Just one more story about why I love Philadelphia before we take the train back to the reality of dashed expectations, earnings chaos and wild uncertainty.
And I’m talking here about my career, not the financial markets.
Philadelphia was the last place where I entered the rarified zone of supercool and there were people around to see it.
I can manage to be really, really cool about once every 10 years. It’s a cool so perfect it’s like a total eclipse of the sun.
Stare at it too long and there’s a chance you’ll go blind.
It happens to all of us. It’s one of those cosmic rarities when you’re dressed great, you look fantastic, your smile dazzles, your surroundings seem to glow and your wit is energized by one of those euphoric buzzes that make profound hilarity roll off your silver tongue like the waters at Niagara.
The problem with most of us those five or six times last for about 12 minutes and they happen when we’re all by ourselves.
That’s the way it is with me. I can feel it coming on. I see the transformation in the mirror. I run outside and start dashing down the street and screaming before it’s too late, “Look at me! I’m cool! I’m cool! I’m cool!” immediately vaporizing any of the cool that hasn’t already naturally dissipated.
With me, it happened in 2007 on the perches astride the very Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art mentioned in yesterday’s nonsense.
The day was as perfect as I was about to become.
The skies above Philly were azure. It was about 5 p.m. and the still-warm day tingled with the first fresh hints of fall.
The view is truly spectacular, one of the most grand in all America. The museum is atop the region’s highest hill and looks down the boulevard and all the museums, trees and parks leading into the heart of the great metropolis.
It was the last day of a four-day assignment for Cooking Light magazine, which had asked me to come to Philadelphia to write about the best restaurants.
Sweet, huh. And it’s a reputable magazine that paid good money.
See the elements beginning to orbit?
My hosts had invited me to a museum soiree to celebrate the assignment’s success.
I was resplendent. I was wearing pressed black pants with creases sharper than the bow of a battleship. I had thatch colored sports coat, glistening white shirt and a gold and black tie that shimmered like the lights on airport runways. The sun-colored socks were taut inside black Italian loafers.
As is my wont, I’d stopped at friendly cigar store and selected a robust Cohiba Churchill.
And if you didn’t already guess I had a big glass of bourbon on ice, you’re new to the blog.
I don’t know whether it makes me a bad father or a really great drinker, but the sublime buzz I get from smoking a cigar and sipping a bourbon triggers the same joy spot in my brain that comes alive whenever I am cradling one of my daughters and she isn’t saying I’m weird or stupid.
I don’t try and explain or defend it. I just acknowledge it.
So as the party hit a lull, I snuck outside and scampered atop one of the prominent ledges overlooking one of America’s great cities for a good smoke.
Really, if it weren’t for the regular movement of both my arms to my mouth, I could have looked like a work of art.
That’s when it started to happen. I could feel the cool come into me and begin to burst forth.
People began to smile and stare. I could tell some of them wanted to take pictures but were afraid the imperceptible noise would startle the rare butterfly into vanishing
(If it ever happens again and you see it happening, please feel free to snap away. I won’t mind!)
Then with a timing that’s never been duplicated and may never again, the cool came to full fruition just as it was at its most useful.
A touring rock band in town was drawn to me.
It sounds preposterous, but this is exactly as it happened. They came up to the steps below my perch and gazed up at me and asked, “Do you know any good restaurants in Philly?”
I swear to God.
These five musicians, four guys and a babe, looked like they were effortlessly cool for about 14 of their 15 wakeful hours each day.
And they sought me as someone who could give cool advice.
And I was off.
I was funny. I was witty. I was wise. I didn’t stumble off my little stage. It was like I was Aristotle and they were my students.
It was a great conversation.
As we wished each other luck and they turned to say goodbye, I heard the cool rock chick turn to her bandmates and say, “Wow. What a really cool guy.”
Again, that’s exactly how it happened.
The only way this absolutely true story could be any better is if I could now honestly conclude “. . . and the name of that band was Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders.”
I pointed out exactly where it happened on Thursday to my wife. And as she always does whenever I tell this story she started cracking up.
Her cruel laughter stings.
She says the band was probably named the Sarcastic Quintet.
She wouldn’t know true cool if it married her and fathered her children.
In her defense, she’s slept through most of my cool.
Too bad so has everybody else.