philadelphia Pennsylvania

Billy Penn overlooking the city of Brotherly Love on top of City Hall

For the last few hours I've been sitting around my house trying to describe what it is like to visit Philadelphia. What kind of city is it? What feeling does one get from the city by being in it? Do all cheesesteaks taste the same? What is in scrapple? Are the answers to any of these rhetorical questions even important?

So I decided to go back to library of photos and see if I can get some inspiration from them. This was one of the first photographs I took of the city the first day I visited. I was actually going to Dover Delaware and sitting in the passenger seat of a car. I was trying to get a shot of Billy Penn on top of City Hall. But what I think is even more of a Philly thing t is the Andrew Dice Clay billboard on the bottom right.

HIs comedy and attitude is probably more Philadelphia than the writings of the founding fathers. Most of Philadelphia probably has more of an Andrew Dice Clay attitude than a Thomas Jefferson or John Adams attitude about the high ideals of good governance and being a good person.

I should probably just stop writing about Philadelphia right here while I am ahead, but against my better judgement I will continue my homage to the city of the Philly Phanatic and surrounding area of Pennsylvania.


Everybody enjoys disliking Philadelphia and Philadelphians dislike their city more than anyone else. I actually did not stay in Philadelphia proper, but stayed in Bucks County PA which is a bellwether county in the USA.

I sort of understand why Philadelphians dislike their city, one is because of the weather it is below 65 degrees for 7 months out of the year, which to Californians this situation would be like living in an ice age.

But there are some good things about Philadelphia that make it better than some other places.

  1. Philadelphia has forests and a river nearby like normal towns all across Europe and the USA. NYC doesn't have trees in Hoboken, and LA is 100 miles from a forest or a river.
  2. A realistic outlook on life and attitude that can be healthy at times. There is probably a good amount of sanity that comes from disliking everything.
  3. An actual rivalry with cities near you. If you are on the East Coast reading this I hope you are thankful for this trash talking between NYC, Boston, Philly, Baltimore, DC. West of the Missippi cities become farther apart from each other. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Sacramento, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland, Seattle, are not really competing against each other for the limelight. The are all a 2 hour flight away from each other but that is still several hundred miles. Whereas you could theoretically be in Philadelphia and drive to see your team play in DC or NYC and be back home for work the next morning. There is a sense of sports community that makes this area special.
Dover Delaware. The population of the state capital of Delaware is about the same size as Suisun CA (just Suisun not Fairfield & Suisun) There is not much to the town, except Dover has a raceway and both have large Air Force Bases. My HS in Fairfield was just off a Dover street named after the capital of Delaware.

America's First Road Trip

The Lincoln Highway stretches from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco California. It was one of America's very first cross country roads. It is as American as road trips can get.

The Lincoln Highway Association was founded in 1912/13 and they began the process of connecting rural roads maintained by counties and townships in a disorganized mess together to form a single mostly dirt road that was paved in some places into a road that could theoretically take someone overland from Philadelphia to San Francisco.

Six years later in July of 1919 the US Army sent a convoy across the Lincoln Highway to test the strength and feasibility of our roads. A young Lt. Dwight D. Eisenhower was assigned to the convoy. For two months they traveled across America and reached San Francisco on September 6th 1919. It was considered both a success and failure. A success in the sense that the mission had been accomplished which was no small feet for the new invention at the time the automobile. But failure in the sense that it took a very long time, train travel along the transcontinental railroad could be done in as little as 80 hours and it cost only about $150 and that was in the late 1800's.

If cars were to ever replace horses and trains then the technology would have to improve, the infrastructure would have to be built, and roads needed to be improved dramatically. Only 30 years later that young lieutenant would become President of the United States and pass legislation that did exactly that. He also helped defeat the nazis along the way.

What I like about the Lincoln Highway is that it goes through small towns. Many main streets of towns became the Lincoln Highway, they simply built a country road to connect the main streets of towns together. In California the Lincoln Highway is known as Historic Route 40 and goes through Reno, across Donner Pass, into downtown Roseville and is Capitol Mall in Sacramento, the California Capitol Building is right smack in the middle of the Lincoln Highway, it continues to the Main Streets of Davis CA, Vacaville CA, is Texas street in Fairfield, and Broadway in Vallejo, before it moves across the Carquinez straight to Richmond and then a ferry over to San Francisco and up towards Lincoln Park and stops right at the Legion of Honor Museum.

All of that history began with a convoy leaving the streets of Philadelphia towards Gettysburg and westward.

Many Americans roughly know this route as Interstate 80 which Eisenhower picked to be named after him. Today the entire interstate system is named after President Eisenhower.

This photo was taken at the end of the Lincoln Highway near the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park San Francisco

Military history

A plane taking off from Dover AFB, it was just like my old neighborhood.

