First Night in Philly

Now that I’m back in the states, I find myself still wanting to take in the sights, explore my surroundings, and snap a few shots along the way. So it was an easy decision to join the South Jersey Photography Club for First Night, a monthly event held on the first Friday of every month in the Olde City section of Philadelphia. People of all ages and–let’s say styles–wander among the 40 or so art galleries that fling wide their doors between 5 and 9 p.m. Most galleries are between Front and Third Streets, Market and Vine.

Our group met on the corner of 2nd and Market then walked down 2nd, though we didn’t even have to move before meeting one of the many characters that assemble during events like this one:


As entertaining as the guy on the left might be, we did not talk to him but we can imagine that Mr. Fuzzy Pink Hat was telling him what he’d told us: that he was in the CIA and not to take his picture, which of course led many of us to move away and hide behind other people to take his picture! Photographers are rebels.

As I strolled the streets of the city on the mildest night of Spring we’ve had, I was impressed by the artists outside, displaying their wares on the sidewalk, more than by those whose work hung proudly on gallery walls. Unlike hawkers I’ve seen in NYC, these artists stood quietly beside their work, invisibly dancing the silent waltz with potential customers.


We look, they wait; if we buy, they are most grateful. If we don’t, they tell us to have a good night. I feel bad every time I don’t buy and I think they feel bad too, but as I own thousands of pieces of stuff that I must either sell or throw away, I simply cannot buy any more. I do try to say that I love their work, which I guess makes them a little happy, but not as happy as if I, say, bought something.

I watched this artist from across the street for awhile and thought that his robot cat was actually real, the way it moved and closed its eyes and everything.


I spoke with him briefly as he cuddled his “cat.” I thought that it’s not necessarily talent that separates artists like him from the ones whose work was displayed inside the galleries, it’s luck, perhaps effort, who you know, where you went to school…you know. This guy might be a Harvard grad for all I know, but the whole scene did make me think about the ones outside and the ones inside and I wondered, at the end of the night, if one group was really happier than the other.

The ones inside had alcohol, though, so they had a slight edge.


I thought about the differences in the displays, THIS:




And the vast difference in prices. If for nice frames and a little luck, could the Outsiders be Insiders? Were any of the Insiders once Outsiders? And what about the musicians? They were all outside, their cases opened for change from the few observers who bothered to stop, listen and throw in a few coins. When do they get do go inside?


ON 2nd street, the Merriam Theater did not miss an opportunity to advertise their upcoming show:


and Red Bull girls gave out free cans of their newest flavors:


as their convoy swept into the steady stream of cars looking for parking.


The Arden Theater gave away free beer to anyone who could prove his age to be 21 or over, but I opted for one of their double chocolate brownies for $2.25 which was, I believe, the wiser choice. After all, I can score a beer anywhere, but how often does someone bake me home-made brownies? WIN.


I did buy a pair of earrings from a waif of a girl in a red, sparkly Phillies hat, who made me a custom ring in minutes and charged five dollars for both. When I went into my purse to get the money, I realized I didn’t have any money, only a debit and credit card. I’m good for it, I told her, asking for her card, and she told me not to worry about it! Imagine. I found an ATM later and went back with the money and I heard her friend says something about “good karma” as I walked away and I thought, yes, isn’t it nice that she trusted me in this otherwise scary world. Most people are good, I told her and really wanted her to believe it, sitting as she was on the sidewalk. I’m wearing both the earrings and the ring as I write, and I love them both and I hope that nothing bad ever happens to that wonderful girl…indeed, to any of these brave artists. After all, this is the City of Brotherly Love.



5 thoughts on “First Night in Philly

  1. I am astonished though not surprised to see how much growth has happened in the “real world” of Philadelphia. Patricia, you have a gift. You can write and engage people.Keep at it. Remain humble. I believe in you.

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