Philadelphia is scary as all hell

My nerves were absolutely about to explode the next morning. I was literally shaking the whole way to the airport. Once again, my GPS tried to kill me and sent me to a FedEx facility instead of the airport, so we just kept driving around in the general direction of the huge building where planes were taking off and eventually got there.

Upon seeing this my heart exploded. 
After ten minutes of freaking out and telling Coty I was going to die, I got all my stuff together and went inside. This was my first time traveling alone by plane, and without the prospect of having my car there in Philadelphia as comfort I was inconsolable. 
I had to ask for directions about six times inside the airport, and made it to my flight ten minutes before it left.
Naturally I had to sit next to a really, really bitchy traveler who wouldn’t answer any of my questions (which were legit, by the way. Like, “If I’m transferring planes after a layover, will they move my bag automatically or do I need to go check it in?”) and gave me really nasty looks any time I looked the at each other. I was hopeful that when I switched flights in Cleveland I’d be next to someone sociable so I could calm my nerves a bit. 
Again, naturally, I was sat by myself. At the back of the plane. With no one else in my row. I got a cool shot of the airplane turbine though. It just kept making this really loud, really annoying sound the whole flight. Luckily it was only an hour long. I tried to read some Steinbeck (Tortilla Flat and The Long Valley, haven’t gotten through much of them yet but Steinbeck in general just puts me in a good mood). 
When I got off the plane I had no idea where to go so I asked some airport personnel how to get to U Penn. They told me to take the train, which was conveniently located immediately outside the airport, to University City. So I got on the train. Some people there told me you had to pay on the train instead of before, so I just stepped on without thinking about the fact that I had no cash. I met a nice elderly couple on the train who were in Philly for a medical conference and spoke with them about Truman and how terrified I was to be traveling alone for the first time. A man was walking up and down the walkway on the train taking money and handing out paper tickets. When it was my turn, I asked if they took personal checks or debit cards and he just looked at me like I was the scum of the earth. He said, “No, but we can call the police.” That was it. My brain was shutting down from the anxiety. I hurriedly explained to him why I was there and how lost and sorry I was, so he told me to stay where I was until he came back to fill out some paper work. 
At the Univeristy City stop, he hadn’t come back and was standing outside the train to usher people on. I was getting more and more restless so I finally got up, walked to him, and asked him what I should do. 
“Get your bags, you can get off.” 
The relief I experienced was almost indescribable. I got my bags and got off the train, apologizing profusely and thanking him until the train doors finally shut. I was on my way! 
The view from my room. 

 

All I knew was that I had to get to 37th St and Spruce. I started walking in a random direction. I wanted to get as far away from the train station as possible, get to an ATM in case the same thing happened again, and make it to campus. About 6 blocks from the station I started seeing numbered street signs; I saw 34th St and Walnut and figured I was close, so I kept walking that direction. It took me about half an hour to reach 37th St and, lugging all of my luggage around, wearing a backpack absolutely full of stuff, and a light jacket in 75 degree weather, I found my building! I’m staying in Harnwell House which is in the “Superblock” part of campus. 

I checked into my room, which looked like a prison cell, but I made it a little more cozy by throwing my crap all over the place. Now that the entropy in this room has reached an all-time high, it’s much more habitable.

Looking down out my wall-sized window.
So anyway, I was checked in and alive, and much more calm. I didn’t have anything to do though, since the conference didn’t start until Sunday at 4. So I looked online for things to do in Philadelphia that wasn’t on the itinerary already. So I came across a page describing something called the “Gayborhood” where all the LGBT people conglomerate. Great! That definitely wasn’t on the itinerary and it would be a perfect opportunity to see what city life was like for LGBT people. One of the events listed for Saturday night as country dancing at a bar. That was my cue. I downloaded some maps for my iPod, set it to take me to the “Gayborhood” and started walking. 
I met a German woman who was studying Philosophy with her husband on the way down Spruce. She told me how to get to the art museum and told me where not to go in the city if I didn’t want to get mugged, which was useful. Unfortunately I didn’t catch her name and we parted ways. 
I was surprised to find numerous buildings built in honor of different classes from U Penn. Like this skating rink for the class of 1923… 
Even the street signs are gay!

It took me a couple hours, but I finally got to 13th St (about 60 million blocks from campus) and found the bar I needed to get into. I was a couple hours early though, so I went to check out Giovanni’s Room, the first-ever gay & lesbian book store. It was founded in 1973 and it was a really cool place!  I had a long conversation with the owner about Philadelphia and what I needed to see before I left. I stayed until they closed at 7 and headed back to the bar for the country dancing. 
It was me and about three other people for a while, but the number grew up to about 15 over the course of the next couple hours (yeah, I was there for that long, it was so much fun!). One cool thing about being from out of town is that everyone is fascinated with you and wants to hear your story. I got some pictures with some really cool people and hung out for the rest of the night with a couple guys I met at the bar. 
Ryan (tank top on left) and Andrew (green shirt, next to him) invited me to hang out at their friend’s house a couple blocks away. At this point I was drinking nothing but water to recover from the 2 whiskey and cokes I had two hours prior (I’m a super light-weight, it is what it is) so I missed out on the jalapeño-strawberry margarita things they made at the apartment. 
We went up to the roof shortly after arriving and I got to experience crackers with expensive cheese while overlooking the city. It was absolutely gorgeous outside and Ryan showed me where all the important nearby buildings were, about the William Penn statue on the Capitol Building, etc. Evidently there is a building in the shape of a flash drive that lights up like a flash drive at night. It’s crazy. 
Finally, we went back down to the apartment and watched stupid YouTube videos for half an hour and then left. Andrew helped me get a cab (I’d never been in one before so I was nervous about hailing one. I’m weird) and I got back to campus around 1:30 local time. Overall it was a really, really fun night, and I’m glad I got into Philly a day early! 

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