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Rainy Days and Subways Always Get Me Down

13 Oct

Yes yes, I know, this is heinously behind schedule. However, I thought it would be a good time to capitalize on a headline that partially applies to both my Philadelphia trip and the present day.

Let me pick up where I left off: Friday in Philly.

As my bleary eyes adjusted to the gray morning light, I tried to work out the kink in my neck (that would be my companion for the duration of the trip) and peeked out the Megabus window onto the drizzly streets of one of America’s most historical cities. After a few more minutes and a confusing pseudo-stop, at which some passengers got off when I don’t think they were supposed to (we almost did), we finally rounded the bend into the Philadelphia Amtrak station.

Since we didn’t actually have a plan (we were thinking we’d try our hand at couch surfing, remember?), this great marbly structure functioned as a cozy resting place and free wi-fi connection for the next couple of hours. What we really thought would be cool was if we could meet some other college kids attending POPPED!, become best friends with them, convince them to let us crash at their place, and go to a fun University of Pennsylvania college party with them. Therefore, the plan formed to make our way over to campus in search of our new Philly friends, and we Google mapped our route from the train station.

FACT: if you’re trying to make friends with strangers, it won’t happen. This stuff needs to be organic. I sort of wish we wouldn’t have been so deluded by sleep deprivation to not recognize this.
It also may have been more likely that we’d meet people had it not transitioned from sprinkling to pouring in the rain department not minutes before. None of us had actually wanted to consciously admit it might rain on our trip, so we had no coats or umbrellas to protect ourselves or our backpacks containing all our worldly possessions. Hence: the Turtlebacks.

Turtlebacks: the latest in backpack rain protection.

Yes, we walked around Philadelphia with garbage bags (not used, we got them fresh from the train station gift shop) on our backs. Is it any wonder we didn’t make new friends? I’d never felt more nomadic in my life than on this trip. Yet walk we did, all the way to the U Penn campus where, being completely soaked, we retreated to their book store still clinging to our last vestiges of hope. Let me note a couple of things:
1. The U Penn bookstore is like a classier version of Barnes & Noble. For goodness sake, they were selling wine glasses and whiskey tumblers with the U Penn logo on them. It made our bookstore look like a scary dungeon, though looking at it in general usually makes it look like a scary dungeon.
2. Shit gets real when you’re soaking wet, the threat of pneumonia is looming, and you’ve only gotten minimal amounts of sleep in uncomfortable positions over the last 12 or so hours, coupled with looking like a homeless crust punk in a building full of East Coast kids in their daily prep wear. A hot shower and a cozy bed started to sound like a godsend.

We totally caved on the couch surfing. Not that we didn’t look, but no one in Philadelphia was offering up a spot for four college kids. So we tapped into the U Penn bookstore Starbuck’s wi-fi and began our hotel search, but after a while the connection got super shoddy. I think it sensed we weren’t there to buy our Philosophy books. Thus began our campus coffee shop tour in search of enough Internet to get us on expedia.com and book a room. We wandered for a while, occasionally popping into area hotels to look for vacancies.
Now I know how Mary and Joseph felt, except no one was even offering us a barn. I think it had something to do with the garbage bag backs.

Finally, Dan found us an affordable place in Historical Downtown Philadelphia, and we quickly booked a room and Googled directions (Google Maps was by far the single most useful resource of our trip) to get us there as quickly as possible. Bedraggled and looking like we had just survived an attempted drowning, we shuffled in disheartened silence to the nearest subway that would take us to our dry destination.

Arriving at a hotel has never made me happier. The service was awesome and they had free candy in a bowl by the desk, which Hannah confiscated copious amounts of for later concert sustenance. At long last we were in our room and taking steaming showers and quite possibly the greatest nap of my life, preparing ourselves for the true purpose of this long journey: POPPED! Philadelphia.

Since this is running long (and my power lecture is almost over, forcing me to change locations #FirstWorldProblems) I will do my concert reviews in a post later tonight or tomorrow, but you will definitely want to hear about some of the amazing artists we had the privilege of hearing over the course of the rest of the weekend! Stay tuned.

peace, love and turtlebacks,
J

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From the Big Apple to Cheesesteak Central

25 Sep

So, we’re alive.

