Rich Wilhelm

Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Coltrane in the Nor’easter

In jazz, John Coltrane, music, North Philadelphia, Philadelphia, poem on April 4, 2018 at 7:14 pm

29th and Diamond, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 2, 2018

Coltrane in the Nor’easter

gazes over the old neighborhood

from his vantage point at 29th and Diamond.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

recalls struggle and triumph in his house on 33rd,

now with a sign noting his long-ago presence.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

is poised to play his saxophone,

but his lips never touch the instrument.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

remembers the nearby, long-lost jazz clubs

where he honed his craft:

820 Club

Café Society

Crystal Ball

Web Bar

Sun Ray

Blue Note.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

meditates on afterhours sessions at the Woodbine

with Tyner, Pope, Ali, Smith, Morgan, Golson, and Philly Joe Jones.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

knows his sheets of sound would rage

wild and free amid these sheets of snow

and yet, his lips never touch the instrument.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

has never heard of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Trump,

and even if he had, his mind would be elsewhere.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

might wonder why everyone from Bono

to Sheryl Crow

to some guy in Phoenixville

feels the need to invoke his name.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

could impart great wisdom

to the father and son talking Kanye and Kendrick

in the car below him.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

is one of my favorite things.


Coltrane in the Nor’easter

prays that each of us will someday encounter

a Love Supreme.


Sunday Morning, North Broad Street, Part 2: The Divine Lorraine Hotel

In Divine Lorraine Hotel, Uncategorized on September 4, 2016 at 10:28 pm

The sign atop the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. The only other sign in the city that is arguably as iconic would be the PSFS sign.

Part 2 of 2 of Rich and Chris’ Sunday morning exploration of North Broad Street.

After Chris and I had taken our last photos at the Beury Building, I thought it might be fun to visit the Divine Lorraine Hotel as well. There is a simple way to get from the Beury to the Lorraine: turn left on Broad Street and drive until you see the can’t-miss-it hotel looming above you on your left.

I chose a less-simple way, for one good reason: if I had straight down Broad Street, I would have passed Johnson Hall at Temple University. This is where my older son Jimmy is currently residing and I am quite frankly not certain he would have appreciated a drop-in visit from Chris and me at 8:30 this morning, as he was probably sleeping off the effects of the first day of the Made in America festival, in preparation for today’s second installment of that Jay-Z curated mega-jam concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Therefore, to avoid the temptation to wake Jimmy up–and thus, annoy him–I drove north on Broad to the Roosevelt Boulevard. Turned left and drove to the Ridge Avenue exit. Left onto Ridge, past Laurel Hill Cemetery–where Beury Building namesake Charles Beury is buried–and continuing on Ridge until it intersects with Broad Street, at the exact spot where one can find the Divine Lorraine Hotel.

But that’s not the only reason took the lesser-direct route. There is also this: as someone who has lived around Philadelphia my entire life, I know certain places. In this case, the Beury Building. Temple University. Laurel Hill Cemetery. Divine Lorraine Hotel. But, aside from looking at a map, I don’t really know how these places are spatially related to each other until I start driving around, driving from one place to another along routes I may not have taken before. That kind of connecting the dots is fascinating to me and it reminds me of how fascinated I am by the neural connections each of us can sometimes make from one seemingly unrelated idea to another.

But I digress.

I easily found a spot to park behind the Lorraine and soon Chris and I were busy taking photos of it. Perhaps at this point, some history is in order.

The building that has become known as the Divine Lorraine Hotel was completed in 1894. The ornate Victorian style of the building was actually going out of style at just the time the building was completed. In 1948, the building was purchased by Father Divine, the well-known leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. Father Divine soon made the Divine Lorraine the first higher-class hotel in the United States to be fully racially integrated, though guests had to agree to special rules dictated by the tenets of Father Divine’s religion.

