Penning the End and Beginning the New

Happy New Year, denizens!

There. I was remiss before. Now, I’m…unremiss.

I wandered away from the lair for some end-of-season celebrating. Penn’s sylvan city of brotherly love played surprise host to the festivities. I haven’t been to Philadelphia since a high school field trip my Senior year, so it was interesting to see it from an adult perspective…and for more than a quick day trip.

Plus, they do seem to enjoy the New Year party mentality. There were fireworks twice: once at 6 p.m. Saturday evening and again at the midnight hour. There was also a dazzling number of people roaming the streets, adorned with all variety of flashing and flickering gaudiness, enjoying the various vice-fueled buzzes that would carry them into the new year. I was disappointed, however, that, yet again, no one tried to ring that big famous bell, giant crack be damned. Honestly, why no one’s tried to patch that thing up yet eludes me.

Let me in there…I’ll have her good as new in no time.

Actually, we didn’t engage in any Americana worship at all this trip (although we did walk past the Liberty Bell twice). This was more of a food extravaganza journey. The prime destination on New Year’s Eve was a tapas restaurant, Amada. They offered a special New Year’s Eve menu, which consisted of what seemed like a never-ending arrival of little plates containing all manner of decadence. It was an experience that shames any previous concept of the phrase “food coma.” The rest of the evening is honestly a bit of a glorious blur. All I know is that fireworks occurred again. Indeed.

Did you know that Philly holds a pretty much all-day parade on New Year’s Day? It’s called the Mummers Parade and it’s this insane blending of all sorts of traditions from all sorts of ethnic influences. Basically, it’s a day-long party parade that represents the blended ethnic motif of the city itself.

Not really being parade people, we avoided most of the Mummers festivities…although at some point we did get to witness drunken douchebaggery dressed in flamboyant Mardi Gras jester attire. Apparently, drinking starts early at the Mummers Parade and doesn’t stop until well after dark. Neither, unfortunately, does the douchebaggery. Needless to say, I was not expecting to encounter the aforementioned merry band of miscreants who, for several uncomfortable blocks, serenaded any woman within their visual range with the visceral chant for them to “reveal their endowments.” Oh, the shear poetry of it all.

However, inebriated revelry was nowhere to be found at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was, however, an abundance of lovely art…and a lot of furniture. There was also an entire section devoted to armor and weaponry, which I found surprisingly fascinating. I think it was the horse armor. How do you not love horse armor?

Afterward, we roamed the city, allowing its culinary redolence to lead us through its grid of diverse neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it being New Year’s Day and all, a lot of places were closed, including the place we wanted to go for what many have rated one of Philly’s best cheese steaks. The more touristy places, Pat’s and Geno’s, were both open, with lines that curled in on themselves like ravenous Möbius strips. I’m sorry, denizens, I’m not going to believe that either place makes a sandwich that good.

The place on South Street that we finally found, Steve’s Steaks, provided a more than satisfactory fill-in for these far more kitschy destinations. The clientele all seemed to be locals, which I always prefer to the boisterous banality of tourist traps like the aforementioned stands. The cheese steaks were huge, slathered in onions and Cheese Whiz (as God and Benjamin Franklin meant them to be), and perfectly hot and juicy.

And now that I have probably stirred up some strange cheese steak rivalry and possibly offended half of Philadelphia, I shall bid you adieu. Oh, but not before mentioning that there’s a lovely place inside the Reading Terminal Market, Hershel’s East Side Deli, that serves absolutely amazing Reuben sandwiches. Plus, they sell Dr. Brown’s cream soda (“Run, Marty!”), which I have on good authority is a must for a real deli.

See? I told you it wasn’t about the Americana. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some working out to do. Oh, and yes, I did walk up the Rocky Steps at the museum. No, I didn’t do it intentionally. No, I didn’t lift my arms over my head when I reached the top. Yes, I did roll my eyes at the people who did. I also took this photo, which is a lovely view of the city. Enjoy…and once again, Happy 2012, denizens. Let’s hope it’s a good one.