Sunday, December 1, 2013

Your Friendly Fairy Eavesdropper travels to Philadelphia.

My Top 10 Observations and Lessons learned in Philly:

#10 - More people wear grey to Philadelphia's Museum of Art than to any other place in the world. There was a guy actually doing his morning workout, in all grey, running up and down the steps. I personally had my red coat on, channeling my English heritage, and was a bit disappointed in myself for not wearing my grey outfit that day. Amateur mistake, and I will be better prepared next time.

 Unfortunately, after piddling and toiling around the infamous steps, pretending to be Rocky, watching clips from the movie, yelling a bit into the wind, and taking in the view and scenes and sounds of all things at the top of the Rocky steps, I finally walked ALL THE WAY around to the west side entrance, only to discover the museum is closed on Mondays! WHAT?!?! I'm quite certain I googled that, but somewhere, somehow, that one fell through the cracks.

#9 - There are conspiracy theorists who tour on segways proclaiming that Sylvester Stallone did not really write Rocky. Their proof? The compilation of the  remainder of his produced work. "How can a man who wrote all of those, have truly written the little gem known as Rocky?.?. Impossible. I'm convinced he bought it from someone." And then they and their fanny packs took their pictures by the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED artwork in Philly, "Rocky", and zoomed on their segway way. I would have fairyeavesdropped on more of their tour, but those things are quite speedy.

#8 - According to my friend Philly's streets are laid out like the streets of Paris. When I first heard this, I had idyllic thoughts of magical city streets with glimmering lights, love, music, and Frenchmen awaiting to buy me cappuccinos and feed me cheese. But then, as I walked down the boulevards and sidewalks, all I learned was that because these streets are so jacked up, it just provided me with 7 different ways to get hit by 17 different cars coming from 9 different directions! WHAT?!?!

Which leads to the 2nd tidbit this friend shared with me, that Philly is the place where certain "colorful" words are used most. After I was led down yet another dead end path to a place blocked once more by some new street springing forth from some other roundabout and missing a crosswalk, I about yelled one of those colorful words...I may or may not have yelled one of its colorful cousins...the goodie two shoes cousin, but a colorful cousin nonetheless.

#7 - Newsmen like to photobomb "I am Rocky, hear me roar!" pictures taken atop the steps. Thankfully my very handsome, broken English speaking stranger who I nabbed to take my picture waited for the "strange man" to pass by, so my picture would be sans a photobomber. But these same newsmen who have "tipline" plastered on their TV vehicles are hesitant to receive tips of what I would deem a worthwhile nature. Which brings me to #6...

#6 - Philly is massively deficient in its Starbucks availability. When I travel, I must have spots I can walk in that contain something familiar. Starbucks is of course the dominant of all things familiar in my life. I can count on getting the same drink, that TASTES the same in whatever location I walk into. I can also chat and get some friendly travel advice from the baristas. It's quite helpful and safe for the lonely traveler. So, when the so called tip-line guy yelled how he had tried to photobomb my pic, I yelled back, "Hey, I see you are the tipline guy. I have a tip for you...Philly needs more Starbucks. It's 15 degrees out here, I've been up and out for nearly 3 hours and there's no Starbucks in sight."

"Starbucks?" he yelled. "There's one right down there by that Whole Foods."

Um, ya, that's 6 blocks, 14 roundabouts, and 87 possible "get hit by cars" moments away. You just proved my point Mr. Tipline.

Thankfully, that Starbucks was in the direction I was walking next.

#5 - Foundations that build museums are VERY pretentious and all "secret society" when it comes to their art. That same friend from before also told me about the Barnes Foundation art gallery. And since my friends are all cultured and artsy and high class and all, I always have to play along and enter at least one art museum when I travel, so I have some credibility left with them, and we can all pretend I am a mature adult. If they knew I mainly walk in for the gift shops, because museum gift shops are the VERY best, they'd be quite disappointed in me, but I keep that to myself.

