Monday, September 04, 2017

history in Philadelphia

In July I went to Philadelphia for a whopping ten nights to do dissertation research and attend a history conference. I took the train up on Monday, and after scoping out my Airbnb and eating an early dinner I spent the rest of the evening walking to a bunch of stores looking for a cheap and easy way to make my morning coffee (what kind of rented apartment doesn't have a way to make coffee?!?), eventually settling unhappily for a French press. (I wanted one of those cheap pour-over cones, but couldn't find one.)

Tuesday through Thursday I spent my days at the Pennsylvania Historical Society, which was just under a mile from my apartment. I also spent each of those mornings running along the Schuylkill River, which was close by and had a great paved trail. Thursday evening the conference started, so I attended the plenary session and reception. Friday I attended a couple sessions with a break in between to do more research at the historical society. I attended another reception that night at the Masonic hall, then treated myself to a really good Italian meal. (My pasta came with a little scoop of savory gelato on top!)
Pennsylvania Historical Society
Schuylkill River Trail

Saturday morning I ran nine miles before attending a couple of conference sessions. Then when I was done with that for the day I met up with my friend Celia, who'd come down from New York to hang out with me for the weekend. We ate dinner, then walked to Spruce Street Harbor Park to check out the lights and hammocks and floating island garden. It was a fun place to grab a beer and do some people watching.

It had rained and the hammocks were wet, but that didn't stop us.

Neat moving island thingies at Spruce Street Harbor Park.

Sunday I attended two final conference panels, then spent the rest of the day doing touristy stuff with Celia. After a good lunch we walked to the Barnes Foundation, which I hadn't known about but was a really great art museum. It was also neat because almost every room had New Mexican retablos, which Celia was really good at identifying. From there we walked to the historic district, where we toured Independence Hall and visited the Liberty Bell. Then we took a break at a beer garden, and when it started to pour down rain we booked it for the closest restaurant we could find for dinner.

Obligatory Independence Hall photo.

Monday was full of more history. We visited the new Museum of American Independence, the Christ Church Burial Ground (where Benjamin Franklin and a few other Declaration signers are buried), the Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States (which I loved because it was full of Charles Willson Peale portraits, and I love Charles Willson Peale), Franklin Court, and the Betsy Ross House. After all that we grabbed an early dinner before Celia had to catch her bus back to New York.

A replica of the rising sun armchair (what Washington sat in when he presided over the Constitutional Convention) at the Museum of the American Revolution
Peale portraits! (And so many of the men I read letters to and from every day at work.)
Tuesday and Wednesday I was back in the historical society doing research all day. And finally on Thursday after I checked out of my apartment I had a little bit of time to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art before my train ride home.

Another Peale painting, this time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
That was my final big research trip (following Boston and New York). I really loved all three of them, living in apartments in the city and walking to work in different repositories all day for my dissertation. Now I just have to come up with intelligent things to say about what I found...

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Way back in June I went camping with friends. I've wanted to go camping with friends for years and it finally happened. It was super fun.

Five of us spent two nights at Crabtree Falls Campground (about an hour from Charlottesville). Since I've taken so long to blog about it I don't remember all the details, but Friday evening when we showed up we set up our tents, then set to making dinner (spaghetti). After that we may have played a game? Then there was a campfire of course.

The green one was mine.
 The next day we had bagels for breakfast, then walked half a mile down the road to the base of Crabtree Falls. It was a gorgeous day for a hike.

Excited to start hiking.

Tree hugger.

At the top! (In awkward shade!)

After the hike we went back to the campground and ate lunch. Then there was reading (or crosswording, in my case) and naps. Eventually my tent heated up too much though and nap time was over. So I headed down the hill right next to our site to the river, where others were busy skipping rocks. I skipped a few, too.

Nice to hear this river all night.

We played some more games (Sushi Go! and Hanabi) and then made dinner (veggie burgers). Of course after that we had another campfire and s'mores.

The kitchen.
Sunday we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast, then packed up our site. On our way back home we stopped and toured Swannanoa, this big old (run down) mansion on Afton Mountain. We also stopped for ice cream in Crozet.


Tiffany window atop the main staircase in the house.

It was a great early summer weekend in Virginia with friends.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New York!

A few weeks ago I spent nine days in New York City. I went to do dissertation research, but tacked on some fun weekends, too.

I took the train up on a Saturday, and made my way to the apartment I rented on the Upper West Side. After the travel and struggling with my ginormous suitcase on the subway and stairs, I was happy to finally be safe and sound in the apartment, but there were some brief tears when I couldn't find access to wifi. Everything worked out though, don't worry, and that night I met up with my good friend Celia for dinner.

