Harrisburg

Holiday week in review

Dec 21st – My flight from Orlando to Baltimore was frustratingly delayed over an hour for unknown reasons so it was already dark by the time we landed at Baltimore-Washington International. I’m used to BWI, but I was completely unprepared for cold, wind… or the 35-cent increase in Light Rail fares. Due to my relatively late arrival in HVTC (7:30pm), mom decided she would pick me the next morning so I had an awful dinner at Panera Bread and could barely find my hotel in the scarcely lit side street surrounding the mall, let alone feel my ears\nose\fingers.

Dec 22nd – Overnight in Hunt Valley. Nothing exciting to report here except that I was going to post Hanukkah memes, but couldn’t find enough that weren’t juvenile or anti-Semitic. I’m all for humor (which is why I compile these meme posts to begin with), but NOT at the expense of others.

We got back to Shamokin barely in time to meet my aunt (yes, THAT one, and while I wasn’t looking forward to it, it went relatively well) and her boyfriend at a popular pizza place in the next town over. I say “barely” because mom turned down the wrong street and got completely lost so we had to ask Siri how to get back. However, I can say with certainty that “the best pizza in town” isn’t.

Dec 24th – Normally, we spend Christmas Eve going to my parent’s friends the Nye’s house for a special holiday themed “open house” at 5:30 for dinner (featuring “Uncle Paulie” in the world’s least convincing Santa outfit) before heading over to the Candlelight Service (7pm). THIS year, instead of doing that we went to my brother’s house in Nazareth for a Christmas Eve dinner with his family (wife, and two young children). It was loud, hectic and crowded, but I got some nice pictures.

Since said dinner wasn’t until at least 5pm, mom decided it was safer to stay overnight. I was downstairs in the basement on an uncomfortable air mattress with sheets that were too small to actually be of any use. Fortunately, the ticking of the clock 3 feet away from said mattress was loud enough to keep me awake until the heat kicked on around 2am.

Dec 25th – Did I mention, the kids “slept in” until 6am? Slackers. By the time I admitted defeat and headed upstairs around 7:15am, the living and sitting rooms were a complete war zone. Toys, wrapping paper, boxes, unopen able plastic containers. On the plus side, my “gift,” a plastic card for a gas station (your brother has no license and no car and you get him a gift certificate to a gas station?) was waiting for me in a tiny box in an otherwise untouched stack of gifts on the other side of the sofa. Breakfast was at 9am and was good. As soon as we finished, we packed our stuff in mom’s van and drove 5.3 miles to my OTHER brother’s house in Bethlehem.

It was 11am by the time we arrived, and my sister-in-law had just put out the last of her Christmas brunch. My mom chastised me “how can you say you are trying to ‘lose weight’ when you had not one but TWO breakfasts in two hours?” The conversation at the table I shared with my mom, brother, SIL and her parents quickly went from light and humorous to dark and slightly disturbing (dead pets, bird attacks, death camps and Donald Trump. I pitied my SIL for trying to keep the conversation as light as possible. After less than an hour there, we left and made the roughly 90-minute commute back to the middle of nowhere, where we could contemplate our nothing lives. At least, I don’t need a password for my mom’s wifi…

Dec 26th – Before today, I would have assumed this would be a separate post. You see today is the day BOTH my brothers came to Shamokin and brought their kids with them…but we weren’t here to celebrate Christmas. We were here to work, cleaning up the garage, my dad’s den and what’s left of the basement. We got the den passable – in that one is actually able to pass through it without killing themselves.

The reason only ONE of the three areas was tackled was our mom decided since my eldest was coming in around 11am, we would meet him at a REAL pizza place along with my aunt and her boyfriend (who was able to come in because it was “slow” in his shop), my other brother came in with his family at quarter-til-12 so we weren’t out of there until almost 2pm.

After this, we were ready to work…until my middle brother got an important call on his cell which left us in limbo for almost a full hour. Finally, we get to go outside and open a mysterious chest in the garage (dad wanted “all 5 boys” present for it, but my 3yo nephew and his older sister went home with their mom after lunch). Good news, there was stuff inside it; bad news, it was boring stuff so my SIL took my remaining nephew home while the three girls stayed behind and played Clue in the living room with gramma while the three of us tackled the desk\cabinets\miscellaneous stacks of paper between them (dating back to 1973). The girls definitely won the night…

 

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, coal region, family, florida, flying, Harrisburg, holidays, light rail, Orlando, Pennsylvania, transportation, weather | Leave a comment

Hanging in

Wednesday: Missed the bus to the airport this morning because I went to the wrong stop. In fairness, it WAS 5am and I was running on 2hrs of sleep (after packing and making plane reservations). I barely made it through security in time for my flight, but with the exception of minor turbulence coming into Charlotte, the rest of my trip went relatively smoothly with me arriving at MDT at 1:07pm (four minutes ahead of schedule).

