Sunday, May 16, 2004

Yesterday was great. It was the annual fair at Camilla Hall, the mother house for the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They always have food, raffles, a flea market to die for, pony rides and games for kids, and bingo. Quaker City String Band is one of the main features.

My friends and I have been attending since, oh, I'd say the early 1990s. Our late friend Joan used to love to go. We still think of her every time we go there, especially when we visit the chapel at the convent for part of the day. She used to go with us to the chapel, too. Now we go there and remember her when we say a prayer.

Yesterday, a bunch of us travelled in two cars. Mark and I printed directions from the internet... sort of. Mapquest doesn't recognize the address of Camilla Hall, but it did know how to locate the nine-digit ZIP code. So what we had were directions to the ZIP code, rather than the actual building we were looking for. We went through the same thing last year, as I recall, and life got pretty interesting for us when we reached the end of the directions and were in the middle of nowhere. But we managed to find our way to the convent last year, so we figured we'd remember what we did and find the place more easily this time around.

Joe called us early in the morning to find out if we were going. That's because I wanted to go, but as of Friday night, Mark didn't. I wasn't over-fond of the idea of driving all that way myself, especially without precise directions, which meant that I was hemming and hawing on Friday about the possibility of going.

But Saturday morning rolled around, and the weather was beautiful, so Mark changed his mind by the time Joe called: he wanted to go, too.

So Joe said, "Lucy and Tina (two sisters we know) are coming to my house and we'd like to leave about 10 AM. Be here for then and we can follow each other. We can keep the cars in contact by cell phone -- you and Mark have yours, and Joey D and I will have ours. My cousin Michelle got directions from online". That sounded like a plan, so we agreed to it.

However, neither Mark nor I was at ease with the idea of making this trip without having a copy of the directions in OUR car, too. So I found the directions online, which Mark proceeded to print shortly before we were ready to leave.

It turns out that Mark printed the directions two different ways -- one as text only, and another that included a map of the immediate area. This took longer to print than we expected, so we exited the house at 10:03.

I called Joe via my cell phone to say we had printed directions and were on the way. He had a fit. "What do you MEAN you printed directions? You wasted time, I told you my COUSIN printed directions" and so on.

I just listened to him vent, said "We'll be there in a little bit", and we hung up.

When Mark and I were about 3/4 of the way to Joe's... which is to say, about a mile and a half to two miles from our house... my cell phone rang.

It was Joe. "Lucy and Tina need to get gas. They picked us up and are going to the Sunoco station at 19th and Oregon. Meet us there.

"Oh, and by the way. It's a good thing you printed the directions. My cousin got directions from NORTH Howard Street" (which is at least 40 blocks away from the block Joe lives on). "Who even KNOWS where the #)$(#%* THAT is?"

Now, for the non-Philly-based among us, this gas station where Lucy and Tina wanted to fill up is about, oh, four blocks from my house. Maybe less. So basically, Mark and I drove almost the entire way to Joe's for no earthly good reason. If we'd known that Lucy and Tina were going to pick up Joe and Joey D, then head for the Sunoco station, we'd have been able to drive THERE to meet them within two minutes. So we basically wasted a half hour heading most of the way to Joe's, and then turning around and heading back to almost exactly where we started.

Ya know, if a writer suggested a sequence of events like this for a sitcom, they'd be told, "Nah. That's too ludicrous. Nobody'd believe it". I swear, if I wasn't already nuts, these road trips with friends would DRIVE me crazy. ;o)

Anyway, eventually Mark and I reached the Sunoco station, just as Lucy and Tina were finishing up getting gas. Since Mark and I were the ones with the correct directions, we decided that we'd be the lead car. Tina drove the other car, with Lucy, Joe, and Joey D as passengers.

We set off for Camilla Hall. The first leg of the trip involved the Schuylkill Expressway, a highway which can be stressful to drive on, at best. But fortunately, the traffic wasn't too bad this time. Well, there WAS one on-ramp where about four or five cars all entered the highway together. THEY should have been yielding to oncoming traffic, but apparently they all thought it was THEIR highway and the rest of us were just driving on it. Mark slowed down to let them pass us.

My cell phone rang shortly afterward. It was Joe, calling on HIS phone. Tina wanted to know which exit we'd be taking, so I checked the directions and told him. Then Joe added, "And tell Mark to stop letting all those #$(#@($ cars in front of him! We're losing time!"

I told Joe, "If Mark hadn't let those cars in ahead of us, they'd have come in BEHIND us and there'd be at least four cars between us and you. Probably a bad idea since you're following our car".

Joe thought about that one. "Well, we should be right on your @ss"... then, to Tina, "Get on his @ss!", and Tina closed the somewhat long gap between her car and ours. Joe resumed talking to me. "OK, bye!" and hung up.

We both reached the exit and made it to Rt 202 with no problem. However, when I realized that it would soon be time to exit 202 and get on a different route, I called Joe's cell phone again. To my dismay, he'd turned his phone off. DRAT, was I mad! It's frustrating enough that he leaves the darn thing off 99% of the time. Normally, that's not a major issue, but when we're trying to keep two cars in touch with each other, it's counterproductive at best.

