11/07/2004: "Guide to Philly (Part the Third: Trust Me I Live Here)"
Well, well, well, at long last we've come to the third, and final,
installment of the Guide to Philadelphia for all of you who plan on
attending the Dave Blood memorial concert(s). If you haven't already,
please make sure that you read Part the First and Part the Second.
As always, links lead to pics, maps and info. Be sure to read any and all
Danger Zone posts.
OK, let's do this thing…
I See Dead People…Dead White Males, to be Specific
[Click here for map.]
Like the major asshole I can often be, I initially gave the National
Constitution Center (info here) a bad review. Please understand that that
was because I attended the opening and did not take the entire tour (Oh,
and I was shitfaced, too). I've since had the honor of seeing the entire
Center, so listen up: DO NOT LEAVE PHILADELPHIA WITHOUT VISITING THE
NATION CONSTITUTION CENTER.
Besides, with Bush remaining in the White House, you'll want to enjoy the
constitution while we still have one.
While you're in the area, be sure to avoid the Duck! You have no
idea how much I, and many other locals, truly despise this
semi-amphibious vehicle (I use that term because Ducks in other cities have
sank…Ah, we can only hope…) that blast loud 70's music, supplies the odious
offspring of tourists with plastic duck bills that make an annoying
quacking sound, and allows the entire family to view the city from a "safe"
(no close contact with the homeless) distance.
And, I beg you, please do not take a carriage ride while you're
here, either. The horses are kept in deplorable conditions and forced to
haul fat-assed tourists who find Adam Sandler funny through Olde City.
The Nation Constitution Center (the only Government building - with the
possible exception of the Clinton Library - that features a tribute to
Hustler publisher Larry Flint) is located at 6th and Arch Streets.
After you're done learning about our constitution, walk one block east, to
5th and Arch and you'll find the grave of one of the constitution's
architects - Benjamin Franklin (for some reason, people feel the need to
honor his saying "A penny saved is a penny earned" by throwing money at
his corpse). If you like graveyards, you're gonna love this next part…
Drop a penny on Franklin's grave and then proceed east on Arch for one
block until you reach 4th Street (Walking east for one more block - to 3rd
and Arch - will take you to the Real World house). Make a right unto 4th
Street and start walking south through what we call "Olde City" (Be on the
look out for fat-asses taking carriage rides).
You'll enjoy the walk - trust me I live here. As you make you're way south
(we're going to 4th and Pine) you'll see all sort of strange and wonderful
things. Like this courtyard that appears to end in a solid brick wall, but
doesn't. Could Jack the Ripper have escaped by…um, I guess not.
We're almost there…
[Click here for map.]
As you cross over onto Pine Street, you'll notice two old churches on
either side of 4th Street. These are St. Peters (to your left) and Old Pine
(to your right). They are home to two of the coolest cemeteries in the
world. Here's a shot of Old Pine's boneyard, and here's a shot of St. Pete's.
Not so Phun Philly Phact: There are several Indian Chiefs buried in St.
Pete's churchyard. This is because they we're invited to come to Philly (to
meet with President Washington), where, before long they contracted
smallpox and died.
One Saturday, I Took a Walk to Zipperhead…
When you're done looking over the graveyards (Naval Hero Stephen Decatur -
who once fired on the Jersey Devil - is buried in St. Pete's, by the way.),
head south on 4th until you reach…drum roll, please … South Street.
To your left, on the north side of South Street, you'll find Zipperhead.
Rob (Who plays in Live Not On Evil and Stephanie, the owners, are
both good friends of mine - so, if you plan on shopping here, please
behave…and don't steal anything.
On the southeast corner of South and 4th, you'll notice Jim's Steaks.
Well, you won't so much notice Jim's Steaks as the line of people waiting
to eat at Jim's Steaks. I'm a vegetarian, but I have some friends in LA
who swear by this place.
