Here follows the written account it took me the better part of the flight back from PA to write. Lots of pictures are on the way.
I arrived at Philadelphia Airport from Kansas City on a very uncomfortable flight (I'll never volunteer for a rear aisle seat again.) about an hour behind US Airways' purported schedule. Geoff, it turned out, had met a bit more harsh of a traffic menace, traversing New York and New Jersey by rental car, than he had expected. So, we were both just as late as each other in arriving at Philly, so no one was any worse for the wear, except Geoff, having just dealt with 145 miles of hell that is commonly known as the New Jersey Turnpike.
It was a beautiful day in eastern Pennsylvania, with abundant sunlight and temperatures in the eighties. Geoff delegated the bulk of the driving duties to me, having just legitimized my driving status in the eyes of the state of Missouri. The abundant sunlight had retreated back toward Kansas City by the time my plane rolled lazily into the busy airport, and our view, driving through the undulating forests of Pennsylvania was mostly that of the edges of trees stripped of their nighttime disguise by our headlights.
Our hotel in Harrisburg was predictably situated in a completely nondescript suburb, complete with Outback Steakhouse and Walmart. We settled into our less-than luxurious hotel rooms, and slept for the first day of training.
I won't go into the training we received, because for one, I could probably get into trouble for posting the information on the web, and secondly, I have little to no recollection of it, as it was irretrievably boring, and had almost nothing to do with my job. Nevertheless, I'm glad I went, because it was an excellent chance to get to meet some of the people with whom I will be working in my new job. It was a good chance to match up some faces with some email addresses.
Following the first day of training, Geoff and I went downtown, as we had made it a point before traveling that we would make sure to get a feel for Harrisburg. We left for downtown, and promptly got lost, enmeshed in the massive construction going on in the area. Eventually, we found ourselves on Enola Drive, which follows the opposite bank of the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, proceeded southeast, and were initially very surprised by the scale of Harrisburg's downtown, when we drew close.
Pennsylvania's capital city has only about 50,000 people, spread over about fifteen square miles. About twenty-five years ago, it was dubbed, "America's most Distressed City," because of its floundering economy, high crime rate, unemployment rate, and number of people leaving town for greener pastures in the suburbs. Enter Stephen Reed, who, once elected, employed a radical, almost unprecedented bit of government, in an attempt to turn the city around. He championed a tax on the value of the land in the city, in lieu of taxing property owners for the value of the property they own. The result, twenty-five years later, is the city that sits on the northeast bank of the Susquehanna today.
The city today is astounding, for a city of its size. Downtown encompasses an area of about 25 square blocks, and contains almost no vacant properties. Traffic is horrible, and the cost of parking is astronomical. Along Market Street, near the corners of Second through Sixth Streets, is bustling, busy, and full of people walking from bar to bar, sitting at cafes, jogging, and shopping. The buildings are pretty, as is the decor of the streets. Geoff and I managed to find a dive bar, just off the picturesque green in the middle of downtown, and took a look at the tap selection. When we saw, we knew we were definitely not in the midwest. Their selection was Coors Light, Guinness, Appalachian Water Gap Wheat, Troeg's Amber, and Yuengling Lager. There was nothing from Anheuser-Busch or Miller available on tap. I really wish that high-quality beer was as popoular in the Midwest as it is in the East.
Anyway, we returned to downtown on Tuesday night, and a ballgame, in which the lamentable Harrisburg Senators fell embarrassingly to Akron. For a double-A ballpark, PNC Park was very nice. It's located on City Island, in the middle of the Susquehanna, connected to downtown with an auto bridge, and with a disused rail bridge, converted to a pedestrian bridge. There were roughly fifteen different types of beer available on tap at the ballpark, about five of which I had heard of. We adjourned to an Irish pub in downtown for beer and scotch. From the next morning on, getting up in time to get to training became progressively more difficult.
After Wednesday's training, Geoff and I drove down to nearby Gettysburg to see the battlefield. It's a sobering experience, when you think of what scale the battle was, combined with the circumstances under which it was fought. I was absolutely shocked, however, to see a complete absence of memorials to any of the Confederate forces who fought and died there. It left a very bad taste in my mouth, as if even today, the South is viewed by people in the North as a contained enemy, unworthy of our tears, recognition, or even our notice. Nevertheless, I would recommend a trip to Gettysburg to anyone who ever visits the area.
On Thursday night, Geoff and I drove downtown in the rain, to pay a visit to the Appalachian Brewing Company. We stayed there until about midnight, and had an excellent time. The beer was delicious, and I got a chance to ask a couple of Harrisburg natives about the condition of their city. The bartender stamped his foot, and said that the success of Harrisburg, which is apparent to all residents, he said, is attributed to the "mayor mayor mayor." Kate, a very attractive girl who sat next to me at the bar said that though she is only twenty-five years old, she has noticed definite improvement in the city, and has no plans to leave the downtown area, as it's just too fun to leave.
Then, Geoff and I got drunk and returned to the hotel, by way of a hotel bar close to our own.
After training was done on Friday afternoon, Geoff and I enjoyed a steak dinner with some of our co-trainees, and left for Philadelphia. I can't recall when I've driven in such a deluge. It was raining so hard that visibility often dictated slowing down to a snail's pace, just to get our bearings, and sometimes, to regain contact with the pavement. Steve and Steph met us at the airport, where we dropped off the rental, and caught a wide-mouthed glimpse of the stunning Rudi Bakhtiar on Headline News in the Hertz office.
We got our first full night's sleep after a comfortable beer and conversation with Steve, who turns out to be a techie, himself, and a big fan of FreeBSD, the operating system that powers bahua dot com. We all got ready at our leisure, that morning, and got in the car for Manayunk Brewery, where we learned the previous night the Manayunk Brew Extravaganza would be held. The skies, which had dumped mercilessly the previous night, had cleared entirely, and the temperature played ball, too, at about 74 degrees. It was altogether perfect. We tried beers from dozens of regional breweries, and lost feeling in our fingertips.
We came back to Steve and Steph's house in New Jersey and enjoyed some more beer, and the unwavering hospitality of the happy couple, along with some Tenacious D.
On Sunday morning, we got out in Philadelphia, despite drizzly conditions and some uncomfortable winds. I tried by first ever Philly Cheesesteak, at Geno's in South Philly, and picked up some Cannoli at Isgro's, before heading over to Independence Hall for Liberty Bell pictures and such. We finished our Philadelphia weekend with a tower of Yuengling at Chickie's and Pete's, also in South Philadelphia.
It was an excellent trip.
So is the DOTW being worked on right now? or something? It's a little strange.
annnnnnd see you friday! hoopwa!
10:59 AM, Apr 26, 2004
Ha. Oops. yeah.
11:00 AM, Apr 26, 2004
Yeah. It's all done now. Enjoy.
11:41 AM, Apr 26, 2004
Also, I recommend again removing the post content from the comments box. Mousewheel fever!
11:47 AM, Apr 26, 2004
Yeah, I need to think of something for that, but I still think that the majority of them should list the entire post, as I often send people links to the posts themsleves.
4:00 PM, Apr 26, 2004
Rock on. I apply for DOTW squad volunteer duty.
1:39 AM, Apr 28, 2004
3:01 PM, Apr 28, 2004