Chapter One: Square Roots

Mai Tai Tom’s Magical History Tour

Chapter One: Square Roots

Although it came 52 years late, my 8th grade field trip to Philadelphia, Gettysburg, presidential homes in Virginia and a quick stop in Washington DC finally came to fruition this spring. Our friends Kim and Mary joined Tracy and me on our time traveling adventure back to the early roots of our country.

Our journey started in Philadelphia where one sight after another brought history back to life.  All of that walking meant we could partake in a variety of cuisines, including one of the most memorable meal experiences of my life.


While visiting Gettysburg, we hired a licensed battlefield guide who drove us around for three hours regaling us with stories as he navigated these hallowed grounds. Fortunately we didn’t have to dodge any cannon barrages.

In Virginia, we were welcomed to the homes of three of our Founding Father presidents, and we learned a lot of facts that never made it into our 8th-grade textbooks.


Finally, in Washington DC, on our quick visit (we’d spent a week here nine years ago) a couple of relatively new pictures at the National Portrait Gallery caught our eye, and we secured tickets (barely) to the very interesting National Museum of African American History and Culture. There was even time to grab a bite at our favorite DC haunt.


I purchased tickets for a few of these sights online long in advance of our trip so we wouldn’t miss out on any of the places we definitely did not want to miss.  And the weather … well, I believe our visit to this part of the country was the only time in the weeks before or after in which an ark or snowshoes weren’t needed to get around.

Our walk through history more than lived up to expectations, so please hop in the Mai Tai Tom Time Machine as we begin our Magical History Tour.

Day One – And I Thought The Flight Would Be Dangerous, Union General, No Frills American, “Wit”, Trinity Vicinity Square Roots, Stairway To Heaven, A Walk By Parc in The Park, Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag, Dandy Dandelion and Things Get A Little Sticky

The alarm rang at 2 a.m. alerting us to the fact this would be a very long day. We bid farewell to the cats and the corgis (who wondered what the hell we were doing up at this ungodly hour, but were happy to eat breakfast at 3 a.m.).

A little after 3:30 we were picked up by our Uber driver. I don’t remember his name, but judging by his driving, it might have been Andretti. Driving at roughly the speed of sound (not too many cars on L.A.’s freeways at this hour), before I could say “Fast and Furious” we were at the airport. I gave him a tip for not crashing.

Thankfully, a few restaurants opened at 4:30 a.m., so we sat down at a place called Lemonade where I proceeded to have a Breakfast of Champions … potatoes, bacon and a sticky bun. Tracy didn’t fare much better with her ham and brioche quiche. By 5 a.m., we had consumed more calories than we had the entire previous day.

Speaking of restaurants, while waiting to board the plane, we ran into a man (not literally) with a giant tattoo of fruits and vegetables on his arm. “Is that Bruce Kalman?” Tracy asked.  Kalman is the owner/chef of one of our favorite restaurants, Union. He has also beaten Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay! show.

Sure enough it was him, and as we chatted we learned he was heading to Philly for a charity event. I didn’t even remember to tell him that Union was MaiTaiTom’s Restaurant of the Year in 2015. I’m sure that would have been a crowning achievement in his illustrious career.

Our flight was uneventful … really uneventful. It has been a while since we traveled domestically, so we were a little surprised that American no longer offers any entertainment features like movies and music … or food. We could stream movies, but someone (aka me) had forgotten his headphones, so I was relegated to 4 1/2 hours of listening to two guys in the row in front of me talking (loudly) about who had the best sports knowledge. My answer … neither.

On our Uber drive to our Philly lodging, the excellent driver (Cynthia) told us to skip Geno’s and Pat’s and eat our cheese steak at Jim’s (many locals told us the same thing during our five-day stay). She also gave us the proper vernacular for ordering correctly … “make it short and know what you’re ordering.” She said to just say, “Medium. Provolone. Wit.”

Soon, we were dropped off at our “trinity” house on Latimer Street located a couple of blocks from Rittenhouse Square.  Like other Philly treasures (that have not been demolished), our Georgian-style trinity house (which I read referred to both the three-levels of the house, as well as the holy Catholic trinity of ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’) was charming inside and out.

