By: Chrysa Smith
Every so often you have one of those days. Not only does everything go smoothly, but it feels right. The atmosphere. The mood. The entire karma, fung shei, aura and all that jazz. I don’t know about you, but this is only a once in awhile occurrence in my life (like last year, when MaryFran and I hit the streets of NYC and scored cheapo tickets to the Radio City Christmas Show and some goodies from a magazine giveaway). I’m always pleasantly surprised. It’s not the stuff of everyday, which I suppose, is what makes these times so very special. And at this time of the year, this kind of day is spectacular. No rushing, no overwhelming anxiety, no crowds, nothing but flowers and unicorns.
So what was this intoxicating Rx that I experienced? Simple. It was brunch in the city, followed by an afternoon of listening to some of the most angelic music I’ve heard in at least a year or more. It was a kickoff to the Christmas season, without any hassle. It was pure enjoyment all around. And it all began at the Hickory Lane Bistro in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.
OK. The cafe is located next to the Eastern State Penitentiary–once home to criminals like Al Capone. It’s since been turned into a museum and location for special creepy events like Halloween. But it has these amazing stone walls, which set a medieval scene to a neighborhood in transition. A neighborhood with brick row houses and lots of hip, new restaurants. At Hickory Lane, cozy colors and an organic look set the stage for some of the most beautiful food presentations I’ve ever seen. Beautifully layered parfaits were served in martini glasses. The french toast, which came in pumpkin cheesecake, organic and strawberry and custard varieties, was served in a vertical stack, topped with berries and real, thick whipped cream. I immediately loved the place and in talking to the waiter, was told it was voted in the top 25 burgers in the country. Wow! I’ll be back. http://hickorylanebistro.com/about.php
This was followed by a 1/2 mile trip down to St. Francis Xavier Church. Almost cathedral-like in stance, the inside is magnificent—striking white altar in what looked to be marble. A grand reredos housing icons to founding patron saints. But I didn’t go there for the services. I went there to enjoy a musical afternoon, courtesy of the Keystone State Boys Choir. 180 boys from eight to eighteen. It brought me back to another special time in London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, when my husband and I got to sit on the altar with the boy choir–a most angelic experience.
This boy choir is fairly young; founded after 2000. But it has not only grown in number and status, it has performed in Carnegie Hall, on Broadway, Antarctica and will soon be headed to India to perform for a descendant of the infamous Ghandi. All very cool opportunities for many inner city kids. A little fun is infused into their performances, as they get to bop and sway, dance and add gestures to accompany lyrics. But one of the best aspects of the group is that the arrangements of the music were unique; some of them arranged by members of the choir themselves. Favorite choral music was partnered with modern African tunes. The Hebrew Hava Nagila had three part harmony and lots of infused jazz. An Islamic song of praise was accompanied by drums and authentic lyrics. It was all very beautiful and inspiring. http://paboychoir.org/
So in this season when everyone is crowding into malls, big entertainment venues and famous restaurants, I’d advise the reverse. Seek out a friend and the small, the intimate, the quietly beautiful, simple joys of the season—like a good neighborhood cafe, a small venue or church concert and let your soul, heart and mind be lifted up, all in perfect harmony.