Join, or die

From Hyde Park, we took the ‘roo all the way down the Hudson, through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

Our first stop (and last, for now at least, on the Revolutionary trail) was Philadelphia. This was our first Airbnb experience where we stayed in a private room in someone else’s house. When we were planning our trip, we thought the ‘Private Room’ option would be a great way to tap into some local knowledge, meet some interesting people and save some money. We thought we were confident and social enough that this would be a breeze. But, like many things we thought prior to starting this trip, this wasn’t necessarily the case. It turns out that our ‘people pleaser’ personality types, coupled with a host that had many rules (including requesting we place used toilet paper in the shared rubbish bin rather than down the toilet… urgh) led to a less than relaxing stay. That being said, we were in the South part of Philadelphia which was walking distance to the major historic sites, but edgy enough to remind us of our beloved Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

The revolutionary history dots had started to join together for me by the time we got to Philly, and so it was enlightening to walk the streets and understand how each piece fit in the 1776 puzzle. On our first afternoon we got our historical bearings, skipped the long lines for the Liberty Bell and visited Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. This was all very interesting until a pint-sized, pre-pubescent, pick-pocketer – possibly in cahoots with her ‘father’ – tried to get the better of me. Thankfully, she was neither skilled nor successful at her art.

Independence Hall
Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and a lesser known attempted pickpocketing.

We also visited the brand-spanking new Museum of the American Revolution. This is an amazing exercise in high quality curation, managing to tell an incredibly multi-faceted story in an engaging and informative way. The absolute highlight was George Washington’s tent. Yes: his actual tent… the one that he lived in and which served as military headquarters during the revolutionary war. My slight fascination with Benjamin Franklin turned into a minor obsession after visiting this museum, so Erik was dragged along the next morning to the Benjamin Franklin museum to learn more about this enigmatic revolutionary character, printmaker and inventor.

Benjamin FranklinMuseum
The ‘ghost’ of Benjamin Franklin’s house outside his museum.

I was enthralled by his famous ‘Join, or die’ print and the way its meaning altered over time. This is often thought to be the first piece of American Revolutionary propaganda, but actually wasn’t created as a response to this cause at all. It originated during the seven year war (also known as the French and Indian war), encouraging the colonies to unite together for the first time in history, and, ironically, under the British banner to boot. It was only later that it became a symbol of resistance against the British. I thought it was cool, anyway.

Join, or Die cartoon
Benjamin Franklin getting his cartoon on

Philly was also a food-filled experience. We lined up and tried authentic philly cheese steak; ate our way through local delicacies at Reading Terminal Market (the most delicious pretzel of the trip, a pot-roast roll, and an Amish apple dumpling); and stuffed ourselves with China Town dim-sum that rivalled Melbourne’s offerings.

Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market

On our second night there, we were lucky enough to score $6 tickets to see Wilco, Offa Rex (Olivia Chaney & Decemberists) and Conor Obert at a festival in Camden, New Jersey. We’re still not entirely sure why the tickets were so cheap, but there were some rumblings about ominous weather forecasts which seemed to have sent the festival into disaster mode. We caught the ferry across the Delaware, sat on the lawn in an amphitheatre and saw some great music. As Conor Oberst came to a close, it started lightly raining so we made an early escape.

As we Ubered back, two interesting things happened:

One: We learnt that we had just waited for an Uber on a deserted road in the most dangerous city in America… or perhaps 2nd most dangerous, our Uber driver wasn’t sure. I have since looked this up, and according to Neighbourhood Scout, Camden was most dangerous in 2015, 2nd in 2016 but has now slipped to 4th. So I guess that’s why we’re okay.

Two: Erik was mistaken for an Australian. This has happened before, but we had put it down to people hearing my accent first, and then mistaking his mid-western drawl. But in this situation I had said nothing more than ‘hi’ so it was clearly Erik’s steady stream of chatter that did it.

We left Philly with full heads, hearts and stomachs, ready for some down time with the Amish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *