Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Return From Philadelphia

All the good little historians have left Philadelphia taking with them another set of conference memories. We return to our universities and archives in our eternal quest to hide from the sun.

For me, the time away brought some good things. Dean proved a trooper of a friend. Not only did he indulge my arcane interests marching all over the city, but he rolled with my bouts of doubt and glumness. Keep in my mind, my normal gravitas warps time and space around me, threatening to consume everyone in its path like an intense emotional blackhole ( hey – everyone has their own special gifts, that’s one of mine). The past year’s events haven’t left me exactly happy-go-lucky, either. In the end, you can have one darn morose GayProf on your hands. Dean showed his understanding and was a great friend.

My interview went fine and resulted in a request for an on-campus interview. It is another southern university, though, so I am not sure I would really be doing myself many favors. When I asked them about the atmosphere for gay and lesbian students, for instance, they responded, “Well, it’s getting better.” Hmmm. Then again, it’s not in Texas. . .Why aren’t there any jobs for me in really cool places?

I also had some meals with other friends who happened to be attending the conference. On my last night, a couple took me to an Afghan restaurant. This was good because I never had Afghani food before that evening. It’s about what one would expect: a cross between Indian and Middle Eastern – very tasty.

In terms of Philadelphia as a city, I can’t say it left me stunned and amazed. Certainly it proved flimsy competition for the greatest of all U.S. cities, IMHO: Chicago.

Philadelphia had one of the greatest divides between the very pretty and the horribly ugly I have seen. The average folk must have been hiding. About a quarter of the people I passed on the street exuded an astounding beauty. Let me say I loathe the cruelty that I dished out in my own mind to the other three quarters. They seemed a bit tore-up in the grill. I don’t want to call them hobgoblins, but some clearly abandoned their post giving out riddles under bridges. I know – I can be a bitch.

For touristy events, I saw some of the usual suspects: the Liberty Bell, the first Supreme Court Room, the First Congressional Meeting Hall, etc. I would have also seen the interior of Independence Hall, but I really, really, really needed to pee (We can talk about my small bladder some other time). Briefly I thought about finding a discreet corner, but somehow I imagine that the Federal Government frowns on people pissing on Independence Hall. I wrestled with how I could have made it into a political statement. It would have made a great headline: Gay Historian Relieves Self on Independence Hall in Call for Gay Relief. Or something like that. . .

I also saw Benjamin Franklin’s grave (he was short). Then I made a quick trek to Betsy Ross’ House. Who knew that Betsy had such a complicated and ample marriage life? I mean, we all knew she could sew like a spider, but I had no clue that she was also a Black Widow. Every few steps through the house you learned about some other poor Joe that she saw go to his grave.

By far, though, Zanzibar Blue won out as my favorite place of all Philadelphia. Before leaving Texas, a friend recommended I check out this jazz club. Normally I am not all that keen on live-music venues, but this place dripped cool. Passers by on the streets could feel the cool wafting out towards them and would stop to marvel at its goodness. The bartenders made excellent cocktails, a key component for me. The musicians had talent, but not pretension. Now if only they would open a Zanzibar Blue in East Texas. . .


circleinasquare said...

Oh! You missed the mahogany and brass clutter of the Mutter Museum of medical curiosities (two headed babies in glass jars, a hundred convicts skulls, a colon the size of a sheep) and The Eastern State Penitentiary (crumbling gothik fortress prison). Both collections trace the history of American medicine and corrections, respectively, in remarkable architectural settings. The tony Zanzibar is a delight, but more visceral jazz may be enjoyed nightly at Ortliebs in Northern Liberties, where national acts retire to jam after shows in Center City. All the worlds cuisines are represented here, authentically by immigrants and as reinterpreted by the many culinary school grads who've established well reviewed BYOBs throughout the neighborhoods. Call me next time.


Adam said...

Welcome home! You didn't go to the Franklin Institute? I love that place. When I went as a kid they had some giant Rube Goldberg-esque contraption thing in the lobby. Congrats on the interview!

Dean said...

For those of you who haven't met GayProf, let me say he's an incredible guy. I had a great time exploring Philly with him. If you have the opportunity to meet him, you really should avail yourself of it.

I'm hoping we'll be able to get together again in the near future.

Lyle said...

My San Diego roommate and I passed an Afghani restaurant on our first day there. We made a note to come back and check it out, but couldn't find it again. Too bad, it sounds like we would've enjoyed it.

GayProf said...

CircleinaSquare: Thanks for the recommendations. Next time I am in Philly, I will definitely check out Ortliebs for sure.

Also, careful about the invitation for phoning. A couple of friends of mine are spending the semester in Philadelphia and have offered to let me crash with them for a bit of time.

Adam: Sadly no Franklin Institute for GayProf. Next time, though.

Dean: Thanks for the testimonial.

Lyle: I like Afghan food a great deal. In particular, there was a dessert of pistachio custard that was excellent.