Russo Does Rocky: The Family Trip to Philadelphia

Review on some places to go, things to do and places to eat on a short family trip to Philadelphia.


What better way to spend President’s Day weekend but to leave the house a mess, do absolutely no food shopping and take the bus for a family trip to Philadelphia? Of course my husband’s biggest gripe was, “We’re gonna miss the new Walking Dead episode!” Once he checked and double checked that it would be recorded, he came off the ledge.


Usually, when I think Philadelphia, I automatically picture Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in that order. Then I remember a time I planned an excursion – when I was about twenty – and my dad said, “What are you going to see in Philadelphia – the Riberty Bell?”


It occurred to me that my family spends a lot of time vacationing in Pennsylvania.


In comparison, it’s cheaper than a stay-cation in New York, where your average pub bill is about sixty bucks for two appetizers and two rounds of parental medication (kids get bar water because if it’s good enough for the dogs, then it’s good enough for midgets).


In Philly, it was twenty-four dollars for two rounds of craft beer, a basket of fries and also two hot chocolates (‘cuz I don’t trust tap water in other states) at McGillins Olde Ale House. On Yelp, the review said the place was not kid friendly but they must’ve been talking about kids who don’t eat real food. Accompanied by parents who drink soda – at a pub. No, it was very kid friendly. And the food was so good we went back the next day to watch Zuki polish off an entire Philly Cheese Steak sandwich by himself. With a bag of chips. And french fries.


He wasn’t as enthusiastic with the pulled pork sandwich at DiNics but I was all over it. Ever since my husband and I saw the place featured on Man vs. Food, we vowed we’d go there to try it. As soon as we got off the bus, we went to Reading Terminal Market and got lucky. The line wasn’t bad, the price was half of what we thought it would be (we were thinking Katz’s prices) and once we got it, we practically inhaled it. No foreplay, no nothing – just straight to business – and my God! It was The Best sandwich I ever ate in – my – entire – life.


If I’m ever on Death Row – and I happen to be in Pennsylvania – DiNic’s pulled pork with provolone and broccoli rabe is my last meal. With a beer, of course. That should buy me an extra six hours unless they have an express line for corrections officers.


We putzed around the streets of Philadelphia for an hour. It was friggin’ cold and the boys were pains-in-the-asses. All they wanted to do was go to the hotel – yet, they had no concept of time, let alone “check in time.” To kill the last hour before check in, we went to the Apple Store on Walnut street. The boys could put their greasy fingerprints on the store’s display iPads all they wanted while my husband and I fantasized about buying a new laptop. Oh, look! It’s only sixteen-hundred dollars…


At least the whole trip was pretty cheap: $197 for four round trip bus tickets and one night at Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia. I booked it through GotoBus but if you’re like my mom and skeptical about the odds of their buses crashing because the bus fare is so cheap, you can go with Megabus, they’re way more expensive. I don’t know how that improves the odds, but I do think it might have something to do with the departure location. On GotoBus, we left from Chinatown NYC and ended up in Chinatown PHL, which of course had Samu asking, “Why are there so many Chinese people around here!”


He’s Turrets Kid.


Finally, the highlight of our trip was running up the “Rocky” stairs, which are actually the stairs leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You’d think with the Insanity workout killing us, it would’ve taken us less than forty-eight seconds to climb them. Even then, Zuki reached the top first and I don’t know what Turrets Kid was doing but luckily I wrapped up his face with my scarf so we couldn’t understand his complaints.



Gonna Fly Now!
Gonna Fly Now!



Almost there Turrets Kid!
Almost there Turrets Kid!



Room with a view
Room with a view



Hot Chocolate, round two!
Hot Chocolate, round two!




Password To Brotherly Love

Look Zuki, it's easy - all ya gotta do is...this!
Look Zuki, it’s easy – all ya gotta do is…this!



I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but it did: Samu helped Zuki with his homework. I was surprised that Zuki readily accepted help from his little brother – I was sure a battle of egos would ensue. Zuki is two grades above him after all, but Samu is better at independent studying. He’s more focused – to the point that he’d rather piss his pants than stop to go to the bathroom. The little piss bag.


