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Tales Of Two Cities (Philadelphia & New York)
by [?]

A certain seriousness of demeanour is noticeable on the generally unfurrowed brows of student friends. Midyears are on and one sees them walking, freighted with precious and perishable erudition, toward the halls of trial. They seem a little oppressed with care, too preoccupied to relish the entrancing pallor of this crystallized Eden. One carries, gravely, a cushion and an alarm clock. Not such a bad theory of life, perhaps–to carry in the crises of existence a cushion of philosophy and an alarum of resolution.


One of the odd things about human beings is, that wherever they happen to live they accept it as a matter of course. In various foreign cities I have often been amused (as every traveller has) to see people going about their affairs just as though it were natural and unquestionable for them to be there. It is just the same at home. Everyone I see on the streets seems to be not at all amazed at living here instead of (let us say) Indianapolis or Nashville. I envy my small Urchin his sense of the extreme improbability of everything. When he gets on a trolley car he draws a long breath and looks around in ecstasy at the human scenery. I am teaching him to say in a loud, clear tone, as he gets on the car, “Look at all the human beings!” in the same accent of amazement that he uses when he goes to the Zoo. Perhaps in this way he will preserve the happy faculty of being surprised.

It is an agreeable thing to keep the same sense of surprise in one’s home town that one would have in a strange city. You will find much to startle you if you keep your eyes open. Yesterday, for instance, I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman who had stood only a few feet away from Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Speech. Then I found that in a certain cafeteria which I frequent the price you pay for your lunch is always just one cent less than that punched on the check. The cashier explained that this always gives a pleasant surprise to the customers, and has proved such a good advertising dodge that the proprietor made it a habit. And I saw, in a clothing dealer’s window on Ninth Street, some fuzzy caps for men, mottled purple and ochre, that proved that the adventurous spirit has not died in the breast of the male sex.

There is much to exercise the eye in a voyage along Ridge Avenue. Approaching by way of Ninth Street, one sees in the window of a barber shop the new contract that the employing barbers have drawn up with their journeymen. This agreement shows a sound sense of human equities, proclaiming as it does that “the owner must not do no act to injure the barber personal earnings.” It suddenly occurred to me, what I had not thought of before, how the barbers of Great Britain must have grieved when a London newspaper got up (some years ago) an agitation in favour of every man in England raising a beard in memory of King Edward. The plan was that the money thus saved was to be devoted to building–I had almost said “growing”–a battleship, to be named after the Merry Monarch. Of course, one should not speak of raising a beard, but of lowering it. However—-

Ridge Avenue begins at Ninth and Vine, in a mood of depression. Perhaps the fact that it runs out toward the city’s greatest collection of cemeteries has made it morbidly conscious of human perishability. At any rate, it starts among pawnshops, old clothing and furniture, and bottles of Old Virginia Bitters, the Great Man Restorer. The famous National Theatre at Callowhill Street has become a garage; it is queer to see the old proscenium arch and gilded ceiling dustily vaulted over a fleet of motortrucks. After a wilderness of railway yards one comes to a curious bit in the 1100 block; a little brick tunnel that bends around into a huddle of backyards and small houses, where a large green parrot was stooping and nodding on a pile of old boxes. This little scene is overlooked by the tall brown spires of the Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street.