chilly philly

Actually, it wasn’t that cold, though it did snow. Had a great week visiting with Janet Neigh, her two lovely and generous roommates James and Jennifer and the wonder-chihuahuas Popsicle and Nina. Getting there was a hassle– it took Air Canada four tries and three passes through US Customs to get me, and two newfound friends out of Toronto. They did put us up in the most bizarre party palace hotel out on the snowy 401. I was trailed for a few hours by a strange stalker boy who wanted to know about Nietzsche. The weirdest moment of the trip, though, was after the third cancelled flight, when they sent us to a dark empty hall in the bowels of an almost-abandoned Terminal Two (just a short and several times repeated shuttle ride from the trailer Terminal E) where we were to rebook the fourth (and lucky) flight. There was a row of dark, unmanned kiosks as the back, and on the opposite wall, a row of six phones that 60 stranded passengers were supposed to use to call ticket agents in Montreal, or may be Delhi… Welcome to Air Kafka.

So what a shock to finally land in Philly and discover it is indeed a real place! Janet and her roomies have a great three-storey house near the Italian market some of you might be familiar with from Rocky. (Not me. OK, gotta watch it.) We did tons of yoga. I went to my first Kundalini class ever. Tried to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary, which is the original panopticon that Bentham writes about, but it was closed for the winter. Went to the very grand Philedelphia Museum of Art, though, and admired the 20th century rooms– some faves, Rothko, Brancusi. There was even a concert in the atrium– a good one– a band called Box Five playing with the Arts in Motion String Quartet. They were a bit Morcheeba-like– sad girl songs with cool computer/synth background sound, and some lovely live violin.

Man, the class/race divide in Philly is a shocker though. Much sadness, anger and poverty on certain blocks, lots of boarded up buildings. I know it’s no different here…

Found myself a copy of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station at a groovy bookstore across from the panopticon. Ate a crazy pork and greens sandwich in the Italian market with James. Saw Judith Butler speak at UPenn on the instrumentalization of queer freedoms for racist purposes (interesting, smart and upsetting). Read a huge chunk of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas at a sweet neighbourhood coffee shop called Chapterhouse. And did a bunch of thinking and writing on Writing Thru Race. Adventures are good.

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