Let Me Tell You a Crazy Story
God, it’s been awhile since I’ve written in this thing! Six months to be exact, but who’s really counting. Anyways, I’m excited to share this post with you, about the time I took a trip to Philadelphia that changed my life forever. Draws a deep breath…
The Wedding Invitation
It was a normal day back in June 2018 when I came home from work and was checking the mail when I came across a small and fancy envelope with my name on it. Hmm… A letter from Hogwarts? Nope, even better! It was a wedding invitation from my buddy Chris for his wedding in Philadelphia, a place I’d never been to before! I’d known about his wedding for some time and had it marked in my calendar but getting his actual invitation was real exciting, so I checked the Oh, hell yes, I’m coming box and sent back my RSVP.
For my travel plans, I designed my Philly trip to be as cheap as possible: I’d drive from OKC to St. Louis, MO, to stay at an Airbnb > drive to Indianapolis to catch a flight to Philly (paid for by points on my credit card) > then do it all in reverse. And Chris gave me a spare bedroom so my main cost would just be gas and time, an 11 hr drive + a 2.5 hr flight in either direction.
Also, I wanted to meet a local, if possible, who could show me around Philly but otherwise this wasn’t a deal-breaker. So I took to my dating app Meet Mindful and set my location to Philly then looked at some profiles and found one woman who seemed quite interesting, named Fa (using her nickname which I always liked, derived from her last name). I messaged her and she responded once but then I never heard from her again. Shrugs. Happens all the time in online dating.
I messaged a few other people but by the time I began my roadtrip I still hadn’t found anyone. So I decided to message Fa one last time and asked if she wanted to ride bikes and to my surprise she responded. She apologized for falling off as she’d been busy with her online acupuncture business. She liked the idea of riding bikes but her bike needed some fixing and still wanted to do something outdoors.
I saw her message while I was driving to the Indianapolis airport and managed to type with one hand a “great, we’ll figure things out.” I usually tell companions by this point, the 2nd or 3rd message, the truth: that I’m from out of town, and if they’re willing to meet up then great, if not then I completely respect their decision. I figured I’d tell Fa later.
Arriving at the City of Brotherly Love
My flight arrived late in Philly due to a possible parts malfunction, though I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. I rode shotgun on a shuttle that took me to a nearby hotel to pick up my rental car (I used the Turo app) and we slowly moved through rush hour traffic. The driver told me that Taylor Swift was in town for a concert probably causing all this traffic, and that she wasn’t in town for just for one night but two nights! I snorted. Like she had nothing better to do. Or she just loved Philly THAT much. I soon would.
I picked up my rental car, a white Sonic hatchback, and accelerated onto the highway, cruising by downtown Philly and staring in awe at a few unique, glass skyscrapers. I continued westward for 40 mins until I arrived in the suburbs at a vegan restaurant called The Green Fork, where I had dinner. I left the restaurant more hungry than when I arrived because it was a vegan place.
Then I arrived at my buddies house much later than I expected. We sat at his kitchen table and spent some time catching up. After he showed me my room, I immediately passed out, exhausted from the past two and a half days of traveling.
The Beginning to an Adventurous Day
I woke up at 5 am on the dot since I normally wake up at 6 am CST back home. I killed some time doing yoga in my room, waiting for Whole Foods to open, then had breakfast there and went to downtown Philly. I had a pour-over at Elixir Coffee, roamed the farmer’s market in Rittenhouse Square, and ended up at a bookstore in a quaint town called Doylestown. A perfect Saturday/hermit-y morning.
I arrived back at Chris’s house and power-napped, showered, hung out with his family for a bit who were over for a family BBQ that was occurring in the evening, then I took off to go meet Fa. We messaged each other that day and agreed to meet up at the Oval, an elongated stretch of lawn in front of the art museum filled with food trucks, concerts, and family activities.
The Museum District turned out to be congested with traffic since it’s a top tourist site, and as I drove by the Oval I noticed there weren’t any activities set up nor any indication that there would be. I texted Fa about this and she suggested getting sushi at a place nearby called Dasiwa. I was game, always up for a sudden change in plans! However, Dasiwa was in the middle of a residential neighborhood and parking was impossible to find. It took me half an hour to even find a spot, which was in an apartment complex some 17 blocks away, and because I drank an entire water bottle while looking for parking I had to pee like mutha’ and sprinted to use the bathroom at the restaurant.
While jogging, I heard hip hop music blaring from somewhere in the neighborhood and was curious to know where it was coming from. I eventually found the source: a real-life BLOCK PARTY was going on! I stopped and stared in amazement. Everyone was gathered outside — young, old, white, black — just enjoying each other’s company. Grills were charring burgers and ‘dogs, coolers everywhere filled with beer and soda, I even saw a plastic swimming pool for the kiddos! It was fucking awesome!
I snapped out of it and continued jogging. The dot on my Google Maps wasn’t getting any closer so I started running and when I arrived blocks later, I stormed inside like Kramer from Seinfeld, asked for the bathroom and relieved myself! Afterwards, the waitress granted me a table out of the 10-12 tables in the restaurant — Dasiwa’s a small and cozy place — and I sat facing the double French glass doors. Minutes later, I saw a Caucasian woman approaching. She had naturally wavy dark blonde hair and was dressed like an artist: wearing pink sneakers, black joggers/loose pants, and a slightly oversized, colored T-shirt. I knew it was her.
