Not too long ago, thanks to a really dreadful SEPTA train schedule, I found myself in Philadelphia with time to kill before meeting Allium after work.

Image of a Train Tunnel Through the Train Window

After an hour trapped on a jerky and poorly air-conditioned train I wanted to move — a lot. I was already sweaty and grimy; there was no point in even imagining that I would be able to reclaim the newly-showered and dewy freshness that had been mine when I first set out. Perambulation seemed to be the answer. I headed out from Suburban Station to see what I could see.

On Walnut Street, I realized that I have simply not been paying enough attention to good old Burberry, they of the dull, ubiquitous — and oft-forged — plaid. Someone at Burberry has developed an imagination — and, maybe, a sense of humor, too. This lovely garment isn’t the creation I saw in Burberry’s window; I can’t find a picture of the actual thing anywhere. But this is a good starting point; in fact, it’s almost the same dress.

Image of a Gray Wool Sleeveless Dress

My dress builds on this one, a gray wool flannel from the Prorsum collection. Imagine, instead, a higher neckline, almost to a shirt collar line. Keep that waist seam which hovers just above the actual waist. See those nifty pleats in front? Imagine three on each side, just like gents’ trews from the 40s. Then cuff that hem. Got it? I loved it — gray flannel trousers reincarnated for girls who’d rather wear tights. How femme! How humorous!

Yes, I wanted this wisp of modern traditionalism. I’d look smashing in it. The $650 [USD] was not exactly what deterred me though. Really, Burberry, sleeveless flannel? Don’t tell me, dears, that you mean that we should wear a turtleneck under this garment in order to keep winter’s chill from our bare arms. How very unchic. And yet, you surely don’t intend that this should be worn in the 85 degree weather so currently prevalent? Can this be wool for spring? Wool — and bare arms — for the unpredictable fall? No, I don’t think so. It’s really kind of wool for never — but so much fun.

The version I saw was belted with an exceptionally hideous, quilted faux-patent belt, much like the one above except exceptionally hideous, quilted, etc., etc.. But I quite like the simpler belt on the image above.

Image of a Burberry-Styled Maclaren Triumph Stroller

I passed on the $700 [USD] Burberry Maclaren stroller, too. A $500 [USD] premium for a Burberry cosy toes (and a black chassis) just seems stupid. Still, something interesting is going on here; it’s not your daddy’s Burberry any more. The Wall Street Journal’s got the scoop here, if you, too, are curious.

Image of a Modernistic Shopping Center

After an uneventful tour around Rittenhouse Square, I headed back past Liberty Place and gawked at the workers clotted around the entrances, ciggies in hand, casting noxious clouds across the entryways. London has joined the list of cities, like Philadelphia, that have banned indoor smoking; you can read a rather good post about that on Conrad’s Varieties.

I was pleased to see so much of the populace engaged in something other than Philadephia’s most famous outdoor sport — shooting one another. There were 406 murders in Philadelphia in 2006; on July 24 of this year, CBS News reported Philadelphia’s 236th murder of 2007. Second-hand smoke somehow seems so much safer.

Image of an Informal Campground on a City Parkway With Shopping Cart

Other denizens of the city are simply living outside. I strolled past this encampment on Philadelphia’s proud Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the boulevard that’s “oozing with culture” according to the UPenn art museum tour map. It’s also known as ‘Skid Museum Row’.

Philadelphia, that city of contrasts, is not completely devoid of cultural entertainments. There are a slew of quite good museums, and there is also (quoting the tour map)

Philadelphia’s remarkable collection of outdoor art, which also includes the LOVE statue and Oldenburg’s giant clothespin just west of city hall. Philadelphia has more public art than any city in the country with the greatest number of outdoor sculptures and murals in the U.S.

Image of Sculpture of Big Red Griders

Which inventory includes ‘Iroquois’, nestled a scant block from the aforementioned encampment. The explanatory signage says this “40 foot high painted steel [sculpture] honors Native Americans, and its central knot shape and brilliant red color also suggest a Chinese influence”.

Wow — two wildly divergent ethnicities in one. A diversity bargain if ever there were one. Frankly, I think this construction owes more to the influences of US steel and Aker American Shipping but it’s not like I’m an expert or anything.

As ever, quantity does not imply quality.

A few blocks later I’d reached my destination. I’d heard no fewer than four ambulances screaming through the streets in the scant hour I’d been walking, but seen no actual blood shed. It was a good afternoon.

Image of Clouds over the River

I met Allium and we took up our dinners and settled down by the side of the Schuylkill to dine. A rather good blues band played below us, on terrace of the Waterworks Restaurant, and the view was divine.

Train tunnel from Flickr; Burberry Stroller from Burberry; Liberty Place from Flickr; other photos mine

6 replies on “PhillyWalk”

hmmm… I like the di Suvero’s “Iroguois” – I’d love to visit it the next time I’m down there. I love the vastness and all the angles. I fell in love with his stuff at Storm King . You can check out more of his sculptures there. Personally, I’m always for more public art.

It’s possible I could be accurately charged with a slight hypocrisy here — even when I don’t like it much, I’ve got to admit that I’d rather public art existed than didn’t. Honestly, public art that reflected only my taste would bore a lot of other people, and it wouldn’t give me much to think about, either.

Maybe, too, it’s more important that ‘art’ provoke than that it meet any specific artistic criterion. Complacency is an ugly thing in humans. But I still think a kindergartener with a crane could have produced this — and less pretentiously!

Thanks for the comment!

Mmm. Walnut St. Home to deliciously overpriced, but extremely tempting things. I want everrrything.

Such a good post. One of these days I’m gonna get you to write for uwishunu. 😉

Thanks for the great comment, Eric! I just checked out UWISHUNU — at the risk of saying the obvious: Who knew?! My next adventure is going to be exploring the site — thanks for sending the link this way.

Bit late on this one, as I read it before–but I wanted to say that I liked this verbal (and literal (and what are verbae made of but litterae?)) ramble through Philadelphia, it reminded me obliquely of our time together. Mrs. Roth will be sending you an email soon: I think you will find her current employment of particular interest.

Hello, He — Glad you enjoyed this post; the perambulation with you and Mrs. Roth is a fond memory on these shores.

I do find Philadelphia to be a more rewarding place to walk than many cities; oddly, I think this is because there is less to see. More interest in the micro, rather than the macro, I think. This may be worth some exploration in a future post.

You pique my curiosity; I look forward to hearing from Mrs. Roth.

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