Just One Day
On more than one occasion I have dropped into a major city by sheer circumstance, usually because I happened to be close by on business. I firmly believe that if given the opportunity, fitting an excursion into my non-vacation travels personalizes the trip, and since the cost to get to Point A is covered, I opt not to sleep in, but to voyage out. On a sidebar to Washington, DC: a pop in at the National Archives to visit the Declaration of Independence. Twenty years had passed since I first pilgrimaged to the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, and for anyone who has walked through the Archives, seeing it is challenging due to the fading writing, while the intentionally dim lighting preserves what few words are still legible. Reading the words penned by our Founding Fathers should be our nation’s journey to Mecca. If you have never seen it, go.
In these beautiful cities I see the highlights that existed before me and will remain for generations after me, yet these moments fill only a handful of my total days on the planet. Sometimes longer stays afford me extended opportunities, like the five hours in the Smithsonian American Art Museum browsing among the Catlins and getting lost Among the Sierra Nevada, California. Yet, when time is not on my side, I visit what I can, ideally something new to me, and appreciate the fifteen minutes in splendor as an alternative to a lifetime of never seeing the beauty of the United States, both natural and man-made.
Philadelphia smacks of patriotism and tourism, and I am guilty of briefly taking absolute advantage of its highlights. Again invoking the one-day plan, I park the rental downtown, and step towards a group of stately buildings in close proximity unknowingly finding myself face-to-face with the Italian Stallion. As a fan of pop culture (and the Eighties), I recall when the City of Brotherly Love presented Rocky Balboa with a life-size sculpture of himself, shortly before he took a beating at the hands of Clubber Lang. I capture the standard self-portrait with the heavy-weight champion in bronze before heading to the next noteworthy metal structure – the one with the giant crack. Again, if you have never seen the Liberty Bell, go.
But the baseball freak inside me forces a visit to the Phillies’ home field. In time I have come to despise the Phillies, not because of their outstanding work ethic or superior on-field performance, but on behalf of my beloved Rays and that 2008 World Series. A handful of years before that matchup, Philadelphians granted the Phillies’ wish and built a shiny, new baseball stadium, but as the Atlanta Braves step onto the field in front of me, their footsteps count among the final few at Veterans Stadium, in fact the next to the last game at The Vet.
I certainly value aesthetic treasures that generations before and yet-to-come will enjoy, but to take one day and see one structure that has stood witness to decades of history by a team that Philadelphia adores holds just as much value. I watch the final win at a stadium three years my junior, a concrete circle shortly to be imploded, an architectural humdrum delighted for the final time by a favorite son hitting a game-winning, tenth-inning double after his bottom-of-the-eight home run. Making this stop, even for one afternoon of one day, develops into an excursion never to be repeated and never to be forgotten. If you desire to see a remarkable structure, a significant piece of art, or a fleeting landmark, go.