Rain Doesn’t Make a Day Awful, it Just Makes it Wet

Saturday was a plan C sort of day. A few weeks ago my friend Dan invited me to join him and his parents to check out the Tall Ships Festival on the riverfront in Philadelphia. A trip into Philly to spend an afternoon with friends is always fun and the festival was a unique opportunity to learn a little about naval history.

L’Hermione, L’Hermione, “A French replica of the 145’ long Concorde class frigate of the French Navy.” Image credit: Tall Ships® Philadelphia Camden

As luck would have it, the forecast for Saturday was 100% chance of rain in the afternoon, not exactly the best kind of weather for an outside activity like touring massive ships with very tall masts and impressive sails.

Dan called to let me know that our group had expanded from 4 to 6 people and because of the rain he was organizing plan B, a visit to the Barnes Foundation Museum and dinner in Center City. Exploring one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings sounded like a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Between Thursday and Friday afternoon, the size of our group dwindled from 6 to 4 to 2. Dan’s condo is in the middle of a kitchen remodel and since the Barnes Foundation is something that can be visited at any time, it made more sense for his parents to visit another time. It also made sense to move to Plan C, a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A new exhibit, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting, had just opened at the Museum of Art and we wanted to see the collection before it moved on to another city. We reviewed the train schedule and he ordered our tickets for the exhibit to allow for plenty of time between the trains arrival and the admission time.

I love taking the train into Philly it’s fun to be able to relax and read or people watch instead of being stressed out by heavy traffic, potholes, and parking in the city. The train station is always lively and it’s not uncommon to hear the beat of drums or a beautiful harmony created by two violins played in unison.music performers in the train station

The clapping hands and tapping feet within the audience energized the drumming, dancing, and singing. I couldn’t resist putting a dollar in each of the buckets on the “stage” that hosted these 5 enthusiastic performers.

Dan and I met up on the other side of the station and ventured out into the drizzle to hail a cab. We started our adventure at a local pub and sampled a couple of beers while catching up and waiting for our assigned time for entering the exhibit to arrive. It was a short distance between the pub and the museum and although we used our umbrellas they barely got wet.

The museum supplied an audio recording to add background and insights about various paintings and artists featured in the exhibit. It was a great idea except I couldn’t get them to work properly for the life of me. Sooo, after trying and fumbling with two different devices I gave up and just enjoyed the masterpieces through my own eyes and interpretations.

At the end of the tour Dan surprised me with a gift of 6 tiny color pencils from the museum gift shop – I think it’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received. 🙂 They’re almost too cute to use.

color pencils from the museum

Our walk from the museum to the restaurant was an entirely different story from the walk earlier in the afternoon. I held my umbrella as close to my head as possible and followed Dan’s feet through the wet sidewalks and puddle filled streets.

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By the time we got to the restaurant our clothes were dripping and we could do nothing but laugh about our state of severe sogginess. I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t look in a mirror, I can only imagine that my hair must have resembled something that belonged on the head of a clown and not anything like it did when I started the day.

The restaurant is located in a renovated firehouse and has some of the best beef brisket I’ve ever eaten. (In case you’re wondering, the person in the picture is a random stranger who was sitting at the bar)

Philly Restaraunt_06_27_2015

It’s across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum – which is now on my list of “must do adventures.”

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After dinner we managed to hail a cab to the train station, but not quite soon enough to avoid getting drenched again – proving once again that neither of us were going to melt in the rain.

In reality, it would have been tempting to stay home and plan our adventure for a sunny or at least dry day, but we would have missed out on an awesome day and time spent with a good friend.

Flat Tires, Mega Snow, Power Outages, and Memorable Moments

2014 has certainly started off in a memorable way. Between January 3rd and February 7th I’ve experienced two major winter storms, two flat tires, two separate power outages, three nights without power, the perfect car rental storm, and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

I’m notorious for not paying attention to the weather forecast and most of the time I learn about incoming hurricanes and snow storms from one or more of my family members from the Midwest. The winter storm Hercules was no different, my daughter gave me the head’s up the day before and so I thought I was prepared for my drive to Lancaster to deliver an on-site workshop.

