Thursday, September 24, 2015

Run for the hills!

 I returned from California only to find that Philadelphia had lost. it's. mind. 


Pope frenzy everywhere. The amount of work that had been done in August was astounding. Streets that had been cracked and pot-holed for years, were suddenly paved and wonderfully smooth. I actually couldn't drive them anymore because I didn't have potholes and manhole covers to avoid! 

Perfectly, beautifully, smooth, paved Market St. at 21st:
I know this bit of road very well since Trader Joe's is on the next block. Under the bus is a manhole cover that used to be a good 4 inches below street level. Not anymore!

And while the smooth streets certainly are nice, there are plenty of other things that make you want to roll your eyeballs. Can you can spot what's wrong with this picture:
That would be the white F-1 ticket location sign strapped right in front of the traffic signal which in this photo happens to be red - not off. But drivers can't see that! I took the photo while in my car. Who is doing quality control here? 

As September progressed there were other things that just made you wonder how this was all going to work out. All of the hype and talk about security started to sound like a real nightmare. Everything in Center City is going to be closed except all of the food businesses. Then there are traffic boxes where only emergency vehicles can be and if you drive out you will not be let back in until after the weekend. And finally over the weekend the traffic box will be expanded to a 38 block swatch. From the Delaware River to 38th St. in West Philadelphia. At some point almost all of I-76 will be closed from Conshohoken to the Walt Whitman Bridge. This is a good 30 miles of highway and a main artery to Philadelphia. We are expecting millions of people to come - how in the heck are they going to GET here? After all of the hype and crazy planning I do hope the millions of people come, but on the other hand I wouldn't be surprised if they'd been scared away.  My good friend Melanie called me the minute she found out the Pope was coming to reserve a bed with me - back in January. She decided to come last weekend instead. It wasn't clear that she'd be able to get to me on the Friday before with all the road closures so she didn't want to risk it. 

While it sounds like all of this would be the ultimate nightmare for any resident of Philadelphia, I have actually been enjoying it. Yes, some people are heading for the hills. But I for one am glad to be staying here and I want to go in and see the festivities. We spent the morning listening to NPR in the lab and there was a nice discussion about what the Pope's philosophy on the environment is. I am really starting to like this guy! I'm not Catholic - but after listening to the radio shows and hearing his humble message to Congress, I want to hear him speak! Now I'm sad I don't have tickets to any of the events on the Parkway. I'd even go to the mass on Sunday - just to see it. Tomorrow I'm going to look and see if I can find tickets somewhere. 

As the date comes ever closer, I have been watching the developments with amused interest. I want see how everything works out. I also think someone in charge started realizing they were scaring people away and they needed to change tack. In the last few weeks signs have popped up all over: 
 There are smaller posters appearing in shop and restaurant windows and I think people are genuinely excited for the Pope to visit. Here are a few of the favorite things I've seen: 

I'm not sure what this is exactly.  

These banners went up around City Hall and on Broad St. some time last week.


On Monday we started seeing people with clear backpacks and bright green name tags walking around everywhere. They were here for the beginning of the week-long festivities the World Meeting of Families. I started to get this wonderful happy feeling. All of these people coming to Philadelphia. You could see they were happy to be here and the natives were being nice to them! So many people kindly redirecting tourists to where they wanted or needed to go. I had to take the bus to teach on Tuesday. But because of all the closures the bus had to go a very strange round-about route. But there were several groups of tourists on the bus and it was heartwarming to see all the locals helping them and reassuring them that they would get where they needed to go. (My designated tourists wanted to get to the Rocky Statue at the Art Museum.)

