Friday, April 22, 2011

best day ever (picture parade)

I remember a lovely spring/summer day when I was off of work for a reason I can't remember (probably because my car was broken).  In any case, almost every time I have a weekday (that isn't Friday) off from work, I arrange to have lunch and a tour of the city I love with the man I love.  No, not Mister (though I do love him dearly) - my dad.  On this particular day in my memory, Dad and I had a light lunch and then went over to the National Constitution Center for a quick stroll.  My dad, in a moment of shock and awe about my ignorance to my own neighborhood, appalled that I could live near the most historical part of the country and not play tourist more frequently said the following:
"You need to get out more."

There's nothing like your dad telling you to get out more to drive home your reclusive tendencies.

So, [a little late] I took his advice.  I took yesterday off from work so I could enjoy my city and it was delightful!  Let's start the parade!

I can't remember exactly where this is (and I'm sure the owners of this home appreciate that), but it's somewhere on an east-west street in Society Hill if you want to go on a scavenger hunt.

I was super organized about my day off (anyone surprised?) because I wanted to be sure I packed as much PIFA goodness and "me time" into the daylight hours as possible - the night belonged to another terrific outing, but of a completely different nature.

Anyway, as I was walking along, the colorful window boxes and urns full of flowers caught my eye.  Please - look at those flowers - that's an understatement.  At first I felt funny standing outside someone's home taking pictures of their flowers, but then I decided that if they didn't want other people to enjoy them, they wouldn't have put them out in their "front yard" like that.

my sister was named after these delicate white blossoms

I was passing by on my way toward Washington Square, which is becoming quite green and beautiful.  I must admit, I love the Square in the winter, when the trees are bare and establish an incredible contrast against fallen snow, but the Square really is gorgeous in every season.

On the southeast corner of the square sits Locks Gallery.  I've passed this building hundreds of times but since I work odd hours, it's always been closed.  I honestly had no idea whether it was a really fancy hair salon ("locks"?  why not?) or an actual art gallery.  Turns out it is the latter and they are hosting an exhibit of surreal art as part of PIFA: The Insolent Eye - Jarry in Art

If you maximize and/or squint at this photo, you can see that the building was erected only 7 years after we established ourselves as an independent country.  I think that's pretty darn cool.

I also think these chairs are pretty darn cool and would love to have one in my home.  I wonder what one would need to do to get one (besides steal it or become an overnight millionaire).  It looks like you're sitting on a cello.

Honestly, that was probably my favorite part of the gallery, and it was just a chair in an educational room - not part of the exhibit.  I don't actually like surrealism, aside from my love of David Lynch movies, but that's quite a different thing.  I just figured I'd stop in on my way to the exhibit I was totally psyched about, hosted by the Athenaeum, on the eastern side of the Square.

approaching the Athenaeum

I love the architectural details of this building.  Not too coincidentally, the exhibit hosted as part of PIFA deals with French influence on Philadelphia's architecture.  Bastille to Broad Street is a beautiful and very educational exhibit that I strongly encourage all residents of this fine city to attend - for heaven's sake, it's free - you have nothing to lose.

I love Philadelphia's buildings.  I love the juxtaposition of old and new mixed throughout the city, especially in my little radius of "home," which roughly includes Queen Village, Society Hill/Independence Mall, and Old City.  Being the eastern-most neighborhoods, it makes sense that they are also the oldest and most historically rich neighborhoods in the city.  I could spend hours (and I have) just wandering around my neighborhood and looking at the old buildings, or the 18th century home just next to the modern, urban, severe townhouse built at the turn of the 21st century.

For another tour of my neighborhood, click here.

After delighting myself with tales of the Eastern State Penitentiary being modeled after the Bastille and the Champs-Elysees providing inspiration for Benjamin Franklin Parkway, connecting the Art Museum to City Hall, I headed over to the Kimmel Center for a little music and a light lunch.

