A Long Walk In Philadelphia On A Warm Winter’s Day

Cira Centre

There I was two Wednesday mornings ago, unfruitfully occupying space on my living room sofa. My shoulders were tense, my mind was neither here nor there. In other words, it was business as usual.

“Yo, schmuck! Snap out of it!” I silently yelled to myself. “Somebody ought to paint your portrait right now and call it Here Sits A Schlump. Life’s for living, boyo. Get with it already.”

And so I did. Gathering myself together, I decided to go for a walk. A nice long walk. But where? Not in my suburban area, whose charms are incredibly limited. Philadelphia it would be then. Philly’s the metropolis that never bores me. Soon I was at my little town’s train station. A late-morning ride arrived and I climbed into the second of its three cars. Fifty minutes later I exited said metal box at 30th Street Station, in the city’s West Philadelphia section, all set to explore a nearby area that I was barely familiar with. Ferdinand Magellan I’m not, but I’ve always liked to poke around.

It’s amazing though, being someone who likes to poke around, that I’d never done so among the blocks only a hop, skip and a jump northwest of 30th Street Station. Those streets, part of West Philadelphia’s Powelton Village neighborhood, contain a good bit of Drexel University’s sprawling campus. From the mid-1970s until 1991 I lived in West Philadelphia, only a mile and a half from Powelton Village, but I didn’t venture to the Drexel enclave there, despite Drexel’s rise during that time to major-player status in the academic world. And in the ensuing years, which have seen me visit West Philadelphia who knows how many dozens of times, the pattern continued.

Hallelujah, now the deed is done! I came and I saw. I’ll leave conquering for another day.

Powelton Village
Powelton Village

Now, let me say that my stroll through Powelton Village, checking out not only the Drexel facilities but the sturdy, soon-to-be-leafy residential blocks, wasn’t a walk for the ages. I mean, not too many urban campuses are going to knock your socks off. And Philadelphia’s older housing — rowhouses, twins and stand-alones — are so much with us in Powelton Village and in many other Philadelphia neighborhoods, I’ve come to think of them as comfort food.

Still, stretching my literally old legs felt great. Especially since the day was sunny and warm, as in 74°F, an insanely high number for mid-February winter. I worked up a good, pungent sweat hauling my ass and my bones around. And my eyes did plenty of darting, admiring the college girls who were dressed for summer. Skimpily, shall we say.

In addition to the girls, certain sights during my travels did make quite the impression on me. For instance, before I reached Powelton Village — in fact, when I was only 150 feet from 30th Street Station — I remembered to take a look at the Cira Centre, a majestically sleek office tower that smiles down upon the station. But I didn’t see it. Was the station somehow obscuring my view? Turns out, of course, that Cira was there in plain sight. Sort of. A glass wonder, the reflections of the sky on its surface were camouflaging the building, as the photo at the beginning of this article reveals. Man, that was something, clouds seeming to float everywhere on the glass along with the reflected image of a tower under construction several blocks away.

Drexel’s Buckley Recreational Field
Vue32 apartment building

And in Powelton Village, just up the block from Drexel’s Buckley Recreational Field, I was most surprised to see a tall, modern apartment building (Vue32) being erected on North 32nd Street. Some might say that Vue32, a non-Drexel project, is totally out of place in a quiet two-and-three-story-high neighborhood, and if I lived nearby I’d probably agree. But it looked cool to me.

SEPTA rail yard

Speaking of North 32nd Street, if I hadn’t been there I would have missed being near-stunned by the sight of oceans of commuter railroad cars — just like the one I took into the city — a smattering of feet east of where Vue32 stands. As I later learned, I was looking at a rail yard used by SEPTA, the Philadelphia region’s public transit agency, to house and do maintenance work on trains. I’ve lived in Philadelphia or its suburbs for most of my adult life and I’d only vaguely noticed that enormous yard before, though it is glimpsable from numerous vantage points in the city. Call me Mr. Observant.

An open square on Drexel campus

Well, the early afternoon passed pleasurably. I ambled along block after block in Powelton Village. Many streets contained a mixture of private homes and Drexel buildings. Everything was peaceful and quiet, just the way you’d wish that all the world would be. I saw many students, some on their way to or from classes and residences, some munching away or doing work at tables in a campus open square, some lolling on the grass in pocket parks. I enjoyed being a college student, but you’ll never find me enrolling once again in an institution of higher learning. There would be just too much work. In these latter stages of my life I prefer things that are way on the easier side.