Yesterday is when I think it really hit us - this is happening. I was walking down Broad St, past a block of port-a-potties. And I wasn't the only one taking pictures! 
When I got to work I bumped into our facilities guys and we talked a bit about the visit. Tyrone pulled out his phone and showed me a picture - a "selfie" with himself and the Pope!! It looked SO real, but it was actually a cardboard cut out of the Pope. And I think that's when I knew, this is really going to be amazing.   
We've been given tomorrow and Monday off for all of the festivities. So today was my last chance to know I could walk around freely. I took advantage to walk around the restricted areas a bit. Everyone is on the Pope bandwagon. My favorite coffee shop, Cake and the Beanstalk is serving the Pope-kin Spice Latte: 
A Chinese Noodle Bar, Cheu, is obviously Pope-approved:
The new Wawa (like a 7-11) got the construction finished extra early to be open for the Papal visit. Also, more portapotties and one of our favorite Philadelphia locals. The gentleman standing on the far right of the image on the subway vents can be seen in a few locations around Philadelphia. He wears very loose silk shirts and stands on the grates and lets the air make his shirts billow around him. He always looks so serene.
There are mobile showers called "No Sweat" parked in front of one of the Jefferson Medical school buildings: 
and exactly who are these for? 

I decided I better go to Trader Joe's before I went home for the weekend. I wasn't sure if it would be accessible the rest of the weekend! On my way I walked over to the Knotted Grotto art installation at the Cathedral.  
And after reading the article I realize I didn't do it correctly! So I have to go back and untie two prayers and move them. 
But look - 
Look at all of those strips of white. Everyone one of them has a prayer written on them by someone who has visited the grotto.  

Then it was time to head to Trader Joe's before it got too late. On the way I passed more preparations for all of the people coming to the mass.
I also passed a truck and crew from the US Postal Service who were removing the blue mailboxes for the weekend. All to be put back by Monday. 
I think the Pope has brought out the best in us. We (Philadelphia residents) have all been talking about this with each other. Everywhere you go - someone starts: are you going to see the Pope? And either they are staying - oh heck yeah! Or, oh no - they are gettin' out of town! Either way the conversation is good. Perfect strangers are bonding over our wonder at all of the preparations for this event.

I stopped to take this picture on the corner of 20th and JFK Blvd. A second later a woman on a bicycle skidded to a stop next to me and said, "Oh yeah, I totally need a picture of that!"

 She then proceeded to tell me she had see the pallets of toilet paper being delivered to another spot. And she said, "No way was it enough!"
Ha! We shall see.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tahoe to LA

Part 2 
And now the thrilling conclusion to my week in Tahoe. 
The hike I did on Thursday to Ellis Peak wiped me out. My knees were very unhappy and so I thought it best to give them a break. So on Friday, I putzed around in the morning, went for a lovely, slow bike ride, and sat by Lake Tahoe reading in the afternoon.  

Saturday I went for another hike with Denise. This was a really nice hike from Tahoe City along the valley corridor that is Hwy 89 to Squaw Valley. The day was very hazy and smokey, we assumed from all the fires, so I didn't take many photos. After what I'm guessing now was five miles where we could see right down onto the turn off to Olympic Village, we stopped and had lunch. We were joined by a bunch of big ants and this little guy, who kept watching us.
Finally he plopped himself on this rock right in front of us and began nibbling on some sort of nut as if to say - "hey ladies - HINT HINT."  We didn't take the hint.

We had been chit-chatting all the way up and I didn't register how far we'd come. It didn't feel like five miles, but by the time we got back down it sure felt like we had done a good 10mile round trip. The trail was really nice, lots of different vegetation and every so often it would take you to the rim of the valley. You could look down and east to the Lake, or straight down onto the Truckee River.
After our exhausting hike we needed fuel. We stopped at a lovely new-agey health food store and Denise treated us to kale chips, ground cherries, heirloom cherry tomatoes, chocolate and grapefruit sodas. We devoured all of it at the Lake which was gorgeous. Then it was back 'home' to pack all of the stuff and get ready to leave at 6am.

Sunday Morning
 I didn't quite manage to get out the door at 6am. That was a little ambitious. But by 7 I was on my way.  I stopped at the Lake for one last look and caught this beautiful sunrise through the smokey haze. My conclusion about Tahoe? I enjoyed it. It is not as rugged a wilderness as I'm used to, but maybe this time that was okay. My first impression of it being pampered wilderness didn't change, but I got used to it. I enjoyed the hiking and sitting by the lake in the afternoons. It was a good vacation, the kind I needed, a real break from my life.