Based on my calculation I figured I would have no problem beating the storm. Boy was I wrong. For the first time in my life I was listening to the traffic announcer on the radio say something like:

traffic on 202 is bumper to bumper and barely crawling due to heavy snow and near white out conditions,”

And I was in the conditions. It took me nearly 2 ½ hours to drive the final thirty miles. I’ve never been happier to pull into a Holiday Inn Express and be within walking distance of a Ruby Tuesday.

Glass of wine at Ruby Tuesday

The Sunday following my weekend in Lancaster was highlighted by a terrifying blow out on I95 at 4:30 in the morning. I now understand why there are emergency pull off areas on the interstate and I have a whole new appreciation for the importance of knowing how to change a flat tire. You’ll be happy to know that I now belong to Triple A.

I’d scheduled another on-site training workshop for the week following the Lancaster one. When I booked the training in Virginia I didn’t realize that my travel conflicted with a hair appointment. I figured I’d hit the jackpot when my hair dresser had availability earlier that same day. In retrospect I probably should have rescheduled the hair appointment for the following week and not just to an earlier time, but looking good for my training session was a priority at the time.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the car rental process hadn’t taken so long. I stared at the Hertz Rental car sign and the snow packed parking lot for over an hour waiting for someone to deliver the rental car from another location. There’s only so much small talk one can make with the guy manning the front desk.

My impression of Hertz didn’t improve when I discovered that I’d been double billed. In addition to the original Hotwire charge there was a charge for the full amount of the rental from Hertz. To add insult to injury, I received an automated message from Hertz threatening to pursue legal action for the car I had not returned.

I called and confirmed the return and check in of my car before responding to the message. After three separate hour long attempts to speak to the next available agent, I gave up trying and am hoping that since no one has shown up with a warrant for my arrest things have been sorted out.

The trip to Lancaster taught me to pay more attention to the weather and I monitored the incoming snow to help me decide whether or not to reschedule the workshops I had scheduled to begin on Monday and Wednesday. The forecast for Monday morning changed from 2 – 4 inches to 4 – 8 inches while I was sleeping. One student rescheduled and one did not.

While shoveling I spotted a woman trudging through the snow toward my house; she wasn’t my student, but easily could have been.

woman walking through the snow stormIt was amazing that we started only 30 minutes late and her Toyota didn’t end up in a ditch between here and New Jersey. We spent the day with our fingers crossed that the flickering lights wouldn’t go completely out. Luck was with us, and we had power all day.

Shoveling is hard work, especially when it’s heavy and wet and you run out of daylight.

snow piles in the darkLavender scented hot bath water and nice music is a great way to sooth jangled nerves and achy muscles. My relaxing bath was disrupted by a loud whirring noise accompanied by a bright blue glowing light and total darkness. When I called to report the outage, the blue glow seemed like a crucial piece of information however the gal at PECO seemed less than concerned about it. All I know is it was pretty scary.

I found the only open restaurant in town and made my meal last as long as possible.

margharita flat breadThankfully I had power when I returned home and we had both lights and internet access for the second day of training.

A forecast of freezing rain for Wednesday had me wishing I could reschedule the second class of the week; however my student had already driven in from New York City so cancelling wasn’t an option.

Tuesday night I was preparing for the next day and absentmindedly put my eye glasses in my lap instead of on the table. Preoccupied with weather conditions and Hertz rental charge issues it didn’t occur to me that the loud crunch under my foot was the bow snapping off.

The realization I’d crunched my glasses and not a cheap pen from the bank almost caused an official melt-down.

Wednesday morning the lights flickered on and off a bit but the freezing rain stopped. We broke for lunch at noon. My mission to replace my frames was thwarted by road blocks, fallen trees, and downed power lines.

