Fragmentation was my concern for the weekend and it was realized almost immediately when our group of 17 was reduced to 11 for visiting the Mutter Museum, a collection of medical oddities hosted by the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. The others either had no stomach for seeing a colon the size of a punching bag or chose sleep as their cardinal concern; as they wish. The walk to the museum was already warm and I was wearing a polo shirt for the first time in years with the exception of for Scouting events. I felt out of place, under-dressed, and like I was failing to maintain a notion of group until I encountered a surprise mood changer: the receipt for museum entrance which had the phrase “Team Interrobang” on it in no less than three places. Whenever I sign or receive documentation that treats my TF2 team like an actual entity I feel like I’ve fooled the world.
I took the museum at a slower pace than most, spending two and a half hours to go through the displays as compared to 60-90 minutes for the rest of the group. Even malformed skeletons become boring if you look at enough of them. The group moved on to lunch and I took in more of the museum, violating my own cardinal concern and before leaving to retrieve my camera from the hotel (the Mutter allows no cameras) I signed the guest book on the group’s behalf.
I returned to the hotel, downed some more water, looked at the sweaty mess I was turning into, grabbed my camera, and headed for Reading Terminal to meet the re-assembled group for lunch. Along the way, I remembered I was in a city:
I love pictures of pictures.
I wasn’t just in any city, I was in my city or as close as I could claim to any other metropolitan area and again Philadelphia rewarded attentiveness.
Between monuments of industry lie monuments of history and I am tickled by the image of William Penn walking a highway of sky from one nexus of modern antiquity to another.
The above occurred on the way back as the notion of an afternoon at historic sites dissolved in the heat of the day. I like how each figure is slightly less sane as one goes from right to left and in retrospect the resolve the crank in the back is exceptional considering the heat. We also passed another Philadelphia landmark, the fat raving lunatic, as someone near Walnut Street spoke of their triumphant comeback to Philadelphia politics. The person in question weighted somewhere north of 300 lbs and was wearing gym shorts and a pit-stained t-shirt.
I again drank water and coolness as the notion of visiting the Liberty Bell or anything more than a half mile or so from the hotel died. Some people were tired, others were still recovering from a long previous evening, so I invoked a mental preparation I had made weeks in advance: The Nerd Protocol. Team Interrobang is a bit more social than one’s standard group of Internet folk but there are still cleavages. Some people dislike others, there are internal rivalries, and the full spread of emotion from love to loathing exists within our community. But sometimes, these go to excess, and should there be an explosion, I would draw upon the fact that there were still enough nerd’s nerds that I could escape to a museum.
The Brotherhood of the Social Awkward went to the Academy of Natural Sciences and I had an absolute ball. I blasted out a text message notifying people, and one person took a cab getting there before the seven of us who had walked. There was a special butterfly display which I paid the two extra dollars to see and I knew I was in the company of those secure with their masculinity when the fellow who arrived early responded to my query of “did you get the butterfly pass?” by pointing to the pink pin on his shirt and saying “you bed your ass I did.” The first stop was the live animal show led by a shapeless woman who loved the animals far more than she loved the audience. Her first guest was a Harris Hawk native to the Southwest:
Docent: Can anyone tell me what the Harris Hawk eats?
Child #1: Grass.
Docent: No, think desert.
Child #2: Fish.
Docent: Closer, but no.
Surly Team Member: Sand.
Her second guest was a very white red fox eliciting my favorite question-response from a docent, possibly ever:
Audience Member: Can a fox and a dog mate?
Docent: Not naturally, but I wouldn’t put it past science.
Ah, science, we’re about coulda not shoulda.
We went around the displays and I found a strong photographic parallel as shown below:
The butterfly exhibit was nice, as the 85°F/80% RH room was still much cooler than it was outside and I got to use the word “Lepidopterologist” a dozen times. The staff member took kindly to the fact that there was a bunch of non-child, non-threatening men in her area and let me take a picture of her be-butterflied head.
Thank you, un-named staff member.
We hit every exhibit in the museum, and we all kind of died near the apiary, so we amused ourselves by mismatching the bee quiz tiles.
We made dinner plans and I felt glad that we’d finally have our group together time, but one person had to bow out due to feeling ill. The motto of the weekend seemed to have emerged as “close enough”. This followed into our evening activity of karaoke where Andy and Adam did a surprisingly good rendition of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and I got to do “What A Wonderful World” in the style of Louis Armstrong. I think I do a passable impression. I don’t go to bars much as someone who doesn’t drink but enjoyed karaoke. I put in a few requests but they didn’t jive with the culture of those present so I’ll need to find another place to do show tunes and popular rock of the late 90s.
I made peace with someone, and again the day ended.