Archive for the ‘philadelphia’ Category

goodbye, apartment 4
June 1, 2011

I thought I was bidding adieu to Apartment 4 on Monday, and proceeded as such. There was sorting and packing and the throwing away of lots of crap, and, when all that got to be too much, there was a trip to the Wawa a few blocks down, which was hence christened as the most recent public place in which I’ve cried, robbing a couch in a Connecticut Crate & Barrel – the site of a truly spectacular mid-May breakdown – of that sought-after title.

I’d honestly never stepped foot in the Wawa before, but around midnight on Saturday, after spending hours doing nothing but dividing my books into piles (Will Fit in New York; Might Fit in New York; Don’t Kid Yourself, These Are Definitely Not Fitting In New York) that little store, nothing more than a glorified 7-Eleven to most out-of-towners, did me in. It suddenly seemed so very Philadelphia, a representation of all the things I was leaving behind, and thus I felt the need to very publicly mourn the loss of all those 99 cent cups of coffee and late-night hoagies I’m never going to have.

It’s a strange predicament I find myself in: loving a place I just can’t stay. Technically I can’t stay because we have to go to New York, because that’s where Dave matched, but on a deeper, pre-March 17 level, I really just can’t stay. It’s not this city’s fault – this city is wonderful and lovely (yes, even more so than New Jersey) – but it just hasn’t been all that lovely and wonderful to me this year. And that is a sad thing to face: the idea that, while you love something (and that something’s cheesesteaks and low housing prices and proximity to Anthropologie) very much, it might not be the very best thing for you at the moment, and that no matter how hard you try to fight for it and make it work, the only way to move forward is to jump ship, for the moment.

(Is this starting to remind anyone else of bad relationships they’ve had? Or am I the only one who’s ever had trouble leaving someone who takes me out to a Stephen Starr restaurant occasionally?)

Anyway, I was coming to terms with all of this, in that weepy, embarrassing-yourself-in-a-24-hour-convenience-store type of way that seems to be my own particular breed of pathetic, and closure actually seemed to be close. As a bonus, said closure did not require me shlepping up and down stairs and loading up a big truck, as I had been deemed far too weak to participate in the actual move (and far too stubborn to take another vacation day in the name of New York.) All I had to do was pack up our life, and then Dave and his brother would do the rest, down four very narrow, very spiral-y flights of stairs.

Tuesday came and the boys headed off, coming back for lunch with one truck-full of our stuff and shirts soaked with sweat and an appetite for all of the roast beef in the deli drawer of the fridge. They headed back into the city to round up the rest and I headed to the pool, where I proceeded to enjoy a dip and a phone call with Amruta. When I heard the truck rumbling up the driveway again, I reluctantly left my perch, and apologized for having to cut the catch-up with her short: “They’re here…with all my shit,” I said. “I suppose I should help.”

Famous last words. Dave was bringing not just a second haul of furniture and boxes but also news that we would have to make one more late-night trip, and this little princess would be coming with.

So off we went, one last drive from Southern New Jersey into the city, me planted on some towels on the floor in between Dave and his dad, legs tucked under me. I couldn’t see much from down there: the skyline poking through the dark on that one bend in 676, an elevated expressway looming overhead, a familiar street sign. But I know my neighborhood well enough to read the tops of buildings and the curve of rooflines, and I knew when we were there, pulling in to our old spot across from the rowhouse we called home for two years.

Still deemed relatively weak (true life: I’ve successfully avoided physical activity for two years), I wasn’t made to do that much. I carried down trash bags and a toaster oven, pieces of the play pen we used when Franny was small enough to stay in it and young enough to need to, while Dave and his Dad took apart the futon (yes, that one where I used to make out with my high school boyfriends.) After they finished disassembling my introduction to teenage sexuality, they started loading up the car, and I was sent back up to collect the dregs of our life still marooned in the apartment: stray extension cords littering the corners of the rooms, a copy of the New England Journal crammed where a door met the wall, pens and hair ties and the beloved Kitchen-Aid mixer my mother bought us when we first moved in together.

All those previous days of packing had confronted me in the same way, of course. The hours spent sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by boxes, were chock full of all sorts of reminders of our lives, past and present and future, followed by choices. Did I really need to keep that birthday card? That too-small T-shirt purchased at the outlets on a trip up to Maine the summer that Megan’s mom died? That note from my college roommates informing me they were going to White Castle (“Really,” the index card signed off, with the flourish of a purple pen.)

I had already done my sorting – of worth keeping and worth letting go – and I had had my farewell tears in a Wawa on Walnut street.