There were no lights on when I got home. The temperature in the house was tolerable so between the remaining battery life on my laptop we made it through the majority of the training material. My student then fired up his laptop, connected to the internet from the hot spot on his phone, I downloaded the presentation from my Google Drive and we finished out the day.

I bundled up for bed and lit a few candles.

candles

I drew a little by candle light, and drifted off hoping I would wake up to power and heat. Not sure I love this one, I was experimenting with some new ink and haven’t decided whether or not to finish the entry.

experimenting with new inks

Thursday morning brought no power, 50 degree temps in my house, and a flat tire. We arranged to meet at a local coffee shop, one of the few places in the area that still had power.

Before meeting my student, I drove to the closest service station to get my tire looked at. The loud rumbling sounds of the generator powering the station made it impossible to hear the conversation between the guys in the shop. I kept my fingers crossed that they would be able to spare the power to fill my tires. He filled my tire from 10 lbs back to 35 lbs and checked the pressure in the other three tires for free.

The owners of the coffee shop were accommodating and we made it through Thursday and wrapped up training on Friday at Friday’s. It seemed appropriate to avoid over-staying our welcome at the coffee shop and find a place that served lunch and wouldn’t mind having me linger until it was time to catch a train to Philly.

I knew I would have to change my plans to spend the evening in Philly as soon as I saw my rear tire. Thankfully Friday’s is next door to a Firestone and I dropped my car off to have the tire repaired. A glass of wine and a salad later, I got a call from one of the service techs. Long story short, I’m the proud owner of four brand new tires.

blown out tire mechanic

Over 600,000 people lost power during this storm. The electric company reported that it was the second worst storm in their history. My power was restored sometime Friday afternoon and slowly but surely the temperature rose from 40 degrees to comfortable.

If the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true, I gained a whole bunch of strength in the past two months.

I’m beyond happy to have power back and second to that is having my glasses back. Yesterday on my way to the gym, I stopped at the place I originally purchased the frames from. I was hopeful, but not certain that the owner would be able to find a pair of frames he could pop my lenses into.

The great new is, he did!

The funny thing is, the design on the bows almost look like something I might have drawn.

new glasses frames with design on bow

That’s a Really Bad Place to Change a Flat Tire!

My phone’s ringtone was hardly necessary this morning; it was 3:30 am and I’d barely slept. I tapped the screen for snooze; ten more minutes in my warm bed was preferable to the chilly air outside the comforter.

Christian’s flight back to college was scheduled for 6:10 am this morning. Last night we backward calculated and decided that we could leave at 4:00 am, make it to the airport in plenty of time even if we stopped at WaWa to get coffee for me and doughnuts for him. We sailed along I95 at just the right speed to avoid getting pulled over and were on track to make it to the airport in plenty of time.

I hate driving on I95; the closer I get to Philly the more I hate it. The minefield of potholes gets progressively dangerous the deeper you drive into the construction zone.

I made the mistake of driving in the middle lane, which turned out to be the most treacherous of the three available lanes. I won’t prolong the suspense or try and find a clever way to describe what it felt like to connect dead center with the pothole that ate my tire and then spit my car back onto the highway with a jolt.

“What was that!?”

Christian said, “I think we just hit a pothole. I hope we didn’t get a flat.”

The car balance of the car shifted and leaned toward the right front passenger side; the sound of air leaving the tire confirmed we had a flat tire. I won’t repeat what I said as this is a family friendly blog. :). I pulled over to the side of the road next to a construction barricade.

It was 4:30 a.m.

In theory I know how to change a tire, in practice I’ve never done it. I had sense enough to turn my hazards on and retrieve the jack, the spare tire, and the lug-nut wrench out of the trunk.

Christian figured out how to jack up the car and then Googled “how to change a tire” while I paced back and fourth trying to remember the trick to getting access to the lug-nuts. The lug-nuts on my tires are covered by a nice decorative cover, which is great unless you need to change a tire and don’t know how to take them off.

It was a good thing that I wore my white winter jacket instead of my black one; a last minute decision that kept me from blending into the pre-sunrise sky while I stood behind my car making calls for help.

