For a class I was taking my first semester of Sophomore year, I needed to make a nest. Our assignment was to create a sculpture that could fit in the palm of the hand, and the first idea I had was to try and mimic the delicate woven structure made by birds. I also figured the materials would be cheap, free in fact. I spent an afternoon wandering Center City and gathering sticks that I thought would be easy enough to use. I found myself in Rittenhouse Square, because it was the closest source of greenery I could think of.
I strolled through the grass and against the shrubbery looking for thin flexible twigs. At first I was worried because I must have looked a bit bizarre. It was lunchtime, and Rittenhouse was packed with people enjoying the warm afternoon. After a few minutes of worrying, I realized that much stranger things must have been witnessed in Rittenhouse than a girl collecting sticks, and began to really dig around.
There were piles of leaves that I began to sift through to find material. Every pile had something new to offer me, none of which were nest-making material. I found green rolling papers, a small bright purple container with a suspicious powder in it, a doll shoe, and loads of other forgotten objects. The real treasure that I found was a mysterious rectangle, blue with a big fish on the front. The metal was extremely rusted, a metallic sea-foam green paint peeling off. The fish was visible almost completely, surrounded by gunk. On the top of the rectangle there was opening stuffed full with dirt and leaves. After scraping it all out, I was still perplexed by what this rectangle was. It resembled the base of the vape pens I had been seeing a lot of people walking around with. Although I was not sure why there would be a fish on a vape, I decided to call it a vape. It was pretty gross, but charming and unassuming. It reminded me of an old artifact someone would have box framed on their mantle.
I did not frame it, but I kept it on my windowsill for the rest of the semester. Although I was not 100% sure what exactly it was, it reminded me of Rittenhouse, which reminded me of Philadelphia. Gritty, eclectic, and under-appreciated.