The final step…

of a long journey completed. The first step of a long journey not yet undertaken.

Starting this time from New Brunswick, New Jersey. Not where Pookaverse wanted to be. The hotel we stayed at last night. NOT where Pookaverse wanted to be at this stage of the trip. Instead in that other ‘pre-Sandy’ world Pookaverse would be spending some significant time in Monmouth County, NJ.

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The top of Philadelphia City Hall from where William Penn overlooks his city…over-budget and ostentatious this formerly hated building is now seen as a fine example of American architecture

Red Bank, NJ is where we visited today after leaving Philadelphia, PA on the 30 November with breezy overcast and occasionally sunny weather. And the first sign that after  almost 3 weeks apiece managing this fairly virulent ‘heavy cold’ that we are both finally on the mend. We spoke to Glen the previous day who hands out leaflets in the square in front of Independence Hall. That from atop a Lion roared in the film ‘12 Monkeys‘ starring Bruce Willis as a time-travelling convict sent back in time to prevent the spread of a deadly virus responsible for wiping out 99% of humanity.

One view from the top...the enigma of the Comcast centre on the right is because it is supposed to resemble a USB device stood on end

One view from the top…the enigma of the Comcast centre on the right is because it is supposed to resemble a USB device stood on end

A suitably apocalyptic overtone. As Glen himself, a gay man who chooses to vote Republican at a National level and votes Democratic at a Local level is himself interred with this virus. As is George Bush Sr. 88 years of age and struggling. As well as being a pollsters nightmare, Glen had top tips for Pookaverse.

A view towards the Benjamin Franklin bridge from which Pookaverse entered New Jersey the following day.

A view towards the Benjamin Franklin bridge from which Pookaverse entered New Jersey the following day.

For the right kind of medicine to select from the acres of medicine on display in the average American superstore. Looks like Pookaverse had been using the most effective meds.

Armed with this knowledge, Pookaverse headed for Philadelphia City Hall. And a timed trip to a small enclosed viewing gallery below the  feet of the 37-ft statue of city founder William Penn. A regimented affair costing $12 a piece and a scant 15 minutes 499 feet above street level.

Inside the Eastern State Penitentiary outer wall

Inside the Eastern State Penitentiary outer wall

The shortest tall building that Pookaverse has encountered on this trip and the shortest time spent aloft. It is of course a public building. And it is of course an impressive view from the top. Where visible, the draconian walls of the former Eastern State Penitentiary that Pookaverse visited on Wednesday 28 November.

A few steps inside of the single-storey building one...

A few steps inside of the single-storey building one…

Originally a bold experiment in the notion of prison and its reform from a terrifying single-room bedlam, this was the world’s first “penitentiary” – the word deriving from the term and more importantly the state of “penitence” required of the burgeoning criminal class. Opened on October 25, 1829, each single cell held the prisoner in solitary confinement  followed a radial single-storey floor plan. For up to 23 hours per day the man or woman was locked up – released into a personal exercise yard through a small door that forced the occupant to bow and in turn restricted movement minimising attacks on guards.

Inside one of the many cells...note the 'eye of god' single slit for ventilation and divine observation

Inside one of the many cells…note the ‘eye of god’ single slit for ventilation and divine observation

The design was based on the notion of Panopticon and was copied across the world in over 300 prisons – including Strangeways prison in Manchester.

Prisoners had to maintain total silence throughout their sentence and were note permitted to mingle with other prisoners. When outside their confines, prisoners were transported with a hood over their heads so that they could not be recognised by other inmates when attending the garden or workshops.

Eventually the single-storey design proved uneconomical and prisoner movements unmanageable and as attitudes to rehabilitation changed so did the interior format and regime within the prison. The last prisoners left in 1971 and the prison lay abandoned for almost 20 years.

An example of the two-storey design that enabled more prisoners per square foot....

An example of the two-storey design that enabled more prisoners per square foot….

In 1988, a successful petition protected the site from development and it was opened to the public.  a self-guided tour. Again with the headphones. Only this time Steve Buscemi and the voices of wardens and prisoners alike, it clearly followed the excellent example set by the Alcatraz tour.

The building itself is in a creeping state of restoration and on the day that Pookaverse visited was bitterly cold. But a worthwhile place to discover none-the-less.

The central ‘hub’ of this building was used again in the film  ‘12 Monkeys‘  as the mental ward from which Brad Pitt’s Jefferey Goines preaches his theories of consumerism to a semi-comatose and drooling Bruce Willis.

