The day before the winter storm warning was released, I got an email from my editor. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry, your story has been delayed. We still need it, we’re still going to run it, but probably not until summer.” I looked at my tickets — I was leaving in the morning and thought, “What the hell. I’m going to Philly.” I packed my big parka, threw in some snow pants just in case, and off I went.
By the time I arrived, the impending storm was all anyone could talk about. “Am I going to be able to see anything tomorrow?” I asked one of the staffers at the Mutter Museum. “Oh, god no. No. Everything will be closed.”
I watched the news for a bit this morning, laughing at the dramatic discussion of the snow. Reporters fairly pounced on people at bus stops, anyone outside was fair game. There was a little over a foot a fresh snow on the ground and a continued mix of snow and sleet falling from the sky. Bored with that, and thanks to a tip on how to use Twitter to find out what was open (track #openinPHL), I swaddled myself in my gear and headed over to Market Street where I found probably the best damn breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten at High Street on Market — gooey mozzarella, fried egg, roasted portobello mushroom, kale, and some other messy delicious stuff. It may be that when you shuffle out in the dismal weather to get a breakfast sandwich, the sandwich always wins, but I’m quite sure this sandwich would be transformational on a perfectly good day, when you don’t have to work so hard to get it. I also got the whitefish bialy. “Hey,” I asked my waiter, “would you mind wrapping that up for me but good so when I fall on the ice and it gets smashed, I don’t have to scrape it off the inside of my coat?” He did, and it is my snack should I decide it’s just too awful to go out again.
I shuffled around Old City, trying not to fall on my bialy, and into Shane Confectionery, a very pretty candy shop that’s been there since 1863. I bought two buttercreams — they’ve used the same recipe for 100 years. “Oh, we’ll just be cleaning all day,” said the costumed clerk. “I was already in by the time the owner’s called snow day, so I figured… I’m already at work.”
I wandered around the neighborhood for a while, past flag-maker Betsy Ross’ house, past Benjamin Franklin’s press, past the Quaker Hall and the site of Philly’s first synagogue and the Firefighter’s Museum. A guy was out front shoveling snow. “Another day in Paradise!” he said, smiling.
“You know, it’s only when it’s like this you get this kind of quiet,” he admitted, and wished me a nice day.
It would be easy to complain — so many things are closed, and the poor guy at the front desk of my hotel (the Monaco) looks awfully rattled, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and the phone is ringing off the hook, probably with cancellations. The streets are so hazardous for walking, great puddles of freezing water at the curb, the buses cancelled, and when I picked up the phone to call the airlines, I could have just hung up on myself, so much was I not going to get through.
But I don’t mind. The guys with the snow shovels are so polite — “Watch your step, darling!” Old City is a museum in and of itself, and even its more recent history looks weirdly appealing in the snow, the powdery stuff piling up on the stylized typography of… the 20s? The 30s? Elfreth’s Alley is a Christmas postcard and there’s the muffled silence that bad weather brings. My flight is rebooked for Saturday (via online, the phone is useless) and I’ll have my room for one more day. Tomorrow morning, that statue of George Washington will be again wearing a white powdered wig of snow and I will have 24 more hours in Philly.