Last week on social media, I compared the impending Papal visit to awaiting landfall during hurricane season. Much like the media coverage of a tropical storm in the Gulf, the lead up to the pope’s arrival in the U.S. was overblown. And yet, Exile battened down the hatches and boarded up all the windows, just in time for a weak Tropical Storm Francis to blow through.
Ok, enough with the metaphors. Forget about being poetic, here’s the skinny on Frank in Philly, as it looked on the ground. Let’s stipulate at the outset to set aside all debate over the expense of the papal visit and whether it was an appropriate or wise allocation of funds. The local paper and social media is all over that; Google it. Also, y’all know I’m not Catholic, or religious (see this post, and apply the same disclaimer posted there).
So, Frank in Philly. Y’all, it was kind of surreal. First of all, the National Guard was in town. Beginning Friday, there were young guys in camouflage stationed all over the neighborhood, greeting me with “Ma’am” as I strolled by, go-cup in hand. They rolled in in their humvees on Friday afternoon as I frog marched a group of exhausted kids through the ‘hood. I do love a man in uniform, but after a friend pointed out that they were awfully young – young enough for us, at 38, to be their mothers – my ardor cooled a bit.
Our neighborhood fell just inside the northern border of the vaunted Traffic Box, meaning no new vehicles could enter after Friday night, so the only cars to be seen Saturday and Sunday were either police officers, National Guard (some in golf carts and Mules) and the occasional neighbor on an emergency beer run. Fairmount avenue was shut down to all but emergency traffic – and cyclists, who were everywhere!
Because of the insane media coverage in the lead up to the Papal visit, a good size chunk of the neighborhood decamped. Those of us who were left threw a Papal Potluck on Saturday night, enjoying our adult beverages in sight of a contingent of local police officers and Guardsmen. And a few hovering helicopters.
I had no burning desire to see the Pope in person, but by Saturday the Facebook feeds of all my friends (and friends of friends) were populated with firsthand photos and videos of the Pope. I’ll be honest – yes, there was some FOMO motivating the decision. But it WAS a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (and how often can I truly say that?), so we made plans to head to the Parkway Sunday to see what we could see. Stay tuned…
Next Time: Your Southern Girl sees the Pope! And about a bajillion nuns!