After gliding over a city that sparkled more than the sky above us, we landed at the LaGuardia airport in NYC around 10 p.m. East Coast time. Here, a brilliant stroke of luck befell us when Margaret (heretofore known as Magnetar or Mar-gar) was able to connect with a high school friend who goes to NYU. Her friend, Rose, gave us directions to hop on a bus, which would take us to a subway, which would take us to her dorm on 14th and 42nd Ave.

Let me just say–thank the Lord for friendly New Yorkers. I’ve got some serious, newfound appreciation for Madison’s buses that clearly state what stop you are approaching, because there was literally zero labeling of where we were. Fortunately enough the guy I was sitting next to knew how to get us to NYU’s campus and he told us when to hop off. Then, after watching a probably actually crazy man try to get the Facebook names of a group of girls also traveling in our direction and carefully avoiding eye contact myself, we got out of the subway and walked a few blocks over to Rose’s dorm.

Though dorm is definitely a severe understatement. It was more like an upscale co-op, complete with a next-to-Trader Joe’s location. Also, she apologized for having only shitty booze for us to drink–let me say, it was not Fleischman’s nor Natty Ice so I don’t think she realizes exactly how much we Madisonians can penny pinch when necessary.

In Rose's dorm at NYU

Either way, after some liquid refreshments we decided to explore what the midnight hours of the city had to offer us. Probably the best thing was New York pizzeria, Artichoke, who’s signature dish is a slice of spinach-artichoke pizza bigger than your face for only $5. Don’t hate me for saying this, but they could possibly put Ian’s out of business if they ever made it to Mad town. I’m not joking, even though I ended up not being in the mood for pizza and got some spicy chicken with basmati rice from one of the hundreds of Halal food carts littering the street corners instead.

After eating our grub we wandered the city and, instead of just staying up all night, decided we were pretty exhausted and it might be a good idea to nap for a few hours before catching our 6:30 a.m. Megabus to Philadelphia (note the few hours, as in literally three). On the way back to the dorms we saw a lot of bright lights on a random street that seemed unusual for 2 a.m., thought perhaps not in New York. It turns out they were shooting a scene for an upcoming movie called Person of Interest. I’m not sure when it’s coming out but it was pretty cool to get a glimpse of the actor cops practicing fake CPR on their pretend body bag. And there was a craft services food table.

We finally made it back to the dorms shortly after 2 o’clock and passed da eff out in Rose’s common room on couches, only to rejoin the world of the living at 5:15 a.m. to walk and catch our bus. After dodging about twenty blocks of puddles of garbage water and attempting to stem the flow of sweat due to the ridiculous humidity (yes, it was hella humid, I’m talking 99% saturation) we made it to our stop. Though not without getting a genuine, New Yorker, elevator eyes look-over and quiet cat calls from the construction workers heading off to their early jobs. From there we quickly boarded the bus to catch a couple more hours of shuteye before waking in Philly. Little did we know how hard Mother Nature would try to rain on our parade…

Good Lord, What Am I Getting Myself Into?

19 Sep

I’m going to Philadelphia, please don’t tell my mom.

In what is sure to be an adventure–and probably spawned from a need for youthful rebellion and most definitely from a love of great music–me and three others (Hannah, Dan, and Margaret) will be trekking our way from the midwest to the east coast for a weekend of non-stop travel and debauchery this approaching weekend.

We embark on this journey in order to attend POPPED! Philadelphia music festival, hosted at FDR Park in Philly September 23 and 24. Headlining Friday night will be the freshly reformed Shins, and Saturday we will be getting down to some Pretty Lights. Some of the other acts playing throughout the weekend include Foster the People, Girl Talk, Cults, The Joy Formidable, Cage the Elephant, Panda Bear, and Kreayshawn. It also features a comedy tent.

Pardon my French, but, I am pretty fucking excited.

Yet half of the weekend fun may be in the process of getting there. In lieu of driving a total of 32 hours over the span of less than four days, we diligently monitored plane ticket prices on airtran.com (a great travel website for any college student going to common destinations) until we could find a faster, affordable way to the Great Cheesesteak City.

