Monday, February 25, 2008

A Taste of Philly

I have been told by several people who used to live in Philadelphia that the two main places to get a Philly Cheesesteak are Pat's and Geno's, which are literally right next door to each other. I was also told that a true Philly version of the sandwich is made with Cheeze-whiz.

We went to Pat's because Geno's is lit-up with neon like a Vegas casino and doesn't (visibly) seem like authentic Philly. There is a sign telling you the rules for ordering. You basically decide if you want onions or not "'With' or 'Without'", and then what kind of cheese you want. It isn't soup-nazi fascism for messing up your ordering technique, but you do have to go to the end of the line if you make a mistake. So, I step to the front and order "With, Whiz". I pay, and then move to the next window to order french fries and a mountain dew (separate windows, separate cashier, separate transaction... don't ask me why).

The sandwich was good, but I gotta throw a shoutout to the Fort Collins favorite A Taste of Philly" who, hands-down, make a much better cheesesteak sandwich than Pat's of Philadelphia. Go Fort Collins!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fantastically Foo-Fooing the Philly Fire Code

Before we get to that awesomely alliterative subject, let's talk about why Amtrak rocks. People in CA (especially the people who only go back and forth between LA and SF) love to slam Amtrak for being slow and generally crappy. On the east coast it's totally different. Instead of a $450 flight from NYC to Philly, I took a $100 Amtrak ride that got me to Philly faster. I show up at Penn Station, collect my ticket from the kiosk, walk to my train without going through a security-theatre line, and get right on the train. I had a coach seat with plenty of leg and elbow room and every seat-pair has 2 AC outlets for laptops. It's like it was designed be people who... thought about the design! Amtrak is the only way to travel, and I'll definitely be taking it to DC next week. Plus if it snows you don't have to deal with airport cancellations!

I proceeded to the taxi line, and got into a cab that smelled like beer (Law violation #1). But, I didn't have that far to go, and the streets were pretty clear on an early Sunday morning, so I thought I'd just go for the adventure. I figured he was a functioning drunk, since he didn't seem to be slurring and he knew exactly where he was going. I figured that, that is, until he went the wrong way down a one-way street. Twice. It wasn't too disastrous (as I said, it was early Sunday morning), and we were only caught unawares by two cars.

I started my day in Philly by visiting the Franklin institute. After Rhett lent me the Walter Isaacson biography of Benjamin Franklin (fantastic book, btw) I've been interested in all things Franklin. They had a bunch of his old scientific tools and experiements, as well as a bunch of history on his activities. I also watched several Imax films and visited the Planetarium. Franklin Institute is home to the Benjamin Franklin Monument.

I can't walk around Philadelphia without thinking about National Treasure. Naturally, I headed down Market street to visit the Liberty Bell. An amazing symbol of freedom, there are lots of pictures of famous leaders for freedom with the bell. And now there is one of me with the bell. The inscription of the Liberty Bell is based on Leviticus 25:10, which says, "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." And to the people who were standing in front of me in line, yes, "Sesqui-centennial means '150 year celebration'".

Across the street from the Liberty Bell is Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Constitution was deliberated and drafted. After visiting Washington DC I seem to think of all our government buildings as being huge and grand, but this one is just a small little building with a few rooms and some desks arranged for the delegates to sit at. Hard to imagine a room full of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams (both of them), and all the others just sitting together in this small room changing history forever. I read through the entire text of the Declaration of Independence, which I don't think I'd done since High School Academic Decathalon. I recommend anybody reading this post right now to go Read it. I'm sure you don't remember everything it says, and you'll feel better about yourself. We get so used to dumbed-down sitcom writing on TV, and you really have to think about what this is saying to understand it. Seriously. Go read it.

I ended my tour of history with a walk to Washington Square, which is just a small park housing the tomb of the unknown soldier. Apparently it is a mass grave to thousands of revolutionary soliders who were buried there without any markers. It took a bunch of people getting sick and dying for them to figure out a more sanitary way to bury the dead.

Walking around you can kind of imagine these city parks just lined with thousands of soldiers, assembling for duty and marching off to war. It must have been a crazy time, and not having lived through a giant war like that I can't even really imagine it.

I ended the night by visiting a sushi restaurant where the door opens inward. It was a sushi buffet and I was in such a food coma afterwards I was moving slow. There were so many people waiting for tables that it took a while to clear space for me to open the door (inward) so I could get out. I'm pretty sure this is breaking some sort of fire code, as I'm pretty sure if there was a fire we'd have to break the windows to get out. Or is Pennsylvania so big on "freedom from the man" that they don't really have fire codes?

Check out my Philadelphia Photo Set.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bank accounts in NYC are like sandwiches

When I moved to NYC I discovered that there aren't really any Wells Fargo branches around, so I joined Chase bank. There are more Chase locations in NYC than Starbucks, which is actually really saying something. However, when I received my ATM in the mail it didn't work, so I went to visit a branch today to reset the PIN on it.

Walking into this great financial institution, I was accosted by a barker who wanted to sign me up for a free checking account. He even had handbills to distribute for some promotion they were running. I asked him if he also had some free entry coupons for a strip club, but I don't think he fully appreciated my sardonic humor.

When I was working with the manager to fix my ATM card I let him know of my distaste for his methods of collecting bank customers. My thoughts in (parenthesis).

Chad: I was surprised to see a barker standing outside a Chase Bank collecting customers
Manager: We still try to maintain an air of exclusivity, but when promotions come down from Corporate we have to do that.

Chad: (Staring blankly -- Yeah, that's BS).
Manager: Plus that guy offered to do it. If you were a manager could you turn that down?

Chad: (Didn't you just tell me you had to do it anyway? Or were you lying?) Well, if I was a manager of a Quizno's I'd jump at it, but not if I was managing a Chase bank.
Manager: (Laughs Uncomfortably)
Chad: (Why don't you dress him up like a giant checkbook. That might get more attention)

I don't know if this is normal for NYC because there are so many pedestrians that it actually works, or if they're just that hardup for customers due to their own subprime stupidity. Either way, I find it distasteful. I might switch to Citibank if it becomes a regular habit for them.