Archive for the Philly Journal Category

It’s Still Like a Secret

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2014 by sethdellinger

Just now, I went out on a short bike ride.  I have found that with riding my bike to work and back every day, I often lose sight of the fact that I truly love riding my bike for pleasure.

It is extraordinarily cold out today, but after the horrors of last winter, I am now incredibly prepared to dress appropriately for cold-weather biking.  As I hopped on my bike this morning, I found myself quite pleased with how comfortable I was, despite the 28 degree temperature.  The sun was fully out and beaming its glorious rays onto my face.  Was I cold?  Yes, very much so.  But comfortable, for sure.

I rode west and then south, through the trenches of what is known as South Philly.  The morning was relatively quiet and calm, still almost like a mid-summer afternoon.  Here and there the sounds of a truck backing up, or the birds in the trees that nestle the power lines.  Every few blocks I would get stopped by a crossing guard ushering school kids across a not-busy intersection.  I didn’t seem to mind.

I parked my bike by my bank so I could step inside and get some cash out of the ATM, and also warm my hands for a bit.  A scruffy but polite older gentleman held the door to the inner lobby open for me, not realizing I was just stopping at the ATM in the foyer.  Oh, no thanks, I’m staying right here, I said to him.  He said Oh alright, well have a great day.

I hopped back on my bike and rode a few more blocks down to the local soft pretzel joint.  It was 10am and 28 degrees, and the pretzel joint is just a walk-up window with no seats anywhere, so of course I was the only one there.  I waited for the portly lady inside to see me and open the window.  She was wearing a winter coat. What’ll it be?  she asks.  I could smell the fresh-baked carb-and-salt goodness mixing with the crispness of the morning air; it’s a special blend of perfect that is exceedingly rare.  Just four pretzels, please.  A few seconds later she handed me a brown paper bag and I handed her four bucks.  I took my backpack off and slid my precious cargo inside.  All the way home, I could feel the warmth on my back, as the pretzels heated the inside of my bag.  At stop signs, I could even smell them.  In the cold, still morning, I had a little bag of warmth and perfection riding on my back, like a secret.

Sack Races Can Blank My Blank

Posted in Philly Journal, Rant/ Rave, Snippet, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2014 by sethdellinger

1.  It should be noted that, a mere two days ago, I did in fact participate in two sack races at a picnic.  That’s right, on some occasions, folks are still doing sack races.  But the important part:  I totally owned my competition both times.  I won by landslides.  I say this to gloat.  Because it is a rare moment indeed in my life when I find myself vanquishing opponents in any physical competition whatsoever–including leisure sports like pool and bowling.  So yeah.  Apparently I rule at sack racing.  However, it should also be duly noted that even now, 48 hours later, my lower abs hurt like crazy!  And I have been working my abs in workouts for a few weeks, so it’s not just from using unused muscles…there is something about sack races that MURDERS the abs, but especially, like…the very bottom ones.  I’m a scientist.

2.  You know who reads a lot?  Homeless people.  I’m not making some tasteless joke here, I’m serious.  At least in Philadelphia, whenever I see homeless people, I would say 50% of the time, they are reading something, and not always a newspaper, but often books.  I hear what some of you are about to say: They sure have plenty of free time to read!  Well sure, and I’m not sure what my point is with this, but it seemed like an observation worth making.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

3.  So there are these two bands I like (don’t stop reading yet, this isn’t actually about the bands).  The bands are The War on Drugs and Sun Kil Moon.  Both bands are fairly recent discoveries for me.  Over the past month, a very odd “feud” has developed between these bands (who, while both “indie” bands, are not bands that would typically be grouped together or thought of at the same time).  The were both playing the same festival, on different stages, at the same time, and apparently War on Drugs’ sound was drowning out the sound of Sun Kil Moon.  Now, Sun Kil Moon is basically one guy, Mark Kozelek, a very outspoken eccentric who often makes waves in the indie community.  Kozelek writes great songs, then gets other folks to play them with him and calls that band Sun Kil Moon.  The War on Drugs is just a band.  Anyway, so War on Drugs is too loud for Mark Kolezek and he gets pissed at them, for some reason, and he says something like this onstage: “This next song is called ‘The War on Drugs Can Suck My Fucking Cock”.  Now, to make a really long story somewhat short: the indie music press loves feuds (who doesn’t?) and reported on this idiotic stage banter promptly, and Kozelek being the guy he is, he just kept making the problem worse and being extremely mean to War on Drugs for months now; for their part, War on Drugs has stayed mostly silent, seeing as they did truly nothing.  Sun Kil Moon went as far as to release, last week a song called “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock”.      You can read very interesting reporting from the feud as it went down here, or here, or here.

ANYWAY, here is what I want to talk about:  the very first time I read that story, I winced at Kozelek’s choice of words.  Suck my cock, while a slam I may have directed at many a male friend of mine over the years, is not a way I would choose to talk to today.  I don’t want to say I am evolved or enlightened, but I think it would be fair to say I am certainly MORE evolved or enlightened about this topic than I used to be.  The topic, as far as I can generally state it, is men using subtle violence and aggression in every day life to perpetuate the patriarchal society we’ve all come to inhabit; even as women gain a more visible foothold toward equality, men still casually sit with their legs wide open on trains, depriving women of proper legroom (your cock isn’t that big, guys), we use terms associated with the female anatomy to mean negative things (what does it mean when you so viciously call another person a pussy as if it is the last thing on earth you’d like to be?).  Men gawk at women as they walk past on the street as though nobody can tell–or that nobody should care.  And men like Mark Kozelek–ostensibly a very artistic, extremely intelligent man who skirts the edges of our culture in a way that one would assume means he’d be more enlightened–uses the language of male aggression to another man; the suggestion of this language goes deep (NO PUN FREAKIN’ INTENDED) and does more than hint at a latent hatred for homosexuality, not to even begin exploring what a mean-spirited “suck my cock” says about the speaker’s opinion about the women who, one would assume, have done so to him willingly.

Look, I know this line of thought seems “out there” to some people, maybe a little too new-agey. Being a male in today’s culture isn’t easy.  We still want to treat women nice and be chivalrous, but it’s tough to do that and play the equality game.  I get that.  We’re not always going to be perfect at it; ours is a culture in the middle of change, and it’s tough to keep up with that as individuals.  But really, at core, it’s easy.  Treat everyone correctly, and realize that language is also action.  The things couched in what you say are real and have meaning, not just academically, but to your listeners.  Realize that your actions in public, even if they seem benign–looking, where you sit or stand, things you say within earshot–can still reek of male supremacy.  Go ahead and hold the door open for your sweetheart (unless she’s told you to bugger off with that shit), but make sure you’re both standing beside each other at the Starbucks register.  Don’t be a fucking asshole.  What are your thoughts?

 

4.  As much as Mark Kozelek has pissed me off with his War on Drugs feud, his song (as Sun Kil Moon) “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes” off this year’s new album Benji, is one of the best songs I’ve heard, not just this year, but in years:

 

5.  I like a lot of stuff.  I think I have made that fairly clear over the years.  And most people know that I love backscratchers.  But nobody has ever bought me a really good backscratcher.  #justsayin

Philly Journal, 7/24/14

Posted in Philly Journal, Photography with tags , , , , on July 24, 2014 by sethdellinger

It is not unusual for me to throw whatever current book or magazine or newspaper I am reading into a backpack and bike to one of the city’s parks or otherwise unique public spaces to do some outdoor reading.  I was just about to do that this evening, when I realized that I always go pretty far away to do this–usually the mile and a half or two miles toward Center City to hang out in one of the more illustrious or famous public spaces.  There are tons of parks near me, but these are actual parks, used by the residents who are regular folks!  I suppose I’ve stayed away from them not only because they are less interesting, but because I have typically felt like an outsider at them.  But this evening I took my book straight to Mifflin Square Park, by far the closest park to my house, at only 5 blocks away.  Mifflin Square Park is unique in that it is bordered on two of its four sides by the largest population of Cambodian residents in the state of Pennsylvania.  Not everyone who uses this park is Cambodian, but I would say 80% of the folks there are in fact Cambodian. Like, first-generation, speaking-Cambodian folks.  It wasn’t my first time there, but it was my first time spending any significant amount of time there.  It was nice!  Very pleasant folks (except the group of white teenagers sitting a bench next to me who were smoking weed).  I took some pictures that you might find pretty interesting:

