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November 16th, 2010

Fill Your Soul at Phillie’s

Posted by meloni in Uncategorized

Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks (1942) embodies a mystery that can only be expressed by the decade of the 40s. Phillie’s, in the painting, is “the place you go where everybody knows your name”, even if everybody’s name is “Mac” and “Sweetheart”; it is the corner diner that breeds familiarity and safety even to strangers, a warm welcoming haven of comfort in a hard, dark, mysterious world. In a world of creeping, enveloping darkness, Phillie’s fluorescence stands as a warding beacon; a place where it’s okay to turn your back, take a rest, and stare into your steaming cup of coffee. And why wouldn’t Phillie be behind the counter, welcoming those city-hardened, street-smart Nighthawks with an arched eyebrow and a simple, “What can I do ya for?” And many come, whether it be for that cup of coffee, or to merely revel in a place where a moment of indecision is a shared concern. Phillie is the great human connector, as important as the bartender in the local pub, there to sweep up the worries and sighs that his patrons shrug off with their hats and coats, if they so choose. He’s as hard as he is sympathetic – the perfect figure to intimidate the troubles of the outside world, and take on the burdens of the Nighthawks. Inside Phillie’s is as welcoming as it is selfish; it gathers up the light and withholds it from the concrete jungle just outside its glass encasement, casting the desolate streets surrounding it in shades of emptiness with a lurking uncertainty, a slight feeling of never knowing who might be in the next doorway, or what might lay just around the corner. Phillie’s stands as the bright, solitary streetlamp, illuminating its visitor’s world for a brief instant of space and time, and the rest falling beyond its control.

And why wouldn’t Hopper want to convey this complex feeling and emotion in all of the rigid lines and vibrant colors with which a canvas can shine? Why not visually represent a fleeting feeling that is even harder to capture in words than it is in thought, more complex in its physicality than in the abstract. In the great, unending machine of the city, a place of human connection is no small treasure. How long can one wander around the streets of Manhattan before they have a conversation? No small town, no small-talk. Phillie’s becomes the place of haven, night or day, a shining brightness beckoning the lone city traveler to come, take a load off, take a mind off, and just be. Truly occupy the space a body can fill, and truly experience the connection of a human bond, no matter how brief or superficial.

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