Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Trip - Philadelphia

We drove over to Philadelphia this morning. My back was somewhat improved after a day of rest and one of those ThermaCare Heat Wraps, which lasted way more than the promised 8 hours. I put on the second wrap before we left for Philadelphia. This was a challenge (the first one was too), because I have a pear shape with a smallish waist and curvy hips, so when I need something wrapped around my hips, it always manages to slide up to my waist where it does no good. But I figured out how to secure the wrap (big enough to go around most beer bellies) so it stayed in place and warmed the right spot.

It rained all morning, sometimes hard, sometimes not, sometimes with the wind blowing. It even ruffled the feathers of the pigeons, who looked pitiful.

Outside the Independence Hall Visitor Center, where we went to pick up our tour tickets for Independence Hall, some people from Code Pink were getting set up. It was pretty exciting to see some real live Code Pink people with my very own eyes. I wanted to ask them what they were planning there, but we were running short on time.

Still, when we got back, I looked up the website they had listed (in pink) at the bottom of their banner, and learned it was the "October 27th Regional (Philadelphia) Peace Action with United for Peace & Justice."

On Saturday, October 27th, people from all walks of life will gather in 10 sites around the country for massive regional demonstrations....--you can join the Human Chain, which will go from the VA Hospital on Woodland Ave to Independence Mall in the morning...--and a Big Rally/Concert on Independence Mall in the afternoon, with speakers and entertainment. We the People must end this war!

We didn't rally with them. Instead we walked over to the Liberty Bell Center. The beginning of the displays give some of the history of the bell itself. Then they have memorabilia over time, with items that used the Liberty Bell logo, from gold-leaf designs on chair backs to the wrappers on restaurant butter pats. And then comes the Bell itself, in front of a full-walled window, Independence Hall behind it (not shown here).

After that, we walked to Campo's for a Philly Cheesesteak, about five or so blocks away. The rain and wind had picked up, and my umbrella--one of the kind that comes free with the purse you wanted--started breaking one spine at a time. It wasn't long before I was protected by only half an umbrella. I left my purse, worn as a backpack, to its fate and protected my camera in front.

We crossed raging rivers at each intersection and made it to Campo's relatively intact but wet-jeaned. The Works for each of us vastly improved our disposition. My mom couldn't finish hers, so she had the second half wrapped to go, and we started back to Independence Hall for our tour. I got my umbrella to look normal, but that only lasted for a brief time, and then a gust of wind blew it irreparably inside out. A man standing in a doorway was watching me fight with the thing. I forced it back open again, but only for a moment, and then I had to laugh. The man laughed too, and so did my mom. It was her umbrella, so I asked for her permission to pitch it in the trash.

She gave it, then right after I threw mine away, hers turned inside-out too. We laughed some more and got hers fixed again.

A black man came down the street to my mom and called her, "Mom." He said he missed his mom and liked to help people like her. He gave my mom his umbrella, a much nicer one than hers. Then he asked if we had a sandwich he could have to share with the other homeless people he hangs with. We gave him my mom's half-sandwich, and we felt as though we'd come out on the better end of that bargain.

We got to Independence Hall in plenty of time for our tour. There was a British couple waiting for the same tour, and I asked them why they would come to a place that honors the rejection of their rule. But they said that everyone eventually rejected their rule. They came because they love history.

Our tour guide was a Park Ranger, and he took us to two rooms in the Pennsylvania State House (it wasn't called "Independence Hall" until early in the nineteenth century, when French Gen. Lafayette visited and used the term). The first room was the courtroom, the first appeals court in America, and where British law had prevailed.

The Ranger gave us some important dates. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee called for Independence. On July 2, the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented and accepted, but there were objections to some of the wording, so over the next two days, 81 changes were made. On July 4, the Declaration of Independence as we know it was adopted. On July 8, the Declaration was read aloud to over 1,000 people assembled in front of the State House. On August 2, the final copy was signed by most of the eventual signers.

After the July 8 reading of the Declaration, many of the people assembled there rushed into the State House courtroom and removed this emblem of the British Crown from the wall behind the judges' bench. It was made of wood, gilded and painted, and weighed 200 lbs., and it represented the sovereignty of the King of England. The people burned it.

The Assembly room, not the courtroom, is where most of the Independence action happened. This is not the full view of the room.

This is where the questions of the day were debated, in the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress. In the Second, their discussions were so secret, they kept all the doors and windows closed even in the heat of summer, to keep others from overhearing. This is where Independence was proposed, declared, and adopted. And later, after the Revolutionary War was won, this is where the Constitutional Convention met, with George Washington presiding, seated in the chair to the back right in the picture.

At only a half hour, our tour was much too short, without enough time to soak it all in. Our Ranger made himself available for questions by the door, but I didn't have any. We walked to our car, too wet and tired to see any of the other sights in town but happy to have come.

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