The Mighty Big Burp

photo, eat fish, live longer, Reading market, philadelphia The biggest sign in Philadelphia that nobody reads.

Do It In Philadelphia

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 24. March:–  There are probably a lot of good reasons for visiting Philadelphia but I went there on a mission, that has to remain secret. The excursion started on Friday on the east side of Manhattan, at the bus terminal. Being in the City early in the morning is very exciting and very photogenic if the sun is shining. The Yellow Cabs are very orangy–yellow and all the billboards make everyone proud to be consumers. I never pay attention to all the surly temper.

The ride to Philadelphia takes about two hours on a comfortable Greyhound bus, driven by a former cowboy. It is safe to go asleep because the drivers are exceedingly cautious, and most of the ride is through New Jersey which is exceedingly boring – until just before Philadelphia where the autobahn passes by colorful Camden. If you have sore eyes, it is a sight to see.

I was met by Cookie Ken, who is a cousin of somebody I know. On account of the TSA and the secrecy of the mission, I will be using phoney names of real people who are paranoid. Anyway, if your mission is food and it is in Philadelphia, Ken is a guide without equal.

photo, hand sliced pastrami sandwich, Reading market, philadelphia An all–day pastrami sandwich.

Thus I passed directly from the bus station to the Reading Market. It is famous for its world–famous Amish breakfasts. It is possible that the Amish are secret too but I don't know what else I can call them. They make food and cart it into to Philadelphia where Philadelphians and tourists eat it by the ton.

However if huge platters of bacon, eggs, flapjacks, sausages, toast and jam, and gallons of coffee aren't your cup of tea, you can also have a pastrami sandwich instead. And this was not that towering pile of delicately sliced meat that you get in Manhattan, but a even greater mound of thickly hand–sliced meat, somehow heaved onto slabs of fresh bread coated with hot mustard and garnished with a quarter–pound pickle. I needed both hands to carry it.

After, burp, this repast of a snack, we toured the market, selecting some of the secret ingredients and some spare cookies for Ken. Then we drove to the Italian part of town, where one can find palaces devoted to steaks and porks, and the famous Philadelphia cheese steak in its traditional habitant.

Actually I will interrupt myself here. Cookie Ken knows all the names of everything in Philadelphia, and I can't remember anything because my brain was occupied with digesting a pound of pastrami. Kenny also knows everything about the buildings, and has even been in half of them. He has taken courses in architecture. For years.

On top of this what makes Philadelphia a nightmare for folks full of pastrami, is the fact that it was depressed for long periods of its history. This means, that unlike Manhattan, hardly anything in Philadelphia has ever been torn down. Gas stations that have replaced a stone church are pointed out as a local, and despicable, curiosity.

photo, buffalo wings, irish pub, philadelphia A third of a serving of Buffalo wings.

Take this Italian neighborhood for example. In any other town – like Camden for example – it would be a falling–down slum with boarded up windows. But in Philadelphia it is a colorful ramshackle jumble of shops, mostly for food – food is definitely a thing in Philadelphia – with verandas covered by sheets of tin, colorful fruit blazing in the street and windows full of pigs, dressed to go to barbecue.

And, of course, because it is Philadelphia, there was a French café that was reputed to have wonderful hot chocolate. I had my usual double express and noted one of France–2's silly quizz shows on the TV.

Ken's tour continued with a visit to the waterworks. This looked like a Greek palace and was once a considerable attraction, because it shifted water from the river to a reservoir, now the location of Philadelphia's art museum – the steps of which are mounted by filmdom's Rocky fans at a run. Around a corner they can have their photo snapped in from of a statue of Rocky. Or go to the city hall and count the statues by Calder. Ask Kenny!

Another custom Philadelphia has is bringing your own booze to restaurants. If you don't know this you could end up with good eats and thirsty. To tell the truth here, Kenny forgot. This could have happened because we visited the mosaic place. There is a guy – Kenny knows his name! – who decorates shops and houses with mosaics, tile chips, bits of mirror, bottles, bike wheels and a lot of other whatnots. Since these are on buildings they are bigger that stuff in the average museum and the detail gets lost in photos. His works are all over Philadelphia. Kenny knows where!

After the boozeless dinner we became overtired and retired. At the crack of dawn around noon we were at the Reading Market again to pick up another passenger off the bus from New York. Then we toured and toured and toured, here there and everywhere, until it was time – burp – for another shot of hot chocolate. Oh, I forgot the Buffalo Wings didn't I?

photo, jail tours bus, philadelphia New in America – jail tours.

As it was getting dark as we helped Kenny light the grill on his roof, under the stars. Was it going to snow? Philadelphia's colorful skyscrapers blazed with lights. The rest, sorry, what we grilled, is secret.

Then we – burp, burp – slung all the photos on to a DVD and looked at them on Kenny's huge but old–fashioned television. What a laugh, all those photos of food, pastrami, chocolate, Buffalo wings, cookies, the water works, jail buses for tourists. Philadelphia is a wonderful town where Ben Franklin once lived.

It has many very historic items everybody must see, but if you take Kenny's tours, you need to be sure he's got enough cookies or you'll be stopping every hour for something to eat. In fact it seems as if that's what the residents of Philadelphia do – the same thing as Kenny. Try it; you'll like it.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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