Since the movement sold the building about 20 years ago, it has gone through a period of serious deterioration, but is currently being renovated, with a completion date of March 2017. This explains why much of the building is currently covered in scaffolding. With this renovation, the Divine Lorraine appears to have a stronger lease on continued life than the Beury Building does, but only time will tell how either building will fare in the coming decades.

For now though, here is what the Divine Lorraine looked like today, September 4, 2016.


View from behind. Not only I had never walked around the Divine Lorraine area before, I had really seen the building from this angle, even in a car.


You GO GiRL!


UR Divine.


Just like the Beury Building, Chris had been wanting to see the Divine Lorraine up close for a while.


Detail, Divine Lorraine Hotel.


Detail, Divine Lorraine Hotel


Father Divine established the Divine Lorraine as the first major racially integrated hotel in the United States.


Chris has been visiting Pennsylvania Historic Markers, such as this one for Father Divine.


I wasn’t as serious as I appear to be here.


Current state of front door, Divine Lorraine Hotel.


South side of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Most of the rest of the building is currently under scaffolding.


Finally, here is Chris taking photos of the Divine Lorraine Hotel with his tablet. Soon after I took this photo, we headed back out Ridge Avenue, with a quick stop at Laurel Hill Cemetery, before heading back home.















Sunday Morning, North Broad Street, part 1: The Beury Building

In abandoned buildings, architecture, Philadelphia on September 4, 2016 at 8:35 pm

The National Bank of North Philadelphia, aka the Beury Building, aka the Boner 4ever Building.  Intersection of Broad Street, Erie Avenue and Germantown Avenue Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sunday morning, Sept. 4, 2016

Entry one of two on how Chris and I spent our Sunday morning.

My son Chris woke up early this Sunday morning, looking for something to do. It seemed like a good time to check out the Beury Building.

Taking a closer look at this classic work of architecture, which is on the National Register of Historic Sites–but, which also has an uncertain future–has been on the agenda for nearly a year. We first noticed it driving down North Broad Street on our way to an open house at Temple University last fall. Our older son Jimmy, was very interested in Temple and is now, in fact, a brand new freshman there.

The Beury dominates the intersection of Broad Street, Erie Avenue, and Germantown Avenue, though of course it was the “Boner 4Ever” graffiti that prompted a chortle from Jimmy’s throat. That detail flew directly over Chris, but the building itself did not, as Chris is very interested in architecture, particularly abandoned buildings.

We’ve driven past the Beury a few times since then, each time whetting Chris’ desire to get a closer look at it. Today was finally the day.

Some brief history: the Beury was completed in 1926 and was originally simply known as the National Bank of North Philadelphia. The building became known as the Beury Building because the first president of the bank was Charles E. Beury, who was also the second president of Temple.

Of course, these days the Beury is often thought of as the Boner 4Ever Building, apparently thanks to two intrepid graffiti artists who often work in tandem, and whose tags are “Boner” and “4Ever.” At least that’s what the Internet tells me. “Boner 4Ever” tags are painted on both the north and south walls of the building.

The Beury has been empty for decades, though it is on the National Register of Historic Sites. Idealistic plans for a Beury Building revival do exist, though realistically, such plans face enormous challenges.

The trip to and from the Beury from Phoenixville is relatively straightforward, but there is rarely a time/day during which you can make that journey without hitting some major traffic. Sunday morning, before 8:00 a.m., however, is eminently doable. Chris was amazed at how empty the normally clogged Schuylkill Express was. From the Expressway, we hit Route 1 north–the infamous Roosevelt Boulevard–until we exited onto 611, Broad Street. From there it is just a mile or so to the Beury.

North Broad was quiet this morning, though people were out and about. Some people were going to church; some to work. I noticed two men exiting a “gentlemen’s club” across the street from the Beury. Not sure if they were headed to church, but who am I to say?