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Philly Journal, 7/15/14

Posted in Memoir, Philly Journal, Prose with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2014 by sethdellinger

I’m not a video game player.  It’s not 100% accurate to say I’ve never been one, though.  In the dawn of the home video game console era, for just a small slice of time, I, like every single other kid my age, was video game crazy.

I’m talking about the era of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) and the original Nintendo Game Boy, the little hand-held guy.  Those two systems were as far as I went; I never even owned a Super Nintendo.  I do remember having plenty of fun with those systems; lots of good Mega Man memories, just to name one.  The era did last a few years.

Three or so years ago, when I was living in Erie, I got oddly nostalgic for a little while for this short video game part of my life.  I still owned my Game Boy and a smattering of games, but the Game Boy itself didn’t work anymore.  I had some extra cash flow, so I looked on eBay, and sure enough, there was a Game Boy in my price range.  I ordered it.

It came in the mail and I played a few of my old games once or twice and, just like I knew I would, put it away again.  I’m just not a gamer.

But I keep this little Game Boy with me anyway.  It made the move from Erie to New Jersey when I lived with my mom.  It lived in my bedroom, within clear sight, but I never ever picked it up.  It made the move from Jersey to Philly with me, about seven months ago.  A few weeks after I had moved in, I was still unpacking some boxes.  I came across the Game Boy and its attendant games and took them up to my room.  I decided to give the Judge Dredd game (which was inserted into the Game Boy at the time; also this game seemed a lot cooler before they made two bad movies out of the comic book character it is based on) a whirl, but nothing happened when I turned it on.  The batteries must be dead, I thought.  I turned the Game Boy over to take the cartridge out, but it wouldn’t budge.  I thought to myself, well, this thing is screwed.  And I put it as well as all the games in a little cabinet under my TV in my bedroom.  I have not opened that cabinet in the seven months I have lived here.

Today, when I got home from work, the first thing I did was go upstairs to use my bathroom.  Then, I went into my spare room, where I promptly disrobed, because A) it’s hot, and B) the first thing I do, lately, after getting home and peeing is I weigh myself.  The scale is in my bedroom.

So, naked as a jaybird (that’s a weird saying) I went into my room, but immediately upon entering, there was a really weird sound in the room.  At first I wasn’t sure if it was coming from outside or was in the room.  I followed it with my ear, toward the television, which was clearly off.  As I got closer, I knew without a doubt what it was, but could hardly believe it.  I flung open the cabinet below the TV, and there was the Game Boy, its screen aglow in the dark, with the Judge Dredd start screen demanding I select One Player or Two, the terrible arcade-style theme music playing over and over again.

Philly Journal, 6/4/14

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , on June 4, 2014 by sethdellinger

To see all previous Philly Journal entries, click here!

So I had a fairly marvelous day today. One of my favorite days, in fact, in recent memory.  It is finally summer, and I finally had a very nice day off.  I rose early and left the house early, astride my trusty steed (my bike).  My original plan was to explore this, but I got foiled by security guards watching the entrances.  I had planned to make a big exciting video about the experience but was left with only this.  So, barely after 9am and already sweaty and way far from home, I had a whole summer day to find stuff to do.