My first call was to my parents because that’s who I call when I’m having a disaster and I hoped that because my mom has a Volvo they could shed some light onto how to get to the lug-nuts. My second call was to a 24 x 7 emergency road side assistance service that was 1 1/2 hours from where we were stranded.

Six rings into my third call Christian said, “Someone’s stopping to help.”

I turned to see a tow truck and a stocky, bearded man walking toward us, “This is a terrible place to change a flat tire! Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?”

I just nodded, hoping he intended to help and didn’t stop just to tell me how dangerous my situation was.

He tugged up the back of his pants and squatted in front of the tire. After a few failed attempts at removing the lug-nut covers with the factory provided tool, he retrieved a screwdriver from his truck.

It took more than regular muscle strength to loosen the lug-nuts. For each one, he positioned the lug-nut tool as a platform of sorts and forced the it free through a series of jumps and grunts.

He gave me instructions to add air to the spare and not to drive over 50 mph. I have no idea what his name is or what his company is, but I’ll always be grateful for the unexpected and free roadside assistance. I’ll also always wonder what he thought of our improvisation and that we used suitcases to block the tires. (if only we’d known that there were blocks for that purpose in the trunk)

As for the rest of the story, Christian missed his flight and will be headed back to St. Louis tomorrow. All of the flights were booked today; the airlines are still playing catch  up from last week’s weather related cancellations and delays.

Christian took my tire in to have it fixed; turns out it’s not just a flat tire, I have a broken rim. It’s a bummer, but there are so many ways that it could have been much worse.

In case you’re wondering about the feature image; well I’d rather enjoy roses than think about flat tires. And  after this morning’s mishap it was especially nice to have this cheery bouquet in my den.

Trains and Markets, and Magic, Oh my

bike tire wheel window

Last weekend was without a doubt the best Memorial Day Weekend of my life.  A few weeks ago, the “big kids” surprised me and purchased their own plane tickets to come visit me in Pennsylvania.

We started something new during Christmas travels; we now depend on SEPTA and New Jersey Transit for train transportation to and from the airport. It’s awesome because instead of spending time on I95 or the New Jersey Turnpike, I can clean like a mad woman up until the very last moment. Katie texted me two stops early so there would be no risk that she’d have to wait in the rain at the train-stop.

Somehow I managed to stay awake long enough to pick Jeff and Justin up from Trenton Transit Station. I’d like to say it was an uneventful drive, but apparently my daughter and I have a different vocabulary when it comes to driving directions and we almost ended up headed to NYC instead of Philly.

Saturday was a kick back day, the kids went to the mall and played games while I prepared the meals that had been requested for the weekend menu.  As always enchiladas were at the top of the list.

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and I was happy to wait for a few minutes for the train and take some pictures on the platform. I always laugh when I look at pictures of my kids and me.  I’m so much shorter  than them and they’re so much fairer than me it’s sometimes hard to see the family resemblance.

wating for the train with my kids

I probably shouldn’t have let Katie sit on the edge of the platform with her feet resting on the tracks, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture. Maybe it was my way of making up for not letting her eat dirt when she was little. (that’s a funny story)

waiting for the train with feet on the tracks

Apparently my children are never too old to play complicated versions of Paddy Cake.  They  make me laugh out loud.

Grown people Playing Paddy Cake

Our first destination was Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on South Street. It’s over 3,000 square feet of mosaic art and the walls are covered with shiny glass and mirrors from floor to ceiling, both inside and out.

Philadelphia Magic Garden outside wall

The second floor was a perfect place to check text messages and send funny pictures.

texting in the magic garden

I wonder what if the walls of the artist’s home are covered in tile and mirrors as well.

It was a great location for a mother and daughter picture.

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The plan was to go to the Italian Market on South Street after the Magic Garden, the only problem was that I didn’t know the name of the market. The Italian Street  Market is lined with shops and stores of all kinds. It’s like taking a step back in time to the days before grocery stores and malls.