But I’m still glad I had those last few minutes to walk through the fourth floor of that rowhouse, cleaning up scraps and wiping away dust and thinking about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And saying goodbye, so long, peace out, to our first apartment.

It’s been real.

February 2, 2011

Yes, I said it. TGIF. Thank. God. It’s. February.

Dudes, I’m not going to lie: this winter has been rough. Thinking back, I believe there was a part of me that thought, back in balmy late November, that puppy + wedding planning = happiness in all climates!

That part of me slipped on the ice Tuesday, muttered “fuck this” under her breath and spent the next hour frantically searching Jetsetter for a last-minute getaway.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to snow. I grew up in Southern New England and spent weekends (begrudgingly, but still) in the only chillier place accessible by car (Northern New England!), watching the snow inch upwards on our deck, week after week, as my parents oohed and aahed about the accumulation. I breezily survived  two winters in DC, Indian dancing through the second one with ease. Even last winter’s trio of blizzards failed to really throw me for a loop: I actually kind of liked the drama of it, the “will we or won’t we have heat today?” anxiety. If nothing else, it gave me something to focus on until Spring.

But this year. This year we have heat (thank you, landlords!) and a puppy and wedding planning galore. We have a caramel-colored fluff ball with a heart-shaped nose and a dream photographer booked (yay!) and still – still – we do not feel so happy. (And by we, I mean me. Because it would legitimately take a 365-day long hailstorm to make Dave utter a sigh one-tenth as annoying as a forecast of flurries forces me to produce.)

I think it’s the constance of this winter , the lack of reprieve. The big piles of dirty snow that don’t melt, the big stretches of black ice plotting my demise, the dog that enjoys eating frozen vomit off the sidewalk. (Yes, it nauseates me too.) There’s no ebb and flow, no excitement or preparation preceding an upcoming storm because, dude, there’s always an upcoming storm. Mother Nature set a grueling pace this year.

For a variety of reasons, I didn’t have the best start to January, and so I started to focus on my upcoming trip out West, telling myself to just hold out for that change of scenery, that chance to wear flats. I also promised myself that when I got back, it would essentially be February, and winter would essentially be over.

I see now that that was a lie, and, perhaps, the wrong approach. Because when I arrived back on the East Coast, and the date read January 19, I was certainly confused. Turns out January is a long month, people. The last 12 days have positively crept by.

But. But! Now February is really, truly here. And I’m ready to celebrate. We’re one month in! I can see my birthday and match day on the horizon! Let’s throw a party! (No, really, let’s. I’m going to be 26, bitches!)

I know it might be unrealistic to celebrate the introduction of the second month of the year. I understand, on some level, that this really only puts us closer to the heart of the season, not farther from it. I know I’ll probably be, once again, a bit confused when Feb. 19 rolls around and the pool at my gym still more closely resembles the Arctic Circle than the place I used to work on my tan every weekend this summer. But at this point, I really don’t give a shit. The dog is insisting on being taken out at 5 a.m., the band we want won’t return my emails and I can’t afford anything on Jetsetter. For now, delusional thinking will just have to do.

October, again
October 16, 2010

I am about as fair weather of a Phillies fan as you can get.

I can’t identify the starting lineup. I can’t spout off stats of any kind. When I make an appearance at a springtime game, it’s generally just for the hotdogs.

But when October rolls around, something changes. Suddenly I’m staying up late to catch the 9th inning, calling Chase Utley my boyfriend, correctly pointing out a few outfielders. Last weekend, I spent an entire bus ride to New York hitting the ‘refresh’ button on my blackberry, tracking not updates to Texts From Last Night or changes to my Facebook newsfeed, but the play-by-play on the playoffs from ESPN. Anxiously.

I know. I annoy myself too. But I just can’t help it – there’s something about the post-season, about the games that really count, that totally gets me going. The one hundred and sixty two games that mark the warmer months of the year require an attention span I don’t possess, but a few weeks worth of pitches and runs and stolen bases? That, I can totally get behind.

When I lived in DC, there wasn’t much to cheer about, so the lead-up to last October – my first in Philadelphia since heading southbound in 2007 – was pretty exciting for me. I had big plans for the Phillies’ run to the World Series, plans involving packed sports bars, inappropriate fans, beer and burgers and hot wings. I pictured all of us – the crowd – united by this common love, for a team and a sport and a city. I saw high-fives with the random dude on the bar stool next to me, and rounds of Yuengling pints, and all of us biting our nails, waiting to see if Ryan Howard could work his magic again. This vision I whipped up in my head was all about cohesion and belonging and being a part of something bigger than one little native, naive New Englander lost in the middle of a big city.

