Oh John Carroll

Tag: travel

What The New York Times Got Wrong →

My pal D-Mac read The New York Times piece about spending 36 hours in Philadelphia, and decided to offer a more realistic take of what that time might look like:

Still, the piece might make out-of-towners think a Philadelphian’s life is all trips to the Barnes and Philadelphia History Museums and an endless supply of donuts and fried chicken, shoveled into our mouths as quickly as possible. (Okay, that second part is kind of true.) The Times’ 36 Hours in Philadelphia is adequate. But here’s a (slightly fictionalized and compressed) 36 Hours in Real Philadelphia, another helpful public service from your ol’ friend Dan McQuade. Don’t worry, I am lame and mainstream enough that most of the places on this list could end up in the Times the next time it profiles Philadelphia in 2016.

The piece is educational for Philadelphians, too.  For instance: I had no idea that Oscar’s served food.  I hope that doesn’t make me an alcoholic.

36 Hours in Philadelphia →

A piece about visiting Philadelphia in The New York Times?  Automatic linking!


If you thought I had lost the blogging bug, I wouldn’t blame you.  I’ve been scarce for the past 10 days, but I’m happy to announce that I didn’t lose interest in blogging.  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, I simply went on the worst trip in my lifetime.

Rachael and I went to Philadelphia last week.  She needed to take an important test for her job, and figured it would be most comfortable in her hometown.  I got to tag along for moral support and general gallivanting.  Everything about it seemed perfect, but by the time we flew home Monday, I was half-expecting to see Michael Nutter flipping us off from the runway.

The problems began the night before our departing flight, when I felt achey. All of my my colds start this way.  And they often start before trips or anticipated events — I’m not sure if this is an actual fact, or just a narrative I’ve strung together, but I mention it because none of what was happening to me was surprising.  The travel day unfolded with increasing misery, but by the time we reached a comfortable bed, I wasn’t too hung up about it.  I could kick the cold, and still make the most of the trip.

Thus, rather than meeting up with friends or cruising around town, I dedicated myself to getting better.  I hunkered down in our hotel room with pillows and tea and pills.  I stuck to a schedule.  I wanted to be better by the time Rachael’s test was over, for then I could not only salvage half the trip, but we could salvage it together.

But when we woke up on Friday morning, ready to seize our obligation-free weekend, my voice was gone.  And hilariously, our big plans to celebrate that evening involved a private karaoke room with friends.

Undeterred, I stepped up my game.  I became a soup ninja.  I doubled my tea intake.  I gargled salt water.  I downed honey straight from the hotel-issued packets.  My body was feeling better, but my voice was betraying me.  I went into radio silence for the final pre-karaoke hours., frustrating a wife who couldn’t make sense of my improvised sign language.

And it worked.  My voice came back.  We went to karaoke.  And about two hours into the night, Rachael tripped and fell.  We’d find out 12 hours later that she broke her foot.  I woke up with my voice gone for good, sacrificed for the sake of three hours at karaoke (worth it!).

That Saturday night, our family visited us.  Rachael stayed fixed to one chair, while I spent most of the time upstairs in bed, feeling a new misery wash over me.  By the end of the night, I was gasping for breath after the simplest of tasks.  Less than twelve hours later, we’d continue our tour of emergency rooms in the Delaware Valley.  I was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia.

I could keep piling on.  I haven’t yet mentioned that our dog, Neko, hurt herself before the trip, and is currently recovering from knee surgery at a nearby veterinary clinic.  Her absence from the home this week has given me a lot of time to think about our trip, and how terrible it was.  And it’s tempting to just think about everything bad that has happened, and allow it to make me even more miserable.  And I’m not perfect: I’ve certainly succumbed to such thoughts.

But since moving to Kansas, I’ve made a very conscious effort to look for two sides to everything that’s happened to us.  It would be too easy to dwell on that which we don’t want, and couldn’t choose.  It’s far more difficult — but also more beneficial — to look for the hidden rewards.

There are so many things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see last week.  And I hardly got to tick any of it off of my list.  That’s a shame, and certainly not something to be happy about.  But it certainly made it easy to come home to a place that’s hard to call home.

If every trip goes like this, I won’t be this pragmatic.  But sometimes getting the double bird from your hometown is a good reminder that you can go home again, but you might break some bones and get a lung infection along the way.

Data Savvy →

When Rachael and I went on a house-hunting trip in Kansas, I wound up blowing through my phone’s entire data plan.  This had never happened to me before, and I was surprised, but my wife poked fun at me for always checking my phone, and I assumed: yes, this is my fault.  I was away from a wireless network for a week, and obviously used the phone too much.

