In all skills and abilities there is timing…. There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this. ~The Book of Five Rings
Part II- Return (Book of Water)
In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.
Arriving in Philly to attend my reunion a day early than expected, my plans had shifted all around. I exited the plane. Made my way through corridors along which I’d walked many times before and down the escalator towards baggage claim, doused in nostalgia.
I arrived at the hotel and unpacked. I like to put my things away- clothes in drawers, coats in the closet, toothbrush by the sink, to settle into a place. After freshening up I strolled to find an old friend. I was promised the culinary delights of a personal chef after all.
I moseyed through old town-past the cobblestones and vendors craning food down into the basements of ancient storefronts. I navigated past Ben Franklin’s home and the smells of cheese steaks and real pizza. The cadence of voices slightly raised, conversations unguarded.
I crossed the last street onto the block towards the restaurant. There, in the middle of the sidewalk before me, he stood. I knew him instantly (even though we hadn’t laid eyes on one another in 25 years). Our hug was natural. I couldn’t have imagined a better start to a reunion weekend.
In high school I was Paul’s dream girl, his illusive Margot Roth Spiegelman. And even though he still has the ability to make me feel beautiful our friendship has morphed to something deeper than any young crush could ever be. In recent years we’ve become true friends. He’s made me feel cared for when times are tough.
I settled into the bar where everyone had been instructed to give me whatever I wanted. I drank beers and Paul brought me a plate of glorious tacos, checking on me regularly between prepping and plating food for paying customers.
When his shift ended he joined me and we made our way down to the whiskey room. Planting our asses in comfy chairs, and filling our glasses up with gold the real talk began. We caught one another up on the highs and lows that cannot be conveyed over texts or emails. Only through eyes and breath, pauses and cadence, could our true stories be woven. And when the time finally came I walked him to catch his train home and made my way back down Market to my hotel.
I promised to text once I was safe-n-sound, since he didn’t want me to walk back unattended.. The chivalry felt familiar, a memory like home. I had forgotten the feeling of being watched over. Philly Boys are a special blend: they are half dog, half knight. You are both protected and prey. It’s a lethal concoction often hard to resist. And sadly an innate instinct many men have lost.
Early-ish I arose. First thing first I thought “Cawfe”. I found a café and a good strong cup of black. I spent the afternoon walking around town. Lamenting all the changes even as beautiful as they were, wishing to stroll past the liberty bell out in the open square not under a glass pavilion. Hating tourists whilst appreciating the irony of being one and the only thing I paid to do was stroll through the old cemetery. That’s just how I roll.
When I arrived at the base of the Art Museum steps I yearned to see the Rocky statue at the top not below in its new location. Nostalgia is a potent drug. Unable to run the stairs as I did many times in my youth, I lingered at the base long enough to recall the exhilaration of it.
Once I crested the top I found (to my surprise) the real thing. Sylvester Stallone was doing a press conference of his new movie, the Rocky spin-off, Creed. So in the end, I got to see Rocky atop the museum stairs after all.
The next few hours I spent indulgent in the museum. One thing I’ve always adored about PAM (The Philadelphia Art Museum) is the fully-staged rooms. Rooms that transport you to another time: Shaker bedrooms, Italian Courtyards, French Renaissance sitting rooms to get lost inside, room after room of wonders: lives to imagine, stories to tell, walls that speak. I felt the same wandering through India. Wondering had another’s finger traced this very crack before me.
I returned to the restaurant for another round of fattening up. A childhood friend, one I’ve known since I was 8 yrs. old (Brett 3), discovered from Facebook I was downtown. A messaged appeared. So it was arranged; leaving work, he swung by to catch up over a beer.
Seeing him it occurred to me, I need to return to Philly to catch up with an entire lifetime that can’t be tackled in a weekend or any high school reunion. There is so much history in this place. It is in many ways woven into the fiber of my constitution.
As arranged, Lou picked me up. We headed across town towards his house where he changed out of his work duds. We met up with his beloved wife Erica who I’d wrangled into joining us for the madness sure to ensue. I swore to keep Erica company and was grateful for hers.
Erica is an artist, MC, Spoken word poet. In other words, to me, she’s a God Damn Rock star. And it bears saying, she’s stunning: a Mona Lisa allure. There is a kindness in her, rarely seen, that glows. If I were a better painter she’d be my muse. And though I’d only recently met her, she felt familiar to me; no doubt an extension of my deep affection for Lou.
See, Lou is one of the few HS friends that are actually family, one of my parents adopted children. For this reason they’d recently sojourned to Seattle for a visit, both my parents battling their own cancers; all the trials plaguing my family.
Sadly, my friendship with Lou had taken a hiatus as it had with my entire family. One we’d recently mended. One we both sadly allowed to linger too long. I hate that I missed their wedding.
And had I not just spent quality time with them both in Seattle, I might have been desperate to confiscate more of their precious time. Hunker down watching episodes of Drunk History, my new favorite show (both funny and informative)and skip the festivities entirely.