Sunday, October 25, 2009

My trip to Philadelphia

For you new readers, whenever I'm allowed out of the 310 area code I write up a travelogue of my trip. This saves you from having to actually go anywhere yourself. Here's the latest.
If it weren’t for the Dodgers being swept by the Phillies, my sojourn to Philadelphia to cover them would have been sublime. But that “losing the pennant thing” really puts a crimp in your trip.

Philadelphia is the home of Rocky Balboa, Dick Clark, Gogi Grant, Danny Bonaduce (actor, alcoholic), Broderick Crawford (actor, alcoholic), Eddie Fisher (singer, homewrecker), World B. Free, Lola Falana, Betsy Ross, Suzy Kobler, George Jefferson, John Coltrane, Michael Douglas (the former talk show host, not father of the felon), Pink, Teller, Fabian, Chaka Fattah, Chubby Checker (who absurdly believes there should be a statue of himself at the Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame), Mohini Bhardwaj (no description necessary), funnymen Larry Fine, W.C. Fields, and Richard Gere, two of the most admired women in the world – Grace Kelly and Tina Fey, G Love and Special Sauce, and of course Henry “Box” Brown, an abolitionist who escaped slavery by literally mailing himself to Philadelphia from Richmond, Virginia. (Book rate yet!)

Philadelphia is also one of Hollywood’s favorite locations. It’s been the setting for MANNEQUIN and the TONY RANDALL SHOW. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY however, was filmed in Hollywood.

The Eagles are still the number one sports team in this town. And that’s with Michael Vick (who shouldn’t be in the NFL. He should be locked in a room with 15 hungry pit bulls and a pork chop tied around his neck.). On Sunday night the Fightin’ Phils won 11-0 (and the game wasn’t as close as that score would indicate) and most of the coverage in the next day’s sports section was “what’s wrong with the Eagles?” The Phils are the Norman Maine of Philadelphia.

Meant to get out to the Mutter Museum, founded originally to educate doctors of the 19th Century and HMO’s. Big attractions include conjoined twins and a catalog of foreign objects removed from bodies.

The first few nights a Nor’easter blew through town and it was colder than Faye Dunaway’s sweater meat. But then the sun came out and temps rose from 30 to 70. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia but when it is it’s glorious!

I love that the area has regional delicacies – hoagies, soft pretzels, Goldenberg’s peanut chews, Tastykakes, and the most famous of all: Philly Cheese Steaks -- thinly sliced slippery gristle and melted cheese whiz on a long roll and somehow it tastes great. But only in Philadelphia. Everywhere else it’s a grease trap on a bun. There is much debate over who serves the best cheese steak but many locals agree it’s Jim’s.

And then there’s Scrapple. This is a mush of all the pork parts not used elsewhere. And considering what they use in hot dogs that pretty much leaves the sphincter, doesn’t it? Contestants on FEAR FACTOR won’t even eat that crap.

See the Liberty Bell. Yes, it’s a real touristy thing to do but it’s worth it.

City statues pay tribute to the three most honored figures in Philadelphia’s rich history -- Benjamin Franklin, Mike Schmidt, and Sylvester Stallone.

This is the birthplace of two major revolutions – the American and shopping. It is in nearby Westchester that QVC is located, which is why I thought I saw Marie Osmond at baggage claim waiting at the carousel for 42,000 dolls to come down the chute.

Walked by the Eddie Haskell Hair Studio. Didn’t you always wonder whatever happened to that little shit? “I think those highlights look very becoming on you, Mrs. Cleaver. Please give my best to young Theodore when you see him, will you?

Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, is a terrific venue, a vast improvement over Veteran’s Stadium, which was the world’s largest spittoon. Beyond centerfield is the skyline of the city. And in a refreshing change from all the other new-designed-to-look-like-old parks, there are actually portions that aren’t luxury boxes. It’s very fan friendly even though the fans are anything but friendly. Philadelphia fans are tough. Their idea of rally towels is torches and pitchforks. But they’re passionate, knowledgeable, and extra intimidating in frigid weather all bundled up in red jackets and hoods. Imagine a Unibomber convention.

And the Phillie Phanatic is the mascot’s mascot. He’s the Chaplin of big furry blobs.

The Phils also have two terrific announcers – Scott Franzke and Tom McCarthy. But I miss Harry Kalas. Not as much as the fan though who showed up at one of the games sporting a Mohawk with the initials “HK” cut into one side. Although he could’ve just been honoring Harvey Korman.

For some reason taxis and even buses have the right-of-way over ambulances in the inner City of Brotherly Love.

The Phillies had a great slogan last year: “Why Can’t Us?”

People say LA is weird but in Sunday night’s game the Fightins’ former catcher Darren Daulton threw out the first pitch. He currently talks to lizards, preaches unconventional theories regarding human existence, and time travels. Even Lauren from THE HILLS doesn’t do that.

