June 19, 2003

The Best and Worst of the City of Brotherly Love

Arranged in Thoroughly Random and Unrelated Pairings

PHILADELPHIA - LOVE IT: The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. What a treasure. A treasure trove of treasures, in fact.

The University of Pennsylvania long has had a strong interest in, and has provided substantial support for the study of, archaeology. The museum, housed in a striking building in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood on the Penn campus, was established to hold the growing collections of the worldwide expeditions organized and funded by the university.

Yes, it’s a little shabby in parts, and a majority of the floor space of the building still, if you can believe this, lacks air-conditioning, but the newly renovated classical galleries, encompassing the cultures of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Etruscans, are exhibits of the type of which most museums can only dream.

The University Museum hopes eventually to bring all of its galleries to the world-class status of the classical rooms. It’s a noble goal worthy of your contribution and encouragement.

Regardless, move thoughtfully and leisurely through the galleries and you will be amazed at the wonders before your very eyes.

PHILADELPHIA - HATE IT: Lunch Carts. Philadelphians love their “lunch carts.” I hate them. I despise them. I loathe them. I call them roach coaches.

But here they are so popular, so beloved, the Philadelphia Daily News is now sponsoring a contest to identify the city’s favorite.

Introducing the contest, the Daily News yesterday observed (“Wanted: City's #1 Lunch Truck,” by April Adamson):

With all the media attention that goes to city restaurants, diners[,] and fast-food chains, attention rarely focuses on the city’s 843 licensed lunch trucks and vendors, bastions of daytime city food fare. These intrepid restaurateurs wield knives and spatulas, risking death and divorce to work inches from one another all day long, day in and day out.

What the hell is she talking about? How could anyone not pay attention to them? They’re friggin’ everywhere, sometimes two or three at the same intersection. And Philadelphia, being an old city, is not known for its wide sidewalks (often, and oddly, referred to here, as in England, as “the pavement”); even the most spacious of walkways in Center City can be maddeningly crowded at mid-day, especially for those of us who are members of the Get the Hell Out of My Way Society. They take up too much space. They’re in my way, damn it!

In my admittedly arrogant opinion, there’s just no room for, nor need for, these atrocities. I am, no doubt, in a minority with that viewpoint. So, needless to say, I don’t have a favorite lunch cart. I do, however, have a least favorite. It sits every day at the southeast corner of 12th and Market Streets, more on 12th St., actually, a particularly narrow sidewalk at an unusually busy intersection. Throw a disorganized and disorderly line of patrons in front of this roach coach and the area becomes virtually impassable.

I don’t know the name of this eye-sore of a pushcart -- it’s probably “No. 1 Happy Happy Joy Chow Chow Wagon” or something like that -- and I won’t be entering it in the PDN’s contest. I’ll be watching for it to be nominated, though, as it’s quite popular. I often wonder about that, however, given the nasty detritus one sees each evening at the cart’s location after it’s been towed away to God knows where for the night.


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