hungry hearted

serving up a healthy portion of pop culture commentary, random infatuations, and introspective ramblings

old stomping grounds

Kate and I spent the night camping out on an air mattress in her father's construction. The lingering cold front and the drafty, uninsulated walls made getting out of bed an uncomfortable challenge. We eventually muscled through it, fearing the notorious Jersey traffic we could easily fall victim to inroute to Philly. As it was we had a three and a half hour drive ahead of us, which could easily turn into a five-hour trek with bad timing. With this looming fear I nearly killed Kate as she attempted to pack in the most unrealistic fashion imaginable.

She dumped the remaining contents of her life into her suitcase: boots, clothes, artifacts, books, blankets, tree branches (I'm not even kidding, but she'd call them, "decorative sticks," because apparently there's a difference). I don't know how I was surprised that she hadn't yet packed for her move to New Orleans. She laughed in recognition of both of our anxieties: mine, to get to Philly as soon as possible; hers, to get her shit to New Orleans.

I ridiculed her as she tossed items around and hurriedly continued to ram belongings into her bags as they reached maximum-capacity. I informed her of the 50 lb limit on checked luggage, to which she gawked at as the most retarded thing she'd ever heard. The articles formed a mountain towering above what most people would perceive as the physical limitations of a suitcase. I begged her to leave some things behind, knowing that if I kept quiet I would end up with a fair share of her crap in the back of my rental after dropping her at the airport. I was already over-packed. Kate grunted as she forcefully managed to get her suitcase somewhat closed, pack her accompanying bags and make trips to and from my car.

With my backseat looking like a girls' locker, we made way to Philly. I wasn't used to driving there from CT, so I nearly got us lost looping around the Bronx past the Zoo and making way through the outskirts of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge and eventually intercepting the Garden State Parkway. I felt a slight buzz of excitement to be in a region where the geography and roads made sense to me. I'm notoriously awful with directions, but I had successfully dodged the bullet. Had we veered incorrectly and gotten deeper into NYC the snowball of traffic and consequential delays would have been catastrophic. Headache averted.

I took exit 4 off the Turnpike into Cherry Hill, an old habit I developed in what now feels like a past life, but I still prefer the cityscape entering from the Ben Franklin Bridge. I guess because I used to live in Philly it's my favorite east coast city. It's much more manageable than NYC, but still has a great pulse. I stuck with my old ways and headed down 8th St. past my old neighborhood and eventually made a left onto Christian Street. We parked around the corner from Joe and Johanna's apartment on Queen St. and walked down to their quaint side street.

Our visit was a mere two weeks before Joe and Johanna's wedding and we arrived to find Johanna writing on sand buckets, which would later be stuffed with goodies for out of town guests. She was hilarious and real as she scrambled around the kitchen telling us how crazy it is that she was about to be married. I love Johanna and her relationship with Joe, whom is absolutely impossible not to warm up to immediately, but it was refreshingly honest to see her behave nervously. I too often worry when I hear about people getting married young that they're doing it for the wrong reasons, for the dollhouse fantasy or an item to be checked off a list of accomplishments. That's not at all the case with this duo. They're the real deal.

Kate and Johanna hadn't previously met and I get a hard-on for merging groups of friends, so I let them chat as I gave Lane directions to Johanna's and nervously anticipated Brian's arrival. I was excited to see Lane. It was chaotic when we all moved out of our place in North Austin and it seemed like such a long time ago in consideration of all that's happened since. I'd forgotten just how excitable his personality is. He joined our table while us girls passed around an Eagles bong and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the nearing arrival of my ex-love.

He looked like a stranger, skinnier than usual, buzz cut and jumpy. I found myself surprisingly and overwhelmingly detached. I hadn't though that was possible for me with him. I brought him inside as he made awkward jokes. I introduced him to Lane. I immediately knew he'd likely be put off by Lane's energetic and curios charisma just because he is a guy I had recently lived with. Brian was always jealous.

