Today, the strong, colorful flavors of Kennedy Food Garden called. And we answered.
Kate went for their herbed brie sandwich, while Karina and I split the Health. Flavor and dripping condiments all around. Excessive toppings: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers. Kate stacked her extra cucumbers next to her pickles, a sassy display.
Most of our fellow lunchers today were 65+. They make for charming company, really. Quiet, but seasoned. A pair of older gentlemen sat at the table behind us and caught our attention by nearly leaving a tip. We noticed the bill sitting amidst their many plates and cups on the table, and it made us wonder whether all this time we had misunderstood the cryptic etiquette of the Garden and been shafting our hosts. (Upon closer inspection, it must have been a mistake because after they'd gone, the dollar was nowhere to be seen) They bumbled a bit, one of them with the aid of a walker and the other in a maroon velour sweatsuit, out into the day. This little square of the city is rife with the elderly. Rumor has it that Kennedy sits below an entire tower where they all live, in a vertical deposit for the city's grandparents and great grandparents.
It always makes me a little sad to think that people sleep at night knowing their elder versions live on this busy street in Center City. An area where I, for one, wouldn't walk alone at night. We joke that Center City is more dangerous than West Philadelphia after dark, because crazy people abound and there is no semblance of a community to speak of. The buildings are no shorter than ten stories high, the sidewalks are wide and the streets are much wider. Now that the days mean darkness by five, the facelessness startles you.
Aging has long given me pause, beginning when I was very small and far from death. I used to say I wanted to die by 55. Now that my own father is older than that, I've changed my mind, but these shells of people, cooped up in their own bodies still give me chills. Husbands push wives in wheelchairs and unlikely friends keep one another company. One man stoops to half his height. They stand for the time and the things they've seen in my mind. But the vivacity is gone. Still, this sadness and decay is something for which I have great reverence. Like an excellent novel or an important photograph. The constant juxtaposition of these people at the culmination of their lives against the harsh skyscrapers and business lunchers of JFK Boulevard makes a girl think over her sandwich in the middle of the day. It also makes her count her luckies.