Sept. 29–Oct. 1, 2006

I had the honor of serving as a groomsman in the wedding of my friend from high school, Todd, and his fiancée, Chris. It was the first time that I had ever been part of a wedding party, and I have a new-found appreciation for the amount of preparation and logistics for a wedding.

We attended the wedding rehearsal on Friday evening at St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Warrington, Pa., followed by a wonderful post-rehearsal dinner hosted by Todd’s parents at Mike’s York Street Grill, complete with a multimedia slide show of photos of Todd and Chris. The following morning, the groomsmen met at the Days Inn in Horsham to get dressed in our tuxedos, and made our way to the church about 1½ hours before the ceremony.

My fellow groomsmen and I served as ushers for the guests as they arrived at the church, and we made it through the beautiful ceremony without a hitch. The entire wedding party posed for photos at the altar, then boarded a shuttle to take additional pictures in an outdoor setting at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in nearby Doylestown.

Todd and Chris’ big day continued with a classy, fun-filled reception at Spring Mill Manor. The filet mignon was the best I’ve had in a long time, there were too many dessert options to count, and the Eddie Bruce Band put on a very entertaining show. Late in the evening, I met up with a few wedding guests back at the Days Inn, where some of us had wisely booked rooms for the night. After such an action-packed day, I hit the sack shortly thereafter.

We closed out the weekend with a buffet brunch on Sunday morning in an enclosed beer garden at Otto’s Brauhaus, a German restaurant conveniently located right next door to the hotel. Everyone was pretty tired from all of the excitement, but happy to be a part of such a special occasion.

Congratulations, Todd and Chris!

[ No. 285 ]

Sept. 26, 2006

Bill Clinton: “But at least I tried [to capture Osama bin Laden]. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t. I tried.

Condoleezza Rice: “The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn’t do that is just flatly false — and I think the 9/11 Commission understood that.”

OK, kids, do I have to separate you two?

The correct answer, it seems, is that both administrations dropped the ball. Our country, under the leadership of both a Democratic and a Republican president, had numerous opportunities to capture and kill a dangerous terrorist leader and possibly prevent a catastrophe in the process, and did not succeed. There’s little value (or even political gain) in debating which administration bears more responsibility for that terrible day. They both failed, and 3,000 people died. No amount of 20/20 hindsight will change that horrific result.

The real enemy is al-Qaeda, not the political party that sits across the aisle from you. Stop bickering and find a way to fight the real enemy together.

[ No. 284 ]

Sept. 18, 2006

Some brief thoughts on recent headlines:

  1. Newsflash to Pope Benedict XVI: radical Islam certainly doesn’t really need any more ammunition at the moment. With all due respect, please focus your efforts on addressing the unspeakable problems among your own flock.
  2. Who would have ever predicted that health experts would formally advise you to avoid spinach? (Cheesesteaks for everyone!)
  3. Has the schadenfreude in Hollywood actually reached the point where a cable station is sponsoring a “death watch” for new TV shows?
  4. I’ve never been a big Eagles fan, but I know this much: blowing a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead during your home opener against your hated conference rival is nothing short of a disgrace.

[ No. 283 ]

Sept. 15, 2006

Sadly, there are very few radio stations left in Philadelphia that play anything resembling modern rock. But one notable exception to the depressing radio wasteland is WXPN 88.5 FM, a non-commercial, member-supported station based at Penn. And, on top of putting great music on the air, XPN also offers a free concert every Friday at noon at a fantastic, intimate venue, World Cafe Live.

So, when my friend Christina generously invited me to join a small group to see Barenaked Ladies play the XPN Free at Noon show, I took her up on the offer.

BNL’s latest CD, Barenaked Ladies Are Me, was released just three days before the show, but I decided to pick up a copy in advance of the concert. And I’m really glad I did — most of their set at the XPN show came from the new album, and their new material is very melodic and catchy. (In fact, it’s a welcome return to form following their bland Everything to Everyone release from 2003.)

This camera-phone picture should give you an idea of how close we were to the stage:

Barenaked Ladies at World Cafe Live

A great show, and a great way to spend an extended lunch hour!

[ No. 282 ]

Sept. 14, 2006

You might want to sit down for this one (assuming you’re surfing the Web standing up, for some reason). But I’m about to praise John Street. Seriously.

During his tenure as the mayor of Philadelphia since January 2000, Street has been ineffective at best and crooked at worst, in my amateur opinion. But earlier today, Street finally broke with tradition and did the right thing — Philly is the latest metropolitan area to pass a smoking ban, effective Jan. 1, 2007.

Granted, we’re a little behind the curve on this issue — in fact, the majority of Northeast states had passed such legislation well before Philadelphia. But this is still great news, and it’s better late than never.

[ No. 281 ]

Sept. 11, 2006

Five years ago today started out as a bright Tuesday morning and a fairly typical day. I rode the SEPTA R5 train from Malvern to Suburban Station, walked down South 18th Street to my job at MBC on Rittenhouse Square, and started on my work fairly early.

