To the jenth power ...

I read the books. I watched the show. I unflinchingly wore a sunbonnet to second grade. What started as a childhood obsession has developed into .. well, an adult obsession. I'm going to visit some of the sites depicted in the Little House series of books. Go west, (not-so-) young woman, indeed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I have a phobia.

Now, I know that we all have our fears. Heights. The dark. Spiders. Some folks are terrified to cross bridges, and others can be thrown into panic at the very notion of a snake. I'm freaked out by some very normal things, too, such as lightning, large bugs, commitment and brown socks. My crazy, irrational fear, however, is this: I'm terrified of Philadelphia. Specifically, I live in fear of having to drive through it.

Sure, the city of brotherly love never did anything to me. After all, I've only really visited there twice, despite its proximity to where I live. However, I've traveled through it countless times, because it stands between my place of residence and the Jersey Shore. What this means is that I need to drive through it whenever heading to my beloved Cape May or other shore points. Well, I suppose I could circumvent it if I really tried, but I'd be adding hours to the already tiresome trip. So ... Philadelphia it is.

I'd forgotten the panic that the drive inspires until I traveled to Avalon, NJ last week for a long-overdue vacation. Hoping to avoid the hordes and masses, I departed from Scranton at 3:30 am. At first, the drive was pleasant - I had the Turnpike to myself as I listened to long-forgotten tunes on the middle-of-the-night radio broadcasts (do they ever play "Timothy" any time other than at 4:15 am?) and smoked too many cigarettes. Sure, it was a little foggy, but the ride wasn't bad. I relished the space-age feeling of shooting through the Lehigh Tunnel before dawn. I liked sensing the flattening of the mountains as I headed southward, and having to yawn frequently to pop my ears. However, once I began to see indicators that Philly was creeping up ahead, my bowels began to tighten.

That, in a nutshell, is what that city does to me: it causes intestinal distress (as my mother would delicately put it). I actually had an, er .. attack once while traveling on the Schuylkill Expressway, necessitating a harried pullover and a search for any open McDonald with an functioning restroom. Okay, that's probably faaar too much information, but you get the picture. My innards roll like the mighty Mississip. At best, I get through that city as quickly as I can, white-knuckling the steering wheel and muttering shitdamnshitdamnshitdamn through clenched teeth.

Why this terror? I really don't know. I've driven through New York City, Boston and other major cities with nary a twitch. In fact, I tend to find the quickened pace and the challenge exhilarating. I've never even come close to a car accident in any Philadelphia treks, so that's not the source of panic. The most awful part is that it never gets any easier or less frightening for me, no matter how many times I do it. I sometimes think I might die there on Route 76 as a victim of a fright-induced heart attack or stroke, the worst part being that I'll most likely soil myself in the process.

Thank God the word "phobia" starts with a "ph" or I'd be forced to get all cutesy about my ... phear.

Interestingly, I turned to my old friend Roget while writing this because, well ... there are only so many readily-available words with which to express true horror. On of the given synonyms for fear is "unholy dread", which, I think, sums up the sensation quite nicely. Unholy dread, indeed.

At any rate, I had a wonderful time on my vacation. I spent plenty of time in Cape May, natch. I visited Cold Spring and saw a Revolutionary War encampment complete with the firing of cannons. I rented a bike and explored Avalon and Stone Harbor. I shopped too much and ate far too much fried food and saltwater taffy. Best of all, I spent a week with my best friend and her family, all of whom I love dearly. It was a wonderful week.

The trip back? Hordes and masses in spades. Bleh. Yuck. Cringe. Shudder. At least I was able to somewhat keep my wits about me. Or my shits, as the case may be.

Days until trip: 299
Money saved: $220.00



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