Three years ago I got married, moved 300 miles, moved into my first home, began my first full-time job, and packed a husband into his second year of graduate school within the space of three weeks. It was traumatic. Unavoidable, amazing, and strengthening, but traumatic.
We haven’t learned our lesson. I will be quitting my job, moving 10 hours away, buying our first home, and packing my husband into his first year of teaching all in another three week space.
But what, really, can be done about it? So many self-help and other articles I’ve read on the internet caution you to space out your major life events; to avoid doing too many things at once; to protect your psyche from so much upheaval. That you should never plan to get married right before beginning a new job or academic studies; that you shouldn’t ever have a baby while moving.
But is it possible, under most circumstances, to avoid doing at least two, usually three+ of these major life changing events at once? You can’t move unless you change jobs. You can’t get married unless you move. You often don’t buy a new house unless you get a new job, have a baby, move, etc. You can’t experience divorce without moving, often changing churches, and half the time, needing to start a new job. And in the end… can you really control any of it at all?
I just don’t see any way around the mess. So I’m going to forego all of the gurus and psychiatrists and psychologists and therapists and just follow the advice of Michael Bluth – “head down, power through.”
And, for the moment, I’m going to sit here at my Mom’s house and let her make delicious dinners while I play with the kids and pretend that I’m not homeless and incomeless for the next few weeks.
After the debacle of cheesesteaks, Andy and I were hot and sweaty and it was about to pour gushing rain from the sky. I needed a pick me up, and my feet hurt. So we drove over to Center City, to 20th and Sansom, parked only a block from our destination and I hobbled along in my blistered, wedged feet, clutching Andy’s arm for dear life.
But everything got better when we stepped inside here.
I love Capogiro Gelateria. It is my #1 Treat in Philadelphia.
Capogiro prides themselves on serving seasonal, fresh gelatos made with ingredients that they can get from the best sources possible – in the case of ingredients available year round, this means they are sourced from prime locations. In terms of seasonal items like strawberry, it’s only available during the time it can be pulled straight from the ground locally.
The result is gelato that captures the essence of the flavor in an unbelievable way. The almond gelato, for example, is so concentrated that it seems that you are getting the flavor of three almonds in each tiny bite. And not almond-flavor, mind you. The flavor of almonds – real almonds.
Check out the flavor list. Every day the flavors change, as they make them fresh every morning. And they don’t just have “cherry” – they have “bing cherry” and “queen anne cherry”. They include unusual flavors like pine nut, lavender, and honeysuckle. Sometimes they even have avocado, and goat cheese.
I personally am a sucker for the chocolate and other rich gelatos, that are so rich and thick and creamy that it looks like a tub of nutella lying in the display case. Some of my favorites are dark chocolate (which gives new meaning to the term death by chocolate), Thai coconut milk, and hazelnut.
Andy always goes for the fruit gelatos, which are really a sorbet type of thing. I’ve tasted his often enough to realize the virtue of these lighter versions and so for my last Capogiro gelato, I decided to spring for the kiwi and papaya. Do you see the real kiwi seeds? There are real minuscule papaya chunks in the papaya side too.
And can I just say? Delicious. And look how happy Andy is.
They come in these adorably cute little bowls that at first seem so tiny as to be ridiculous. Not so. By the time you’re done eating it with the eensy spoon, you’ll feel like you just ate a double-large bowl of ice cream.
This made my whole day better.
We had planned a chock-full day on Sunday of enjoying some of our absolute favorite Philly spots. Unfortunately for us, it is June in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia is a dirty and humid city, and the day just did not quite go as planned.
Let me give you some information simply and quickly. The best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia are at Campo’s, at 2nd and Market, right by Penn’s Landing. The meat is high quality, fresh and decidedly NOT filled with fat chunks and excess oils, and the buns are the perfect consistency. And I say this after years of trying to tell myself that high quality cheese is always better – get the cheese whiz. It just isn’t the same without the cheese whiz. “Wit’ whiz,” as they say here.
But three things got in the way of fully enjoying Campo’s in all its open-air, bustling and classic ambience.
First, free parking. It’s not worth it to snag free parking on a quiet street if it means trucking seven blocks in high heels in humidity so intense that your body is drenched the moment you stand up in it. Arriving at your restaurant soaked, blistered, and tired just kills the mood.
