To those who celebrated America's Independence Day, I hope you had a great and memorable holiday.
I spent this year's Fourth of July in Philadelphia.
Here's Independence Hall (the old Pennsylvania State House), where the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, and where over a decade later the Constitution was ratified and signed. It was especially amazing to be here on the 4th; history was even more present and palpable.
On a lawn between Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, a man in colonial costume smoked his pipe for a while, before the assortment of people around him sang God Bless America with a solemn tenderness.
Next came a stop at the Old City Hall, where the first Supreme Court met (6 justices back then); one of the earliest Associate Justices, James Wilson, who was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, is buried in Christ Church a few blocks north. Here two naval officers, after having paused to look at his grave, step into the church.
It's still an active Episcopal church today (and was once the tallest building in North America); its congregation back then included Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Betsy Ross.
I visited the Betsy Ross house too; she was an upholsterer famous for being a patriotic flag-maker (though there's a dispute as to whether she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag).
That colorful tubby figure in the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House is the mascot for the Phillies baseball team; this one is painted in patchwork but in other parts of the city he shows up in different colors and patterns.
Another thing to note about the courtyard is how nicely shaded it is. It was a sweltering dry day, which tended to make a person sleepy.
Though to the little girl's credit, she was still holding onto that flag even as she slept. This was on the way to Penn's Landing, which overlooks the Delaware River.
You can see the Ben Franklin bridge. And on the 4th, the USS Bulkeley was docked at Penn's Landing and allowed visitors to tour parts of the vessel.
Another Penn's Landing treat was the Super Scooper All You Can Eat Ice Cream Festival (proceeds went to the Joshua Kahan Fund).
There was Turkey Hill vanilla with walnuts, Ben and Jerry's Phish Food, a Haagen Dazs sample that was a lot like the Phish Food but without the little chocolate fish, and there was strawberry Breyers, and then two spoons of Edys mint chocolate chip (I think it was Edys, it's all a haze now)... and that's when my stomach finally protested ("Have pity, Madam").
Good thing I walked a lot today. Including a stroll down the "oldest continuously inhabited street in the US" - Elfreth's Alley (I love that name, Elfreth - makes me think of elves and eldritch creatures).
A little offshoot called Bladen's Court:
There's that delicious shade again; it cooled the air somewhat.
But shade wasn't enough; I needed water. Not necessarily to drink, but just to be near. A portion of the walk west across Center City seemed to be in pursuit of water and was highlighted by some fountain hopping.
I spotted the first fountain across from the Arch Street Meeting House.
Ben Franklin - you find him all over Philly, for good reason. Though he spent years overseas and was born and raised in Boston, Philly is his city; it's where he developed and established a name for himself, plied his trade, and undertook and implemented many of his works, inventions and projects. He represents many classic American qualities - ingenuity, solid common sense, brilliant inventiveness, hard work and rigor, geniality, civic feeling and responsibility, entrepreneurship, broad-mindedness and free and open debate.
The next fountain was in Love Park, which is a great name for a park, though I never understood the 'Love' sculpture - which is just the word stacked on itself with a lopsided O, and made of what looks like plastic.
After that came the grand fountain at Logan Square:
Here the people were naturally a part of the fountain art and architecture.
There was also a lot of fun outside the water. This group took turns breakdancing beside the Benjamin Franklin Parkway:
Farther along the Parkway, which was closed off for a street fair with food, music, raffles, and more food, people danced, swayed, and waited for the singer to tell them when to put their hands up in the air:
Then there was this guy, who started off a series of gymnastic stunts by saying, "I want to make sure you're looking at me. Look at me. All eyes on me" - which went without saying, because it's kind of hard to avoid looking at a fierce bare-chested man with ripped abs and leopard print tights who can do handstand springs.
But eventually there came a time for rest and reflection.
Whether outside the Rodin Museum, or along a quiet stretch of 20th Street.
The Schuylkill River looked peaceful in the fading light. From its banks you could watch the sunset and wait for the fireworks show later on.