Swim in the City

I made a trip to Center City Philadelphia on August 9 – my husband was going to a meeting and I took the opportunity for a chauffeured ride in.

I worked in the city for quite some time, but those days are in the distant past – 25 years ago I left office work. Still, those days at work here were some of the most important of my life. The memories are vivid and the streets of the city are full of places I have known for a long time.

I’ll give you a little tour of something new and old, all at once. Let’s start at 18th and Market, where my husband’s office was until his fall in December, 2016, and where he was going to his meeting today.

I started walking east toward City Hall along Market Street. City Hall is set in the very middle of the original plan of Philadelphia. Its location was originally the center square of five (the other five are still open space).

In the 1870’s construction began on City Hall and it took about 30 years to finish the building. It is monumental, to say the least, and a really interesting place. Courts and other functions are now handled in other more modern buildings around the square, but it is still full of offices, including the mayor’s.

In the early 80’s I used to cut through the building on the way to my office in the winter, coming from the train. That way I got to walk about a block in the nice overheated halls before I went back outside for the quick sprint to my office.

Anyway, I went east. Took a little detour through the Penn Center complex, but always there is City Hall in view.

But…things have changed here, too, at least outside the building. What used to be a grim granite plaza of varying levels, punctuated by non-fountaining fountains, desperate trees, and a lot of trash, is now a welcoming space. I’d been here last fall for the holiday events:

But I had no idea that in the summer – the plaza is a splash park! Fantastic!

There were tourists, locals, adults, kids…and one park policeman on lifeguard duty. I wondered if he wished he could take his shoes off and stand in the cool water.

There were “paths” through the jets to drain the water – I walked through the site for a while. This version of Dilworth Plaza, as it is known, is much better than the one I remembered from those years back.

OK, I’ll stop now. More later on.

City Life and Some Thoughts

I went into Philadelphia on August 9. My husband had to go to a meeting and so I hopped aboard the opportunity. I thought I’d take a walk through some old haunts.

I don’t go into the city much now, but I worked there for over a decade in the 80’s and 90’s, and my job required me to go all over the town, in the car and on foot. But the Center City and historical district areas were where my offices were – I never changed employers but I worked in a lot of different locations.

I started to work in Philadelphia as a newbie full-time grown-up in 1980. I wasn’t born here but this is where I have spent my life. So you can imagine that many scenes have layers of memory for me. I could go on and on and in such fascinating detail! But I’ll just do a few sights here, and maybe I’ll have some more to tell you about later on.

Today, I think I’ll show you common sights on the streets.

First up, people. People are always walking around everywhere.

I encountered a guy on a street corner shouting out a non-stop stream of words. City life has taught me not to let on that I am paying any attention, even when I am.

In my experience, people talking to themselves on the street fall into a couple of categories: they are preaching or speech-making, religious or political, to passersby; or they are in their own interior worlds and speaking to the people there. I realized on this trip that I needed to add a category: people who were talking on their Bluetooths.

I saw some of each classification during this day.

There are lots of places to get something to eat if you are hungry. I’ve had my share of meals from the food carts on the street.

You might need a magazine, bag of candy, lottery ticket…so you stop at a newsstand.

I saw groups of motorcycles all huddled together and I didn’t know what they were doing. Just parked on the street like that! I caught on quick after I passed a couple of similar locations. There are designated motorcycle mini-mini-parking-lots now. Like this one.

I also remarked to myself about how many more bicycles there are. Bikes are parked all over and there are plenty of official bike racks (as opposed to chaining your bike to a convenient tree). And I wasn’t counting the bike-share locations. I will tell you, in 1980, no one rode a bike to work.

Pipes still grow right out of the sidewalk; that hasn’t changed. I liked this group. It looked to me as if the big ones were protecting the little one.

I watched this bus unload itself. It stopped right on Market Street at about 8th; the people poured out, the suitcases were wrangled out of the hold by the driver, riders were waving papers and asking questions, lots of people on their phones, and people going further on the journey sitting in the bus in comfort, looked like to me (I sidled up and peered in a window as if I were looking for someone…no one paid any attention to me).

