As any avid reader of this blog will know, Jess was in charge of planning the European leg of our trip due to her previous experience travelling through parts of Europe. For similar reasons, I was tasked with planning the US leg of our journey through the free world. One of the essential stops in our USA visit was the east coast city of Philadelphia. Why is that, you ask? The fact that you even have to ask shows just how much you have to learn my young Jedi. Philly is the city in which most of the Rocky films were made. Philadelphia's favourite fictional son, Rocky Balboa, made the streets and steps of downtown Philly one of the most recognisable neighbourhoods in movie history. And there was no way we could go home without having roamed Rockyland (for the second time, in my case. Because you can never have enough Rocky).
After 7 years of ever-so-subtle hints and slight nudges in the right direction, Jess was beginning to understand the significance of the Rocky film series and its endless lessons and metaphors for everyday life. I was soooo close to converting her into a Rocky fan. It was time to land the finishing blow and visit the same spots that Rocky Balboa had introduced to the world. First stop: the Rocky Steps.
Many people don't realise that the "Rocky steps" are actually the steps that lead to Philly's Museum of Art. For a brief period of time, the famous Rocky bronze statue sat atop the steps - leading to a rather humours debate between Philly's art snobs and local residents as to whether the statue constituted "art" and thus should remain at the top of the steps as one enters the museum. In the end the statue was relocated to the grassy area below the steps. The art goons may have won the battle but they lose the war everyday as thousands of people run up the steps and mimic Rocky's famous training montage, without ever bothering to enter the museum behind them. I can't help but chuckle when I think of these pretentious art goons having their hoity-toity art museum forever hijacked and overshadowed by a bloke whose most intelligible thought was "Yo Adrian".
As we approached the Rocky statue we found ourselves caught in the snares of a local hobo who insisted on taking our camera and conducting a photo-shoot like something out of Vogue magazine. He had us doing back-to-back poses, "fisty cuffs" poses and cheesy "aww they're in love" poses as the bronze Rocky towered behind us. At the end of the shoot I wanted to offer him a tip of a few bucks. At first he declined and then he said "Oh look if you have a twenty that would be nice". A twenty?? Who taught this guy how to haggle? He just went straight from zero to a 2000% increase on his fees! In the end, he got handful of dollar bills for his troubles and our eternal gratitude.
In addition to our pilgrimage to famous Rocky sites, we became acquainted with another Philadelphia institution: the cheesesteak. What is a cheesesteak? It's basically a hot dog roll (called a "hoagie") filled with finely shaved steak meat that's cooked with gooey cheese and onions. Typically you can choose from three different types of cheeses - provolone, white American or cheese whiz. For the true cardiac arrest-inducing experience you HAVE to go the cheez-whiz - it's a processed cheese sauce/spread that comes in a can ala whipped cream. Cheese in a can? Is that you God? You really do exist?
Despite our time in Rocky and cheesesteak heaven, our lodgings quickly brought us back down to earth. At first, we were rather impressed with our studio apartment. The bed was comfy and the kitchen was fully equipped. But then we were introduced to our secret roommate: a mouse. When I called the owner to inform her of the mouse her response was a blasé "Ohh yeah I thought I saw him the other day". You did? Oh gee, thanks for doing sweet F.A. about it!! At the moment it dawned on me that I had reached a critical fork in the road of my life. Until now, all critters and creepy crawlies had been taken care of by Dad or someone else whose life was not as precious as mine. But now here was Jess yelling at ME to "do something". Oh great, I had become that dude who has to grab the critter, wrestle the snake and miss out on the slice of cake so the kids could have some.
So it was off to the hardware store to get some traps. I loaded up on all the best traps and placed them all over the kitchen with a variety of temptations for our unwanted guest - cheese, peanut butter, you name it. After admiring my handiwork, I eagerly awoke each day to check the traps to see if my hunter-gatherer skills were as good as I had hoped. But alas, every day delivered the same result: empty traps. Just like Rocky Balboa in the anticipated rematch with Clubber Lang, the mouse bobbed and weaved his way out of danger, landing critical counter punches along the way as the peanut butter and cheese disappeared with the enigmatic mouse. In the end I threw in the towel and left the mouse for the next guest to deal with (or heaven forbid, the apartment owner!). No doubt the mouse is sitting atop the Rocky steps as I type this, claws in the air and screaming "Yo Adriiaaaaaann. I did it!"
Next stop: Washington, D.C.