I found a very convenient spot to park–a Checkers restaurant right next to the Beury and the small building that sits next to it. Chris and I each took a bunch of photos, though we neglected to take shots of each other  and I forgot to use my random arty shot filter (not the technical term) to add odd effects. No matter though. We got some good photos and maybe someday we can get a few more. I am hopeful that the Beury will continue to stand for us to return sometime.

Now, here are some of my photos.


An imposing shot of the south wall, though this photo probably doesn’t do the building justice. Here though, we see “Forever,” rather than the “4Ever” on the north side. Also, notice the vegetation growing way up on the top floor.


The small building in the foreground houses a barbershop. Not open during our early Sunday morning visit, but I wish it had been. I could use a haircut.


The north side of the Beury, as well as the barbershop. Notice the barber pole graffiti on that building’s wall.


The north side of the Beury, including a ghost sign and “Boner 4Ever.”


Ghost sign on the north side of the Beury.


A more detailed shot of the north side of the Beury.

Once Chris and I got the photos we wanted, we hit the road to visit another notable North Broad Street landmark.



A Tale of Two Rock Shows

In 1980s, 1982, 1983, concerts, high school, memoir, Music/Memory, R.E.M., Uncategorized on August 21, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Blondie, JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 21, 1982

This is a tale of two rock shows that happened almost exactly one year apart, back in the days when every kid in the Philadelphia area knew that the words “JFK Jam” were an invitation to a rockin’ good time. The anniversary of each of these shows is this weekend, so I thought I’d take a moment now to remember them. Starting with…

August 21, 1982

This was the line-up for the first of five shows I attended at the crumbling JFK Stadium during the 1980’s:

  • Robert Hazard and the Heroes
  • A Flock of Seagulls
  • Blondie
  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • Genesis

I don’t remember when I first heard about this show. It was, however, exactly from that moment that I knew I would be there, no matter what. The third act on the bill was my motivation. I was going to see Blondie, my favorite band at the time, at any cost. It had to happen.

Making this crazy rock’n’roll dream of mine a reality wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but it turned out to not be that hard either. I don’t remember my parents putting up much resistance, even though this was the first big rock show I was planning on attending. I rounded up a posse of five and tickets were purchased, though I don’t remember where or how. I wasn’t driving yet, but one of the five was, so I felt safe in the all-important question of How Will We Get There?

The thing is, back then, you could never really feel safe in the all-important question of How Will We Get There?, at least not until you’re there. At some point, our driver informed me that he wasn’t going to the show. There may have been extenuating circumstances, but the way I remember it, he had decided that he just didn’t feel like going. In any event, the whole venture was now in peril.

The fix was easy enough: one of the other of the five of us had an older brother who could go to the concert and drive us. In the end, this worked, though it turned out to be a drama-inducing solution that ended with us having to leave before Genesis was through with their awesome light show/concert, as well as with our driver tossing his brother out of the car after we arrived at our meeting place ten minutes late.

But this isn’t a story of my steely determination and Machiavellian machinations to be in the presence of Deborah Harry. Well, now that I think of it, it is kind of that story, but we’re going to move along with the show itself.

We arrived at JFK to a scene of general depravity the likes of which I had only witnessed once when I stood outside a Yes concert after leaving a Phillies game. It was only around 2:00 in the afternoon, but clearly some of  concertgoers that we encountered immediately upon entering the stadium had already partied way too much. I remember suddenly wondering if coming out to this huge rock show was such a good idea after all.

We missed the opening set by local legends Robert Hazard and the Heroes, thereby missing our chance to see the band perform the epic, “Escalator of Life” in front of a festival crowd. Years later, I met Hazard and told him that “Escalator of Life” loomed large in my high school musical memories. He often heard that, he replied. He seemed pleased with this knowledge, but I didn’t get to hear him play “Escalator of Life” that night either.

