Going to Philadelphia – The Colmar Station

Over the spring and early summer I went to Philadelphia for events – the Philadelphia flower show, a street fair, a dinner with women in technology.  Now, when I lived in California, I drove  to San Francisco many times.  I’ve driven all over the California coast.  I’ve driven to Seattle.  I drove 3000 miles across the US.  But, driving to Philadelphia does not appeal to me.  I will drive in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, because I have to, but I don’t like it very much.  In the US I like to drive in coastal California, the Pacific northwest, the southwest, Austin Texas, and parts of Hawaii.  Maybe I’ll make an exception for coastal Maine and the highway to the Florida Keys – liked driving those roads.

That leaves train travel.  Train travel in the US is painfully slow.  Regional train travel is even slower.  But taking the train is fun.  It’s extra fun if you can start at one of the platonic ideals of train station cuteness, the Colmar station. Sadly, you cannot walk to this train station, unless you lived next door, perhaps, but there are still many benefits to traveling via this station.

Parking

Lots of parking and the parking lot doesn’t fill up.  Getting there is easy for me, if a bit long, a straightforward route, no tricky intersections, fairly good traffic.

The Colmar Train Station. April 2011.

Parking and the Wawa gas station. April 2011.

An adorable little train station.

Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colmar_(SEPTA_station)) the Colmar station was built in 1856.  I do not know if this is the original building.  Glass blocks such as these were originally developed in the 1900s.  Perhaps this station dates from the early 1900s.  It’s a tiny station and there is no restroom, but there is a restroom at the Wawa gas station across from the station, as well as food.  The Wawa gas station is open all the time. There’s a heater in the tiny train station building, for the winter, though I don’t know how much heat it provides.

Side view, exterior, Colmar train station. April 2011.

Interior, Colmar train station. Wonderful glass blocks. April 2011.

Colmar train station. The heater. April 2011.

Waiting for the train.

I feel like I’m in a movie, setting off from the country to the big city.  I look one way and the other, to see if a train is coming.

The train station and the train tracks. May 2011.

Looking the other way at the train tracks. April 2011.

The buildings across from the train tracks. Pretty. April 2011.

A train is coming. May 2011.

The train is not fancy, but it is comfortable.  Cell phone service is good, so I can use my Android smartphone.

On the train. April 2011.

On the train with my Motorola Droid Android phone. April 2011.

Looking out the window

I used to take the SEPTA Norristown line into Philadelphia, which gave me a lovely view of the Schuylkill River.  There is no river on this route, but the landscape is pretty.

Watching the view on the way to Philadelphia. April 2011.

More views from the train. April 2011.

If I worked in downtown Philadelphia, Ambler would be a good place for me to live.

Ambler, view from the train. April 2011.

Farewell to the Colmar station.

Goodbye Colmar Station. April 2011.

They sold my building

For fifteen years I lived in paradise.  When I left, the place existed, frozen in time.  Sometimes I’d think – I’ll move back to my paradise, if I ever move back to California.

It’s not to be.  The owner’s children sold the building and the building is getting all fixed up.  It’s not the same.

I lived in a neighborhood called midtown, in Palo Alto, California, a smallish city on the peninsula south of San Francisco – a city located in what is called Silicon Valley.  Midtown is mostly residential, but my street was zoned for mixed use. There were shops, apartment buildings and detached single family homes.  There was a gas station up the street, but it closed.

Palo Alto is a pricey city, even by pricey San Francisco Bay area standards.  But, midtown Palo Alto was a little less pricey.  My apartment, though ridiculously expensive by what I call “normal” standards, was a good deal by Palo Alto standards.  I like that – I like being the “poor relation” in a pricey area.  There were about thirty apartments built around a central courtyard with trees, two patios, plants, and a pool in the back.  I say “about thirty” because I never noticed the exact number – how California is that!

