John Walker's Electronic House

Philly 08 Part One: Pineapple Hill

by on Jul.19, 2008, under The Rest

I went to America last week. I tend to go to America for work quite often, but this was for my much needed holidays – it’s always my first choice of destination, because dammit I love it over there, and it contains some good friends.

As has become an annual occasion, I went out to visit Kim and Nick, friends of many years. Except now it’s Kim, Nick and Elena – an eleven month old addition to the family. I met her briefly last year in December, but she was tiny and not very chatty at that point. Now she is walking and grabbing and opening and tearing and mumbling and squealing and giggling and chomping and crouching and dancing and putting on Billy Joel CDs. Which is FAR better.

She's a cutie!

Kim and Nick are two of Earth’s Excellent People. Both teachers, both driven by a remarkable passion for education, and both deeply caring. I’ve known Kim since I was 18, was a sort of maid of honour (except with a Y chromosome) at her wedding, and via the magics of the internet have communicated with her more than most of my friends in the same country as me. They hosted me every year when I went to visit the best place in the world, Chicago, in their spare room. Now they’ve moved to Philadelphia (or just outside of it), living on a school campus, so that becomes my destination of choice for using up any saved money over the summer.

Pineapple Hill

This time I stayed in a B&B in the nearby town of New Hope – a fantastically bohemian place with a vibrancy of alternative cultures, a combination of gay, artistic and witchy areas. The B&B itself was about five miles away from the town (which would obviously be in another town by that distance in the teeny UK), but I was fortunate enough to have Kim chauffeur me about for the four nights I was there. It was The Pineapple Hill B&B, and if for any reason you’re staying anywhere near New Hope, let it be recommended. A wonderful couple called Cookie and Kathryn run the place (Cookie being a 6’2″, 300lb ex-Navy chef, rather than the small girl he points out his nickname suggests), and it’s just fantastic. There’s remarkable cooked breakfasts, lovely rooms, and an atmosphere that has all the guests happily chat with each other. Even with the astonishing cartoon character of a Republican I met the second night.

Pineapple Hill again

He deserves his own paragraph. After Kim dropped me off at the B&B, I saw a small group of people chatting outside, and they said hi to me. They were Cookie, and then an older guy and his wife, and their daughter who was back from living in Japan. All three were from California. Cookie and the guy – let’s call him Mr. Republican – were discussing how they were both in the Navy, and then talked about something I didn’t follow regarding whose fault it was (politically) that something had stopped working in the 80s. Cookie began ranting about how useless Reagan and Bush (Snr) were, and how much damage they had done. Mr. Republican was clearly riled by this, and then entirely thrown when Cookie added, “And I’m a Republican through and through.”

Mr. Rep had some peculiar argument about how it was all the postal workers fault (whatever on Earth it was), and Cookie very delicately disagreed with him in such a way that the loud man didn’t really notice. The conversation turned to New Hope, and Cookie explained how much he loved the town, and that he loved it because it was such a mix of people and lifestyles, all getting on and creating the friendliest place he’d ever known. “All those different people in one place,” he said. Mr. Rep interjected, “Yes, good to keep them all in one place.” Everyone squirmed. Cookie, firmly and politely replied that no, that’s not what he meant, but rather the town was populated by the most kind and welcoming people he’d met. Mr Rep didn’t like this much, pulling faces. But the best bit – oh boy, it was great – was when Cookie explained that his mother-in-law had just bought him a giant widescreen TV with digital and so on, and that he was always much happier, “With a small TV and cable, like you have in your rooms. So long as I have CNN, I’m fine.” “CNN!” blurted out Mr Rep. “You’re a Republican and you watch CNN?! A Republican should be watching Fox News!” Cookie smiled at him politely, and ignored the comment. I thought this was the best moment for me to get out the Obama 08 badge Kim had just given me. I’m good with timing. And it made me laugh.

After Cookie had left, the idiotic old fart continued to mutter, “Calls himself a Republican and doesn’t watch Fox News…” Quite astonishing. I sort of wanted to catch him in a big net and put him in a display case in a museum, with a sign explaining, “A living example of the stereotypical perception the rest of the world has of American Republicans.”

No pavement!

For the first couple of mornings, before Kim came to pick me up for our daily adventures, I walked down the road from the B&B to the nearby Delaware River, to a small pebbled patch on the edge of the water. I’d spotted it as we drove about trying to find the B&B the first night, and figured I’d take a look.

Hello river.

Of course, as rural and remarkably beautiful an area as this might be, it was still America so there was no sidewalk on the roads. Walking down I had to either walk on people’s front lawns, or in the narrow road on the many blind corners. Which made it more challenging.

Mmm, paddling.

The spot was perfect, in the amazing sunshine. To reach the stony mini-beach I had to wade through some disturbingly green and stationary water where a feeding tributory was too dry to spill over into the river, but I’m brave and fear not the slime. Certainly worth it. The patch of pebbles was about fifty percent flat, smooth stones, and the river enormously wide. Skimming! Two mornings of it. If you’d been there you’d have exclaimed in amazement and the number of jumps I was getting. You’d likely have suggested I find out if there might be some professional league of stone skimmers in which I could participate and likely be champion of.

The previous day was much more sunny in this direction, but I didn't bring my camera.

While there I saw herons fly over (although fumbled my camera and only caught them as cartoon Vs in the distance), and teeny fishies swim by. It was all really rather idyllic.

So clearly there’s much more to tell, but this is long enough for one post.

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