Philadelphia To The Rescue

Two Saturday mornings ago I was in the kitchen of my suburban Philadelphia home, contemplating the whys and wherefores of the universe. My wife Sandy was fastened to the living room sofa, absentmindedly wandering around the web on our laptop computer. If somebody had painted our portraits that morning they could have done worse than to title each canvas Inertia. Now, inertia is a weirdly compelling phenomenon. I’m quite familiar with and knowledgeable about it, as I spend half my waking hours within its grasp. If I were able to bottle it I think I’d become crazily wealthy. I mean, people once spent millions upon millions of dollars on pet rocks, didn’t they?

Luckily for us, our great pal Gene dialed our number around 11:00 AM. Sandy picked up the phone and spoke with him for a few minutes. After hanging up she told me what Gene had to say.

“Gene and Cindy [his wife] went to the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show yesterday. He says it’s very good. He recommends that we go.”

“Yo!” I exclaimed, just like most Philadelphia aficionados are prone to do. “Gene has the right idea. Let’s go into Philly to check out that show and then we’ll see where the city’s polluted winds carry us after that.”

Two hours later we closed our eyes, clicked our heels three times and thought magical thoughts. That formula always works. Within seconds we were at 18th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia’s central section. We crossed the street and walked into Rittenhouse Square, a gorgeous one-square block park that dates back to the late 1600s. From what I’ve read, in those days and for many ensuing years the park wasn’t looking all that good. In the early 1900s it was redesigned and infused with trees and shrubs in a pretty extraordinary manner, bringing it up to the high standards set by parks in Paris and other European cities.

Neither Sandy nor I had been to the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show in at least 20 years. It’s an annual affair that began in 1928, making the most recent event the 90th consecutive one. That’s staying power. The show used to be an open-air display. That’s why I was surprised to see that most of the paintings and sculptures were under cover, housed within 143 tent-like booths ringing the perimeter of the park. Don’t know in what year the show’s organizers brought in the tents, but it was good thinking on their part. Now the show can go on even if it rains.

One hundred and forty-three booths holding the works of professional artists? Holy crap, that’s a big amount. And the total doesn’t include the 18 booths in the center of the park that were devoted to the output of student artists. Sandy and I looked at nearly every single booth’s contents, I think, though at the time I’d have guessed that I’d encountered maybe 60 or 70 booths. It was a couple of days later, when reading the show’s brochure, that I learned the true numbers at the park.

Well, what can I say? I’m an art lover, but in trying to catch a glimpse of everything I didn’t act like one, doing little more than to throw a glance at most of the offerings. I made super-quick judgments, deciding in a flash whether or not an artist’s oeuvre was worth my spending a bit of time with, and coming to the madly incorrect conclusion that most weren’t. That’s not the way I behave in museums, where I linger in front of and analyze the works. Oh well, clicking my heels must have set my limited-attention-span mechanism afire. Or perhaps I was just being my usual half-crazed self.

Still, now and then I did stop to smell the roses. For instance, I liked the stylish, black and white, Art Deco-ish drawings by Anastasia Alexandrin a lot. And the same went for the madcap animal sculptures by Scott Causey. And also for John Pompeo’s sturdy, excellently-balanced paintings of landscapes and barns.

Anastasia Alexandrin and her artworks
Scott Causey’s sculptures
John Pompeo and his paintings

And what I liked as much as or more than all the art works was the park itself. It felt great to be among trees and shrubbery and lawn areas exploding in myriad shades of green. And to walk the wide pathways of an elegantly symmetrical park that hordes of Philadelphia’s citizens and visitors love to be in. Rittenhouse Square is a winner, one of the city’s brightest spots.

The day wasn’t over. After taking a pause that refreshed, Sandy and I decided to make our way to West Philadelphia, an enormous swath of Philadelphia’s territory, where, in the area known as University City, the second annual West Philly Porchfest was in full swing. Porchfest is an idea that was born 10 years ago in Ithaca, New York. Since then it has turned into reality in quite a few towns and cities in the States and in a handful of locations outside the USA. I wrote about last year’s West Philly Porchfest, and you can read the article by clicking right here.

To hold a Porchfest, you need a lot of porches. And in University City porches reign. It was on those structures that musicians gathered to fill the air with song. I’d estimate that around 150 acts hit the stages (i.e., porches) throughout the day two Saturdays ago. I kind of fizzled at the art show, but I got my act together at Porchfest and let the vibes enter me in an intelligent manner.

