Even though we had gotten to bed pretty late the night before, my body betrayed me by forcing me awake at 6:27 on Friday morning, the side effect of normally getting up early for work (and of having young children). Of course my sister has no such internal alarm clock, so I was on my own for a few hours. The city was out and about, even at that time of day, the noise of the traffic drowning out all the white noise of the apartment. It was somehow soothing.
The last time I had woken up in downtown Philly was some 17 years ago, hungover from the night before, in a rundown house that could have belonged to anyone. Ah, the bohemian lifestyle I espoused back then, but Friday morning was worlds away from that time as I wrote in my journal and sipped some egg nog instead. I couldn’t recall the last time I had gotten up on a Friday and hadn’t had anything specific I had to accomplish. It was a great feeling.
After a relaxing shower Joy was finally up and our day was ready to get underway. The order of the late morning / afternoon was to head downtown and see what we could get up to. It was fun hopping on the 17 bus and riding packed like sardines in a roll top can. It brought back a flood of memories, riding the G bus on lazy autumn afternoons in the city, with a constantly changing cast of characters by my side.
We got off at 13th and Market Street without having to pay. It was the first time I had ever ridden public transportation without paying, but Joy seemed nonplussed. The smell of downtown assaulted my senses right away as we hit the sidewalk and got swept away by the lunch crowds recently set free from their jobs for a precious few minutes. My stomach growled in agreement with them as we tried to figure out a stop for our own lunch.
A trendy falafel place called to us but the lines were long and the reward didn’t seem all that substantial, so we passed on it. The Marathon Grill similarly went the way of the dinosaurs as we passed by the former spot of HMV and was hit with another wave of nostalgia… for what is sadly now just another clothing store. We finally settled on Joe’s Pizza, one of many such places downtown, and it just felt right. We eased inside and took our place in an eclectic downtown Philly lunch line.
The order was familiar. First the selection, and I had to go with the classic Philly staple — the hoagie. I bad forgotten how much I missed those now that I live in the land of the submarine sandwich. If you’ve never had a true Philly hoagie you’re missing out. Big time.
I ate it so quickly you’d never know it had ever been there save for this photograph.
Then it was off to the Free Library main branch where we had spent countless after school hours when we were young and restless. I hadn’t been back in years, but it too was like an old friend, beckoning me further in and giving me as much as I gave it. We checked out the Shakespeare exhibit and the rare books, and the smell of those books was incredible. And familiar.
The whole time we never stopped talking. That’s something I forgot I had missed when it came to my sister. We’ve developed a dialogue that is easy and comfortable even after all these years. Perhaps it’s because of so much shared experience growing up and growing out, but I realized as we kept up our banter that I had truly missed it, the connection. We needed that Friday afternoon wandering the halls of the Free Library, the walk back down JFK Parkway, even the sight of those people rappelling down a tall building…
That still scares me, but luckily we didn’t stay long. It just goes to show that anything and everything can be seen and experienced in the city I used to call home. And on that Friday afternoon it felt like home again. I breathed it in and we kept walking back the way we had come.