Friday, June 29, 2007

You live in the house, not the neighborhood, right?

We've had two visitors today [so far]. The first was at 8:00 this morning - he was a representative from ADT who was coming to make our security system "live" rather than in test mode. He told me, "Yeah, I called in and said 'I need to go back out there to make sure everything is right.'"

Yes. Right.

I spent my entire lunch on the phone with ADT [transferred 7 times, every name written down, and a letter to be written] because I was told 3 weeks ago that they were going to set someone else up to come out. This, however, is a story for another time [as seems fit, the Lord is putting me through the grinder right now in having to deal with people who are blatantly trying to rip me off].

The second visitor was actually a double whammy. I wish I would have responded more smartly, but instead probably seemed as some naive fellow who was out of place. Two older African American witnesses of Jehovah were standing at my door [straight from Kingdom Hall, no doubt] to share with invite me to a Jehovah's Witnesses conference being held next month where I can come [where I will not go as I am a witness to the Truth that is the Christ] to find out how Christ can help me to:
  • improve family life
  • deal with life's difficult problems
  • draw closer to God
  • oppose the Devil
  • gain everlasting life
They also came, apparently, to complement me on my smile.

"Do you live here?"
"Yeah, we moved in about a month and a half ago."
"Oh, so you live in the house and not the neighborhood, right?"
"Excuse me?" [I find myself asking this a good bit these days, especially when people ask me something as peculiar as this]
"You live in the house, but not the neighborhood, right?"

I looked around. My neighbors all seemed to be looking my way - their bright neon clothing highlighting the fact that their skin was darker than mine. There were children, people I had smiled at, people I've had minimal conversations with [though conversations nonetheless]. There was Mona, she knocked on our door a few weeks ago asking if we had gotten the Sunday's paper and if we were finished with it - she then asked if she could have it. Standing in the door, seeing these people around me, the thought came as to whether or not they thought the same thing - that we've moved to the house but not into the neighborhood.

It's a difficult place, no doubt. I've tried to get out of the habit of saying, "South Philly," to be honest by saying "Point Breeze," when asked what neighborhood I live in. Right now though, I don't know if there are too many good neighborhoods in Philly. I sometimes wonder what is going through the minds of the younger guys when they look at me with a stern face. I sometimes wonder what is going through the minds of the older residents when they shine bright and welcoming smiles at me when I get home from work.

I wonder how I can get to know these people, and whether or not they want to know me as much as I want to know them.

"Oh," I laughed, "I live in the neighborhood - not just the house. I like my neighbors, they've all been very friendly."
"Well, you have a nice smile. You keep on smiling."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth...just off the blogosphere for the week. I'll ensure double of them may be a new survey so keep an eye out.

Why have I fallen off the blogosphere? I don't have readily available net access - I'm out of town for bidness [what do you call it?] and don't have the desire to pay $10 for 24 hrs of access. So, no opinions or thoughts today, except for this:

*Although this information was typed and transmitted through the company that I work for, it does not represent or encourage any of the views or opinions expressed on this page [I said "the company," because I make a conscious effort not to list "the company's" proper name]. All views and opinions are those of the author and are not representative of the company or any of it's affiliates.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cost of Living, Schmost of living…

Many questions people asked when I told them about moving to Philly invariably revolved around the cost of living [COL] here. I suppose that the assumption is that the COL is so high in the Northeast that Philadelphia surely couldn’t be immune.

However, I think that if you do things the right way, the cost of living isn’t really that much higher here than from where we left [I used to say this before we left and some would look at me incredulously].

Here’s the thing though – homes here cost similar to what homes cost in the Ham. However, if you purchase a home here, don’t expect to have a large yard, large trees, or easy parking. Do expect to be within walking distance of 30 corner grocery stores, Chinese restaurants, and pizza / Italian places. In addition, our home doesn’t necessarily have “large” bedrooms, but we don’t necessarily need them either [maybe most people don’t – see this article which will probably turn into a future twilleythought].

