The bus ride to Philadelphia wasn’t too long and was fairly comfortable as far as bus-rides go however I was still left feeling rather exhausted by the time we pulled into our destination. I was finally having some success getting acceptances through couch-surfing and this time I was staying with someone called Donna who was going to College at Temple University. Her place somewhat resembled a hostel due to there being several other couch-surfers crashing there at once, but everyone seemed pretty cool and before long we were all playing video-games together. Donna and her flat-mate were both pretty awesome and likely two of the coolest nerd-chicks I’ve yet to encounter. Their apartment was a shrine to geekdom and we spent much of the night playing Smash Bros, Mario Kart (where I was continually beaten convincingly . . . I blame the poor Gamecube controller) and discussing which Internet memes were commonly known between America and Oz.
The next day proved that it is indeed NOT always sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, the dismal weather forecasts were right and the down-pour was absolutely torrential. As a result, the location of the festival was changed at the last minute, which was a shame as the original outdoor location sounded pretty awesome. Instead the festival was being held in-doors at the Temple College basketball stadium. This kinda sucked because the food and drink that made available turned out to be the typical greasy and over-priced rubbish that one typically gets at American sports venues. It worked well for me however because as it turned out, I was staying right next to Temple College, so the entrance to the stadium was only several blocks from my accommodation.
I’d bought an extra ticket to the festival so had put up an ad on Craigslist to off-load it, unfortunately the festival wasn’t sold out either so I knew I was going to be making a loss on it. Thankfully someone responded pretty quickly to my ad and I hadn’t discounted the ticket too much so I arranged to meet him before the festival at a pub around the corner. I met Ashley, a nice English lad at the pub who was joined by Jonny, also from England. We all enjoyed a few pre-festival pints, compared music tastes and quickly became friends like most Aussies and Pommies generally seem able to do.
We made our way to the festival, Jonny didn’t actually have a ticket but managed to get one for an absolute bargain at $10 off a scalper outside! Good times resulted, I didn’t know a great deal of the other acts preceding The Shins however a couple were memorable including Elbow and Cage the Elephant. The Shins put on a great show, sounding better live that I would have thought and also playing some new material from their upcoming album. After the festival I said bye to Jonny, who unfortunately couldn’t stick around for the 2nd day of the festival and then took Ash back to the video game den and allowed him to beat my host at Mario Kart on my behalf.
The 2nd day of the festival held a bit more variety in the types of music acts, Charles Bradley singing funk and soul and displaying some truly provocative dance moves got the crowd going fairly early. Then came Kreayshawn, truly one of the worst travesties I’ve seen ever perform live (and that’s saying something as I’ve unfortunately witnessed part of a performance from a fiend known as Ke$ha). The creature Kreayshawn is a female American rapper who makes some truly terrible sounds which come in the form of some just as dreadful lyrics. One example – “I got the swag and it’s pumping out my ovaries”. I have no idea what said swag is that she might be referring to, but I know for certain that I definitely want no part of it.
The rest of the acts that night were much improved with Foster the People playing a good set and then finishing with plenty of dance music in the form of Girl Talk and Pretty Lights. Despite feeling rather wrecked after spending most of the day on my feet, I joined Ash and a few friends he had from spending time at a college in Colorado for some festivities, which came in the form of a genuine American college party. I’d been to one of these before in Hawaii many years ago and knew what to expect as it turns out pretty much all college parties in this country follow the same recipe – kegs of beer in someone’s over-crowded backyard and plenty of people playing beer-bong. We all had to pay the hosts $5 to enter (girls got in for free of course), which then entitled us to a plastic cup which we held out while standing around a keg for 15 minutes at a time to acquire an average tasting beer, half of which contained foam. Before long we grew tired, so went down the road where I acquired some of my favourite American fast-food (buffalo wings) and then made my way exhausted back to bed.
The next day after a good sleep in, I left with the intention of seeing something else of significance in Philly before jumping on my bus to New York. I arrived at the bus station a full hour early, and after a quick look at Google Maps, realised I should be able to make it to the the “Rocky Steps” and back. Therefore, I set out on foot along the river with my luggage and after about half an hour got to the building marked on Google Maps. I wandered back and forth around the building a couple times before I finally found the main entrance with the iconic steps. I got someone to take a quick photo of myself at the top, then snapped one of the Rocky Statue (complete with line of tourists waiting to get their photos) before jumping into a taxi to rush back for my bus.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, the bus I’d booked was literally pulling away just as I arrived (I swear it left at least 2 minutes early). Therefore, I had to wait a couple more hours in a stand-by line instead. While doing so I decided this time in New York I should see a Broadway show, no matter what it was. Book of Mormon was my first choice, but tickets continued to be ridiculously priced so instead settled on seeing Chicago. Chicago was entertaining and I happened to be sitting next to two Australians during the performance who were visiting from Sydney.
That night a chance reunion occurred courtesy of the wonders of technology. Those who know me are aware that I often use apps on my mobile phone and one of them is called Foursquare. The premise of the app is pretty simple, it verifies the location of your phone via GPS and allows you to “check-in” to locations nearby, they can be restaurants, bars, night-clubs, shops or just about anything else. When I checked Foursquare on my phone I happened to see an old friend called Lindsay was checked into a sushi-bar on the other side of Manhattan, I’d met Lindsay and her sister in Europe back in 2007 and hadn’t seen either of them since. A quick message and next thing I knew I was having drinks with her an her husband in another random Manhattan bar. The next day I explored more of Manhattan, mostly around the Rockefeller Center, generally wandering into and out of random stores and then subsequently getting disorientated. I checked out the awesome Nintendo World store, and briefly contemplated the purchase of a Nintendo 3DS so I could relive playing Zelda in 3D.
Later that day I met up with Ash again who was back in New York and we hung out some more. After a quick walk through Central Park, we headed back to where he was staying in Brooklyn and started tucking into some cheap beers (I could tell I was well over budget on this trip already)! After meeting more random Australians (again!) we all went out for some Thai food and subsequently ended up in Manhattan, first checking out a house-party I was invited to by a couch-surfer the week before and then hitting some more random bars. Overall, even though this was a short trip, I think I had more fun in my week of travelling to DC, Philly and New York than I had in quite awhile. This trip reminded me why I loved travelling and everything that goes with it and as I limped back to my empty Boston apartment, I continued to wonder why I had actually decided to settle down!