Philadelphia (Or How I Broke a Perfectly Nice Puppy)

Our arrival in Philly is exciting on a couple of important levels. First, we’re looking forward to seeing our friends, Larry and Linda.


Larry was Jerry’s college roommate and has stayed a very good friend since then. We get together with Larry and his wife, Linda, at least every year, generally in August, when they offer us a standing invitation to their summer home on Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore. Apart from that, we get into Philly to see them from time to time, and they’ve visted us in Vermont. Riding in to see them feels, again, like a milestone. The fact that Philly is also Jerry’s home town makes it a huge milestone.

We decide to ride to the town of Manayunk, where there’s a bike shop called Cadence. They’re going to look over the bikes and hold onto them for the few days that we’re in town. One convenient aspect of this plan is that Manayunk is accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail: a biking and walking path that runs for miles and miles. It’s a pretty trail and such a pleasure to ride along, sans traffic. We’re on that trail for something like twenty miles that day.

Before dropping off the bikes in Manayunk, we stop in Conshohocken for lunch. We find a place called Lou’s – a classic Philadelphia sandwich shop and diner. Jerry has a cheesesteak, I have a Reuben. We both have ice cream. (The hoovering continues…)

After lunch, we bring our bikes to Cadence and Larry picks us up after leaving work. We’re so happy  to see him, but also excited to meet their new puppy, George. (Or George E., in case anyone wants to call him by the “diminutive” Georgie.) When we arrive at the house, Linda greets us all with the hugs and kisses we’ve been happily awaiting, and then takes us into the kitchen to see the puppy. George is adorable. He is little and energetic and so so happy to see us. His tail has a mind of its own:

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I sit on the floor. I play with him. I hug and snuggle and rev him up through the ceiling, practically. When he jumps up and nips my pant leg, I say, “NO!” Just as we’ve been saying “NO!” to all the dogs that have rushed us from their yards and driveways along the ride. Linda gently lets me know that their command to keep him from jumping up is “Off.” Oh. Okay. But I keep accidentally saying “NO!” (which has always been the standard command with our dogs). Everyone seems to have their own command. Our friends Bill and Eva say “Not!” to their dog, Griffin. (Griffin is our dog’s father, incidentally.) They reserve the more stringent “NO,” for the big emergencies. I’ve seen people use the dog’s name as the only negative: Hey!! Milo!! In just the right tone, this alone can deter an animal. It seems you could teach your dog anything at all, and render all intruders helpless. Because, really, who would know if you taught your dog that the command to leave someone alone was really: Lemon Pie! Lemon Pie!

By the time we go to bed that night, George is a new dog. He can not calm down. He jumps at people, he throws himself, he is wild with joy at the prospect of new games. He is naughty. It is generally agreed upon: I have broken him.

Larry and Linda actually have two pets. In addition to wild little George E., they have a newt. It resides in a small tank on their kitchen counter, where it has happily floated and watched the Korff family eat three meals a day for something like twenty two years. The newt (whose name, I must admit, I don’t know) was brought home by son Sam in second grade or so – I’m doing this off the cuff. The teacher was desperate for a family to take the class newt for the summer, and the Korffs kindly stepped up to the plate. For some reason, and I don’t recall why, when the summer ended, they still had the newt. Now Sam is a grown man: married and working in Manhattan. Here he is, with his wife, Jenna; they visited while we visited:

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So you can see: Sam is all grown up, and still the newt sits on his parents’ kitchen counter. I took a few pictures. This is the best one:

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Having tried to photograph this creature, captive and completely visible in clear water on the kitchen counter, I now believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Because seriously: these things are hard to photograph.

We have a wonderful time at Larry and Linda’s house. We do our laundry, relax, enjoy some nice R&R with L&L, good meals, all that. Eventually, it’s time to get back on the road. We hug goodbyes. Larry drives us back to Cadence Bike Shop and we make our way back to the Schuylkill Bike Trail. As we ride north, I think about George – so adorable and excited about his new life. Nice to be around a puppy again. He was napping a lot by the time we left – I think the breakage was containable.

This entry was posted in Biking, Dogs, Friends, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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