Monday, June 6, 2011

Whirlwind of a Weekend

In the sixth grade, I (like all of you 90's kids) fell in love with xanga. I started reading the posts of kids I hardly knew, grades above me. And as their playlists played behind their daily ramblings, my music tastes grew. Grew to include The Sound of Settling. A song that would change my whole outlook on music. The song that brought me to Death Cab. A song that defines my music tastes eight years later. A song that Ben Gibbard chose to close with last night before returning to the stage for an encore performance.

In tenth grade, I begged for a trip to Ithaca. Death Cab was touring and that was the closest they'd come to central Pennsylvania. But without a car or an adventurous family, I missed the opportunity. When Death Cab announced a tour to celebrate the release of their newest album, Codes and Keys, I knew I wouldn't be missing them this time.

Until the tickets sold out in a minute flat. One. Minute. Really.

Several Craigslist posts, weeks and e-mails later, I had double-price tickets in my hand. You can't imagine the fear I had waiting in line outside the Trocadero last night, fear that I wouldn't be allowed in the venue with counterfeited or falsified tickets. Thankfully, there are honest people left in the world and my tickets were no issue at all.

But, I guess I should start back a few steps.
This weekend found Ryan and I in the City of Brotherly Love, one of my favorite places.

After a two-hour stop and go drive, a few missed one-way streets and negotiating parking with an oh-so-kind but impossible-to-understand young man - we were parked and unloading at our hotel. Let me tell you how much I love the Hampton Inn. If only we hadn't missed breakfast and the opportunity at the pool.

Being the concert snob I am, I had no intention of big plans before the show. I insisted we be in line an hour or two before the doors opened so we stuck to the neighborhood. Chinatown. Our hotel was so conveniently located.. Sandwiched in an area two blocks from the theatre, just outside the Convention Center and Reading Terminal Market.

After browsing the market, we resigned to our grumbling stomachs and made our way to hunt for a gluten-free-friendly restaurant in the few blocks surrounding us. Thank god for walking directions on my iPhone.

One of my favorite parts of visiting cities is enjoying allergy-friendly cuisine. The larger the city, the easier it is to feed myself. Philly has a great resource, which led us to Maggiano's Little Italy. I was skeptical but after seeing the restaurants reviews on urbanspoon, we walked down the block and entered the essentially empty restaurant.

The hostess explained that while they didn't have a gluten-free menu, most choices on their menu could be altered just for me. Our waiter confirmed her lofty claims when he called a chef to the table to discuss options, pastas, sauces and cross-contamination with me.

"At Maggiano's, we take food allergies very seriously."
They weren't kidding.

My Crab and Shrimp Tropheo was exquisite and quite the pile of corn-based pasta spirals with grape tomatoes, zucchini and a garlic butter sauce. The serving size was much to large, even for a hungry girl who drove two-hours expecting the best in gluten-free dining... but it sure did make great after-concert leftovers. And despite my full stomach and to-go boxes for Ryan and myself, we found room for a flour-less chocolate cake whose sale benefited Make-a-Wish. Now, that's a sweet dessert.

Somehow, despite the amount of food we had eaten, Ryan and I found our way back to the hotel to unpack and get ready for the concert. He has an issue with the way my belongings make themselves at the home.

To be honest, I think I laid in a food-coma for a good twenty minutes before finding the strength to change, do my hair and put on make-up. But after all the work of getting ready, we failed to get a decent picture together. Trust me though, we looked good. (even despite my hat hair)


Even though we headed toward the Troc an hour and a half before the doors were to open, we found ourselves in a line which stretched the length of the street. The two-and-a-half hour wait was well worth it though when we managed to find our way to the front, less than five feet from stage. Unfortunately, the tallest couple I've ever seen found their way in front of us. It's always something, though.

The venue wasn't as dirty or dingy as reviews had said. In a way, it was quaint. I love the historic, slightly-run-down feel just not so much the heat, small areas or sub-par accoustics. Overall, it was the perfect atmosphere. (Except for the camera policy...  Once again, thank God for my iPhone.)