The drive home was another adventure.
I stopped in beautiful downtown Carson City NV for coffee and gas and in Carson City I geeked out on all of the fabulous typography!

It is full of all wonderful examples of huge slab serif fonts and retro stuff like the san serif "casino" above, and a few others in the next few pictures. 
Ya just don't see this stuff on east coast establishments. 
And I love it! Check out this font on this garage:
That is Hobo (or a font based on Hobo) - a super retro font from the 30's. My question is - is this original to the business? or did they hire a brilliant graphic designer. I so hope it's the first one.

Then I started the long long drive down 395 back to Los Angeles. I don't think I've mentioned my rental car? It was a Chevy Spark.
This thing is so cute and tiny, it will fit in your pocket! The sound system is fantastic. It works on blue tooth with your phone! So in the back waters of California where the second you leave a large town (population 500 or so) and you have zippo phone service, you can still play all your tunes and any anything else you have on your phone! It's great! I love listening to books on tape on long drives like this and on the way home I was listening to Amy Poehler's, Yes Please! 
If I thought things had been hazy in Tahoe the day before, it was nothing compared to this drive. I've never seen it so murky. I took a side tour to Mammoth Lakes to see Horseshoe lake, then headed down to Tom's Place to do a short hike out of Mosquito Flats. Its one I always do and debated about not doing. But since I was as close as I'd be for a long time, in spite of the bad air quality, I did a little part of it.  Then it was off to Bishop, where I arrived around 3pm on a Sunday and had to stand in line at Schatt's Bakery for almost 45 minutes for my sandwich - sheesh! That's how popular this place is. 

Now, remember that cute and tiny car? Ahem, I should have gotten gas in Bishop ($4.35/gal). Then I should have gotten gas in Independence, or Lone Pine, or even Olancha! Nope. I did not. I thought I could make it to Mojave.
I was mistaken.
That cute little car has a cute little gas tank that only holds 9 gallons. That is not enough to get you from Carson City NV to Mojave, CA with a few side trips.
At about 6pm on Sunday evening 16 miles of north of Mojave (also where Edward's Air Force Base is - where the space shuttle used to land), my little car ran out of gas. In the middle of nowhere.
Yup - that's it! A paved driveway to a cattle grate, three stop signs and dirt roads from there.  
Here's the view from the front seat.
I literally just coasted into this spot. It's kind of amazing that this is exactly where I ran out of gas. Things happen for a reason.
My next worry was cell phone service. And believe it or not, not only did I have service, but my car decided to make the phone call for me because it was still linked to the blue tooth on my phone. Ha! That was a strange experience. Thank goodness for AAA. It took a while for the operator to locate me though. I mean I had nothing at all to give her except that the last sign I had seen said I was 16 miles away from Mojave and I was on Hwy 14. She asked me if I was by the airport - and you know, thank goodness I knew what she was talking about. You can actually see all of the planes from the highway and so I knew I hadn't gotten there yet. After I hung up with her I spotted a call box. I walked over to get the number and called them back and gave it to them. That eased my mind as it would give them an exact location.

While I waited the 45 minutes for AAA to come, I rolled down all the windows, watched the sun set, and sweated. It was really hot.
Looking into the landscape reminded me of Maxfield Parrish.  
  Maybe this is how he would have painted the California Landscape had he ever had the opportunity.

AAA came earlier than expected (yay!) and while there was a little moment of panic where the guy couldn't find the right spout in order to pour the gas into the tank, it finally all worked out and I was on my way again. Filled up in Mojave and scooted home. Wow. What an adventure. I have never, and I mean never, run out of gas before. I don't think I need to do it again. 

I spent a few more days with the family before heading home on Wednesday. This included a trip to urgent care (to look at a really nasty rash on my leg that I have no idea how I got), my favorite art store, Liam time and In-n-Out.
Liam's first In-n-Out:
He was just too wiggly to show off the onesey I made him: "When I grown up I will read books" 

Everybody sleeping.