Fire Above, Ice Below
Good morning, children.
I will begin by apologizing once more for the recent absence of over a month. I was on vacation in Pennsylvania, and I daresay I enjoyed the time. Thanks to the hospitality and adoration of my lovely lady friend, I was able to relax for once, as well as focus on issues not pertaining to my usual lexicon of ideas and topics. Of course, after a visit into the mountains of the Poconos, a trip to the large, and ominous city of Philadelphia, and a quiet stop at State College, I naturally obtained a flurry of thoughts to reflect upon, as well as new tales. One of those, I shall share right now.
A flood of footsteps and chattering people fill the streets in a city that has grown so large, it is comparable only to a concrete jungle of droning noise, and flashing lights. The time is early evening. The setting sun casts a crimson glare in between buildings, turning them into sheets of blinding reflection. The wind, a punishing reminder of the looming rebirth of winter, stings against my cheeks. Passing by numerous streets, the grey of the scenery forces me to contrast it with the beauty that has spoiled my eyes for numerous weeks already. Lush forests, promising continuous views of a priceless canvas lift my spirits as my heavy feet drag my weary form back to our hotel. I catch the gaze of my partner, as she weakly grins and informs me once more that she is fine, so long as we’re back soon.
Though cheery and bustling at a glance, the streets are littered with unsettling creatures. Pockets of loud adolescents crowd the sidewalk, oblivious to the intricacies of city life, and to the world around them. The fleeting sensation of youth is vivified amidst friends, and with volume even the most timid of beings can be turned into vultures. Unfortunately, these entitled children are already vultures; feeding from the misfortune of others, and caring only for the web of vanity that their lives are entangled betwixt. As I stride behind the pack of unruly juveniles, their shenanigans turn from harmless banter, into disgusting antipathy. Before crossing the street, one of the older females of the group sways the herd in the opposite direction, citing her supposed need to avoid “that nasty fuckin’ hobo”. Her sight, it would seem, was as flawed as her moral inclinations. The “hobo” she so desired to evade was actually a Vietnam war veteran who just so happened to be an amputee. His unshaven look, complimented by the tattered raincoat and hat denoting his service, clearly had given the impression to the girl that he was a degenerate, looking to scrounge change from her purse upon first contact. This tragic scene, a testament to our country’s complete abandonment of many veterans who should’ve received prime care, is one more example of how our nation has turned its back on the virtues of compassion, and generosity. Especially in a city with such a rich, patriotic origin, I fail to understand why any human being could have such an outward disdain towards the derelict.
As sweeping cold drafts whistled in the distance, the sun began its final descent. Vermilion streaks sketched a skyline above us, outlining black monoliths on the horizon, while casting our pathway into the shade of the night. The smell of multiple restaurants cloud the air, as the aroma beckons passing travelers in. Those wishing to escape the arctic winds quickly navigate indoors; opting to shove past others smoking, and conversing on the front steps of hotels and apartment complexes. Brilliant lights from nearby buildings cast a faint glow from the window to the sidewalk, granting all who paid attention a tiled floor of light and shadow. While passing near a long since abandoned store, a gentleman playing the cello serenaded those who dared to traverse the chilling evening.
We stepped onto Broad street as the light faded from the sky. Above us, a curtain of Catalina blue had been drawn, outlining the majestic eyesight at the end of the street. Philadelphia’s city hall; a sprawling citadel of granite, and marble, that will cause anyone’s jaw to drop at its sheer size and architectural ingenuity. Being not only a geek for history, but a lover of the arts, it’s easy to see how I narrowly avoided becoming a statistic for pedestrian casualties that day. As I snapped a quick photo of this palace of politics, I silently regretted not setting foot on the steps myself. Now, however, was not a time for such considerations. Catching up with my girlfriend, I scanned the now darkened streets for potential hazards. I have never been particularly at ease with a dense, urban setting. The compact, filth-ridden streets were enough to make me uncomfortable, and subjecting my lady friend to the elements as well as unfriendly terrain were not on my list of things to do.
Upon reaching the corner of the street next to ours, the group of blatantly intoxicated yuppies stood in a fit of laughter outside of a bar. The object of their amusement: a friend of theirs, crouching at the street corner, inches over a puddle of his own vomit. While I can surely understand the humor of such a situation, it was clear that the sick individual was not having a good time. His friends, having drank away better judgment and their inhibitions, mercilessly cackled away at his plight. As he sat crouched on the curb, humiliated and disheveled, he did not notice as his social circle began to walk off in the opposite direction from him. As he turned around, a look of exasperation crossed his face. With ruffled brow, and grimace showing, he took off at an incredibly slow, stumbling pace down the street after them. The antics of the horribly inebriated have never truly amused me, and to this day I frown on people who don’t at least attempt to lend a helping hand to those who are incapable of logical action at the time. It’s irresponsible, and has been the cause of many deaths for those who were left to wander on their own in a drunken stupor. While I recognize that it is each person’s own responsibility to take care of themselves, when you’re with a group, it should fall on your friends to take heed of your activities (to a certain degree).
As we entered the hotel lobby, we climbed eagerly into the elevator. The familiar smell of the frequently cleaned chamber reminded us fondly that we were close to being able to relax. With haste, we sped down the hallway and quickly opened the door to our room. Within seconds of being inside, our clothes had been torn away and we began searching for our night garments. The sights and sounds of our silent room were a welcome relief, as we climbed under the covers of our bed. As I climbed out of bed to adjust the airflow in the room, I gazed out of our 5th floor window at the Philly skyline. There lay a sea of lights, floating seemingly miles above the ground.
While I may not love the overwhelming atmosphere of the city as much as I love the elegance of nature’s scenery and soundtrack, there is something mesmerizing about the life-stream of streets that forever echo with the sounds of the citizens that inhabit it. Some people have their birds and crickets, while others have their taxis, and construction crews. The sounds are different, but the equilibrium remains the same.
Regardless of location, I enjoyed my vacation to the fullest. I was in good company, and I look forward to many more trips with her in the future.