Of course, as with most visions, it didn’t come to pass that way.

The Phillies did their part, winning the penant and making a solid run at the top prize. And I’m sure at sports bars all across the city, people did just what I thought they would: getting loud at all the right moments and quiet at all the others, taunting the enemy, throwing in an Eagles fight song for good measure. I just wasn’t there to see it.

Dave was on a time-consuming rotation, with study time scheduled into most hours he wasn’t at the hospital or watching the Yankees games. (Because he’s, um, not a fair weather fan. Nor does he change his affiliation based on the city in which he lives, ahem.) And I just didn’t have that many friends here. Working from home, still getting my center city bearings after a July move, I hadn’t made much progress in the developing a social network department. When it came to rooting for the Phillies and trying to formally adopt our new residence as my home, I was, ironically, kind of on my own.

The night the Phillies clinched the National League championship, I was desperate to join the crowds of fans flooding the streets below our fourth-floor apartment. I begged Dave – head in a book, setting his alarm for an early-morning wake-up – to join me. I texted the few college acquaintances I knew were still in town. And when no one responded and Dave gave a final, resounding ‘no’ and got into bed, I stood by the window and listened to the whoops and screams coming from Broad Street and felt as though I would never find my place in this city.

This year, I had my heart set on a full turnaround, a comeback bigger than the Yankees over the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALCS. It would be the perfect end to this past year – of my slow but steady efforts to build a group of friends and a life here for myself – if I could finally get my post-season sports bar dream to come true. I sent out a few messages, asked around, and tried to make plans for a solid Saturday night watching Philadelphia’s favorite team take on the Giants.

But it’s Saturday and the sun has gone down and I’m still in my apartment. Dave is in California and people are busy and I’m once again sitting here alone, with the game on in the background and the curtains open to the street below.

It’s a little sad, I’ll admit it. But while the result is ostensibly the same, the reality is somehow not as tragic as it seemed 12 months ago.

After all, I spent this morning wandering along the Schuylkill river banks, snapping shots of the Waterworks and Boathouse Row. Yesterday, I covered nearly seven miles in search of Ethiopian food (there’s a bad joke in there somewhere) in West Philadelphia, with an old friend. And tonight’s decision to watch the game from the comfort of my apartment has as much to do with a desire for an early bedtime as anything else, as I’m signed up for a photography class in the arty Kensington neighborhood tomorrow that requires yours truly to have an early-morning wake-up time for once.

It’s not exactly the way I pictured it or exactly the way I’d like my weekends to look. But it’s getting there. And when I look back on this past year, from one October to the next, I feel like I’ve made some really important strides.

Let’s just hope the same goes for those Phils.

what I’ve been up to
June 30, 2010

brunching and lunching and dining and wining, with a cocktail or two thrown in for good measure; persuading my mom that a 9:30 dinner reservation really isn’t that late; sifting through the lovely little Midtown shops that line 13th street, on the hunt for all the perfect birthday and bachelorette and wedding presents I so desperately need to find; wandering around this city in my flip flops with Lisztomenia buzzing in my ears; trying, and failing, to make baked french toast – and fleeing to Jones instead; trying, and failing, to remember the cereal mascots of my childhood during a heated game of Quizzo; writing, writing, writing…for the day job; admiring my byline in that national newspaper that sometimes allows me to grace their pages; catching up on Top Chef and Entourage and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, Bethenny Getting Married? (sometimes I think Bravo put the question mark there specifically to communicate my incredulousness at the fact that I actually continue to watch this shit); stocking up on all the veggies I forbade myself from eating in South America; riding out the heat wave with bottles and bottles of raspberry lime seltzer; trying to pretend I didn’t just see that cockroach crawl across my kitchen floor; trying to pretend I’m not jealous of the fact that Dave’s lying on a Hawaiian beach right now; trying on clothes I can’t afford (so that’s how a $400 dress fits); trying to enjoy my time alone instead of counting down the hours until his return; planning a few surprises; reminiscing about our move-in, almost exactly one year ago; loving this season so very much.

the six month review
May 17, 2010

Just about six months ago, I found myself all dressed up with nowhere to go. So I started a blog.

Did you know that that’s how this all began? I mean, there’s the long story, too: the shock and frantic pace of moving to Philadelphia over the summer had faded, leaving a tinge of loneliness and boredom in its wake; I didn’t yet feel anchored to this new city; when it came to writing and me and where the two might intersect, I felt lost and dizzy and overwhelmed; [insert phrase about tough transition and brewing quarter-life crisis here.]

