1. Although Stephen and I regularly travel to cities all over the world, almost all of these trips occur on the internet, usually via Redfin, AirBnB, or VRBO. Last weekend, however, we decided to move beyond the vague allure of a different life and take the train to Philadelphia, which is only about ninety minutes away: in short, the same time it takes to go three or four stops on most New York City subways these days.
2. The first thing we noticed was that the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, despite being in the middle of a renovation, was 1000000000000000000000000000000000000 (ten trillion) times nicer than Penn Station in New York City.
3. We stayed in an apartment in a warehouse-and-cobblestone-street district that we -- being annoying tourists from New York City -- quickly dubbed "the Tribeca of Philadelphia."
4. Like everything in Philadelphia, if I can speak in probably offensive generalizations, it was so much nicer than New York, in whatever way you want to define "nice": architecture, narrow car-free roads, the fact that you can leave potted plants (and a garden hose!) on the sidewalk and nobody will steal or vandalize them. Apparently, hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people lived outside of New York City and weren't suffering or conflicted about it.
5. As so often happen when we leave New York City, we were plagued by one question: why did we ever move to New York in the first place?
6. Fortunately we ended up in an alley that discouraged this kind of pointless introspection with a "NO THINKING IN THIS STREET" sign.
7. We went south to Society Hill (the "West Village of Philadelphia," sort of), where I admired the obsessive patterns of the colonial brick facades.
8. We passed what appeared to be a non-chain supermarket on Spruce.
9. Rittenhouse Square was adorned with grand apartment palaces who seemed to have no qualms about not living in New York.
10. In the park, some children were playing with something I still haven't identified with any confidence.
11. This kind of awning would last approximately three seconds in New York City. You would put it up and find it a few days later in an antique store and everyone would be like, "Why did you put something like that up in the first place?" (And you would admit that they're right.) So much of life that people take for granted elsewhere is "asking for trouble" in New York.
12. We walked to the Khyber Pass, which used to be "the CBGBs of Philadelphia" (I think) and where, in another life, I played several shows with my band. (It doesn't appear to have concerts anymore.) I remembered standing in this doorway watching a headliner, because the stage was pressed against the window to the right. (I might be imagining all of this.)
13. Like New York, Philadelphia is -- for better or worse (or both) -- embracing gentrification, at least in parts (and the parts we stayed in); a lot of the old stores in the center of the city are giving way to luxury condominiums. It was another effect of the tidal wave of money crashing over the world. I would complain more if I weren't a perpetrator to some extent.
14. We found a secret healing garden, where we collected our thoughts. (It was actually called "Secret Healing Garden.")
15. Mary Mother of Captives welcomed us. We felt at home among the ferns and hellebores.
16. I thought about how cynical I'd become as a result of constantly walking through Ground Zero (where I work), which has become a Disneyland of 9/11 tours, trinkets, and glossy, flag- and eagle-laden magazines called "Tragedy!" I decided that the next time I'm feeling impatient, I would, thanks to a secret garden in Philadelphia, have the right words to remember.