Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Mike and I have now been married twenty-five (25) years. Half our lives. I'm not sure which seems stranger--having our silver anniversary, or being fifty (50!) years old. Probably the latter.

And what did we do to celebrate this? We hopped on the train and went to Philadelphia. I know, I know, this doesn't sound like much, we didn't even leave the state, but--Philly is fun. It's worth it, just to visit the pubs. This time, we hit Brownie's and Khyber's Pass, which are both excellent places to have lunch and beer. Brownie's has a menu option called Heart Stopper Fries, but they don't taste that bad for you, really, and of course you normally eat very healthy stuff, so what the heck? Khyber's Pass has excellent nachos and also a bunch of other vegetarian options that sounded intriguing. Both places have amazing beer, and the staff are very friendly and fun. I don't usually want strangers talking to me, but this friendly-thing they have is all good.

We did not have the best weather--it is February, and we did recently get snow dumped all over us, and that's just it: of course, if I'd really thought about things, I would have gotten a pair of galoshes. I knew we were headed for an inner city, with cars parked everywhere, which makes snow removal patchy. There were large puddles or snow or both at every intersection. Mike and I made some epic leaps and did not fall anywhere, but alas, we got wet. And the historic district, with all those cobblestones, is slippery and uneven. O, Treacherous Philadelphia! When we went to tour Independence Hall, it rained. And we were waiting outside. Our forebears had it worse, though. I kept that in mind: no galoshes or umbrellas for the colonists. After a fifteen minute wait, the park service let us in to see where The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Since it was such a dark day, and we weren't permitted any flash photography--and okay, I also forgot my camera, here is a picture from a sunny day:
The Declaration of Independence was first published as a broadside by John Dunlap of Philadelphia, and it is believed that he printed about 200 of them. Only twenty-five (25!) are known to exist now, and one can be viewed as part of this tour. These printed versions are actually older than the official handwritten version. I'd always had it in my head that this famous penmanship was that of Thomas Jefferson, but actually, the scribe was Timothy Matlack. Sometimes, beautiful handwriting really is important. It was inked on vellum, which brings me to the best part of our trip...

The Philadelphia Free Library. Goodness, why don't we live closer to this wonderful font of everything that is cool and useful and good? We took a fast hike to make it there in time for the 11:30 tour of the rare book room, and despaired of being late, but oho, we were the only ones there. A couple minutes later, one other guy showed up, so it was just the three of us and our enthusiastic tour guide. We got an up-close look at artifacts such as hieroglyphics on papyrus, scrolls, and a book of hours printed on vellum (sheep skin). Seriously fascinating old stuff.

And--this library happens to have the largest and most important Edgar Allan Poe collection in the world. You can even see the very raven that inspired The Raven. Actually, this bird belonged to Charles Dickens, his name was Grip, and he was a minor character in Dickens's first historical novel, Barnaby Rudge. (Probably the least-read Dickens book.)  Edgar Allan Poe, who was known as a book reviewer as well as an author, expressed the opinion that Dickens could have used Grip to better symbolic effect in his novel (Poe's review is over there, and I daresay it's a slog. His remarks about the raven appear in the next-to-last paragraph).  Anyway, Grip's stuffed form is another artifact to be seen at the library.

There was also a Shakespeare exhibit, quite interesting--I had no idea that The Bard had been edited so many times and by so many people for so many purposes. We wandered around, looking at artwork and the vastness of the's hard to leave. And no, it wasn't raining.
Another star in our little getaway was The Monaco, a Klimpton hotel in the historical district of Philadelphia. It's a beautiful place, and despite the fact that it was clearly too refined and cool for us, they made us feel extremely welcome.  The rooms include his and her loaner robes--a gray hoodie for him, a leopard print for her, which is hilariously perfect. There is a restaurant there called The Red Owl which is quite good, too. We played Scrabble next to a mondo gas fireplace in the lobby, while drinking complimentary wine. (My tolerance has gone down. Mike beat me badly both nights.)  I am not being paid for this ad :)
We went to the Farmicia restaurant for our anniversary dinner, not overly fancy, but perfect. And we had breakfast at Mrs. K's Koffee Shop, a place we just stumbled on, this morning. It was such a charming, old-fashioned diner, full of people who were happy to be there. There was  a group of ladies directly across from us who were from Seattle, and one of them ordered a Philly cheesesteak for breakfast. I, who had french fries or home fries four times in the past two days, am not judging.
 That picture is almost unrecognizable--who knew the place was ever empty? Perhaps it's photoshopped. And I love Amtrak, too. Such a civilized way to travel.
And tomorrow: back to work. It was inevitable.


TLP said...

I'm glad you two had a good trip. Sounds great.

I knew of course that it was your 25th anniversary, but didn't think about the fact that you've been married to Mike for half your life. Good match.

Karen said...

Happy belated 25th anniversary, Sharyl! A great post and a pleasure to read.

John and I celebrated our 20th this past New Year's Eve. I wish 20 years was half my life, but alas, I'm much older than 40.

Anonymous said...

from all this i am envious about how much it seems that the two of you are on the same wavelength!!!

25 years is a great achievement, well done to you both.

Maria said...

I did not know that raven fact. If I ever have a raven of my own, I will name it Grip. We do have a pair of female woodpeckers (yes, very unusual I am told by our local zookeepers...but hey, it happens everywhere...)They are a couple and spend way too much time canoodling with each other. We call them Thelma and Louise.

Karen said...

i guess i'm invested in this comment thread so here goes was the declaration of independence first published as a broadside or not
and if I ever owned a raven i probably wouldn't name it grip but opt out for nevermore

Logophile said...

Congratulations to you both!
Philly for the day sounds like a really amazing way to celebrate and even the train sounds great, what a fun trip.

actonbell said...

Thanks, Mom :)

Karen, congrats on your 20th--New Year's Eve is a great anniversary. And as far as most of us are concerned, Poe owned the raven and probably would have named him Nevermore, too.

Thank you, beachlad. I think we've grown together in some ways.

Maria, that is precious! And I love those names.

Thank you, Logo. Philly is great fun, you'd like it, if you are ever out this way :)