In anticipation of the Phillies clinching the pennant the Philadelphia Municipal Authority greased every pole near the stadium so that rambunctious revilers couldn’t climb them. Streetlights, bus signs, even trees were coated with a slippery yellow goo. After how many beers do you ask the question: “Hey, how would a squirrel celebrate?”

The charter flight home was long and somber. Arrived back in L.A. at dawn. Yes, it would have nice to have 20,000 appreciative fans there to greet us but we were more than thrilled just to see the shuttle vans.

Thanks to the Dodgers for a fabulous year. Their season was like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Great movie but the ending sucked. Yet it was still worthy of the Oscar.

Hopefully next year they’ll be greasing the trees around Dodger Stadium.


SCR said...

My hometown. We still climbed the poles despite the grease. A fabulously written article that every Philadelphian should read. I'll spread it around.

YEKIMI said...

I would think in LA they would Astroglide for the trees and poles.....

Firepix1979 said...

The Philly definition of Scrapple is everything but the oink.

VP81955 said...

Nine of the best years in my life were spent in Philadelphia (okay, just across the city line in Bucks County). It's an acquired taste, like scrapple, but it has its charms.

Oh, and I miss Harry, too. Kalas dead is a better announcer than John Sterling alive.

wv: "precowel" -- you mean there was someone before Simon who hosted :"American Idol"?

Tom K Mason said...

For now, Google grants you sole ownership of the phrase "Faye Dunaway's sweater meat" and we salute you! (Perhaps circa The Three Musketeers and not Dunston Checks In.)

And scrapple - the greatest food a hot dog won't touch - may be native to Philadelphia, but there's someone in Ohio right now who's breading it, deep frying it and putting it on a stick. And I want it.

Rancher said...

OK, I'll bite.

Vick paid his dues. Let him move on.

wv: codylu

Dan Hawkins' TV studio.

Rancher said...

Oh, and on food:

Philly cheese steaks are disgustingly wonderful, much like anything abnormally fried at a state fair. Freakishly, wonderfully American.

But scrapple is abortion on a plate. No food should be gray. It's corned beef hash's rancid cousin (and I love corned beef hash).

Patrick said...

Rancher said, "Okay I'll bite. Vick paid his dues. Let him move on."

Okay, I'll bite back. If there was even one ounce of truth to the scripted remorse plot that Vick has been playing out, I would agree with you. But because he sucks as a human AND as an actor, I think he deserves all his due, plus some extra. It makes perfect sense though that they want him in Hollywood -- bad "reality" acting seems to be the latest money maker.

The Philly culture observations were pretty spot on for an L.A. guy, Ken. Another local delicacy (although it probably didn't originate there) is the infamous pork roll sandwich with mustard. Basically a McMuffin without the muffin, the egg and the fancy, expenxive sausage. Just some greasy, thinly sliced pork on a roll. It is the rich, South Philly kids substitute for Scrapple. Ghettolicious. This is the kind of food that adds to the "tough" personalities. Hard to grow up with a good attitude with the Philly diet.

Thanks for another keenly observed post.

Simon H. said...

Well, at least half my prediction to you in Cincy came true. I still would have liked to have seen St. Louis take on the Yankees, and then the Dodgers when that possibility ended. Sorry to see the Joe Torre Series was not meant to be but probably not as sorry as Fox Broadcasting for losing a potentially compelling storyline(though having the Yankees in the World Series is probably still good for them).

VP81955 said...

Sorry to see the Joe Torre Series was not meant to be but probably not as sorry as Fox Broadcasting for losing a potentially compelling storyline(though having the Yankees in the World Series is probably still good for them).

North Jersey vs. South Jersey is not a compelling storyline? New York vs. Philadelphia? I'm sure if it were New York vs. Boston, everyone would go ga-ga, but Philly is considered an afterthought by most New Yorkers; after all, the Times bought the Boston Globe, not the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Personally, I think the Philadelphia Daily News may be the best tabloid in America -- beautifully designed, feisty and populist without too much sensationalism, and home of the great writer Bill Conlin.)

Rory L. Aronsky said...

For you new readers, whenever I'm allowed out of the 310 area code I write up a travelogue of my trip. This saves you from having to actually go anywhere yourself.

Thank you Ken. My Tivo constantly demands my attention, what with making empty threats to delete shows because it claims it's running out of space. Pssh, yeah, right. Like it...oh fuck, where'd my collection of Married with Children episodes go?

WV: qually - "Quality" spelled by a habitually bad speller.

Leafy Greens said...

"Michael Vick (who shouldn’t be in the NFL. He should be locked in a room with 15 hungry pit bulls and a pork chop tied around his neck.)"

Yes! And now Vick is pretending to be sorry! That just adds credits to his resume as a sociopath.

