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Thanksgiving at Our House

November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

So this year, my fiancee Anastasia and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house in Philadelphia. It’s the first time that we’ve hosted a holiday at our house as a couple, and the first time we’ve had guests stay at our house for a few days. Her parents came in to the city from Michigan, and stayed from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon (which also happened to be my thirtieth birthday–Happy Birthday to me!). In terms of “firsts” it’s not really that big or remarkable, but still meaningful.

We had plans for the time that they would be here in the city apart from dinner on Thursday. Philadelphia is an amazing city, filled with museums and galleries. The city itself, from the ground up, is thick with history. Anastasia and I live about five blocks away from Independence Hall, and a walk there is a short stroll. The first thing that we did was take a trip to the Barnes Foundation, and I spent a couple of hours there looking at so much Renoir that I don’t think I’ll need to see any more impressionist art for at least a year.

Environs of Berneval, 1879

Despite that oversaturation of impressionism, it was a very good experience. I got so carried away looking at the Van Gogh pieces that a guard admonished me for standing so close to the paintings. It was a running joke between Anastasia and I that we couldn’t cross the line. If you’re ever in Philadelphia, I really recommend that you take a few hours out of your day to visit.

Still Life (Nature morte), May 1888. The guard did not appreciate how close I got to this painting.

Afterward we stopped to get a few things that we needed for Thanksgiving dinner, dropped those off home, and then went to grab a bite to eat at Brauhaus Schmitz, just a short walk from our house. The schnitzel and raspberry beer were absolutely delicious. I really quite like that place. They have a giant display that shows the first western beer law.

I can’t read German, but it looks pretty serious.

For Thanksgiving, Anastasia’s mother made roast duck and potatoes, with a delicious cranberry relish. I helped her cook (it is my kitchen, after all). We brought the dinner table up from the basement and put it in the living room on the first floor. Our kitchen and dining area are located in the basement because we live in an old-school Philadelphia trinity house, which means that we have three floors and a basement, but the floors themselves are relatively small.

 

Our living room. It’s quite cozy.

The bookcase and mantle. We’re both geeks.

After dinner we enjoyed tea and dessert, and followed that with a showing of Star Trek: First Contact. I had to bring my TV and blu-ray plater down from my room on the third floor, and we set them up on the dinner table, which we set against the bookshelf.

The next day we set out to visit the Rosenbach, to see the Frankenstein & Dracula exhibit. It was fantastic, of course, and really illuminates the scientific and historical foundations of both texts.

All-in-all, it was a pretty great dinner with awesome company, with a couple of great trips to some Philadelphia landmarks. I have to say that it didn’t feel strange to host a holiday–it felt natural. We’re family, of course, if not legally then practically. I can’t wait until we host another holiday at our house.

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Navel Gazing About Learning to Use Public Transportation

September 7, 2017 Leave a comment

So yesterday I used SEPTA for the first time. Route 40, starting at the corner of Lombard and 9th, disembarking the bus at 36th in West Philadelphia. I found myself outside of University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman Quadrangle.

In Michigan I didn’t live in a place that made public transportation practical. I got everywhere by by driving myself around. I have used public transportation in other cities: Chicago, New York, Paris, Washington, D.C., and Toronto. But I’ve never used it before in the city in which I live.

It’s seems like there’s some kind of unwritten rule about traveling on buses and on the subway. Don’t talk, don’t make eye contact. That could be me. Back home, in the Midwest, everyone was unbearably friendly. Meet someone on the street? Say hi. Maybe even give them a high five. All in good fun, right? I find the silence and public transportation introversion weird, especially because Anastasia says that Americans tend to be loud and garrulous.

It’s a small thing, but I think that this is a big step for me. Getting around without a car is actually a learning experience. Case in point: after dinner at Landmark Americana (in which I ate a scrumptious chicken dish), Anastasia and I had to get back home in the rain. Okay, so we took the Market Street subway line, the entrance of which was a short walk from the entrance of the restaurant.  We took the train to the 8th and Market Street stop, but to get home required a bit of a hike.

