Friday, February 04, 2005

I Go to Town

Today was the first day I ventured out into the wilds of Scranton to see how long it would take me to walk to town centre. I'd preoccupied myself all week with settling in: putting stuff away, setting stuff up, re-organising, what-have-you. I'm not finished, either, but I needed to get out of the house. I live in a bonafide bachelor pad, replete with clouds of dust and areas untouched since Moving Day. Scoff if you will, but I can produce photographic evidence of ultimate manliness upon request: John Deere curtains. Yeah, WTF, indeed!! I was taken aback the first time I set eyes on them -- not just any tractors on that fabric, but John Deere. Curtains with farm machinery... how much more manly can you get? David denies having purchased them, but regardless of whether he was responsible for their choosing, he cannot refute they are hanging in the downstairs bathroom and not hidden at the bottom of the closet or in the bin destined for Salvation Army.

our backyard
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

The house itself is not so bad, on the outside. The backyard is spacious and the grounds are lovely, even in winter. Lots of trees, shrubbery, and we're the only house on our block -- we've got the Holy Church of Jesus on one side, with a parking lot in between. If either of us were Catholic, we'd be getting hitched next door in a heartbeat -- how convenient would THAT be? We could wake up half an hour before the ceremony! On the other side is a vacant lot belonging to the parish, and the rectory is on the far side of the lot. Our closest neighbours are across the street. We're either part and parcel of the Holy Block or we're tainting it as the Den of Iniquity (seeing as we're not married yet), depending on how you look at it.

On a day as fine as this, I was hoping any ice would be melted by the time I sallied forth this afternoon, as town centre was downhill all the way. Scranton is in a valley, and we're situated on the side of one of the mountains. There's no shoulder on this road, and I had to cross over the freeway before I reached a sidewalk. Not pedestrian-friendly!!

However, the Virgin Mary kept watch over me while I dodged snowbanks, making sure cars whipping 'round the corner saw me. The photo on the right is one I'd been wanting to snap since last December, when I first saw it: an upside-down bathtub nativity scene. They're all over the place -- especially in Honesdale, David informs me -- just like Santa Claus and the inflatable Grinch at Christmas, except intact all year round! The Virgin Mary is omnipresent!

If you click on the top right picture, titled winter of "his" discontent, you'll see I had a little run-in with a suspicious homeowner. Yeah, not everyone believes I'm an innocent photographer. I must look shifty or something. I was wearing my iPod earbuds, so I didn't hear him approach me as I was taking a photo of the sunlight breaking through the tree branches between his and the neighbouring house. I was setting up the shot when I heard "WHAT ARE YOU FILMING??" boom in my ear. I was so startled I ripped the earbuds out of my ears, pulling off my left earring. I stood there, rattled, holding earbuds, the camera, my gloves, and the earring, stammering...

"Oh... ah... er... the sun."

A Lion in Winter
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
He gave me a dubious look, and I just stood there. That was the truth! What ELSE is there to say? Should I elaborate on how long it takes sometimes to set up a shot? How I have to fiddle around with the exposure, the aperture, the composition? Should I show him the picture? It was really awkward. He kept standing there, looking at me, expectantly. Finally he mumbled something about the sun looking pretty, and shuffled off into the general direction of his minivan parked on the street in front of the house.

Wracked with paranoia (will Homeland Security descend on me now??), I kept the iPod volume on low for the rest of the journey into town, which was thankfully without interruption. It took the better part of an hour to get there from the house, but I had lots of photo ops along the way that lengthened the trip.

Lackawanna County Courthouse
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

courthouse trees
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
Scranton's town centre is Courthouse Square, and all roads seemed to lead to it. A couple of turns and I was there. After experimenting with some shots of the courthouse and the naked winter trees on its grounds, I headed straight for the espresso bar and plunked myself down with a local paper, a rather expensive bowl of chili, and a latte. While David was finishing work in Wilkes-Barre (about 20 minutes away), I amused myself reading the local rag, The Tribune, the sports section particularly. For the benefit of the two people reading this blog (in Europe, probably) who've managed to escape the media hype, I should mention that this weekend is the biggest televised event of the year in the United States: Superbowl Sunday. Pennsylvania has a vested interest in this game, as the Philadelphia Eagles are the underdogs, pitted against the New England Patriots. There were all sorts of articles analysing this and that, but the funniest one was about the clergy's varied opinions of whether it was OK to pray for a Superbowl win.

Clergymen say it's OK to ask God to help Eagles in Super Bowl

In case the article gets blitzed, I've made a PDF.

David met me at the espresso bar, and we took a small detour to Tripp House, where our wedding and reception is scheduled to take place on October 1. I hadn't seen it before, only the pictures David took in December. It's off a busy street -- not exactly idyllic -- but it's easy to find. Maybe its proximity to the street can be obscured by the bushes out front. Grow, bushes, grow! There's also this unsightly billboard behind the property that I hope somebody will see fit to bulldoze in the next eight months...

On our way home we made an impromptu stop for -- get this -- Coney Island Texas weiners. I would've taken a photo of the exterior of this old lunch counter, but the light was fading fast. Like every place in Scranton, this place has a long history. But, it's nowhere near Coney Island, or Texas. It was a nostalgia trip for David.

Then, to round off the day, I suggested we go to Comedy Night at the Clarion Hotel, just down the hill from the house. $12 for three comedians, two shipped in from New York, but one of them -- the headliner -- was actually more of a local... he's from Philadelphia and attended Penn State, David's alma mater. Woo-hoo! They were pretty funny, we were in stitches (and it wasn't just the booze), and we won a raffle prize: one free ticket for the following weekend!

Next stop: Philadelphia, tomorrow