Oops. Someone who spent hours and hours planning this trip neglected to look up when and where the Democrats were having their national convention. Oy vey! Turns out, I had scheduled our one-day visit to Philadelphia for the same day as Joe Biden and Barack Obama. See the crowd I run with?
Anyway, thanks to some savvy advice from an old friend who lives on the Jersey side, we took the train in from Jersey, saw what we needed to see, ate a Philly Cheesesteak, and grabbed an early afternoon train out before things got too chaotic. And it worked. Apparently most tourists were smarter than I was and planned to avoid Philly that week, so many of the must-see places had thin crowds. The crowds were thin; the security was not. There were more security personnel in one than I’ve seen since I lived in Washington D.C. I actually felt ridiculously safe, but my darker-skinned husband said he felt uneasy, which says something about how we each experience law enforcement these days.
What we did see was Independence Hall, the liberty bell, and lots of things related to Benjamin Franklin. We also saw tons of media people, convention delegates, and a small protest. I think my kids were more impressed with the second list, but they tolerated the historical portions as well. Our tour through Independence Hall was led by a marvelous storyteller who had a knack for making historical events relevant with current events.
I hated history classes as a student. I remember the party I had in high school on the last day of history, when I knew I would never have to take another class crammed with memorizing names and dates of boring battles, signings, and other transfers of power from one irrelevant person or group to another. There was no life or relevance in any of our readings or lectures or movies, and boy did those teachers like to show movies. I guess we all needed a little nap to get us through the day.
Now, years later, I read and write historical fiction. Why? What do they give me that classes did not? Story. People. Drama. Life. Interest. History is actually full of fascinating people motivated by all sorts of desires to do all sorts of crazy things. Too bad they leave most of that out of the text books. It turns out that history is more than dates and places. History has characters, conflict, and climax. When these elements are explored and explained, history gets a lot more interesting.
Most of my reading and writing life is focused on English history, but learning about some of the players taking desperate measures to form a new country opened my eyes to some new story possibilities. I’m fairly sure there’s something bubbling in my subconscious about Benjamin Franklin. It hasn’t taken shape or form yet, but the wheels are turning. I can’t wait to