Directly across the street from Zipperhead is the Eyes Gallery, which is
owned by Julia and Isaiah Zagar. Isaiah, who discovered that Philadelphia
is the center of the Art World, is a living legend. As you proceed west on
South Street (don't forget to stop by Tattooed Mom between 5th and 6th for
a beer…oh, and buy some CD's and shirts at Digital Ferret) you'll notice
many buildings that are coved in glass and tile mosaics. These are the
products of Isaiah's twisted genius. Isaiah was even once my landlord when
I lived here (just south of South Street on 10th). Isaiah has created a
magic garden on South Street between 10th and 11th Streets that you'll
notice as you head west.
We have one last stop on South Street and it's between 12th and 13th
(appropriately) Streets - Harry's Occult Shop. Trust me on this one - I
live here, after all.
Danger Zone Alert : Like many other relatively sane Philadelphians,
I avoid South after dark - and you should, too. Unless, of course, getting
stabbed is part of your itinerary…
[Click here for map.]
At this point you might be noticing that the area around Harry's looks a
little dangerous. Well, it isn't. It's very dangerous, so let's get outta
here. Double back to 12th Street and start walking north. Soon you'll find
yourself in the heart of what we like to call the "Gayborhood".
Wow, the Gayborhood sure is clean and full of friendly folks. Could these
be the same people that both President Bush and Senator Santorum are
convinced are trying to destroy my marriage? That doesn't make any sense.
I mean, my wife and I used to live here, on 12th Street between Spruce and
Pine, and our marriage is great.
Here's an alternative explanation. Maybe the President and Senator Santorum
Keep walking up north on 12th Street (past Lombard, Pine, and Spruce) until
you reach Locust Street. Now turn right and start walking east towards 11th
Halfway between 12th and 11th Streets, on the north side of Locust, you
should see More than Just Ice Cream. And good thing, too, because by now
it should be time for dinner. Save room for a slice of apple pie - the
biggest you've ever seen. Trust me - I live here.
Hello, Dad? I'm in Jail
Before we move on to next section, I just wanted to remind you that, if at
all possible, you should visit Eastern State Penitentiary, which is
located on Fairmont between 20th and 22nd Streets
[Click here for map.]
To get to this bold Quaker experiment that went horribly awry but still
managed to provide a functional backdrop for the Punk Rock Girl
video, walk to the Ben Franklin Parkway (covered in Part the Second) and
start heading north on either 19th or 22nd streets. The walk should take
anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes.
If you're coming up 19th Street, look to your left when you reach Fairmont.
You should see this (no, that's not Windsor Castle). If you came up 22nd
Street, then look for this on your right. Believe it or not, someone once
floated a plan to turn this abandoned prison into condominiums. The 16 foot
thick walls were touted as a "safety feature".
Danger Zone Alert : Although the area around the prison is
relatively safe, there are a few patches inhabited by folks who'll gladly
kick your ass, regardless of race, creed, or color. So don't stray too
"We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines
without being hassled by The Man!"
- Heavenly Blues
The odds are moderately good that November 21st and 22nd, while not being
balmy, may be fairly decent in the weather department. If this is the
case, you just might wanna bring your bike along with you.
If you do plan on having the peddling experience, then you should keep
Frankenstein Bike Worx, located on Spruce Street between 15th and 16th in
mind. Not only is the owner, Doc, one of my best friends in the world, but
he also actually knows his shit (Well, at least as far as bikes, guns,
coffee, hockey, mobsters, and cigars are concerned).
OK, you've got your bike and all of your biking accessories. Now you just
need a place to ride. Sweet Jesus playing racquetball with L. Ron Hubbard,
are you in luck! Philly is home to one of the best/longest bike trails in
The first thing to do is to get you and your bike on over to 24th and Locus
t Street. Now, cross those train tracks (Look both ways. You don't wanna
end up like Dirty Mary and Cray Larry. Another fine Peter Fonda
film, by the way). Take a look around. If it looks like this, you're in the
right spot. It's possible to follow this path, north and west, for 30
miles, past Valley Forge, into Chester County. Trust me; I've done it
several times. Not that you have to go that far…
This is the Schuylkill River Trail. And that river, on your left, is the
Schuylkill (Pronounced "Skew-kill" and nicknamed "Sure Kill"). When I first
moved to Philly, over 20 years ago, this river was so polluted that it
actually stank. Today it's much cleaner - Hell, fish even swim in it.