I always buy my ticket, swing through Wing C and D, pop in on Mr. Art Guy's conversation about how Matisse's art really doesn't look like a 4 year old did it, and then mosey over and watch the take down of how "You and your children need to quiet down" and then the reaction of highly offended mom who says "MY CHILDREN ARE JUST TRYING TO COMPLETE THE MUSEUM SCAVENGER HUNT," I then call it a day, go through the gift shop, buy some "highly inappropriate" postcards, mail them to my friends and tell them I was inspired by the museum experience, and this post card proves it.

But, actually finding the museum is always the first task, and with the Barnes Foundation, it was proved to be a task. Mr. "I'm hanging the lights for our big holiday reveal on the boulevard" told me the Barnes Foundation was just up the way next to the Rodin Museum. I had seen the large sign for that and knew just where I was going.
Can you see the TINY writing on the building??

I proceed to cross and dodge and do all things "real life frogger" requires of you, make it to the correct sidewalk and go passed the Rodin, take my pic for my artsy friends, tell them I made note of it, knew Rodin was an artist, but kept on walking.

I came to the building next door, but it was just a rectangle with no signage, not really any windows, and screamed, "I'm a government building trying to camo myself on this block". I knew the guy had said the Barnes was next to Rodin, and this building was next to Rodin, so I walked to the left side, and nothing...but I did get a glimpse down a little alley way and saw the potential for being in the right spot, so I walked all the way to the right side, and AROUND to the BACK. I walked through a courtyard, back INTO the building to find a door. There, on the left of that door, was etched into the building in letters approximately 2 inches tall, "The Barnes Foundation".

I pull open the door to only read something in small print about having to buy tickets back at the ticket building.

 What ticket building?

A "colorful cousin" slipped at this point...but the tornado-ish, 15 degree winds covered it up I am certain.

I walked back around the building and saw a wall and another wall. There's no ticket building. But, then, I caught a glimpse between those walls, and I saw an "S".

I moved closer and around the wall, and there it was, a tiny little sign saying, "TICKETS".

Needless to say, I'm annoyed by this whole ordeal, so I walked in, and immediately said to the ticket guys, "Are you trying to NOT let people in this place?!?! There is no signage anywhere. Is this a secret art gallery?"

Their reply while laughing, "That's what the architect was trying to do...have this place be something you stumble upon...that you find your way in to."

WHAT?!?! Colorful cousin...

My dad is an architect, and I have to say, your architect was an idiot. (but I kept that to myself.)

"Well, ma'am (Don't call me ma'am) you have now found it and let me call up your reservation."

Reservation? Are you kidding me?!?! Is this a secret portal to Disney World where there are lines a mile long, because, let's be honest boys, I see no one around here.

"Ma'am, our galleries are small and we limit the number of people who can walk through at a time to a select group."

Like 10 people? ...I silently thought...

"Our next availability is 12:30."

As in 5 minutes from now?...that's called a ticket, not a reservation...but I kept that to myself as well.

I'll take one please!

"Only one?"

Just give me a dang ticket.

I paid my $22 and strolled through the courtyard and "happened" upon the door, feeling calm and peaceful and certainly not saying any colorful cousins or giggling at the absurdity of this place.

I walked in. Security checked the contents of my purse, looked at me funny due to its collection of gum wrappers, wadded up receipts, half-eaten Zone perfect bars, raisins and cashews sprinkled throughout due to an unfortunate spillage of enormous bag of trail mix during one of my Frogger leaps trying to get here, and a few hotel mini lotions.

Don't judge me Mr. Security.

He told me that no coats were allowed in the galleries, so I needed to proceed to the coat check on the floor below.

Excuse me?

"Ma'am, (don't call me ma'am) each gallery is small and we don't like the viewers to bump into each other."

What?.?. I stared at him blankly.

Down those stairs ma'am. (Don't call me ma'am.)

As I turned to head to coat check, it became quite clear I was out of my league. Everything screamed, "we are in from the Hamptons and this scarf I'm wearing cost more than your college education."

I checked my $59 wool coat from Dillard's, and it hung next to the furs and Burberry, and out of protest, I told Mr. Coatchecker he could keep my hat, my scarf and my one glove from WalMart too. (I had lost my other one)

Certainly ma'am. (Don't call me ma'am)

I gracefully walked upstairs to the galleries, feeling out of place and unworthy. I tried to keep my hands from fidgeting, I tried to recall some large vocabulary words Cade has used saying "That's an SAT word mom." but I couldn't. My mind was blank. I'm pretty sure I spit when I said "yes, yes I would like headphones for the tour." My hands were so fidgety I nearly dropped the fancy audible tour ipod contraption.