Secondly, heat. Our cheesesteaks were delicious, but had to be almost obscured by the ice cold sodas we were chugging to keep the hot meat from overloading our body temperatures.
Thirdly, PRIDE month. I had no idea it was PRIDE month. Or, I didn’t until the street suddenly shut down and the most fascinating characters I’ve ever seen in my life trapped us inside the restaurant as they flooded the street. Yellow corsets and rainbow tutus, crystal rainbowed belts and clever tie-dyed outfits – no one can say that these folks don’t have flair. And while if I hadn’t been drenched, hot, and barely able to walk I may have gotten some great, unusual photos, what I was really looking for was classic Philadelphia and Campo’s as I’ve known it throughout my time here, which did not involve pride parades… interesting as they may have been.
So in the end, my goodbye to Campo’s was not all I had dreamed. But I will say that in a way, we were saying goodbye to Philadelphia through this crazy experience as well. Hot, humid, grab-parking-wherever-you-can, cultured, ever-changing, colorful, and eventful Philadelphia.
Next up – what we did after cheesesteaks to try to cool down.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a glimpse into the rest of our lives during this transitional time.
Do you really want to know what has been taking up most of my time lately?
Sitting in bed.
You see, I have this odd personality that is split between Type A and Type B. And you want to know something really, really odd? I only get things done when I’m in Type B mode.
When I’m in Type B mode, I can stay focused on my priorities. I put on some music and we get to work. The days are productive, the moving boxes get packed, the apartment gets into order.
But when I’m in Type A mode, I start to freak out. My organization levels reach irrational proportions. As in, I can’t stand to work on putting the books in boxes because it is driving me crazy that all of our winter shoes are scattered over the foyer and I don’t yet have boxes for all of those, and I have to figure out that first before I can deal with these books, but then I have to decide whether to keep the shoe rack and do I think that it will work in our new house?, but then, we’re going to have less income without me working full time and I don’t know if I’ll have the five dollars to buy a new shoe rack, and oh my goodness maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out that half a bag of old flour because maybe I won’t have any money to buy any flour when we get out there and what if we STARVE while living in our new big, beautiful home???!!!! WE’RE GOING TO DIE, I TELL YOU!!!!
Type A mode usually appears the second I walk in the door from work Monday – Thursday. So I stand in the foyer, drop my purse, and fret about whether we really can have eggs for dinner because I’ve got to get the frying pan packed up and…
Andy has brutally learned the warning signs of a Type A episode over this past month of moving drama. So usually before I can get beyond the frying pan, he has forcibly plopped me into bed with a grilled cheese sandwich and told me to stay put. Then he goes and actually gets things done during the evening. Important things that I lose sight of in the face of my packing freak-out sessions. Like reading the house contracts. Like renting a moving truck. Like paying the bills.
He usually comes back later to find me conked out or in a coma in front of another Arrested Development episode. The Bluth family’s insanity makes my life seem quite peaceful. It calms me.
Then Andy fixes me a bowl of ice cream. He’s incredible.
Does anyone else out there have these crazy mood swings? Is it going to be this nuts moving into a new place, or just moving out? Does anyone else find themselves needing to crawl into bed for an evening just to make their mind take a break?
I fell in love with Philadelphia only a month into our lives here, by experiencing evening in Old City.
We’d met my cousin downtown for a cheesesteak at 3rd and Market and after saying goodbye, decided to take a stroll through Old City. I was completely enthralled with everything – the grass, the sunlight, the brick, the crumbling pillars; the voices drifting out from open air restaurants; the green leaves waving overhead; the clinking of glasses from al fresco diners. There’s such a peace in watching nature quiet down and the city light up.
And everything glows.
There have been many other nights like that since then. There’s something about the summer light fading in the city. One street is dark and dim with the restaurant lights shining out from open doors; the next street is ablaze with warm, gold light; the next street is softly glowing with light reflected off of windows and cobblestones.
It’s best to wander, stopping at a good ice cream shop and pausing at a lonely bench, and just watch the light change. It only takes a moment for the whole mood to shift.
It’s incredible to see how something that man designed – even an urban city – is utterly transformed by the natural, daily rhythms that God set in place. No matter how beautiful they were to begin with, it is what the Lord does that makes them transcendent.
