There are certain cities that we pass through too quickly and we all agree that Philly is one of them. Sure, we saw Independence Hall, the LOVE sculpture, Ben Franklin's grave, Thomas Jefferson's walking stick, the Liberty Bell and (today) Eastern State Penitentiary with Al Capone's cell - but there is so much we missed.
We never even glanced at the Franklin Institute, Adventure Aquarium, the working 18th century print shop, the National Constitution Center or Betsy Ross' house. But hey, I did get to lock Punk and Kooka in prison, so I guess it was time well spent.
The Eastern State Penitentiary was envisioned by Benjamin Franklin, built in 1821, and continued to house criminals until 1971. Originally planned as a silent and foreboding place for criminals to be thoughtful and repent, this prison was home to some of America's most notorious criminals including Slick Willie and "Scarface" himself - Al Capone. We were fascinated by the walking audio tour which included tours of the cell blocks, the solitary confinement "hole," the hospital, Al Capone's cell, the yard and death row. It was the perfect place for a haunted house tour (which apparently is held each fall), and is likely why Yoda (who seems to share Punk's love of everything creepy) and I had this conversation:
Yoda: What's dis place?
Me: It's a jail. A place where bad guys go when they get in trouble.
Yoda: (running her hand across the pale blue, lead paint flakes covering the cell walls) I like dis place.
Me: You DO?!
Yoda: Yeah. Can we live here? Live here in dis jail?
Yoda: We can live here. Or maybe we could just go to a hotel.
Here's a sneak peak at her dream home:
Punk had the chance to unlock a cell, and then we got to shut him inside. We traded spots soon after and Yoda and I both found it a little suffocating. We weren't quite screaming, but we both said, "Let me out," as soon as we felt the iron door close.
We checked out Al Capone's cell, which was decked out with a writing desk, carpet, a radio - a far cry from the pathetic digs of the other prisoners. As Kooka said, "He was the worst of all of them, why does he have the best cell?"
This led to a discussion of bribes, the mob, and who exactly is responsible for the crime - the guy who pulls the trigger, or the guy who gives the orders, which led us to a discussion of prison rules, which led to Rico purchasing a list of them to post in our home.
They are mostly perfect rules for our family. In a nutshell, they say:
*Keep your space clean.
* Obey your superiors and do it quickly.
*Clear your plate and make sure you throw extra stuff in the garbage.
* Whatever you are told to do - do it well, and spend your free time improving your mind.
* Address any complaints to the warden.
* Be courteous and don't get sidetracked by angry or vengeful feelings
* Observe the Sabbath.
* The wardens will treat you with humanity and kindness, and they expect you to follow the rules.
Nevertheless, our children were not terribly thrilled with our new acquisition.
So while Philadelphia is old in the best way possible, we can't say the same for Hoboken, New Jersey. We wouldn't even be here in the first place if it weren't for middle child's fascination with reality TV's Cake Boss. Kooka loves to bake, loves to create cakes (check out Yoda's birthday confections). The line to get into Carlo's Bakery snaked down the block and took an hour to get through, but this was like Mecca to the cake princess, so we waited.
Twelve dollars later, Kooka was in heaven with a mini chocolate truffle cake, Punk was munching a sprinkled cookie, and I was snacking on a flaky, lobster tail pastry. Worth twelve bucks? Maybe. Worth an hour wait? Well, the smile on Kooka's face was - we'll leave it at that.
Rico and Yoda, who couldn't handle the wait stopped at Dunkin' Doughnuts and met us down by the Hudson River for a view of NYC.
The people in Hoboken are nice, but the place is a mess. Dirty, disheveled and generally unkempt, even city hall ( located across the street, where everyone from the bakery line goes to use the restroom) is full of broken tiles and a thin coat of grime. Come on Cake Boss, throw them a bone and at least spring for the 409.
Rico was ecstatic to have an unobtructed view of his beloved New York.
Good thing he enjoyed it, because our view was plenty obstructed when we drove through Manhattan during rush hour.
Of course since this is Rico's hood, we were just driving to get more food. Because as he will tell you (or anyone who will listen), there is no such thing as good food anywhere except New York. First it was a stop at the Lemon Ice King of Corona in Queens.
This was the kid's first taste of Italian ices, and they were in heaven. Between the five of us we had vanilla chip, raspberry, peanut butter, bubble gum, peach, rainbow and piña colada. They are like little bursts of freezie flavor heaven, and Punk said it was the best thing he'd eaten on our entire trip.
He held tight to that notion for about six minutes, which is when Rico pulled into Amore's pizza for some real New York slices. One bite and he changed his mind, this was his new best thing. Bagels tomorrow, so we'll see what happens.
Tonight we are in a Springhill Suites in Milford, Connecticut. After tonight the big kids will have seen 41 states - not as close up as we'd like for all of them, but enough to let them taste ices and independence and maybe that's the best we can hope for.