Building view via Google street view

Apartment building, front view, July 1999

Another view, front of the building, June 2009

Satellite view, apartment complex, 2004

Satellite view, apartment complex, showing location of my apartments

I lived on the second floor,  an apartment with high ceilings, big windows and a screen door which opened up to a view of the inner courtyard.  The apartment I lived in for eleven years was a two bedroom, with a big window facing the inner courtyard and another big window across from it, against the back wall, looking out onto a tree in the condo parking lot next door. I didn’t have a balcony, but there was enough room to place a container garden against the railing, across from my front door.  From my desk near the back window I looked to my left and saw a tree, and to my right I saw the top of another tree from the inner courtyard.  When it was warm I saw my plants from beyond the screen door.  It was magical.  The light, the courtyard, the trees, the plants, the pool, the open layout, the glorious weather – the entire time I was there it felt like I was living in a resort.

My container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

Another view, my container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

My second apartment was a one bedroom, still on the second floor, across the courtyard from my first apartment.  I was back in school and needed to economize.  While not as wonderful as the first apartment (the layout was different, not as much natural light) – it was still wonderful.  When I was in my second apartment my plants were nestled outside against an exterior wall.

My container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2005

Another view, my container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2009

In most apartment complexes you don’t get to have your own in ground garden; our place was different.   The place had a bit of a funky quality – which I like a lot.  Someone (might have been the apartment managers) had created a space for a garden.  As my plants got bigger I moved them to the garden, along with new plants I bought for the garden.  The garden was a low key affair – put in a few plants, a bit of topsoil, water once or twice a week during the dry season.  That’s it.  Given the soil and the dry climate there were almost no weeds. There was a bird of paradise bush.  In season the lily of the nile, agapanthus, bloomed.  There were hummingbirds.

View, garden and courtyard, May 2004

Another view, garden and courtyard, May 2009

Courtyard with Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) and Bird of Paradise, July 2007

Courtyard with overflow plants from my container garden, May 2009

And the pool – did I say there was a pool?  There was a pool at the back and it was wonderful.  It wasn’t heated, so the swimming season was only from late May, early June, through September.  Unlike some areas in the US, there was no rule that you have to have a lifeguard or pool attendant, so pool hours were very generous – daytime to around 10 PM at night, though if you live in northern California you know there’s not much night swimming.  Nights, even in the summer, tend to be blissfully cool.   The pool was used, but not heavily.   There were many, many times that I was the only one there.  It was my pool.  When a family member came to visit we spent many happy hours at the pool, swimming, then, using Styrofoam pool toys (“noodles”) lazily kicking our way back and forth, talking and laughing.  I was so happy.  Some summers I lived in my swimsuit on the weekends, putting shorts on over my suit to go to an art exhibit at the Palo Alto Cultural Center or to get the paper, coffee or a burrito.

Apartment pool, November 2007. Too cool for swimming, but still beautiful.

Pool, June 2009, late afternoon. My things are in my usual spot.

Pool, July 2008. Lovely reflections.

Getting ready to get out of the water, June 2009, a month before I left. I'll always think of this as my pool.

The place wasn’t perfect.  The apartments were large but didn’t have much soundproofing.  If you don’t get the right tenants, interior courtyards can be awful – sound carries.  So the apartment managers tried to get responsible tenants who weren’t noisy.   Palo Alto is a desirous place to live and the schools are excellent, so we had a mix of ages and nationalities, singles, couples, people with children.  For fifteen years, this place worked out well for me.  I didn’t want to leave.

I’ve learned that it’s different now.  The former apartment managers told me that the name has changed, and the plants were torn up to put in new patios.  For new tenants the rent is $500 more than it used to be.  I understand.  Given the location and the structure of the building, you could change the place and charge a lot more.  You could take away some of that naturalness, that imperfection, the communal space.   It will be a good place, but it won’t be my place.

I guess it’s true – you can’t go home again (apologies to Thomas Wolfe).  Even if I would ever move back to California and live in paradise, it won’t be that paradise.

Droid Love, it’s like Palm love all over again

In February 2010 I bought a Motorola Droid smartphone.  I’m way into Droid love, which is like tech love, but more specific.  The Motorola Droid is a wonderful thing.

Even more wonderful, all this Droid love takes me back to the old days of the Palm PDA (personal device assistant!).  I loved my Palm devices.  I had a number of them, starting with a Palm Pilot and ending with a Palm TX.  I remember the websites, the print reviews, and the endless talk about what to get for your Palm.  These devices are all about apps, about what you put on them.  Most of the apps I put on my Palms were either inexpensive or free, just like the Droid.

