Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 91- August 11; Half-way point in our adventures

A Prison Visit, More Art, and Cheese Steak 
Sally's Day
I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art while Al went to prison.  Since I had limited  time,  I chose to look at a room of Scottish samplers, and then joined a tour of museum highlights.  The PMA is the third largest art museum in the country.  In addition to the main museum, there is a separate museum of Rodin's pieces.

This sampler was made by a girl 11 years old.  All of the samplers were made by girls between 8 and 14. 

This detail is from the sampler above it.  I wonder if the girl in the window is a self-portrait. Amazing work.

I love this painting by Charles Peale, American,  who lived in the 18-19th centuries.  There is a real step in front of the painting, and the frame is a door frame. It has the illusion of his sons actually climbing the stairs.  George Washington supposedly said "hi" to the boys when he walked by the painting.  A good story, even if not true.

The museum has LOTS of silver.  This teapot was made by Paul Revere, who was a silversmith when he was not warning people that the British were coming. 

This statue of Aphrodite is in the main entry hall. She was made by Saint Gaudins (remember the statute of William Tecumseh Sherman I posted?- it's the same fellow). 

No visit to the PMA would be complete without a stop by the Rocky statue.  It took a while to get a picture because so many people were posing for pictures by the statue- many of them flexing their muscles.  The statue is at  the bottom of the stairs going up to the museum (the stairs he runs up in the movie), and to the right.  I assume that the supporters of the museum felt that  statue at the top of the stairs, where Rocky dances around, would not be appropriate.

The famous Philly cheese steak.  It was super.  The cheese is melted into the meat- so there is a hint of cheese, but it does not overpower the meat.  There are also onions in the mixture. It is HUGE.  One sandwich would have been ample/

According to the Foder's travel guide, Cosmi's deli has the best cheese steak in Philadelphia.  It is clear that it was chosen for the quality of its sandwich- and not the ambiance.  Which actually made it seem much more "authentic."

We did not need to eat supper when we got home.


By Al

Our last day in Philadelphia.

Sally wanted to spend the morning at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  I thought it would be interesting to see the Eastern State Penitentiary.  We drove downtown, where they are both located, and ran into a massive union demonstration.  There must have been a couple of thousand union members, from several unions.  The demonstration was in the area in front of the Art Museum.  It would have been interesting to attend, but everything was so parked up, it would have been a major deal to park and go there.  So, I dropped Sally off at the Museum and drove to the Penitentiary. 

Here is the description from the website.

"Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers.
Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.
Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone."

It was the first penitentiary in the United States.  Originally, the prisoners were kept in a cell with an attached exercise area.  Each prisoner had his own exercise area.  On his way to or from his cell, he had a hood over his head.  He never had any contact with other prisoners.  Food was given to him through a small opening.  The idea was that he would have time to think about his wrongs and become penitent.  "Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent." (Wikepedia)  Prior to this system, jails were simply a place to hold people until they could be punished.  All levels of prisoners were kept together, from murders to juvenile runways.  Punishments consisted of hanging, pillorying, stocks, whipping, etc.  So, from this standpoint the Pennsylvania system, as it became know, was more humane.  However, as Charles Dickens described it it was designed to drive men crazy.  This system is in contrast to the New York system where the inmates were kept in separate cells but ate and worked with other inmates.

The Pennsylvania system proved unworkable economically, with too much room required for each prisoner to be kept separate. Each prisoner had to be fed separately in their cell three times a day.  Each prisoner did small work projects in their cell. The prison suffered from sever overcrowding and the system was abandoned in 1913.

It was closed as a prison in 1971.  Several plans were put forward for its use including tearing it down, putting a shopping mall inside, and others.  During this time a forest grew in between the buildings and through holes in the roofs.  It also became a home to several hundred cats.  In 1988, plans were made to fix it up as a museum.  It opened in 1994. 

The outside.  The front entrance is between the two towers.  They are decorative.  There are other real guard towers.

These are the folks that started the organization that eventually built the penitentiary.  Ben Franklin is on the left.

This what the cells were originally like.  A prisoner would spend his entire term in this cell.

A two level cell block. 

The football and baseball field.

After inmates were allowed to mix, solitary confinement was used for punishment.  This is the entrance to the "hole."  Yes the people do have to bend over to get into the hallway to the "hole".

This is the hallway.  The 4 solitary cell doors open onto this hallway.  The celling is about 4 feet high.

Al Capone's cell.  He was here for a while.  He evidently had some money to pay off the prison administration.

This is a work done by an artist named Ryan Legassicke showing the outline of famous fences.  From left to right they are

The fence used at the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto.
The Berlin Wall
The USA/Mexico boarder fence
The Peace Line Wall in Northern Ireland
The Israeli West Band Separation Wall

Around one, I picked up Sally near the Art Museum.  We decided that we should have a Philly Cheese steak before we left town.  The guide book said the best cheese steak was at a place called Cosimi's.  It was well on the other side of downtown, but we decided to try anyway.

The streets in Philadelphia are really narrow.  I mean really narrow. So, it took us about a hour to go 4 or 5 miles.  The place was a very small corner deli.  About an eighth the size of a typical SuperAmerica.  It had some shelves for chips, a couple of coolers for pop and a counter to order.  In the middle were two tables with six chairs.  People who were ordering stood in line wrapped around the table and chairs. 

It took us about 10 minutes to be able to order, and the order came up on about another 10 minutes.  I am not a fan of cheese steak.  But, I have to say I did like these sandwiches.  They were very good.  They also were very large.  We had leftovers.  You all know how much we like leftovers.

After lunch we headed home.  It was an uneventful drive until I took the wrong exit from the freeway in Newark.  This resulted in an unplanned drive through Newark.  It is a very industrial town.  It was old and a little run down.  But, it was not the out of control image that one would get from news reports. 

We got back to the Mall and the Avis counter.  Again, they were very helpful and friendly.  By the time we got back home, we were pretty tired.  Naomi and Jessie were out on the town, so we rested until they came home.  It was good to see them. 

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