Muscle Squirrels of Philadelphia

“Muscle squirrels” was what a guy I dated long ago called squirrels that “come right up to you and demand to be fed.” I made my first visit ever to Philadelphia recently and encountered a park-full of these cute little guys in Washington Square. They would run up to you and, if you pointed your finger at them, they would stand up on their hind legs and beg! I hadn’t seen so many squirrels since I visited the Yale campus to do research for The Visconti Devils – and I live in Squirrel Hill, so I am used to seeing a lot of them, naturally!

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Philadelphia’s City Hall is truly impressive and looks like something you would expect to see in France, not Pennsylvania. For many years, no one was allowed to build anything that was taller than the statue of William Penn at the highest pinnacle, but they have scrapped that now.

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I had never seen a bison gargoyle until I saw this building. They don’t build ’em like this any more!

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We spent four hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and saw only the top floor. They have a lot of knight armour and weapons (have you noticed there is always at least one sword fight in all my novels?) and architectural pieces from churches and cathedrals in Europe, particularly France. No, I did not run up the steps a la Rocky – by the time we got there, we had been walking all day already – limping up the steps was more like it.

And I will never, ever, ever, even if I live to be 100, rent an Airbnb room again. I rented what was advertised as “an artist’s studio” in the old town – cute little 200-year-old house on a tiny alley – what the host did not mention was that his roommate(s) were going to be there, and they threw the loudest, most obnoxious party I have ever heard, blaring music and screaming non-stop for FIVE HOURS. No kidding – they burst in, probably fresh from a bar, at 11:00 p.m. and the screaming and blaring did not let up until after 4:00 a.m., when finally a neighbour complained. There was no lock on the door to the room where I was trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep, and at one point someone tried to come in and I yelled at them to get out. The rest of the night, I lay there, afraid that a couple of drunks would burst into my room and land on top of me as I lay in bed. Worst night I’ve had since I lived in Tallahassee and was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a police shootout outside.

One of these days, I’ll have to visit Philadelphia again to see some more of what I missed, but no Airbnb for me, thank you very much.