April 30, 2011

PIFA Street Fair 2011

This month has been the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, or PIFA for short.  It started April 7, but somehow I missed everything but the Street Fair.  I honestly thought the Street Fair would be awesome, and indeed, the individual aspects were pretty cool.  However, there are a good 100,000 or so more people crammed into that area than was good for me, and so I mostly felt a full-blown panic attack coming on the whole time.  We didn't stay long, and I'm glad for it, but I am happy we managed to see what we did.

Visit the actual blog, or get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

April 29, 2011

Attending a Royal Wedding

I am not one to care about things like royal weddings.  However, I am one for silly parties that allow me to dress up either in costume or fancy dresses.  Thankfully, I have a friend here in Philly that is down with that, and she agreed to participate in my "Royal Wedding Tea Party" party.  And no, we did not get up before dawn to watch this thing.  I have DVR silly.

We made Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar, as it seemed the most English thing to drink.  We don't really know.  We had lemon bars, for "tea and cake."  We had cakes from a small local bakery.  We had champagne.  We had dresses.  We had the ability to fast forward through the lamest parts.  We had everything except fascinators.  The commentators even seemed to answer every question we blurted out to the TV.

Visit the blog, or get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

April 28, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And Tornadoes.

Yes, it's a movie.  It's also what it took to get me home from a visit to KY.  That and 24 hours.  Let me tell you about my adventures traveling through that massive storm.  (TL:DR version: it was a mess, but I made it after a crap ton of delays, 6 trains, and 24 hours.)

I got into KY on Tuesday, April 19th.  That night my mom got me up because the tornado sirens were going off and we were on the second floor of her house.  Tornado sirens pretty much sums up my visit.  Seriously.  It stormed every day that I was there, which I honestly enjoyed.  The problem came when I had to get home Wednesday.

Before I had even gotten to the airport, my first flight had been delayed long enough to make me miss the second one.  A quick call to customer service had me rebooked from the 7:35pm out of Atlanta to the 9:52pm.  It was going to get me home late enough that DS wasn't sure he could stay up to retrieve me, but that was a minor concern.  During the online check-in process, it asked for volunteers to be bumped, and I gladly signed up thinking, "hey, free voucher and getting to travel during not storms. score."

Having never signed up for this volunteer process before, I kept thinking I would be getting a call letting me know I wasn't flying, and there was no need to come to the airport today, kthx.  That didn't happen of course.  Since I knew the flight was delayed, Mom was actually able to take me to the airport, which was nice.  Not long after I was in the terminal, the flight was delayed again.  And then again.

A flight that was originally supposed to have me in Atlanta by 7pm ended up being a little after 8.  All in all not too bad.  My original second flight had been delayed as well by this point, and I ran to the gate in the hopes I would get lucky.  Ha!  That flight was overbooked because of all the previous cancellations and delays.  I didn't even try talking to the people at the counter.  They were completely surrounded by people losing their minds.  At this point I have a confirmed ticket for the next Philly flight, but no seat.  The counter people at that gate are also tired from dealing with crazies all day.  I got "the look" and was asked to come back after all the other flights leaving from my gate that weren't mine were gone.  Also, that flight was now delayed until 11:08.  Checking the airport-wide departure screens, I see that there are only 10 flights in the entire airport that are on time.

Now my phone battery is on its last leg and I'm starving, so I went in search of food and power.  Guess how much a phone charger in the airport costs.  Go on, guess!  Okay I'll tell you.  $24.99 plus tax.  That was a no sale, and a strong lesson in not putting my charger in my checked luggage.  After eating, the gate is in chaos.  Flights are being moved around from gate to gate with no really communication or warning.  The gate attendants have no idea they're even supposed to be boarding a flight to New Orleans, but all the New Orleans people are there expecting seats on standby.   Meanwhile they ask for volunteers to sit out the flight to Philly again, and again I think, "whoo! full night's sleep!" and quickly get in line.  They get through the first person in line, who gets a voucher and a free hotel, and just as they're finishing her our flight is moved to another gate.  That attendant kindly put me on the volunteer list but didn't do any of the actual work and sent me to the next gate.

There, I go to check in with the attendant and either get an actual seat or a hotel.  He says they're not even bumping people from the flight but thanks anyway kthx bai...  So I sit and wait while the flight is delayed, and delayed, and delayed.  There are torrential rains falling outside and lightning every couple of seconds.  It's announced our plane couldn't land and was diverted.  The flight might not leave until 2am.  Oh no wait, it's canceled.

So now there's a massive herd of people literally running to the concourse help center for rebookings.  By the time I get there, there must have been 1000 people at least.  We are being urged to go to the main ticketing counter outside of security, but a fair number of us decide to take our chances waiting in the terminal since we're imaging the throngs of people out there.  Then the person working the counter announces he's leaving in 5 minutes and we stood in line for nothing.  By this point I've attached myself to group of people that were all going to Philly, and we make our way down to the ticketing counter.  Where we get behind a line with thousands of people.  And then thousands more get in line behind us.  And then we stood there for 3 hours.