We’d been there a couple of Christmases ago on a walking tour, but the only thing any of us could remember was that it was on South Street. (I can’t believe I’ve never written about it the walking tour)

I made up my mind that it was called the South Street Market and so that’s what we set off to find. After a mile and change, we reached the South Street Supermarket on the corner of South Street and something. It was pretty obvious we were in the wrong place. Everyone whipped out their smart phones and fired up Google.

Within a few minutes we discovered that the Magic Gardens is two blocks away from where we had intended to go. We were limited on time (lasagna was waiting for us at home) so I suggested we take cabs to the Italian Market. I was instantly overruled and the kids voted to continue our impromptu tour of the city and head toward the Gelato shop.

It was Justin’s first trip to Philly and he wanted to make the trip complete with a Philly Cheese Steak. We’re not sure why, but Yelp led us to Di Bruno Bros and there were no Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. On the plus side, they did have the gourmet cheese spread that we’d hoped to buy at a shop in the Italian Market. Score!

A few blocks later we stumbled across an authentic Philly Cheese Steak shop and the day trip was complete. It was a day where nothing went according to plan, but everything turned out just right.

A Tale of Two Stations

A little over a year ago I took a step out of my comfort zone and attended my first writer’s group meeting. I drove into Philly in a state of panic, nearly backed out, and ended up having a great experience. My next trip involved a lesson in how to use my smart phone for directions and I learned about the advantages of paying attention to cross streets and setting the navigation on walking not driving.

The adventure in getting lost in the city led to some great pictures and a desire to try taking the train instead of my car. My work husband explained that there was a train station so close to the location of the meeting that it would be impossible, even for me, to get lost.

Over the next several months I mastered the round trip by checking and re-checking the train schedule and coordinates no less than a dozen times for both legs of the trip. Yesterday I decided to abandon my routine of paranoid planning and second guessing in favor of the feeling of confidence based on the fact that my last several trips into the city had been so routine they bordered on boring.

I caught the 11 am train out of Yardley and without hesitation replied, “Market Street East, round trip” when asked my destination. I listened to Cold Play and smiled as I wrote in my journal and patted myself on the back for figuring out the train schedule and my new found confidence. I was even more delighted to write about giving an accurate answer regarding which train station was closest to the Walnut Street theatre along with a recommendation of a restaurant for lunch.

We stopped at the Suburban Street station and I began to have doubts, but put them aside and stayed on the train. I told myself I was in the right place and if not, I couldn’t possibly be far off. The tunnel under the convention center was my first clue that something had gone wrong. I took a deep breath, used Google maps on my iPad to get my bearings, and tried to ignore the fact that I was walking in a sauna. Twenty minutes later I saw the sign for Shops at Liberty place and for the Suburban Street Station.

I duly noted the lesson and after walking back to Market East when the meeting was over I’m sure that I won’t ever forget which station I want again. I checked the boards and made my way to the platform with seven minutes to spare.

I sat back and congratulated myself for figuring things out without having a meltdown, slipped my return trip ticket into the slot on the back of the seat, and looked out the window.

I saw gravel and graffiti instead of trees, “Oh crap, this doesn’t look familiar…” I thought. I don’t think I said it out loud but I can’t be entirely certain.

I tried to rationalize, “The train only goes north and south…how lost can I be? The woman collecting tickets didn’t say anything…so I must be on the right train…”

She called off the names of one unfamiliar stop after another and nothing outside of my window looked right.

I have Septa bookmarked as a favorite and for the first time I noticed that there is a Trenton Line and a West Trenton Line. It didn’t take me long to figure out where I had gone wrong and I was headed toward Trenton through Bristol and Levittown not Langhorne and Yardley.

I ran through some options in my mind. I could take the train back to Philly and start over, I could walk fifteen miles in my flip flops, figure out a cab, and last but not least I could cry. Then it dawned on me, Heather lives in Bristol and Donna lives in Levittown.

I sent a text to each of them, “Hi are you home by chance?”

While I waited and hoped for my phone to vibrate I started the search for cab companies in Levittown.

