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Old City

clarsen's picture

This summer I participated in “Tri-Co”, a program where Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr students discuss social justice, equity, and diversity.  During one caucus we touched on the Norristown High Speed Line and how Bi-Co students often refer to it as “sketchy”.  What was it about the train that made students afraid or uncomfortable and what exactly did they mean by “sketchy”?  The upperclassman agreed that it attracted more minorities and working class people rather than the business men and women that typically use the R5.  When I boarded the train on Saturday, I found it to be like any typical New York City train cart.  There were a larger range of people on board which included large families, construction workers, and students. 

After we transferred to the Market-Frankford line, however, I could see how the crowd might make students uncomfortable.  There were several homeless people on board that tried to strike up conversations with the people around them.  One man in front of me continually yelled at every passenger that carried a bottled drink, turned around in his seat and stared my group and I down, and muttered profanities under his breath.  Being raised in New York definitely taught me to put my guard up and expect the worse when in these situations.  Although the homeless people in New York aren’t typically as aggressive, I’m used to receiving attention from them.

            I left the station determined to visit galleries and find murals in Old City and be able compare it to those on South Street.  Mary Flanagan states that a true artist refers to “those who are creating outside the commercial establishments, and often, those who are ‘making’ for ‘making’s sake’”(Flanagan 3).  While exploring the street of Old City, I kept my eye for places, people, and setups that met this description.  I found many independent galleries that I visited, specifically “Wexler Gallery” which exhibited mainly sculpture.  Strolling around, I additionally saw a lot of graffiti, street art, and murals – some of the things Philly is best known for.  Compared to New York and most other states I’ve visited, I’ve noticed how much more Philadelphia embraces street art.  Graffiti seems to be almost encouraged as it draws in a good deal of tourists and art enthusiasts.  Flanagan would surely consider graffiti true as the artist clearly made it for “makings sake” and rarely receives credit. 

            A few mosaics by Isaiah Zagar were also spotted on this trip.  We passed by “Skin of the Bride” a building covered in Zagar’s signature tiles, mirrors, and three armed men.  As I said in my previous paper, Isaiah Zagar is an excellent example of an artist; “Magic Gardens” is nonprofit and neither fame nor riches motivate Zagar.  This building was just as exquisite as the previous works I had seen on South Street and attracted many passer byers to stop in their track.  It was amazing how his mosaic brightened up the street and drew in so much attention. 

            Where I found music to be the backbone of South Street I thought Old City was, as its name implies, very historical.  I found it interesting and very impressive how hard Old City works to preserve and intensity its historic roots.  Elfreth’s Alley was one of the first places we visited after we arrived.  The old buildings, horse fountains, statues, and alleyways also read as street art and sculpture to me.  Towards the end of the day my group and I visited Franklin Fountain, an old-fashioned ice cream shop.  The workers were dressed in traditional historic apparel, which added to the authentic feel.  Along with authenticity, however, it felt like performance art.   Much like I experienced in South Street Philadelphia, exploring Old City was like exploring a museum. 


Amy Ma's picture

In the first paragraph,

In the first paragraph, Cordelia wrote about what she learned about R-100 in “Tri-Co”, and her own experience on that train. She compared R-100 with the train in New York and thinks they are very similar. It makes me imagine how trains in New York are like. Actually it is kind of hard for me to imagine that there are train stations in New York that is a little bit desolated like R-100 station in Bryn Mawr. What I pictured in my mind is an underground station with concrete wall, with busy people walking fast or reading newspaper or making a phone call. New York in my mind is very modern and very busy and crowded, and from Cordelia’s comparison between R-100 and trains in New York, I got some questions to ask the city which I am going for fall breakJ

She also plays by throwing a question about sketchy. After looking up the word “sketchy” and getting some different explanations from the dictionary, I am confused. What does “sketchy” mean? What does it refer to: does that refer to the short carriage or the surroundings or the whole trip or something else? 

AnotherAbby's picture

Opening Paragraph

  1. In the first paragraph, Cordelia is setting up the background of the Norristown Line as she learned it during Tri-Co, and beginning to talk about how it could make some people uncomfortable based on her observations of the train.
  2. When I read it, her use of rhetorical questions drew me in to what her personal inquiries about the Norristown Line were, and what she would be looking for as she continued her paper. She also moves on in the paragraph to describe what the train was like, and what kind of people were on it, making me feel like I’m having her recite her experience to me.
  3. In terms of work, she’s trying to use a combination of the possible biases she brought with her and the experience she had on the train in order to try to paint as accurate a picture of her situation as she can. I, in turn, have to give up any of my experiences and biases in order to be able to slip myself in and experience the essay as someone in her position.
  4.  I’m not sure where the first paragraph falls in terms of “play”. I think it works well, but the play element, in my opinion, is somewhat absent. It has a kind of child-like feel to it, as shown when she is questioning the opinions of the upperclassmen, but it focuses less on play and more on jumping right into the subject matter, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.