The show was opened by a band I hadn't heard of until the tour announcement. Opening bands are always my favorite or least favorite part of a concert. It seems as though they make it to the "love" list of music or I find myself leaving the venue until the main act takes the stage - this time, it was the first. Chances are you haven't heard of The Lonely Forest, a band from Washington State. I fell in love by the second song. The singer looks like a young Conor Oberst, after all.

And then Death Cab took the stage.
And I melted.
And I swooned.
And I fell in love with their music all over again.

I could sit here and try to explain to you the way I feel about this band but I couldn't do it justice. Instead, I'll simply say that I would see them again at any opportunity and that I wasn't the slightest bit disappointed in their performance or choice of songs. (Even if "Monday Morning" wasn't played.)

I Will Possess Your Heart
Title and Registration
Some Boys
Doors Unlocked and Open
Underneath the Sycamore
Stay Young and Go Dancing
Soul Meets Body
The New Year
The Sound of Settling
Why'd You Want to Live Here
That's What Sarah Said
Grapevine Fires
A Movie Script Ending
Meet Me On the Equinox
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes
Long Division
Codes and Keys
You Are A Tourist
I Will Follow You Into the Dark

The perfect mix of old and new; and not a single lyric I didn't know. 

& while many things in life can't compare to seeing your favorite band live, our Sunday wasn't bad either. After oversleeping, missing breakfast and taking nice hot showers to ease our sore muscles (from standing five hours for the concert), we loaded our luggage into the car and constructed a plan for the day. We needed to eat and make it to South Street and back - all before three o'clock.

I always work better with a mission.
Plus, I love not having to drive anywhere.

It was only a half an hour walk to South Street and that time always passes more quickly with things to see, to smell, to hear and to laugh at along the way. For instance, free popsicles and Chapstick from A&E. Or pausing to take photos in the street - just to irritate Ryan a little.

But ultimately, we found our way to just where we needed to be - a street lined with coffee shops, little bistros, yoga studios, daycares and a Whole Foods Market.

Yay for gloomy Philadelphia skies. Not.
Oh, and a Starbucks too. And better yet, a Starbucks which happened to be playing Death Cab's newest CD. Imagine that.

With a latte to hold us over from our lack-of-breakfast, we ducked into Whole Foods for a look at the grocery market I wish we had at home. No artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners. Heaven. But, without a need for groceries, we couldn't stay long before we headed to our real destination - Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. 

The mosaics of PMG are the culimanation of fourteen years of work by Isaiah Zagar - a renowned muralist who has created over sixty murals throughout the city of Phialdelphia. The space contains over 3,000 square feet of tiling, grouting and sculpting. It's impossible to appreciate the immense dedication and volume of Isaiah's work without being inside of it, without walking through the gardens and ducking into the basement. If you ever find free time in Philadelphia, I recommend taking the hour and five dollars to see these walls for yourself.

Over the past few years, I've never managed to have the time or means to visit these mosaic'd gardens while in the city but I had made it my goal for this weekend. It was more satisfying and more magical than I had ever hoped. Plus it didn't hurt that Sweet Freedom Bakery was only four blocks away.

Finding gluten-free bakeries is another one of my city hobbies and I had been dreaming of visiting this quaint little shop for quite some time. Not only gluten-free but vegan, peanut-free, soy-free, kosher and refined-sugar free baked goods line their counter tops.

I may have left with a samoa cupcake, fudge brownie cupcake, chocolate fudge crumb cake and a mint chocolate chip cookie. Don't judge. Please?

Two thumbs up.
Thankfully, I'm too healthy of an eater to call a cookie lunch and so off we went again in hopes of finding somewhere with a cheesesteak and something I could eat. Ultimately, after wandering further from the hotel than we needed to (and seeing a whole other area of Philly), we ended up back at market where I was able to enjoy the world's best (seriously!) potato salad, chicken salad and coleslaw while Ryan downed a traditional Philadelphia Cheesesteak. When in Rome...

And with that - full tummies and sore feet, that is - we were ready for home. Maybe not ready for the stop-and-go traffic or ridiculous drivers... but definitely ready for a place to sit and time to rest our legs. 

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