The next day she and I met up again for fun times. We had brunch at Bubby's and then walked the High Line, which was a little crowded but pretty neat. Then we made our way to the Guggenheim Museum for some modern art.

Inside the Guggenheim

After all that walking and standing we were ready for a break, so we got some ice cream and sat in Central Park. It was fun seeing all the cyclists and runners and dog walkers. When we felt rested enough we walked over to the Metropolitan Art Museum, where we just visited some of the short-term exhibits, including some crazy fashion by Rei Kawakubo.

People watching in Central Park

Impractical fashion art.
After the museum we met up with Celia's sister for dinner. While we waited to get into the delicious ramen restaurant we had a drink at a bar around the corner, where we also FaceTimed with my brother Ryan (Celia and I were friends in high school, and Ryan and her sister were in the same grade together in high school). After dinner I headed back toward my place, with a stop for groceries on the way.

Monday and Tuesday I walked up to Columbia University to do research. I always love visiting places where I can walk to "work," and it was fun to see so many children on their way to school right there in the big city. After the library closed Monday I tried to find a coffee shop where I could continue working, but didn't find a good place and settled for buying a muffin at a bakery and taking it home to make my own tea and work. Unfortunately the bakery I entered only served gluten free stuff, but luckily it gave me the chance to see a minor celebrity, who was also buying a gluten free treat.

Tuesday while doing research I made sure to enter a few lotteries for show tickets, and I hit the mega jackpot when I won two tickets ($10 each) to Hamilton. I love Hamilton and have listened to the soundtrack countless times, so this was super exciting. Celia said she's tried to win tickets a hundred times without luck, but I won on my first try! So after work she and I met up for dinner, and then went to the show. 

I needed to pick up the tickets at will call, and they let us jump the line of people waiting to get in so we could get up to the window. When I opened the envelope to get the tickets out a small slip of paper was inside that warned us no drinks were allowed in the front row. Front Row?!?! I couldn't really understand the seats listed on the tickets, but each time we showed them to an usher they said "Congratulations!" and pointed us toward the front row of the center orchestra. So crazy.

Standing up at our seats for a photo during intermission!
The show was amazing. I know it's a big hit and all, which in some ways turns me off, but it's a hit for a reason. I laughed, I cried (literally), and of course I sang along inside my head. The actors were so close! I saw so much spit and sweat! (Oh, and I also happened to have spent the day looking in a collection of papers that included items from many of the main characters, so it was fun to see and touch historic documents and then see their authors portrayed on stage that night!)

Wednesday and Thursday I walked to the New-York Historical Society to do research. The first day I ate my lunch across the street in Central Park (peanut butter and jelly for the third day in a row). After work Wednesday I did manage to find a coffee shop, where I continued working for a couple more hours. Then I decided to go for a walk in Riverside Park. I ended up walking fifty blocks north, then another 1.6 miles east to Red Rooster, a hip restaurant in Harlem. The wait took forever (I was definitely overlooked as a party of one, and then when they seated me in a corner at an empty communal table I couldn't manage to get a server's attention for a really long time), but the food was good and I didn't really have anything better to be doing.

New-York Historical Society

Central Park

Riverside Park and the Hudson River
Friday morning I took the subway down to Times Square (ugh) to do a little research at the New York Public Library. It was kind of weird to have to check my bag and be wandering all over carrying my laptop and microfilm while a slew of tourists with backpacks and cameras were just visiting. I didn't happen to find anything at all useful in the collection I examined, and while that was a little disappointing I wasn't too upset because it meant I could get out of there and go back to the historical society where I hadn't been able to finish a much more useful collection the day before.

New York Public Library
When the library closed at 4:30 I headed out for an ice cream cone and another walk through Central Park. Then at 6pm I went back to the historical society to visit the museum galleries (including a small exhibit of TJ documents that are owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, and happened to be on display in Richmond at the Virginia Historical Society while I was in Boston doing research at the MHS; so I finally got to see them). When I was done there I met up with Celia for a nice Italian dinner, where we got to sit outside on the sidewalk.

