Escape from Philadelphia

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As I stood in the cold, quiet PATCO subway station waiting for the delayed eastbound train bound for Camden, I stamped my numbed feet one long walk in the snow away from frostbite and remembered what I said earlier to Nuevo and Pickle about the plan this weekend:

“I’m going to make a memory.” Once I decided it was still on, I was going to find a way back to Princeton for my going away dinner, and I was going to make the getting there an event to remember.

We had spent the evening drinking in some old, large Irish pub. At least I think it was Irish, I’m pretty sure it was. The place looked very old, so old, in fact a city had been built up around it, its entrance now down some alley, next to a parking garage.

As I stood in the cold, quiet PATCO subway station waiting for the delayed eastbound train bound for Camden, I stamped my numbed feet one long walk in the snow away from frostbite and remembered what I said earlier to Nuevo and Pickle about the plan this weekend:

“I’m going to make a memory.” Once I decided it was still on, I was going to find a way back to Princeton for my going away dinner, and I was going to make the getting there an event to remember.

We had spent the evening drinking in some old, large Irish pub. At least I think it was Irish, I’m pretty sure it was. The place looked very old, so old, in fact a city had been built up around it, its entrance now down some alley, next to a parking garage.

The snow began somewhere around 7 p.m. Friday, around the time Nuevo and I left the .49 Miller High Life special at his local watering hole and returned to the apartment where Pickle was finishing the chicken pot pie and a bottle of Spanish red we bought at Wegman’s earlier.

When we left the apartment about two hours later, not only the Spanish, but the domestic, and even half of the bottle of Wegman’s answer to “Three Buck Chuck,” a $4 bottle by a vintner named “Crane Lake,” were resting in our bellies along with the chicken, veggies and cheese. What do you want to do, John, it’s your night? The answer was obvious.

Karaoke!

Karaoke ended up being only one song, as the place was packed with cold revelers, young and old, looking for a cheap drink and a warm seat.

Except one woman, an older black lady who was obviously a little crazy. She stood outside and kept saying, in barely intelligible gibberish, “help me! help me! I need help! I need help!” with her hands out. Give her a cigarette, and she kept quiet until it ran to the filter, then it was, “help me! help me! I need help! I need help!” Turn her toward the main road, perhaps to where a police officer might be able to take her to a shelter, and she would walk down a little bit until she saw someone new, and it was again, “help me! help me!” in her guttural drawl. Even guiding her inside wasn’t happening.

And the snow continued to fall. I hope she at least found shelter in the adjacent parking garage.

All predictions said we would get a lot of snow but it became clear that, upon waking up with a soaring headache sometime in the middle of the night and looking outside, getting back to Mercer County might be difficult. The balcony was buried in snow.

A few hours later I woke up. They were already awake for who knows how long. Both held themselves together well enough but neither seemed keen on trying to drive into Princeton, as had been the original plan. We spent the day watching television and recovering. A few texts came through wondering if anything was happening with dinner.

Finally, around 3 p.m., I made the final decision: the dinner was on, goddammit. Abes had had three events canceled or altered in 2009 because of weather, I wasn’t going to let it happen to my send-off just over a week before I was leaving the country.

After a 30 minute wait, the eastbound train bound for Camden pulled into the station. These trains look like they have been operating since the early 1970s, all beige and yellow. Out of time. The crooked sign on the wall had the names of all the routes in Philadelphia, very few, with the “Lindenwold” route lit up for tonight, a plastic overlay like what our teachers used to project onto the wall in school before everyone owned a laptop computer.

The train quickly took us into New Jersey, Camden, murder capital of the country, which besides the exception of a few loud, probably cold folks in the station waiting to get out of town, was still. One tall, ancient building rose in the distance, like a sign of better times long past. For now, it didn’t matter, everything was snow. And even though trains had been delayed, some canceled, people were late and tired, no one seemed all that upset. A few people even laughed as someone wiped some snow off the front of the train, others smoked, others took their socks and shoes off and hoped the train vents will dry them by the time they reached their destinations.

I transfered to the clean, brightly lit, modern River Line, which would get me to Trenton in about an hour, where I would transfer to Princeton Junction, where I would transfer to Princeton, where I would wait for SpE and Kudrat to pick me up, stamping my numbed feet one long walk in the snow away from frostbite, where we would head to Nassau Sushi, where 12 brave souls that made it out of their homes and into the winter world would dine on avocado rolls, homemade beer, bland kimchi, and comforting Korean casseroles.

The escape from Philadelphia was complete. And then, it was time to find my way back to Hamilton.

And for those counting down with me, we have one week to go before Busan.



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