Post-July 4th Cool-Down

What could be better than having twin babies visit us in Philadelphia for the 4th of July weekend? Only one thing: having triplets and twins visit at the same time! Such was our good fortune this holiday weekend.

Before the triplets arrived, we spent a fun, but strenuous and diaper-filled, two days with Winifred and Frances (note the corrected spelling, as pointed out by Doug after he stumbled upon this blog). The girls get cuter and cuter each time we see them. In only one weeks time theyve become incredible crawlers, zipping around the just-cleaned floors of our apartment and still managing to buff out another layer of grime (the undercoat, I suppose). With the threat of crying ever present, we treated W & F to a barrage of busy activities: their first trip to the Jersey Shore, dinner at the snazzy new Marathon Grill on 40th Street, and, of course, the obligatory visit to Pat’s and Geno’s. I couldnt get a read on how much they liked Philadelphia, but I do think they were impressed by the housing valuesat least, as they compare with Westchester, NY.

On Sunday, the Mendes clan showed up at our apartment, led by a rabid Portugal soccer fan (who was primarily interested in watching the Euro 2004 finals — Portugal vs. Greece) and carrying Amish shoofly pie (from their trip to Lancaster County). Unfortunately, Portugal made a pitiful showing in the $30 pay-per-view futbol game, and lost 1-0. But on the positive side, the nine-year-olds proved to be excellent entertainment for the babies, giving our cats a much-needed break from the hair-pulling and tackling they’d endured for the past two days.

The only major frustration of the weekend came with the 4th of July fireworks. Just like last year, we decided to camp out behind the Art Museum so as to avoid the crowds and watch the explosions directly overhead. But, unlike 2003, we weren’t living three blocks away, and so we decided to drive there. Parking took over an hour, and the only available spots were in straight-up ghetto. After we set up camp on a nice patch of green and dined on pizza and chocolate, the wait began. The sun went downmore waiting. The music stopped, but still nothing. Doug claimed that he remembered it didn’t start until 10:30 the year before, but everyone dismissed this as ridiculous, especially for a family event. In actuality, the fuses weren’t lit until about 11 p.m. The show was spectacular, however, with the light and loud noises somehow managing to put Frances and Winifred right to sleep. Thank god for that. Afterwards, with no Porto-pottys in sight, grid-lock traffic, and a one-hour ride home, I think a crying baby would have driven any one of us over the edge. The Mendes family didnt get home until 3 a.m.

In the future, we will undoubtedly make a better game plan. Which, come to think of it, could be as simple as: Go to Boston … or New York … or even D.C. But, should we dare to do the Philadelphia thing again, there are a few simple pointers I found in the Inquirer (ex-post-facto, of course). For all who are curious, they’re listed below.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer
Posted on Sat, Jul. 03, 2004

Working the fireworks
Here’s the best way to have a blast at the Fourth of July celebration on the Parkway.

Last year, a half-million folks jammed the Parkway for Welcome America’s big finale. Expect at least that many tomorrow night when the Isleys take the Art Museum stage at 8:30, followed by the fireworks at 10:30.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s one sweaty mass of humanity. But it’s only once a year. It’s free. And it’s a chance for families to strut their stars and stripes.

For the Parkway-bound, here are a few tips to make things manageable:

Don’t drive. You’ve heard it before: Come early and take public transportation. Trains on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines will run until passenger demand is met. Most regional rails will operate from Center City after 11:30 p.m.

Pick a good spot. Try West River Drive near the Boathouse Row dam, Belmont Plateau, or Lemon Hill in east Fairmount Park, where the gazebo overlooks Kelly Drive. Or rent a room: Views are exceptional atop the Embassy Suites and – if you’ve got serious coin – the Four Seasons.

Consider your tush. Bring cushions, blankets or beach chairs. Leave the futon at home.

Consider your stomach. Pack a snack or buy vendor goodies at the multicultural festival from 2 to 6 p.m. As for drinks, the party is not – we repeat, is not – an alcohol-restricted event.

Know your relief options. Make friends with someone who lives nearby. Or be prepared to use one of the 40 Potty Queens provided. Bring Kleenex!

Have an exit strategy. Leave the 22-minute display a few minutes early. It’s not as if you’ll miss the fireworks as you’re walking. When you hear the tribute to Ray Charles begin, it’s time to hit the road, Jack.