Hooray!

A reply from Heather, “hey! yes but about to be picked up to go to Sam’s w/m’dad. what’s up?”

“I took the Trenton line instead of west Trenton and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get to the Yardley station. I was hoping if I got off at Bristol you might be able to give me a ride.”

“ooh! where are you now?” she asked.

I tried to remember the name of the last stop, “Trying to catch the name of the next stop, I’m getting close I think.”

She responded instantly, “sure—I’ll tell dad I’ll meet him there. no worries! what’s your arrival time?”

“I think it’s the next stop.”

She texted, “It goes Bristol, croydon, eddington, cornwells heights…”

“We’re at Croydon now,” I texted back.

“Ok on my way!”

A few minutes later she rescued me from the heat and the wrong station. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see her. In addition to getting a ride to Yardley, we had a chance to catch up a little and she brought me some new reading material.

In some ways things haven’t changed much during the last year, I obviously haven’t lost my knack for getting lost and turning it into a story. I may still get lost, but there’s a huge difference in how I handle it. I laugh instead of cry and I reach out to friends instead of panic.

Two wrong stations in one day might just be a record for me, although I’m not sure it tops winding up in the wrong state.

A Garden of Reflection

People often ask me if I miss living in Nebraska and I’d have to say that for the most part the answer is no.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Nebraska, Omaha is a great city, and I say that with  sincerity.  People who have never visited before always walk away surprised by the fine food, cultural attractions, and there is nothing like the Henry Doorly Zoo.    The answer is no because I have come to enjoy where I’m living and I’ve built a wonderful life.

There is one day of the year, though, that I get very nostalgic and feel a little homesick.  It’s ironic really, that the holiday that brings back the fondest memories of Nebraska is the 4th of July.  I now live in one of, if not the state where it all began.  I’m seven miles from the where Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware on Christmas morning and I’m less than an hour away from where the Declaration of Independence was signed.  I live in the heart of our nation’s history and fight for independence, but I miss my Nebraska celebration of the fourth and time with family and friends.

It might also seem peculiar to those who know me, given the fact that I’m afraid to light off fireworks and I’m not a big fan of noisy events.  However, I find myself reminiscing about the memories of concerts in the park, neighborhood parades, and a day at the pool followed by fireworks at night for the third year in a row.

It seemed like the Garden of Reflection might be a good place to muse.  I’m not sure if my goal was to remember or to forget.  I tried to find the Garden once before and ended up being lost and it turned into an adventure.  This time I followed the signs and not my GPS and found it without a hitch.

The garden is a tribute, a memorial to celebrate the lives of people in the community who lost their lives on the day that altered our feeling of security forever.

Tiny yellow daisies and small randomly placed American flags lined the entrance to the garden.

The paths around the fountain of two towers of water are maze-like and benches bearing the names of loved ones lost in the tragic event are scattered throughout the well groomed lawns.

The natural grass was taller than me and the long stretches of it created a feeling of privacy and a sense of peace.  The mixture of green and brown reminded me that summer is halfway over and fall will soon arrive.

Bumble bees buzzed and butterflies flitted through the lavender and I managed to capture one of each.

I drank in the sun and thought about where I was and why I was feeling sad and I realized that it’s ok to feel, it’s ok to remember, and it’s ok to move on.

Next year I think I’ll have a barbeque.

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A Moment of Magic

Before I moved to the east coast I thought that people taking the train into “the city” to have dinner with friends was something that only happened in the movies.  Little did I know that there would come a day when the girl who was born in North Dakota, grew up in the Midwest, and had dreamt of one day being an actress would become a woman who thought nothing of catching the train and enjoying an evening of laughter and conversation.

I’ll never forget the first time I took the train.  I got to the station a good hour ahead of time and stood shivering on the platform while my heart raced and I hoped that I was in the right place. I wondered why the platform was nearly empty and why the few people that were milling about were so relaxed, reading papers and books, plugged into iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and not a single one of them was watching the sign above the track that displayed the arrival of the train and its destination.  Didn’t they know that it’s important to be nervous and constantly watch the sign in case there was a last minute change?

