Day 18 – City of Brotherly Love

Sean’s Journal: Today, I drove south on I-95 through New Jersey on my way to Philadelphia. The Newark area is very industrialized and has its inner-city challenges. I saw neighborhoods that looked quite run-down and yet I have recently learned of some outstanding plans for redevelopment in this area. BTW: New Jersey is home to Princeton, Rutgers, and other fine universities. I’m going to let Vince share two of his favorite anecdotes about New Jersey. 

As for Pennsylvania, there is so much that Vince has told me about this great state that I wish I could take my westward journey clear across it. However, with Washington DC as the third must-visit city on the east coast, it will make sense to head west from there across the Appalachian Mountains and to travel south of the Mason-Dixon Line through West Virginia, Kentucky, and “that-away” toward Utah. 

I’m going to let our readers enjoy two websites rather than to attempt to convey the atmosphere surrounding these two marvelous American History sites in Philadelphia (click on these):

Independence Hall:

https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehall.htm

Liberty Bell:

https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/stories-libertybell.htm

The painting below is so well-recognized. This is an “antique” version of it. While the painting is only a representation of what happened, it does remind us of the great gathering of our nation’s founders and the magnitude of what they created in that hallowed hall. They declared our nation’s independence and determined how we would govern ourselves as a democracy to become the beacon of liberty and justice for all. My patriotism was elevated. I’m only sad to see, in modern times, how we tend to get off-track from our commitment to stand together as one nation.

Students. Finally, I had the opportunity at Independence Hall to chat with a group of college students. Some were Americans, including those whose families had immigrated here in recent years, and a couple of them were international students. They all highly prized their opportunities to study in the USA and to advance their career opportunities. Some of the international students hope to live here one day while others are planning to return to their native countries to improve conditions there. Here are excerpts from one student’s comments.

Student from South America: “I was born and raised in Latin America. Unfortunately, the education system in my country is broken and I had to learn things by self-study. My parents could not afford to pay for English lessons. My parents became divorced and my mother had to provide for us. We were poor. My friends told me America was the best place in the world to get an education. So, starting when I was 12-years-old, I learned English on my own. At age 21, I received a private scholarship to participate in a special program to increase my English skills to an academic level. I am now enrolled in the Accounting Program at a small Business College and I will eventually transfer to a major university to complete my education. My main goal is to break the cycle of poverty and to help new generations achieve abundance. I am so thankful for the opportunities your country has provided to me.” 

Vince’s Response: Sean, my friend, here are two memorable experiences from my New Jersey travels early in the 1990’s.

Morristown Area. Even though the famous AT&T Corporation is now headquartered in Texas, the company has major operations based in New Jersey. Some time ago, AT&T was my client and I visited their offices in Basking Ridge. I stayed in Morristown just east of Newark. I was astonished by the beauty of the area, the spectacular homes nestled amidst the woodland hills. It’s a classy and very historic area. 

Another Town: In southern New Jersey, there is another town I do remember from the years gone by. When I arrived, I asked one of my clients to recommend a good place for dinner and he did. What resulted is a colorful “road-warrior” journal entry indeed. The restaurant was quite ordinary outside. I remember it was located near a large billboard and some kind of outdoor sports arena. The most distinctive thing about the outside of the restaurant was the parking lot. Every car, it seemed, other than my gray Ford rental car, was either a black Cadillac, black Lincoln, black Mercedes, or black BMW. This was before Audi, Lexus, and Tesla came heavily onto the luxury car scene.    

A Rolex World. Now, I may be exaggerating slightly in telling this story, but not really, I’m not sure. I wore a pair of khaki trousers, an open-neck casual shirt, and a blue blazer. I entered the restaurant lobby and began to look around. I felt out of place. There were many couples, mostly dressed in black suits and black evening gowns. There were lots of pearl necklaces and much gold jewelry, including Rolex watches. The men all seemed to be about 55-60 with dark hair and graying temples. The elegant women looked as if they were mostly 40-45. The restaurant décor was exquisite and accentuated by what looked like original oil paintings from the Renaissance era. The menu offered the finest Italian cuisine.

Judge Ye Not. So, who were these people? Why was I here? Should I stay?  Well, I could only guess the answers to the first question. I thought I should probably leave, but I stayed. I had a marvelous, too-expensive meal, and tried to not stare at anyone in the restaurant. As I left, I felt relieved that no one had tried to recruit me for something that perhaps I shouldn’t do. Looking back, I was probably wrong to presume anything about those handsome, dignified couples. They may have included all of America’s top CEO’s or all the foreign ambassadors from Europe. Who am I to say? Don’t ask me. BTW: The only strange look I received from anyone that night was from the waiter who came to take my wine order only to discover that I preferred just San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water in a chilled glass, no ice.

Philadelphia. As a footnote, I have always been traveling through Philadelphia. I’ve had the best onion rings in the world at a “pub” in the south end of the city. I’ve traveled west to the cities of Lancaster and Harrisburg. I’ve passed through a town named, Hershey, where there’s something delicious in the air. I’ve done business in Pittsburg, the city with so many bridges and excellent restaurants. All this, but I have not been to Independence Hall or seen the Liberty Bell. Shame on me. I was usually too busy getting from one client engagement to another to stop and be a genuine tourist. I do love Philly’s other distinct moniker that is of Greek origin: City of Brotherly Love.

Bookends: (1) Stop and smell the roses. (2) When in a restaurant with lots of black luxury cars, just enjoy the meal. (3) God bless America, and all those who lived and died to make us free! (4) Education is the key to so many things.