Jun 6, 2012
|The purpose of our trip to Philadelphia was to see the world of our oldest granddaughter Rachel and her family, and to visit my friend Howard. This journey to the City of Brotherly Love was delayed from a few weeks ago because of my eye situation.
When we first learned that Rachel, husband Brett, and son Aiden were moving to Philadelphia a couple of years ago so that Brett could attend podiatry school, we believed that the culture shock of living in a large city in the north from suburban Atlanta would result in a relatively quick return. Rachel had lived her whole life (30 years at the time) in the south and Brett had lived there most of his life. Furthermore, they each had strong family ties.
As Brett enters his third year at Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine they love their urban lifestyle and say they have no plans to return to the Atlanta area. When our paths have crossed at family gatherings in Atlanta we have had little chance to really talk about their new world, so visiting them on their home turf would give us the opportunity to fully explore this surprising (to us) acceptance of northern big city living and their thoughts about the future.
We left our home of nearly a month on Saturday morning traveling the 300 miles mostly along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. About 2:30PM we checked into our hotel near Philadelphia’s airport before driving the twenty minutes to their house in a South Philly neighborhood. After renting for a year they bought a small three story row house on a narrow street; after all, they planned to be in Philadelphia at least another six or seven years through Brett’s residency. The house had been completely (and nicely) renovated in an improving neighborhood. It was something they could afford and required few, if any, improvements.
Shortly after our arrival Rachel returned from the dentist office where she works. We visited for the next couple of hours; watched Aiden (3-1/2) ride his new bike with training wheels; met Bela, their six-month old Shih Tzu Poodle; and heard about the house and latest comings and goings. Then it was off for pizza by taxi; parking in these South Philly neighborhoods can be daunting, particularly at night. There is virtually no off-street parking. Many of the streets are lined with cars on both sides with one-lane traffic in between. The more narrow streets like theirs allow only one side for parking. As with the narrow roads in England, parked cars with their rear-view mirror turned in to protect from being knocked off by passing vehicles are evident.
At the restaurant we met Eldon, a fellow aspiring podiatrist, and his wife Mary who joined us for dinner. It was a delightful time with interesting conversation, good food, excellent service, and acceptable wine (our own). Afterwards it was decided to walk off some calories and see their original neighborhood where we met their former neighbors. A short time later we hailed a cab for home. Before returning to our hotel we agreed to reconnoiter at 9:30AM for a 10AM breakfast at Morning Glory; as we learned later from Howard, a well-known diner.
As advertised we arrived back at their house at 9:30AM. This time Brett drove to the diner since it was our day to see some of the sights. Morning Glory’s fame was evident by the crowd waiting for tables. It was a beautiful day so we didn’t mind sitting on the patio for an hour or more until we got called. Aiden brought some toys so he was reasonably well occupied. The food was tasty and hearty and to my great satisfaction they served REAL maple syrup allowing me to have pancakes with poached eggs nicely done. No complaints with Morning Glory!
After breakfast - or more accurately, brunch – another walk was in order; first to see Rachel’s dental office and then a stroll through the Italian Market, a bustling street with interesting and varied foods, as well as other goods of various types and sizes. One was a seller of small turtles in a plastic container with water. The turtle of choice, which we named Sheldon because of his shell, accompanied us home for Aiden’s pleasure.
Next we went on a relatively brief driving tour of the city. This included a few historic sites and Brett’s school, as well as the main campus of Temple University where my friend Howard has taught creative writing for many years. The tour ended with a stop at the Reading Market in the center of town. It is a large enclosed market with a vast array of food vendors and eateries. We would be regulars if we lived in Philadelphia. Brett bought some ribs which he prepared to perfection for dinner. Oh yes, he is another member of our extended family with great culinary talents. Rachel roasted brussel sprouts, a favorite of Aiden as well as mine with mashed red potatoes and a salad.
Back at their house I watched Tiger win the Memorial Golf Tournament while Brett and Aiden napped, and Lynda and Rachel visited. Following dinner we said our goodbyes so they could prepare for the week ahead. Brett began the clinical phase of medical school this past Monday. His first assignment is in the surgery center specializing in foot and ankle issues which is part of his school. In two years he begins a three or four year residency, most likely at one of the hospitals in Philadelphia. After that he will enter practice somewhere depending where the best opportunities are. He told me that Philadelphia is saturated with podiatrists so it is likely to be in another city; that’s still five or six years in the future.
We arrived back at the hotel just as a thunderstorm hit. At least we had great weather for our visit with “the kids” and came away satisfied that we “saw their world” and knowing that they are doing well.
Monday morning we were up early for our drive to Howard’s home in suburban Devon. I had agreed to arrive about 8AM so we would have a couple of hours together before he had to leave and we had to head back to Pittsburgh. As I have mentioned in past writings Howard was my closest friend during high school and undergraduate days at the University of Miami. After that our contacts were sporadic with long periods in between until our 50th high school reunion in 2004 when he encouraged me to write and provided much moral support. More recently when I learned of his wife’s (Linda) pending and subsequent death from cancer two years ago we have become regular and frequent email communicators as I have tried to support him through the most difficult period of his life. Our visit Monday was my second since Linda’s death, an important occurrence for me and hopefully for Howard as well.
We arrived shortly before 8AM and were greeted with coffee, juice, muffins, and fruit while we chatted and enjoyed his glassed-in family room overlooking the lovely garden. He also presented us with several books – as he did on my last visit – that we will surely enjoy during the next several months. As you probably have guessed Howard is a very literary person who teaches creative writing as I indicated above. He is a lover of words and collector of meaningful sayings or quotes. He has written a number of plays that have been presented around the country including off-Broadway in New York. Recently he wrote a play in honor of Linda. His current public teaching activities include writing workshops for Barnes & Noble and workshops at Temple Univ. (I believe) for cancer survivors. His primary professional career was in advertising including as partner in his own Philadelphia agency. As an avid sports enthusiast one of his long-term clients has been and remains the Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Club. He, in fact, is part of their family with three World Series rings; a very important relationship during Howard’s most difficult period.
Needless to say, we had a lovely visit. I only wish we could do it more often. As we bid our farewells, I made him a proposition to come visit us at Jojoba for a week and put on a couple of writing workshops for some of the Jojobians. It occurred to me that it would give Howard an opportunity to divert briefly from his comfort zone and normal routine. It would also give him a taste of our world which I’m sure he sees as a bit bizarre. I doubt he will do it, but maybe, just maybe.
Well it is now time to start the packing process for our trip back to DC tomorrow. Having been in one place for a month it is not a trivial task; clothes, computers, kitchen stuff, books and papers, etc. Friday is my eye appointment; presumably it will be routine and we can continue our journey. We’ll stay with David and Cris and then depart for Connecticut on Sunday to visit friends Pat and Jim. On Tuesday we drive to Portland, ME to see Larry and Kathy, friends and former colleagues. By the end of next week we will finally arrive in New Brunswick, Canada. The next journal entry will be from there. In the meantime stay well and enjoy the summer weather.