Thursday, March 07, 2013

Philadelphia Visit Revisited

My shadow on 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA March 5, 2013

Yesterday I titled my blog post "The Philadelphia Flower Show" then proceeded to go on a rant about Philadelphia restaurants versus Rehoboth Beach restaurants.  Sorry folks for that mislead. It happens every time I visit Philadelphia and experience the stark contrast between beach restaurants and city restaurants.  Probably an unfair comparison and I will say no more about it.

Center City Philadelphia - the building in the center is where I worked for 22 years - Girard Trust Bank - always construction

Now for the "Philadelphia Flower Show."  I don't really care about the flower show.  The only reason I go to the flower show annually is the bus ride (I don't drive and will never drive in Philadelphia or any big city) that is provided my the senior citizen program called Adult Plus.  For $69 I get a round trip to Philly on a big, comfortable bus and a ticket to the flower show.  I use the trip as an excuse to visit Philadelphia where I used to live and work for many years.  The annual trip to the flower show also gives me an opportunity to see my longtime friend (and co-worker) Don. I also like to walk around center city Philly, visit my former workplace and home and see the changes for myself in person.  I always look forward to this visit every year.  As I said before, I could care less about the flower show.  It doesn't impress me.  I'm happy for the folks who put it together but, for me, going with the lava flow crowd to see a lot of potted plants half wilted does nothing for me.

Philadelphia Flower Show crowds - where are the plants? This is a vendor show now

This year, when I got off the bus at 10:30 am I immediately took a self-directed tour of city hall, the plaza, Suburban Station and the Ritz Hotel, which used to be Girard/Mellon Bank where I worked for so many years.  I was to meet my friend Don for lunch at 12:00 so I could take my time unencumbered to visit and relive memories.  

Interior of the bank where I used to work - now the Ritz Hotel - the irony - the bank I used to work for is now a hotel and this former banker now works as a front desk clerk at a hotel

Fortunately the weather cooperated.  The skies were clear blue and the air brisk.  Perfect for taking pictures.  

The Ritz Hotel Philadelphia, PA - formerly Girard Bank where I worked from 1965 to 1986
I especially wanted to take pictures of Suburban Station where I spent eleven years commuting daily from Philadelphia to Downingtown.  I realized that I didn't have any pictures of Suburban Station and I wanted to rectify that situation.
Philadelphia Suburban Station - much cleaner than I remember it

One thing I noticed immediately about center city Philly, especially around City Hall.  Construction is still going on, even after I left the city in 1994.  Scaffolding, entrances blocked, empty lots, etc.  Even when I worked in center city Philly I often wondered "Will they ever finish construction?"  Apparently not.

The immaculate Suburban Station ticket windows - spent plenty of moolah here over the years I commuted

One thing that surprised me though was how spotless Suburban Station was.  When I used to commute, Suburban Station was grungy an smelled on urine.  That as a result of all the homeless who camped out there.  Oh yes, I encountered the homeless again, reminding me of one of the reasons I quit my job and left Philly.  Oh yes, THOSE memories.  How quickly I forgot.

Train platform at Suburban Station - oh the many a day I spent waiting for the R-5 train on this platform

After meeting my friend Don for lunch (a long and leisurely lunch by the way, something that is frowned upon in Rehoboth Beach restaurants where the emphasis is on volume and not patron satisfaction; money's to be made you know - get 'em in and get 'em out), I went back to the Convention Center to meet my friends (former high school classmates) who took the train down for the flower show.  

"Danny's" - I see some things haven't changed since I left the city - this near where I met my friend Don for lunch

At 2:30 was when I finally entered the flower show and as expected, the crowds were there and the semi-wilted potted plants were there (some semi-wilted people too).  It didn't take me too long to hook up with my friends Bill, Janet, Jack and Patty.  Patty had a display which won second prize.  It was nice but I think just about everyone wins a prize at the flower show.  The awards given at the flower show are sort of like the awards the kiddies get in school these days, everyone wins.  

My friends (and former high school classmates) who I met at the flower show.  Two of whom lost their spouses to cancer.  They offered me support for my upcoming treatment.  Much appreciated.  
We met up and had a good reunion.  Took some pictures, gave each other our latest medical histories (a common subject of conversation for a meeting of 71 year olds - Class of 59 remember?), and told some funny stories (we still have a sense of humor with a touch or irony since none of us is long for this  earthly existence).  

My two friends who both lost their spouses last year to cancer - the both advised me to not let cancer affect my life - live your life to it's fullest which you can see this trio of 71 year olds can still have fun!

One thing I know for sure, this is my last flower show.  If I visit Philadelphia again either Bill and I will drive up or I'll take the train from Downingtown.

On the way home!





18 comments:

  1. A good day well-shared. You're fortunate to have friends that go so far back.

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    1. Geo,

      Yes, I am very fortunate to have so many friends who go back to grade school. We know and understand each other thoroughly. A very comfortable relationship.

      Ron

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  2. nice pix!

    suburban station was cleaned up in the past 5 years. it is so different!

    the construction in front of city hall west plaza will provide benches, greenery, new SEPTA entrances, etc. this construction began about 1 year ago.

    I see you also went into wanamakers (I can never bring myself to call it macy's).

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    1. Anne Marie,

      I was shocked at how clean Suburban Station was. Dumfounded. All the years I used it, it was a mess. Dark, sticky and usually smelled of stale urine. Now that what City Hall Plaza and City Hall is. Things got switched.