My coworker Dennis stopped by my cramped cubicle somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., saying, “I think you’re going to want to come and see this.” Slightly annoyed by the interruption, I walked down a narrow hallway to the spacious reception area, where I found most of the other employees riveted to a live news broadcast. I was stunned to see black smoke billowing from both towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Some of my colleagues were already in tears. Within minutes, reports of the Pentagon attack began to air, and I had no idea what to think.

The company president, visibly shaken like the rest of us, announced that everyone was free to leave for the day if they wanted to. I didn’t immediately jump at her offer, but since most of the company decided to leave, I opted to take a train home as well.

I walked north through the mid-morning glare back to Suburban Station, where the commuter trains were completely packed with passengers — everyone wanted to get out of the city and back to their families. Shortly after our train crawled out of the underground station, a nearby passenger said that she’d heard that one of the Twin Towers had collapsed, which sounded completely impossible at the time. As our train arrived at its first stop, 30th Street Station, we heard an announcement come over the PA system: Amtrak had just shut down all of the local railroad tracks, and everyone on the crowded train would need to disembark.

Now stranded and 30 miles away from my apartment, I wandered inside 30th Street Station, not quite sure what to do next. I didn’t own a cell phone at the time, and those who did were mostly unable to get a signal anyway. So I waited in line for a pay phone (certainly a strange sight by 2001), then called my mom at her work number. As we discussed the option of walking back to the office so I could be near a landline, I overheard another PA announcement echoing throughout the cavernous station: the building was being evacuated. This was getting really scary — everywhere I went, I was being asked to leave for fear of yet another terrorist attack.

With few other options, I walked for about a mile back to the office through eerily deserted Center City streets. Back at Rittenhouse Square in front of a sidewalk café, I bumped into two coworkers, one of whom blurted out, “They just hit Pittsburgh.” Not knowing that the fourth attack actually took place in a rural Shanksville field instead of a Pittsburgh skyscraper, I suddenly realized that Philadelphia was located near the midpoint of the three attack locations, and that we were standing two blocks from One Liberty Place — which, at 945 feet tall, was the tallest building in the city. Were we next?

For at least a minute, I honestly thought that the world would end that day.

Back inside MBC, I was fortunate to find a few remaining coworkers, and one of them, Donna, kindly offered to drive me back to her place in Havertown. We made our way through heavy traffic to her house and waited for a while with her young daughter until my mom came to pick me up. My mom and I rode back to the Malvern train station, where my car was one of very few left, and I finally drove back to my apartment in West Chester, still in a daze from the most horrible and confusing day of my life.

I spent the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, with my parents and sisters at their house. We shared a somber dinner, talked about the day’s events in disbelief, and watched the continuous news coverage for a few hours. Late in the evening, I drove back to my apartment and helplessly stared at the TV until around 3 a.m., desperately hoping that the day was just a nightmare, but knowing that the tragedy was very real indeed.

For me, the full emotional impact of the 9/11 attacks sunk in three days later, during the national day of mourning on Sept. 14. On that day, I quietly left the office shortly before noon and walked through a light rainfall to St. Patrick’s Church on South 20th Street for a memorial Mass. The solemn service was very moving but unbearably sad, and when the congregation stood to sing the recessional hymn, “God Bless America,” I simply broke down.

I was unable to write anything about 9/11 until three months later, and I still find many of these memories very painful, as we all do. But my thoughts and prayers will always be with the victims of 9/11 and their loved ones.

God bless us all.

[ No. 280 ]

Sept. 7, 2006

A number of my coworkers attended a seminar for most of the morning yesterday. After they returned to our building for lunch, they made an amusing observation: the training course, which was designed to help them with their time management skills, finished 10 minutes late.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for a future Dilbert cartoon, doesn’t it?

[ No. 279 ]

Sept. 6, 2006

Over the weekend, Penn State kicked off its 2006 season with a solid 34–16 victory over Akron. Fortunately, the Lions’ new quarterback, Anthony Morelli, looked pretty sharp in his debut start, passing for 206 yards and three touchdowns. And PSU certainly needed a good opening performance, because their first meeting in 14 years with Notre Dame — a team which just happens to be ranked No. 4 at the moment — is up next, and it’s on the road, too.

During Joe Paterno’s weekly press conference yesterday, a reporter asked him about the highly anticipated battle with the Fighting Irish:

“Can you put the hype and interest of this game into context?”

JoePa replied in part:

“Hype…hype is hype. Somebody would have to describe hype to me. I am not even sure I could spell it correctly.”

Just one more reason why I love that guy.

*     *     *     *     *

In other college football news, Florida State’s 13–10 win over Miami on Monday night produced one of the strangest statistics you’ll ever see:

Total rushing yards:
Miami 2, Florida State 1

That’s right, both teams (ranked No. 11 and No. 12 before the game) combined for a net total of three yards on the ground over the course of 60 minutes.

The good news for Miami is that they managed to pick up twice as many rushing yards as FSU. The bad news is that Miami rushed for exactly 1.2 inches per minute of playing time.

[ No. 278 ]