Unfortunately tickets to Philly suddenly exceeded our price range as we waited, so we’re flying to New York! The travel breakdown goes like this (it gets long, I apologize):
Thursday: Depart Madison at 3:30pm after last classes and drive to the Milwaukee airport.
Board plane to LaGuardia airport New York, NY at 6:55 and arrive around 10 p.m.
And now we play the waiting game…
Next up, we will likely take turns napping in the airport while waiting for our 6:30 a.m. MegaBus that will take us to Philadelphia by 8:30 Friday morning.

Friday: Once arriving in the city of It’s Always Sunny fame, the plan is to figure out where we will be sleeping/stashing our stuff for the next two nights. Since forking over plane ticket money has left us broke-ass college students, we are trying our hand at Couch Surfing, the perks of which include it being a free place to sleep and that we could potentially meet some really cool people. Or creeps. Whatever, we’ll be in a group of four.
The actual purpose of our visit begins at 2 o’clock, from which point on we will be blissing out on new tuneage until at least the double-digits of the evening.
No actual plans have been made for any jaunts after hours, but my secret hope is that we will befriend a smaller band and party with them. Just saying, it could happen.

Saturday: The fun starts same time, same place. Although we will also be doing as much touring of the city as our tired bodies and time constraints allow prior to festing. I’m hoping to find a Flipadelphia t-shirt somewhere and sample a Philly cheesesteak.
Then it’s music music music, all day long. Post fest, I will be getting a venti coffee because we will need to stay up for our 2:30 a.m. bus taking us back to New York. That’s right, sleep is for the weak.

Sunday: We will arrive back in the Big Apple a las 4:30 in the morning. This time I venture to say we will simply count down the minutes until the first coffee shops fire up their morning brews. While we wait for our 11:45 a.m. flight back to Milwaukee, the ideal situation is that we get to site see something or at least buy some knock-off merchandise in Chinatown. Maybe we’ll pretend to be prospective students and tour NYU, the possibilities are–well, not endless, but there are a lot of them.

Once on our plane, we fly non-stop back to Milwaukee where we will pick up Leeroy (my Buick) and book it back to campus just in time to do all of our procrastinated homework and pass out probably at 7 p.m.

All I’m taking with me is a backpack that will at least contain my tickets, a camera, and a toothbrush. Hello, grungy. But no matter, it will all be worth it for potentially the most exciting and exhausting weekend of my life.

I’ll be doing my best to blog any crazy adventures while I’m there, and you’ll definitely hear from me once I’m back. Also, I’d love to hear recommendations for places to visit, things to see, or foods to try if you’ve ever been to Philadelphia!

What else do you think I just have to squeeze into my backpack? Get at me.

Wish us luck,
J

The Great Jersey Shore Debate Gone Anti-Mainstream

9 Aug

The past couple of days I’ve been engaged in a debate about watching Jersey Shore (and then apparently mainstream culture) with my friend Noah. Here’s what he posted on Facebook to initiate the banter:

Noah: To all the Jersey Shore haters: I watch Jersey Shore, but I also watch CNN – do YOU know what’s going on in Syria right now? Do YOU know the recent trends of our economy? This widespread notion that enjoying populist entertainment is going to make me as imprudent and shallow as the people I’m watching is absurd. Step down from your high horses, and attempt to comprehend pop culture for what it is, even if it’s not something that instantly entices your taste.

Pretty exacerbating remarks if you ask me, so naturally I felt the need to respond. If you’re interested in seeing what was said, check out the conversation. I posted it on my Bnter and you can view it here. Feel free to continue the debate on my blog page or on the Bnter page if you feel so moved!

Peace and Somewhat Respectful Debate,
J

New Obsession: Foster the People

6 Jul

No matter how many times I listen to Torches, I can’t seem to get enough. That’s right, I’m talking about the latest and rapidly-trending album from Foster the People. Mark my words, this band is about to blow up.

Despite the mildly juvenile and emo-sounding track names such as “I Would Do Anything For You,” this band reaches more than just a pre-pubescent audience and can deliver the goods. Heck, my 50-year-old boss at my fitness job asked me to make her a copy of the CD when she heard me playing it after core crunch.