By the time I made my way back to 30th Street Station I’d racked up four miles of ambulation. My shoulders were a lot looser than they’d been five hours earlier. My mind was no longer neither here nor there. And I was happy to be heading home. A few minutes before the train pulled in to whisk me back to my sleepy town, for no particular reason I took a photo of the “Watch The Gap” warning painted on the platform. It refers to the open space of an inch or two between the platform and each train car. Looking at that picture the next day it occurred to me that watching the gaps elsewhere in life is good advice too. Relationship gaps can be painful. Equality gaps are unfair and often hideous. But, with effort, gaps can be closed or dealt with productively, though not always.

With those words of wisdom I’ll now take my leave. But (hopefully) I’ll be back! Till next time.

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this piece on Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

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

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78 thoughts on “A Long Walk In Philadelphia On A Warm Winter’s Day

  1. Brockelman March 5, 2018 / 12:12 am

    Wonderful. I’ll be more aware of the gap now than ever before. Nice piece, sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:12 pm

      Thanks very much, Cindy.
      At night, that building is lit up with a million colorful lights. It’s a beautiful building at any time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Artist's Child March 5, 2018 / 1:19 am

    Thank you for the tour of a different part of you town. Loved the glass encased building with its refections of the clouds. Really beautiful. The combination of old and new buildings of Drexel College is similar to the Melbourne University precinct in our town. Great places for an amble.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:14 pm

      Hi there. Both you and I are lucky to be near places that are very much worth walking around in. It’s a good way to spend some time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma Cownie March 5, 2018 / 2:17 am

    74 degrees in February? That’s crazy. With weather that lovely it would be a shame NOT to go for a walk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:16 pm

      You’re right.
      Alas, true winter has returned. We had a snow/wind storm three days ago that knocked out electrical power for hundreds of thousands of people. Some of them still are without power.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Annika Perry March 5, 2018 / 2:44 am

    Neil, I stopped for a while on the first photo of the Circa building as I saw the clouds were different and then realised it was actually a building. Nifty! Fun to join you on this warm walk and see some of Philadelphia… lovely place and wow,such warmth! Send some over please. I liked your philosophising at the end … in the UK it’s ‘Mind the Gap’ … you leave us with something to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks a lot for dropping by, Annika.
      Walking around Philadelphia has been, I’ve come to realize, a big activity for me for decades. I think that I’ve become more aware of that since starting to write pieces for this blog in 2015.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Annika Perry March 5, 2018 / 2:38 pm

        My son teases me now every time we go out somewhere as I’m always thinking ‘could this make a good blog post?!’ It does sharpen and enhance one’s perception of surroundings, museums etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Cristina Crawford March 5, 2018 / 5:56 am

    Lovely read, particularly “Mind the Gap” and indeed, it does leave us with something to think about! Philly holds memories for me. Ran the marathon there about 15 years ago. I loved running through the city; it was a great way to see it’s many lovely sights. Still, I wasn’t thrilled with how organizers planned the race route; I mean, what dolt on the committee decided it was cool to route runners back through a loop passing the finish line at the 17-mile mark? Not to worry though….another memory which is far better….my daughter graduated from Drexel! May your Monday be marvelous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:23 pm

      I appreciate your stopping by, Cristina. You definitely have some major connections to Philadelphia. I hope that your daughter’s Drexel education has resulted in a real good career.

      Like

      • Cristina Crawford March 5, 2018 / 1:26 pm

        Yes sir! I don’t have to worry about my baby girl. Her internship was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. She’s doing well and is now Director of Design for a company in Chicago. 😊

        Like

  6. kalison0515 March 5, 2018 / 6:13 am

    I liked this piece on one of my favorite cities. I always thought I’d move back to Philly where I lived during grad school. I was at 11th & Pine, which was a gritty antiques district then and the far edge of Society Hill back in the early 80s. The city has changed drastically since then. Enjoyed how you really paid attention to your surroundings and just explored.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:26 pm

      Hello there. You know, when I first moved to Philadelphia (in 1974) I lived at 10th and Clinton.
      Clinton is parallel to Pine and only a block away from Pine. I liked that neighborhood a lot, but ended up moving to West Philly.

      Like

  7. Joyce Hamilton March 5, 2018 / 8:44 am

    I l spent lots of time at Drexel area for theater, restaurants etc but not Powelton Villag.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:28 pm

      Hi Joyce. The whole of Drexel’s campus (not just the Powelton Village section) has expanded and improved so much over the years. It’s pretty terrific.

