I went to Philadelphia. If I’m honest it was quite a long time ago at this point, but I think we’ve all acknowledged that I’m a generally terrible person and I’m making an effort to catch up. Since moving from a flat I didn’t particularly like to an awesome one that I love (Of which more later), I suspect I’ll be spending less time actively avoiding going home which gives me renewed hope for my ability to write things and post them like a proper, fully-functioning person.
So, Philly. When we started on Mountbatten many moons ago, a couple of us decided to book tickets to the Legends of The Summer tour (Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z) in Hershey, Pennsylvania – Home of the worst chocolate known to mankind – thinking that August was such a long way away that it would probably never arrive. But arrive it did, and quicker than expected.
We rented a car (once again a “small economy” that turned out to be a far cry from what we’d expected. This time a sleek saloon-type deal) and drove up there, which took about ninety minutes and involved depressingly few service station stops. Or, in fact, zero – which is even more depressing since it’s a truth universally acknowledged that any and all food purchased at a service station is, in fact, calorie-free.
When we arrived, the town was completely dead. That maybe wouldn’t have been strange if it wasn’t the middle of the day on a Saturday, and if we hadn’t been slap-bang in the middle of town. But it was, and we were. We wandered around for a while, since we couldn’t check into our hotel until later, and tried to ignore the fact that it felt like the beginning of a scene from 28 Days Later.
We eventually got confirmation that people were, in fact, still alive in the city, when we heard someone shouting, and rounded a corner to find two policemen screaming at a homeless man for looking through the rubbish in a bin. Like, screaming. Disproportionately. And definitely trying to humiliate him as much as humanly possible. So far, Philly was not looking so hot.
The first thing we did was drown our misgivings in meat and cheese in the form of a cheesesteak. The Philly cheesesteak is on a level with the New York Pizza, or the Cornish Pasty in that it’s the kind of food that everyone in the local area will have an overly-passionate opinion about – what it should have, what it shouldn’t have, where it should be purchased, blah, blah, blah. It’s all very well (albeit still extremely sad) if you’ve been in whatever area for years on end and have had ample time and opportunity to spend too much money and eat too much junk food in the interests of forming an educated opinion, but when you’re in a city for 24 hours, the point is just to say you’ve eaten one (of whatever it may be) and it doesn’t much matter how it compares. So we went to the first place we saw which looked like it would be able to sell us some hot meat and cheese in bread, because really, it’s pretty difficult to make that taste any better or worse than anywhere else’s hot meat and cheese in bread. Somewhere in Philly, someone’s head is exploding just as they sense someone, somewhere writing such blasphemy, but whatever. I ate a Philly Cheesesteak in that there was cheese and steak and it was in Philly. And that, for me, will do.
What followed was a whistlestop tour of the outsides of most of the Philadelphia-n landmarks. Where there was a gift shop before the actual part where it becomes necessary to hand over a ticket we would venture inside but there’s a lot to do, we were on a deadline, and most places have a sign outside that tell you the basics of what you need to know.
As soon as we could check in to the hotel we went to do just that because someone (me) had been an idiot and forgotten to print off our concert tickets for Sunday night. I’d had to email myself the PDFs in the hope that I could find somewhere to do it once we got to the hotel. When I asked the super-nice man at the hotel desk about using their business centre he – super-nicely – said that rather than making me pay just to print one document I could forward the email to him and he’d print the attachments for me. Which is the point at which I realised that, in my annoyance at the fact that I’d forgotten to print the things in the first place, I’d sent myself the email (that I now had to forward to the super-nice man) with the title ‘You, my friend, are a twat’. Ahem… Oops.
The next day we left Philly to drive to Hershey by way of Gettysburg, which is the scene of many and varied events related to the civil war. They’ve preserved the battlefield in such a way that you can drive around it, by a road that you can’t actually see when you look down on it from the sides of the dip (I wouldn’t call it a valley, but it’s a kind of shallow geographical feature with higher sides and a lower middle. It probably has a name.) In following the trails around you came across memorials to soldiers from every state, as well as points of historical interest (Hello Gettysburg address, for anyone who did A Level English). There were ‘living history’ people dotted around telling anyone who wanted to stop, all about what happened. In a similarly educational, tasteful, and historically-sensitive move, a restaurant in Gettysburg town offered a menu which was split into Union and Confederate options. Whichever side of the menu you chose form, that flag was planted in your food. Because this is America and everything must be themed.
As a person whose last concert prior to seeing Jay Z and JT was Steps (and the one before that was Boyzone. And the one before that was Elton John. And the one before that was also Elton John… This could go on for a very long and embarrassing time) I loved it. The stadium in Hershey was smaller than a lot of the other stadiums on the tour, so even though it involved a drive home through the night – arriving back home at 3am and getting up for work three hours later – it was totally worth it. Not least for the street cred.