I was slightly less anxious on the return trip, although being startled awake to a deep voice shouting “Hilfe Mir!” accompanied by a loud and insistent pounding from inside the restroom door convinced me that the locks must be overly complicated and an experience that I should avoid.

How things have changed; now I arrive along with everyone else, five minutes before the departure time, I listen to my iPod while I write on my iPad (yes I know I could listen to my iPad, but I have yet to sync my library), and I barely notice my surroundings on the train or in the station.

Last Friday I was treated to a complimentary makeover and I looked fabulous when I boarded the 4:55 pm train into Philadelphia.  The hour flew by as I caught up on emails, read posts from a few of my favorite blogs, texted with Dan to confirm where we were meeting, and did some writing of my own.  I opted to follow the few people who were hiking up the stairs rather than joining the crowd of people that were jam packed on the escalator.

Although I’ve become comfortable traveling by train, I still have a moment of panic when I reach the top of the steps and need to figure out where to go and whether or not I’m in the right meeting place.  The hectic pace and lack of human connection as people pass each other without making eye contact always makes it worse. I looked around but didn’t see Dan.  I stopped and realized that even though he wasn’t there yet, I didn’t feel flustered and there was something different about the station.  I thought I heard music and I felt a sense of calm and quiet.  I was puzzled because there’s not even Musak let alone music piped in over the speakers in the waiting area.

I felt a pull in my heart and I walked toward the source of the beauty, I had to see where it was coming from.  The lump in my throat grew when I spotted the two young musicians not only playing but moving in perfect harmony and they drew bow over strings in an unspoken unison.  I put a few dollars in the violin case and took a seat on one of the benches. 

As the haunting melody filled the air the people in the station were still, everyone was just listening.  A group of strangers tied together in a moment of community through music.  The song concluded and the room erupted with applause and my eyes with tears.  We weren’t people waiting for a train or for a friend to meet us, we were unexpected guests at an impromptu concert in the middle of the Market East Train Station.

If my smart phone was ‘really’ smart…

It would ‘know’ when I requested navigation to an incorrect address and that I was walking not driving to my destination.

There are 2 CVS pharmacies near where my writer’s group meeting is held.  One has a parking garage, the other does not.  You would think I’d remember that the one I want is on South Street, not Market Street, but I don’t.

The phone was pretty smart on my trek to the Chestnut Street meeting place, and I successfully avoided going the wrong way on a one way street every time, which of course is very important when you’re walking.  Who knew there was a selection for walking vs. driving directions?

I arrived to my meeting late, but in time to catch the final part of the ‘craft talk’ and in plenty of time for the critiques.

The process is very interesting.  The author introduces the piece being reviewed and then goes silent as the group discusses the writing as though the author wasn’t present.

The group is diverse in age, race, writing style and ability, not to mention points of view on life.  I was impressed with the time each reviewer put into their critiques, many had taken copious notes on printed versions of the manuscript which were then passed on to the author.

A member of the group moderates each session. The evaluations consist of positives, constructive feedback, nitpicks, and a final word from the author.  The feedback was genuine and for the most part valuable. I think I’ll be brave enough next month next month to submit something.

Feeling inspired, motivated, and thankful to not have to think about directions; I left the meeting and followed my smart phone to the CVS.  The only problem was, it wasn’t where I had parked my car.

I pondered my predicament. I was lost, alone, and in the middle of an unfamiliar and very large city.  Several options entered my mind, including having melt down at the corner of 11th and Market Street.  Common sense won out, and I got the correct address from the pharmacist inside.

I took advantage of the detour. I got to see some of the city I otherwise wouldn’t have, I took some great pictures, which included street signs that mark a closer parking garage for future meetings ( I won’t mention my close encounter with a car when I stopped suddenly in the middle of the street to snap a shot).

Even though I had fun and made the best of it, I still think that if my smart phone was ‘really’ smart, it would have known what I meant, not what I said.