Waiting Up For Me

Usually, when I come home from work, Helaine is already asleep. I understand her plight. Light sleeping Helaine needs to get some quality pillow time before “Snoring Geoff” comes to bed.

Last night, as I pulled in front of our house, I noticed a light on in the family room. She was awake, and I knew why.

Sitting on the sofa, Helaine had her laptop running with the Phillies game on. As is often her custom in a close game, the sound was down.

Just in case you’re not a baseball fan, let me get you caught up. The Phils began the season by losing nearly a month’s worth of games. As spring progressed, it was easy to see the Phils weren’t going to have a good year.

As poorly as the Phillies played, the Mets were their opposite. They were steamrolling through the regular season and by the first days of summer, post season play seemed inevitable.

And then it changed!

I’m not sure how, but the Phillies have clawed their way back. It’s obviously been done with smoke and mirrors, because they don’t have any relief pitching. I say that and I’m a fan!

So, as we stand now, the Phillies are tantalizingly close to catching the Mets, but the season is dwindling. That’s why last night’s game against St. Louis was keeping Helaine up.

The Phillies went ahead in the top of the 9th only to give up the lead in the bottom of the inning. The 9th became the 10th and then the 11th. With every Cardinal batter we feared… no, we knew, the wheels would come off the cart and the Phillies would lose.

They didn’t.

In the 14th inning and out of position players, the Phillies scored three, held on and won! Jose Mesa, the General Custer of closers, pitched two flawless innings.

Poor Helaine. For her, it was the middle of the night!

Odds are we’ll end the season disappointed. The Phils are still 1&#189 games out of first and 1&#189 games behind the San Diego Padres for the Wild Card. They need to catch up to play on, and with other teams in front, it’s might be out of their control.

Right now, it’s just fun rooting for them. They seem to want to win.

It was also very nice to see my wife when I got home. Thanks Phils.

The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip

One of the prime reasons for going to Philadelphia was to go the see a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

Before we go on, let me say how displeased I am with naming rights to stadiums and arenas. It’s a shame there’s no longer a Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia or Oakdale Theater near me in Wallingford, CT. Maybe there is a benefit to me by having Citizens Bank or Chevy (in the case of the Oakdale Theater) kick in some cash… though I don’t see it.

I am tilting at windmills. It’s never going back.

My friend Peter picked us up at the hotel and it didn’t take long to drive to South Philly and the stadium. Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Core State Arena (it’s hurting me to write this) are all located on the same tract of land that held the Vet, Franklin Field and the Spectrum (still there, but now with a corporate name preceding the word Spectrum).

I paid the $10 to park and we found a space fairly close to the entrance. Helaine had bought four tickets from a broker – though they were only marked up $4. We walked into the stadium.

Since this was my birthday trip, Helaine had arranged for my name and age to be flashed on the scoreboard with the other 11 year olds. We went and signed in. There was a charge, but I got a very nice Phillies hat.

The ballpark itself is a very nice place. Whereas the Vet was all concrete and steel with no thought of aesthetics, there’s lots of exposed brick and other warm touches now. And, Vet Stadium’s turf – possibly the worst playing surface in all of professional sports, has been replaced by beautiful real grass.

Beyond the outfield is a huge food court – Ashburn’s Alley. That’s where we headed first.

Steffie wanted to have a genuine Philly Cheesesteak, and Geno’s of South Philadelphia fame is represented. This is not ‘old school’ baseball food. It wasn’t soggy. It was hot. It was delicious. We found a place to sit and ate our lunch.

The game was scheduled for 3:15, so we headed down and took our seats. I was surprised that there had been no hassle when I brought my camera and two lenses in. The Phillies web site said it would be OK, but I had a sneaking suspicion there would be scrutiny over any camera with a removable lens.

These were probably the best baseball seats I’d ever had. We were behind the Phillies dugout, in the sun, 25 rows from the field. We were in foul ball territory. We were very close to the action.

The Phils were playing the San Diego Padres… and the Phils had gotten hot! The night before, Chase Utley ended the game with a walk off homer. Is there a more macho act?

For us, the game began slowly. It seemed like Robinson Tejeda, the Phillie starter wasn’t in control. I say ‘seemed’, because when you see the box score, you see a pitcher totally dominating the opposition. It’s funny how those two elements don’t always match up.

I took a lot of pictures at the game. Some might say I took too many pictures. Here’s my favorite, Bobby Abreu ducking out of the way of a Pedro Astascio fastball. Judging by the catcher’s glove, this pitch was traveling where it was aimed.

We stayed until the very last out, anticipated the worst when Real Cormier was called in, but getting a one inning gem instead. Billy Wagner picked up the save.

After a short stop back at the hotel, the four of us (Peter included) went out searching for dinner and the sights. We hit South Street first, but realizing that wasn’t the right spot for dinner, headed to Market Street and the Penn’s Landing area.

Again, we found Italian food. Again, it was very good. But we were very tired.

Our walk back to the hotel was uneventful, but left me uneasy. There were too many places which seemed sinister.

Tonight, I sent an email message to Mayor Street. It’s attached to the link at the bottom of this entry. Whether this kind of message makes any difference or not is beyond me, but I am always willing to write and make my opinions felt.

We finished up our stay Sunday with brunch on the Moshulu.