      Like

  8. Laurie Graves March 5, 2018 / 9:08 am

    A walker in the city, and nothing like a walk to lift the spirits. I so envy the availability of public transportation that you have. In Maine, it’s pretty minimal, which means most people must have a car to get to work and do all the other things one must do in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:31 pm

      What you say is very true, Laurie.
      Philadelphia’s public transit system is extensive and good (though it has plenty of faults, too). I take advantage of it. I live in the burbs, but go into Philly a lot. And I use public transit (trains or buses or subway) on nearly all of those visits.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Robert Parker March 5, 2018 / 10:11 am

    A few years ago, I spent a summer interning at the Amer.Philosophical Society’s archive, and walked around Philly. I went over the west side to see a show at the World Cafe, Drexel, Penn Park, etc. Philly is actually a great place for walks. but now wish I’d made it to the Powelton neighborhood, too. Well I’ll be back sometime!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      Hi, Robert. Yeah, it’s a prime city for walking. There are lots of interesting areas, and all of them are large.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. tylerus March 5, 2018 / 10:25 am

    I enjoyed the tour – thank you. You make a fine guide. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. vprofy March 5, 2018 / 10:33 am

    Always something to explore in Phila? No lunch. White Dog at Penn still a favorite. I’m looking forward to some explores when weather turns warm again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:34 pm

      Hi there.
      I haven’t been to the White Dog in many moons. Long ago I ate often at Le Bus, which I think was on the same block as White Dog. Maybe it was a block away.

      Like

  12. Still the Lucky Few March 5, 2018 / 10:37 am

    An amazing travelogue, and a all that wisdom too! I loved reading about your ramblings, and so glad you took the train ride. And you had the benefit of a beautiful day! The Cira glass wonder is stunning, and seeing it should be on everyone’s bucket list, mine included. Look for your post on Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:36 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Diane. Appreciated.
      And thanks for putting the story on Twitter. I appreciate that too.

      Like

  13. Alyson March 5, 2018 / 10:38 am

    Thanks for taking us round your city – That Cira Centre is amazing and it took a while for me to actually spot it was there!

    As for “Watching the Gaps” – Wise words indeed and despite us all knowing that they need to be closing, it seems that the world as we know it is intent of widening them. Hopefully the next generation will do better in dealing with those equalities we are all too well aware of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 1:39 pm

      Let’s hope that people with good sense win out over all the idiots on our planet. The human race is a highly flawed species.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Alyson.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. roughwighting March 5, 2018 / 2:28 pm

    I grew up in southern NJ, so when I got to be a teenager, Philly was the place to go. On my first bus ride there, (with parents not knowing) I asked to be let off near South Street. After all, I used to listen to that jaunty rocking song that started “Where do all the hippies go? South Street, South Street.” Well, South Street had no hippies, just lots of boarded windows and doors and people sulking in the corners. I wonder if it’s been gentrified by now? Philadelphia has certainly come a long way in the past 30 years. I enjoyed my walk with you – great photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 4:36 pm

      Hi. I’m glad you stopped by my humble site.
      South Street was one of the best places to go (for entertainment, street life, etc.) in Philadelphia for quite a while. It lost favor somewhere in the 1990s I guess. These days it’s definitely not what it was. But there are (and always have been) real nice blocks in the “South Street” area.
      Gentrification of one sort or another is taking place in many parts of the city. I’m not sure if it’s happening around South. If it isn’t, I expect that it will.

      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sarahn Says March 5, 2018 / 3:15 pm

    I’m glad you had a wonderful time in Philly! I am a native here, so reading a fresh perspective is interesting! I’m happy to hear you referring to the street corners and building names and all that! Its really cool. I am particularly inspired by the first picture with the clouds against the building! It’s breathtaking. Keep coming back for long walks on warm days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 4:42 pm

      Hi, Sarahn. Thanks a lot for stopping by and adding your thoughts.
      I’ve lived in or near Philadelphia for most of my adult life. Terrific city. Lots of things to do, lots of interesting neighborhoods — as you of course know.

      I know what you mean about the first photo. The Cira building is something else. Even an amateur like me couldn’t mess up a photo of the way it looked that day!

      Like

  16. Ann Coleman March 5, 2018 / 5:43 pm

    Your post has reminded me that there are many areas in my own St. Louis I have never bothered to walk around. And I agree with you that you notice some things only when you are on a walk! Thanks for sharing this part of Philadelphia with us.
    I especially liked the end of the post, not only because I agree with our comments about gaps, but because it reminded me of my trip to Ireland where we traveled on the trains. “Mind the gap” was basically their motto!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2018 / 6:03 pm

      You know, St. Louis is a city that I hope to visit one of these days. I think I passed through St. Louis half a million years ago, but I have no memories of it. I know that I would have a good time there.

      Thanks a lot for checking in, Ann. Have a good rest of the day.

      Like

  17. cincinnatibabyhead March 6, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    You just inspired CB’s next song to feature. It’s been playing in my head for a while, so i guess it’s time to let it out. Oh yeah, I would probably watch a show called Taking a walk with Neil’. A little off the cuff cometary. How’s that for an idea. Never to late.

    Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead March 6, 2018 / 5:28 pm

        Spell check “commentary”. I’ll produce and you can be the star. We will get a sponsorship from a comfortable shoe company and away we go. I’m going to use a little shoe leather right now on a stroll. Thanks for the nudge.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Carolyn March 7, 2018 / 12:59 am

    I like your relaxed style of writing and it’s great to hear about other people’s hometowns.
    BTW Thanks for liking my post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 7:03 am

      Hello there, Carolyn. Thanks for stopping by here. And thanks for the compliment — that’s a good start for my day.
      Take care —

      Neil S.

      Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 7:05 am

      Great to hear from you, Claire.
      Yes, there’s a lot to be said for poking around. It’s a really good way to spend one’s time.
      See you —

      Like

  19. andrewcferguson March 7, 2018 / 2:21 am

    Inspiring as ever, Neil. I’m going over to Edinburgh to stay at our daughter’s flat, and I love walking around the quiet residential streets in the south of the city – always have, since I first arrived there as a student decades ago. Funnily enough Robert Louis Stevenson was quite rude about what he called ‘the villa quarters’ in his book on the city, so maybe I’ll redress the balance a bit.

    So thanks for the inspiration, and mind those gaps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 7:11 am

      I didn’t know that RLS wrote a book about Edinburgh. If I remember, I’m going to do a bit of research into it and maybe read it.
      Thanks for dropping by, Andrew. I hope the weather where you are is better than it is where I am. A major snowstorm is predicted to happen here today. Oy vey!

      Liked by 1 person

      • andrewcferguson March 7, 2018 / 2:25 pm

        Hi Neil – it’s ‘Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes’ – don’t know if you’re a pulped wood guy like me, but if not you can get it free electronically on Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/382 . So far as weather’s concerned, we’ve just had a few days of snowstorms (including thunder and lightning – quite exciting!) with an Arctic weather system nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’ – not that much snow in the grand scheme of things, but still managed to bring us soft Lowlanders to a standstill. Weather improving now though!

        Like

  20. byebyebeer March 7, 2018 / 10:03 am

    And to think how different those same spots will look today. Ah March. I enjoyed this post and the photos, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 11:07 am

      Yeah, we’re getting a lot of snow today in the Philadelphia burbs. What a drag.

      Thanks for stopping by. Appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Christy B March 7, 2018 / 1:27 pm

    Now that’s some warm February weather you were having! Great that you stretched those legs and found out more about the area. I enjoyed walking with you, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 2:05 pm

      Hi Christy. Today is the opposite of the day I took that walk, weather-wise. We’ve had 6 or 8 inches of snow today, and it’s still coming down hard.

      Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts. Be seeing you —

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Kimberly March 7, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    Thank you for the experience. Never been to Philly but I had a pleasant time here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2018 / 10:44 pm

      Hey there, Kimberly. Thanks a lot for reading this piece and taking the time to add your thoughts.
      Philadelphia’s a fine city in many ways. I’m sure you’d like it.

      See ya’ —

      Neil S.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. alhenry March 8, 2018 / 4:23 pm

    “…for no particular reason I took a photo of the “Watch The Gap” warning painted on the platform.”

    LOL, when I was a student at the University of London for a semester, we all took photos of “Mind the Gap” on the tube. There were even (and still are, I believe) touristo tee-shirts with that famous admonition.

    I’m glad you had an excellent foray out into the wilds of Philly, Neil, and thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. tanjabrittonwriter March 8, 2018 / 10:09 pm

    I also love your dreamy photo of Cira Centre, Neil. I find it enriching to explore places right under our noses. May your wish of a gapless world come true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 8, 2018 / 10:44 pm

      Evening, Tanja. Seeing the Cira building was a good way to start that walk.
      As for closing the gaps — well, we all need to keep on trying.
      Thanks a lot for dropping by. Have a good night.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Liz Einsig Wise March 19, 2018 / 9:04 am

    The first time I “discovered” Powelton Village, I roller bladed across the Spring Garden bridge from the Fairmount area, where I had my first Philly apartment in 1995, and lo! The neighborhood stretched before me. Later, I lived at 37th & Lancaster for some years in the 2000’s. Great to see the old hood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 19, 2018 / 1:22 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Liz. I appreciate it.
      In the vicinity of 37th and Lancaster I passed Stan’s Deli during the walk I took to write this story. It probably was there when you lived in that area.
      See you —

      Neil S.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 27, 2018 / 1:15 pm

      Hello there. Thanks for adding your thoughts.
      Wandering, I think, is often a good way to pass the time.
      See you —

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2018 / 7:51 pm

      Hello there. It’s good of you to stop by. I’m glad that you liked this story.
      Take care —

      Neil S.

      Like

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