After I had lunch with Sammy, Andrew, and Graham on Friday, I had something I wanted to tell them before I left.
“I just wanted to thank you guys for putting up with your old man and showing me a good time.”
“Hey, we enjoyed it too,” Andrew quickly responded.
“Yeah, we did,” Graham added.“We enjoyed going to those places and spending time with you.”
“Yeah, we don’t get to do things like this with you very often and it was nice,” Sammy continued.“It reminded me of some of the vacations we took with you when we were younger.”
“And it brought back a lot of great memories,” Andrew stated.
“It really did and we’re sorry you can’t stay here longer,” Graham responded.
“I want you to know that I really enjoyed the time I spent with you guys and I’m hoping we can do this again sometime soon.”
“Yeah, we’d like that,” they all chorused back.
As soon as we finished our conversation, I gave each of them a hug and then they followed me outside as I got into the car and drove away.The last thing I saw as I looked into my rearview mirror was the three of them waving at me as I made my way down the street.
I traveled from York to Lancaster, and then I drove a little while longer before stopping for lunch.I was surprised when Ricky called me, but fortunately I’d just pulled over to grab a bite to eat, so I didn’t have to talk on the phone while driving.
“Hey, what’s up, Ricky?Did you change your mind about me coming there?”
“No, I just wanted to know what time you were going to get here, so I can confirm our reservation for dinner.”
“I’ll be there long before it’s time to eat.”
“Great, then I’ll leave work early and we can meet up at my place.I’ll call Tiffany and see if she can join us, because she’ll be going to dinner with us.”
“That sounds great and I’ll meet you at your place shortly.”
After I filled my belly, I got on the road again and headed to Ricky’s apartment.He wasn’t there when I arrived at his door, but he showed up a few minutes later with Tiffany.
“I hope you haven’t had to wait long, but I had to pick up Tiffany and she couldn’t get out of work as early as I did,” Ricky explained.
“No, I’ve only been here for a few minutes and your neighbors haven’t called the police on me yet.”
“I’m glad to hear that, because a couple of them are really nosy.”
“There are always a few busybodies, and by the way, Tiffany, it’s lovely to see you again.”
“Thank you and I’m glad we’re going to get to spend some time with you.”
“I’m looking forward to that as well.And since you mentioned work, how are your jobs going?”
“Mine’s going fine and I’m satisfied with what I’m doing,” Ricky replied.“The next step up would be an office job, and I’m not sure about that.I like getting out and dealing with the public.”
“My job is going great too.I work in an office, but it doesn’t bother me like it would Ricky, and I like the people I work with as well.”
“That’s good.It’s easier to get up and go in to work every day when you like your job and the people you work with.”
“It certainly is,” Tiffany agreed.“And just so you know, we’ve planned a few things that we thought you’d enjoy, so I hope you have a good time while you’re here.”
“I’m sure I will, even if we don’t do anything else but get to know each other better.And I want to wish you a belated Happy Birthday, Ricky.I hope you got the message I left on your phone.I was with Sammy, Andrew, and Graham at the time, so I didn’t get to call until later that evening, and when you didn’t answer I assumed you and Tiffany were out celebrating.”
“Yes, we were.Tiffany threw me a surprise party with some of our friends and we partied later than we should have on a Sunday night.That’s why I wasn’t in the greatest condition at work the next day.”
“I hope it didn’t jeopardize your job.”
“No, but some of my coworkers made fun of me.”
“I’ll bet, and by the way, I’m surprised that I haven’t received an invitation to your wedding yet.I thought you two were going to get married this summer.”
“That’s what we thought too, but making the arrangements proved to be more difficult than we expected.Most of the places we tried to reserve were already booked up, because we didn’t know that most of the couples booked those places a year in advance.”
“Yes, especially in the larger cities where so many weddings take place over the summer.”
“So, we’ve set our wedding date for next spring and booked the hall and the church already,” Tiffany responded.“We’re going to get married on May 23rd.”
“We figured the weather should be nice enough by then so everyone can get here,” Ricky confirmed.“It will also give them plenty of time to make arrangements too, so they shouldn’t have any excuses for not showing up.”
“Yes, hopefully all of the snow will be melted by then.Are you planning on inviting the entire family?”
“Yes, all of them,” Ricky answered.
“And we’ve rented a hall large enough for both your family and mine,” Tiffany added.
“Did you include my biological children as well?”
“Of course, they’re all part of the family and I wanted my nieces and nephews to be there as well.After all, Nicky and Jordan nearly grew up with us.”