Mountain music jam session
Ditto

Between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, Sandy and I wandered around, program schedules in our hands. We checked out eight or so acts. The quality of the music was hit or miss. What we ended up liking the best was a mountain music jam session taking place on a quiet, leafy block of Walton Avenue. Fifty or so folks were soaking in the sweet sounds on the sidewalks and in the street. Most musicians at Porchfest, which presents many genres of music, amplified their instruments. But the mountain music jammers didn’t. No matter at all. I crept nice and close to the porch and got swept away by the sometimes gritty, sometimes aching and lonesome notes spilling from the musicians’ mouths and instruments. They were as casual and unassuming a group of performers as ever you’ll see, no different than the players strumming, picking and singing at their homes in mountain hollows in the southern states where this soulful, addictive music was born many years ago. I thought that Cameron DeWhitt killed on the banjo, that Jordan Rast fiddled like a demon, in a good sense, and that Peter Oswald set a firm footing with his cello work (Yep, a cello. It’s not the typical mountain music instrument, but at Porchfest it fit in just fine). Applause, applause.

Audience at mountain music jam session

Come 6:00 PM, Sandy and I were getting hungry. Our dinner in a West Philadelphia hot spot (Dock Street Brewery) was good. But, as my mind is starting to wander and your eyes probably are getting tired from reading this story, I’ll skip the dinner write-up. I’d bid you all adieu right now had I not one more thing to add. Namely, at the train station in West Philadelphia where we boarded a choo-choo that took us back to the burbs, we were taken by a view of central Philadelphia, some of its tall towers beautifully aglow. The picture was too pretty a one not to snap. Snap it I did:

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(If you click on any photo, a larger image will open in a separate window)

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46 thoughts on “Philadelphia To The Rescue

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 7:41 am

      Morning, C.C.
      No doubt, Philadelphia has made my life better over the years. I never seem to get tired of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Alice June 14, 2017 / 5:46 am

    Clicking my heels plus thinking magical thoughts ALWAYS works?? You are QUITE sure about this?!! Cuz I been looking for a reliable replacement for the regional rail for a good long while…

    *alice closes eyes*
    *clicks heels of stylish yet sensible ankle boots*
    *thinks to herself “once upon a time, SEPTA was never late again…”*
    *eagerly awaits instant transport to destination*

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 7:38 am

      I know what you mean about SEPTA. Sometimes it seems like you’re waiting forever for a vehicle to arrive: train, bus, whatever.
      See you, Alice. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. joyce hamilton June 14, 2017 / 8:05 am

    Glad you got to the art festival . I worked in center city for 40 years and went every year to the art show at lunchtime . The Porch festival sounds fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 8:16 am

      Morning, Joyce. You’d have a real good time at Porchfest. It’s a terrific event.

      Like

  3. The Artist's Child June 14, 2017 / 8:33 am

    I really enjoyed your post. Love the idea of Porchfest. Great way to use the beautiful architectural features of your city. And that park is a fabulous location for an art show. In Melbourne we used to have the annual outdoor Herald (Newspaper) Art Show in the Treasury Gardens which was for all levels of artists. I went as a child but it stopped years ago. It is great to see that your city supports such a terrific event. Especially liked the owl artwork and the sculptures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 8:51 am

      Hi. Thanks for adding your thoughts.
      It’s a very good thing when cities take advantage of their parks and neighborhoods in creative ways. All of that adds a whole lot to urban life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Still the Lucky Few June 14, 2017 / 8:39 am

    Art and music, all in one day. I’d call that ambitious. If I was to buy a painting, it would be one of John Pompeo’s—even from afar, they are great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 8:53 am

      Hi. He told me the story of the painting that has snow in it (it’s in bottom left of the photo). That’s my favorite of the paintings of his that I saw.
      Bye —

      Like

  5. Apple Hill Cottage June 14, 2017 / 5:40 pm

    I’ve actually been to the art festival in Rittenhouse square. Daughter went to bryn mawr 10-15 years ago and one weekend we timed it right. You captured it beautifully. I forget where we ate but it was an outdoor cafe nearby. Thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 10:31 pm

      Hello. Thanks for the comments.
      Another good thing about Rittenhouse Square park is that there are plenty of nice places to eat at nearby, such as the café you mention.

      Like

  6. sniderjerry June 14, 2017 / 7:13 pm

    Hello Neil, Another great essay. During your Philadelphia adventures, have you ever been to Rosa’s Fresh Pizza? There you can pay forward a dollar to buy pizza for the homeless – they do a super business this way. All the best, Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 14, 2017 / 10:32 pm

      Hello Jerry.
      Yes, I was there once, a few months ago. I like their philosophy.

