Goodbye Philadelphia

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Ocean as “Rocky” overlooking the Benjamin Franklin parkway. 

We could certainly feel the excitement in the city caused by Democratic National Convention. The ubiquitous police, Bernie Sanders protesters, delegates dressed in red, white and blue and extremely hot temperatures created a frenzied atmosphere. We spent the morning in our hotel near the airport because the kids wanted to swim in the pool. With my Bernie Sanders t-shirt, I was mistaken for a Connecticut delegate by the Georgia delegates, both delegations were staying in the hotel. An odd pairing with Georgia being heavily Clinton and African-American and Connecticut being a majority Sanders and white. I entered many conversations with delegates and others because of my shirt. Everyone we met in the hotel and city were super friendly, reminding me how nice Americans are and how nice it is to speak the language fluently. In Japan I am handicapped with my limited Japanese. We didn’t see the reputation of the Philly sports fans as being rude. Most locals took pride in the city and enjoyed living there.

I loved Sanders’s convention speech last night. He rose above the egos and name calling of the campaign to bring out the important issues of rising poverty, income inequality and the plight of the middle class. I hate to see good, hard-working people struggle in our society. Sanders is the only candidate that is not a multi-millionaire/billionaire who I believe really cares about people like me. After seeing the stark contrast between rich and poor in the Lehigh Valley, New York City and Philadelphia this month, I feel the government needs to get them closer to the well-off for a healthy America for everyone. We saw the rich/poor divide manifest itself in the city yesterday. The only people out in the intense afternoon heat yesterday were European tourists, the homeless and us!

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Feelin’ the heat with City Hall in the background

“Philadelphia is a nicer New York City” was a quote by Owen as we explored more parts of the city in the afternoon. Flanked by the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, the spacious Benjamin Franklin Parkway green area, combined with the classic architecture of the museums and colonial buildings, makes for an impressive and relaxing big city. We managed to complete the “Rocky” training run up the steps of the art museum. The heat limited more exploring. To and from the central business district, we took the train, which was in sharp contrast to Japan. Many trains were late, tickets were sold by hand and it was generally disorganized. They have a long way to go to make public transport a viable alternative to private transport in the USA in my opinion. I was also disappointed in my morning run around the hotel. Despite the presence of a bike lane on the four-lane road outside the hotel, the intersections are not designed for pedestrians or bikers for that matter. With all of the space in America, it would be so easy to make the city walker/biker- friendly.

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Home of the DNC-2016 – view from the freeway

A summer thunderstorm delayed our flights to Las Vegas, but we made it out safe and sound. It was a strange morning drive on the strip this morning in the rising light of the desert. More posts to come on Nevada/Utah.

Philadelphia & the Democratic National Convention

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Posing by the Rocky statue on the museum grounds

I finished my second class this summer in Lehigh yesterday and we are off to take a family holiday in the great American west. We are leaving from Philadelphia so decided to spend a two days here to experience the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Although we are not delegates and cannot get into the convention center itself, there are lots of events around the city celebrating democracy and the convention.

The delegations from Georgia and Connecticut are staying in our hotel near the airport. We were talking yesterday with several of them, as well as delegates from Texas, and it is fascinating to hear their views and see the convention in progress. The delegations of Connecticut and Georgia are very different. Hillary Clinton  won Georgia 73-29 and there are lots of African American delegates (Georgia is 60% white). Clinton edged out Sanders 28-27 in Connecticut in a state that is 98.7% white. I wonder how the delegations will get along. They are generally political nerds from what I see and I am surprised that many of them are younger than I thought they would be. I have lots of questions and will try to talk to more of them today. The extra security is definitely noticeable, there is a policeman stationed in the lobby of the hotel. There are also walking and car patrols all over the city center.

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Delegate registration at the Doubletree hotel in Philadelphia

We asked two of the delegates from Connecticut what they thought of the email leak. Being Clinton delegates, they downplayed it, saying that Deborah Wasserman, the current party and convention chair was planning to step down after this election cycle anyway and they felt the change was good. We’ll see how this plays out in the upcoming days.

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Lots of extra security in the city this week

Many more Bernie Sanders t-shirts and pins can be seen than Clinton advertising, by a factor of 10 to 1. I wore my Sanders t-shirt for a bit yesterday afternoon and many people verbalized their support. This is the same reaction I received in the Lehigh Valley. Has there ever been a candidate so popular that has not won the nomination?