We hit the stands just as A Flock of Seagulls were wrapping up a short set. Even as that ghostly final guitar chord of the Seagulls’ hit, “I Ran (So Far Away)” echoed throughout JFK and floating away into the South Philly sky, I was anticipating the upcoming appearance of Blondie.

My patience was eventually rewarded and I am sure I greeted Blondie with rapturous applause. I don’t remember if the rest of the audience matched my enthusiasm, seeing as the crowd was baking in the late August afternoon sun, but I was there, my favorite band was there, and all was right in my world at that moment.

Blondie did not disappoint, delivering a performance that Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Ken Tucker described as “peppy,” despite that fact that the band was touring behind its tepid album The Hunter, which had long since flopped by the time the band hit the JFK stage. I certainly enjoyed the show, maybe even more than the band itself: at some point after their JFK performance, Blondie canceled the rest of their tour, essentially fell apart, and never played again in their classic line-up.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions were up next and, wow, did they ever perform that day. It was Ken Tucker’s opinion that Costello and company won the day with their set and, Blondie bias aside, I can’t disagree. I remember being compelled by Costello, even when he and the band weren’t playing a song that was immediately familiar to me.

Decades later, I discovered that someone had videotaped the Attractions’ show that day. At least 17 videos from the performance (along with a few from Genesis’ show later that evening) are now in YouTube. Here is one of them, Elvis & the Attractions opening their show with “Accidents Will Happen.”


As for Genesis, well, Genesis was Genesis. I’ve never loved Genesis, and Genesis was not my reason for being at JFK that day. At the same time, I’ve also never hated Genesis and this was just before that period in the ’80s when you couldn’t trip over a radio without hearing a Genesis/Phil Collins song. In short it was a good time to see Genesis. It was the new wavishly Abacab period of Genesis and I could easily get behind that. If you’ve ever heard the band’s Three Side Live album, you’ve heard exactly how Genesis sounded at JFK on August 21, 1982. All you’re missing is the wicked awesome light show.

Oh, also “Supper’s Ready.” You’re missing “Supper’s Ready,” the early, lengthy epic that Phil and the boys played at JFK that night. The thrilled exclamations among hardcore Genesis fans when the band launched in “Supper’s Ready” were a joy to hear, let me tell you.

Finally, a post script on the photo of Blondie that appears at the top of this entry. I did not take this photo. I took the “no cameras” policy of ’80s rock concerts very seriously! It was years later, when I was working as a media services guy at a local college, when I found this picture in a stack of photos from past student events. It was the only photo from the JFK show in the stack, but I recognized the event immediately and snatched up the photo.

August 20, 1983

So there you have it. A JFK jam, circa August 1982. I started my senior year of high school, Blondie and Costello songs still rattling around in my brain, soon thereafter. Nearly one year later, on August 20, 1983, I reentered JFK and this is who I found:

  • R.E.M.
  • Madness
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Police

This show was much different for me than the one just a year before. For one thing, there was no drama, aside from the fact that, again, one of the guys who was going to go, suddenly could not. That was certainly not cool, but my other friend and I did go. We found ourselves at a show that seemed much more organized, and much less decadent, than the previous year’s JFK Jam. But maybe I just just slightly more used to the big rock concert scene by then.

This was one efficient rock show. Started at noon, ended by 6:00. Everyone was home long before sunset. I am not sure if it was the Police’s Sting who demanded such efficiency, but if so, he got it.

Speaking of Sting, he remarked about the weather that day, “It is 98 degrees. That is the temperature of blood.” Could he have possible said something more Stinglike? I think not.

All of the performances rocked that day. Madness was all kinds of good fun; Joan Jett rocked hard, just as she continues to do; and the Police were riding high on Synchronicity. But, for me, the day turned out to be all about the “breakfast act,” R.E.M.

