Tag Archives: Ben Franklin Bridge

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia


What a weekend in Philadelphia. Pope Francis visits the city of brotherly love in the third and final stop of his American tour. Many fled, many complained, and many of us stayed and enjoyed ourselves. I seriously had a blast. Some observations…

– Re: the Pope himself, his biggest critics on the right are putting their politics over their faith (see Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, George Will), and in a party where faith apparently guides politics. That’s absurd.

– Mayor Nutter, STFU. You made your bed.

– Apropos of the Ben Franklin Parkway and its many flags, there were so many flags of pilgrims, visitors, tourists, hustlers: Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, New Mexico, Uganda, and of course The Vatican.

– I didn’t make it down to see the Jade Buddha, alas. And the Dalai Lama has canceled his visit. A speedy recovery to His Holiness. (Er, that His Holiness.)

– So many restaurants and bars sounded off like whiny bitches. Dawg you had six months to plan. Either close down for two days and cut your losses, or throw down block party style like Village Whiskey did. They got it right.

– I’ve never seen so many different types of cops — Philadelphia police, PA state troopers, MontCo cops, HSI (Homeland Security Investigations), TSA, FBI, National Guard, National Park Service, Allied Barton (seriously), many others. Most of them were friendly.

Untie a knot, say a prayer, share a burden: the knotted grotto
Untie a knot, say a prayer, share a burden: the knotted grotto
– Meg Saligman’s “knotted grotto” installation at the Basilica was beautiful and full of heartfelt sentiments: “Peace in the Philadelphia community,” “please help my family get out of debt,” “please bless Eddie’s cat,” “Pope Francis I believe you are the second coming of Christ.”

– Protesters of the pope came from both sides of the aisle, but the ones at Franklin Square took the cake: I believe there is some Westboro Baptist Church affiliation, and these folks, who called Pope Francis the antichrist, claimed responsibility for the distribution of the Great Controversy books this summer. They had more here, and left them all around town, including at the Convention Center.

– It was wild to see Philadelphia’s staggering backdrop of cranes — Comcast Innovation & Technology Center, FMC Tower, East Market, 1919 Market, CHOP, that ugly ass building next to the Ben Franklin Bridge — for such a world event.

– So many pope billboards: Wawa, Dranoff Properties, Michael’s Way, Visit Philly, St Joseph’s University (who referenced Francis’ Jesuit education)

– I’m glad I got to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge since I missed the 75th anniversary party in 2001. I wanted to ride my bike across, but the National Guard was making people walk their bikes, although cops could still ride, of course. John Pettit called BFB “Philly’s hottest new popup park.”

– It took me one hour and 42 minutes to get from the beginning of security to my ticketed seat for the Festival of Families on Saturday night. It was worth it.

– The Bob Brady pope glass theft was absolutely hilarious.

– But not as hilarious as The Onion’s coverage of Francis’ visit.

– I am sorry, but I still think scrapple is disgusting. Reading Terminal Market had a tray of it in bricks for visiting journalists, and hardly anyone tried it.

– Jim Kenney, I know you loved these open streets, let’s keep that momentum going.

* * *

All told, a fun and positive weekend in Philadelphia. I made a photo essay with about 100 photos on one long, scrolling, easy to use page. If you’d like to view that, you may do it…


Peace Through Power: USS Somerset on the Delaware

Focus on the ship, not all the riverfront surface parking
Focus on the ship, not all the impervious riverfront concrete and macadam

As a matter of posting more content and connecting with the other stuff I do, I really oughta link over to the essays I publish on the Hidden City Daily. Is there a way to put an RSS feed for a specific author on a site like Hidden City? [Let me google that for you.] [Thinks out loud.]

After a week calling Philadelphia home, the USS Somerset will officially become the US Navy’s newest warship this morning at a commissioning ceremony. Docked at Penn’s Landing since arriving last week, the Somerset (LPD-25*) is a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock, named for the victims of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

*The LPD series stands for Landing Platform Dock.

(Side note: my late grandfather DJ Maule is from the village of Bakersville in Somerset County, about 15 miles from Shanksville, and we went to family reunions at a picnic ground there when I was little. Additional side note: the Oakhurst Tea Room has called Somerset home for over 80 years, and to this day it is still the most incredible, gluttonous German smorgasbord I’ve ever seen. Highly, highly recommended for your next drive across the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)

Peace is life, buoy
Peace is life, buoy

USS Somerset was built at Avondale Shipyard on the Mississippi River near New Orleans in Louisiana, the last Naval ship to leave that facility whose fate is uncertain. The Somerset was the last Navy contract Avondale had, and a shipyard workforce that once totaled over 5,000 is now down to 700 with no major contracts secured. (New Orleans Times-Picayune.)

As a warship, the Somerset will transport Sailors, Marines, and supplies. Its flight deck is large enough for two V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to land/depart simultaneously, a feat the Navy demonstrated with the landing of an Osprey and a SuperCobra attack helicopter during the media tour on Thursday.

A 9/11 theme pervades the deepest interiors of the ship, from the massive “Let’s Roll” facing the flight deck to Heroes Hall (the mess hall); from a quilt memorializing all the passengers of Flight 93 to items collected across Somerset County, including road signs, maps, and photos. It’s also got a commemorative bell emblazoned with “PEACE THROUGH POWER”.

Following today’s commissioning, the Somerset will set sail for the homeport of San Diego. For a full photo essay of the ship in its Delaware River surroundings, check it out on Hidden City HERE.