      Like

  7. Alyson June 15, 2017 / 10:46 am

    This sounds very much like my idea of a “perfect day” – All the elements were present, nice weather (looks like it), spontaneity, comfortable clothes (probably), interesting people (definitely), not too expensive and home by bedtime! You are very lucky to live in such a vibrant city – This was a most enjoyable “virtual” day out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 15, 2017 / 12:24 pm

      Hi. As my stories in this blog prove, I like Philadelphia a lot. I used to live in the city. We moved to the burbs 12 years ago. I still head into Philly often. Several times a month.

      Bye for now, Alyson.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson June 15, 2017 / 12:58 pm

        Yes, I wasn’t sure if you still class yourself as a resident of Philly itself or the burbs – Sounds as if it is the latter but best of both worlds by the sound of it if you head in to the city a few times a month.

        When I first read this post I was reminded of a situation I found myself in a few years ago – We are keen quizzers and we were on track to win quite a big one but the final question was, “What was the first capital city of the USA?” – My team mate felt sure it was Philadelphia but I persuaded him to change the answer to Boston. Of course we were wrong and we lost the quiz but I have never forgotten that little piece of trivia!

        Liked by 1 person

        • yeahanotherblogger June 15, 2017 / 2:49 pm

          Hi. I’m often walking on the same streets that Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, etc. walked on. That kind of intrigues me.

          Have a good rest of the week. I’ll be seeing you.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Aunt Beulah June 15, 2017 / 11:35 am

    Neil, inertia is the last word I would ever use to describe you and Sandy. The two of you do more, see more, enjoy more than most folks do in a year. And you need those little moments of inertia you entertain to recharge your batteries. I enjoyed experiencing this post through your words and photographs, Neil, and, sadly, I did so in my recliner. Now that’s inertia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 15, 2017 / 12:27 pm

      Hi, Janet. I just got inside after pruning trees for two hours. I need a recliner now! But first, a shower
      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

  9. cincinnatibabyhead June 15, 2017 / 1:28 pm

    Thanks to you i just had a nice day in Philly. You know what W.C. said. “Porchfest”. You are never to far from the music. That is a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gene Miller June 16, 2017 / 1:02 am

    Neil, the city has another interesting adventure. Philadelphia has a lot of small theater companies that do memorable shows. Examples: “Lantern Theater” (lanterntheater.org), and “Interact Theater” (interacttheatre.org). On Tuesday we saw a clever comedy, “The Gospel according to Jefferson, Dickens, and Tolstoy”. Of course, Ambler has “Act II Theater”, where we saw “Man of LaMancha” a couple years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 16, 2017 / 7:30 am

      Hi Gene. Right, theater is another of Philadelphia’s strong points. The play you saw recently sounds like a good one. I hadn’t heard of it.
      See ya’.

      Like

  11. Cindy June 16, 2017 / 1:33 am

    It’s great to be able to trade ideas for city adventures with you and Sandy, and then read about you doing them. Write on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 16, 2017 / 7:33 am

      Morning Cindy.
      There are, for sure, a lot of adventures to be had in Philly. It’s amazing.

      Like

  12. sachaogrady June 16, 2017 / 10:08 am

    Lovely essay. Very observational and it allowed me to enter into a part of the world I have never visited.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The Year I Touched My Toes June 17, 2017 / 8:55 pm

    I love Anastasia’s work featured here and have just sent her a message. Looking forward to explore your blog more because i have an interest in art too. So I just followed so I won’t forget and I’ll get the fresh posts. Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 18, 2017 / 7:04 am

      Many thanks, Sonyo. I don’t have Facebook or any of the others, so I really appreciate what you’ve done.

      Like

  14. andrewcferguson June 18, 2017 / 10:19 am

    Great stuff Neil. Philly is definitely on my visit list when I make it Stateside. And I love the idea of Porchfest – I’m playing on one back porch in July, but we haven’t quite got the multiple porch idea going over here yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. America On Coffee June 26, 2017 / 5:56 am

    Another fantastic share! I was feeling a bit of boredom but you took me out-on -the-town! 👍😎 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Coral Waight June 28, 2017 / 5:06 am

    So interesting. And just love those big American porches, what we would call verandas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 28, 2017 / 7:18 am

      Hello, Coral. Thanks for stopping by.
      Certain sections of Philadelphia are loaded with houses that have porches. But that’s not the case at all in many other sections. Lots of variety within the city.

      Take care —

      Like

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