Is this real? No. It's New Jersey.

The alarm went off at seven. I had been lying there with one eye opened since a quarter past six- thinking of ways to not wake up at 7. When 7 am came, I had nothing. So I got up. Got up & went outside, hoping to shovel out the lady friend's car before having to get cleaned up for work.

No parking bans in Philly- not like Portland where they kick folks off the street. Too many cars down here & not enough parking lots and it's a nice solid wall of icy, gray snow that separates you from your car. Our cars were no exception. Forty minutes, no success and I quit.

Quick shower, quick change, and a five hour wait for cabs. I took off for the L station at Front & Girard- the sidewalk on Girard, more of a uneven footpath than a city sidewalk, disappeared for spurts before suddenly reappearing again. The L was a few minutes later than I hoped- didn't know the schedule so I couldn't be too upset. I could be really upset though with the way my foot splashed into a puddle in front of 30th Street station. My right foot was soaked and cold and luckily, my train was running twenty minutes late.

In the bathroom I tried to dry my foot off with the hand dryer. I put on a clean sock, grabbed my coffee and headed for the long line for the train to Boston with a stop in Newark. A real downer of a nimrod was starting to panic and I quickly switched over to the new line they formed for folks without baggage. Because of the storm, I heard an attendant say, they were just trying to do whatever they could to just keep people moving.

Moving on to Newark Penn station, which might be one of the worst places on Earth. It's definitely one of the worst in America. Outside I got a cab with a rasta man driver and we juked and jived our way to Jersey City. The following hours were spent on rooftops & in conference rooms & hotel rooms, hotel bars, and hotel elevators before the hotel's fire alarm went off at exactly 12:34 am.

The light was flashing and incredibly bright. The siren wailed like a shithead and the announcements said to get the hell out of the room. With one shoe on I started to think that maybe this was an emergency and maybe I should hustle. When I went to touch the doorknob, I stopped. I felt if it was hot. It wasn't and in the hallway, other sleepy hotel guests were milling about. One dude was on the phone with downstairs, giving them attitude and asking if this was real. A few minutes later we found out it wasn't and a few hours later, I finally fell asleep.

Woke up and ate eggs- then sat in a conference room in a chair and on a rooftop on a cinder block. The winds were heavy and the air brisk and bitterly cold. Fifty one stories up and it took three beers and a burger to get me warm again. It then took a trip back to Newark Penn station to get me freakishly cold again. That place is terrible. It's small and cramped. Outside is a pen of psychos, crackheads, lost tourists, business folks, and college kids and in the dark it all looks worse. I learned a valuable lesson. One hour is fifty minutes longer than you should ever spend at Newark Penn Station.

One bench was taped off with crime scene caution tape. I didn't think much of it until I noticed a janitor, hand over his mouth and being watched by a cop, spray Lysol on the entire bench.

30th Street was mostly empty inside but crowded and chaotic outside as people were picked up and people flagged down cabs. The Center City side of the station had a long line, at least a thirty minute wait and the University City side had survival of the fittest as people leaped over snowbanks for available cabs. A couple people were trying to form a line but they were ignored. I reached into my pocket and felt a subway token.

I did not expect the train to be so busy and it smelt like diarrhea

I quickly got off at City Hall, walked up to 15th street and was able to catch a cab. The driver was Algerian and stressed that it was Algerian and not Nigerian. He was old, white and short and I didn't figure him for a Nigerian, but I thanked him for clarifying. The Algerian went off about Mayor Nutter, railing against the city's handling of all the snow. They were losing money because of his stupidity, the Algerian said. He was an economist back in Algeria and gave me a quick lesson on micro & macro economics. Big and small, he said.

I started to drift off as he continued on about all the lost money until he apologized for the bumpy ride.

The major roads are good, he said. It's all the other ones that are the problem.

The Philadelphia winter nighttime air was clear & defined and it was quiet, except for the car tires creaking across the mounds of ice that had pocketed along the streets. Snowbanks were easily six feet high, cars were mashed into small clearings in every which way, and the one streetlight flashed yellow. It didn't seem like a Friday night, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe it felt like Thursday for everyone else.

I'd have to find out tomorrow. It's nice to be home.


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