But the semi-melodramatic details don’t really change the bottom line, which is this: I had bought a new outfit. Perfect-fitting skinny black jeans, a soft, thin greyish-blue open front jersey cardigan from the Nordstrom teens department, hot leather boots of the same color with lots of buckles and straps. And Dave had clinic or an overnight shift or something similarly time-consuming and doctorly, and I refused to let such a cute outfit go to waste simply because I now worked from home and had barely any friends in this new city. So I dug up my laptop case and walked until I found an open coffee shop and started typing up this little blurb about my complete and utter lack of rhythm. Because embarrassing myself seemed like a good place to start.

Since then, I’ve written 96 more posts, most of them at least touching on this theme of embarrassment,which seems to be somewhat pervasive in my life. Other popular themes include, wow, everyone else appears to be perfect (see: thoughts on best friend, boyfriend, boyfriend brother’s girlfriend, Mindy Kaling) and why do I insist on acting like a middle schooler? (see: family vacations, behavior at boyfriend’s brother’s bar mitzvah, excessive evidence of whining.)

I still haven’t learned CSS or mastered shutter speed or redesigned what I am sure is the most horrendous-looking About page to ever grace the Internet. I haven’t changed the world or connected with lots of new people or garnered a big pool of readers eager for my next post. But I’ve said some things I needed to say, and I’ve kept some old friends in the loop on my life and I’ve even written a thing or two that doesn’t make me cringe. So, for that, I owe you, my single-digit readership, a very big thank you. Thank you, Jon and Drea and Amu and everyone for reading and forcing me forward. You’ve done a lot more than let me show off my new jeans, that’s for sure.

So, then. On to the next six. Shall we?

three years out
May 13, 2010

I graduated from college three years ago today. And, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you did too.

In preparation for the occasion, I spent far too much money on a new BCBG dress and made reservations at a slew of fancy Philadelphia restaurants. My best friend voluntarily gave up a few days of senior week at her Connecticut school to watch me receive my (fake) diploma; my brother unvoluntarily gave up the last few days of his semester in Nicaragua, per my parents’ orders.

The final week of my undergraduate years was a blur of booze and fast food, adrenaline and anticipation, drama and giddiness and fear and nostalgia. The whole last semester was like that, really.

The funniest part is, I don’t really have much to say about it now. As someone who’s introspective and over-analytical enough that she insisted on devoting an entire blog to the all-important topic of HER LIFE, this is a strange feeling.

But I just don’t really think I have much to add to the conversation. It felt like yesterday, it felt like forever ago; I was scared, I was happy – it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, right? And, at the moment, I’m having a hard time even getting myself to care about that hazy soup of emotions from three years past – which is especially alarming when juxtaposed with just how strongly I seemed to feel everything – from fear over not having a job to joy at tasting Greek Lady’s pita chips at 3 a.m. post-Smoke’s – during the spring of 2007.

Today, watching the drunken seniors in their matching shirts stumbling down Walnut for the 40-block bar crawl that at one point seemed to epitomize the brilliance and horror of graduation, all I really had to say was…meh. Whatever. I laughed for a second to myself as I watched some girl continually misstate the name of the Center City bar she wanted her companions to escort her to, and then left it all behind, jogging across the street to catch the tail end of a yellow light. I was rushing to meet a friend at Reading Terminal, where we planned to gather supplies for the dinner we would cook in my apartment, the one with no elevator and no doorman but a big desk in a sunny spot where I get to write my stories, all day long.

I’d like to think it’s what my 22-year-old self had in the back of her mind when she walked down to Franklin Field that painfully early, perfectly sunny May morning.

*Note: Most, if not all, of these photos are not by me; probably some combination of T, our resident photographer, and Allie R.S., the girl who got us all hooked on high school musical just as we were leaving college.

nice little weekend
May 10, 2010

I’ve had a string of weekends of the sort that I used to take for granted in DC – flitting from one date with friends to another, wandering the city in flip-flops, slowly draining a bottle of wine over dinner.

Of course, in some ways it’s even better than DC. For starters, the kicked bottle of wine was purchased at a liquor store around the corner for $10 (nothing satisfies the frugal alcoholic in me like a good BYO), and the person sitting across the table was my boyfriend, who now lives with me, instead of 3.5 hours away. How cool is that?

We started off the weekend with drinks with some med school kids at a bar that seemed like it had been transplanted from Brooklyn, except for the ever-present pints of Yuengling.  I was happy and warm enough to skip my way home and tipsy enough to justify eating nachos at 2 a.m.

The next morning, we meandered down to Rittenhouse, which was legit dappled with sun (see photo), though also blasted by wind, which didn’t work out so well for the kid with the eyes that were recently shot with lasers (and hence must be protected by obnoxious aviators. Doctor’s orders.)

