Duh Hubby attended a conference in Philadelphia last week and I tagged along for the chance to try a real Philly cheesesteak (Carmen’s, since you ask, delectable) and do a bit of sightseeing. Lately, I’ve felt the need to reconnect with the vision of the founding fathers. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Oh, wait. Yes, I can.
Maybe the Late Unpleasantness explains why I got unexpectedly teary at the Liberty Bell, which you see immediately after a powerful video series of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. It’s easily my second favorite bell and could knock off No. 1, Rocky style, if they served nachos and really cheap burritos in a little kiosk nearby.
The walk to the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, Betsy Ross’s house and Christ Church (where I sat in George Washington’s pew!) took about 20 minutes. I was feeling the need for actual exercise after the cheesesteak and some kind of amazing Amish apple dumpling thing they serve with heavy cream drizzled all over it. Don’t judge. I have impeachment stress weight gain. It is, too, a thing.
Along my route, I recognized the signature booming crazy of a street preacher up ahead. I grew up in a small Southern town that maintained a motley rotation of street preachers who stood on overturned lard buckets and bellowed at passers-by. So, yeah, I get it.
In the North, however, the street preacher is a bit more aggressive. With John the Baptist wire hair and a handmade cape of some sort, he lurched toward me waving a pages-falling-out Bible and blocked my path.
“YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!!!!” he bellowed.
“No, just Seventh and Chestnut,” I said.
He looked a bit deflated by this and shrugged before stepping aside so I could pass. He even bowed a little. So nice.
Along the way, I popped in for a coffee at something called Wawa. Philadelphians love their Wawa’s. It’s a holy place with an altar made of Philly-born Tastykakes in the center of the store. Lines were long so the well-dressed businessman ahead of me jumped out when another cash register opened. By the time he got there, everyone else had beat him.
“(F) me!” he proclaimed in a street preacher voice of his own.
“You’re going to hell,” I thought to myself. No one batted an eye.
But I loved it. Philadelphia is an open wound of a city where even the slightest hiccup is greeted with jovial profanity. It’s practically contractual.
And speaking of open wounds, if you go to Philadelphia, check out the Mutter Museum of medical oddities. Where else can you see a preserved 80-foot colon AND a harrowing collection of objects removed from the stomachs of adventurous Yankee children? You can thank me later.
We all need a refresher course on how we got here. And why it matters so much that we preserve the Constitution like a Tastykake, which is to say, forever. Otherwise, I’ll see you in…well, you know.
Celia Rivenbark of Wilmington, N.C., is a New York Times-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.