Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Rainy Misadventure - Subterranean Isolation & a Surprise Art Gallery

Yesterday, I took myself on an adventure....

 When you walk along Broad Street, you feel and hear the hum-squeak of the subway

 I used the subway all the time in New York, but here it is not very popular. (Think: almost vacant). Granted, it was mid-morning, but still!!!

View of the platform....strange, right???


Anyway, I can't tell if I am being paranoid because this is the first big city I have ever lived in, or because people keep telling me to "be careful"'s all I get from people I meet. I must have a face that screams: "I'm from out of town!!! Tell me how scary it is here!!!" or something....

I was nervous in the subway though because there were too few people in there for comfort. The hustle and bustle of subway travel is what tells you everything is ok. When it is too empty, it gets frightening and you realize you are in a tunnel underground with 3 weird-looking strangers. One of whom follows you almost up to the surface (I started walking really fast when this happened and I think he gave up).

 The center of influence of my new employer...

The whole purpose of the subway trip was to go the School District of Philadelphia building on North Broad Street and investigate my new employer a bit, and to get my FBI fingerprinting and background check completed. The security guards were very sweet and helpful and I got my fingerprinting done in about 10 minutes....I even got complements on my purse from the tech who did the fingerprinting!!!

Student-made recycled plastic and paper dolphin

The other great thing about the SDP building was the student art show. If you are in Philly and want to see a whole lot of great student art all in one place....hop on over to 404 North Broad Street, show them your driver's license, get a security badge, and go and walk around....Here's a small tour...

4th Grader

7th Grader

My favorite....done by a 12th grade student. Paint on plywood. Fantastic!!!

Every time I see a student art show like this, and this one is very impressive, I often want to call up people like governors and presidents and just ask the dumb question: "Sir, how can you say that arts education is not important?" How can they say that the public schools shouldn't be funded? It is so clear that students now are expressing themselves in such a multitude of ways that we, as adults, are literally stupid to not listen to their voices as expressed in their art.

The Steak & Bagel Train

 Entryway to the Philadelphia Inquirer

After walking through the artwork for about an hour, I left the building and walked back down North Broad toward the subway stop. I must say that Philadelphia is making me really nervous right now: lots of people, lots of noise, lots of people just hanging out on the street at all hours. Lots of ambulances, too few trees and parks. I know it is just my past experiences that are coloring my present: but I do miss my old backyard and my pomegranate, oak and mountain laurel trees....

 Amazing old building on North Broad

I also know that no matter where you go, there you are, and that I have to make the most of this experience. And I know that I will get more attuned to Philly and its musings, its ways of working and strategies to ignore the massive amount of people that surround you every moment of every day....

North Broad and Vine, north side of 676

As I walked, I thought about all these things and was noticing the beautiful old buildings in disrepair contrasted with the beautiful new murals that are everywhere, and I noticed more beauty than decay, to be sure.

North Broad & Vine, on the south side of 676

And I was standing, like the tourist that I am, on the corner snapping this photo, a lady walked up to me and said, "This light takes a long time to change": she was telling me to stop taking photos and walk, because if I didn't, I'd be waiting a long time! And see, that's what I mean: people in Philly are friendly and helpful, if you'll just let them be. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Minor Misadventure - Philadelphia's Victorian Rowhouses and their Shallow Closets

 Looking north up Broad Street at Mifflin Street (the nearest major intersection to my house) in 1936: from
Looking south down Broad Street at Mifflin Street in 1936: from

I moved into a house recently that, despite its flaws, is a really nice space. It has a great back patio that will become very nice shortly, once plants are planted and chairs and tables are procured. One of the most interesting things about this house, though, is that apparently it was a Section 8 house before being purchased by my landlord a few years ago, and basically, the main structure has not been changed since being built sometime around 1910-1920.

 Front room of a typical row house, like mine, in 1920: from Strickland Row

In most ways, this is perfect for me, as I am definitely an antiquophile (I am struggling as I don't think that is a real word), and this crazy old house is perfect for my collection of art deco wardrobes, brass lamps and strange wall art, but the clothes! Where are they supposed to go?

 Please witness that the closet is not deep enough for a standard hanger. What?

Are you telling me that in the olden days people had about 3 outfits and they hung these on hooks in these strange, tiny closets? Must have been: there is no other explanation for closets with no closet rods, only strangely-shaped metal hooks for hanging clothes. begs the question: it is now 2011 and the house was built about 90-100 years ago. What did people do in the 1960s? 70s? 80s? 90s? last year? It is mystifying that there has been so little renovation here that there is not even a standard closet.

Solutions that I have come up with so far: getting rid of a ton of old clothes. If I hadn't worn it, it is now on its way to the Philly AIDS thrift shop, where hopefully it will earn them some money. Second solution: free-standing antique wardrobes and rolling carts. Also, a small chest of drawers.

Anyway --- the adventures continue. I promise our next misadventure will be more interesting. Today I try the subway for the first time: on my way to the School District of Philadelphia to get my fingerprints taken!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Minor Misadventure - Let me tell you about biking in Philadelphia

An excellent variety of bike-locking poles all through the city makes it easy to keep your bike safe!