I carefully "remained behind the black line" in every gallery. I tried to not bump into any other art connoisseur since that's why I had to check my coat in the first place. I didn't want to seem like I still had too much padding on that caused me to overstep my space allowance.

I admired the many Renoirs, Picassos, and Monets. I even found the gallery with the African and Asian billion dollar tchotchkes quite kitschy.

I was very respectful as I walked through the gallery that I knew should have been titled, "This is what my 6 year old did in art class but was signed Matisse."  ;) I shook my head, quietly saying, "Uh, huh." stood and stared, tilted my head and admired. I listened to my headphones and saw many paintings I recognized, and I tried my best to appreciate what billions of dollars of artwork looks like contained in an unmarked building, where you must walk through sans coat and not have a camera or cell phone on said persons unless you want Mr. Security guy to confiscate it.

It was quite remarkable. It was very impressive and worth the visit. In actuality, I highly recommend it. I purchased my postcards, grabbed my coat, hat, scarf and glove, and headed back onto the streets and grabbed my long awaited Starbucks.

#5 - Incredible events took place Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, namely Gettysburg. Besides the fictional character of Rocky running through its streets and fighting in its arena, great men with great vision and purpose gathered in these streets and halls and argued, debated, and persuaded one another to sign two history changing documents: The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. To walk down cobble stone streets and under archways and into rooms that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Adams, Hancock, and Franklin stood is always remarkable. There's something about being there, listening to the stories one more time, and touching the wood and hearing the creaks of the floor boards that makes history come to life. I love picturing them standing there, listening to the piercing silence on the battlefields, reflecting on what I enjoy today, due to the sacrifice and fight they put forth. All of these places are worth driving to, walking through, and attempting to soak in the history of our country.

#4 - Traveling, even when kicked off by an anxiety attack, is always worth it. The landscape, the
people, the sights, sounds, air and skies does something remarkable to my heart, my soul, and my mind. It awakens pieces inside of me that get stuffed down and covered up by Hallmark Christmas movies and grading papers. And traveling alone, though lonely, takes me to the edge of my box, my comfort zone, and that's when growth occurs, epiphanies take place, and an adjustments on perspective and dreams are made.

#3 - I have people, and because of modern technology, my people go with me. The holidays make me miss my mom terribly. I miss her so much it hurts. And traveling alone always brings her to mind, so mixing those two this past week was hard. I'm thankful I did it, but it was difficult. BUT, in God's goodness and mercy, He reminded me that I have people. I can text my people, and they respond. They ask and walk and see with me. They laugh and pray and remind me that though I am far, and though I seem to be alone, I really am not. They care about me, my life, my adventures, just as I care about theirs. It's always a beautiful reminder, and another reason to be grateful for modern technology. Where I am, they can be too.

#2 - God is good and personal and with you in the big, and, even sweeter, He's with you in the small.
So often I feel like my problems are petty, pitiful and small. I think I whine more than pray. I wonder more than trust. I forget more than I remember.
But, somehow, someway, God weaves in and through all of that. And as I continue to whine, wonder, and forget, He walks with me, and nudges me to listen, urges me to be patient and keep walking, and then reminds me He is faithful by being faithful yet one more time in some extraordinary way in my seemingly simple and small life.

#1 - I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to travel! After hearing about my panic attack, someone said, "I can't believe you still travel amidst that." Which, I completely understand that sentiment and often wonder myself and get fearful of it if I dwell on it for too long. But, I am determined to not let that fear steal something that brings such adventure, joy, challenge, meaning, education, and purpose to my life. If I stop traveling, then it wins...the fear wins and takes something from me. I just have to tell myself, Look, I'm going again. Fear can make this difficult, but we're going to face it again. We're going to plan again, book another, and board that plane once more and find us the adventure that awaits on the flip side.

May we all look fear in the face this week, brave our way through it, and most importantly, listen to God's voice, be patient, keep walking, and KNOW that He is faithful.

In Him,