My brother Andy and I arrived at the house around 3pm, and I almost didn’t recognize it: as he and my older brother Ned had spent the past four weekends sorting out his stuff whenever he fell asleep. It was a huge deal to be able to not only see but to actually be able to walk across the floor without worrying about knocking any of his towering piles of stuff over.

The meeting with the funeral director was long and arduous as we went over details for music, flowers, even the menu for the wake (to be held after the service). Then came the part about interviewing us for the obituary (which he initially said would run as a “teaser” on Friday and “in full” in Saturday’s edition). Once that was over, we met with my aunt Mary-Ann and her boyfriend at a local sports bar. It wasn’t necessarily my first choice (our options are kind of limited in town), but we did have a good time considering the circumstances even if I was on the wrong end of the table to make any meaningful part in the conversation.

Thursday: The funeral director came by in the morning to drop off the galley of the obituary for “corrections.” God, did it need them as everything they could get wrong, they did: his name, his place of birth, his rank in the Air Force, etc. Their grammar was almost as bad as their notetaking so I was basically forced to rewrite it from scratch as many of my dad’s friends came by or called to wish us their condolences.

Most of the afternoon was spent helping my brother cleaning up my dad’s den\garage. Piles of books, papers, folders, etc. were all boxed up and taken to the recycling center over on Venn Access (the garage alone took two trips – and we only tackled the front half of it). It wasn’t much… but like mom said to someone on the phone:

“It’s amazing how quickly you can delete all traces of a person’s life,” she said continuing with a sigh. “One day you have valuable possessions and then s-suddenly it’s all ‘trash’ to be thrown out.”

Friday: Woke up to see the changes Andy made to the obit this morning’s paper (I dreamed they made a bigger deal at the paper: editorial, op-ed & memorial cartoon). It made it seem so “final.”

I’m doing my best to keep everything together. Today is a “slow” day (most of his friends were here\called yesterday) It’ll be MUCH harder tomorrow when the rest of the family starts arriving for the viewing…

Categories: coal region, family, flying, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | Leave a comment

Harrisburg Trip: Day 2

I didn’t have any fancy clothes with me so I threw on a polo shirt and hoped for the best. I put my key into the elevator and made my way to the 13th floor. I followed the sign to a small doorway immediately next to the elevator. The door leads down a small hallway to a small room with fancy tables and overstuffed chairs.

The woman at the concierge stand didn’t ask for a name or room key. She simply pointed over to the seating area, saying I could sit wherever I wanted (though there were only about 3 guest tables in the room). I was somewhat disappointed by the selection on their continental breakfast, but the panoramic view of the downtown with the river was almost enough to make up for it.

I finished my meal, grabbed my backpack off the floor and headed downstairs. I decided to take the sky bridge across to Whitaker Center (via Strawberry Square Mall). It was after all the only reason I made the trek to this city in the first place. One doesn’t get to see giant mechanized dinosaurs on a daily basis in Baltimore, but that doesn’t automatically make the exhibit any good, but (you can read the rest of my thoughts here).

When I finished walking around the exhibit, I shoved my pen\notebook into my backpack and returned to Strawberry Square to find something to get for lunch. Sadly, there was absolutely nothing in “The Square.” It was literally as devoid of shops as it was of visitors, the only other people I saw walking through the area were the ones unfortunate enough to work at the food court on the second level (so much for hanging out at the mall on a Saturday).

It was just after noon when I left the abandoned husk of urban land known as “Strawberry Square,” and I made my past the Capitol Complex on my way to the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

One would think that a state the size of Pennsylvania would have a fairly large “state museum,” and you’d be wrong. Granted, the building isn’t nearly as small as it looks from the outside, but it isn’t nearly as immense, encompassing or engaging as I would have hoped. Yes, there were some interesting displays here and there, but the entire museum felt hopelessly dated (circa late-70s-early 80s).