We got in yesterday afternoon and went to see the Philadelphia Museum of Art downtown. I tried to reenact the famous running scene in the first Rocky movie, where Sylvester Stallone is running through the streets of Philadelphia and ends on the museum steps. Unfortunately the convention rented the museum last night and the steps were closed to the public. I did manage to do the run up to the steps and we took our picture at the Rocky statue near the museum. With the release of Creed this past year, we introduced the kids to the Rocky series and they loved them, so everyone was excited to see where the film took place.

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It is so nice to be able to give the kids and Nadia, who is a US political junkie, the opportunity to see the convention up close and experience the excitement of process of electing the president.

Weekend Family Journal

 

Ocean and Oliver Show Off Their New Haircuts

We had a quiet weekend in Freeland, Pennsylvania. On Friday morning we packed and headed back to the Appalachians after a week on the Jersey Shore. We stopped to get haircuts at shop in Toms River, New Jersey. The kids look so much older with their their new hairstyles. We then checked out the Franklin Institute, a museum dedicated to science education in Philadelphia. I highly recommend a visit, although you can skip all of the extras, like the IMAX and 3D theatres, and the flight simulators. All three attractions were quite dated and not worth the extra cost.  The regular exhibitions and activities were excellent however and the kids could have stayed there all day. It was the perfect thing to do on a rainy day. We didn’t get much time to see the city and I do want to go back and explore a bit of the history of the city, especially see the Liberty Bell, the building where the Second Continental Congress met, and most importantly, recreate the training scene from the movie Rocky. The museum district is quite nice and I recommend Matt & Maria’s Italian Sandwich Shop, where we didn’t have the famous Philly Steak&Cheese sandwich, but we did have some gourmet sandwiches that really hit the spot.

The Atrium of the Franklin Institute

The visit did make me reflect on the life of Ben Franklin. I can see why he is called the “First American”. He was such a tour de force of intellect, creativity, ambition, and service. His accomplishments and wide variety of interests are truly impressive. I got chills seeing one of the original lightning rods he designed and reading some of his original journals about electricity. He was also a great diplomat and politician. We are fortunate to have him as one of the Founding Fathers of our country and his personal characteristics helped forge the ideals of America.

We spent the rest of the weekend resting and spending time with extended family. I did take the kids for a hike in an old strip mine just outside of Freeland, near the “patch town” of Upper Lehigh. We climbed the giant ore pile nicknamed “Big Ben” and contemplated the legacy of the coal industry. The locals use the area for motorcycle and ATV riding and also as an illegal dump to avoid fees at a landfill.

This week we are finishing up with packing, doctor visits, and saying goodbye to family before heading out on Friday.

The view from the top of “Big Ben”

The NFL Game Experience

Owen and Oliver Enjoy the Game

Yesterday we attended a National Football League game at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The game featured the host Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Washington Redskins. In an exciting finish, the Redskins defeated the Eagles, 27-20 to take a lead in their division. You can read about the game and see the highlights on NFL.com.

This post is more about the game experience for a family. The American sports stadium experience is much different than other countries. First of all, the tickets were extremely expensive. Our seats, as you can see, were very high up in the stadium near the end zone, cost $95 each. If you include parking ($30), food ($20 for 2 cokes, a hot dog, and small pizza) and gasoline (approx. $20), it was a $370 day. I would never pay that on a regular basis and if we had season tickets, that would be $3,700 for the year. I didn’t mind paying it for a one-time experience for the boys, but it is too much to ask for a season.

Why so high ticket prices? Well, the minimum salary for a rookie is almost $400,000 per year. I also think the cost of the stadium, which was partially publicly funded, also has to do with the cost. I don’t think the experience for me and my two children is worth $370. I would prefer to lesser level of football (player skills, stadium comfort, etc.) and a lower ticket price.

Robert Griffin III hands off to the running back

That being said, we really had a great time and it continued the boys’ interest in football. We’ve been playing everyday during the holidays, which is becoming a Christmas break tradition.

As I written before, attending a game is really an excuse to drink. I am not sure how many fans understand the game well or have played the game. Personally, football is the sport I enjoy watching the most. Despite an average of only 11 minutes of action per 3-hour game, it is the only sport (except Detroit Tiger baseball game, or Tour De France or Olympics) I can watch from start to finish.

Another aspect of going to the game is comparing it to staying at home and watching the game on television. With the hassles of lining up to get in, the cold, having limited access to other game highlights and statistics, the NFL should really consider the in-game experience. It is much more comfortable to stay home with the DirecTV Red Zone channel and watch all of the games.

I would like to thank my Uncle Jack for getting the tickets and taking us to the game. It was an experience we will not forget!