World Café Live is a restaurant and live music venue in the same building as an NPR station. It’s an interesting way to showcase talent and combines two of my favorite things: eating and live music. I ordered a sandwich with a side of eggplant fries. They were good and tasted kind of like sweet potato fries. Now I’m wondering how many other vegetables would taste good cut into thin strips and fried like that.
The first band was Zydeco-A-Go-Go. Alan happened across an authentic Zydeco bar in LaFayette, Louisiana last summer while on vacation—one of those places tourists don’t usually know about. I like anything Cajun. Laissez les bon temps roullez!
Next, a blues band named The Dukes of Destiny took the stage. The harmonica is my favorite blues instrument and they had a great harmonica player. The lead singer sounded like a big black girl, which is never a bad thing when it comes to blues. Alan informed me she was white. It took a while, but I finally could see he was right.
It was interesting to see a blues band up North. I know it’s popular in Chicago, but it was born in the South. It occured to me that jazz, zydeco, country, gospel, and rock-n-roll were also invented in the South. We’ve exported more culture to the rest of the country than they care to think about. You’re welcome, y’all.
During a break, the harmonica player came around with a clipboard to get e-mail addresses. I bought a couple of CDs from him. The zydeco band and blues band each did another set before we left around midnight.
Sunday we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a big place and we saw only a small part of it. My favorite part was the medieval armor. It would have made me claustrophobic to wear that stuff. Alan was good about reading the information to me next to pieces I wanted to know more about. Lucky for me, I could get pretty close to most of the paintings and see the detail. I’m glad I can still see well enough to do that.
There were some impressive old stained glass works, colonial furniture, and old Japanese, Chinese, and Korean art. It had been too long, I realized, since I’d had a culture fix.
Stained glass at Philadelphia Museum of Art
On the way out, I had my “Rocky pose” photo made on the steps. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask someone or rent the movie.
On Monday, we took a walk in Valley Green at Wissahickon Park where Alan rides his bike. There’s an old inn from the 1850s still in operation. The hills made it seem like it wasn’t in the middle of a big city.
My time in Philly was drawing to a close, but there was still one thing I had to do before leaving: try an authentic Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. I love a good Philly. It’s my default order when I go to a restaurant with a long list of sandwiches on the menu and nothing jumps out at me.
We went to Pat‘s King of Steaks, which is a well-known Philly place. Up to this point, everyone I encountered had been very polite to me. Alan said it must be because of my disability, because that’s not how everyone there acts. At Pat‘s, there was an impatient, East Coast, big-city kinda guy working at the window who barked at people to order and keep moving. Finally! I got treated just like a local and, for once, I enjoyed being served attitude with my food. It was all outdoor seating, which would have been great if it had been about ten degrees warmer. The cheese on our sandwiches wasn’t even melted. I told Alan he needed to try a Philly in Arkansas, where it’s served on a buttered, toasted bun. In this part of the country we find a way to make everything more fattening and better tasting.
After eating, we drove around the working-class Italian neighborhood near Pat’s. Alan pointed out where a Mafioso was gunned down several years ago. Then it was time to go to the airport.
The same guy who escorted me when I arrived took me to security on my return. On the plane between Philadelphia and O’Hare, I thought about how I need to get out more. In some ways, I had dreaded the trip, thinking it would tire me out, that flying with my vision as it is now would be stressful. But, I had gotten a healthy dose of the city—the kind of life I’ve missed since having to leave Austin in 1991 when my vision and kidneys started failing. It was good to be reminded that I’m not as cut-off from the world as I think I am. I’ll probably never have the fast-paced urban life I had in Dallas, when all I had to do was show up at the airport, flash my airline ID, and hop on a plane. But, there are still plenty of things to experience, places to see, and people willing to assist me with all of it.
At O’Hare, I got to ride on one of those motorized carts. The driver had to beep the horn at distracted people in the concourse, oblivious to us behind them. That would be a fun job—a nice combination of people-watching and power. Then I was on a much smaller jet back to XNA. I overheard the familiar accent of Northwest Arkansas. Shortly after landing, I found out this part of the state had been shaken by an earthquake centered near Oklahoma City.
It was a well-timed vacation in more ways than one.