The Miracle on South 13th Street

December 2019 Update

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Reading, Writing | 0

After a couple of rough Decembers, this year was the more typical fun and busy month.

We celebrated Holly’s birthday in what has become a tradition for us: in addition to going out to a nice dinner, we also cook a brunch and dinner for each other. Dinner out was at Bistro Romano. We had been there during our October Staycation and loved it so we used Holly’s birthday as a good reason to go back. It has been around for ages, and I had been there a handful of times when I lived in Philadelphia before. I’m glad it’s still around and is as good (if not better) than I remembered it to be.

We also spruced up our apartment by getting a new sofa and another book shelf. We had been living with a slowly dying futon and an overflow of books for too long. Making the apartment nicer meant that we actually decided to have my brother over for Christmas dinner. I won’t go as far as to say we were embarrassed by our previous seating arrangement but I’m not not saying that either.

December means winter break for us. We’re fortunate to work at a University that closes between Christmas and New Year’s Day so this time of year serves as a mini-Staycation.

As I mentioned in a prior post, I recently bought a used Olympus Pen-EE. Despite having convinced myself I didn’t need any more cameras, I had getting a half-frame camera in the back of my mind and decided to take the plunge. Half-frame camera are more novelty cameras since it takes half-sized photos which means that you get twice as many photos from a roll of film.

I did finish a roll with it over break and am waiting to get that and two other rolls developed. However, I am a little concerned. I sent those rolls off to Richard Photo Lab which I use when my local place can’t develop something. In this case, I had a roll of Ilford PAN Plus 50 which my local place doesn’t have the right chemicals for. As much as I like my local place, it isn’t equipped to handle anything out of the ordinary. So I figured I’d send the Ilford along with the half-frame roll and another roll to them. Richard has been great (albeit a little pricey). What has me concerned is that the tracking number for that order is saying that the package hasn’t been scanned, and I sent it out five days ago. It would be heartbreaking to lose exposed film in the mail. Certainly irreplaceable.

In addition to finishing those three rolls of film, I went out with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to take some pictures of Christmas around the city.

We walked mainly along 13th Street which is home to “The Miracle on South 13th Street.” The neighbors along two blocks go all out with decorating their homes. We have been there before at night when everything has been lit up so it was interesting to wander there during the day. After that, we headed to East Passyunk to get photos of their tree.

Of course, there were also non-Christmas things to take pictures of.

One of the more interesting things we did over break was go to a couple of gravesites. Yes, gravesites.

I hope to write more about this later, but recently Holly’s mom, who is interested in genealogy, did some research on my family. I knew a little about my dad’s side of the family but not much at all about my mom’s. My dad’s family came to the U.S. around the turn of the 20th Century, and I always thought the time frame for my mom’s family was about the same (based on what, I don’t know).

As it turns out, my mom’s family in the U.S. dates back to the 17th Century on my Swedish side, which was news to me. Her family took root in the Philadelphia area and never really left so I have a long connection to this city.

So Holly and I went out looking for graves of some of my ancestors. We found the grave of Matthias Keen who lived from 1667 – 1714 who is not one of my direct descendants but related through his wife’s side of my family. He was important in the development and funding of Swedish churches in the area, particularly the Gloria Dei church (also know as Old Swedes’ Church) which is where we found his grave.

We also went to Old St. Mary’s Church to see the grave of Commodore John Barry to whom I’m also related to via his wife’s (Sarah) family.

There were a lot of surprising things in the genealogy which, as I said, I hope to get more into later.

As always, winter break went by too fast. It was a much needed break from work which was stressful because of the move to the new library.

I’m also planning to write later with an update about my creative projects for 2019 and some thoughts about 2020 so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Basically, I worked on revising some short stories and started an “Introduction to Graphic Design” tutorial.

I read two more books in December which brought my 2019 total to 48. I’ve made the disclaimer before that some of those books were short and/or graphic novels. Regardless, I still never thought I’d average nearly a book a week no matter how short.

Compelled to revisit His Dark Materials because of the TV series, I finished The Golden Compass in November and The Subtle Knife in December. These books still rank among my favorites. I haven’t been all that impressed with the show but the final episode was good enough to make me hopeful for the next season. It was interesting to see how the show introduced some of the material from The Subtle Knife into the first season. The Subtle Knife is the shortest of the three books so I’m curious about what the second season will cover.

The other book I read in December was Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. I enjoyed this book and found it interesting although it wasn’t really what I was expecting. Odell describes her love of nature and bird watching and how those things are a reprieve from the attention economy. She also delves into the ways people in the past have dropped out of society. She also delivers criticism of how social media pulls people into a capitalistic space that they may not want but also cannot resist. I think my main reservation of the book is that it didn’t really tell me anything new. Paying closer attention to the world outside of social media seems pretty obvious. However, as someone who grew up without social media, I may be more attuned to this approach. How to Do Nothing might be more relevant for people who struggle more with navigating social media.

December 2019 Reading Update
December 2019 Reading Update

Books Read in 2019

  • The Way the World Ends, Jess Walter (Kindle book)
  • There’s No Place Like Home, Edan Lepucki (Kindle book)
  • Controller, Jesse Kellerman (Kindle book)
  • At the Bottom of New Lake, Sonya Larson (Kindle book)
  • Falls the Shadow, Skip Horack (Kindle book)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Kindle book)
  • Sabrina, Nick Drnaso (Kindle book)
  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng (Kindle book)
  • Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday (Kindle book)
  • Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy (Kindle book)
  • Washington Black, Esi Edugyan (Kindle book)
  • Boca Raton, Lauren Groff (Kindle book)
  • The Hillside, Jane Smiley (Kindle book)
  • Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
  • Amaro, Brad Thomas Parsons
  • The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
  • Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel (Library book)
  • Zama, Antonio di Bennedetto
  • Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, Dani Shapiro (Kindle Book)
  • Educated, Tara Westover (Kindle Book)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy’s End, Charles Soule (Kindle Book)
  • Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir #1-4, Jeremy Barlow (Kindle Book)
  • Dark Disciple: Star Wars, Christie Golden (Kindle Book)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas, Charles Soule (Kindle Book)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader, Charles Soule (Kindle Book)
  • Ahsoka, E.K. Johnston (Kindle Book)
  • Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, Henry Miller
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway
  • The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli (Kindle Book)
  • The Girls, Emma Cline (Kindle Book)
  • The World According to Garp, John Irving
  • Radical Inventor: A Retrospective of Alexander Calder, Anne Grace
  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene (Kindle Book)
  • Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life, Amber Scorah (Kindle Book)
  • The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (Kindle Book)
  • Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino (Kindle Book)
  • A History of the French New Wave Cinema, Richard Neupert
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
  • Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, Kieran Setiya
  • A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953
  • The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
  • Richard III, William Shakespeare
  • The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullma
  • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, Jenny Odell (Kindle Book)

This Creative Midlife Posts in 2019

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