As I listened to the two boys tackling Zuki’s third grade writing assignment, I was a little jealous. Instead of the usual, “Okay! I’m doing it – I HEARD you – okaaaaaay, already,” that Zuki always gives me, he paid attention to his little brother’s corrections without putting up a fight. For the next fifteen minutes, I heard a very pleasant, mature conversation like this:


“That’s a capital letter, Zuki.”


“Oh yeah.”


“No, Zuki, it’s spelled w-a-i-t. Okay, lemme see. Hmm, this sentence doesn’t make sense…”


“It’s supposed to not make sense, it’s third grade!”


They were more than just getting along – their sibling relationship was evolving. The only thing that could ruin the moment would be me – attempting to take a picture with my iPhone. So I stayed out – and then it was sealed. The pact between siblings in which moms are not allowed in. As a matter of fact, I know from experience that keeping mom “out” is what makes the bond unbreakable. I guess it’s my turn now.


My sister and I were close and I hoped for the same camaraderie for my boys. Mimicking my mother’s speech to me and my sister, I’d constantly tell my boys that they only have each other. They are brothers – no matter what the other one does, no matter how much of a pain-in-the-ass the other one is or how asinine his actions are – they must always work it out. Maybe it started to sink in and even blossomed into the beautiful moment that unfolded over homework.


Well, there was this other time when my hands were immersed in hamburger meat and I saw the two of them together, quietly trying to figure out my iPhone password. It was 90 percent Samu’s idea so Zuki didn’t have much to lose.


Even if they maintain their closeness doing stupid things for the rest of their lives like the Kardashians, I’ll retire a happy mom. I’ve seen, worked with and experienced sibling rifts and in the end, the cause always seemed trivial compared to the time wasted in not talking to each other. It’s always a shame. All I can say is, it better not happen on my watch – because I’ll slap those two upside their heads.


I doubt it’ll ever come to that because after school, Zuki told me that he got “Writer Of The Month” today. It was the essay that Samu helped him to write. While I congratulated him with huge hugs because I knew how much he wanted to win, in the back of my mind, I toasted his brother, too. As a matter of fact, all the famous brothers; Wright, Grimm, Karamazov, Coen, The Kinks and of course, all of Philadelphia.

Stick It Where The Sunshines


You gotta love February. Not just because of Valentine’s day but because of all the wacky stuff that happens in the twenty-some-odd days that it is. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any brighter, along comes Grace from With Some Grace to nominate me for the Sunshine Award.


Apparently, she thinks I’m worthy.


In her post she states the nominees are “Bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.  I think the only thing that’s positive, creative or inspirational about my blog is it’s audience – seriously. Then again, it takes one to know one, right? So here goes…


Favorite time of year: It would have to be Aruba. Yes, I realize it’s not a time of year but at any time of year, it’s better than feeling Minnesota.


No complaints 'bout nothing












Favorite festive movie: The Forbidden Zone. What?! It always gets me roarin’ to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, April Fool’s Day, Halloween and Christmas. It’s got sausages, Chicken-boy, PMS cramps and Herve Villachaiz – you try celebrating without it.





Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 10.23.57 PM
















What is your passion: Maintaining a healthy state of mind while living with this guy:



It's Dolce!
It’s Dolce!



Favorite color: Amber, stout – sometimes pale ale.

















Favorite time of day: Hands down – Happy Hour.



















Favorite flower: Audrey II. Because she’s the only flower I can actually name.





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Favorite non-alcoholic beverage: When there’s a beverage that can’t be mixed with alcohol, let me know. That would be it. For now, it’s probably breast milk because I made it without drinking it.




Favorite physical activity: Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with kids. It’s mentally challenging as well.



The manual smile
The manual smile





Favorite vacation: Amsterdam – the first and last vacation my husband and I took as a couple and acted pretty much like our kids now. Nothing like roaming the home of Heineken and drinking coffee with space cake to feel like a goober.




Is that my nose?
Is that my nose?



What piece of advice would you give to a 20 year old you?  I’d say to myself, “Dumb ass, don’t be so stubborn and listen to your mom and dad. Otherwise, it’s gonna bite you in the butt when you’re a parent. Payback is some serious shit.”