Philadelphia has always kind of been an odd duck when it comes to importance. During the Revolutionary war, the British General William Howe decided to deviate from the British plan of taking two armies to fight in upstate New York and he took his army to take Philadelphia. Philadelphia and the surrounding area was a mix between patriots and loyalists. Howe believed that by taking the Capital of the Continental Congress he would hurt the morale of Washington's army and maybe it would force Washington to lead an attack to try to retake the city.

Washington instead decided to retreat to nearby Valley Forge where he could keep a watchful eye on the British while simultaneously training his ragtag group of unorganized men and women into an organized an efficient fighting force capable of taking one of the best armies on earth at the time, the British.

The Americans were able to successfully control the supply lines in and out of Philadelphia along the Delaware river which led to difficulties for the British to supply themselves with the necessary provisions. In effect the Americans were able to lay a small siege on the British in Philadelphia while also keeping their supply lines free of British assault by camping at Valley Forge.

In effect the importance of losing Philadelphia to the British was a net win for the patriot army. By the time the British left Philadelphia they were in worse shape than when they showed up.

Washington's army became an actual army that was well supplied and properly trained by the time they left Valley Forge.

Washington's Crossing Bucks County PA

The battle of Trenton New Jersey was a major turning point in the early days of the American Revolution. For months Americans were fighting the British and their Hessian mercenaries scoring few victories and many defeats.

On December 25 1776, George Washington ordered his army of 2,500 to cross the Delaware river from their camp in Bucks County PA to New Jersey just north of Trenton. The Hessians were camped in Trenton and George Washington knew the only way to defeat them was to use the element of surprise.

Desperation played some kind of role in the decision, a storm was brewing, the river was icy, it was very cold. But the men accomplished the task in one night. Without being detected they crossed the river and defeated the Hessians at Trenton. This was one of the first major victories for Washington's army and gave a new hope to the patriot cause of independence.

Also not far north of Washington's Crossing is a town called "New Hope" also in Bucks County PA. Check out the band that plays at the Cuban restaurant if you ever go there. In general support local artists and musicians.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge PA

The following winter in 1777-1778 George Washington led his army to camp during winter just outside of Philadelphia at Valley Forge. The events that occurred in these 6 months or so changed the course of American History and Military History forever.

Here are some facts about Valley Forge from the NPS.

  1. it could produce over 10,000 loaves of bread per day from 250 ovens.
  2. African American soldiers made up 8-10% of the army and Native Americans made up about 3% of the army.
  3. There were about 300 women and children at the camp.
  4. 12,000 men were at the camp, 10,000 combat troops and 2,000 logistical support.
  5. Baron Von Steuben arrived in February with formal letters of recommendation. At the time there were several manuals being used for instruction and drills. He systemized the drills into a single manual taught to everyone. He also mandated some basic hygiene changes like having the latrines separate from the kitchens and set up field hospitals away from the main camp.
  6. Valley Forge also is a place where some early forms of vaccinations happened. Washington mandated his troops get inoculated against smallpox, a risky move at the time. However, it paid off and many of his soldiers survived the outbreak that was decimating the army.
  7. By the end of the camp the number of solders doubled to almost 20,000.
  8. 30% of the population at Valley Forge did not speak English. It was a diverse army made of people of every religion, ethnicity, and creed. None of those differences mattered.
  9. At one point at its peak Valley Forge PA was the 4th largest city in the USA by population.

George Washington's personal cook was a woman by the name of Hannah Till who was an enslaved black woman.. She worked with her husband Isaac Till and had a child at Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge. After the army left Valley Forge in October of 1778 her and her husband purchased their freedom from Washington. They baptized their free born child in Philadelphia and Hannah Till continued to be Washington's personal cook as a salaried job for 6 months out of the year. The other 6 months she took on the job of being the cook to Marquis de Lafayette.

Valley Forge PA
Words to Live by found on a Street Sign

Philadelphia is home to a rich history of historic preservation and government scandal and bribery. At times there was bribery going on with historic preservation.

Independence Hall originally was the Pennsylvania state house. The building was loaned to the Continental Congress for use. By 1800 the US Capitol was Philadelphia and Pennsylvania's capital had moved to Lancaster PA. Soon after the US Federal Government moved to Washington D.C. the buildings that were around Independence Hall along with Independence Hall began to fall into disrepair.

By 1812 Independence Hall was in need of renovation and the city of Philadelphia had taken over control of the building. For the next several decades the city restored the building until it was transferred to the National Park Service. In 1979 Independence Hall was a UNESCO World Heritage site.

However, architecture of the city does not begin and stop at Independence Hall. The City Hall of Philadelphia is extraordinary, and Philadelphia has influenced other state houses of historic importance.