R.E.M. had released their debut album, Murmur, earlier that year; in fact, it was released–to much eventual critical acclaim–the exact week of my senior prom. I wasn’t fully clued into the band at the moment Berry Buck Mills and Stipe hit the JFK stage that afternoon. I don’t even remember if I owned Murmur at the point. I think I did, but still hadn’t full delved into it. But R.E.M. at JFK won me over, utterly and completely. When I entered college two weeks later, I was the archetypal–to use a word the Jung-loving Sting would appreciate–college kid R.E.M. fan. And I suppose I have been ever since.

But that was then, and this is now, the present. The present is all about my son Jimmy, just days away from starting college; and my son Chris, who is headed into high school, but who right at this moment, mostly just wishes I’d go grab him some breakfast. Therefore, now is about a quick trip to the supermarket for donuts, as well as dog food for Jolie, who also wishes I’d grab her breakfast. Now is about now, and not about the long-since-demolished JFK, back when it was just crumbling in ’82 or ’83. But don’t be surprised to find me humming some tunes from those long ago JFK Jams as I negotiate my way through now. Because, generally speaking, they’re still damn good tunes.




“Don’t Go To The Malls!!” A Record Store Day Tribute to Sounds of Market

In 1980s, Friendship, memoir, Music/Memory, record collecting, Record Store Day, record stores, records on April 16, 2016 at 11:16 am


Today is Record Store Day 2016. To celebrate, I may stop by Deep Groove Records, here in Phoenixville, to say hi to my friend Frank, who owns the store. But I thought I’d also reach back and republish the following entry from my old blog site. It is about Sounds of Market, one of the classic record stores in my life. Sounds of Market closed for good a few years ago, but this is how I felt about it after I visited in February 2008.

When Rick, Greg and I first met, it was all about the music. They were freshmen at college and I was going into my third year when we all wound up on the same dorm floor. Listening to music, talking about music, acquiring music and talking about acquiring music were the first bonds we shared as friends. As time went on other common interests would reveal themselves for the three of us, as well as various things that Rick and Greg would be into, or me and Greg or me and Rick, but at first, music was the driver of our early friendships.

Of course, back in the mid-1980s, the compact disc had just been introduced and no one yet connected the letters “M” and “P” and the number “3” to music. If you wanted to find music, you actually had to go to a record store and the record stores of center city Philadelphia played a great role in all of this music bonding that Rick, Greg and I shared. I had been acquianted with these stores since starting at Temple University and even a little bit earlier than that.

I remember one Saturday afternoon when I was a senior in high school, participating in a radio internship program at KYW, the leading newsradio station in the city. I walked down Market Street from KYW to the Penn Center train station that day and I was completely beguiled by the stores I passed along the way, stores with names like Funk-O-Mart. Exotic music, then often referred to as “urban,” spilled out of the doorways of these stores, but I’m not sure I was ready at that point to walk in and find out what was inside. This was music that sounded very intriguing to me, but I wasn’t yet certain if I was “allowed” to like it.

By the time I met Rick and Greg though, I had been visiting the center city record stores for awhile and I was quite happy to now have a couple of guys who were usually just as ready for a trip downtown as I was.

These trips would often take place on Friday afternoons, but also on Tuesdays, the day when new albums were released. The journey on the Broad Street subway line would usually take place after classes, though it may have occasionally happened that classes would be skipped if something particularly hot, like say Prince’s Parade album or the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work (which I believe Greg, a big Stones fan, bought on his birthday) or even Yes’ Big Generator or Heart’s Bad Animals albums, were set for release that day.

Our first stop once we hit the City Hall area would usually be the Sounds of Market store at 13th and Chestnut Street. Sounds of Market was a chain of three stores, another being at 11th and Ludlow and the third being…well, I can’t remember where the third one was, but I know it exisited. All of the Sounds of Market stores were run by people with vaguely Middle Eastern accents, though I don’t think I ever accurately determined the ethnicity of the folks running the stores. I do remember that at the 13th and Chestnut store, one of the managers would exhort all of us shoppers to buy more music and would warn us, “Don’t go to the malls” for our music buying needs.

