Serendipitous ventures

10Nov10

A view of Philadelphia from the museum of art

Recently I had a Philadelphia defining moment.

This involved buying a map. I love maps. I am severely directionally challenged. Since I was once upon a time a wilderness guide, maps became my best friend. Well, maps and a flask of whiskey.

If you get lost, take a little nip to clear your head. If you find your way, take a victory swig.

Somehow I got way off topic, but the other day I went to buy a transportation map of Philadelphia. I wanted a map that showed all of the subway, train and bus lines. I figure if I am going on job interviews, doing freelance work, etc., I better figure where the hell I am going.

So during a walkabout downtown, I stopped by the train station at the convention center. I went to the information center, and asked the gentleman where I could find such a map. “Hell if I know,” he said.

Those weren’t his exact words, but they might as well have been. Lucky, there were two people at the information center, and the second info guy shrugged his shoulders and said to check at the office.

“Oh yeah,” said info guy #one. “Go to the Septa office across the street at 1234.”

And he pointed in a vague direction.

“Across the street?” I asked, pointing in the same vague direction.

“Yeah, across the street.”

I needed the map to find my way across the street.

To cut to the chase, I found the Septa office across the street and went to the window.

“Can I buy a map?” I asked.

“You have to go to customer service,” said the lady, pointing down the hall.

Luckily there were large letters above the customer service center that said, “customer service.”

I went inside and asked the lady if I could please buy a map. She told me I had to go to the gift store, which was across the hall.

I went to the gift store and asked the lady if I could buy a map.

Finally, she said “yes.” So I paid $8.25 for a map.

I have a freelance job in Hammonton, NJ, next week. Hammonton isn’t on my map.

A HIKE WITH AN UNEXPECTED END

Yesterday was supposed to be a productive day.

I was going to go to the PA CareerLink office to see if they could help me find a job. Then I was going to the Philadelphia library because I read in an article that if you are looking for a job, the library is a great resource.

After lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s (it was Tuesday after all), I went to search for these two destinations.

I found both (without a map), but what I received wasn’t what I expected.

The CareerLinks office was in this skyscraper, and there was a front desk where you had to sign in. I was flustered, so I walked out of the building to make sure I was at the right place. Sure enough, 1617 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. I went back in and talked to the guy behind the desk.

“Oh, they’re closed,” he said. “Come back tomorrow.”

Doubly flustered, I sought out the library.

The Philadelphia Free Library is located in Logan Square, which turned out to be a gorgeous area. Logan Square is known as the museum district, and includes the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Rodin Museum.

The Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square

The one thing I noticed though, was Logan Square was crawling with homeless people. They especially seemed to like to congregate outside the library.

Still flusterated, I found my way inside the library. It was huge! I decided to look for the newspapers, I specifically wanted to find the current issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Weekly.

I tooled around the fiction section for a while, since that is where I am most comfortable. Then I wandered around the lobby for a bit, staring at directional signs, trying to find the newspaper section.

I finally gave up and asked the lady at the information desk, who was infinitely more helpful than the info guy at the train station. The newspapers were on the second floor, then take a right, then a left.

Well, I of course took a left, then a right, and got completely turned around. Luckily I had a briefcase with me, which was about the only thing that made me look less disoriented than the homeless guy passed out at the bus stop in front of the library.

Eventually, I found the newspaper section, which was a room full of microfilm machines. No newspapers. Except I saw two guys in the back corner with newspapers.

I finally asked another library worker how I find today’s newspaper. He said I needed a library card. To get a library card, I needed proof of residence, which I didn’t have with me.

Thwarted again, I hastily left the library (after having my briefcase searched).

With some time to kill, I decided to extend my hike a bit. I found an intriguing

The fall foliage laden road.

line of trees leading down the Ben Frank Pkwa to a Greek-style building a few blocks away, which I decided to follow.

This five minute walk let to the greatest serendipitous discovery I have had on this Philadelphia journey.

At the end of the parkway was none other than the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

No, I wasn’t excited because I am a devoted patron of the arts. No, the steps leading up to the museum of art are none other than the steps ascended by Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.”

If I wasn’t carrying my briefcase, I would have vaulted up the stairs myself. In fact, I counted, in less than 10 minutes, over 10 people, of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels, ran up those steps and jumped up and down at the top, fists triumphantly pumping in the air.

Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa

I was a little disappointed to find that the infamous Rocky statue wasn’t the top of the steps. The only statue I found up there was a statue of some guy named Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), some war hero or something.

No, I found the Rocky statue hidden in a wooded area at the bottom of the steps. There were a bunch of Asian tourists having their pictures taken with the statue, so I had to patiently wait my turn.

I vowed that next time I will be one of those cheesy tourists, and I will make the penultimate stairmaster achievement of scaling the Philadelphia Museum of Art incline.

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