If I had my car I could have just driven from West Philadelphia to Queen Village, and then to our place in Bella Vista. And now that I think about it, I totally got the geography of the city wrong. Queen Village is past Bella Vista, where we live, when coming from West Philadelphia. Typically, Anastasia and I stroll over to Penn’s Landing, which is on the eastern side of the city. The gallery below are a few snapshots I took on a trip to the Delaware River.

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And this touches on why, for me, public transportation and walking is better than driving with a car. I am learning the layout of the city, the bus routes, and the boundaries of the neighborhoods in a way that I couldn’t if I were merely following the disembodied voice of my GPS. I am learning how to live in a city, and the learning curve is steeper than I thought. I wonder if there will ever come a time when living here becomes “ho-hum,” and I get so used to it that it fails to impress.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey

June 29, 2017 1 comment

So today, Ana and I are enjoying the sea breeze in New Jersey on Long Beach Island. It’s very casual. Nice. A pretty good break from the city. And I guess that’s what this is about.

Living in the city is stressful. Philadelphia isn’t really that big, but it feels big. Lots of people. Sometimes you could drown in the crowd. Very noisy, polluted, congested. I love living there; there’s more to do and to see than there is back home.

Just now, a young man asked us for beach badges–$5 a day per person. Ana had to run back to the car because I only have $8 on me. That’s the thing about being from a state like Michigan–it’s so hands-off compared to New Jersey. It’s a weird kind of culture shock. I got gas here and learned well after I started to pump that it’s illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey.

Cue ranting about being able to take care of my own business. And I thought everything was legal in New Jersey.

The thing I hate about beaches is that sand gets everywhere. Don’t really need to expand on that. It’s just everywhere.

Ana and I are staying at an Airbnb in a town a few miles away called Stafford, run by a lovely couple out of their guest house.

I’m not getting in the water today; I hurt my hip somehow and I don’t think I would fare very well in the waves. But just sitting here on the beach is nice. Calming. The air is cool, the sun is forgiving, and the smell is evocative. Salt on the air is still such a novel experience for me and I revel in it.

I feel an urge to get into the water, but my hip is reminding me that I should take it easy. We’ll be leaving for Philadelphia soon. Back to the city. Back to the people.

I’ll miss the sea air.

Closing Time

February 2, 2017 1 comment

Closing time–or close enough. Quiet. Like it is deserted. A stark contrast to the bustle and sound of a million conversations just an hour before. The clink of Mah Jongg tiles, gone. The loud and rambunctious creative writing club packed up and promised to meet in a week.

I always feel awkward about this time. How long can I stay? I think the quiet is a cue for me to put my books and pens away, too. It’s strange how we respond to such things. The urge to leave grows. Are the employees looking at me?

Or is it me imagining it to give me further cause to uproot myself and move on? I’m not really ready to go. I’d like to see how long I can push it before the cashier throws me nasty looks. But I see another person engrossed in a book check their phone for the time and begin to stir. I finish off my cold Earl Grey and move to put some of my mess away. Pack my book in my Star Trek messenger bag. My journal.

How is it that there’s a pressure for me to act without any positive force for me to undertake the action? It makes me wonder how much of our behavior is based off of these kinds of implanted and often subconscious cues. Humans like to think that they have free will–but is it really “free?” What do we even mean by free?

I’ve always thought that there was no escaping the cause-and-effect nature of the universe, even in our own actions. It’s hard to pinpoint how, though. I know it’s easy to give inanimate objects agency, and I know how tempting substance dualism is. Then I notice a change in the music played overhead and it seems louder and more energetic than it has been.

Or maybe I’m only perceiving that.

Either way, I think closing time is approaching and I see fewer people than when I wrote the first sentence. I feel compelled to leave even though I do not need to.

Cause and effect, I suppose.

Categories: Life, Musings, Navel Gazing Tags: ,

A-to-Z Challenge Day Twenty-Five: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

April 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m at home cooking and cleaning and nursing back to health a visitor.

Busy, busy, busy. That’s all I have for today.