“Yes, I suppose they did, since they spent so much of their summers and holidays with us.”
“And my parents are helping us pay for everything.”
“That’s great, and you can count me in on that as well.I’m more than happy to chip in, because I never thought Ricky would find anyone who would be willing to put up with him.”
Tiffany giggled.“After hearing some of the stories his brothers told me at your birthday party and Pat’s wedding last year, it seems that he’s settled down a lot.”
“And I’m sure you must have had something to do with it.”
“I think his job did as well.He can’t be the clown and the jokester he was when he was younger, because he has to keep up a positive image outside of work as well.”
“I’m glad someone or something got him to settle down, because I certainly didn’t have much of an impact on him.”
“You had a huge impact on me.You saved my life.I may have pulled some pranks and did a few things that made people unhappy, but I never did anything malicious.If you hadn’t taken me in to live with you, then I’d probably be in jail or dead by now.”
“That works both ways.If I hadn’t taken you in when I did, then I probably wouldn’t have taken in the other boys either.You and Danny proved to me that we could make it work, but enough of this sentimental journey down memory lane.How have things been going for the two of you?”
At this point they began telling me about their jobs and some of the other things they’d been involved in, and then they told me a little about what they’d planned for the weekend.They only stopped when Ricky noticed the time and made a comment.
“We’d better get going, because I don’t want to be late for our dinner reservation.”
We all went outside and hopped into Ricky’s car, and of course Tiffany sat in front with Ricky while I sat in the back.When we pulled into the parking lot, the restaurant looked vaguely familiar, but with all of the restaurants I’ve eaten at over the years they all look vaguely familiar.However, as soon as we walked through the front door a man came rushing in our direction.
“Uncle Josh, I’ve been waiting for you to get here.”It was Carlos and I’d forgotten that his restaurant was in Philly.
“I’m happy to see you too, and it looks as if you’re doing quite well here.”
“Yes, very well, thanks to you.I couldn’t have done this without your help and financial support.”
“I’m glad it’s working out.I knew you were a hard worker and would be successful.”
“Yes, and my mother helps out here as well and we’re both able to support ourselves.She’s also looking forward to seeing you again and will probably come out when your meals are delivered.Let me show you to your table, so you can get started.It’s the best one in the house.”
Our table was in a semi-private niche in one of the corners.It was private enough that we could chat privately and still observe the other patrons.We also had access to a small window that faced in a southerly direction, so we were able to enjoy the beautiful weather as well.Once we were seated, Carlos made another announcement.
“It’s been a long time since you were here last and we’ve added some new items to the menu since then.My mom told me to let you know that she would like to prepare a platter for you with samples of the new items, along with a few appetizers.It will all be our treat and on the house.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’d prefer to pay for our meals.This is a belated birthday dinner for Ricky and I wouldn’t feel right having someone else pay for it.”
“Ok, if you insist, but we’d still like you to try these items.If you don’t enjoy them then you can order something else instead and we won’t charge you for the platter.”
“That sounds fair, and are you going to do the same thing for Ricky and Tiffany as well?”
“Certainly, if that’s what they’d like, but they have eaten here often enough that they’ve tried each of those items before.”He then turned toward Ricky and Tiffany and spoke again.“Would you like to do that as well?”
Ricky and Tiffany quickly talked it over and then Tiffany spoke to Carlos.“If you don’t mind, then we’d love to try that too!”
“Terrific! I’ll go tell my mother that you’d all like to do the same thing.As you might remember, she’s the head cook and runs a very tight kitchen.”
“I remember that, and she’s an excellent cook as well.It’s nice that you’ve made this a family effort.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice.She insisted!” Carlos said and then chuckled before he disappeared.
Carlos sent his cocktail waitress to our table next and she had a Margarita for each of us, so I decided to make a comment to Ricky.
“If you want, I’ll pass on the Margarita and do the driving so you can enjoy yourself,” I offered.
“No, I’ll just have one of these, and with all the food we’ll be eating I’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.”
As we were enjoying those, Carlos returned with our server and they were carrying a selection of appetizers.This consisted of Nacho loaded potato skins, Taco sliders, Chicken Chimichanga boats, and Mango, lime, avocado salsa with whole grain chips.There were two of the various items for each of us and everything was delicious.
