Tuesday, January 11, 2011

They blew up the chicken-man in Philly last night

I spent my last night in Baltimore drinking endless cups of tea and writing under the light of an antique table lamp. All four of the hostel guests had gone to bed, and the beautiful restored townhouse was all mine. While Baltimore had scared the crap of me, as well as providing an excellent refuge, the hostel was one of the finest in the country.

Though I was happy to leave, I nearly missed my bus out of town by underestimating the amount of time repacking with one hand takes. When I did eventually make the public out of town, I was joined by a crowd of local residents who all departed at the liquor store. It was not yet 10:30AM, but the bottle shop outside of downton was the most popular place on a Saturday morning, even in the snow.
Washington's dandruff problem.

Rows and rows of boarded up houses shadowed the bus until it dropped me at White Marsh. I then caught another bus and within two hours found myself in the middle of Philadelphia. It was instantly freezing, but a trip through the historic area allowed me to kill some time.

The snow kept falling as I lined up to see the Liberty Bell. Between my visit between it and independence hall I found out that a congresswoman from Arizona had been shot. I have really taken a liking to America, and my visit to congress was exceptional. But hearing that such incidents still occur while I'm standing on the same ground where dramatic moves for freedom were first established only leaves feelings of disenchantment.

My mood was lifted shortly after, when walking through the park that houses a statue of ' The Signer' I was duly grabbed me and got bombard by a group of Asian tourists who individually got me to pose for photographs with them. My brother had a similar experience at Surfer's Paradise when he was 18 months old and blonde. I've no idea why they wanted photos with me, but I can only presume it's because I can grow an awesome beard and they can not.
People throw coins with Lincoln's head on Ben Franklin's gave because they're too stingy to throw away the currency that he adorns.
It was a quiet night from then on, the snow was unrelenting and free beer and a film at hostel was an offer that incited the feelings of home you occasionally need when you're packing your bag and moving every couple of days.

The next morning I woke up and was greeted by Dicky Peach dawdling around the reception area. Unlike a lot of the other international students, he is here to see more of America. That and he can travel around with Football Manager on his computer. He took in the city's historical side quickly and together we walked from one side of the city to the other. The streets were empty save for a few people wearing green, all in anticipation for Philadelphia's football team, the Eagles, playing that afternoon.

Our jaunt took us toup Benjamin Franklin drive, where all the flags of the United Kingdom's countries were flying save for Peach's own Northern Ireland. At the end of the road is Philadelphia's art museum, and while I had taken in my share of galleries, I was more interested in the outside of this one.

Sat outside the museum in a corner is a Statue of Rocky Balboa. Rocky, a celluloid hero and star of Rocky, Rock II, Rocky IV and Rocky Balboa was originally sat atop of the gallery's steps, but was moved after Rocky V's woeful performance. The steps themselves are used for running up, and at the summit you must jump up and down with fists in the air. A gentleman offered to take some photos for us, but once I had handed over my camera I couldn't help but notice that he was slightly foaming at the mouth. His eyes had been watering from the cold and had begun to freeze on his faith. It was with little surprise that his act of generosity was not motivated by showing off Philly, but instead focused on earning tips for his photo skills. Oh well, I had been financially swindled, just like Rocky in the twilight of his career.

We went to the Eastern State Penitentiary next and were given a guided tour by a lady with the softest voice I'd heard in a while. The jail is housed inside large castle-esque walls and was first built in the 19th century. It was abandoned for a few years and since then nature and history have given the walls new stories to tell.

The building was decaying, windows were flapping in the wind as nets were above our heads ready to catch falling pieces of the roof. Rooms were comparable to some of the student housing, but a few had become vulnerable to the elements and now houses snow. Half of the site was shut for winter, but if it hadn't been opened for tourists I imagine many people would be ironically breaking in for some urban exploring. It's odd to say an empty, run down and freezing jail was my favourite part of Philadelphia, but the building was beautifully eroding, like the shoreline of southern Victoria.

We kept exploring the city, but made it back to the hostel to watch the Eagles play. Their quarter-back, Michael Vick, has served his own repentance after being locked up for dog-fighting. When the game got boring we cared not for his own prodigal tale and found Chinatown to be a way more interesting prospect.

Busting and sober, I asked Peach to keep watch for me as I had to relieve myself into the Delaware River. He didn't, opting for night shots on his camera instead. I was a little startled when I heard people start to scream, but they had just slipped on ice as they came up the stairs. Peach failed, but no on noticed. Crisis averted, but be mindful of the yellow snow.

The last night in the hostel ended with Peach enjoying his Philly Cheese-Steak while a girl, drunk on wine she found in a random cupboard, complained of her insomnia and wouldn't let me leave to go to bed. Through some trickery and quiet steps she was left behind, drunk and blabbering to herself about Greyhound buses.

Peach and I did our best to leave Philly, but our plans were thwarted when downtown was shutdown. All of the emergency services were closing off the main streets and our taxi driver took a leaf our of Dale Earnhardt's book and sped off towards 30th st. Our train to Atlantic City took us past some fantastic sites on the city's outskirts. A whole scrapyard had been devoted to school buses while a an old power plant lay abandoned on the shore of a river. It's ideal for urban exploration, if I had the balls and upper body strength to do it.

Freedom is not free: play at Ballys

Atlantic City is like a snow covered Vegas by the ocean. We rolled past one casino after another before finally making it to the obscure entrance for Tropicana. Venturing through shopping strips and slot machines, we finally got to our room and were welcomed with a fantastic view of an ugly city.

We stepped out onto the beach and I dipped my hand into the Pacific for the first time, however, I had ventured to far in and a tiny wave washed over my boats and jeans. The boardwalk beside the sea links most of the casinos together but in winter it's a ghost town. Push trolleys are worked and occupied by what look like vagrants and the only shops open are selling crappy t-shirts.
A reminder of Wollongong City Council

In the middle of the shopping complex on the pier was a mall that came complete with water show and enough opulence to impress middle-Americans. The walk up the boardwalk took us past more empty shops, run down piers and a video game arcade that hadn't seen love for a while. Peach aptly described the place as someone taking the piss on the sims.

It was an absoluter ghost town outside in winter, but the casinos were still humming with elderly gamblers. After a quick feed at P.F. Changs, Rich gambled his $20 and we called it a night in Atlantic City. The massive window in the room was too nice to leave hidden behind curtains, but in the distance an entire 30 storey building was being used as a giant video screen. Atlantic City is simply a ghost of its former self, and not even a giant screen is going to change it.
Something For Kate - Hallways
Because I haven't seen this band 2.5 years and that is beginning to feel a bit odd.

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