I felt slightly overwhelmed trying to balance my attention between the three friends I was visiting. On the way to dinner I walked with Lane and we recapped our experiences since parting ways at the beginning of the summer. My thoughts were scattered as I walked these city streets I'd walked so many times before. I felt awkward about Brian and badly for lack of emotion. He sat next to me at dinner, but the distance between us was immeasurable. Two years ago we shared a home just a few streets away, but that night at dinner we spoke different languages.

New Wave Café has become a personal landmark in Philly. We took a table outside, I ordered mussels and a 9 Magic Hat. The mixed company balanced out the conversation flow and I was thankful Johanna and Kate had already known Brian for years, hoping that put him at some ease. That might have happened had Lane's recent breakup not turned the topic of discussion to the possibility of exes being friends. I bit my lip, refrained from commentary and ordered another beer. It was beyond my control. I used to think Brian and I would transition back into friends, but I realize it's not that easy. I realize the differences that once evened out our dynamic had attributed to the growing gap between us.

All things considered, dinner went as well as possible. Everyone got along and I felt good about the group interface. Lane headed home and Brian walked with Johanna, Kate and I to South Street where we were going to a show and he was going to join us for a drink. I walked with him and wished he would relax. I remember seeing him as someone so unaffected and collected, not this anxious humanoid walking next to me. I tried to make the most of it and told him how it felt good to be in Philly and how much I appreciate a city where you can walk just about everywhere and live in the heartbeat of it all. He told me I should move back, but laughed with condescension when I suggested he visit Austin.

We turned onto South Street where the crowds of pedestrians and bright lights invaded my senses and I wondered how I survived life two floors up from this chaotic mess. South Street is a highly concentrated geographical embodiment of a delinquent stepchild. It's loud, dirty, in your face and asking for trouble. There are fun spots and the rent was cheap given the ideal proximity to center city. It's just a stark contrast for a girl who spent her whole life between the star-filled skies and grassy lawns of the country. Maybe one of these days I'll get my shit together enough to afford the kind of life I would daydream about on streets like Pine and Walnut. Then perhaps I'd return to the city of brotherly love, but the lifestyle I'm running with presently makes Austin my match.

We neared the TLA and had a moment of absolute chaos. Used to headlining bands starting after ten in Austin, I thought we would have time to pick up our tickets, grab a drink with Brian at Manny Browns and make the show in time. Shit out of luck, Camera Obscura had started promptly at nine. Kate panicked as she heard 'Tears for Affairs' playing inside. She was complaining about missing her favorite song (mine too) in one ear, while I tried to communicate to the window cashier that we were on a list of some sort. Johanna stepped in and gave the appropriate name to match the list. As we were given our tickets, I tried to offer my attention to Brian for the last lingering moments before hugging him goodbye and being rushed inside in one huge wave of commotion. I still felt scattered and detached as we wedged ourselves inside, up to the bar, and down to the dance floor.

The venue was small and the band sounded as soft and dreamy as their studio recordings. I shuffled around doing my silly little dance, closed my eyes and let it take over my senses. God knows I didn't want to think about anything. There was way too much I could analyze and consume myself with at the moment. Fuck that. I pushed the swarming thoughts typical after an ex-encounter into the depths of my mind, and indulged in the moment. I let the sleepy Scot-pop drown out my mind's competition, sang along and danced, grateful for every minute of it. After all, it's not often that I see Kate or Johanna or get to spend time in Philly these days.

We returned to New Wave for another round of drinks before heading back to Johanna's place for some top-shelf lounging. Johanna and Joe are two of the most passionate Springsteen fans I've ever met, and Kate and I aren't too far behind. They put on a DVD of a live performance of Bruce and the E Street Band which we intently watched, making goofy comments over Bruce's sheer awesomeness.

Maybe I was just high, but I think Kate perfectly articulated the allure of Springsteen as a sex symbol. I forget her words, but basically he embodies a perfect balance of sensitivity and ruggedness and is unwaveringly passionate. He comes off as a guy intouch with his emotions and able to communicate them without losing his masculinity. It's a thin line, but he might just set the standard. I mean, isn't that what every girl wants? A guy that pours his heart and soul into his work looks like he just finished rebuilding the engine of his car and will come home all heated up and ready to go? The guy is in his sixties and still looks better than half the guys I meet.