As soon as we finished the appetizers, Carlos and the server returned, and this time they had a cup of Chicken Tortilla soup and a burrito egg roll for each of us.Seeing we’ve been given so much to eat by now, it left me wondering if I’d have enough room for the main course.As I was thinking about this, the empty dishes were taken away and then the entrees were delivered, and Carlos’ mother arrived with the server this time.
“Hola, Meester Josh, I happy to see you again.You were a blessing to Carlos and me, because we could never have this wonderful life and this fine bees’ness without you.”
“It’s nice to see you again as well, Mama Garcia, and I’m glad this has worked out so well for you and Carlos.”
“Carlos have this beautiful restaurant and I work in kitchen.I fix you and the others a special plate and hope you like it.Each one have shrimp enchilada, cheesy beef empanada, and keto taquito for you to try.”
Since Carlos’ mother was older when they came to the U.S., she hasn’t picked up speaking English quite as well as Carlos, but her meaning and sincerity were very clear.
“Mama Garcia, you’ve already filled us up with the appetizers, soup, and the egg roll, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to finish it all.It will be difficult for me to eat more, but that’s especially true for poor Tiffany, since you’ve given us two of each of these items as well.”
“Eat what you can and take the rest with you.”
“You’re a very gracious hostess and a wonderful cook.”
“And I have a slice of Tres Leches cake for you too, but you can take that home if you full.”
“I think we’ll have enough food to last us the entire weekend.”
She laughed.“Then you can’t be Mexicano.”
She then said her goodbyes and hurried back to the kitchen, since she’d left her assistant in charge while she came out to speak with me.We ate what we could, but there was so much there that we ended up asking the server to box up the rest so we could take it with us.Carlos came out with the server to drop them off, and the server gave us the check.I made a comment when I saw how much Carlos had charged us for this large meal.
“The price for all of this seems awfully low.”
“I didn’t want to charge you at all, but you insisted.I think it’s a fair price for each of your meals.”
I knew I probably wouldn’t get him to change his mind, so I just added a very large tip to the bill when I paid it, and then we rode back to Ricky’s place.
“I’m not sure how you ate as much as you did,” I said to Tiffany on the ride back.
“I skipped lunch today, because I had a feeling Carlos and his mother were going to do this.They usually give us more than the normal-size portions whenever we go there, and I had a feeling they’d go all out this time, seeing you were going to be with us.In fact, it was kind of obvious, because after Ricky called to make the reservation, Carlos called back and asked if you were going to be the third person, since the reservation was for three.When Ricky confirmed that you were, Carlos got all excited and said he would make it memorable for you.”
“They most certainly did and it looks like we’ll be having Mexican for lunch tomorrow as well.”
“I’m not sure about tomorrow, because we have a lot planned, but we can have the leftovers on Sunday.”
“That will work out just fine.”
When we got back to Ricky’s apartment, we put the leftovers in the fridge and then sat down to chat for a little while longer, after which we watched a movie before getting ready for bed.I found the guest room to be very comfortable and enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep.
When I woke up in the morning, Ricky and Tiffany weren’t up yet, so I went out to the living room to watch the news, but I kept the volume on the TV turned down low so I didn’t disturb them.They woke up a short time later, and when they came out Ricky asked if I was ready for breakfast.
“Only if I can help you fix it.”
“Tiffany usually does that, but I’m sure she’ll be happy to let you help.”
Tiffany and I then got together and decided what we were going to have, and then we agreed as to who would prepare which item.When the meal was ready, we called Ricky out and sat down to eat.
“So, what’s on the agenda for today?” I asked.
I was surprised when Tiffany answered.“As we mentioned when you got here, we have some choices until dinnertime.Ricky says you’ve already been to most of the typical tourist spots in Philly, but have you visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art?”
“Yes, we stopped there on one of our trips to Philly when the boys were younger.”
“I guess Ricky must have forgotten about that then.Have you been to the RodinMuseum or the Eastern State Penitentiary?”
“No, we always seemed to run out of time before we got to those places.”
“Then how about we go to the RodinMuseum until lunchtime, and then we’ll go to the Eastern State Penitentiary until it’s time to eat again?We have other plans for dinner and after that.”
“Ok, it sounds fine to me.Will we be coming back here for lunch, or will we eat out?”
“It would take too much time to drive back here for lunch, so we’ll just grab something on the way to the penitentiary.”
“Ok, that works for me.”
I helped Tiffany clear off the table and do the dishes after we finished eating, and then we got ready to head out.I soon discovered that the RodinMuseum had the largest collection of the works of Auguste Rodin, other than the RodinMuseum in Paris.Their collection included The Thinker, Eternal Springtime, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell, as well as other sculptures.They also had some of his drawings and paintings as well.It was quite interesting and I really enjoyed it.
