Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – February 2001

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Events in February

Jan. 27-Apr. 6

Welcome Spring

Time to kick-start Spring! Longwood Gardens is on the right track, as it presents a refreshing preview of flowering bulbs inside nearly three acres of greenhouses. Bundle up and head out of freezing Philly to catch a glimpse of these gorgeous flowers. For information call: (610) 388-1000

Jan. 28 & Feb. 4

Chinese New Year Parade:
Celebrate the Year of the Snake

Two parades make this event twice as nice! If you miss the parade on Sunday the 28th, just bundle up the following Sunday for a repeat performance. This parade starts at intersection of 10th and Race Streets at noon and snakes through Chinatown. Features include the Dragon Line Dance and celebratory fireworks. Note: This parade is not BYOF (Bring Your Own Fireworks) – only the parade participants have the power (and permission) to light up!

Feb. 3-4

Dinosaur Weekend

Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences is offering a fun-filled weekend that promises to be Dino-mite. Attend presentations on paleontology by naturalists, create fossil rubbings, get your face painted, or play "You Bet Your Raptor."

From 10am – 5pm both days.

Admission is $8 for children and $9 for adults.

For more information call: (215) 299-1000.

Feb. 3-11

Philadelphia International Auto Show

Rev your engines and explore this gigantic auto show at the Philadelphia Convention Center, which features hunks of steel and glass from over 32 automotive manufacturers. Both classic and concept cars are represented, and vendors are plentiful.

Open weekdays, Noon – 10pm; Saturdays, 10am – 10pm; and Sundays, 10am – 6pm.

Admission is $5 for children (7-12 years) and $9 for adults (over 13 years). Children 6 and under are free.

Feb. 8

The Philadelphia Zoo’s
2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Bachelor Auction

Ladies, here is an excuse to put your money towards a good cause – while landing a date with an eligible bachelor. Fifteen bachelors will be on the block, with proceeds benefiting the Philadelphia Zoo’s conservation program "One With Nature." If your bid gets you the guy, you’ll enjoy a date package that includes a romantic dinner for two.

Feel like spending some time with a "real" animal? Then save your moolah for the end, when you can bid for a Valentine’s Day Lunch with Rio and Banjo – the Zoo’s giant river otters. Held at the Sheraton Rittenhouse Square Hotel from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm (bidding starts at 8 pm).

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

For more information call: (610) 613-7386.

Jogging Obstacle Course

A snowy Philly street
after a recent Nor’easter

Run at Your Own Risk

My original plan for this month’s guide was to extol the virtues of going for a run in the center of a city like Philadelphia. However, recent circumstances have caused me to issue a warning beforehand.

First, I suppose I should explain that I am a city runner – more out of necessity than choice – but a city runner nevertheless. I started pounding the pavement when I moved to Philly two years ago, and up until this week I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

Granted, city running is not for the feint of heart; there is a learning curve involved. Perfecting the art of dodging pigeons, picking your way safely through a minefield of cobblestones, and flipping off cab drivers without breaking stride when they insist on turning into you (when you clearly have the right-of-way) – none of those things are easy. However, you learn to cope, just as you deal with the buses belching out exhaust and the smokers that exhale in your path just as you’re gulping in air. These things I’ve learned to live with. Stepping on dead rodents I haven’t.

I live in the heart of Philadelphia. My house is in a descriptive gray area: it’s too far south to be in Center City, and too far north to be in South Philly. As east-west coordinates go, I’m sandwiched between the Italian Market and Queen’s Village, yet technically not in either. However I am in a good position to run to, from, and around most everything Philly has to offer. I’ve run up Broad Street, down South Street, through Society Hill, and across Rittenhouse Square. I’ve huffed out to the Art Museum, circled around City Hall, and passed through Independence Hall. But until a few days ago, I’ve never set foot on anything more menacing than a stump of soft pretzel, or the spilled innards of an overstuffed hoagie.

Then the incident happened.

I was just getting past the "why am I out here in the cold, when I could be sipping hot coco" phase that the beginning of my runs tend to go through. I was feeling good, warming up, finding my rhythm, and clearing my head. Ten minutes into my run I made a turn onto Front Street, and continued north, running parallel with the Delaware River.

I had just turned my head to see what was going on in Camden, NJ (on the opposite side of the river) when my right foot came down on something that was definitely not concrete or brick. It was mushy and soft, but not totally squishy, as steaming piles tend to be.

As I was attempting to classify these properties in my head, my body responded in the typical hop-skip reflex, which keeps the foot-in-question in the air while decelerating. Then I made the fatal mistake. Perplexed on what the object could have been, I turned to look. Staring vacantly back at me was a slightly flattened, yet surprisingly large rat, his little rat face frozen in a toothy grimace.

I stood there, still on one foot, mesmerized by this vile, lifeless creature that was easily as long as my shoe (which is pretty darn big). Then the "Ewww, gross!" reaction took hold, followed closely by the always-pleasant gag reflex. I turned, gagging and half-hopping, as if my shoe was too tainted to touch the ground.

I continued on, trying to get the incident out of my head. But as I looped through Old City, up Market Street and down the Avenue of the Arts, I found I couldn’t shake the image of that dreaded rat. Instead of admiring the quaint galleries and historical buildings I was passing, my eyes were focused on the ground ahead of me, mapping out where my feet might land next. I was two blocks past the Liberty Bell – a sight that I always stop to appreciate – before I realized I had passed it.

I started planning more runs in Fairmont Park. I decided I’d change my routes to the paths along the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek – both natural settings a short 15-20 minute drive from my house. It would be more time-consuming, but the paths would be more forgiving on my joints, the fresh air easier on my lungs. Plus, the biggest obstacles out there tended to be twigs and goose droppings. I finished my run 30 minutes later, in better spirits due to my new game plan.

Ratkiller at Rest

Possible rat-murderer in Society Hill:
Is he maniacially enjoying the effect
his handiwork has on joggers?

A few days later I felt the urge to stretch my limbs. I needed a "sanity" run, but I didn’t have much time. Reluctantly, I laced up my shoes and ventured out the door for a quick loop. I reasoned that I’d survive if I avoided Front Street.

The first few minutes were taxing, as every clump of decaying leaves and mound of sooty snow was suspicious. Then I willed myself to look up, and slowly started to lose myself in the variety of characters I was passing on the sidewalks. As the sights and sounds of Philly enveloped me, I found myself looking down less.

I began to consider the unique experiences I’ve had running through quirky cities like his one. They offer limitless obstacles: throngs of suited workers being released into the streets at quitting time, hot-dog vendors, and teacup poodles that live for an attempt to take your foot off at the ankle. There are uneven sidewalks uprooted by trees, grimy puddles coated in iridescent film, crowded outdoor cafés, and brick walkways that become slick as ice in the rain. I consoled myself with the realization that often a city run becomes an adventure, an interesting journey filled with little conquests and new experiences.

So now, forewarning in place, I invite you go out there and burn off that cheesesteak! Take a jog, or even a stroll through the heart of Philadelphia and its various neighborhoods. Marvel at the history, absorb the beauty – but by all means, please watch your step.