NaNoWriMo and other miscellany

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, my birthday came and went. I’m another year older as far as my physical body goes (my mind is still the young, chaotic thing it always was). I’ve come to realize that what I find most appealing about my birthdays is the camaraderie, which stands in stark contrast to what I liked as a child, which was presents and ice cream. It goes without saying that as much as I don’t want to really admit it, I have grown up.

I don’t know how other people feel when NaNoWriMo comes around, but I notice that the one thing that’s a pain in my ass is literally the pain in my ass. Sitting and writing and sitting and writing and taking a break by watching Stargate Atlantis and writing and more sitting.

But the end result is very satisfying.

The time for taking my Certified Nurse Aide test is coming up as well. I’m nervous about that because it feels like an extreme monolithic task. I really enjoyed the clinicals–it was a a vastly rewarding experience. The job is tough, and at times, extremely frustrating, but I like caring for people. Hopefully I’m still on track to get into a physician’s assistant program, but I’ve been a bit listless lately.

I can’t help but wonder if part of that isn’t because I’ve grown disenchanted with certain things lately. Politics, the news, certain branches of philosophy, the list goes on. Maybe it’s a natural consequence of critical thought and introspection. Maybe I feel restless and caged, and these old ideas are no longer appealing. What I can say is that I don’t find metaphysics too terribly interesting in anything outside of fiction, and only find epistemology a satisfying subject in the wide world of philosophy  (outside of science, that is).

I hope that I’ll be taking up blogging more regularly, but I’ve said that many times in the past. I’ll try to stick with it this time, though. I’m serious.

On Finding a Blogging Voice

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ll be honest: my first attempt at blogging was a complete, abject failure. It wasn’t because I didn’t update it regularly, or that I neglected it. The problem was that I didn’t assign a specific direction to the blog and just posted whatever happened to be on my mind. After a while, it looked like the random hodge-podge of topics that one might find in an old, battered Trivial Pursuit box. While it was fun and provided a way for me to hone my writing skills, it proved to be somewhat disastrous. After all, a meandering blog filled with an overabundance of topics can’t really keep a target audience.

So, you may be asking, what does this have to do with A Rushed Joke? Why should I care? Is there a place around here a guy can get a drink?

I can answer the last question fairly easily: Ashley’s in downtown Ann Arbor, on State Street.

The first two questions are a bit trickier. Simply, my posts here have been spread across a number of topics. Proper blogging protocol suggests that I should find one topic that really interests me and focus on that, and as time goes on, narrow that focus even further. Some very successful blogs stick to one area of expertise and only deviate rarely. However, some of my favorite blogs have covered a wide range of topics very well. It’s a tricky proposition.

The decision I’m facing now is this: should I narrow the focus of this blog, or write about a full range of topics which are listed and adhered to? I think that because of the many different paths my life has taken, and the number of things which I’m interested and learning about, the best option will be to allow myself latitude and cover a number of topics. If I manage to get a larger readership I may consider focusing the blog more as time goes on.

Therefore, this is a comprehensive list of the topics I shall be covering regularly:

  1. Science Fiction: Reviews, essays, themes, news, etc.
  2. Video Games: Reviews, essays, news, etc.
  3. Movies: Reviews, essays, news, etc.
  4. Books: Reviews, essays, news, etc.
  5. Writing: Contests, creative endeavors, etc.
  6. Comedy: Stand-up, improvisation, ideas, etc.
  7. Technology

Here is a list of topics which I shall cover less regularly:

  1. Television: reviews, essays (most likely covering only Doctor Who and other science fiction shows).
  2. Opera, musicals, and other such live entertainment.
  3. Politics and current events: Academic essays, critical analysis, scant election coverage.
  4. Updates on my own life and important events

On a more relevant note, I’ve never been too interested in specializing in one topic. The world is just too big and has so many interesting things. I’m not trying to win some sort of award for the “bestest blog evah! omglolz,” so perhaps I have more freedom to discuss a wider range of things.

Perhaps, as time goes on, I’ll make another ancillary blog to focus on one specific topic that I want to specialize in so it doesn’t get mixed with these musings. The internet is vast, so the only limitation I have is time.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy my blog. I don’t update it as often as I’d like, but I think that the content makes up for that.