There's a big ol' display set up in my local Stop and Shop that features a new kind of flavored water type of stuff or juice. The name escapes me, however, the sight of the display does not. Why, you ask? Well, the picture on the display features a very poignant photo of one Alex Rodriguez staring mysteriously and dare I say, seductively off into the distant abyss of the future manifested in a glowing sun as he stands in quiet poise in the middle of what appears to be a winery. For at least the day, A-Rod has ditched the cleats and form-fitting pinstripes for khakis, a polo, and sweater-vest. Indeed, were he not holding a glass in his hand I would swear he were promoting the Van Hausen clothing line. The hope expressed in his baby blues is failed by language entirely. He must have a heck of a poker face. Impressive, but didn't make me thirsty. I bought toothpaste and left.
On top of this Rockwell-esque display of decadence, the tagline for the product: "Hydrate Naturally." This was entirely too much for me to bear. The thought of anyone in baseball promoting the implementation of any verb "naturally" was quite laughable. To be fair, it never said "build muscle mass naturally".
This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with a couple dear friends of mine in Dennis "Gloves" Madden and The "Czar" Amber Heaps. I took the train to get to Amber in Philly, a time I'll get into shortly. First I want to get into the train trip itself. Given the gravity of the weekend (I don't want to be too poetic about something so real, but my heart goes out to those who had their lost loved ones, and my thanks to those who came to aid) I wanted to make sure I got to Penn plenty early just in case security was out of control or something. So anyway, I wound up having plenty of time to kill in the Amtrak station and no place to sit down and read my book. I was really missing my man, Steve Murillo, with whom I always manage to make train rides memorable for better or for worse.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I was hurting for something to do, and I got caught up in watching the promotional video on how it was your duty to be on the lookout for suspicious activity on loop. Then came the strange realization that I was so wrapped up in watching the video extolling the necessity of staying vigilant that I had consequently become completely oblivious to my surroundings. I then lost further minutes of observation as I pondered the conundrum I'd just stumbled upon. Mercifully, the train arrived and got me out of my own head.
Got to Philly without much of a hitch and after somewhat of an ordeal, found Amber on the street. Her initial advice as to how to find her was to "leave and go right." Far too fatigued to point out that there were multiple exits to the station, I simply complied and realized something was amiss when I saw signs saying only MTA officials and police were allowed beyond this point. Needless to say, we regrouped. Given how devious the Czar can be, I momentarily considered the possibility that she was watching me this whole time and trying to get me arrested. Fortunately that wasn't the case and eventually we met up.
When we first hopped in her car and started heading towards some of Philly's sites, Amber said we were going through something I thought she called "Sinner City." I expressed confusion, and frankly, concern and eventually we got to the root of our miss-communication and I discovered she was just saying "Center City" with next to no emphasis on the "t". However, no sooner than two seconds after fixing the issue, my first official sight of Center City was an adult-movie theater. Nothing says "Welcome to Philadelphia" quite like three huge Xs promising nudity.
Amber and I saw plenty of sights including the much more appropriately rated theatre, The Walnut, boat cars that promised rides with ducks, a couple churches, horse pulled carriages, Congress Hall, an museum type place called "The Garage" and a mall called the "Gallery" which made me wonder if I should go to McDonald's for healthcare and the Emergency Room for fast food, and the Liberty Bell. Seeing the Liberty Bell was really cool. I was always pretty aware of the bell's significance in American history throughout the generations, but how much of a global symbol the bell was, I must admit, was kind of news to me to an extent and made the sight all the more moving. It was pretty profound and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
While heading into the Liberty Bell, a security guard noticed my Mavs hat and said congrats and asked me to approach two other guards who were Heat and Laker fans respectively. I agreed and their reactions were memorably deflated. The four of us then spent a couple of minutes talking about various Boston Celtic notes. A very random, but very good moment of the trip. Later on that day, I locked eyes with a fellow wearing a Nowitzki jersey. We crossed the street to meet each other, shake hands, and go about our days. The City of Brotherly Love" indeed.
Also that day, Amber and I encountered a random guy who looked relatively well off, who said hello to us pretty earnestly. Though a little confused, we reciprocated his greeting. I figured maybe he thought Amber was pretty and wanted to be nice, or maybe he took "brotherly love" to the next level and thought I was good looking, but he gave a similar greeting to the people behind us. What a city.
Without question the highlight of the day took place within the Independence Mall visitor's center. In the center, on one side of the hall there is a life-size cardboard cutout of our first President and American legend, George Washington, with not a soul within three feet of him. On the other side of the hall was a full-size, full-color, statue of the Philly Phanatic with what looked to be (though I doubt it was real) a golden Phillies jersey on. Obviously there was a line to get a photo with him. The volumes that speaks about America is sad enough to be hilarious. It was easily the bittersweet highlight of my day.
Overall, in spite of the company, a tremendous time in Philly with Amber, where the only stone I left unturned was not hopping into a stranger's wedding photos (at Amber's discretion).
Look for a post tomorrow as I recap my visit with the Illustrious noble gas himself, Dennis Madden including our time at the Incubus show.
Song of the Day: Gorillaz-Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
Jazz Song of the Day: Billie Holiday-I Loves You Porgy