Hello, Philadelphia

After I got back from my trip to Philadelphia and New York City in October 2010, posting photos took a back seat. I’ve meant to move on with my newest photos here without worrying about cross-posting on Flickr (I’m not active there anymore), so I’ll just continue from when I last posted a fresh photo here (Meet Brian).

I took this photo outside the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on my first day photowalking around Philadelphia. I didn’t run up the stairs. Walking all over town wore me out. 🙂

(If you’re interested, here’s the Exif info.)

Meet Brian

Meet Brian

The first day I went into Downtown Philadelphia, I waited at the airport for the SEPTA train to Market East Station.

An older man walked up the steps, onto the platform, and asked if this train would be going into town. I assured him it would, but not before warning him that I wasn’t a local.

Apparently, he’s lived here most of his life, but hasn’t used the public transportation system.

For the next hour, we chatted Brian told me his life story.

At six years old, Brian and his parents got into a huge car accident. His mother was 33. His father, Bernie, was a captain in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Sadly, his mother lost both of her legs from that accident. He remembered the firefighters trying to pull him out and being confused, unable to compute that his mother’s legs were being amputated within the wreckage.

Both parents recently died at 90 years old.

Brian’s eyes welled up with tears. There was so much pain. There wasn’t anything I could say. He took a breath, apologized, and continued.

Brian theorized that he was probably bipolar after that accident.

For forty years, he was an alcoholic until a horrific vision snapped him out of it. Two feathers are in his wallet as a reminder, and he’s been clean for 18 months.

During Brian’s alcoholism, he had a three-year relationship with a girlfriend, then married her for six years. They had a son and grandson. Sadly, they got divorced because “she wanted to stop partying and he didn’t.” (He hasn’t seen his son or grandson in years. Sad.)

Brian is good with numbers, so he was an electrician for a long time. Now, at 57 years old, he’s trying to get his commercial driver license (CDL) in Philadelphia to be a trucker.

Brian currently lives in Las Vegas, but plans to move to San Diego, CA. He still has two sisters, but I can’t recall if he mentioned where they live.

As Brian spoke, he was calm, peaceful, and positive on life. I was overwhelmed with emotion.

Compared to him, I can’t complain. I was heading on an epic journey around Philadelphia, with my camera, lenses, and Twitter to keep me company.

As quick as the conversation started, he arrived at his station, shook my hand, smiled, and said goodbye.

Good luck, Brian.

Note: If you’re wondering, I took his photo before we boarded the train. I wasn’t sure if he’d keep talking to me, but he did.

View photo on Flickr

My travels in Philadelphia and New York City

It’s been almost a month since I returned from my trip to Philadelphia and New York City. Over 1,900 unprocessed photos are on my hard drive, including a 36-exposure roll of Kodachrome 64 film[1. Thanks to Brian Auer for the roll of film and Hudson for lending me his Canon Elan 7e.], which I quickly mailed to Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas for processing. I also have daily GPS logs[2. Read my geotagging workflow and the GPS tracking device I’ve used since June 2008.].

Since I’m still processing photos from several paid events[3. I see the end of the tunnel. Mark my words. I’m outsourcing the processing of event photos beginning next year.], screenshots from Google Earth will have to do for images.

I wrote notes from meeting each person (strangers or friends) for extended periods of time[4. Specifically, if they talked with me between 15-90 minutes in one sitting.]. It wouldn’t do them justice if I lumped them all into this post.

In the next 3-4 weeks, I’ll only process the associated photos of the new friends I met and write a dedicated blog post for each. Lastly, I’ll update this post with a table of contents sort of thing, linking to each one as I go.

The rest of the photos will have to wait until my last paid event of the year (November 20th), plus a few weeks for processing those photos.

Yes, I took the time to import the GPS logs and highlighting the key places. You better like it!

I brought a composition book and index cards because I wanted to write in detail or summarize the events of each outing. Unfortunately, after the second day, I was too exhausted to write in detail. All I had were scribblings on index cards and the notepad “app” on my LG Dare cellphone.


October 5: Philadelphia

  • The older woman sitting next to me was annoying the entire flight. In a nutshell, she wanted to order something from her screen. Instead of swiping the card, she pushed it inside and it was stuck for what felt like two and a half hours into the flight before a flight attendant could finally unscrew the back and retrieve her card. I had aisle seat and she was in the middle, so I had to stand up for about five minutes.
  • Arrived in Philly around 10am, then the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Ridley Park around 11am. It was raining for most of the day, so I didn’t go anywhere.
  • The hotel had recently opened on Labor Day (September 6, 2010), so everything was new. It was awesome.
  • Caught up on sleep in the afternoon.
  • Set a tentative time to meet Arnold’s friend, Anastasia, who’s an artist near downtown Philadelphia.

October 6

  • Transferred my cell phone notepad entries to index cards at a Dunkin Donuts before upgrading the firmware on my phone at the nearby Verizon Wireless retail store.[5. Why? When I powered on my phone after the flight, the time and date wouldn’t be displayed on the home screen anymore. Plus, it was running verson 3, when I knew the latest was version 6.]
  • The night before, Jason and Arnold informed me that my website layout looked broken. Didn’t know about a computer in the hotel, so I essentially wandered the streets around Philadelphia City Hall that morning until I found the Apple Store.
  • LOVE Park, Logan Circle, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Dinner with Anastasia at Famous 4th St Delicatessen; she also helped me book a Megabus ticket from Philly to NYC for $12[6. Before that, I was just going to follow what Google Maps told me and it’d take four hours. I wouldn’t even know the cost. I’m an idiot, sometimes, I know.]

October 7

October 8: Philadelphia to New York City (Harlem)

  • Megabus from 30th Street Station to NYC
  • Late lunch (chicken fingers) at Pee Dee Steak House; after a two-hour wait, dinner at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem. (Thanks Leslie!)
  • Sleep

October 9: Darien, CT / Times Square, NYC

  • Took a train to Noroton Heights Station to meet Andy, Cara and their 1-year-old son, Rigby
  • 11pm-3:15am — Long exposures with the help of Juan’s Gorillapod around Times Square.

October 10

October 11


  • Mom — for helping me with getting the flights
  • Ricarte (uncle) — for letting me share his large hotel room in Philadelphia, plus hooking me up with some spending money
  • Leslie (cousin), Juan, and Justin — for letting me crash their place, dinner, and buying me a drink
  • Andy and Cara — for taking me around town (Darien, CT) and dinner

Related upcoming posts and photos

Links are forthcoming.

Final thoughts

The takeaways?

If you value sleep, bring headphones and your portable music device (e.g. iPod). Additionally, bring earplugs if you’re going to sleep in the same room with someone else.

See if there’s a Not For Tourists guidebook for the city you’re visiting. Juan let me borrow his NFT New York 2009 guidebook and I immediately wish I had one for Philadelphia. I’ll probably buy one for Los Angeles.

Give yourself plenty of free time to wing it. I wouldn’t have met most of the people (listed above) without that buffer.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Practically everybody was nice.

I’d love to return to both cities next year.

Going to Philadelphia and New York in October

Bryan’s uncle, Ric (from Hawaii), is going to Philadelphia for an all-week conference[1. He’ll be in Philadelphia from Monday morning (October 4th) to Friday around 2pm (October 8th).], with hotel and rental car hooked up. He’s letting me crash at his hotel!

Continue reading Going to Philadelphia and New York in October