We exited 202. Tina's car followed. My cell phone rang. I saw Joe's name on the Caller ID and answered, not with a greeting, but with "WILL you keep your $(#@( cell phone on, you idiot? I tried to call you when our exit was coming up, and all I got was a freaking error message!"

"Well we followed you when you exited, we were fine".

"Yeah, yeah, just keep the freaking phone on till we arrive. OKAY?" Then I let them know when the NEXT exit was going to be, and we hung up.

This was when things got interesting. Mapquest was missing a step somehow. It told us how to get from Rt 202 to Rt 29. But it did NOT mention that Rt 29 suddenly comes to an END and we would have to turn onto Rt 30.

We got to that intersection, and Mark and I vaguely remembered that we should be turning there, but we weren't sure. My phone rang. Joe and Tina were in agreement that we needed to make a right at the intersection, so to the right we all went. Hello, Rt. 30.

This was the correct thing to do, regardless of the omission of this step on the Mapquest directions, because we recognized the road once we were on it. My phone rang. Guess who it was? :o) I told Joe to relay that our next turn would be a left onto Sproul Road.

Once we made our left turn, we knew that the Mapquest directions were going to be of no help and we'd have to rely on memory from that point on. So we got to Sproul Road, we drove along it, and things looked familiar.

Unfortunately, they looked familiar because we got lost in this same freaking area LAST year. We relied on memory and as a result, made the same mistake THIS year and ended up in the same wrong place. ARGH!!!

After a few creative "let's turn here and see what happens" maneuvers, our cars ended up going in opposite directions along a street called King Road.

Mark and I were still seeing "Hey, I remember that landmark from when we were lost last year" sights. Tina's car, meanwhile, actually found Camilla Hall. My phone rang. Joe gave us the street names we needed to follow to get to our destination, so we made a U-turn and sure enough, Joe's instructions were right.

Maybe NEXT year we can get to Camilla Hall on the first try, and avoid the scenic tour of Malvern or wherever the heck we were when we got lost.

Once we got there, though, it was a good day. I picked up only a tiny few knick-knacks at the flea market. I found a couple of nearly-new handbags, one with the price tag still on it, that I liked. I was particularly happy about that one, because I've been looking to replace the handbag I normally use, but nothing in any of the stores I've visited recently was quite right. This one needs just a small bit of repair work -- it needs a new clasp, which I am sure I can do myself -- and it'll be just what I was looking for. Considering that the bag only cost $1, I might end up spending more on the clasp than I did on the handbag. And if I can raid an OLD bag of mine I no longer use, and recycle a clasp from THAT, so much the better. I love flea markets. :o)

Other than my flea-market victory, the main event for me at the Fair was the bingo game. I never played bingo there before, but it's a very reasonably-priced game and I'd be more than willing to join in again next year. Jackpots are modest (for example, I won $5 in one particular game), but since the point of the fair is to raise money for Camilla Hall, I don't have an issue with that.

Since the Flyers were going to be playing on Channel 6 yesterday, I brought my little battery-operated TV to Camilla. I had a feeling that we'd still be at the fair when the game began at 3 PM, and I was right. I set the TV up on the table in front of me, plugged in an earphone, and listened to the game (with an occasional glance at the screen, based on the announcer's tone of voice), and played bingo for the first hour or so of the Flyers game. :o) Reception was a bit staticky, but I lived. All I needed was to keep track of what was going on with my boys in Orange and Black, and I was fine.

When we got ready to leave for home around 4 PM, I tried to watch the TV in the car but the reception was just impossible. So I put it away and listened to the game on the car radio instead. By the time we got home, the Flyers had won the game, 3-2. Life is good. :o)

We had plans to stop at home briefly, then head over to Joe's for dinner... Mark and I were going to join Bob, Lucy, Tina, and another friend, Mark F. But before that, we watched the Preakness on TV. The Philly-based horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones, was going to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Mark is interested in horse racing, so we decided to leave for Joe's after the race was over.

Smarty Jones did not start out in the lead; he spent a lot of the race in second place. But shortly before the fourth turn, suddenly he positioned himself inside, at the rail, and I had a feeling that he was about to turn on the afterburners.

Sure enough, just at they made that turn, Smarty Jones surged to the front. Not only did he continue to put distance between himself and everyone else for the rest of the race, he won it by a record 10.5 lengths. DANG, was he impressive to watch! :o)

So now, I've been discussing with Mark that I want to go to the Belmont in three weeks, the way we did last year. That was fun. I also asked Donna H. if she's interested in going, which she is. I figure that NYC would be easier for her to get to than coming all the way down to Philly, so we can have a little get-together without her having to drive all the way down here to do it. So, stay tuned. There'll be more Smarty Jones posts on the way.

So anyway, to recap: yesterday we had a nice day at the Camilla Fair, the Flyers won, Smarty Jones won, and later on I found out that the Phillies not only won, but moved into first place in their division. Yep, yesterday was a good day, all right. :o)

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