Since the launching of the Moshulu (pronounced Mo-shoe’-loo) in 1904, she has had a long and exciting career on the seas working the ports of Europe, South America, Australia, America and Africa. She was confiscated by the Americans in one war and by the Germans in the next. She has traveled around Cape Horn 54 times. She has hauled coal and coke, copper ore and nitrate, lumber and grain. In lesser days, she has served as a floating warehouse. In grander days, she won the last great grain race in 1939. Today, the Moshulu is the largest four-masted sailing ship in the world still afloat.

I once heard someone say you should never go out to dinner at a revolving restaurant. I think the same applies to converted sailing ships. The food was OK – nothing special. The ship was OK too… but just OK.

The interior of the ship was larger than I expected. I know that because of the schlep from our table to the buffet!

By 1:30 we were heading home. We headed north on I-95, over the Delaware via the Betsy Ross Bridge (A white elephant when it was built, I hope it’s more useful now), Route 90 to Route 73 to I-295 and then the New Jersey Turnpike.

We waited as long as we could before getting off I-295 and onto the Turnpike. It made no difference. We were stuck in stop-and-go traffic for the better part of an hour before things opened up. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

Oh – there was that sign on the George Washington Bridge that I captured. I’m hoping it’s legal to take photos before you get to the sign, as I did.

So, what have we learned? We were surprised and pleased that Steffie enjoyed the game. Yes, she got a shirt and excellent junk food… but she bought another shirt with her own money and seemed to be interested in the game.

We also enjoyed visiting Philadelphia, the place where we met 25 years ago, as tourists. There are rough edges that need to be smoothed for Philadelphia to become a better tourist destination, but so much is in place right now.

Continue reading “The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip”

We’re In Philadelphia

The trip to Philadelphia wasn’t terribly bad… for a Friday afternoon… in the summer… on I-95. There is a place, about halfway through New Jersey, where the four roadway Turnpike becomes the two roadway Turnpike. At the point (or actually a few miles before it) the traffic slows to a crawl.

We made Philadelphia by mid-afternoon. The hotel was easy to find (considering Helaine had grown up here and I lived here for five years, we should know where things are) and nicely located.

We’re on the Delaware River. When I was here, this area was industrial and well into an era of hard times. It’s been reclaimed now as an entertainment area with restaurants and hotels.

Just across the way, and over an expressway, is the main body of the city. The streets in Philadelphia are numbered – so we’re ‘below’ First Street.

After we checked in, we decided to walk north, along the river, and ended up at Dave and Buster’s. D&B is a national chain of arcades on steroids… with a bar!

I found a flight simulator and attempted to takeoff and land without killing any of my passengers. No sweat. Next it was a boxing simulator. I’ve never played an arcade game that took so much out of me. There was even a readout with the number of calories you burned!

While I was playing games, Steffie and Helaine were working the ticket dispensing machines. What were they looking to get? Who knows? They were acquiring tickets as its own end.

I settled in next to them on a machine that tosses a coin onto platform. Small ‘sweepers’ push the coins forward. Hopefully, if your coin ends up in the right place, it will dislodge other coins causing them to fall in a tray, getting you tickets.

By the time we were done, Steffie had a dragon. It’s actually quite cute.

We went back to the hotel to wash up and get ready for dinner. Then, we headed to Society Hill and Old City. The latter name comes from the fact that this was the colonial center of Philadelphia. This is where Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross lived… though not together.

It was in Society Hill where the beginning of Philadelphia’s in-town gentrification began with the Society Hill Towers, two luxury apartment buildings. As I remember, they’re condos now.

We walked past Bookbinders and up Chestnut Street. This part of Philadelphia is an amazing mix of old and new. There are glass box office buildings and historical sites. Some streets are paved with cobblestones.

Philadelphia has a system of streets and alleyways. In some ways, that makes its downtown similar to Boston’s. Some of these alleys are just wide enough for a car – barely.

We went hunting for a restaurant to have dinner. Steffie and Helaine read the menus posted near the doors. We finally settled on an Italian place, Amici Noi, at 3rd and Market.

Good choice. The food was excellent and the portions large.

Surprisingly, all the restaurants we look at were fairly empty. Maybe Philadelphia isn’t the tourist city it should be. Certainly, on a hot Friday night, plenty of locals would be headed to the Jersey Shore.

It’s a shame, because this is such a beautiful and livable city.

After dinner I decided to head to South Street, knowing Steffie especially would like it. First, a detour. I wanted to see Independence Hall.

I remember, back when I lived here, how cool I thought it was to just drive by the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall. It’s no different now. There’s something very impressive knowing these icons of American history are right in the middle of modern life.

We walked down 4th Street past some beautiful neighborhoods of very expensive, very small homes. I can only shudder to think how these places have appreciated since I left 25 years ago this month.

How to describe South Street? Eclectic. Bohemian. Over the top. Very much like Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

South Street is where you find stores… like Condom Kingdom!

We walked and Steffie darted into some stores looking at clothing. We also stopped at Rita’s so Steffie and Helaine could get ‘water ice’ and I could get some custard. Perfect.

Meanwhile, South Street was packed with cars and cops and parking enforcement officers. I have never seen tow trucks move as quickly and deftly to get cars off the street! Something tells me this is a very expensive way to get unwanted valet parking.

We headed back to our hotel. We were, to understate it, tired. In fact, I went to bed a good seven hours before my normal bedtime!

Today, we head to the Vet&#185 for the Phillies versus San Diego Padres. I’m psyched.

&#185 – The Phillies play in Citizens Bank Park. I know that. I still want to say they play at the Vet… and it is, after all, my blog.