I was a member of a Palm user group.  We had monthly meetings at Palm company headquarters.  2001 to 2005 were especially good years.  There were refreshments — pizza, cookies, chips, soft drinks and water. There were demos of new apps using a projector, with magnification and special lighting.  New devices got passed around.  We exchanged tips on how to do things.  My Palm user group was in Silicon Valley (northern California) but there were Palm user groups all over the world.

I went to three Palm development conferences, which were extra fun because I had no business or work relationship with Palm.  I took notes, using the Palm I had at the time.  Memories.

PalmSource Expo 2002.  The general public could attend.  Here’s the press release I copied to my calendar: “The PalmSource Expo, which will open its doors to the general public on Wednesday and Thursday, showcases the hottest new Palm Powered™ devices, software, peripherals and accessories – all in one place. More than 100 exhibitors present everything from handhelds, smartphones, and other mobile devices, to some of the most innovative travel, personal information management, education, entertainment, health, lifestyle, hobby and game software available for any platform”.

Wow – takes me back.

PalmSource Developer Conference 2004.  I went for one day because I got an affordable one day pass on eBay.   I still have the notes from the conference, note I took on my Palm.  Reading my notes – interesting – there’s starting to be a focus on “wireless” – that too takes me back!  In the old days, you got data on your Palm by connecting it to a PC.  Wireless was a new thing.

PalmSource Mobile Summit & DevCon 2005.  I went for free because I spent part of the time doing volunteer work, counting the number of people in a conference room.   We got a mini flash drive for attending.  We got PDF files of the talks, and MP3 files of the Computer Outlook Radio talk show, the shows that were done at PalmSource.   There are 17 sessions of about 20 minutes each, all talk.  Maybe we had longer attention spans in 2005.  I’m listening to one now, the interview with Howard Tomlinson from Astraware. The speakers are clear, but I can hear the conference going on in the background.   Howard is talking about Bejeweled for the Palm.  I still play that game

It was a Palm thing, now it’s a Droid thing. The Droid makes me feel the same way, though I don’t belong to a user group where we meet every month, and I’ve never been to an Android conference.  For a look at Droid love, look at the droid forums on http://www.droidforums.net.  People talk about the Motorola Droid and about other Android OS phones, with the save loving and obsessive zeal that I’ve seen with the Palm.  And the OS is open source and you don’t have to go to one place for apps, though the Android market is quite nice.

Here’s a picture, not of my Droid, but of my Droid case, taken with the Droid.  This was supposed to be a temporary case.  I didn’t even save the name of the company that made it.  I like it so much now I’m going to keep using it.  It’s colorful, it protects my Droid and it’s made with recycled products, whatever they are.  I brought the plants and the pots they are in from California.

Droid Case with my California Plants, March 2010, Pennsylvania

I love my Droid.

My California – Lily of the Nile

Lily of the Nile plants, Agapanthus, are very common in the San Francisco Bay area.  Originally from South Africa (one of five Mediterranean climates in the world, like coastal California) they do well here.  They take to rainy winters with moderate temperatures (no freezing) and dry summers with no rain, the weather of coastal California. The plants are large, with a waterfall of green leaves year round and beautiful large clumps of flowers in the spring and summer.  Lily of the Nile flowers comes in shades of white and a beautiful blue purple color.  I love the blue purple ones.
                             
The plants have been popular in California for decades, used extensively in landscaping public spaces and private gardens.  In the late spring and summer, they form rivers and pools of blue.  The masses of blooms remind me of water.

Two links:

http://plantfinder.sunset.com/sunset/plant-details.jsp?id=128

http://playinginthedirt.ca/2008/07/27/green-thumb-sunday-agapanthus/

I took these photos in July 2009, before my move.  The road is Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto, at dusk.  I have trouble photographing the flowers well, given my casual photography skills, but this may give you an idea of how magical they are.   The Lily of the Nile blooming season is a part of My California.

         

Lily of the Nile, Oregon Expressway, July 2009

Lily of the Nile, Oregon Expressway, July 2009

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lily of the Nile at Dusk, July 2009

Lily of the Nile at Dusk, July 2009

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                    
 
                                                                                                                                               
                      
         
Lily of the Nile and the road, July 2009

Lily of the Nile and the road, July 2009