Who are You to Imagine Being in Philadelphia is Better than Being Dead?

A man talks of a trip to Philadelphia, but not the view of Camden across the Delaware River from his hotel room, nor the view of the Charles River as he crosses on the Alewife Bound Red Line from Boston South Station to Cambridge, Harvard Square . . . what more, no more, to say or to write, I need to change my mask . . . telling everyone how everyone should visit Philadelphia at least once in his life, he says, but why he says it, he does not imagine should need an extensive defense; I mean, would you think it was necessary to explain in any detail why you imagined someone should go to Philadelphia at least once in his life, or if not why one should do so, at least why you are saying that one should do so, not exactly the same thing, unless you see this completely differently than I do or can or will . . . but this visit would be advisable, even if only to walk around the old city and see the colonial sites, he says, and visit the National Constitution Center, he says, and the Betsy Ross House and Museum, he says, her grave in the front courtyard, he says.

He pauses.

One should go see Christ Church and the Christ Church Cemetery (in two different locations several blocks from one another; the cemetery has Franklin’s grave), he goes on, and says more, as he always seems to want to say more, sometimes others he knows saying enough, that they’ve had enough, that he should stop, but he rarely does because he does know that they do need to hear more even if they think otherwise, which might seem to you as if he really does not care what others think or want and that he imagines he knows better which of course would be easy to call arrogant, unless you had another way to see it, understand it, know it as some know otherwise from what you could conclude otherwise by choosing another way to think about it . . . whatever that could mean to someone I cannot imagine would be concerned for this, or think this, concluding this would not be what I would do, but then there were far too many people who concluded otherwise to the purpose of Swift’s essay,. “A Modest Proposal,” which was the intention, to cause the outrage it caused through successive misreadings.

Yes, Carpenter’s Hall would be a place you should visit, the site of the first Continental Congress in 1774; Independence Hall; as well as the Philosophical Society started by Ben Franklin, The Franklin House and the Franklin Museum next door to one another; the Liberty Bell. What more do you need to hear from me, he says; from him . . .what then must you conclude from reading what I have written here, am writing here, to write or not to write, how, the choices in the writing, the many, many choices for a writer to make for his audience, knowing them being one of them to make, choose.

Of course, you should also go to the Rodin Museum–this last time we blew it and went the day before we were leaving on the day it was closed. The Rodin Museum houses the largest collection of Rodin statues outside of France . . . and we went to the Rodin Museum in Paris the last time we were there, one February—who goes to Paris in the winter, you might ask, I did, not exactly while we were there, it was interesting how much Paris in some parts had come to look like parts of New York, parts of Barcelona, parts of Montreal, Toronto, Boston, everywhere f-in’ else . . . yes, no, perhaps, how would maybe be different? He asks. Everything in the present tense; remember, tense is not time; tense orders time in thoughts, in speech, in writing, I say as I tell you what he says.

It was damn windy there in March, anyone could say, does say. I like Philly; every time I have ever been to Philly, I have had a really good time, enjoyed the city, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of my favorite museums in the world.  He adds that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a great museum with an impressive collection and an equally impressive exterior; a glorious building, I have some great photos of it . . . and of Elfreth’s Alley in the Old City, and other like streets in Society Hill . . . glimpses back into our colonial past the likes of which you are not going to see in a place like New York (only too late in its respect for the city’s heritage). Only Boston might rival or even surpass Philadelphia for its preservation of our colonial past . . . Proclaim Liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof . . . I add to what he has said here,what he says as he does through me to you.

Please visit Philadelphia and Boston, he says. Why he says please visit I am not going to speculate. Idiolect is what it is; the unique way each person has of expressing himself in his language. You can make them both part of the same vacation, if you will, he would say.

Fly to Boston, stay a while; take the train to Philadelphia, stay a while; then leave by plane from Philadelphia, I suggest . . . suggestions being what they are, minor pleas for friendship, be like me and like what I like . . . alone I am come into this world, alone I go from it? I slept at my father’s feet the night before the morning he went, the sun braking through the snow clouds from the night before,. a beam through onto the wall above his head, it was time, and I asked for them to resuscitate not knowing why I asked, I don’t play over and over in my head that I should have stayed. In a few minutes the doctor came out and said I am sorry. I sometimes do not believe that they even tried to resuscitate him; other times when I do, I cannot get to a place where I say they should have.


I think I hear someone ask, a disembodied voice, I say, not his, no, not him. He does not say this, either the “What?” or the “I hear someone ask.”



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