      Ron

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  3. Ron,

    "For $69 I get a round trip to Philly on a big, comfortable bus and a ticket to the flower show." Didn't you tell me it was a tiny, cramped bus and that was the reason you wouldn't go again?

    Lar

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    1. Lar,

      I USED TO GET on a big, comfortable bus. They changed it this trip, that's why I'm not going with them again. I take a bus for long trips, not a pick-up truck with a camper top on the back. I'm still sore from being cramped up for 2 1/2 hours and feeling every bump on the road on the trip up and back. As the raven said "Nevermore!"

      Ron

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  4. Dear Ron: I read your blog all the time and always enjoy it. Ages ago, you mentioned Wanamakers in a post; I used to go there often w/my grandmother, and just seeing the name brought back so many memories. When I was first out of college I worked in Center City and took the train in from Yardley every day. Boy, does Suburban Station look a lot nicer! I live in Ohio now, so thank you for the pictures and stories about places I knew well.

    Best wishes!

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    1. Mabel,

      Good to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate it. I used to shop in Wanamaker's almost every day for lunch. My best friend also worked there. "Wanny's" was almost like a second home to me and God did I spend the money there over the years. When I was up there Tuesday I spent almost a $100! They had a 60% off sale on shirts and ties, my downfall when I used to work in Philly.

      The streets aren't as nice in and around City Hall now but Suburban Station was immaculate. I don't know what the deal was there but it was nice! A very pleasant surprise. But once I went out of the station to City Hall Plaza it was crummy again, just the opposite of when I used to work there when Suburban Station was run down and City Hall and Chestnut and Walnut Streets were nice and clean. Always interesting revisiting Philly, reliving old memories and see the changes.

      Ron

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  5. You used your Philadelphia time very wisely and took some good photos! And you managed to pack more into one day than I do in a month. Maybe two months.

    That flower show seemed about as exciting as a cotton grower's convention here in West TX.

    By the way, I like the shadow photo!

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    1. Jon,

      That shadow picture wasn't planned. I happened to see it through my viewfinder and thought it would make a cool picture. We had the same thought!

      Yes I did use my Philly time wisely. I was very please with the flow of the day. As I said before the on,y downside was the so-called "bus" that they cheated out on us. I'll never go to Philly that way again.

      Ron

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  6. So why is this your last flower show when you enjoy the trip and seeing your friends so much, if not to see the flowers? Can you still take the bus at other times or events to center city Philadelphia?

    When I saw the picture with the construction, my first thought was: haven't they finished that yet? Maybe they have a "big dig" in progress!

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    1. David,

      I'll go to Philly again to see my friends but I will never that the Adult Plus bus again. It wasn't even a bus but instead an extended pick up truck with a cab top on the backpack. Very uncomfortable for a 2 1/2 hour ride. Pack in and feel every bump in the road. My back is still sore.

      The construction in Philly will never end. I can see that now. At one time I foolishly thought it would and center city Philly would be complete. Not happening.

      Ron

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  7. Sounds like a good time, even if you did have to make an appearance at the flower show. I agree with you, I don't know why I'd want to go to a flower show. I do enjoy riding public transportation to and in big cities. I think maybe it's rather self-satisfying to realize you got there and back without getting lost!

    Cool trip!
    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,
      I know my way around Philly. I would like to go to New York City for one of those day trips but I'm afraid I would get lost or end up in the wrong neighborhood. Also there is the problem of toilet facilities. I know where they are in Philly and Washington. I went to Baltimore a few years ago and had a devil of a time finding a bathroom. Finally had to go into a crowded restaurant and order something just so I could use the bathroom.

      Ron

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  8. Randy in NEB.1:52 AM

    Ron, I'm so glad you had a nice time on your trip. Too bad the ride there sucked, and not in a good way! Can I ask, did you get any thing good at Macy's (Wanamaker's out of respect to Anne Marie).I regret not going to NYC when I had the chance, I wouldn't go now unless I knew some body there. I've been to LA, Chicago,most of the other big cities,Never in the very north east. Flew into Philly's airport years ago for a plane change. Know what you mean about trying to find a bathroom. When I was younger and went to bars,the first thing I'd do is check for hot guys now at 54 I look were's the men's room at! Then check for hot guys, I'm not dead yet. Thanks again for sharing your photos of your trip to Philly. Randy.

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    1. Randy,

      I will always think of Macy's in Philadelphia as Wanamakers too. Same store, same eagle in the center court. So many years I spent at that store both physically and monetarily.

      I've never been to Chicago or Los Angeles. Would like to go someday but like you, I won't go alone. I don't mind visiting Philly alone, in fact I prefer to visit alone and unencumbered. But visiting a new city and exploring it with a friend is so much better than struggling alone to figure out where everything this. I would like to go to New York again but only with someone who knows their way around.

      Checking for hot guys eh? I don't even think about that now although I did see a hottie when I was having lunch with my friend Don. We were making eye contact and if I was alone I might have started a conversation. But alas, my days of "encounters" are long gone. I've meet too many guys who are HIV-positive in the last ten years. Any friendships now will have to be platonic.

      Ron

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  9. Sounds like a great outing. My first real visit to Philadelphia was just a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed it far more than I expected (though I did get lost in a neighborhood near the historic battleship where I was momentarily worried for my future). I'm an avid gardener, the Flower Show is something I hope to do myself one dayu.

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    1. The Geezers,

      I always enjoy my trips to the Flower Show and Philadelphia. One good thing about Philadelphia and me, I know my way around and am thus very unlikely to find myself in the wrong neighborhood, which is very easy to do if you're unfamiliar with Philadelphia.

      Ron

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