Housing costs aside, everything else is reasonable [and, to be honest, I really believe the housing costs are reasonable too]. One of the best things about PA is the way taxes on essential items work – that is, there are no taxes on essential items. Therein, we don’t have to pay taxes on groceries or clothing. In Birmingham, I paid a 9% premium on stuff like that [thanks to city, county, and state taxes]. The state income taxes here – if you can believe it – are actually lower than Alabama’s also.

Where they get you [in Philly at least] are the property taxes and the Philadelphia employment tax [living in Philly exacts a 4% tax out of each of my pay checks – it would be less if I lived out of Philly but worked here]. Also, I may even start taking the train to work [when I’m not scheduled for travel] – which would cut down even more on gas [and traffic – heavy storms caused something like a 2 hour today – no joking].

The only thing, I suppose, that costs is that of trash can lids. As in, when people steal your trash can lid, you have to purchase a new one. Apparently, that has happened to us…recently [yesterday]. But hey, it’s better than a bike valued over $400 [thanks Birmingham].

Hopefully, I can spew some more interesting tidbits to get you to want to move here with us [not actually in our house, but that would be fine too…temporarily].

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I’m Sorry…Tremaine?

Everyone wants to be a part of something where they feel they belong, right?

That's what kind of helped us to make a quick decision as regarding our "search" for a place to worship - when we came to City Church, people told us that we belonged through the many ways they reached out to us as a new couple in a new town [we went to 3 separate dinners the first week we were here - we'll be trying out a small group this week].

This, however, is no particularly sentimental blog on belonging.

Sunday night, I dropped Laura and her sister off while I parked the car [it was raining and we were already late]. When I finally found them, I had to make my way through people on the outsides of the rows of folding metal chairs so that I could make it to them [since they were standing on the inside]. We worshiped, but I noticed that the guy standing beside me didn't stand up for any of the songs, prayers, or creeds. Unfortunately, we didn't meet during the "meet your neighbor," [for lack of better words] time in the middle of the service.

Partaking of the communion meal was interesting - he didn't seemed interested in waiting for everyone else before his tasting of the sacraments.

After the benediction, I thought, "I need to meet this guy." I introduced myself and picked up his communion cup [he had dropped it].

"My name is Gene," I said as I reached down.
"I'm Tremaine," he said from behind his dark sunglasses, beneath a sea of a jerry curl sheen.
"Germaine?" I asked, as I generally can't seem to hear what most anyone says the first time around.
"No man, Tremaine. Hey, are you a Jap?" he asked smiling, oblivious to his cultural faux pas.
"Excuse me?" I asked laughing, with some amused disbelief.
"Are you a Jap?" he was smiling innocently.
"No, my mom is Korean, but I can't even speak the language." I laughed - this wasn't necessarily uncommon ground for me. A few years ago, I was riding a bus through Birmingham (actually, it was a trolley) and a guy asked me if I was related to Yao Ming. It's the kind of thing you become sadly accustomed to when you have a somewhat olive skin, slanted eyes, and black hair.
"Aw man, thems is some of my favorite peoples. Some of my good friends is Korean man. Hey, do you have ten dollars? I need it to get a ride home."
Bold as a lion.
The thing about Philly, is that there is public transportation. I've read some complaints - but I've seen buses everywhere. A SEPTA ticket (for a bus or the subway) is $2. A token, if you have the privilege of entering one of the stations that sells them is $1.30. So, unless he was making 4 transfers, a ride home shouldn't cost $10.
"No man. I don't carry cash with me." I'm always honest with this - I don't keep cash unless I know that I'm going to need it. I knew I wouldn't need any tonight.
"That's alright man," he said this before walking away.