I haven't been to the Kimmel Center as many times since it opened in 2001 as I have been in the past month.  Nevertheless, I believe I will miss the Eiffel Tower and its little airborne city of planes and trains (representing the foremost technology and innovation in the early part of the 20th century in France).  It takes such a nice picture.

What I came for, though, was the promise of a lunchtime piano concert.  I had no idea what to expect - it could be jazz for all I knew - but I wanted to watch someone other than my students play.  Turns out I couldn't possibly have gone on a better day.  I stopped to get some coffee in the plaza and nearly spilled it in my mad dash over to the small performance area when I heard someone that wasn't me playing my favorite Chopin Nocturne (E minor).  I have never heard anyone else play that tune and I think I held my breath almost the whole time.  That hooked me, obviously, and I remained to watch Larisa Kifyak play some of my favorite melodies on a gorgeous Steinway & Sons grand piano. 

After a decent cup of coffee and 90 minutes of auditory bliss, I decided to investigate the ladies' room on the lower level of the Kimmel.  Immaculately clean, as I expected it would be, the design was also surprisingly modern.  Although the Kimmel itself certainly departs from the Academy with its geometric shapes and clean lines, the restroom still made me feel as though I'd left the concert hall in favor of a hip, urban night club/bar.  I thought the mirrors were neat (circles with a ring of light around them) and as I was checking myself out, I noticed the light was making a killer reflection in my eyes, so I decided to snap a picture.  I'm glad no one came in - they probably would have thought I'd lost my mind.

I left the Kimmel and continued west, toward Rittenhouse Square.  On my way to the Rosenbach Museum, I passed a small coffee shop with the following boastful sign:

If you don't know why it's awesome to have Stumptown coffee in Philadelphia, please pay Jess a visit at Get Sconed!

I visited the Rosenbach and was enlightened, captivated, and inspired by their exhibit on James Joyce in Paris.  Think me an ignoramus if you must, but I have not been all that familiar with him.  I hope to change that going forward, especially when I learned of the great admiration F. Scott Fitzgerald (one of my favorite authors) had for him.  This is the only exhibit I had to pay for and I'll tell you - I got my $10-worth.  Go.

I stopped into Williams Sonoma for some Easter presents for my nephews, one of whom drew this beautiful picture:

I think it's called "Mommy (L) and Aunt Natalie (R) go shopping"

Anyway, after all of those adventures, I came home and made an early dinner, since Mister and I had exciting evening plans.  It was a little mind-blowing to cook and eat dinner when the sun was still up, but the flavor of Isa's 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma from Appetite for Reduction certainly distracted us.

It didn't photograph terribly well, which is bound to be the case when part of the cooking process involves boiling the veggies for about 10 minutes.  They tasted great, though, and the jasmine rice thirstily absorbed the excess broth before Mister could get too upset about it.

After dinner, we polished ourselves off a bit and then headed up to the Trocadero to see a fabulous band from just across the [Delaware] river - Symphony X

Some friends of ours were in two of the three opening bands, so it was nice to see them and talk to them, but we went for Symphony X and were not disappointed.  They put on a far better show than I anticipated - the frontman is huge and has quite a presence, not to mention, he can really sing.  They played a lot of our favorite songs (which isn't hard when most songs are our favorite songs), including a 25 minute long encore that was a single "song," The Odyssey.  As you can probably imagine, it tells the tale of Homer's Odyssey and it is as epic as the piece of literature upon which it's based - after all, it's too long to post on YouTube in one piece!

It was a fabulous day, full of Me time and Me-n-Mister time...I was walking on air and slept like the dead.  Believe me, much like the day after the Gala, it was an epic struggle to go to work today.  Every time I passed a PIFA poster, I just wanted to turn around and play hooky.  Please do yourselves a favor, if you live in the Philadelphia area (and by that I mean, within a 6 hour drive), spend a day doing PIFA stuff before it ends on May 1st.  See the website for a full listing of events, but please, GO!

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