MINOR UPDATE: June 30th of Welcome America week here in Philadelphia, and I’ve spent much of the past ten days with Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. It’s a detective story that speaks to my soul, tracing out a vision of light and liberty feared and maligned, then almost miraculously unearthed and honored, a literal line of thought connecting Epicurus to Lucretius to Jefferson in Philadelphia, declaring the fundamental right to pursue happiness. I’m excited for this holiday, and I’ll be afoot and wandering much of the week, camera at the ready, listening to the tourists and trying to understand what it is they find here, and what they miss, and why.
Meanwhile, I put the Kindle version of Worthy of This Great City on sale, not quite free but $2.99. The link’s on the Home page, for those of you interested in rule of law and all that kind of stuff. The book is snarky and meant to be fun, a kind of romp about scandal and politics and the mob, but it does have pretentions to literary merit, it requires conscious reading, and it might even be dangerous. The Prologue is on the Excerpts page, so start there, but don’t make assumptions because things probably aren’t going the way you think.
From June 23rd: I wrote a good deal about the landing in Worthy, so when it turned summer, and I happened to have time, I went down to see all the changes that haven’t been made. Philly, you’ll get this.
It was sort of reassuring, that same old decrepitude, the general abandonment there under the beautiful blue arch of the Ben Franklin bridge by the dark, efficient Delaware: lackluster patrons at the kiddie rides or around the Seaport Museum, disintegrating concrete, a sense of emptiness. Everything exactly as I wrote it, and I wrote decrying the general corruption, inertia, and just extraordinary, even hilarious bad luck that’s kept this site an opportunity waiting for sensible hope.
The ships are anchored right where I left them, the Becuna lurking there in the shadow of the Olympia. The Columbus monument still towers over the waiting swan boats. The river stage is empty on a perfect Saturday afternoon, swathed in blue plastic, and most of the food booths are shuttered, too. This sameness was reassuring the way the sickness of nostalgia is comforting when it beckons to the past. Anyway I didn’t come for validation; I knew it was true the first time.
When I first wrote about the landing, I was interested in the morality behind the failure here, about the impulses pushing this city I love and how they shape its citizens as much as its infrastructure and commerce, its art and its intentions. I know we’re advancing on some fronts, but I also know cities die. Just trying to get through the day isn’t going to save anything.
It’s summer, and I want to hold onto the summer the way I want to hold onto this city, but the days go so fast when you get older, and it’ll be freezing cold tomorrow. Come on out and play with me. Let’s do something.
Click here to purchase Worthy of This Great City at Amazon.com.