aka Road trip, part IV
Pennsylvania is big, you guys. Big, big, big. New Jersey isn’t nearly so big, but in a hot, humid car with no A/C it still felt long. It took us about five hours to get across Pennsylvania and 45 minutes or so to get across New Jersey, and then it took us an hour to go the last mile up to the toll plaza on the George Washington bridge. In 100 degrees and high humidity, and no A/C. It was pretty brutal.
We finally made it across and into Manhattan, but despite our parking fears we managed to find a spot on the street in the West Village that cost $2.50 an hour until 7 PM. Not at all bad. We collapsed in limp puddles in Washington Square Park for a little while, piggybacking on someone’s unsecured wireless connection, and tried to do some sightseeing but were stymied by the oppressive heat and humidity. Eventually we escaped into a $tarbuck$ (I KNOW. NYC, and we went to STARBUCKS) to get some air conditioning and some cold drinks. My unsweetened passionfruit tea was delicious, and I only had to wait for 20 minutes in line to use the bathroom.
We fed the meter one last time and hightailed it across the Village over to the East side, where we met a high school friend of Dan’s for drinks with her boyfriend. A good time was had by all, up until someone at the next booth over spilled an entire beer down Dan’s back. I only had two hard ciders but I was ridiculously tipsy (I guess maybe because of the day of heat/humidity in the car and out in Manhattan?) and we traipsed down to the southern part of the village, or maybe it was far northern Lower East Side, where we met my friend Purple Laura for dinner. I had a dish of cold noodles, salmon, and veggies because I couldn’t stand the idea of eating anything hot. We spent the after-dinner portion of the evening in the bar next door, where Laura knew the bartender so our drinks were free. Woohoo!
It took us quite a while to walk back to the car, and it was still probably in the 90s with super high humidity, and then we had to navigate back over to 9A and north to get ourselves to New Haven, but it was a Friday night in the summer and everybody was still trying to get the heck out of dodge so the drive took a really, really long time. I think it was after 1 AM when we finally got to our hotel in New Haven (which was, incidentally, a La Quinta, but next to IKEA not Denny’s) and I had to shower in cold water before I could cool down enough to fall asleep, even with the air conditioning on full blast.
The next day, Kent and Christine got married.
We were up early because I’d volunteered to help with some reception set-up, so I had to meet Kent at the church and then we hauled stuff over to the park and Dan and I spent the morning putting out luminarias with LED candles to line the pathways in the park, and setting up the bug lanterns, and other assorted chores. Once we’d finished, we got mashed potato pizza at Bar and headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding.
The park had these gorgeous bright blue hydrangeas right by the tent
I learned merely days beforehand that I was also going to be an usher for the wedding, which was perfectly fine but somewhat unexpected. After Dan dropped me off, I set up the ice and the water bottles, and met my co-usher, and watched everyone run around the old church getting ready. I made sure the groom was elsewhere while the bride and her entourage scurried into the lounge and shut the door. I stood in front of one of the few fans that were going, as, you guessed it, the church didn’t have air conditioning, either. And I handed out programs and showed people the guestbook and did the general sorts of things that ushers do at a church wedding.
Finally, everyone had arrived and it was time to begin. I closed the doors, and then opened them for the bridesmaids, and then closed them again. I gave the bride a big grin and arranged her train and opened the doors again for her to walk down the aisle with her mom. It was all quite lovely, and I realized that I haven’t been to a wedding in a church since 1997. Even that wasn’t a church so much as a giant open conference-type room that had the word JESUS in huge script gold letters above the front bit. But this church, oh, this was the lovely New England church you think of when you think of New England churches. At least, it was for me. Kent’s family’s been getting married in this particular church for multiple generations, so that added something to the whole experience as well.
