It’s 11 pm Saturday, and I’m finally settling down to write my blog post for the week. It’ll probably sit in my draft pile overnight so I can polish it in the morning as a more alert being, but I want to get everything down before I forget.
Sunday night, I found out that my friends Marcus and Craig (who visited to do the theater workshop earlier in the year) were in the city to hear their relative’s string quartet play at Julliard. So on Monday night, the Aeolus Quartet premiered a piece called Alcyone (Douglas Boyce) then played Transfigured Night and Death and the Maiden (Schoenberg and Schubert, respectively) at the Lincoln Center. And I went. And then I kept Marcus for the week.
Monday: We had four visitors and gorgeous weather, so naturally @ryanshollenberger led a trip to Central Park. I stayed back but stayed productive. I had a pretty remarkable conversation with @shadowjack and @failspy…highlights of which included Jack saying he wants a relationship in which both partners have fulfilling lives/jobs/friendships rather than on in which they are each others’ entire lives, my explaining gentrification leading to us discussing the history of gentrification/red-lining/immigration changing different NYC neighborhoods, and our planning a trip to Arthur Avenue to get pizza. Social history gets me so excited!
Tuesday: I registered for my first MOOC! It’s about comics and heroes, and it’s offered by the Smithsonian in collaboration with EdX. I’ll let you know how it goes as it goes! I had planned to start it while Ryan had people at soccer, but the first week’s lesson doesn’t go up until next Tuesday. I read, cleaned, emailed, and did some swing dancing (Marcus volunteered to teach @lillaw and I some moves). After school, I wanted to take Marcus downtown for Ethiopian food and some games at The Uncommons. @failspy came along, tried some injera, taught us a game, and played Settlers of Catan for the first time. I haven’t played Settlers in seven years! It was so fun to re-learn and share!
Wednesday: FIELD TRIP! Read all about it 🙂 And then I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder after school. Marcus found the tickets through a youth rush program…which I’m really inspired to try to do with @lillaw so we can get more theater in our lives 🙂 Gentleman’s Guide was really funny and cleverly written. I also loved the costumes and the scenes featuring both of the two female leads.
Thursday: Was Werewolves and reading and Games Workshop and Lyrical Analysis and lots of other offerings I wasn’t part of but was privileged to observe. I did get to do a bunch of writing, and I did some swing dancing with @lillaw and Marcus. Lyla and I have a plan to learn enough moves to choreograph a dance where we switch off leading. We’ll wear gender-ambiguous costumes. We’ll wear top hats (or maybe I’ll wear a bowler hat…like Sabina from Unbearable Lightness of Being). This is quite exciting 🙂 After school, Marcus and I went to St. John the Divine to hear an organ recital. Did you know the organ there has over 8,000 pipes? And that each one had to be dissembled, shipped out-of-state, cleaned, then shipped back and reassembled after the church fire? Sometimes I think I learn more about my city when I have guests than when I explore on my own…
Friday: I ran out of school with @douglasawesome @lillaw and @failspy right after Change-Up to catch a bus to Philly. We took a Megabus to University City, then we walked to a rental car place and picked up a sweet red sedan with satellite radio to drive to Phoenixville, PA. We drove (with much traffic) out of the city, past one of the largest malls in the United States, through the park where Washington’s troops wintered in 1777-78, to a roaring-then-defunct-now-hip-and-gentrifying steel town. We pulled up to the high school and filed into the auditorium, where PAHS Theater Guild–run by my dear friends Craig and Tina Tavani–was meeting for a workshop on comedy. We were…a little intimidated at first, in spite of being very warmly welcomed. But after a couple of moments (in which I may have whispered “will you regret not doing it if you let the chance pass” and a very nervous someone whispered back “probably…”), we found our stage voices. Lyla and I both got on stage to tell jokes. @lillaw jumped up to join a group of theater guild kids in an improv’ed skit about the “rule of threes” (apparently, the third time is the performer’s magic chance to make things funny). Then a bar and a cart with water cups were wheeled onto the stage. Time for bar tricks and spit jokes. Douglas wanted to try, and Javair offered to get up with him. Lyla went up with Marcus. I stayed back to film both.
We ended with a game (Duck-Bang) and name-circle on stage. Then the Tavanis had to hurry to Delaware, so we thanked them and hugged them good-bye. Craig promised to come up to the city again soon; he wants to do another workshop at school before the end of the year. And so the main goal of our trip (to attend the theater workshop) was accomplished.
We piled back in the car and drove to Downingtown, where my parents live. There was the putting away of the dog. Introductions. Plant nerdiness in the back yard. Putting bags upstairs and flopping on the floor to read Calvin and Hobbes together.
