Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Philadelphia Report

(Click for bigger.)

So... well, that's it! That's the only photograph I took in Philadelphia during my vacation. LOL.

But! Let me just say that I LOVED THAT CITY. I really did! It was a great pick for a totally random urban vacation. The hotel I stayed at was practically in the dead-center of the city, and I ended up walking everywhere I wanted to go, never once entering a motorized vehicle.

But not everything went off without a hitch! Some observations, mostly the superlatives:

  • My journey to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday was shaded by gastrointestinal distress, so I was alternating between gasping at great masterpieces and desperately searching for what I eventually found to be the most discreetly-located restrooms known to man.  I look forward to a proper visit next time.
  • Speaking of the PMA, what surprised me most about all the Marcel Duchamps was scale: the "Chocolate Grinder" paintings, for instance, were larger than I expected them to be, while other things, like "Why Not Sneeze?" and the "Wedge of Chastity" were much smaller. 
  • I didn't visit the Barnes Foundation, because the building was so ugly I was physically unable to enter it.
  • I expected Philadelphia to resemble DC, but it doesn't... like, at all. It's a lot older, narrower, and dirtier, but also more "pop." It is overall a lot more dense: more people, more buildings, more shops, more cafes and restaurants, more everything. Also unlike DC, the architecture is extravagant and show-offy (rather than "stately").
  • Apparently there is a Wendy's for each man, woman, and child in Philadelphia. 
  • On Sunday morning, the hotel desk clerk recommended a cheap hole in the wall for breakfast. Recalling that this had been my undoing on Friday, I elected instead to go to a fancy brunch place where I had $22 eggs Benedict...  and it was wonderful. That may serve as a metaphor for the city: there isn't a lot of in-between; either things are cheap and horrible (or Wendy's), or too expensive and great.
  • I found a superb cluster of vintage clothing stores and other interesting boutiques in the Old City area. I was particularly impressed with Briar Vintage, a small but tightly-packed shop full of nothing but stuff for men, all the more remarkable for the fact that most of their items are pre-1960. Usually when you go to a vintage shop, there will be a small rack of crap for men, maybe a cufflink or two, and no expertise; this place was stuffed to the gills, and the proprietor was extremely knowledgeable. I ended up purchasing a coat, a pocket square, and two knit ties from the 30s/40s, one of which evidently belonged to this guy. Seriously, this place is worth the trip. At the other shops I picked up two Hawaiian shirts, an unauthorized Tintin t-shirt, and a 20th Century Fox location scout's belt buckle (!?).
  • Philadelphia's Gayborhood (and people really do call it that) is the best, most charming, I've ever seen, and unlike those in other cities, still very, very gay, and not overrun by chain stores. I'm not sure how one neighborhood can support so many hair salons, however. It must be the coiffure supplier to the entire city.
  • Speaking of intact historical neighborhoods, Chinatown is HUGE. I couldn't believe it.
  • I saw on the various city guides that the "high-end" shopping area was just a few blocks away from my hotel. It didn't sound promising (Burberry! Coach!), but upon checking it out, I discovered the Joan Shepp boutique, which featured a small but intense men's department filled with Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and other faves. When I started oohing and aahing at a Dries van Noten coat, my goodness, all the sales people descended upon me en masse. Alas, the coat was $1800, way out of my range, so I treated myself to a $350 scarf which, to my Belgian fashion addled brain, seemed like a bargain in comparison (Hey! It was marked down from $750!).
  • I met a delightful young, gay, Hispanic noise musician, and told him that he had to start billing himself as Philadelphia's Premiere Young Gay Hispanic Noise Musician™.

All in all, a wonderful trip to a great, great city. I'll be back!


Michael Strickland said...

That is the best travel report I have ever read. From "I didn't visit the Barnes Foundation, because the building was so ugly I was physically unable to enter it" to meeting The Premiere Young Gay Hispanic Noise Musician of Philadelphia, it was entrancing. You should travel more often, if only for your readers' sake.

Peteykins said...

Ha ha, well you made me feel a lot better, because I was thinking, "Oh, god, this is such a stupid and shallow travel report."

The Cat's Meow said...

Because I barely remember my childhood family-car vacation, my main impressions of Philly are based on the musical "1776" ("foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia"), Chris Matthews (ugh), and a scary encounter with Phillies fans back in 1986 when I made the mistake of traveling there to watch the New York Mets clinch. (They did not, and the fans were merciless.) Your report makes me kinda want to go back, though.

Muscato said...

I haven't really been back since I stopped living there in '88, and you make me want to return. Once upon a time it was great fun, and it sounds like it still might be...

Genevieve said...

Glad you had fun! I LOVED living in Philly, and often wish I was able to go back. One day . . .

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

Awesome! Next time be sure to have lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. There is a huge selection of great food.

I'm pretty sure your photo is of a Herr's truck. Amirite?

Peteykins said...

Comrade, you really know your potato chip delivery vehicles!

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

Everyone has to be good at something!

Ruth Eddy said...

I have not been anywhere to speak of, since Hector was a pup.
And you dear Peteykins, left me fulfilled with your Philly report.

Must travel more, PK.
When do we get to saw that 50% off scarf?


Dale Hoyt said...

How was "Étant donnés"? Have you been following the possible connection to the Black Dahlia or that the phorensic photos of that crime inspired it. Gruesome stuff.

Payton said...

Yay, I love little trips to Philadelphia! It's everything DC isn't: industrial, 19th-century, cheap, and artery-clogging, with art (like rooms of Duchamp) that wouldn't fly in DC, and it's day-trip-able. Sure, there's Baltimore, but it's so tiny by comparison.