But after reading the story linked above, I’m cutting myself some slack: we used the Maps application a lot on my phone, given that we were in a new area and wanted to both find our way around and learn about the town.  Apparently, the old Maps application on the iPhone used approximately 80% more data than the new application.

I’m interested in this not just to give myself a free pass for a prior trip, but because this new Maps application has gotten a ton of flack.  And I just haven’t experienced any problems.  Furthermore, I’m greatly aided by the new features, whether it’s the lower data needs, the turn-by-turn directions, or the smoother navigation of the maps.

Suddenly Everything Has Changed

I spent 24 hours in Oklahoma City.

I had been itching for a trip, and this one seemed like the best pick — not too short or too long, and sufficiently interesting.  Even though I now live in Kansas, Oklahoma seemed like an entirely different beast.  It was my first time in both the city and the state.

My one worry was that this would be a wistful trip: that I would see all of the things that a large American city had to offer and miss them dearly.  But this brief flurry of a trip provided a chance to view my Midwestern move from a different perspective.

There have been times where I thought that I lost something important to who I am after moving; that I was experiencing something unfair; that things were simply being taken from me.  But as I wandered around OKC, and quickly fell in love with it, I recognized that I have been privileged to live where I’ve lived, and that while I’ve lost immediate access to Washington, DC or Philadelphia, I haven’t lost the years of benefits, lessons and experiences.

McFly Away

I spent my afternoon in the garage.  We recently bought some shelving to help us organize the last messy area of our new home.  As I got to the bottom of a pile, I came across a stack of old paperwork and receipts.  And as I got to the bottom of that stack, I came across something unexpected: all of the receipts from our honeymoon.

I believe we kept them because we wanted to convert the currency and tally up our expenses once we were home.  We never got around to doing that, and the receipts naturally disappeared from our sight and were moved halfway across the country with us.

And while I briefly toyed with the idea of working on this project — after all, I have plenty of time on my hands these days — I soon found that it would be impossible.  Some receipts were fading, but most were blank.  They didn’t look old, though — since they were kept tucked away, many of them looked pristine.  The only thing visible on most of them were the watermarks — reminders of where we had been or eaten, but with no evidence of what we actually did or ate there.

I’m used to coming across fond memories stuffed in boxes or piles.  But this was new: a suggestion that something near and dear to me might not have happened at all.

I initially came to my computer to write about that experience, but soon found myself looking through photos of that trip.  The receipts may not have been a reminder of what we had done, but a reminder to connect with that which hasn’t faded.

Eating Crow

In the weeks before we moved to Kansas, I consistently heard the same thing about moving to the Midwest: “The sunsets are amazing.”

While I didn’t doubt the veracity of these testimonies, I was still cynical about them.  Sure, the sunsets might not be great in a city, but if I needed to see one, I could find a good enough spot, couldn’t I?  In short, I assumed people were grasping at straws.  I eventually heard it as, “Well, I can’t say that it sucks that you’re moving to Kansas, so I’ll talk about sunsets instead.”

I’m happy to admit I was wrong about this, though.  The sunsets here really are amazing, because the sky here is amazing.  There’s a lot to dislike about the lack of trees and tall buildings.  There’s hardly any shade.  There’s less in the way of culture and business and employment opportunities.  But at the right time of day, it all seems worth it.  Walking around my neighborhood with Neko, or driving around the state with Rachael, I can look up at the sky and imagine that it might swallow us all up.  This is my new way to feel surrounded.

When I learned we were moving to Kansas, I could only think about how far it seemed from everything.  And that basic truth still holds: it takes a while to get anywhere.  But when I was playing out the clock in Maryland, I was only looking at the distance from Kansas to the places I’ve been, not the places I might want to be.

The easy thing to do was to see how long it took to drive from Kansas to home, or to friends or to cities I love visiting.  But now that I’m here, I’m struck by the equality of it all.  Ten or twenty hours on the road once seemed daunting in the face of short trips to comfortable places.  And I still have moments where I desperately want to be in those places, and to get there quickly.  But I now have many more moments where I want to go elsewhere, to wander into states that I’ve never been, places that I honestly hadn’t even considered until now.

There’s a map over my shoulder.  I ordered it a week ago.  I look over at it constantly when I’m at my desk, and I have that same feeling that I could be swallowed.  And what’s remarkable is how that feeling is no longer terrifying.

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