I shouldn't even mention this here, but it consumed the first twenty minutes of our day together and maybe we'll laugh about it in 100 years (or maybe never)?
The West Chester Parking Authority.
Ohhhhh yes: Let's go there. Just because maybe it'll be funny in the future! ha! ha. ha.
Ok, so for the past six months I have been boycotting all business in West Chester on weekdays and Saturday nights. If you don't offer me off-street free parking (like my bank or the Post Office), then I simply will not visit your store/restaurant/bar/whatever M-F or Saturday after 5pm. This is because it costs $0.25 for TEN MINUTES OF PARKING TIME to do anything in West Chester during this time. Three years ago, a quarter bought you up to twenty minutes in some lots and fifteen in others. But ten minutes? This is where I draw my line.
(For all you people who are like, "Why would you boycott local businesses during a recession?!" Trust me: You don't feel like going to any of the hookah bars, vomity-smelling college bars, or overpriced-$10-buys-you-half-a-cocktail-bars either. On Saturday mornings when parking is free, I visit my shoe repair guy, the farmer's market, and my three favorite consignment shops and that's it. Trust me, I spend up my money on those mornings. And all those restaurants/bars are packed at night anyway, so I don't feel bad not spending money there.)
(And for all the rest of you who are like, "Why do care so much about $0.25?" When you've paid more than your due in a town that cannot--for the life of it--attract high end businesses for the long term, you really begin to wonder what the hell you're paying for anyway. Some blocks are just stretches of boarded up empty store fronts. This is a problem.)
My mom's birthday fell on Election Day--while Election Day may count as a "civic holiday" in some states, PA is not one of those states.
Enter the WCPA.
I pull up to a meter and plunk a quarter in: Ten minutes flashes on the screen (because WC shelled out big bucks for Fancy Dancy Computerized Parking Meters this summer--they'll swipe your credit card but they won't take any money other than a quarter, and every ten minutes you park = $0.25 ... did I mention that already? Did I also mention that each minute is cheaper in Kennett Square, Phoenixville--hell, does Pville even CHARGE MONEY FOR PARKING? not the last time I checked--WAYNE, and frickin BRYN MAWR. Great job, West Chester! you are number one at something!!)
I plunk another quarter in because I figure I need two hours on my meter. I can hear the machine eat my quarter as it quietly smashes onto all the other lost quarters inside ... but ten minutes didn't change to twenty. West Chester has a history of this: Meters that GOBBLE your quarters without reflecting the time you just bought. So, I took both of my hands and violently shook the meter, my rage nearly lifting it straight out of its cemented lump in the ground. No luck. I plunk in ANOTHER quarter. Nothing. Still ten minutes. So I yelled, "THESE F-ING WEST CHESTER METERS!!!" Nothing. So I got back in my car and MOVED IT TO ANOTHER METER because the parking authority will not hesitate to slap your ass with a $25 ticket if you leave your car at a broken meter EVEN if you've inserted $100 worth of quarters into it.
The next meter did the same. exact. thing. At this point, I've spent about $3 on parking with nothing to show for it.
I gave up. "F it," I thought. "I'll pay whoever $25 not to move my car one more time." And I walked up to meet my mom.
I arrive at the Tea Room and ask the lovely people working there, "WHAT THE F-ING HELL IS GOING ON WITH THE METERS???!"
Ok, that's not what I said. I said in a much nicer voice, "Hi ... is there something going on with parking today?"
And the adorable twenty-something there (with cool tattoos) cringes and says, "You're the millionth person to ask: It's free today. Election Day?"
You know how George Costanza does that thing? Think of when he's yelling at Elaine, "Oh but NO!!! YOU HAD TO HAVE THE BIG [lots of hand waving] SALAD!!!!" Yeah, I started doing that. In the middle of the whole place. In retrospect, I was lucky because I was the only person in there or would've been really outta-control embarrassing. The people working there are like, "We know, we know. It's bad--parking is outta control. We feel bad for you. Which table do you want to sit at?"
And then I look at my phone, and my mom was texting me TEN MINUTES prior, all frantic: "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE METERS??? I KEEP FEEDING THEM QUARTERS AND THEY'RE NOT WORKING! I ALREADY MOVED MY CAR ONCE!!!!"
So now I'm trying to call her before she gives ONE MORE DOLLAR TO THIS STUPID CESS POOL WASTE OF A TOWN WE LIVE IN, but it's too late: Here she is walking through the door and now we are BOTH talking very loudly and angrily about how STUPID FRIGGIN WEST CHESTER IS, and HOW STUPID ALL THE PEOPLE WHO THE RUN PLACE ARE, and how WE ARE NEVER BOTHERING TO DO ANYTHING IN THIS TOWN EVER AGAIN AS LONG AS WE ARE ALIVE.
Or least that's what I said. I don't remember what my mom said.
So it turns out that the FANCY DANCY NEW COMPUTERIZED ELECTRONIC METERS CAN SWIPE YOUR FRIGGIN CREDIT CARD, BUT NOBODY CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET THE COMPUTERIZED SCREENS TO SAY "FREE" OR "DO NOT PAY" OR "WEST CHESTER DOESN'T HATE YOUR VEHICULAR GUTS TODAY."