He was right about that, of course. Sounds of Market had it all over Listening Booth or Sam Goody in terms of selection and (especially) price. Records were typically a few dollars cheaper and the promos that they sold (on the sly, I would guess) were even cheaper than that. I remember one day I went in and bought a new album that I didn’t even know was coming out, for $3.99. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew the artist so I figured for four bucks I’d give the album a shot. It was Graceland by Paul Simon.

With the price and selection, Sounds of Market encouraged adventurous listening. Rick and I once went downtown vowing to each buy five new albums by artists that we were only vaguely familiar with. I remember that we both bought The Sound of Music by the dBs (largely, in my case, at the instigation of my friend Ed’s stellar review of it). I bought a Fetchin’ Bones album and Rick bought Game Theory’s Lolita Nation that day as well.

Another time, on some kind of ridiculous whim that was fairly common to all of us in those days, Greg bought two huge hit albums of the era–Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA–simply because he disliked both artists and wanted to make fun of their ubiquity by buying into it. Or something like that. Somewhere around here I have a photo of Greg, sporting a Phil Collins album (the cover of which eventually became a scratch board for his and his wife Kim’s cat) and a smug expression on his face. Sure, the logic behind his purchases that day was twisted but the whole thing became an event and I’ll bet even today Greg might listen to “Sussudio” now and then, had he not given me his record collection on my 40th birthday. Speaking of which, here is the Phil Collins album cover in question (note the scratch marks; clearly it was Collins and not Mr. Ted Nugent who gave Greg and Kim’s cat “Cat Scratch Fever”):

This is the building that used to be Sounds of Market at 13th and Chestnut. It’s currently vacant [at least it was in February 2008]:

Once we were done shopping at 13th and Chestnut, we’d head up to the 11th and Ludlow location. At that time, audio equipment was sold in the front with the records in the back. The staff here was just as entertaining as at the other store. Once, while the very brilliant Prince b-side “Shockadelica” was playing, one of the regular clerks played an air guitar solo that eventually had the guy sliding across the floor on his knees. I wonder if that guy has discovered Guitar Hero; he’d be a natural at it. Incidentally, Prince b-sides, in all their flaming weirdness and glory, were the perfect soundtrack to the Sounds of Market experience.

And, of course, Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show” would always sound just right at Sounds of Market.

The 11th and Ludlow Sounds of Market still exists and here it is, just this week [Note: that is to say in February 2008. And of course, in April 2016 SoM no longer exists.]:

The exterior looks pretty much the same way it did 20 years ago, but inside it’s a different story. The audio equipment is still upfront on the first floor, but the back section that used to house the music is now empty. You need to go up to the second floor to check out the hip-hop and rhythm and blues and world music sections, while the rock, folk, jazz and blues sections are all the way up on the third floor.

Obviously there is no vinyl to be found, but that’s not the only big difference. Everything now seems just a bit more sedate and sterile than it did when I was frequenting Sounds of Market. The music isn’t playing quite as loud as it did back then, the salesmen don’t exhort you to spend your cash and clearly no one on staff needs to wear kneepads in the event they are moved to slide across the floor while air-jamming to a Prince b-side. The selection is predictably fabulous and the prices are still cheaper than the malls (if there are indeed music stores at malls anymore), but only marginally so.

So, the store is still there, but for me anyway, the adventure is gone. I’m still looking for new interesting music and sometimes I even find it, but stores like Sounds of Market don’t have any role in that quest.

That’s OK though. I still have the music I picked up “back in the day” at Sounds of Market and, more importantly, I still have the friendships. Which is really what the Sounds of Market experience was all about anyway.

Plus I still have Greg’s copy of No Jacket Required, which will come in handy if we ever get a cat.