The Girl From Philly
I stood up, smiled, and brushed Fa with a side hug. She apologized for being late and was surprised that it wasn’t crowded as it’d soon be evening. She actually called in a reservation prior to arriving and now had our waitress cancel it. She was super easy to talk to from the moment I met her — a wise and serene person.
As we made small talk, she asked if I’d been to Dasiwa before and of course I said no. I still had yet to tell her the truth… And while I stalled on that front, she told me how she used to live a few doors down and that this was her favorite restaurant. Then she asked where I lived at and I had to tell her the truth. I swallowed, afraid of how she’d react, and told her I was just visiting and meant to tell her sooner bbbut… just didn’t.
She stared at me and gave a “huh…” then looked out of the corner of her eyes and processed her thoughts. A few moments later, she expressed how she felt: She found it disheartening that I’d mislead her like that because she was expecting to make a friend, someone she could hang out with and connect with, and I’d just be abandoning her. I felt horrible as she was telling me this because I could see the hurt in her eyes, and I felt them in mine.
I drew a deep breath… Then I told her that I meant to tell her sooner and was rushing to get here but I really had no excuse. I was extremely sorry. As we stared at each other, I humbly told her that I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to open up and be vulnerable like that to me, a stranger, so for any pain I caused her I was sorry. She absorbed my words and emotions and could tell that I meant it. It’d take her a bit to get over but she was at least willing to forgive me. I felt like I owed her more than that and said her meal was on me. I knew it wouldn’t make up for anything but she at least deserved that.
And so we returned to a more normal state and got to know each other better. She’d never met “anyone from Oklahoma” and I told her it wasn’t bad but conservative and I often found myself escaping from there. She filled me in with pieces of her life: her family, her acupuncture business and how her schedule’s based off her client’s schedules, and how the locals don’t call themselves Philadelphians but instead say “they’re from Philly.”
For dinner, she had sushi and I bulgogi. They were both delicious (I had a roll). As we sat there having a great time, I told myself that I have to come back and see her. Then she said something that’d make the night interesting: She had two friends who lived nearby, a couple she hadn’t seen in awhile, and described the street they lived on. I said it sounded a lot like the the block party I passed. She beamed a little, certain it was their block, then simply asked me, “Wanna go check it out?”
Going to that Block Party
Fa and I left the restaurant to a beautiful evening, the sun had yet to set, and we heard live music coming from nearby and immediately found a block party where a blues/rock band was playing. It wasn’t anything big, just a handful of people gathered, but we stopped and watched for a few moment then agreed that we wanted to see her friends and left.
As we strolled through the Fairmount neighborhood, Fa recalled the dinner parties she had with friends in the area and how it eventually became expensive and time-consuming to host them. I recommend something more informal like pot lucks, but didn’t tell her I was thinking of my Asian friends from college who’d bring anything and everything and throw it in a pot and didn’t know what the hell they were making till it was done.
Then we approached the lively party on Bailey St., which she confirmed was her friend’s block. We inserted ourselves into the crowd and snaked around as she looked for her friends… Unable to find them, she led me to the backyard of their rowhouse, which was built above ground, and we stepped up a few concrete steps and she opened a tall wooden door to find her friend Jameson looking at his phone. He glanced up and his eyes went wide with excitement. “FAAA!”
She embraced him — he looked like a handsome Greg Kinnear and had a goofy and fun personality — then he immediately put his phone in front of us and exclaimed, “Look! Look!” It was a live feed of his newborn sleeping, which was impressive because it was noisy outside, and even though I couldn’t see his baby (I believed it to be out of frame) I muttered, “How precious.”
We were introduced, then they caught up. I learned that he and his wife Amber (pronounced “umber” like in cucumber) were from Austin so we connected over that while Fa slipped away to find the missus. We continued talking till a neighbor came and asked if Jameson had cooking supplies or something. While he looked for that I went and found Fa talking with Amber — a cool and outgoing woman. She wore these eyeglasses that I loved: round black frames with red ear pieces. I complemented them, thinking they were from Warby Parker, and was stunned to learn she purchased them in Iran (or Israel) for $2 and that’s when I knew she was awesome.
At one point, Amber and I had our own side conversation and she opened up about being a new mom and went on for awhile before suddenly stopping herself and saying, “Wait! Why am I telling you all this? We just met.” I said I have that effect on people. She didn’t think I was interested in what she had to say but I assured her I was, that I found her interesting! But she pulled back the reigns.
One really cool thing that happened that night was when Jameson informed us that a neighbor locked himself out of his house. He and some guys were looking for a ladder so they could climb to the second story window, which was unlocked, and let him in. That’s when the widest grin showed up on my face (and never really left that night) because it was amazing to know that community and compassion still existed in the world.
Fa told me she’d have to go soon to let her dog out. I’d also have to leave since I had a drive home though I obviously didn’t want to go. Then she randomly pointed at my Converses and said she liked them. I said I liked her clothes. She confessed she had no idea what she was wearing then looked down and checked out her attire. I grinned and realized I liked her. Then I decided to part first and hugged her, thanking her for everything and admitting that I didn’t deserve any of it, then left by saying I’ll come back and visit.
When I arrived at Chris’s house about an hour later, I got out of my car and gazed up at the galaxy (there’s less light pollution out here). Then something caught my attention: off to the side, about a mile or two away, a Chinese sky lantern sailed through the air. I stood there in awe, watching it flicker peacefully until it disappeared behind a line of trees. I grinned and realized that I just had one of the most amazing days of my life.