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Archive for November 26, 2006

Nov. 26, 2006 — Jammo

Bob Kelly, a television traffic reporter for KYW in Philadelphia, puts his own spin on the severity of traffic during his traffic reports. He stands in front of a green screen while images are projected behind him describing what is going on.

All of the Philadelphia-area traffic reporters use a system of green, yellow, and red boxes to indicate where the severe traffic is. But while most use the term “Light” for the green traffic boxes, or “Moderate” for the yellow boxes, Kelly does not use “Heavy” for the red boxes. Instead, he uses the term “Jammo.”

Today, heading back to the apartment from Delaware, I saw rows and rows of stopped cars just south of Exit 4 on Interstate 95.

Jammo!

A car accident six miles into Maryland set me back a good hour and a half on one of the heaviest days for automoblie travel in the United States.

If there’s anything I hate more than turnips and overbaked soccer commentary, it’s traffic. I dealt with driving to Georgetown for more than a year when I was a legal assistant at an import firm, and I think that was responsible for some of my gray hair.

I’ll do just about anything to avoid traffic jams. When I make my annual pilgrimage to Virginia Beach for the National Futures Tournament, I’ll get up as early as 4 a.m. to avoid the mad rush down I-95 where it always seems to clog up at Quanitico, and again on I-64 East near Williamsburg, which is a two-lane interstate with very narrow shoulders built uncomfortably close to the treelines — one mistake by an inattentive driver or even an accidental blowout could block the highway for 50 miles with no workarounds.

I was so averse to the trip that last year, I even stayed an extra Monday after the July 4th weekend so that I’d have an easy drive up I-95. Usually, the holiday weekend traffic delay on that roadway can stretch up to 65 miles between Richmond and Dale City.

My aversion to heavy traffic also extends to holiday weekends with my family, where I’ll always make sure to get away from home as early as I can. Normally, my exit time the Sunday after Thanksgiving or Christmas is around 9:30 to 9:45 a.m., just after the morning Eucharist at the Cathedral.

Today, however, I didn’t get away until just after 10 a.m. Did those extra minutes make a difference?

Nov. 25, 2006 — Not your parents’ Times Square

Visited New York City last night and went to a place called Connolly’s up on 45th Street just off 6th Avenue. Had three hours, so I went north from Penn Station to the intersection of 7th Avenue, 42nd Street, and Broadway, commonly known as Times Square.

If you’ve ever seen newsreel footage of V-J Day, or movies such as On The Town or Taxi Driver, you know that the area is perhaps the single greatest people-watching zone in the entire world.

Food and merchandise vendors line the sidewalk. Hucksters hand out flyers trumpeting everything from strip steak to comedy-club tickets. People of questionable mental states (and some who are quite sane) are decked out in colorful costumes.

And especially in the evening, you notice that lights are everywhere. There are three or four buildings with teletype “zippers” made famous by The New York Times Building.

Advertisements — the bigger the better — trumpet Broadway shows, restaurants, shoes, big-box stores, cell phones, airlines, and beverages.

But whereas the lights in the past were colorful neon or were made of hundreds of rows of incandescent bulbs, today’s Times Square lighting comes from big plasma screens. Some are bolted right to the sides of the buildings in the neighborhood, making entire 12-story structures appear to swim and vibrate with the light that washes through the screens.

Gone are the days when Times Square was a dangerous collection of flophouses, peep shows, and prostitution. But is the light pollution of today’s Times Square, and all of that visual and aural stimulus a good thing?