Day 4 -- Monday, May 4

I woke up this morning in the City of Brotherly Love. I had driven in on Sunday afternoon, reveling,along the way, in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania Dutch country. It really is quite lovely and this particular afternoon was as pleasant a driving day as you could hope for. I saw many Amish families out, I suppose, for a Sunday drive, so to speak. Their boxy little wagons looked a little uncomfortable but charming. I found I had mixed feelings. I felt a bit of an intruder; this was, after all, their territory and they have to deal quite often, I'm sure, with intrusive travelers who treat them as if they are animals in a zoo. You half expect to see a tram chug by, filled with Polaroid-snapping tourists and a bored guide pointing out the various sights and sites by rote.

Indeed, I found myself wishing I could stop and spend some time with one of the families that passed me by there on State Highway 772, just south of Intercourse, PA. I'd like to hear them explain their approach to life, why they've chosen to turn their backs on so many of the developments of the last hundred years. I saw so many contradictions in their choices, but I was only feeling puzzled, not judgmental. For instance, I saw two little boys in traditional garb trying out their new rollerblades. Why are these relatively recent inventions acceptable but not the automobile? I'm guessing it's because the car is mechanical and electric while the skates are not, but they are made by machines that are run by electricity, right? Anyway, I am, no doubt, revealing my ignorance here and any of you readers who feel inclined to write and educate me, please do.

Leaving the Amish behind, I rolled into Philadelphia and began to look for the youth hostel, which is located in Fairmount Park. I missed a turn and soon realized that I was lost. I was driving by another large park when I came upon a huge crowd of people milling about the fields of the park and the streets surrounding it. It seemed that an outdoor concert was being held or perhaps a demonstration. I was already a bit distraught from having lost my way and when I realized that the aforementioned crowd was comprised entirely of black folks, a sense of urgency swept over me. In short, I was anxious to get my skinny white ass the heck out of there, and fast.

This, to me, is the perfect illustration of just how lousy that situation in Los Angeles really was. I can honestly say that, just two weeks earlier, being in the exact same situation as that in which I now found myself would have caused me no particular worry. The surrounding neighborhood did not seem particularly rundown or dangerous and the gathering, whatever the occasion, would not have seemed ominous. Now, though, because some lousy excuses for cops had gone out of control and a relative few blacks had reacted with violence to the cops' inexplicable acquittal, I felt threatened by a crowd of black folks, just because of my color and theirs. It stinks. I was immediately ashamed of my fearful reaction to the situation and yet, when one considers how quickly things erupted in L.A. and elsewhere, and how many innocents, of all colors, were injured or killed, I suppose it is understandable that I felt that way. But it still stinks.

Now, I awakened to a chilly morn in Philadelphia only to discover that two of the main attractions I wished to see were closed on Mondays. I decided, then, to zip on down to Baltimore, my next planned stopover, and return to Philadelphia in a day or two.

I arrived in Baltimore mid-afternoon and began to stroll about, taking in the sights. I visited Edgar Allen Poe's grave, the Babe Ruth Birthplace/Baltimore Orioles Museum, walked through Little Italy (not quite as garish as NYC's can be but pretty tacky in its own right), and over to a dockside area known as Fell's Point that had been recommended to me. Not much was going on over there (Monday, they told me, was a slow night); most of the shops were closed by the time I got there at 6. I did manage to have a good seafood meal, though. It was an old-time spot known as John Steven Ltd. Nothing fancy - an old bar, tin ceiling, reasonable prices - but the food was tasty. I had an Anchor Steam on draft and some crab soup to start, followed by half a dozen steamed clams and a crab cake sandwich and another beer, a dark one from Germany whose name I couldn't remember if my life (and yours) depended on it.

Then, it was a coffee house called the Daily Grind, where the cappucino was better than the cutesy name would suggest and the peanut butter cookie was tops. I took a water taxi across the harbor and soon discovered that I had lost $800 in traveler's checks somewhere along the way. I didn't panic, though. I called L.A. information to get Karl Malden's phone number; Karl hooked me up with the right people at American Express and, as it turned out, the good folks at the Daily Grind had found the checks, called AMEX and were holding them for me on Tuesday morning.

Continue on the American Odyssey.
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