And then there’s Kira and me who have had it on repeat since we decided to go splitsies purchasing the album. (Yes, I spent money on yet another album. This may be the new way to gauge how much I actually love a band.)

The upbeat percussive backdrop to the synth sound and whistle-inducing melodies makes songs like “Helena Beat,” “Call It What You Want,” and (my personal favorite) “Houdini,” instant party favorites. Not to mention the deceptively peppy sounds of the darkly-themed Pumped Up Kicks, which is very likely the most successful song of the album.

The band is selling out shows across the U.S. and will make appearances at larger festivals such as Lollapalooza, POPPED, and Austin City Limits after doing some touring on an international scale. I will have the privilege of seeing them at least twice. It’s okay to be jealous.

Those who have heard their music cannot fight the obsession; looks like it’s time for you to join the club.

Am I way out of line being this in love with these guys? Let me know your thoughts on Foster the People.

xoxo,
J

New(ish) Music: tUnE-yArDs

22 Jun

The drops from soaring falsetto coos to husky tenor vocals create what can only be described as a Dirty Projectors/Adele/Mavis Staples three-way love child. This sound, looped with poppy electro beats and juxtaposed against ukulele and independently-recorded city sounds, composes 32-year-old Merrill Garbus’s music project, tUnE-yArDs, that has this blogger mildly obsessed and in a continuous clash with caps lock.

While belatedly reading my June issue of Spin yesterday I came across an article describing a break-out artist by whom even Yoko Ono couldn’t help feeling upstaged.  After reading a description like this, how could you NOT check this lady out:

“When…Garbus re-creates her quirky pop live, jaws dont just drop, they become temporarily unhinged.” -Spin, June 2011

I’m still trying to reel mine in–and I haven’t even seen her live.

Garbus’s latest album,w h o k i l l, (released April 19, 2011) features a vast array of sounds ranging from reggae to brassy jazz all flawlessly interwoven with xylophones, voiceovers, jungle-esque drums, and tambourines.  If you need further convincing of the quality of this album, here it is: I JUST BOUGHT IT.  Who buys music anymore? Not me. Except in the rare occasion I value an artist at a high enough level to want their album in its clear, studio-sound entirety.

Her wholly unique cacophony (I think that works here in this case) of musical inspiration is so impossible to encapsulate any further that I have run out of carefully crafted similes with which to describe it.  The only hope for you to grasp what I’m talking about now is to listen.

The crazy ones are always the best, especially live, and you can download this single, “Bizness”, for free right hur.

On my last note, whilst writing this post I came to the realization Garbus will be gracing the stage at the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 15… needless to say I will be finding my way down there as soon as I recover from the mini-coronary I suffered upon discovery of said news.

Peace, love and electronic bliss,
J

How’s it going?

20 Jun

Oh I dunno, I’m having kind of a rough day and– wait, why are you walking away?

Rapidly becoming one of my least favorite encounters in my days is the ever-disorienting, passing-by greeting of “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” I never know how to answer.  Clearly you don’t actually want a response, so don’t ask me.  Here I am, getting all excited to share with someone the events of my day or to vent a little and you merely walk away and leave me in your dust.  How rude.

Okay so maybe I wasn’t planning on unloading the burden of my life on you , but it’s still incredibly awkward when I reply with a “pretty good, how ar– (mumblemumble)…” because you didn’t even slow down your walking pace to hear my answer.  Just saying plain ol’ hi is always an option too you know, you don’t have to muddle our encounter with false interest and crushed dreams.

In retaliation to this problem, I have a few suggestions for replies that could put a stop to the maddness, feel free to give them a try:

How’s it going?
1. How do you THINK it’s going? (a question for a question)
2. I’m so lonely. *start crying (TMI)
3. I find you attractive. (catch them offguard)
4. (no reply, keep walking, they don’t deserve your response if they don’t want to hear it)
5. mumble “asshole” and then when they go, “excuse me?” say “as usual” (confusion tactic with a pre-planned recovery)

What’s a common social occurrence that drives you crazy?? I promise I’d truly love to hear what you have to say. Or, what do YOU wish you could say to someone who doesn’t wait for your response?

Get at me,
J