Archive for Philadelphia

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee of Strangers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 17, 2010 by jganolik

I officially exited the fake world about three weeks ago when I joined the pool of regular suburb-to-city commuters. Each weekday morning I drive to my local train station, squash into a seat next to a stranger, and ride the twenty minutes into Center City Philadelphia. I’ve fine-tuned my trip so that I arrive at the station exactly two minutes before my train leaves, and have precisely enough time to jog through the electric doors, burst through the ticket checker, scramble up the escalator, and hop onto the train just as the doors-are-closing alarm starts to sound. In my ideal world I would give myself a little more time, but I find it next to impossible to resist that friendly alarm clock snooze button.

I’m a pretty vivid dreamer, and I have, on occasion, within my dreams, concocted reasons why it is ok to sleep through my alarm. In one dream from years ago, I had to twist my arm through this maze carved inside of a tree trunk in order to unlock a lock that would, once unlocked, stop the beeping. Unfortunately even my dream-arm was not bendy enough to fit through the maze, so I eventually had to wake up and turn off the alarm the old fashioned way.

Apart from the waking up early and rushing to catch the train parts, I’ve been enjoying my morning commute for many reasons. For one, the train ride gives me a chance to read—something that I hadn’t been doing enough of when my job was just a fifteen-minute car ride away. Back then (as in about a month ago), I would be so drained when I got home that opening a book seemed to necessitate more brain power than I was willing to use.

There are also interesting things that happen during the commute. For instance, sometimes businesses set up tables outside of the train station exit and hand out free things. Dunkin Donuts handed out free coffee coupons on National Coffee Day and Fiber One dished out their “non-cardboard” snack bars on one random Friday. This has only happened those two times, but I hope it’ll happen again soon.

There are always great eavesdropping opportunities to be had on the train as well. Just a few weeks ago, two women were trying to decide on a seat and the one said to the other, “Well, do you want to look at where we’re going or where we’ve been?” I found that oddly philosophical for a conversation about public transportation.

I’ve started to recognize the people that ride my train in the morning, and I’ve noticed that I pass by some of the same people from day to day on my walk from the station to the office. I found myself a bit distressed this past week when the two men who sell pretzels every weekday morning on Market street were nowhere to be seen. Did something happen to them, I wondered. Are they okay? Did they decide to take a vacation? Hopefully they’ll be back next week, and maybe I’ll splurge and buy one of their pretzels someday.

Although I’m sure I’ll grow tired of the trip after a while, yearn for a change of scenery or an apartment in the city, or crave a vacation of my own, for now it’s kind of nice to be part of this community of yawning, coffee slurping, briefcase carrying, newspaper-crumpling commuters.

Pictures: Clock, Subway Train, Fiber One

Chocolate, undressed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2010 by jganolik

I was in Philadelphia the other day with a couple of friends when, unexpectedly, we stumbled into the Wonka factory. Well, okay there were no fizzy lifting drinks, and no orange midgets singing about the repercussions of watching television or chewing gum, and no, Johnny Depp was not there, dressed as a bug-eyed pedophile. But there was chocolate. There was A LOT of chocolate.

The restaurant is called, “Naked Chocolate,” but with so many varieties and peculiar yet delectable flavors mixed in, the chocolate at this place is anything but naked. However, “Fully-clothed Chocolate” doesn’t sound nearly as enticing. By peculiar flavors, I mean that it is possible to buy individual chocolates filled with lavender or chai tea that go by the names of “Paris,” “Figaro,” and “Vienna.” One that I found most intriguing was called “Mozart,” and was sculpted into the shape of a tiny grand piano, with detailed keys and everything. How is it possible to eat something that artistic? Oh, it’s possible. Or at least it is at Naked Chocolate. And no matter how many pieces of chocolate you order, if you decide to eat in, they are served on a tiny white serving platter, which simultaneously makes the chocolates seem all the more important, and makes you feel all the more guilty for consuming them in less than four bites.

In addition to individual chocolate pieces, there is also an extensive menu of both iced and hot chocolate; the hot chocolate is available in both European and American varieties. European hot chocolate is of a rich, almost-pudding-like consistency, and stunningly similar to the chocolate you can find in Barcelona, minus the churros, of course. The weather in Philadelphia was far too chilly for iced chocolate, but I hope to make a return trip someday to try it. I’ve been craving iced chocolate since I saw the film, Serendipity and was saddened to learn that the film’s namesake restaurant in NYC had been closed down. The existence of Naked Chocolate, however, means that all opportunity for me to pretend I am an Englishwoman named Sara with an absurd yet charming belief in destiny has not been lost. Yet sadly, John Cusack is starting to look pretty old.

Other items on the menu are chocolate covered graham crackers and pretzels, and some non-chocolate things like lemon bars and cupcakes with bright, pastel icing and sprinkles. Also unique is their selection of teas which supposedly complement the chocolate, sort of like the relationship between wine and cheese. And my personal favorite, although I don’t understand the meaning of its existence at all: (….drumroll….) the champagne bottle sculpted entirely out of chocolate.

Upon entering Naked Chocolate, I had the awed desire to try everything- to jump over the counter, take a bite of every chocolate, steal a finger-full of each cupcake icing, and raid the tea selection. However, I was forced to make the more lawful decision to make about a hundred return trips. So if you’re craving chocolate concoctions, lemon bars, or lusting after a golden ticket, be sure to give me a call.