MapQuest claims that i walked less than ten miles in yesterday’s travels from my house to the corner of 5th and South and back, but i’m not prone to believe it; even if the distance is really that relatively tiny when being roved over by four wheels, it certainly feels like twice that if you walk every step of it and take in the sights and sounds along the way.
Yesterday saw me starting off at home and slowly slipping farther and farther into the city until i was past it and had to work my way back through… first to admissions and then retreating back to the theatre, next quickly into 30th street station and then down to and around and around the same block of Chinatown looking for a good vegetarian restaurant, unintentionally down to South Street, and finally back up to Rittenhouse Square – where everything stalled out for almost two hours as my world reduced down to two people and one tiny park bench that was put there for a woman who refused to sit still.
At some point in eighth grade we were filling out some redundant “getting to know you” survey, and one of the questions prompted us to fill in our favourite physical place to be. My partner in the exercise listed locations in Paris and in London, and others in the class named other cities and states. The only place i could think to write down was Rittenhouse, which is just a city-block sized square of green dotted with an indefinitely multiplying quantity of benches. The me of six years ago couldn’t even begin to fathom something better than a tiny piece of quiet in the middle of the knotted urban mess of my city, and i’m almost a little sad to say that today it still ranks implausibly high of my favourites places in the world. The fact of the matter is that i’ve hardly ever been to another place that would compete not only for character but for context, and in my limited experience the square still has impressive rank.
I was a little surprised that Rabi had never been there before, so i aimed our trip back towards the train station so that we would pass Rittenhouse Square. As the amount of Walnut street between us and the square quickly shrank i had this mental zero-g moment where i caught myself wondering why i was even bothering: i’ve spent less than three hours of my entire life there, i manage to not think about it for months or years at a time, and typically i just walk through it on my way to a bookstore. I suppose i just wanted to show her something that was inherently plugged into my concept of Philadelphia… moreso than any certain skyscraper or piece of history.
When Rabi failed to gasp at the tiny block of neat grass and wooden benches i was hardly surprised, but somewhere along the way i think she got the point. Of course, mileage obviously varies.