told us. We found out that one of the more famous, or infamous if you will, occupants of this particular penitentiary was Al Capone. However, it seems that Al Capone had a little more than the standard Bible as furnishings for his cell. Al was allowed to have his luxuries, plus his barber, and his cook. Wow! sounds like prison life wasn't too bad on Al. After a brief glimpse of the prison, we were off to other parts of the city. We passed by a beautiful mural on the wall of one of the downtown buildings. It seems that Philadelphia has over 2000 murals on the walls of its city. Again, according to our tour guide, if anyone juvenile or adult was caught spray painting something with graffiti they were sentenced to assist in the painting of a new mural. As a result you see very little graffiti in the city and their number of murals have grown exponentially. On a number of corners in the city were small parks that were originally built as fire breaks. They were open areas with little or no trees and large expanses of grassy area. When the city was originally laid out they were intended as islands of safety for people to go to in case fire broke out in the city. Today they are maintained oasis of green amidst large structures of steel and concrete. Most of the streets in Philadelphia are one way and very narrow. As a result parking is very limited even for the people who live and/or work in the city. One parking lot we saw wanted $11 to park in their lot. That was one price whether you parked one hour or all day. Whew! We finally found a parking spot on the street and found out that even on Sunday you were required to put in 25 cents for 15 minutes. The longest you could park without coming back and putting even more money in was 2 hours. The most interesting area we saw for parking was as we were heading out of town. There was what would have been a safety zone directly in the middle of the street between the lanes. Well, right smack dab in the middle of the safety lanes were parked cars. It was something we had never seen anywhere else. Usually when we take the trolley tours of a city we take the time to get off at the various stops and see the attractions. Unfortunately, by the time we had gotten parked, saw the Liberty Bell and got to the trolley stop, they were making the last run of the day. So we had to content ourselves with just seeing everything as "A View from the Trolley." I felt that we, at least, got an overview of the flavor of the entire city, and got some history behind it as well. Finally we returned to our truck to try and extricate ourselves from the parallel parking place we had chosen. It was made a bit more difficult due to the car to the rear of us pulling up far enough to just about touch our bumper. Oh well, with a little jockeying, we bid a fond farewell to the beautiful city of Philadelphia. One of the things that we found which seemed unusual, was the fact that it cost us $3.00 toll to cross the bridge from New Jersey into Philadelphia. However, in going back into New Jersey there was no toll. Maybe someday we will be able to return and spend a little more time examining our seat of American democracy.


Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!