I originally thought I'd be doing more research on Saturday, but turns out everything I needed was closed since it was Memorial Day weekend. I wasn't too sad to have another free day in the city though. That Saturday was also the day I checked out of my apartment to spend my last two nights at Celia's place, and luckily her boyfriend was able to pick me up and let me avoid the subway (or a cab) with my giant suitcase. Unluckily, however, Celia's dad was actually really sick and she had to take him to the hospital, so he and I hung out in the car outside the NYU hospital while she got her dad settled. Eventually we had lunch near their place in Brooklyn, and then Celia and I visited the Brooklyn Brewery. Turns out the long line and crowded noisy place wasn't really worth the wait, since we could have gone to just about any local bar and still enjoyed a Brooklyn Brewery beer. Oh well. Afterwards we walked around Brooklyn, and that night we drove to Queens to one of their favorite sushi restaurants.

View of the city from Brooklyn
Sunday I got to go with Celia on a walk with her dog to the dog park, which was exciting. I'd never been to a dog park before. Then we went to visit her dad in the hospital. He was looking and feeling much better than the day before. (He was released a few days later, and is happily back at home.) After that we grabbed a slice of pizza and then went to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where our particular tour learned about Irish immigrants. After the museum we walked back to Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge, where her boyfriend picked us up and we all went to a little barbecue at their friend's house. He had a great view of the city from his balcony, which was a nice treat on my last night in New York.

Monday morning I helped Celia do some packing (in addition to hosting me and taking care of her dad in the hospital, they were also all moving!), then we walked to a quick lunch before I had to head to the station for my train home. Overall it was a really great trip. I accomplished dissertation research, saw Hamilton (!), and got to visit with a good friend and her family.

Monday, June 05, 2017


Back on April 29 I went on my longest hike ever. The Rivanna Trail makes a mostly continuous loop around Charlottesville, and I walked all nineteen-or-so miles of it.

I met a group of friends (well, I knew four of the twelve people total) at 8am at Riverview Park, and we set out counterclockwise on the trail. The first couple of miles are paved. Several times you come out of the woods and have to cross streets, or even walk on streets until you get to the next section of trail. You cross the river a few times, and go through a couple of culverts. Parts are flat, and others are definitely not. I had probably only been on about a third of the trail before this, so it was neat to see parts of the trail and city I wasn't familiar with. You get a whole range of scenery and hiking, and I think it's neat that it's all available right here in Charlottesville.

The one place we had to take off our shoes.

We started with twelve people, but half of us didn't have time (or desire?) to finish the whole thing, so people dropped out at different points throughout the day. After about seven miles we stopped for an early lunch at Bodo's. Then after a long stretch of hilly and tiring hiking, we had another break in the grass on Fontaine Ave. Those were the only times I got to sit down.

About to cross the street after lunch.

We finally made it back to Riverview Park at 3:45. I was pretty sore and grumpy by that point, mainly because I could have used a few more breaks and I'd pulled something in my leg that was painful. I didn't know the person leading our group very well so I didn't speak up more about needing to rest (and who wants to look weak and needy?), but I should have. Oh, and it was really hot that day too. In any event, we finished the whole thing and while I was plenty please with the accomplishment I was also pretty stoked it was over.

The next weekend I joined friends for a much shorter birthday hike on the Lower Shamokin Falls Trial at Wintergreen. It was only 1.7 miles out, but it had rained a lot recently and there were several unexpected water crossings. Some people just got their shoes wet (none of us were prepared for water crossings except the birthday boy), but a couple of us stopped each time to take off our shoes. The hike ends at a tall waterfall, and it was really roaring.


Apparently you can normally get in this pool, but the water was crazy that day.

Birthday boy and his hike-planning wife.

This wasn't an easy hike, and I was impressed with all the parents of small children.

This coming weekend I'm going camping, and I look forward to more hikes and more outdoors!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

another Nascar race

I'm so behind on sharing fun things here, sheesh. A few weeks ago my parents visited Richmond, and while they were there I went with dad to a Nascar race. I'm not into Nascar personally, but sometimes I go with him and usually have a fun time.

We got to the track in time to walk around the various booths and tents, where we happened upon a mascot-type character of his favorite driver, Matt Kenseth. Then we ate some stadium food and grabbed a beer before heading to our seats.

two happy guys
foot-long lunch

The race lasted several hours, and for the first 160-or-so laps Kenseth was in the lead, so that was exciting. This was also my first race where I got to listen to dad's scanner radio, which helped pass the time. The weather was pretty hot (in the 80s) but luckily there was a breeze most of the time. Whenever the breeze stopped I started to melt into my stadium seat.

The end of the race got exciting as a few guys fought for the top slot, but I don't know who ended up winning. When it was all over we headed back to the house and picked up mom for dinner.