So.....cycling in Philadelphia, like all things in Philadelphia, is an adventure. There are soooo many more cyclists here than in my previous town of Austin that it is both impressive and amazing that they manage to skirt and circulate through these tiny streets with very little incident. For the most part, cyclists are conscientious and mind the traffic laws as if they are car-drivers. However, there are many people who seem to blatantly flaunt those traffic laws: they bust through the wrong direction on a one-way street, blow through red lights, and refuse to stop at stop signs. (OK. That last one is me, too. Although, it is easy to see if cars are coming when all the streets are one-ways.)


The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is doing a great job in addressing these issues, but unlike Austin, where bike tickets are handed out in very high frequency, I believe the Philadelphia police have greater issues to deal with than cyclists. This is good in some ways, in that we have very little risk of getting tickets for not stopping at stop signs, or riding on the left instead of the right, but it is bad in the sense that there is no enforcement of traffic laws that have two purposes: one is the obvious, safety, but the other is driver respect.

It is very difficult to advocate for more bike lanes and more respect for cyclists from drivers when there is a mass effort to disregard the rules of the road. How can we, as cyclists, expect to be considered respectable commuters and citizens of transport when we refuse to live by the rules we are more than happy to yell and scream about when violated by drivers? As a driver and a cyclist, I try my best to pretend to be a car when I am on my bike. I only wish that all those folks I saw out tonight would just do the same....

 Illustration of the buffered bike lanes through Chinatown

Despite the controversy, Philadelphia has made great strides to accomodate its cycling citizens: namely, buffered bike lanes on two streets going east-west, and two streets going north-south. The east-west routes are complete, while the north-south lanes are in progress. These bike lanes are AMAZING as they effectively convert one car lane into a bikes-only lane on a road. This means that no matter how many cars may be driving, if there is a  bike present, then it has the right of way in the lane. This helps with safety because bikes are visible, and helps minimizing incidents of doors opening and cyclists flying out into the road. (Hopefully while wearing their helmets!)

 I bought the red one!!!

Today I bought a new bike, a Globe Daily 1 in ruby red, from Bicycle Therapy. My old bike was stolen about 2 days before I moved to Philly (some jerk sawed through the lock as it sat in my carport). I rode my new bike all over Center City and South Philly tonight with great success. It is a single-speed which is excellent for Philadelphia's totally flat terrain: a welcome change from the hilly paradise that was Austin. I installed a front light that nicely shines in the eyes of passing pedestrians, and a rear blinking light for safety. I also installed a rear rack for hauling important things from home to work. 

Overall, my impressions of my new bike are that it is easy and fun to ride, maybe a little bit light duty but I think it will work great. I really wanted a Dutch bike, an Azor Oma, but the $1500 price tag made me a tad nervous. The Globe will work for a few years till I am rich and famous and can buy a Dutch bike to cherish and haul up stairs. 

It is late and the weather outside is nice. I know it will eventually get hot here, but I must say that 80 degrees in almost-July is nothing short of heaven for a girl used to dealing with 110+ this time of the year. Hooray temperate deciduous forest living! I know I will feel the lack of sun come November, but right now.....amazing!!!

Hey! Check out this misadventure that I will not be participating in, being that I am a government employee and teach the youth of America....Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride!!!!

The Misadventures of a British-Texan in South Philly

Map of the Newbold neighborhood

Recently (about two weeks ago), I packed up my worldly possessions into a Penske truck and relocated to South Philly. So far, my opinions are that the neighborhood of Newbold is super diverse, Philadelphians are friendly, and that there is an overabundance of brick and concrete. (Kidding!!!)

 Philadelphia streets are decorated with murals. I love this part of city life. I really love this mural in Passyunk and Tasker

I live in Newbold, a neighborhood right off Broad and Mifflin that markets itself as diverse and up-and-coming. I have discovered that in Philadelphia, up-and-coming means on the edge of scarytown. In Austin, my last homebase, we had nothing like the urban decay that creeps around the corners of some streets here in Philly. 

But....I digress. Why Philly Misadventures? Well, since moving here, I have had a few mini-disasters happen. 

First was moving into the house to discover that the old residents apparently had a cat collection that rivaled a small army, and that these cats had wild run of the basement, leading to the most disgusting combination of cat pee and cat hair that you can imagine....

Second was the freak thunderstorm that ripped the downspout off the house, leading to a load of water seeping into a crack on the exterior wall, causing giant bubbles to form on the kitchen ceiling which began to pour torrents of water down onto the kitchen floor. 

Third was me getting my roadbike tire caught in the trolley tracks on Passyunk Avenue, flipping over my handlebars and getting a goose-egg on my head, periosteal bruise on my leg, and lots of bruises in other places...but no concussion!

Philadelphia in 1929:  from

So...the inspiration for the blog stems from my theory that no matter your luck or lack of adventurous spirit, whenever you move to a new place, there are a series of misadventures, or crazy things that happen and seem much nuttier because you just don't belong there yet. Also, I wanted a site to catalogue all of the great events that are happening here in Philly for an external audience that maybe doesn't have the time to look into these activities themselves.

My hope for Philly Misadventures is to provide a site that reviews and recommends city happenings, venues, activities, museums, etc. so that all the residents of this City of Brotherly Love can have more fun, and tell better stories.

Misadventure for today: walking to Bicycle Therapy to pick up my new bike. It has wider tires.