It takes a moment to appreciate, though. It takes stepping out my front door for a walk where my only goal is to see how beautiful the city around me can be. But it takes time. And time we never, ever have.
There is one diner, and one diner only that I love.
I’m just not much of a diner person. I don’t like the meals that were bought at Restaurant Depot in the frozen section and then plopped onto a plate for your consumption after an hour in the oven defrosting. Can I get an amen?
But there’s something about the atmosphere of a diner that’s so comforting. The free laughter, the people running into their friends and hugging each other, the casual decor, the… comfort food.
The Trolley Car Diner is located in the incredibly cute Chestnut Hill district of Philadelphia, quite close to where I live. And you simply can’t help but love it, since you can enjoy the 50′s vibe, the community, the warm and comforting food… but you can still have healthy, special, fresh, surprising food that was obviously prepared just for you, with real vegetables.
This is my favorite meal. I get it every single time I’m here - I mean, when you really love something, why bother getting anything else? This is the reason that I stop at this diner. What other diner do you know of that even has zucchini on the menu, let alone a roasted summer vegetable quesadilla with zucchini, summer squash, red peppers, red and white onions that are roasted to the most amazing, firm yet warm and comforting consistency, sprinkled with a light layer of melted mozzarella and encased in a spread of spicy black bean paste… all toasted up in a beautiful, crispy corn tortilla and served with plenty of sour cream and salsa?
Did I make you hungry? If you like more traditional diner food, they have that too… although with homemade kettle chips instead of crumbly stuff from a bag.
I’ve seen their club sandwiches, their eggs and omelets, their French toast… and I’ve seen their hummus salad too… just imagine beautiful dark greens topped with loads of vegetables wedged between large blobs of every type and color of hummus you can imagine?
And who could resist the milkshake menu, with its adorable 50′s character milkshakes?
We caved and got the malted chocolate milkshake. If you ask to share, like we do, they’ll bring you each your own glass topped with whipped cream… because one milkshake actually makes enough for two.
I wasn’t going to finish it… but I just couldn’t help myself.
Goodbye, Trolley Car. I love you. I’ll be trying to recreate your roasted summer vegetable quesadilla for the rest of my life, but without your ambience, without your grubby ketchup bottles, without the large posters of Elvis staring friendly-like at me, and without the finishing touch of your malted milkshakes… I’m destined to fail.
The Philadelphia landmark and tourist spot that captures my imagination the most is actually not full of historical memories of great things. It’s the place where Philadelphia tried to suppress its darker side.
Eastern State Penitentiary is located in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, which means it’s a little off the beaten path from the rest of Philadelphia’s normal attractions. We often park right next to it to get to our favorite restaurant just around the corner. And it fascinates me, the stone walls and the turrets rising high into the sky.
It isn’t the interesting historical figures that were kept within these walls (like Al Capone and Willie Sutton) that grab my attention – it’s the collective memory of hundreds and hundreds of hurting people kept in the tight four walls of a stone cell, alone. When I’m strolling past on my way to a delicious bowl of French onion soup, I can’t help but wonder what went on behind those walls. While “normal” folks were playing, working, walking past on these sidewalks during the day, and living it up at the bars and grills across the street during the evening, other people were locked into isolation behind these walls.
I can’t bear to go in, but I can’t help walking slowly past. My curiosity over the people confined inside – what they did, why they did, where they grew up, what they dreamt of, if they knew anything else, how it felt to have mental illness creeping over you from years of isolation – it’s both fascinating and disturbing.
And the cheery guide sitting beside the stone gates, amid the ruin of forty years of neglect, ready to usher people in to see the cells where people were so frantic to get out that they spent years digging tunnels with spoons – it just seems wrong. The day I went to shoot the exterior of the building captured all of this perfectly – the bright sun, the wild roses, the smiling faces – all in contrast to a dank, dark, broken and rusty interior that I caught glimpses of as I walked along.
There’s something so safe about the idea of a prison located away from daily life, like Alcatraz. I can’t help but stand on the sidewalk next to that stone wall and think that fifty years ago, it was only twenty feet away that hundreds of souls were locked behind bars. It’s chilling, really.
I promise that my next post won’t be so dark. But if I’m really going to show you the places in Philadelphia that will stick with me, I had to share the Penitentiary with you.