(You know what this reminds me of? That day in Pittsburgh in 2010 after the fourth or fifth (or tenth) huge snowstorm and the streets were SUCH A TRAIN WRECK that Ravenstahl announced (rather quietly) that all public parking would be free over the weekend--and that guy YELLED at us for paying the meter? Remember that?: "This trip was right after a huge storm--something like three feet of snow fell a few days before. The city was still recovering from this major inconvenience, and public parking was a mess (most of it was still under snow). When we went to make our Dozen outing, a Pittsburgh resident yelled at us when he saw us feeding our parking meter: "Don't you DARE feed that meter! The goddamn, good-for-NOTHING Mayor [who shall remain nameless] of this GOD-FORSAKEN CITY has lifted all parking fees this weekend because he can't get the GODDAMN CITY CLEARED UP FROM THIS MESS. DO NOT GIVE HIM ANY MORE OF YOUR MONEY. STOP! FEEDING! THAT! METER!" Point taken (and thank you!). By the way, this guy was the preppiest, well-dressed, middle-aged person you've ever seen. And he was yelling this at us from ACROSS the big parking lot. Clearly, he was ... fed up. This guy needed the arrival of the Spring Equinox badly. And probably a light box for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or, maybe he just needed a cupcake?")
(Holy crap! I have become that guy! Oh well. There are worse things.)
And I am straight-up, F-ing serious. West Chester can go screw itself. THERE I SAID IT. Keep on pandering to all the college students who spend their parents' money at the dirty, vomity-smelling bars in town and then DO NOTHING post-grad to contribute to the community here over the long term. Go for it, West Chester. Be my guest.
(Yes, I know that last paragraph is rife with sweeping generalizations and based purely on anecdotal evidence and not facts. Cut me a break--I promise I won't speak about this again after today.)
Ok. So that's how the day started, but I promise it got better after this.
So like, literally, my mom and I looked at each other and said, "We are OFFICIALLY not talking about this anymore today!!" And then her birthday began.
(And then we would remind ourselves NOT to talk about it more as EVERY SINGLE PERSON who entered the tea room would ask, "Hey, does anyone know what's up with the meters?" Can you imagine how much friggin money the parking authority made on "free parking day"? Jerks. WAIT. I'm done talking about this anymore. Right.)
|The tea room filled up pretty quickly, including two moms and their four old daughters one of whom was also celebrating her birthday.|
|We chose the tea for two from the menu and mom picked out the holiday tea to share.|
|It comes with this fancy tiered tray of sandwiches, including the bottom tier of dessert. The chicken salad tea sandwiches are the best. The cucumber are second best.|
|And then we headed over to Winterthur, another estate of the DuPont family--the same DuPont family of Longwood and, naturally, the same DuPonts who invented gun powder and nylon and Teflon etc etc etc. Honestly, the driveway to the (free!!!) parking lot is one of the best parts! (No really, it is, and I promise THAT is it.)|
|This would make a great canvas print ...|
|Giant Sequoia (not the same as a Redwood--read here)|
|"Who doesn't love a big fern??" --mom|
I really love the way this exhibit was set up. From beginning to end, you read about how big houses/estates were run in England vs. the U. S. (completely different sets of rules dictating practical activities as well as decorum and manners). And running alongside all of this is the comparison between the running of the Winterthur estate in the early 20th century compared to what viewers see in Downton Abbey. I thought it was pretty interesting (and surprising, especially when you compare American and British customs).
|Fish with sauce? Well, Leslie, we know who's not dining here.|
|If you watch Downton carefully, you see that the housemaids wear light colors during the day and change to black for the evening and dinner.|
|Dress belonging to Lady Mary|
|A travel case belonging to the DuPont estate--how many seconds would it take the TSA to smash most of it to smithereens?|
|Everything looks so beautiful on the screen because the tailoring is beyond impeccable. So many seams, and all of them so perfectly stitched and pressed. This is a summer linen "walking jacket" belonging to Lady Mary.|
|The silk embroidered piece (!!) belongs to Cora and the cream lace to the Dowager Countess--couldn't pick between them if I could only have one.|
|Ah yes, and Edith's wedding gown. So gorgeous up close. The only thing that sucks worse than parking in West Chester is being Edith on her wedding day. Let's be real.|
|Another major favorite of mine belonging to Cora. Love that grey-green and the lace and beads. This would be the best winter bridal gown ever.|
|* swoon *|
|My mom's favorite dress--if you've ever wondered to yourself, "Is Michelle Dockery REALLY that skinny?" I have news for you: She's even skinnier in real life.|
|Love the black lace fish tail on that blush dress--you can also see Sybil's famous blue harem pants on the left. I couldn't get a photo of that one--it was constantly swarmed with people.|
|One of Cora's dresses--the beading and embroidery (each stitch and each bead so tiny!!!) is original and the dress built around it. You can see how they just placed the asymmetrical beaded panel right on top of the dress.|
|Lady Mary's wedding head piece--if they sold replicas of this, I would buy one.|
|Walking back to the visitor's center, we stopped in one of the gift shops (which is as gorgeous as shopping in a place like Anthropologie).|
|This is our official first place winner for Guess How Much It Is?! Want to take a guess? I'll put the answer in the next caption. Hint, Winterthur is internationally known for its antique collection.|
|Sidewalk chalk directs kids to daytime craft and activity classes on the campus.|
|Walking back to the (free!) parking lot, we passed the estate's now defunct green houses, still completely gorgeous in their unused state.|
|For any fem philosophers out there who teach Marilyn Frye's "Oppression," this would be a great image to use in conjunction with her birdcage analogy ...|
|Ugh, it went crooked.|
|"Ok that's enough. Let's go."|
|Empty gardens are as good as full ones (" ... in my ... oh-pinion).|
|And that's it. We went back to my house and I made Ellie Krieger's mac & cheese, and then I had to duck out to vote (because I had totally forgotten) while it baked in the oven. And that was it. Despite West Chester's smooth moves to ruin our day ON PURPOSE (I'm joking), it was a pretty great day anyway. The Downton Abbey exhibit is on view until January 4, 2015 and then it leaves North America for good. So get your butt over there to see it--it's awesome.|