Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ok, time for a little tour of Philadelphia. Well, since we only know a bit about the place, it'll be a tour of my limited knowledge of Philadelphia. But, I'll be you'll all be wowed by my post anyway. Here is a map of philadelphia

If you squint really hard you can make out the numbers on the map. Jennifer and I currently live in section 18, or University City. We're right on the border of University city and the neighborhoods further west which have not had so much rennovation. Several of the houses on our block are in a state I would have to call decrepit.

Click on the neighborhood name for demographic info.

We've been looking for housing in the area marked 8, often called Point Breeze or south of south street. This area suffered a lot of blight in the past decades and is currently on the upswing, due to it's proximity to center city. For those of you who don't know Philly, center city is encompasses the areas marked by numbers 1-6 approximately. Here's a link to a nice PDF map with some bicycling avenues on it. Don't be fooled, just because a street has a bike lane, don't mean shit, it's still a pothole-ridden adventure in motorland. Since we've become disenchanted with our prospects of a nice life in Point Breeze, we've moved our focus a little farther away, more towards the near northeast of the city to areas labelled 39, 46 and 48. These areas are called Fishtown (west Kensington), Kensington and Port Richmond. Though both areas are poor, they tend to be more working class and suffered less depopulation over the past 50 years than other areas of the city. There still exist some cool little shops, restarurants and hipster-friendly hangouts and lofts. Additionally, there is the prospect for a house with a yard in this area, something which tickles my fancy as we're keen on the idea of a little victory garden in the back. I hope this gives a better picture of what we're jabbering on about the housing market here in Philly. Gambattemasho!

Monday, March 27, 2006

So, new favorite epic movie. "The Best of Youth" is an Italian film, 6 hours of it, chronicles the lifves of a family in Rome but focuses primarily on two brothers Nicola and Matteo. You can read all about it for yourself but listen here. Set aside six hours of your life with someone you like and watch the movie. It's a binge and the best thing about it is that it doesn't end for 6 glorious hours! The characters are all just awesome, they take you through a personal account of pretty much every major event in the last half century of Italy. The scenery is great, the story is super, and it just makes you want to move right in to that crazy half-backwards country because it seems so great and so tragic and so vibrant. Here's the link for the movie trailer. THough the trailer sucks, the movie itself does not.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good weekend I tell you, good weekend. Well, aside from the ceiling attempting to form stalactites in our hallway. Karl's kitchen sink tends to clog up. Apparently the plumbing wasn't done correctly. Surprised? No. Anyway, the drip used to be an infrequent trickle down some of the moulding in the hall, but this week it's decided to pool in the light fixture, dripping down in fits and spurts. Now, I seem to remember Louie the Lightning Bug telling me in one of his public service announcements that water and electricity don't mix. Oh well, I guess we'll just avoid that switch and hope for the best. Aside from watching our home take on the hydrology of Mammoth cave, the week has been spiffy. I've had the luxury of a light work week and took advantage of my free time to do some tidying the house and also to do a fair bit of cycling. Friday was the best day though. In an effort to ingratiate myself to a local non-profit in the hopes of a summer internship, ended up walking through downtown Philly putting up some posters and flyers for their local Run for Clean Air. As I was walking with my partner, a young doofus from Ignoramus, MD, I spotted what looked to be a couple of bills on the sidewalk. Seeing noone ahead who had apparently dropped the bills, I picked up the money, $110 worth of it. Damn it all that I was walking with this obnoxious Drexel University student, and damn it even more that I felt obliged to split it with him. I guess my soul will more easily ascend to the lofty firmament without the weight of sinful money holding me down. As it happened, I ended up with 60 dollars of found money, not bad pay for an hour and a half of work.

After my do-gooding, I met up with Jennifer and Dennis (realtor) for a continuing tour of places not to live. Jennifer and I have pretty much given up the ghost on the "short commute, miserable neighborhood" scenario and have phased into the "longer commute, mediocre neigborhood" mode of thinking. If you want a picture of the neighborhoods we were looking at, check out the info available at (website to be put in when computer stops freaking out) Anyway, the place we're considering right now is called "Fishtown" whereas before we were looking in the Point Breeze and South Grad Hospital zones. Fishtown is where it's at, due not only to the proximity to the Yards Brewing Company and their free tours on Saturdays, but also because it does not currently look like Sarajevo circa 1997. Thirdly, we can actually afford housing here.

Friday night we went out for fish tacos with our new best friends (since Lara and Shane no longer live in the same country as us and no longer return our emails, hint hint) Rick and Cully. They're cool. They have a house that's connected to a warehouse and they've got a terra cotta warrior along with a dog that bites people. Sweet. Additionally, they have intimate knowledge of some of the best damn food in the city, as well as the locations of all the good bars. Double Sweet. While walking from Pura Vida, the fish-taco place to some bar, Jennifer spots what appears to be a dollar bill on the street. No, not a dollar bill. A $100 bill!!! Goddam, what a night for money!!! So, as you do when you find a total of TWO HUNDRED AND TEN DOLLARS ON THE STREET we bought beer for our companions and retreated home for a lovely rest.

Honestly, if the weekends keep on like this, we're soooo gonna be living large.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Damn, I realy gotta get some perspective. Last week was like the first honest-to-god busy week I've had in a long time and as such, came as quite a shock. First, the laundry list.

Last Friday we met up with our friends, Cully and Rick. I believe that it is safe to call them friends now that we've hung out on three occasions. We went out to eat some of the best damn burgers I've had in a while. A nice juicy hamburger has been seriously lacking in my diet.