All the "free hotel" vouchers were gone by then.  If I wanted to take several flights, I was told I could be in Philly by 10pm Thursday, but at this point I know that it's going to be storming all day in Philly.  The idea of leaving late and getting delayed and delayed again and spending another night in the airport was appalling, so I asked them for the earliest flight that got me anywhere near Philly.  I figured I'd rather be 60 miles from home and at the least retrievable by DS after he got off work than stranded in another airport somewhere.  They give me the 7:37am to Newark, NJ, and I'm sent off with a thin blanket and a toiletry kit which thankfully contained a toothbrush and some deodorant.

After going through security again, I zombie walked through the airport to my new gate, taking the long way since the trains between concourses don't run at night, only to see once I was there it had already been moved.  I zombie walked to the new gate, tried to sleep but couldn't because the seats in this terminal have arm rests and you can't lay down.  Not to mention my phone is in the red and can't be relied on to be an alarm.  The chances of me waking up in 4 hours don't seem good, so I sort of close my eyes and zone out for an hour.  And then the gate changed again, so I walked down another 5 concourses.

By this point, it's 4:30am.  I find a Starbucks that's open and get a coffee and a muffin.  Find I can't really eat, I'm just exhausted and need sleep.  The people I'd been with in line downstairs all show up for the same flight, and we talked until boarding.   I find out the first flight into Philly that morning is already canceled, and I feel so happy to being leaving for Newark on time.  I was asleep before the plane even left the ground, so I did managed to get an hour or so of sleep in there.

Once in NJ, I re-attach myself to 4 of the people from earlier, and we debate the different ways to get home.  There was Amtrak, NJ Transit, rental cars, or going across the water into NYC to catch a bus.  After talking to all of the car rental places, we decide the train is the easiest, and NJ Transit is cheapest.  There's an airport train to the real train.  That ends at Trenton and we switch to SEPTA which serves PA.  We roll into the 30th St Station around 2pm having not really eaten since 8pm the night before.  We all inhale some quickly bought food before catching another train to the airport to pick our up luggage which was never rerouted.  Not that I minded traveling those trains without a massive suitcase, but it was that much longer before getting home.

Somehow we managed to find our luggage within a minute of walking into the airport, and so I was able to catch the outbound train that left 9 min after dropping us off.  I said goodbye to my traveling companions and headed back to 30th St Station to meet DS because I didn't have my house key with me.  Then I take the subway to the stop near my house and push my suitcase the 2+ big city blocks home where I immediately showered.  It was a little after 4pm, which was almost exactly 24 hours after leaving my mom's house.  I attempted to stay awake until bedtime so as not to through off my sleeping schedule (which has been relatively normal recently, somehow), but I was actually doing the bobbing head thing sitting on the couch and gave up.  DS said I didn't even budge when he came home and brought Winston in to see me.

As awful as it was to stay in Atlanta overnight, standing or walking for most of it, I have to admit that wasn't entirely unpleasant overall.  I want to thank the flight attendant waiting for her next flight that let me use her phone charger until my canceled flight caused me to leave her.  Little Brad and his mother for entertaining me during both the 3 hour line wait and final boarding wait at the last gate.  And especially Angie, Denise and their husbands to let me tag along during the baggage hunt and travel from NJ to PA. They made what would probably have been a stressful and intimidating part of the journey no big deal, and at times even hilarious.  Also, there were massive tornadoes being made in this storm, so all things considered, a night in the Atlanta airport was way better than being yanked out of the sky or something.  I am home, alive, and none of my luggage is missing.  In fact, I have a new travel kit.

Important lessons:  keep your phone charger on you, and perhaps some emergency amenities (there were people who had no access to medications they needed); stay calm and chill.  That last one is key.  There were so many people telling horror stories, but they were freaking out and making demands.  Every single person I encountered at the airport and over the phone was completely helpful and nice to me.  They want you out of their airport as much as you want to be out of their airport, and blowing your top isn't going to endear them to you.  I saw desk attendants all night long that I had talked to not long after landing and they had mentioned they'd been working all day.  Their day wasn't much better than mine.  Probably worse really, because they had angry people yelling at them throughout.

April 07, 2011

Exciting things for Spring

Here are some things I'm currently very excited about:

  • I bought my first strawberry plant
  • I found an array of flowers that tolerate partial sun, so they might actually thrive on my balcony
  • I have basil, lavender, and oregano growing right now
  • I'm in the process of sprouting spinach and cilantro
  • I have screens for all my windows and the balcony door, so no flies this summer!
  • Joined my first CSA!  (Just awaiting some sort of confirmation that they haven't already sold out; nervous)
  • Seeing Halladay pitch in person tonight with Bri
  • Trees are blooming all over the city
  • Found a Wegman's within easy driving distance of my house and it's great
  • I was able to wear my Vibram's without my toes freezing yesterday on the concrete
  • Nell and Brian are visiting this weekend
  • Lots of fun trips planned in the very near future
  • The weather is finally shifting to full on Spring, and not "sometimes I really want to be Winter still!!!"
There are a few things that aren't exciting, like how Spring makes my allergies turn from a slight annoyance to nearly incapacitating.  But just look at this list of awesomeness!  I'm so excited to have growing space again, even if none of it is south facing.

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, look for back posts in the near future.  At some point I plan to catch up with all these photos I have sitting on my computer...