We rested a bit, then my parents drove us into West Chester for dinner. We ate Mediterranean food (mostly kebabs) then walked around town for a bit. Then we drove back to my parents’ house, planning on a bonfire and ice cream. Instead, I was somehow convinced to hook up Guitar Hero, and so we became a band. We were awful at first! It was so funny 🙂 We just kept switching instruments and difficulty levels and playing Eye of the Tiger over and over again. Eventually we decided to take a break for ice cream and some hang-out time with my dad. Which is pretty much what we did until Douglas got sleepy and declared it to be bed time.
Saturday, we got up early-ish and had a slow morning. Pancakes were involved. I went upstairs to shower, and when I returned to the basement Douglas was playing piano, Javair was running on the treadmill next to him, Lyla was playing with the foosball table, and the jukebox was on. I burst out laughing at the sight of them, then mentioned that we needed to head out soon. They wanted to play one more round of Guitar Hero (Living on a Prayer…and they sounded pretty good this time!), and then we went up to say good-bye to my parents. We drove back into Philly, playing the Broadway Hits radio station and singing along where we could. Returned the car in University City. And suddenly had the whole city and nearly five hours to play with.
So we walked. We crossed the Schuylkill River, passed City Hall and William Penn’s statue, turned down Avenue of the Arts, then zig-zagged towards 4th and South Street. I pointed out the Union League building, the Kimmel Center, and the Academy of the Arts. Lyla and I planned to return with theater tickets someday as we walked by masterpieces by the Philly Mural Arts program. We rested in front of the first hospital in the United States, discussing the insignias on houses indicating which fire company that house had paid for the service of (back when that was a private industry). About an hour later, we had tired out our feet, worked up decent appetites, and arrived at Jim’s.
Because…cheese steaks. Because Pat’s and Geno’s are both too far south for us to have ventured to without a car. Because Reading Terminal Market has DiNic’s, but that’s not a Philly Cheese Steak. Because we weren’t going to make it to the art museum to run up the steps like Rocky, so we had to do one classic Philly thing. So we got steaks. @failspy was even brave enough to order his own (and he didn’t get sent to the back of the line!). Everyone was satisfied, and I offered to do another trip where we keep the car to try Pat’s and Geno’s, so the kids can make informed declarations about their loyalties 😉 Personally, I’m a Pat’s cheese, wit, and Provolone (yes, whizz is classic, but I can’t stomach the sight of it being ladled out of a paint can…).
We walked west on South Street, talking a little about the street and gentrification, until we arrived at the Magic Garden. A very tired Douglas sunk into a chair, and an also tired Javair perked up a little when I started recounting the story of the artists’ life and suggesting hidden symbols in the artwork (his son made a documentary that I watched last year…). Lyla, however, immediately took off exploring. I had wanted to stop at the garden–a labyrinth of mosaic that incorporates mirrors, glass, wheels, bottles, and other recycled objects–to show Lyla both the scale and style of another artist’s work. Isaiah Zagar, the artist, covers buildings inside and out with fantastic, colorful, and immersive mosaics that often tell rather personal stories from his life. His style is so different from mine, but I’ve always wondered at it. I was hoping Lyla would, too, and I think she did.
Our route back to 30th Street Station, where we’d catch our Megabus to NYC, went back along Avenue of the Arts, through City Hall, across the Board Game Art Park, past the Love statue and fountain of John F. Kennedy Plaza, to our final destination: Wawa. Oh, Wawa. Douglas asked what the big deal was. Javair answered that it’s a convenience store that’s always open and has sandwiches and gas and everything else you could need. Which was better than my answer that it’s a cult and it’s better than Sheets. We were too full to get hoagies, but the heat had us craving smoothies, slushies, and water. So we picked some up (first cheese steaks and first Wawa in one day!!!) and strolled to our bus.
The bus ride from NYC, we had played continue-the-story games and sang and talked (and I napped). This time, we were all pretty tired. Lyla read. Douglas, Javair, and I talked a bit and then played contact. We got back to the city early, looked at some art about GPS/Mental Mapping outside FIT, then said goodbye.
I’m really tired, but I couldn’t be happier. This was a trip where everyone got out of his or her comfort zone at least once, where we had time to relax and play together, and where all of our hosts (the Tavanis, the Theater Guild, my parents) were delighted by our company and invited us (YOU @douglasawesome @lillaw @failspy! Any time. Even without me.) to come back.
I am so so so grateful. For a busy week and guests and thoughtful, compassionate community. For our hosts. For my fellow adventurers. For the parents who trust me to take their young people on trips. And for @ryanshollenberger for running the school by himself sometimes to support these trips happening.