After the ceremony, I ran back to open the door and I was the first person (after the groom) to kiss the bride, so that was pretty good. Dan and I waited a while and then went through the receiving line, and Kent’s parents nodded and smiled until they realized I was *that* Emily, the one who exchanged letters with their son for years. Then I got much bigger smiles and big hugs. We got in the car and drove to the reception area, and I bustled around making sure that all my last minute set-up duties were attended to. We met some of K&C’s friends and attempted to keep cool by drinking large quantities of ice water, beer (in Dan’s case) and white wine (mine), and we munched on cheese and crackers and fruit. Eventually the wedding party, including the bride and groom, showed up and they did everything in a completely different order than I was used to (first dance before anything else?). Additional differences noticed in My First East Coast Wedding: Everyone (including the bride and groom) changes into shorts and tank tops or t-shirts or otherwise casual clothing about an hour into the reception. I wish we’d known. Because that was the one true drawback of Kent and Christine’s wedding: it was hot, it was humid, and I’d chosen a dress without really considering the consequences. It was a cute dress, but polyester is not a fabric you want to wear when you are sitting in 90+F heat and high humidity. Sweat dripped down my front and my back all afternoon and all evening. It was pretty gross.
But there was food, and there was drink, and there was dancing and karaoke and a DJ that embodied every stereotype you can possibly imagine a wedding DJ to have. Dan and I both sang karaoke, if you can believe it. Here’s a photo of him to prove it.
When the evening wound down, we went out to clean up all the paper bags and sand and LED candles, and help break everything down. It had been a great wedding, and a long day, and I was woe out.
We had talked about what to do on Sunday, and at first we’d planned to head back to Manhattan to spend more time there, but after spending days in the oppressive heat/humidity (I know I keep writing about this bit, but we are just NOT used to humidity AT ALL), but we decided that we’d rather spend time in NYC when we want to actually be outside walking around and not ducking into Starbucks to take advantage of the air conditioning. So instead, on Sunday morning we drove from New Haven to Philadelphia, having booked a hotel room in Philly the night before and having realized Sunday morning that the laptop cord wasn’t functioning. I’d recently got back in touch with my friend Sazzy and let her know our estimated timetable for the trip, and when we were in New Jersey at a Dunkin’ Donuts we called her to say we were on the way. “Come by the store!” she said, and she gave us directions to the brick-and-mortar version of her amazing store, Sazz Vintage.
Sazzy and I go back to the early days of 2000, when I was first on the message board where I met Dan. At one point, she went to South Africa and when she got back, she mailed me several beaded bracelets from a place called Ndebele. She was unable to attend the Chicago get-together that fall, so I was entrusted with the task of distributing the bracelets to female attendees who were interested in them. I still wear my Sazzy bracelet, all these years later, and I never thought I’d get a chance to actually meet her in person. But thanks to The Wonders Of The Internet, we were back in touch and she’s in Philly with her awesome store and we wanted to go there anyhow and now we had someone to visit. Hooray!
So we pulled into Old City and parked, and stopped in at the store first thing. After hugs and some chatting, Dan and I went out to explore Old City and some of Society Hill, and we started our alphabet project for Philadelphia. I managed to find the used bookstore I’d liked when I was in Philly before, but not the bar (sniff), and we decided to head back to Sazzy’s store to arrange dinner plans. We drove down to the baseball stadium area, which is where our cheap hotel room was (in a Holiday Inn this time, not a La Quinta), showered, and changed clothes, then headed for the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood to our tasty mediterranean tapas dinner with Sazzy and her husband. Afterward, on their suggestion we had some gelato (that was nearly as good as the place in Berkeley, which is the best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy) and wandered around a bit, then headed back to the hotel.
Monday morning we drove into town, intending to grab timed free tickets to the Independence Hall tour as early as possible. Dan parked while I got the tickets, and we grabbed some food while we waited for our tour to begin. We sat in the park right next to Independence Hall and it began to rain, so we ran under the eaves of the building across the street just in time for a 20 minute torrential downpour. We waited it out, and then went in to get screened and wait in the (slightly less wet) rain for our tour of Independence Hall, something I hadn’t done when I was in Philadelphia before. After the tour, we went across the street and saw the Liberty Bell.
We walked through Chinatown and through the Logan Square area and all the way up to the Philadelphia Art Museum because you know we just HAD to run up the steps like Rocky. It was about 95 degrees, and the humidity goes without saying, but we did it in our street clothes, me in sandals, and it was just fine. And Dan got the Rocky statue as the perfect letter Y.
After retrieving the car, we drove to get Dan a gen-yew-ine Philly cheesesteak at the place that doesn’t have a racist sign in the window, and then we left Philadelphia. It was a good less-than-24-hour-stop.