I didn’t know Megabus stopped in Center City; I’ve seen their buses at the train station, though, wheeling around the building in a flashy kind of way. Now, I made some bus trips in my teenage years; for instance, I remember very well being let out at a gas station in rural Indiana to be met by the people I was visiting, suitcase pulled out of the bus’s stomach by the driver, who kidded me about how heavy it was. Take away the double-decker shiny blue, the phones, the city location, and this scene felt familiar.

All right. That’s enough for now, I think.

Return to Competition

My husband and I started running in 2008, I think, as part of our weight loss/get fit idea (in which we lost a combined 200 pounds or so). It was his idea, but we both took to it right away, and that led to trying out the racing world.

Mostly we did 5K’s, although we did some 10K’s, the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia (twice) and a half-marathon (once). I found I was pretty good at running and I consistently won awards in my age group (50-59, me being at the time at the low end of the numbers).

Then, starting in 2012, things happened, and you have probably read about them if you have followed this blog: a fall, injuries to various body parts including my hand, an antibiotic resistant infection, two hand surgeries, four eye surgeries, hearing loss, a broken foot, complications from antibiotics, and so on. Each time, I would recover enough to start back to training but each time a new problem would arise, stopping me.

Nonetheless, I kept running, though not racing, until this last winter. When my husband had his fall at Christmas, 2016, that pretty much scrambled even getting to the gym; the final blow was a month-long giant bad cold in April, 2017.

Well, the point of all of this story is to say that my motto is never give up. I am one stubborn person. Once I got well in May, I decided to make returning to running a priority. But I needed to be realistic.

I am older now, I have some deficits from my various experiences, and I no longer have the motivation to run 6-8 miles a day, never mind if it would even be good for my bones and joints and… But, I think I’ve got some good races still in me; I just have to pick out my goals.

So, I worked out a week-by-week running plan based on walking/running. Started out with 2 minutes walking and 2 minutes running for about 2.5 miles. I am now up to 1 walking/9 running for 4 miles. I plan to keep that rest interval and get myself to 5 miles; then I will work out where I want to go next with it.

So far so good. I focus on persevering and not so much on speed (though I can’t help it, just a little). I want to stay injury-free and enjoy myself. But – I do like competition. That brings me to the subject of this post.


About seven or so years ago, we participated in a July 4 5K held at Norristown Farm Park (look here  and here for other events, such as orienteering, I’ve recently done in this park and its locality). I’ll tell you right now I won an award and did the course in 25 minutes something. And the course is a hard one – hilly, exposed to the sun, requiring endurance and speed.

This photo is from the Senior Games at Norristown Farm Park, not this race, but you get the idea.

Well, I got to thinking about that race last week, and I said, let’s look it up and see…Now, I had no business trying a 5K, not having run 3.1 miles straight in four years or so. So…

 

We arrived at the race site a little before 8 AM today, July 4. I had some stage fright about the whole thing. My husband is not able to run yet, so he took all the pictures.

I picked up my number, my swag bag, and my race T-shirt (I so love a 5K t-shirt!). Here are some attempts at an official race portrait.

Let’s try an action shot.

Remember that cheerful expression and compare it to the actual race photos later on. All right. The race starts at the entrance of Norristown High School, crosses into the park, makes a big square, and finishes right in front of the school. My first goal was to run the whole way, no walking.

And, I was hoping to do 33-35 minutes and I felt it would take every bit of pacing I had in me to make it work. I lined up at the back of the crowd (the first place finishers do about 16 minutes, for some perspective, so I needed to hang back, oh, yes).

The weather was about 75 degrees at 8:30 AM and very humid. Another reason to pace myself.

OK, we started the race to the sound of a police car siren. I’m the lady with the orange arrow chasing her.

No pictures from inside the race. I needed all my strength to run! We started off bunched up and then I got some space around me. My past experience told me that quite a few people would start off fast and fade, and that is what happened here. I was able to pass people all through the first part of the race, a little at a time. That’s how I used to run these things, I thought, feeling pretty good.

