Friday, August 22, 2008

Into Philadelphia, the City

Yesterday morning, we walked two blocks to the Rosemont station for the commuter train into Philadelphia. The track runs from west to east into the city and parallel to Lancaster Avenue, a sort of “Main Street” on which the Rosemont Plaza fronts.

The train station, small but venerable, has mostly been converted into a real estate office. The parking lot where commuters must have parked once, is now reserved for their customers. But at the back of it, facing the east bound tracks, there is a small ticket office in a room with benches along the wall, and an old electric heater hanging down from the ceiling, up in one corner: a harbinger of much colder days to come.

Still, the weather was sunny and very pleasant as we boarded the train. Like the train station, the train cars had been around for awhile, but also like the station, they were well kept, clean and comfortable. I observed the passengers as they got on and off: two mothers with a teenage daughter each boarded with us, the daughters with wide-eyes, following like puppies, and undoubtedly freshmen on their first commute to downtown too; a family speaking Spanish who seemed to be tourists (Mary guessed they were from Spain.); a young man dressed exactly like me, khaki trousers, open collared, print shirt, very standard issue blue blazer. At one stop we picked up an older man who had not bought a ticket, taking his chances with the trainman. And getting caught. Their exchange was polite, but he got off at the next station.

Into Philadelphia we rode, disembarking at the Suburban Station, which is underground, again old but very clean and well kept, and whose corridors stretch under several streets. We came up at the City Hall, a site to see itself, built in the late nineteenth century, with a tower on which stands a statue of William Penn. The tower was for just a little while the tallest in America, and meant to be, but to the frustration, I’m sure, of the city father’s, it was very soon overtaken by buildings in New York City and Chicago. It is a very interesting building. I’m sure there is a “school” to which its architecture belongs, but I would not be able to identify it, but one could guess a sort of very late Victorian. It has a plaza in the middle, with arches at the west and east ends through which we walked, coming out at the east end of Market Street.

Market Street runs straight east from City Hall, all the way down to the Delaware River and through the “Historic District”, which was our destination. It is a busy street, and as we walked along I saw that it was the retail area (and later learned it had been so from the 17th Century, thus “Market Street”). We immediately came upon a Macy’s, then older buildings converted to urban malls, the convention center, the US court house. The sidewalks were busy, people comfortably dressed, many tourists heading the same way we were. We stopped at one point to get our bearings, and a lady policeman came up and asked if she could help us. She was very pleasant as we have, in fact, found every person to be. (I wondered whether we were having a run of luck with regard to pleasant people, because we have seen and dealt with so many, or whether this is the way people are in this place. Maybe they change when winter comes, and simply the weather is the determining factor. Probably not.)


Sean Meade said...

so, did the dude get fined? just have to get off and get a ticket?

Paul Stokes said...

No fine. He just had to get off. He didn't really look like the sort of person who could pay a fine. But I understood later that at each station there are three enforcers, very large men, who employed by the transit company to work over people like this.

Paul Stokes said...

are employed