Some days just could not get any better. Here is how mine went, and so could yours. Start with a sunny, warm spring day. Last Tuesday, for example.
Leave home at 9 AM, drive to the Marcus Hook train station and ride the R2 to Philly. Fare, 85 cents, using a book of ten tickets. Get off at University Station, in the shadow of University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, at about 10 AM. Walk through the campus and spend some time at their huge bookstore at 36th and Walnut where you can even get a mid-morning coffee if you need one. At 36th and Sansom, in front of King’s Court, take the underground trolley to 30th Street, cross the platform to the Frankford El and ride out to Frankford and back. Fare: nothing. You are a senior citizen, remember. Just show your Medicare card.
From high up on the elevated tracks you’ll see a lot of abandoned row houses, the streets eerily absent of people, but you’ll also see great views of the Ben Franklin Bridge, still-magnificent old churches, and once-thriving factories. Your fellow riders may look scary, but strike up a conversation (not if they are asleep or nodding, however, or yelling obscenities at no one in particular). Many will be entertaining and downright funny, and surprisingly commonsensical. Pretend you are in a foreign country (not difficult) getting to know the locals.
Returning, get off at 30th Street again and take the trolley back to the University of Pennsylvania campus and head over to the Spruce Street curb-side vendors for lunch. They are not the hot-dog stands that you remember. Your will find food vendors specializing in Chinese, vegetarian, Middle East, and fruit-and-salad. Maybe even hot-dogs, if you can find one. Get something like toasted almond low mein for $2.50, including chop sticks and napkins, and take it back to the campus to eat.
Long ago, the university bought Locust Street up to 40th and turned it into a lush central campus walkway lined with trees and benches. Pick out a shady bench and watch the hordes of Asian girls rushing by with their flip-flops and backpacks as you eat, or sit at one of the many tables on several building patios and chit-chat with a professor. I have been in Paris and sat at several outdoor restaurants, and this is much, much better.
If you have extra time, go over to the library (non-students can get in by showing their driver’s license) behind a Claes Oldenburg sculpture of a giant broken button and look up Arnett’s picture in the 1958 yearbook. Head back on the R2 again for another 85 cents and be home by 3 PM.
What could be better?