I didn’t really get a chance to explore the entire museum (as it closed at 5pm), but the 3rd floor was Entomology, Geology and Paleontology along with the impressive taxonomy collection of native mammals. 2nd floor was history (civil war), archaeology (presented though a series of life-sized dioramas showing the life of a Delaware Indian tribesman) and technology (I didn’t really have time to go through, sorry). The 1st floor was Village Square which showed various shops in a colonial era town and around the hallway in the middle of their contemporary art wing (also didn’t really go through) was something called the “Brockerhoff House” (a recreation of 18-19th century home life).

I left the State Museum shortly after 4pm, and immediately sat down on the cement wall outside the building to find somewhere to eat on my smart phone. I didn’t really see anything that interested me so I decided to take a walk over to City Island. Unfortunately, no sooner had I come off the sidewalk of the Market Street Bridge it started to drizzling. I was able to make it to the train depot on the other side of the island without getting caught in rain, but as soon as I came off said attraction, it starting raining more steadily (albeit relatively lightly).

Fortunately, I had a rain jacket in my backpack because the rain really started coming down as I crossed the iron pedestrian bridge going back towards the hotel. By this time, it was close enough to dinner that I simply ducked into the hotel restaurant. The service was good, but I wasn’t impressed with the sandwich I ordered.

It was still pouring when I arrived back at the room. I was inside now so I decided to just change into drier clothes and stay inside for the night. I was checking out the next day, and it was a long trip back to Baltimore.

Categories: Harrisburg, museums, Pennsylvania, weather | 1 Comment

Harrisburg Trip: Day One

Harrisburg may be the state capitol, but it’s a surprisingly small city. In fact, I spent 10 minutes once with a friend of mine who insisted I was a “fucking retarded idiot” for not knowing that “Philadelphia is the capitol of Pennsylvania” – and he had a “map” to prove it (or it could be the only city shown for Pa and therefore MUST be the capitol).

Anyway, there were no cabs outside the Harrisburg Amtrak which is just as well since it took all of six minutes to get from the station to my hotel. Not only was I somehow not mugged, murdered or molested along said walk, but I also learned that H’burg isn’t nearly as ugly as I’d been told (though that doesn’t necessarily make it pretty either).

Check in was relatively simple and I found out my room overlooked the Susquehanna River, but it slammed really loudly when it shut. Anyway, I go downstairs to try and find something to eat before heading out to the Senators game on City Island.

Dinner took longer than I expected so I made a trip back upstairs. I tried my key in the door, and it failed. It finally opened on the third try, but then it wouldn’t close. It hit the door frame and bounced back open. I tried again, same thing happened.

Fortunately, I ran into the head of security in the hallway on my way to the front desk. He looks at me skeptically (I’m obviously too stupid to know how to shut a door) but agrees to come over to my room anyway. He finds the door is still open and upon trying three times found it indeed did not shut before he finally calls maintenance to “look into” fixing the door.

He leaves, and twenty minutes later, a young black man in overalls arrives and the door swings further open as he knocks on it. He introduces himself as the “acting” building engineer as his boss has “the weekend off,” and like the security guy before him he insists on spending 10 minutes trying to shut a door that will not close just to confirm that said door will not close.

He then tells me he’ll be back in ten minutes to get his tools (apparently, he didn’t need them for this as he thought this was another instance of someone too stupid to know how to close a door). How did he think he was going to fix it, put his hand on the handle and pull in shut and watch it magically close so he can thank me for wasting my time? However, for some reason he insisted I wait in the room as he works until he suddenly changes his mind mid-argument.

“No, I think I know what the problem is and, assuming we have the proper parts, it should only take about 10 minutes to fix. So just stay here, I’ll while I get my tools and I’ll get this door fixed for you…unless they call me for something else.”

He goes on about how there are 300 units in this hotel and only one of him. If they call him for any other issues those will take priority over a simple door repair, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t eventually get done. No, it just meant that this “ten minute fix” would take “up to an hour at most” depending on how many calls he got, but not to worry this was” no reason to switch rooms.”

Fifteen minutes later, the young black engineer was back, but not with his toolkit. Instead he was saying something about calling his boss at home with boss apparently telling him to wait until Monday to do anything so he presented me with the key I “wasn’t going to need” and a message about a free breakfast the next morning in the concierge level (per management).

The door to the new room worked. The key responded on the second try and the door shut normally behind me. The view, however, wasn’t as good, but I could still sort of see the river and hear the postgame fireworks being set off from the stadium (I had honestly forgotten about the game).

Categories: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | 1 Comment

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