After staying with the Asbells for a couple of nights, I head into west Philadelphia to stay with Sophie (daughter of previous VT host, Nancy). Went to the oldest botanical garden in N. America (Bartram's), which was a nice bit of living things after the shock of city landscape. Oldest ginko tree on the continent! At the apt. made some cookies, chatted, played guitar, then went to a vinyasa yoga class. Again, a nice way to balance out my city shock. There was a guy playing singing bowls in the lobby, which added some great healing to the evening. Then he broke a pencil in half with a piece of paper! Oh, and Sophie/Autumn/Kaylyn have darned cute kitten!
The next day, I took a good bike ride around the city, downtown to a farmers market (that turned out to have only a couple vendors ...), Penn's Landing, Ben Franklin Pkwy, and a great loop up and down the river in Fairmont Park. Finally riding again, and in some lovely sunshine and a reset clock on fall foliage! Went to see the Mamet play, "Oleanna," just down the road. Intense two-person piece that explores the challenging reality of multiple perspectives on a single situation. More music with Sophie and Kaylyn, and reading "Mycellium Running" at the apt.
On Friday, my Dad (!) picked me up to whisk me away to the Bradley-Asbell wedding. Stayed with them and some parents of my hs friends - a fun group to hang out with at the hotel! The wedding was concise, in Philly, then over to the reception at a lovely and classy country club. Rich Asbell, father of Sarah (the bride) gave a welcome speech and toast, that led into me singing his poem "Sarah, Nothing's Changed" while the two of them danced. It was a marvelously sweet moment for everybody! You can listen and/or watch the song from these links: http://travisknapp.yolasite.com/music---collaborations.php
Went on to have a really fun time eating and dancing, and then finding a piano in the lounge (I was offered a regular Friday gig at the club, which I had to respectfully decline ...). Rowdy singing shuttle ride and Phillies game afterwards. Ha, at the hotel, after Philly struck out in the 9th, one wedding-dressed bride - there were a handful present - muttered in disbelief, "****, we lost," as though nothing good had happened to her that day, and now there was no more reason for hope in the world!!
From the hotel, I got a ride (lots of automobile transport for me, lately) up to northern Jersey, where I got to hang out with Kevin Asbell for some meals and a movie, before we caught a morning bus into Manhattan. On the ride in, Kevin gave me his version of how to act in NYC to stay alive. We agree to disagree on a lot of things! In general, I'm always going to try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, smile when I walk down the street, be confident but relaxed in whatever I'm doing, and notice that 99% of everybody around is on the same compassionate human page as I am. But he prepared me to think in terms of worst potential scenarios and helped me navigate public transit all the way to his apartment on the upper east side (84th/3rd, I think that's what you'd call it? I'm still getting the hang of neighborhood names). The city seems designed for thin, unburdened pedestrians (not loaded bicycles).
I do have to say in general that as soon as I got into the city/suburb areas down here, the degree to which people's actions are motivated by fear increased exponentially. I recognize that this may seem a necessary modus operandi, but I know we have the free will and choice to be motivated by positive things, and love begets love without a doubt.
I decided to bicycle to Brooklyn to stay with Chas (another hs and soccer friend) - and had a great ride! Through Central Park (what a nice park! I understand how people can live in this city, with such places to recharge), where I fortunately made a wrong turn that gave me some more time to ride around there, then over to and down the riverside on western manhattan, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and down into Brooklyn. As soon as I got over the bridge, the mood was much calmer, and people were smiling. I ate at "Healthy Nibbles," including Emmy's macaroons, of Ithaca fame! Then met Chas at his apartment, biked around with him for a little while, and settled in. It's a relief to be able to store baggage and bike, and be a free pedestrian!
I hopped on a train to see my friends Garrett and Jon, from Ithacappella days - Garrett was playing an open mic (Potion Collective, in the basement of a rad industrial building-turned-apts) with their bandmate (the band is called Broken Glow, just moved here from Hartford, CT) Brenner, which turned into me sitting in on keys, Jon singing, and a drummer and bassist hopping up, too. "Heard it through the Grapevine," an original, and into "Good Times, Bad Times." Awesome fun, everyone dancing!
The subway is pretty swell here, gets you anywhere, any time. Makes me pine for the Tokyo trains, too. On Wednesday, I saw IC friends for some great conversation - Tom and Lendi (didn't know they were back from Bangladesh!) in brookyln, and IC friend Emily in central park. We stumbled across a John Lennon tribute, a marble circle on the ground, engraved "Imagine," trimmed with roses and petals. Someone sat playing guitar and singing "Love," and there was a great magic in the air. In the evening, I met Chas for a lecture at Cooper Union on "Passive Buildings," by the creator of the concept, and American director of some implementation. Basically, the idea is to insulate a building to the point of being airtight (we have the means to do this cheaply!), and controlling airflow at one exact point. Heat is retained easily, reducing energy costs immensely. Good walk/train home, and to Trader Joe's to be amazed at low prices and high ceilings!
So I'm planning on getting to Cape Cod for Halloween. I really wanted to bike the length of Long Island and take a ferry, but it looks like the best way to get out of the city and to Provincetown by Sunday (waiting out today's rain) will be to take a train to Providence, RI, and bike the rest of the way (2-3 days). Needless to say, I'm just about exploding with the need to get back on the bicycle for more than a couple hours. Time to put the "bicycle" back in "bicycle trip!!" I imagine the city is fun on Oct. 31st, but I can feel myself deteriorating for too many reasons. It will be so nice to ride under my own power again, cover some ground, breathe some nice air, and sleep outside once more! I haven't been cold in way too long. But it was certainly nice to discover some of Brooklyn and Manhattan and to see friends here. It's overwhelming how much is going on, and how many people are congregated to take advantage of this excitement. For me, country roads, take me home to the place I belong! Or, rather, take me to Cape Cod, then west across Massachusetts, through to the magnificent woods of New York State!