Everything held together until about the 2.5 mile mark. Then I started to feel it. In the past I had had the resources to speed up at the end. Today, I was measuring out the last little bits of energy. I crossed out of the park and across the street into the high school’s entrance. Only a few hundred yards to go, shouted the policeman holding back traffic for me.

Now I reappear on the radar. The orange arrow is back to highlight me.

I make it up that last hill and around the curve. The orange cones are what I am looking for.

It seems to me that inspirational music ought to be playing as I come to the finish, with crowd shots of cheering people, maybe with tears in their eyes. But then, it would not be real; it would be a television movie. I would not be running along and feeling very bad about now.

In real life, I heard my husband cheering for me; that was plenty good enough. I keep going and I get to the orange cones.

I keep going. By the way, I am wearing a brand-new pair of running shoes and they did themselves proud.

I’m going to finish this race, it looks like.

Well, a few years back I would not have believed I could run so slowly. Or be so happy about it! I was right. I needed a lot more training. I was not ready for this race. I had no business doing it. And, I’m really happy that I didn’t listen to any of that nonsense, because look! I did it!

I said okay.

When you work for a bank, and you are presenting a loan to your boss for approval, stop talking when the pen goes to the paper and scrawls out a signature. Just stop. There is no need to say a word more.

twenty years

As they say, a lot can happen in twenty years.

the insubstantial

It is what holds the pieces of your life together.

My Secret Ambition

Time passes. And sometimes little dreams get lost in the shuffle of everyday living. For me, I’m going to reveal something I’ve felt for the last 50 years: I wish I had better handwriting.

Yes. That’s it. My secret ambition is to have nice handwriting.

I’ve always struggled with neatness, uniformity, and envy (of others’ ability to write a nice-looking set of words). In the 3rd grade (approximately 1967) I worked hard to learn cursive writing and ended up with C’s. This mark got me into trouble at home, and it bothered me, because I was working as hard as I could.

Well, decades passed and my handwriting has now come to look like this:

Notes I took about my husband’s care in preparation for his surgery after his accident, January, 2017.

Many times I have written out a check, scribbled a note, filled out a form – and thought how scrawly and awkward my words looked. I also had trouble writing something others could reliably read.

Not only did I want to write a nicer hand in everyday life – I also wanted to be able to handwrite the text for artist books I make and to put handwritten words into other artwork I do. Right now I type out words and glue them in, each time feeling it’s a second-best solution.

It hit me that I could do something about it. Plenty of people want better handwriting, I thought, and maybe the internet could help me out. After some research, I settled on the Getty-Dubay method, the brainchild of two teachers. I bought their book, Write Now. I printed out paper with the correct line spacing. I got a fountain pen to reward myself for taking on this challenge and to use when I had nicer letters for it to write.

I now can write, in printing, the lower-case letters.

I have just started. And I am quite excited. You know, this dream is not a big one, but a small one can be powerful nevertheless. I love the idea of being a person with nice handwriting.

I will keep you up to date!

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter Seven

My husband’s leg continues to improve. On Sunday, February 19, we went to a local park, Cisco Park, in Erdenheim, PA, to get in a little bit of a walk.

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Cisco Park is a modest little place that punches above its weight, as far as all the things to do there. It has a half-mile figure eight paved trail; tot lot; ball fields; picnic tables; a little dam; a creek; and a pond.

A pond that was full of geese on this sunny day. The scene reminded me of a marina full of boats at rest. Never mind what that sign says.

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This plot of land has an interesting history. I read up on it courtesy of the marker near the parking lot. Apparently it was a small amusement park about 100 years ago, another one of those built in the Philadelphia suburbs, accessible by streetcar, to attract business for the streetcar company. The roads, Hillcrest, Montgomery, Paper Mill, and Bethlehem Pike, are in the same positions today, but the tracks are long gone.

You can clearly see that this pond has been around for a while, because there it is on the map! As a personal note, my husband grew up near here and it was a popular ice skating destination back then (before the sign…)

The marker said that the building marked “Casino” was not a gambling establishment but rather a place for music shows and dancing.