Saturday was stupid nice weather, 70 something with minimal wind. Jennifer and I went for a glorious bike ride. We rode through some of the richest suburbs I've ever been to. Palaces, all of them. We could fit whole city blocks on the estates out in Lower Merion. Funny enough, while riding through the rich-ass suburbs Jennifer and I were jeered at by passing cars and buzzed by harley davidson riders, but while cruising down 52nd street in the heart of West Philly, not a single taunt. Dumbasses don't come from any particular background, they just suck.

Sunday turned out to be about 60 and rainy, perfect weather for my first bicycle race. As I left the house, Jennifer commented that the rain and slippery surfaces would give me incentive to be in the front to avoid crashes. She was right. Though it was a little dicey for a couple of turns, I ended up breaking away with one other guy and eventually won the event. Yay me. The Quaker City Wheelmen list was all a-buzz with congratulations, though honestly, it was a smallish field of Category 5 racers. I was the top of the bottom really.

This week proved long and drawn out, evenings filled with either my new job at the UPenn climbing wall (free access, shitty pay) seeing off my former manager Seth at various going away parties and organizing socks and backpacs for many hours a day at work. Oh, I really hate merchadising things!

Jennifer and I went out for our most recent round of disappointment on Friday with Dennis. We found a sweet house right by the train line with a view of downtown, immaculate floors, 12 foot ceilings and no kitchen. We also found shit-holes in various stages of decrepitude and depressing remodeled grossness. As it stands, we may just suck it up and buy this one house that we like really well that is unfortunately in a neighborhood with a little less charm. C'est la vie.

Who is the patron saint of homebuyers anyway? I'd like to make an offering at the appropriate grotto.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Coming off of a good week here in Philly. Saturday was spent joyfully riding my bicycle around the city in a bitchin' headwind. I met up with some reasonably cool chaps with the Quaker City Wheelmen cycling squad and have decided to join their little entourage. First blood came last night as I shaved my legs in preparation for the first race of the season which will be this Sunday. I'll be flying the Skunk River Cycles colors for the first few races as the kit for QCW will not be in for a while. I suppose that I really owe my dad a lot more for his support of my cycling "habit" than any team I may ever join. Too bad that the Ames market doesn't have any overlap with the Philadelphia one. You never know though.

Sunday was also a great day. I went out to a local park called Haycock Mountain about an hour from here to go bouldering. It was a blast. The rocks are like giant dinosaur eggs scattered willy-nilly through the forest. It's kooky, cool to look at and a hell of a lot of fun to climb.

The early part of the week was as to be expected until last night when I got an email from the University of Pennsylvania saying that I have been accepted into the Master of City Planning program. Sweeeeeet! I drank some cheap wine and some cheaper tequila to celebrate as I waited for Jennifer to get home from her field visit in Atlanta, GA.

I'm about to head out for our third installment of, "Cheap-ass homes, Philly STYLE!" with Jennifer and Dennis, our realtor. More pictures to come, especially if we really like one.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Trench warfare, Philadelphia style.
Two topics for my next post.

First. Philadelphia must be the home of graft. The second biggest tax on our income taxes is the city of Philadelphia. It follows right after the federal government. What do they do with this money, they sure as hell don't put it into the streets. A month ago a large pothole opened up in front of our house. By large, I mean 1.5 x 2 feet and about 3 feet deep. I'm not kidding, 3 feet deep. This remained for approximately a month, during which time, cars would cruise by, smacking their mufflers as they jolted in and out of the pit. A temporary fix was instituted when the neighbors stuffed a set of tires and a large stuffed bear into the hole. This did not last, however. Then, last week, the public works guys came out to dig a bigger hole. Apparently the water main had some issues and they needed to dig a big-ass trench. They worked from about 6 in the morning to 8 pm, then left after shoving some dirt and asphalt on top. This was not tamped down, nor filled with gravel, just some dirt and tarry sludge on top. They may have been waiting for the work-site to mellow, as you do with a fine wine. Or they may have just buggered off and left it. Either way, the pit was still there last Thursday when it began to rain rather heavily, turning the pothole into a Verdun-like morass. I counted 3 cars that got stuck before I had to go to work. The best was the fuel truck that was in up to its axles. Yay, public works.


Jennifer and I hit up the next wave of the house hunt. While we did meet an anxious pit bull, invade a squatter camp and find the place where dracula must live while vacationing in Philly, we also saw at least 2 promising places. One was nicely redone and in move-in condition, though it was right across from two vacant warehouses. The other was across from a park, had sweet green paint, and some really cool features that make us want to check it out again. I'll post some pictures shortly. At this point, we're thinking about the prospect of a fixer-up-er and exactly how much fix-er-up-ing we can do before our lease runs out here.
Our realtor, Dennis, busting into the first place we looked yesterday. One has to look at it from a more archaeological perspective, but then you can really see some nice features, including some nice detailing on the door as well a slate-floored entryway. The only problem is that I can't stand up straight in the basement.
Jennifer checking out the inside of the previous not-too-bad house that we found in South Philly. Oh yeah, it has a mural on the side. Mr. Something Lomax, founder of some magazines and stores and an example of a leader in the African American community. The mural is mostly purple. I dig it.
Squatter Camp. Note to self, always lock doors. Second note to self, if selling a house, do not allow squatters to live in it while it's on the market.
Inside of the rather nice one. It can be yours for the low low price of $144,000.