I ended up doing a whole bunch of stuff, but I was especially taken with my trip around the Schuylkill River Trail.  This is a bike/ pedestrian trail that starts near the Art Museum and stretches in a ten mile loop through what is known as Fairmount Park.  It is a fantastic trip!  I had been aware there was a trail there, but I had never known it was a loop that crosses over the river at two points and allows you to end up where you started.  It was one of the more invigorating, fun, and recuperative things I’ve done since I moved into the city.  So of course, I took some video of it and set it to some music for you.  I understand there are pretty few of you who will actually want to watch this, but if you find yourself truly bored right now, or want to see an area of Philadelphia you may never experience, well, this is for you:

 

 

 

Protected: Philly Journal, 3/27/14

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , on March 27, 2014 by sethdellinger

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Philly Journal, 3/9/14

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by sethdellinger

In this itinerant sort of life I live, moving from place to place every few years, it becomes easy to put the specificity of places out of mind quickly.  What I mean is this: I spend a few years getting to know an area, its history, landmarks, my favorite restaurants and stores and the quickest routes from point A to point B, and generally becoming a familiar citizen of these places.  And then, some would say quite suddenly, poof!, I’m gone, off to a whole new existence (I’m aware I’m not the only person to have ever moved to a new area).  It’s odd: once I’m in the new place, while some of the specifics of the former place may swirl on my periphery for a few days, they are largely completely tossed aside.  Now, please mind this next sentence: I am not suggesting I forget the lovely people or experiences from these places.  I’m thinking more about my favorite Chinese buffet in Erie, PA, a real shithole that I fell in love with when I visited it at first on a balmy summer day just a month or so after I moved there.  I’d just visited the Erie Art Museum for the first time (my first trip to an art museum by myself) and I was laden with pamphlets I had picked up there.  I sat at this shithole buffet for an hour, gorging on fried rice and realizing I loved art.  I went to this buffet roughly one million times over the next year.  It saw me get the fattest I’d ever been, and then slowly became an occasional guilty pleasure in the months before I moved away from Erie, as I was becoming slender and trying to avoid buffets.  That Chinese buffet was one of just about 100 unique places I evolved for myself in the 2 years I lived in Erie; the places we choose to frequent and spend time in outside the house become an extension of our personalities and identities.  I had places I liked to ride my bike, and stop my bike.  Places I rented movies, and bought books, and places I read books.  And then, in a decision made over the course of just a few weeks—I was gone, living with my mother in South Jersey.  Now I haven’t thought of those places–places that made up bits of my identity–for months or a year.

When I landed in South Jersey, for a week or two, I felt like I inhabited many worlds.  My new home was New Jersey, and I was excited to explore it.  But my identity in Erie was a good one, and it was fading like a seen ghost.  At the same time, I was working in Philadelphia—another aspect of identity.  In all three places at once, I was developing, forgetting, or remembering the places I loved that were special to me.

Eventually, I made quite a few special places in South Jersey.  A few antique shops that I liked to stop by all alone, browsing the musty wares, thumbing through the hundred-year-old postcards and selecting a few to buy each time.  The record store, Tunes, out on the absolutely horrid Black Horse Pike, where I secreted away to about every two weeks, where I once found and bought a vinyl copy of Bruce Willis’ blues album, and where I rebuilt my collection of Radiohead CDs.  I can still remember the taste of the incredibly overpriced cheesesteaks at King of Steaks on the main drag in Woodbury—with their three booths and cans of soda.

And then, in a decision again seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself living in Philadelphia.  I was immediately in love with my new situation, and often still find myself chuckling as I walk along the street to my house in the afternoon, all alone listening to Death Cab for Cutie on my iPhone, and I look over my shoulder and see the skyline.  What an adventure is my life, I think to myself.  And although South Jersey and my identity there hung over my life like a disappearing ring of smoke for a few days, it didn’t take long for me to forget the Barnes and Noble out on Almonesson, despite having gone there 50 times in the last year and a half.  I had new places replacing that one, and a new kind of identity forming with them, and down the road, these new ones will soon enough be replaced and forgotten, too.

This evening, as I was showering, I tasted one of those Woodbury cheesesteaks—I’m not sure why, but there it was—and I suddenly missed everything all at once.

What are your current places? What are some you’ve almost forgotten?

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