Owned by the nearby DwightD Hotel, the house had a downstairs consisting of a small living room, dining room and a kitchen (photo compliments of the establishment) …

… that opened out to a small patio … while the two bedrooms occupied the second and third floor.

Each bedroom had a private bathroom and adjacent sitting room.


My only slight concern was the stairs (Kim took photo below from third floor vantage point) . Looking at them the first time I thought I might need some climbing equipment. They were fairly steep. However, after navigating them a few times, even this old guy could get up and down without exerting too much energy. Since we arrived first, Tracy and I took the second floor room.  After our stay, we all agreed this place was a great find.

Kim and Mary wouldn’t be joining us for a few hours, so Tracy and I decided to walk around and scope out the area.  I tried to sneak in the yard next door, but to no avail.

These were also our neighbors.

We passed by a restaurant we would visit on Sunday night (more about Parc later) located across the street from Rittenhouse Square.  It seems this area is also Philly’s French quarter.

We walked through Rittenhouse Square admiring the very colorful flowers and trees.


Although overcast, the temperature was comfortably in the 60s as we admired the area.


We also found a few of its famed statues, including a Memorial Sundial …


… The Duck Girl (a bronze sculpture depicting girl holding a duck under her left arm) …

… and a Lion Crushing a Serpent.

I took Tracy on a rather circuitous route to purchase food for our “home,” but Tracy also got another “floral fix” when we passed by a few of Philly’s private gardens.

Back at the house, we waited for Kim and Mary’s arrival. At 6:30 or so they arrived and thought they could relax for a bit before our 8:15 dinner reservation. They thought incorrectly. About 7 p.m. we heard a shriek from the third floor bedroom. “Oh no!“ Mary yelled. “I took the wrong suitcase.”

Not wanting his wife to go to dinner in a stranger’s clothes, Kim quickly contacted the airline, and within a few minutes they were Ubering back to the airport to trade suitcases and attempt to make it back in time for dinner, but with Friday rush hour that was no guarantee. We would meet them (hopefully) at the restaurant.

At the appointed hour, Tracy and I walked to a nearby pub, Dandelion, where we had made reservations.


We arrived early and bellied up to the bar. We told the manager our friends might be a few minutes late, and although the place was packed with customers, he politely told us not to worry. (“We’ll hold the table.”)


Churchill looked down with approval.


We ordered our cocktails …


…and a few minutes later we received a text confirming the mission was accomplished, and they were nearby. Soon afterward, a weary looking woman walked into the restaurant with a suitcase in tow. I knew Mary would need a drink, so there was already a chilled Manhattan on the bar for her when she arrived.


Dining upstairs at this cute restaurant, we enjoyed a very good meal. Kim and Tracy each ordered the fish and chips, which had been featured on an episode of “The Best Things I Ever Ate.”  Maybe it wasn’t the “best” thing they ever ate, but both Tracy and Kim gave the fish and chips a “Wow!”  Mary and I dined on tasty Steak and Chips.

Although full, as I perused the dessert menu my eyes immediately lit up, and suddenly I wasn’t quite as full as I had been five minutes previously. I blurted out, “Sticky Toffee Pudding!” and the other three knew they would be at Dandelion a little longer than they had originally planned. After licking the plate clean (exaggeration alert), we walked back to our trinity and hit the hay a little before 11.

Our first full day in Philly would be one of our customary vacation days with the usual M.O.; jam-packed with activities and seemingly endless walking. We’d check out a museum about the American Revolution, stop in a few churches (well, make that a couple), visit an unusual museum and a nearby famous old street, walk through the burial ground of a famed Founding Father and look at some artwork in a bank. We would end the day dining at a restaurant that was nothing short of remarkable.

Next – Chapter Two: You Say You Want A Revolution

Day Two – Subway Impaired, We Almost Dined There, A Walk Through American History, In Tents, The Streets Of Philadelphia, No Old Mary, Where’s Karen, What’s A Founding Father Like You Doing In A Bank Like This, Washington’s Pew, Don’t Drop The Font, Right Down My Alley, Fire!, Sew What, Ben Deserves Better, I (Don’t) Declare, Did You Write On That Bell, Black Sheep Of The Family, Glorious Gnocchi and Kitchen Aid

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