The lowly significator that this was the hospital ward is this simple medical cross in the door...

The lowly significator that this was the hospital ward is this simple medical cross in the door…

There is more. There is always more to tell you. But no time at present. Never enough time.

After leaving Philadelphia on Friday morning, Pookaverse travelled a short span  from the Penn’s View Hotel where Hooms and Houyhnhnms alike found a stable surrounding across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and into the final state of the trip – New Jersey.

A faithful recreation of Al Capone's jail cell...fettered by the prison hierarchy, Capone spent 11 months here from 1929

A faithful recreation of Al Capone’s jail cell…fettered by the prison hierarchy, Capone spent 11 months here from 1929

The Jersey Shore incorporates a series of islands as well as landfall that took a massive swipe from Hurricane Sandy. As such, the coastal areas of the state are subject to FEMA coordination and an extensive disaster fund supplied by federal government and individual initiatives.

This meant that, again, the brakes needed to be put on before Newark Airport in northern New Jersey. Pookaverse visited Tom’s River in South Jersey. It is not a pretty site. Not because of the signs of hurricane damage. Where Pookaverse went, 12 miles inland there were a few fallen trees and ruffled roofs. No. It is the unceasing conurbation of this area. Outside the attractive centre of the town. Acres of housing and malls all squashed together. For miles. Rubbish strewn amongst fallen trees. On and on into the gathering gloom.

The dilapidated remains of once grand buildings can be found as little as half-a-mile away from City Hall...including this once grand hotel

The dilapidated remains of once grand buildings can be found as little as half-a-mile away from City Hall…including this once grand hotel

As we travelled North up the dual carriageway of the Garden State parkway. With a hateful way to turn left. You can’t. Instead you must turn right and circle 360 on a feeder road before returning to the traffic lights to turn left at one of the numerous junctions. Hopelessly confusing and a pointlessly dangerous design in motion.  Unless you live here . As we travelled we rang ahead. Ticking off hotel by hotel. Either full. And in some cases the automated voice of FEMA answers to tell you that the hotel service is restricted.

For all the families who have lost their homes. They are decanted into the numerous hotels and motels along the route. At this time of year they would be struggling for business. Now they struggle to cope. All rooms bought and paid for by FEMA. Until we found the most hateful experience of the trip.

The aforeilinked, aforementioned Best Western at Lakewood. A dilapidated, dirty and mildly threatening place. In the car park – trucks. For all civilian contractors and emergency services both public and private brought to the garden state to make repairs.

As well as being known as the 'City of Brotherly Love', Philadelphia is also known as the 'City of Murals'...just like Tucumcari, New Mexico

As well as being known as the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, Philadelphia is also known as the ‘City of Murals’…just like Tucumcari, New Mexico

Side by side with the private cars and vans owned by the people of the Jersey shore who have had to retreat inland. To escape. To this?

Pookaverse was fortunate. we only had to spend one night. Listening to the accounts in the grubby breakfast room, some people will be here for months.

While the assessments are made. While the insurance policies are scrutinised by the insurance agents. And where applicable – a cheque is drawn. In the future. Just before the repairs commence. If at all.

Surprising installations...art beckons from a Philadelphia alleyway...However, this is not art. It is a greenhouse...plants maintained in the fuselage under heat lamps

Surprising installations…art beckons from a Philadelphia alleyway…However, this is not art. It is a greenhouse…plants maintained in the fuselage under heat lamps

An early start. And then 23 miles to Redbank. And Jay and Silent Bob’s secret stash. A glancing blow of ‘real’ deja-vu. And that is another story for another time.

Philadelphia is a city of striking contrasts...this church sits in the middle of downtown

Philadelphia is a city of striking contrasts…this church sits in the middle of downtown

Tomorrow Pookaverse leaves America after 88 days. Of almost continuous travel. With stops.

And flies from Newark. NJ to Toronto Canada in 90 minutes. Waits till just before midnight for the 10-hr flight to Santiago, Chile.  Pookaverse will, of course, let you know what happens next.

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One Response to “The final step…”

  1. Terri and Andrew Says:

    Hi Ali and Rohan, hope it will be less Chilly in Chile!! have a good time and hope your flights went well?
    All our love, keep safe and enjoy the next leg of your adventures!
    Terri and Andrew xx

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