PopeNotes! 9/26/15

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2015 at 12:55 am
(left to right) Lisa, Mom, Pope, me, Love Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 9/26/15

(left to right) Lisa, Mom, Pope, me, Love Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 9/26/15

I traveled to Center City Philadelphia yesterday morning to see Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall. I took some notes throughout the day, both in a notebook and in my head, and I want to sort them out now, while they’re still fresh.

10 PopeNotes!

1. I headed into Philadelphia just before 9:00 on a SEPTA train out of Norristown. I had purchased the papal pass just the day before–it was guaranteed to get me in and out of the city. The ride took a group of Pope-bound people through the suburban town of Conshohocken (where I work) into the northwestern Philadelphia neighborhoods of Manayunk and East Falls (where Laurel Hill Cemetery is located), into North Philadelphia and through the campus of my alma mater, Temple University, all before arriving at Jefferson Station, around 11th and Market Street. Passing through each of these areas, which I haven’t done by train in a while, reminded me how much I love Philadelphia. All of Philadelphia. This city has touched many aspects of my life.

2. I ate breakfast, surrounded by locals, tourists and pilgrims, at a counter in the Down Home Diner, which is at Reading Terminal. Classic old blues tunes and Neil Diamond’s “Desiree” wafted out the jukebox. The menu described the country ham as “the real thing, but salty.” The menu wasn’t kidding. Salty, but so delicious.

3. The security checkpoint on Broad Street near Cherry Street took about 40 minutes to get through. A protester elaborated via megaphone on his theories that Pope Francis, the much-beloved pontiff who preaches inclusion and kisses babies, is in fact the Antichrist. The protester was routinely drowned out by noisy pockets of teenagers expressing their enthusiasm for both Jesus and Francis.

A quick note on theology, though I am clearly no theologian. In fact, to be honest, I have felt ambivalent about religious faith for several years now, though I do respect anyone who embraces their religion and, in following that path, helps to make the world a better place.

To me, Pope Francis is a man who is doing just this. Even if you are not Catholic, or disagree with certain specific positions that Francis holds, much of what he says comes down to good common sense: we should try to be compassionate towards each other and towards “the least of our brothers and sisters;” our presence here ought to serve the purpose of making this world better, even if just little bit, for those we encounter. Small positive encounters can make a world of difference in each other’s lives.

Stepping out of my chronology for a moment. After everything was over and I was heading back to the station to catch the train, I encountered a few more of the protesters that I had seen earlier. These guys were railing about how Mother Theresa was roasting in hell and we’d all be as well, because of the Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary and because the Pope serves as a “stand-in” for Jesus, when we ought to be bonding directly with Jesus.

Apparently, these guys believe that, once we have established this personal relationship with Jesus, we will spend our time with Jesus talking and laughing about how awful Catholics, homosexuals and other undesirables are.

I get it: these people have every right to waste the one life they can be absolutely 100% sure of having spew this kind of nonsensical venom. It’s their First Amendment right, after all. But hearing people preach about a god that is as angry, narrow-minded and vengeful as they clearly are is a sick and sad thing to witness up close. Believe me when I say that I know nonbelievers that get Jesus way better than these folks do.

But, to end this point on a lighter note, at the security checkpoint, I saw a man wearing a hoodie with the Ghostbusters II logo on it. Which was cool: everybody expects the original Ghostbusters but this was Ghostbusters II.

4. We were directly in front of City Hall at the checkpoint. To the right was the Frank Furness-designed Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Off in the distance to the North, I could just make out the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Fine architecture in three out of four directions. Did I mention already how much I love Philadelphia?

5. When it was finally my turn at security, I unfortunately had to surrender my camera. Practical note: make sure your electronic devices are not dead next time you’re trying to get into a secure area for the pope. Fortunately, I was able to keep my memory card, which currently has hundreds of photos on it. But I will be camera shopping soon.

