Sunday, August 3, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast: The Philadelphia Adventure

So, I've been traveling all over the Northeast this past week and just got back from rainy New Hampshire. Since I've been away for a while, I think I'll split my trip log into two parts, beginning with my trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

The trip was conceived as a birthday present from my sister to her boyfriend, hereafter known as Timmy Tim Tim Tim Tim Timmy, as I have taken to calling him behind his back. Their plan was to head down to our apartment just outside of Philly and go to an OAR concert on Wednesday night. Seeing as they are barely 18, my parents decided to send me along as a chaperone of sorts. Timmy Tim Tim... etc. is a good enough kid- has a good sense of humor, knows his place, generally likable- but still, gotta keep on eye on him.

The trip began well enough- I decided to let my sister get some highway practice in on the first leg of the journey, which was the high adrenaline affair that I expected it to be. After that I took over, with Hallisson guiding us past traffic jams to Philly. It was a pleasant trip, filled with nice conversation, a lot of OAR music and occasional rants on my part against the other drivers. We eventually made it to our apartment, which is located in the borough of Narberth, which is located just outside of Philly. It's a very quaint, almost Pleasantville-esque neighborhood, with a downtown consisting of lazy one way streets and plenty of mom and pop shops scattered among the pricy and trendy independent merchants. The reason I have an apartment down there is because my Oma and Opa used to run several apartment buildings there and still own that building. My Oma keeps the first floor tenant free so that we always have a place to visit when we want to go down to Philly.

The first night was fine- we went to a good Japanese restaurant within walking distance of our homebase and had amazingly delicious eel dishes there. (side note: Snow peas make delicious appetizers in lieu of bread) We then went to the local movie theater and bought fairly pricy tickets for Hancock, as Liesel and Timmy Tim etc. hadn't seen it yet. While watching it I came to the realization that my brother Siegi is either Hancock or Will Smith, because a lot of his vocal patterns, facial expressions and body language were exactly the same as my brother's... plus I could totally see him as an alcoholic superhero who's just trying to do good. (Hi Siegi!). We then retired to the house, watched some I Survived a Japanese Game Show on our exceedingly old black and white TV (vacuum tubes people, vacuum tubes in the tube!) and went to bed.

The next day the adventure began. Now, those of you who know me well will question my use of the word "adventure". For me, adventures are generally bad things- I either get lost, hurt, or something bad happens to me or others around me. Well, here it's pretty accurate. We began by heading over to IHOP for breakfast (8 dollars); not bad, just way, way too much. We then headed over to U Penn to check out the campus (parking: 13 dollars), but no one really had any information for me as apparently all of it is now online for the graduate program. Though, in their favor their bookstore looked like a B&N and there were nice tennis courts right next to the physics dept... and its 15 minutes from my apartment by train.

We piled into the Alpacamobile and headed to the Philadelphia Zoo. Unfortunately, Hallison decided to prove her evil nature by taking us on the Schuylkill Expy (pronounced School-Kill). That was pretty harrowing, as the directions came fast and furious and ended up with me half a city in the wrong direction before I could finally get my bearings. Even when we got to the Zoo it took us 15 minutes and 2 U-turns to figure out where to park, as the nice lots were for members only. It turns out that non-members get to pay 12 dollars to park in an incredibly sketchy alleyway that is bordered by razor wire on one side and a chain link fence leading to the railroad tracks on the other. We also had to park half a mile from the entrance, which did not put me in a better mood. We paid admission (20 dollars) and got to go in. The Zoo was pretty cool; lots of very interesting animals in awesome exhibits (golden tamarins walking across the path in front of me!), awesome factoids (pumas can jump 30 feet across and 16 feet up!), and peacocks roaming freely throughout the zoo. However, it was exceedingly hot that day, and we had forgotten to pack water (3 bucks a pop). Fortunately the drive home was a bit easier this time, and we retired home to eat delicious cheesesteaks from the winner of the 2006 best cheesesteak place in philadelphia (located in Narberth across from the movie theater!).

We then headed to the concert but not terribly early, as our tickets had defined seats on them. I programmed Hallison to take us there without using the highway, which not only saved us a lot of aggravation but also took us on one of the most unique paths I've ever driven on. In downtown Philly the most dominating feature is easily the city hall, and the streets don't let you forget it. Instead of moving in the normal grid pattern, the streets all go around the city hall in a big circle, forcing you to recognize that it exists and is older and more powerful than you. This was kind of annoying from a driving stand point, but the effect was really cool. Finding the concert was a bit of work, but eventually we found parking in a formerly empty lot (10 bucks). There were plenty of tailgaters there, which should have prepared us for the concert...

As soon as the concert began, I really, really wanted some whiskey. The concert had beer selling for 7 dollars a bottle, yet people still bought it in large quantities. I know this because it became a popular past time during the concert (which was standing room only, I might add) to throw the bottles into a different part of the crowd. Two of these bottles hit me square on the head (thank God they were plastic), and at least one hit Liesel. Also, drunken crowd surfers nearly knocked me to my knees with a blow to the back of my head as they crashed to the ground in my direction, which did not put me in a better mood. And the cover band was really annoying- they kept on trying to get crowd participation, but a) nobody knew the words to their songs, and b) they weren't very good. OAR, on the other hand, sounded much better than on the cd, and to their credit they did what they could to calm the crowd down and just get everyone to enjoy the concert. Still, in the end I think I'll just stick to music at home, as I don't think they're worth the aggravation.

We got home uneventfully, I got my whiskey on the rocks, and it was sleep time again. In the morning we headed home, but the adventure was not finished with us. Getting out of Philly we ran into a huge, 7 mile long traffic jam that not only pissed me off royally but also got me distracted enough that I accidentally went through the EZ Pass lane instead of the ticket lane at the toll booth. This resulted 2 1/2 hours later (at least 1 1/2 of which was traffic) in $22.75 in toll instead of our usual $3.25. After that, however, things finally became smooth sailing- Hallison took us on a very meandering root to save us more traffic woes and led us to a little gas station on route 6 that had this:
Yeah, read it and weep!

The lack of money is the root of all evil.
- More Maxims of Mark [Twain], Johnson, 1927

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