When we finished up there, we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading over to the Eastern State Penitentiary, and Ricky said he knew of a great place to get a Philly Cheesesteak.It sounded good to me, so that’s what we did, and after we finished our lunch he drove us over to the penitentiary.
This proved to be a surprisingly intriguing stop as well, starting with the architecture of the building.The guard towers and turrets made the prison resemble a medieval castle, and the interior was extremely stark and bleak.It was built in 1829 and ranked as the most expensive construction ever at that time.
The cells were small, and there were also solitary confinement cells that were used to punish those who broke the rules.The prison operated under very strict discipline, although it abandoned the use of corporal punishment and used solitary confinement instead.Those unlucky enough to end up in solitary confinement were forbidden to have conversations with guards and other prisoners, which was known as ‘the silent system’.The inmates were expected to sit in their cells and merely contemplate their crimes until they eventually repented, and this penitence is the root for the word penitentiary.It may sound like an easy punishment, but the isolation and lack of physical activity had dire effects.
Throughout the years the prison housed some notable criminals that included the bank robber ‘Slick Willie’ Sutton and the gangster Al ‘Scar face’ Capone, but it stopped housing prisoners in 1971. The interior has not been maintained since that time, so the paint was peeling and the cement was crumbling.This rundown appearance only helped to enhance the creepy feeling that we all dealt with as we took the tour.
“Damn, I can’t imagine being stuck in a place like this.I’d go crazy being stuck in one of those cells, especially those in the solitary area,” Ricky stated.
“I’m sure you would and many prisoners did.A large number of them suffered from physical ailments due to their inability to exercise and many more suffered mental health issues due to the isolation.”
“I’d rather work on a chain gang than be stuck in a place like this.”
“Even though working on a chain gang would be exhausting, I’m sure many of the inmates would have gladly taken that option, rather than being isolated for most of the day.”
Our discussion was interrupted when we heard Tiffany scream, so we immediately turned to look and see what the problem was.“What’s wrong?” Ricky demanded.
“I felt someone touch my butt, and since both of you were in front of me, I turned to see who was behind me and no one was there!”
“I’m afraid that’s not uncommon,” I replied.“This place, along with many other prisons, are said to be haunted.Many of the prisoners died at those locations and their tortured souls are said to roam the cells and corridors.Some people have even heard cell doors open or slam shut, as well as hearing voices, and sometimes those voices would even call out their names.”
“How soon before we’re getting out of here?”
“It won’t be long now,” I said reassuringly.I was tempted to tell her about the problems we’d had with ghosts at the ‘hotel’, but I thought it would be best not to mention it, at least not now.
As soon as we left the prison, Ricky took us out to eat again, but this time we were going to attend an event called University City Dining Days.Various restaurants in that area were offering a three-course dinner promotion, so it looked as if we would be eating very well again.
After having a wonderful meal, we headed over to Franklin Square where the Chinese Lantern Festival was going to be held, but not until after dark.This gave us time to wander around and check the park out first, and we soon discovered it was a great place for kids.There’s a mini-golf course and a carousel for them to ride, and the park’s centerpiece is a 180-year-old fountain that shoots water into the air.It was all quite lovely.
As soon as the sun went down, the lanterns were lit up, and they were all quite spectacular.Each lantern consisted of multiple clear jars that were filled with colored water and arranged in spectacular forms.There was a phoenix that was 70 yards (64 m) long, numerous dragons and other characters from the Chinese zodiac, as well as some more traditional Chinese forms.It was all quite marvelous and we enjoyed it very much.
After walking around and viewing each of the lanterns from various angles, we called it a night and headed back to Ricky’s apartment.When we got there, we sat down and discussed our day.
“So, did you have a good time visiting each of those places?” Tiffany asked.
“Yes, I enjoyed it very much.It was interesting seeing the Rodin sculptures and paintings up close, and the penitentiary was creepy, but very enlightening.Both meals were also delicious, and the Chinese lanterns were beautiful.It was a varied and very unique day, and I enjoyed it very much.Thank you for planning all of it for me.”
“We enjoyed it too, because we’ve never done any of those things before either,” Ricky stated.
“Yes, I enjoyed everything too, except when something touched my butt at the prison,” Tiffany concurred.
“Yes, I’m sure that must have been very unnerving.”
Once we finished our discussion, we cleaned up and turned in for the night.