Get on your bike and start peddling north, keeping the river on your left
and your eyes on the river, because the Schuylkill hates you and wants to
Think I'm joking? Then take at this. That was once part of a "chain bridge"
that used to span the Schuylkill. Where's the bridge now? At the bottom of
the Schuylkill. A train was crossing it when it snapped back in the 1800's.
No one was injured - they were all killed.
Keep going and soon you'll find yourself in the shadow of the Art Museum.
There's some killer scenery (literally) here that you might want to
explore. See those falls? They're manmade. They used to turn the turbines
in the waterworks (The hill on which the Art Museum rests used to house our
reservoir). About a decade ago, Philly suffered a drought so severe that no
water whatsoever came over the falls for almost a month. The situation was
so bad that you could walk across the falls. So, one day, I did.
Mostly, though, tons of water - along with the occasional canoeist who was
naive enough to trust the Schuylkill - comes over the falls every second.
Those houses in the distance are Boathouse Row. At night they light up -
and not just their windows, smartass.
Look up. There's the gazebo we visited at the end of Part the Second. Did
you spit off of it? If you did, please remain here until someone returns
the favor. Wow, look at all of that safety-railing around the gazebo. Sure
looks new doesn't it? Doesn't seem to be too much of it anywhere else,
Hey, look over there! Over by the river - the river that hates us and wants
to kill us. It's another gazebo. I bet if we walk over there (no bikes
allowed. You'll have to lock it to the rack) we can get a great view of the
falls and the waterworks.
After we retrieve our bikes, it's time to peddle west along Kelly Drive
(Named for Princess Grace Kelly's father, whom some have claimed molested
her) through Fairmont Park - the largest city park in the world.
Keep biking west, past Boathouse row. Just after you pass the Leif Erickson
statue, look to your right and up. Yes, it's another gazebo, but it's not
just another gazebo.
I seriously doubt that any young couple seen holding hands up there know
that that gazebo marks the approximate spot where, in the late 1700's, a
wealthy farmer hacked his entire family to death because a ventriloquist,
posing as God, told him to.
Those killing would go on to trigger tens (hundreds?) of thousands more
murders. No, I haven't been huffing gas - at least not today. The murders
took place in the pages of book - Weiland by Charles Brockden Brown
(1771-1810). Brown was the first great American horror writer. Every
horror story since (from the great work of Poe and Lovecraft to the shit
cranked out by King and Rice) springs from the land surrounding that gazebo
. Stew on that for a few minutes.
After you stuff what remains of your brain back into your head, you're free
to continue on your westward trek.
Danger Zone Alert : Murders still occur along the banks of the
Schuylkill. Take, for example, this toilet drinking fucktard. DO NOT bike
If you keep going past here, here, and here, you'll eventually notice a
sprawling, Victorian necropolis on your right. This is Laurel Hill
Cemetery. If decide to explore Laurel Hill, be very careful. The
neighborhood it borders is a little rough, to say the least.
Keep riding and you'll come to East Falls, where you'll have the choice of
heading west through Manyunk, Norristown, and Valley Forge, or exploring
the Wissahickon Trail. Since this is a guide to Philly, the western path
lies out of my jurisdiction. As for the Wissahickon, well, with all the
stories about Poe, Lippard, the Doomsday cult, the Witch, and all of that
other unseemly stuff, the Wissahickon would require a guide of its own.
Remind me to write one someday, if you'd be so kind.
I hope that you have fun in Philly. Failing that, I hope you don't get
horribly murdered while you're here