Tag Archives: philadelphia

American Revolution

I was in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago with AB and we went to the brand-new Museum of the American Revolution.  It’s a great work of public history.  Every American, and everybody else who cares about America, should see it.

The museum scrapes away the layer of inevitability and myth around our founding.  Its Revolution is something that might easily not have succeeded.  Or that might have succeeded but with different aims.  There were deep contemporary disagreements about what kind of nation we should be.  The museum puts you face to face with them.

E Pluribus Unum was an aspiration, not a fact.  There was a lot of pluribus.  The gentility in Massachusetts and the Oneida and frontierspeople in Maryland and the French and the enslaved Africans and their American slavemasters were different people with different interests and each had their own revolution in mind.

Somehow it came together.  George Washington gets his due.  The museum presents him as a real person, not just a face on the money.  A person who knew that the decisions he made, in a hurry and under duress, would reverberate through the lifespan of the new country.  We were lucky to have him.  And yes, I choked up, seeing his tent, fragile and beaten-up and confined to a climate-controlled chamber, but somehow still here and standing.

The Haggadah tells us that every generation of Jews has to read the story of Exodus as if we, ourselves, personally, were among those brought out from Egypt.  The museum reminded me of that commandment.  It demands that we find the General Washington in ourselves.  In each generation we have to tell the story of the American Revolution as if we, ourselves, personally, are fighting for our freedom, and are responsible for what America will be.

Because we are!  We are still in the course of human events.  The American Revolution isn’t over.  It won’t ever be over.  It’s right that we call it a “revolution” and not an “overthrow” or a “liberation.”  We’re still revolving, still turning this place over, we’re still plural, we’re still arguing.  We still have the chance, and so we still have the obligation, to make the lives of our children more free than our own.

Happy Independence Day.

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Coulis fail

I like an artful swirl of sauce on the plate as much as the next high-end diner, but a cheesecake should not appear to have just skidded to a halt.

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Is there a Philly title drought?

If the Phillies win tonight, they’ll bring the city of Philadelphia its first championship in a major sport since the Sixers won the NBA finals in 1983.

Is 25 years really a long time to wait? Philadelphia is the eighth largest Combined Statistical Area in the U.S. No larger CSA has waited nearly so long; the closest is San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose, which hasn’t had a champion since the 1990 49ers. But go down the list a little and you find some sorrier stories. Seattle is the 12th largest CSA, about 2/3 as big as Philadelphia. Their last — and only! — champion was the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics. Go down to #15 and you’re at Cleveland, a pretty big city with a long sports history and a devoted fan base, which hasn’t seen a championship of any kind since the 1948 Indians won the World Series.

So stop crying, Philadelphia. When Rocky Colavito curses you, you stay cursed.

Update: See comments for some corrections to my hurriedly compiled statistics.

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If you only read one book of academic sociology this year…

I know, I know, big if.

But why not consider my pal David Grazian‘s new book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife? You can read this with your serious sociological frowny face on, or you can just enjoy gaping at Grazian’s research subjects (a rainbow coalition of party-hungry Penn undergrads) as they detail their tactics and rituals for navigating Philadelphia nightclubs, and their fables about what happens there. Big slabs of unwitting self-revelation to be found, as here:

I ordered a martini in order to look cool, and I ordered it dry because I wanted to look like I knew what I was talking about. “Vodka, or gin?” she wanted to know. I chose gin. She inquired, “What kind?” I chose Bombay. She replied “Bombay, or Bombay Sapphire?” I asked her if I said Bombay Sapphire, because if I didn’t, I probably meant Bombay. She asked, “With olives?” I wanted to wring her neck! This b****! This stupid b**** is treating me like a f***ing idiot! I know what a f***ing martini is! I said “Yes.” What she assumed is that I know nothing about alcohol. What she did not know is that I have my bartending license and knew perfectly well that unless specified, martinis come with gin, not vodka. I also knew that I should take this question as a condescending insult, unless I was just being analytical, and she was the one who did not know what she was talking about … f***ing idiot.”

The emotional turn after “With olives?” is really something special. I’d like to see Al Pacino read this aloud.

Another high point: Grazian obtains and reprints the “LaBan Memo,” a four-page protocol prepping the employees of Barclay Prime for the arrival of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s supposedly anonymous food critic, Craig LaBan. Something to think about the next time you don’t like a restaurant as much as the newspaper did. Trust the unhustlable Chowhound instead.

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