Day 20: Coopersburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Our first performance in Philadelphia is not until tomorrow evening, but we felt it would be wise to venture south to the city in the afternoon to scout out one of the venues which would be particularly tricky to load our gear into. The venue is called The Khyber, or the Khyber Pass Pub, and is located in the heart of the Old City and managed by a longtime friend of the Captain's. This evening's excursion would also allow the Captain to enjoy some time with his friend, Drew, before the bustle of gig preparation began tomorrow. The morning, however, was completely free. At 0900 hours I ventured into the stables and found the work day in full swing, with Bille and some of the owners tending their horses, and two young children and a cat in the tack room. Molhy pointed out a curious set of responsibilities posted for the staff, chalked onto a floor-to-ceiling set of cabinets:
Magoon and the Captain slept late, while McRage was awake and content with a book. Molhy and I went out to see Coopersburg. It was not a great feat, as Main Street in Coopersburg stretches close to one mile. It was a clear day, though, and we learned of a famous member of the Cooper family as we passed by his elegant, castle-like estate. Tilghman Cooper's annual cattle auctions drew thousands of people to the town to purchase prized Jersey cattle from the turn of the 20th century until the Great Depression. History mixed with the modern as we admired the fenced lawn: an impressive robot was mowing, which I shall henceforth call the Grass Roomba. Meanwhile, the Captain went with the others to Quakertown to rent our city vehicle. They, too, encountered a peculiar robot when they stopped to purchase some water at a large grocery store. This robot roamed the aisles in search of messes to be cleaned. Upon discovering a mess, it projected to the intercom that a particular location needed human attention. Cleverly, its particular office did not require the use of arms or limbs, so it did not have any. I dare say it could have done without the large dopey eyes and lopsided smile as well.
Our rented SUV was parked next to the Tour Loaf by the time Molhy and I returned. Magoon, as she continues to feel unwell, chose to stay with the Ugly Bear and Tour Loaf while the rest of us headed into the city. We thought we might do a bit of exploration before heading to the Khyber, but had trouble deciding where to go, as there were a multitude of paid and free attractions. "Drop me off at the edge of the city with a compass and some beef jerky," Molhy suggested helpfully. It was midafternoon on a weekday. My global positioning system application suggested that it would take approximately the same amount of time to drive the main highways in to Philadelphia (through traffic and toll roads) as to snake through the many small towns on state highways and country roads. Since we were not bound by a high clearance vehicle, we chose the more scenic, adventurous route, and enjoyed the hilly and rural ride toward the city for over two hours. As we entered Philadelphia proper, we followed the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River along Fairmont Park, under beautiful stone bridges and tall caves. In her exhilaration over our relative freedom in a smaller vehicle, Molhy tempted fate with the statement, "I laugh in the face of low bridges." As we neared the Old City, we encountered many Lenni-Lenape place names beyond our capacity to pronounce. These had found their way into the English vocabulary of the area even if the Lenape themselves were pushed further west from their ancestral homeland: Perkasie, Susquehanna, Schuylkill, Wissahickon, Manayunk, Passyunk. The transition to the Old City was clear when the stone and brick architecture began to resemble that of several hundred years ago and the streets narrowed considerably. It reminded me of European cities, with modern businesses crowding very old buildings. We met Drew at the Khyber Pass Pub and scouted the Red Room where we would perform, up a narrow flight of stairs next to the bar. It was a hidden, speakeasy-like space, that extended back from a bar area to a raised stage and listening area once famed for its draw of renowned punk-rock performers. After the Khyber lost its music license many years ago, its fame as a venue dwindled, but Drew intends to right the loss and revive the musical life of the establishment, beginning with our performance. By this time, we were all hungry, and the Captain in particular craved a Philly Cheese Steak. Drew's recommendation was a small stand called Philips in South Philadelphia. I rode in the back of Drew's rebuilt Jeep Wrangler, my hair blowing behind me in the refreshing afternoon air, grinning without end at the experience of riding in an open vehicle on such a glorious sunny day. Molhy, McRage and the Captain followed us in the rental vehicle as we wound through the narrow streets of the city. The cashier at Philips looked quite confused when I ordered a Tuna Hoagie instead of a cheese steak. While it was in fact on the menu, we got the impression that customers rarely request it. The others tried the cheese steak, to varying degrees of satisfaction (the Captain was quite pleased, while Molhy had tasted better). We brought our meal to Drew's home in a nearby neighborhood of row houses. We will be sleeping here tomorrow, after our first performance in the city. His house demonstrates a beautiful economy of space, replete with tasteful New Orleans touches, and reminiscent of a top-floor European flat. The ceilings are high and the bathroom sports a skylight. After our meal, we chatted in his fenced-in backyard, which has a similar charm unexpected in a big city. It has a slight ambience of fairies - this will be a perfect place to pitch my tent tomorrow.
We strolled together to the End Zone Pub past a block in which each yard was replete vegetable gardens in full production. Lettuces, tomatoes, peas, and many plants we could not identify grew along the sidewalk, and we could see English cucumbers hanging whimsically from trellises closer to the house walls. We surprised the bartender, as usual, with our orders of Sprites and Cokes. Magoon and Molhy are purposefully not imbibing alcohol these days, and McRage, the Captain and I simply enjoy alcohol much less than the average touring band's members. It is a pleasure to travel with a crew so inclined, as it leads us toward activities such as hiking and exploring urban areas on foot, or individually reading books, exercising or watching television, with precious little time spent spending our revenue in bars. The Captain, McRage and I do try to partake of at least one alcoholic beverage each at the venues where we play, out of courtesy. A pair of Drew's friends joined us back at his residence and we relaxed for a time, before the crew undertook the ninety minute drive back to the Tour Loaf. We found Magoon stargazing with the Ugly Bear back at the horse farm. She had spent the day resting, as well as organizing all the books and DVDs in our library, tidying up the food cabinets, and washing dishes. In the afternoon she had recovered some energy, and spent her time walking the Ugly Dog, birding from our campsite, and of course, stargazing to her astronomy lover heart's content. We shared the day's adventures then slept. I have taken over the kitchen floor sleeping area in favor of Magoon sleeping in the quieter, softer environs of the loft mattress to aid in her recovery. Having little sensitivity to noise or light (I have been known to fall to sleep in the middle of many musicians playing, on the carpet), I am most suited to the floor sleeping arrangement. I have stacked two camping mattresses atop each other, and with my sleeping bag, blanket and three pillows, find my new arrangement considerably more roomy and still quite comfortable. Next Captain's Log Previous Captain's Log