Well, my husband walked a half mile, and I did about three (warming up for a marathon session of yard work later that day, something the nice weather made it a pleasure to do). The park was very busy – kids in the playground, dog walkers, people watching the geese, and walkers like us, getting out on a really nice day.
Hurt Leg Chapters from the past:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Day AfterThanksgiving – Part 1

Today, Friday, November 25, is Black Friday. Lots of people think about shopping. Me, I don’t. I don’t like shopping and so a special day for it doesn’t excite me. But, being the day after Thanksgiving, my husband took the day off, and so we decided to get out into the world, avoid shopping, and do something for fun.

We decided to take a trip into Center City Philadelphia. I had a few sights in mind to check out. I’ll take you along with me in the next couple of posts – I took a lot of pictures.

I worked for many years in the section of the city where we were going. I have 35+ years of memories everywhere I go around here. Things have changed a lot in that time. I marvel at the new buildings and I celebrate each renovation or repair to old familiar ones. But the city always feels the same to me – as I walk down the sidewalks I am the same person who came here in 1980 and has never left, and never wants to.

Starting off, we parked the car in a garage, ate a quick lunch, and walked down Chestnut Street going east. This street now is a major shopping street, revived after a decline of decades. Plenty of people with shopping bags and lots and lots of tourists. You wonder how I can tell who is from out of town, and I answer: I just can. And then I laugh and I tell you the secret – it’s in how they approach crossing a street. If you are from around here, you barge out. If not, well, you are more cautious about stepping off the curb, and your hesitation reveals you…

Buildings along this street are a mix of old and new.

I like to look at store windows. What they do to make them intriguing. And then, I enjoy looking past the display into the stores themselves. First, some glamor.

Now, people at work. In this shoe store, the man was buffing up pairs of expensive

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You also have to look up sometimes if you want to catch what is going on. Here is what I saw when I stopped to pay attention to this hair salon located on the second floor. Street life goes on while upstairs, the stylist concentrates while the client sits in the chair, ready to be transformed.

I passed this sign on the street for a needlework shop. The store is on the second floor and so it needs a street-level presence. To get to this shop you have to follow the instructions on the sign. I might have walked by the sign, not being interested in needlework, but – I visited this shop with my friend Diane several years ago. What a warm colorful place it was, I remember.

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I noticed the tile details around the windows and doors of a store. It’s not usual to see this kind of decoration. Our climate is hard on tilework. You can see the effects of seasonal changes on this sample.

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A lot of people ride bikes through town. There are bike parking stands everywhere. And I’m not counting the bikes for hire that are available – these are bikes that belong to a particular person who’s elsewhere at the moment, while the bike waits.

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Well, that’s it for today. I’ll tell you more next time.

Oranges and Tangerines

Yesterday, November 20, my husband and I were in Allentown, PA, to go to an art event, and we had a little extra time, so we thought we’d drive around a bit.

We chose an industrial area of town.

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This section is a mix of factory buildings, some in use, some in the redevelopment zone, some waiting for whatever the future brings, and some doing business even on a Sunday (like the tire dealer – we watched a car with a flat tire drive on the rim, very slowly, and into oncoming traffic, to get into their parking lot. Don’t say the tire business has no drama).

We saw this little building perched at the corner of a vacant area near the old railroad tracks. Intrigued by the signs, we stopped to look.

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Here’s a closer look at the signs.

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It was a bit of a puzzle to us, this former business. Oranges, tangerines, and temples (a hybrid of tangerine and orange, I later learned), not to mention pecans – these are not local to us in Pennsylvania. So this place specialized in something – special! Why the business existed, why here? I don’t know. We went a little closer.

It’s a solid little building, isn’t it? Look at this sign – mentioning November 15. Not this year, I see, and maybe not any year recently, but at some time, winter was brightened up by the availability here of exotic fruit and nuts from down south. I am old enough to remember when a box of oranges or pecans at Christmas was something special, and they were popular gifts to have shipped from sunny Florida.

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Interesting little spot, wasn’t this?

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