6. I rendezvoused with Mom and Lisa at Love Park, to grab my ticket for the Independence Hall event. Mom and Lisa were headed to the Francis Festival on the Parkway. I had a ticket for that too, but never made it back to the Parkway. All this walking from one site to the other was actually fun, aside from the camera issue. It was cool to see Philadelphia in full-on Pope mode after hearing about it all these months.

“Pope magnets! Put ’em on your icebox!” That was one of the many trinket pitches I heard throughout the day.

7. I had wondered if Christ Church Burial Ground, where Benjamin Franklin is buried, would be open. As it happened, one of the security entrances to the Independence Mall area was right in front of the burial ground, which was indeed open. I arrived in that area several hours before the Pope’s speech, so I took the opportunity to take a guided tour of the burial ground.

Bob, my guide, gave me a great one-on-one tour. I had mentioned that I am a volunteer guide at Laurel Hill, so Bob and I had plenty of conversation points. In fact, a visit to Christ Church Burial Ground, which was founded in the early 1700s, followed by trip to Laurel Hill (founded 1836) would be a nice way to explore the continuum of Philadelphia history. I would recommend this tandem pair of cemetery tours to anyone visiting Philadelphia. Bob will show you around Christ Church Burial Ground, then I’ll show you Laurel Hill!

Also, it was cool to know that Pope Francis’ voice would be within earshot of Ben Franklin’s resting place.

8. After my visit to Christ Church Burial Ground, I made my way to Independence Mall. The lineup of speakers and performers leading up to Francis was diverse and very reflective of Francis’ themes of inclusion and stewardship of the planet. The crowd of at least 10,000 people (but maybe even more) was equally diverse and clearly ecstatic to have an opportunity to be near the Holy Father.

I got lucky when the Pope arrived. I had gone into the Independence Mall visitor center to use the bathroom and emerged from the exit facing Market Street just as the Papal Motorcade was entering the area. I had a great view of Pope Francis, riding in the Popemobile. By this time, I was trying to preserve my phone battery, so I didn’t take any photos, but I let the image of Pope Francis on Market Street, just in front of Independence Hall, sink deep into my mind.

9. Once the pontiff made the circuit, his motorcade pulled up to Independence Hall. He was ushered into the historic building, where I believe he received a brief tour, then emerged to deliver his remarks.

Being part of the crowd to hear Pope Francis speak was inspiring though he delivered the speech in Spanish and my high school Spanish has sadly faded. The speech was captioned in English at the bottom of the Jumbotron screens, but still not easy to read from my vantage point. As it happened, my son Chris was taping it on my old cassette recorder from the TV at home, so I got to listen to the instant translation later.

Regardless of my language barrier, Francis’ warmth and conviction was evident. For the Spanish-speaking members of the audience, hearing Francis speak in their native tongue was clearly a transcendent moment.

10. The crowd began to disperse just after the Holy Father finished speaking. By this time, my cell phone had run out of energy so I headed back to Jefferson Station, knowing that I’d be out of touch with anybody for awhile. Once I arrived back in Norristown, I feared I’d have to grab the SEPTA 99 bus (the most convoluted bus route on Earth) back to Phoenixville. However, thanks to a couple of Red Cross guys stationed at the station to help travelers, and a policeman, I was able to sufficiently recharge my phone to give Donna a call. She and the boys came out to get me, and I was happy to see my family after my day in the city.

Patrick F. O'Donnell

Children's book author, ghostwriter, content creator, editor.

A. Panda's Tiki Lounge

A resource for all things Polynesian and Tiki

Sons of Saxer

"For Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Championships"


Talkin' Shit, Bein Dope and Keepin it Real

talking points

Started as a political blog. Added sports. Now it's just what I feel like writing about.

Vintage, Retro & Cool Old Places worth visiting!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture


A creative guy, looking for a few good records

Reading & Writing With Teacher Corey.

Philadelphia Teaching Adventures.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

a writer with a camera, living in new orleans



1 Picture, 217 Words

This site is the cat’s pajamas