Category Archives: Travel

Going Back to Philly


Philadelphia was the first city I truly experienced. As a suburban Midwesterner, my jaunts into urban centers growing up consisted of family vacations to Chicago or St. Louis and trips to downtown Kansas City in which my high school friends and I would eat BBQ and then sneak into a pool on the rooftop of a Westin Hotel (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!).

Then I moved to Philadelphia the summer of 2007 for an internship. Though my job was writing for the Bucks County Courier Times, I had little desire to experience life in another suburb 1,500 miles from the one where I had spent so many years. So I subletted a place in University City with a few Penn students and commuted via SEPTA every morning.

Our apartment was….cozy. I’m pretty sure late seventeenth century day-laborers built it as part of William Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia, and it had been renovated once since then, in 1882 perhaps. It was located at 39th and Ludlow, an intersection that combined a little bit of Penn with a little bit of West Philly. Here in the mornings, it was normal to see overly-preppy Ivy League students walk to class on sidewalks splayed with tiny green vials that had contained drugs the night before.

As excited as I had been to move to a big city, I didn’t always like what I had to see. I needed some time to adjust to the people and my surroundings. Here’s a story from an earlier blog post I’ve written about that summer: Continue reading

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Being in India


The car accident was actually the perfect welcome to India. About ten or fifteen of us, fresh off the plane and jetlagged from twenty hours of travel, boarded a bus for a ninety minute ride from the Kochi Airport to the hotel in Thrissur. It was inescapable to not quickly notice that we would experience an eventful ride. Continue reading

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Kansas City in the Summertime


I was in the Crossroads on Thursday night. Drove down there from Johnson County with my dad.  Thunder clouds hung overhead, gray but not entirely threatening, and summer’s humidity snuck through the windows, which were cracked open an inch or two as the air conditioner blasted.

I love the Crossroads. Set a few blocks from downtown, this area has a Wild West feel. There’s enough grit and wide openness to imagine yourself in a self-sustaining enclave isolated from the glitz and rush of a city, but the tall buildings touching the sky in the distance assure you that everything you need is right here. Continue reading

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What Is Required


Sometimes it gets bad and goes wrong and the walls press in close. The air is cold in spite of the sun and the wind whips through three long-sleeve layers.

What is it you require?

Continue reading

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Does anyone know what to do in Cedar Rapids?

I considered tweeting at Ed Helms and asking him a question of exquisitely high importance when I was in Iowa. I needed to know what somebody should do in Cedar Rapids on a Friday night.

If you’ve seen the delightful movie “Cedar Rapids,” you know that Helms would have a pretty good idea for entertainment. In the film, he attends a meth-fueled party in a heavily wooded area populated by several very paranoid and very burly men. They wear flannel, Wolverine boots and sneers. They think he is trying to steal their girlfriends. Their girlfriends happen to be escorts and not of the Ford automobile variety. I mean, who wouldn’t crave a scene like that? Continue reading

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The Gypsy Man

NEW ORLEANS — The Gypsy Man in the blue shirt was shouting, his voice careening off walls and into empty alleys.

“I’m the fucking gazda,” he would say.

It wasn’t quite a scream, or a bellow, or even a holler. It was a quiet shout, if such a thing exists. And he was directing his seeming anger toward a young woman named Gina. I can’t say that Gina was strung out. But she looked it. Her skin was brown, but maybe just a tick too translucent. Her teeth were a mangled mess. Her hair was thinning and brittle. More than that, she appeared disoriented — the toxins in her body winning a battle over the healthy endorphins, if such a chemical process is even possible.

“We’re gypsies!” the man in the blue shirt shouted.  Continue reading

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A True “College” Bar

“College” has a bar, and it is named KAM’s – all caps, just like R.E.M. and UNICEF. KAM’s is located in Champaign, Ill., on Daniel Street, across from some University of Illinois Greek residences, the Psychology building and hopefully not far from the local hospital. It smells like the inside of a shot glass filled to the brim with Jaeger, tobacco, vomit and lowered expectations, which I guess smell a little bit like Sears. Continue reading

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Always Sunny

The first time I saw a prostitute, I was in Philadelphia. Now, I can’t be completely certain she was a prostitute because I didn’t ask her, and it was also a Sunday afternoon, most definitely NOT the proper time for a lady of the night to be walking around, so she might have just been a stripper. She wore a lacy white dress that covered up only enough of her body so she wouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure, had painted fingernails longer Edward Scissorhands’, and she was drunker than an on-air CMT personality. Prostitute was a SAFE assumption. Continue reading

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Away Games

I wanted to sleep on the train, but the excitement and the freshness kept me awake. It was Wednesday afternoon. I had just left O’Hare Airport, deciding to take the train instead of a cab after a friendly elderly woman offered me a free ticket she wasn’t able to use.

Stop after stop, Chicago sprung to life. We passed Addison, and I knew Wrigley’s green walls beckoned close by. We passed Grand, and I knew shoppers walked the streets above the surface headed toward the Magnificent Mile.

Each stop brought me closer to the tall buildings, to the stiff breezes off the lake, to the artificial sunsets produced by the Hancock Observatory, to a refuge. Continue reading

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On the Road

On God’s Son, Nas has a song titled “Book of Rhymes.” On this track, he supposedly rifles through an old book in which he has written a bunch of random lyrics, and he regales us with his findings. Most of the time his musings are unintentionally comical. These nonsensical short bursts (“How can I trust you, when I can’t trust me/picture me an old man, an old G”) are often followed by sound effects of him crinkling paper and throwing it into a trash bin. At one point, instead of rhyming, he begins acting like he’s stumbled upon a page featuring the phone numbers of several women. He is surprised, saying, “Oh shit, Tina. I’ve been lookin’ for this bitch’s number.” Later, he will complain about a lack of values regarding our treatment of women. In short, he pulls off the common rap achievement of sounding terribly unoriginal while also disrespecting women and then sounding hypocritical by calling others out for disrespecting women.

Nonetheless, this song has inspired me. I’ve had it stuck in my head all morning, and it’s made me want to copy its style and retell my road trip from Dallas to State College “Book of Rhymes” style, Continue reading

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