It didn't scare me away. More often than not, it's this very kind of encounter that keeps me wanting to live in "the city." It's the very boldness that someone like this has to remind me of our abject and complete brokenness and the grace that is really alive and abundant in my Christ.
I had wondered if anyone like this entered into this congregation.
I am happy that they do and hopeful that in the midst of the broken worshiping the Perfect, that they too will see His holiness and grace.

Also, thanks to BP for giving us the reference for this church.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Traveling times

My new job requires that I travel around the NE of our United States. Overall, I’m pretty excited for the opportunities that it’ll provide. This week’s assignment in my “Education Path,” (as I am learning my new position) took me to Warwick, RI.

My company put me up in the posh Holiday Inn Express. To be honest, the hotel wasn’t really bad…and I wouldn’t be writing about it now if it wasn’t for a few strange happenings.

First off, my body itches…a lot.

Really, it’s just my rib cage, stomach, back and neck [my extremities don’t seem to be affected]. I can’t understand why but I do have assumptions based on my own physiology. I have allergies, and they can be pretty bad. During allergy season (it still seems to be spring here for the most part) I usually use a mild or hypoallergenic soap such as Johnson and Johnson’s baby wash or Dove.

On any given [non-allergenic] day, I usually get along fine using a hotel’s soaps and shampoos. My assumption, was that my allergies were aggravated due to the high pollen content in the air [evidenced by the fact that cars are still yellowed by the stuff here] mixed with the usage of an unfamiliar and potentially strong soap and shampoo [that smelled unfortunately like cinnamon].

My second assumption would be similar to the first, except you would substitute “…unfamiliar and potentially strong soap and shampoo,” with “hotel towels washed with an unfamiliar and potentially strong detergent.”

Both of the assumptions are possible, even while Allegra D 24 hrs is coursing through my veins.

The third assumption is the worst – the assumption that perhaps I have shingles.

New topic.

Holiday Inn Express now serves coffee along with an ambiance that that produces [no, I did not mix meanings – I did not mean “elicit”] an obtuse arrogance within its guests. Thankfully, this coffee can be brewed in the privacy of your own room or while challenging the elderly for their space in front of the bagel toasters during your continental breakfast. I don’t write this out of experience, per se, but by the very words and advertisements of Smart Roast Coffee.

You’ll recognize that you’re drinking Smart Roast by the bold styling of their cups: 90% purple, 10% gold [Go Falcons!]…100% FREE. To be sure, you’ll want to look for the circle on the cup that ensures that your brew has been selected from only the finest and that it is in fact created with 100% Arabica beans [as an aside, if this was the finest that Arabica beans had to offer, I would never drink a coffee brewed with Arabica beans againrevision…I would never pay for a coffee brewed with Arabica beans or engage in the purchase of Arabica beans again].

If that’s not enough to identify dark substance, then find the joint HIExpress and Smart Roast motto:

Consuming Smart Roast® while staying at a Holiday Inn Express® may increase brain activity, creating a euphoric state of superiority.

(Emphasis added by me). Remember, in order for this surrogate arrogance to be implanted, you must stay at a HIExpress.

The power of this coffee is further evidence by means of the sheer size of the cup – what mere mortal could endure more than an espresso size hit at one time [the coffee lid says 8oz, which may or may not be true – but there’s no way I’m ever filling a coffee cup to the brim – that’s foolish].

While I do appreciate free coffee, I think I nearly reached my limit with Smart Roast – I had to admittedly doctor it up with creamers and Splenda as the very taste of this particular coffee started to make me gag.

This is something I nearly never do.

If I’m buying a truly tasty coffee, I drink it black. If I’m brewing my own coffee at home, I drink it black. If I’m drinking coffee at someone else’s house, I drink it black.

When I pee, I stand up, and that’s why I like my coffee black – dark black – the kind of black that bends light by the seriousness of its blackness.

Other than that, there wasn’t much eventful that happened in Warwick. If there was, I had such a euphoric sense of superiority that I couldn’t have noticed anyways.