We later had the good fortune to get off the wait list for a table at Matyson, which I firmly believe is the best BYO in Philly. I could tell you all about the tuna tartare and coconut creme pie, but I’d say the most important aspect of the meal was the fact that it was paid for by the $92 I found on the sidewalk on Thursday. Karma, bitches!

And then, the next morning, we went out for brunch with Dave’s parents and little brother for mother’s day. It was pretty much like every other mother’s day I’ve ever had, with the card and the bouquet of roses and the over-priced egg dishes, just minus my mom.

I was actually originally planning on writing all about the holiday meal here, instead of boring you to death with the details of my totally normal weekend. (Even though, duh, that’s the brilliance of it – I had a totally normal weekend! Devoid of tears and destroyed cakes!)

But for better or worse, the ‘wow, it’s so weird being with someone else’s mom on mother’s day!’ thing never really happened. It honestly didn’t feel unnatural or awkward at all, except for the part where Dave’s mom casually mentioned they had gotten the bar mitzvah photos back, and, hmmm, she hadn’t realized that I had taken it upon myself to join in the game of Coke and Pepsi. (And with such, um, vigor. The vigor that comes from being wasted.)

I didn’t know whether to feel mortified and regretful, or just plain grateful that my embarrassing moment of the day didn’t have anything to do with the fact that it was the second Sunday in May.

a love letter to the city
May 7, 2010

We went to our first Phillies game of the year on Tuesday night, after my less-blind boyfriend had the good sense to pick up two last-minute tickets. They were some of the worst seats in the house, but it couldn’t have mattered less, as it turns out I’m an unbelievably cheap date. Who knew? Give me a warm evening and a Coors Light and a hot dog with mustard – plus a few bites of your hot dog too – and I’m a happy camper.

This time of year, the magic doesn’t even stop at Citizens Bank Park or South Philadelphia. The whole city is like that for me: lovely, mesmerizing, energizing.

Yes, I know the subway stations still smell like piss and the subway itself doesn’t even go anywhere and the sports fans are so insane as to be downright scary sometimes (also, dumb: who the f storms the field with weed in their pocket? but I digress.)

But, the thing is, I like the fact that Market Street is grimy and that we eat food out of carts parked on the street and overturn cars when we win baseball games. This city may not be classy or upscale, but it’s real – it has depth and history and personality.

DC, in comparison, was where my friends and my age demographic resided; it had the benefit of free museums and tall monuments. But it always felt so flat to me, as a city. I would get on the metro and look around and realize that I was the weirdest person on the car, simply because I was wearing a sparkly top or something not purchasable at J. Crew. Those hill staffers, they like their button-downs.

So I’m happy to finally be in a city that’s a little…well, weird. One  that embraces its quirks and its shortcomings and continues to offer you steaks drenched in cheese anyway.

Between the springtime and the sports victories and the greasy sandwiches, it’s starting to feel a lot like home.

Unintended Consequences
April 6, 2010

A few weeks ago, fed up with the record-breaking snow and frigid temperatures (made that much more enjoyable by the lack of heat in our apartment), I decided I wanted to skip Spring.

At that point, most people were huddled around the idea, the myth of weather that was above freezing and didn’t involve mass amounts of stuff coming down from the sky. They wanted nothing more than a few days in the high 40s, some sunshine to peak through the clouds.

But I wasn’t having it. I wanted summer, stat. Sweltering heat, air conditioners that drip questionable liquids on you when you walk on the sidewalks, sweaty people on my regional rail line – I decided I would take all of it. I didn’t care. I just didn’t want to be cold anymore.

All of this is a really long way of saying: I’m pretty sure this record heat wave we’re having right now is my fault. Or it’s global warming. Take your pick, but be prepared to swear your allegiances to either the weathermen or the climatologists accordingly. (It’s all very West Side story, Jets versus Sharks, right?)

If this is my fault, I can’t say I actually regret it. Yeah, it’s a little toasty in our fourth floor apartment, especially sans our window air conditioner units.

But I had the most enjoyable, normal day today, maybe the best I’ve had since moving here. I finally made it to the new gym I’d been avoiding like the plague, cooked a real dinner and felt generous enough to spring for Dave’s favorite ice cream (birthday cake flavored) at the grocery store, even though I think it’s almost as gross as the nerd blizzards Bridget gets at DQ.

The weather also bred a few photography epiphanies. Who knew all it would take was a dire need to crank up the fans to finally get me to understand shutter speed?

If all of this is to say that heat waves elicit good moods, good food and photographic genius,  then by all means, bring on the climate change.