The Reichstag of Germany has an interesting history, the nazis set a fire that helped give Hitler emergency powers that he never relinquished. Before that the Reichstag in Berlin was the house of parliament for the Weimar Republic and construction of that building began in 1884.

The architecture model of the Reichstag in Germany actually dates back to the 1876 World Exposition in Philadelphia. The main building of that exposition was known as "Memorial Hall" and it served as an architecture model that was used to help usher in a new era of German democracy.

It took a little over 100 years later the Reichstag to become an important symbol of openness and transparency for the world and an important anchor of liberal democracies around the world. In 1999 the government of Germany reunified once and for all when the Reichstag re opened with a transparent dome symbolizing openness and acceptance towards others. It marked the end of 20th century problems and the beginning of a new century of openness and human rights.

The same ideas that the Founding Fathers began in Philadelphia in 1776. The spark and ember of democracy began on Market Street that summer and raged into an unstoppable roaring fire in the decades that followed.

City Hall in Philadelphia is spectacular. It has 250 sculptures, it takes up an entire city block on 14.5 acres, and has a 37 foot statue of William Penn on top of the building. It took almost 30 years to complete, there are 88 million bricks used in its construction and there are over 700 rooms for government use.

It cost over 24 million dollars to build in money from the late 1800's. Which is roughly 900 million dollars in today's money.

The Constitution

One thing about Philadelphia that is awesome is to know that streets elsewhere are modeled after the streets of Philadelphia. Market Street was first, then Market Street came to San Francisco. Lombard street SF may be more famous because of its curves, but Lombard in Philly was first. And if you are not First you are Last. Which is Ricky Bobby Logic but works for Philadelphia as well.

Life Coaches and Hessians

There are a lot of mentally ill conversations that happen on youtube between real life people and fictional people. Kind of like the real life people who suffer from legit mental illness

The real life people are the people on stage giving a Ted Talk, or any self help, life coach, psychic guru, like Tony Robbins who make videos in front of a camera. The fictional people in this situation is us, the viewer who watch them. In Tony Robbins mind I don’t exist, I don’t matter, and this book is just another book on someone’s shelf somewhere, the words I type here is somewhat like a voice that does or does not exist in Tony Robbins universe. Depending on who buys this book, and if they read it, and if they know people who know people who might have a conversation with Tony Robbins one day about this book, or something in it. That is a mentally ill thought, and relying on success through pure chance, but also an awareness thing these Life coaches tell us to do sometimes.

That kind of thinking is how I imagine a Youtube celebrity who gives generic life advice on Youtube sort of goes about their day. They go around giving speeches to crowds, talking about science, business, psychology, habits, and us regular people the viewers sort of matter to them, but matter more to them so long as us the viewer buys their book or goes to their events.

The formula these life coaches on Youtube use is pretty simple

Life Coach Matrix

As a generic problem solving template, it isn’t that bad of a matrix/ model. Pretty much anybody can simply change the words in the second row while keeping the general framework and idea the same and come out with something that works out fairly decent.

There is something that is going around in 2019 that is making things a little wacky.

I wrote this book primarily to help myself. But also to help others, by giving them possible ideas on how to process cultural concepts like “fake news.” Generally I think the problem is a lack of education, and a lack of scientific knowledge. I do sort of what everyone else does when they read self help books, which is skim it and take away the gist of what it says, then act like you read the entire book.

I’m like a high schooler that way. I used to teach High School as a substitute teacher. I recall one of those days when I was talking about the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King had on our society. A student commented on my lecture.

“I don’t get the point to learning about history. Dr. King was important, I get that, but nobody I know knew him and he died 2,000 miles away, and his work was in places I probably will never go to. It’s easier to learn about him through Hollywood, I’ve seen the movie they made about him, that should be enough for me to get by. It is 2015, he died in the 1960’s, that might as well be 1200 to me, anything prior to 2001 doesn’t really impact me and my lifetime since I was born”

Half of me thought that was slightly a dumb thing to say, and I wanted to force my knowledge about the struggle of civil rights onto him, but the other half of me realized this kid had a point.

Thinking about this today made me realize that people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Amelia Earhart, exist in our minds like angels, or ghosts, or fiction like stories from a time long past.

Reading about George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware is a little like reading about Sam and Frodo going down a river to Mordor. Both were facing Danger, both were underdogs, both come from British origins, and even though George Washington was a real person and an important figure, he’s been dead for 200 years, and technically the story Lord of the Rings has been read by more people then the people George Washington interacted with during his lifetime.

A child today reading the Lord of the Rings or watching the Hollywood version with their parents, is probably more impacted by The Fellowship of the Ring then a story about what George Washington did 200+ years ago fighting German mercenaries in Trenton. (“Hessians” n.d.)