And no--you can't pay dues to get out of that club.

Tom Quigley said...

Kind of off-topic, but not really: I remember back in the 80's when Vin Scully would do the play-by-play for NBC, he would always sum up the series after the last game with "Well, for the [losing team], the story is 'Of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: what might have been.'"

I don't know if Vin still uses that phrase, but I miss it. No one doing baseball broadcasts was probably as literary and literate as Mr. Scully.

On another related note, I just heard Tony LaRusso signed a multi-year pact to continue as the Cardinals' manager, and he's bringing in Mark McGwire as the team's batting coach... I can just imagine McGwire's speech to the team the first day of spring training:

"All right, men, listen up!... This -- " [holding up a vial of an unknown substance] "is what as known as 'Batter's Helper'! Now I don't officially condone using any foreign substance or chemical enhancement (and I'm not interested in re-hashing the past), plus I would never expect any such substance to be found on the premises, and I don't expect to see any problems in that regard. On the other hand, if, at any time this season anyone gets into a bit of a slump and feels the need for a lttle pick-me-up, there's a locked drawer in the desk in my office labeled 'SUGAR COOKIES', and a signup sheet to request the key. Make sure you use an alias when requesting..."

rob! said...

My hometown as well. As a Philadelphian, I can honestly say I hope the Eagles NEVER WIN ANOTHER GAME, EVER.

Chalmers said...

It's a compelling World Series to this Jersey guy.

I forecast major skirmishes along the 7-11/Wawa line.

Anonymous said...

Oh, God help me, now I'm craving Scrapple...

Diane said...

OMG..."colder than Faye Dunaway's sweater meat"--I may never stop laughing.

45 is the new 30 said...

Another Philly-area FOTB (friend-of-the-blog) checking in ... I'm north of the city, in beautiful central Bucks County. (VP81955, maybe we've been neighbors?) Great post, Ken! However, did you have to use "Mannequin" as your example of "films made in Phila" film?? We can do sooo much better than that: "The Age of Innocence", "Blow Out", "Dressed to Kill", "Eraserhead", "Twelve Monkeys", "Witness", "The Sixth Sense", and - of course - "Philadelphia" were just a few of many films shot here. M. Night Shyamalan is from the area and he shot several scenes for his film "Signs" in the town where I live and a neighboring town.

Sorry you hit such lousy weather during your stay. For the past couple of days it's been picture-perfect Fall weather, and the foliage is ... foliating (??) beautifully. :-)

Vick is an unrepentant, animal-torturing abomination, and I'm ashamed to be an Eagles fan this season. The Eagles should be ashamed for signing him.

For the record: I'm a life-long resident of this area, and I wouldn't touch scrapple (in all of its supreme vileness) with a 10-foot pole! (But I **love** an occasional cheesesteak or Italian hoagie!)

Glad you had a good trip - sorry you returned home on a sour note, but WAY TO GO, PHILLIES!!

tb said...

Game four, one strike to go, and bam - Dodgers lose. I had Vinnie on the radio, TV on mute. I swear I could hear his heart break. And THAT was SO much more sad than losing the game. Because this may have been his last shot at calling a world series.

Tim Susman said...

Another native Philadelphian here. Whenever I take friends back there, I always go to Jim's for steaks. And the soft pretzels! I was trying to explain to my partner why they're special. I think the "sweaty guy carried them under his arm" nailed it, but didn't make them more appetizing.

Great travelogue. Glad you got to sample the local cuisine, and better luck next year, as long as you're not playing the Phightin's. :)

Anonymous said...

Jim Steaks is definitely the best! Ken you did make a trip to Princeton at all? I saw someone who looked a lot like you on Thursday night, watching the Angels game at Triumph Brewing Company.

Cap'n Bob said...

I can tell you the worst place for a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich: Johnny Rocket's at the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington. Dry, tasteless, and the cheese slices weren't even melted. Apparently the burgers were good, but avoid the p.c.s. You'll thank me.

WV: phial. Hey, that's already a word.

Lew Bryson said...

Wow. Nice things about Philly. I think my head just broke. Thanks!

If your scrapple is gray, you got bad scrapple. It should be crispy brown on the outside (preferably pan-fried, but it's unfortunately deep-fried more often these days), and a lighter, yellowish brown on the inside. And when it's good scrapple, man, there's no damned breakfast meat better. Including pork roll, which is, by the way, a freakin' sausage, not just slices of pork. Slices of pork is the heart of the sandwich so good we keep it to ourselves: the roast pork with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. Oooo. Just thinking about a John's roast pork is making me shiver.

VP81955 said...

I'm north of the city, in beautiful central Bucks County. (VP81955, maybe we've been neighbors?)

Probably not -- from 1986 to 1995, I lived in lower Bucks, specifically the Andalusia section of Bensalem Township (geographically about as low as you can go in Bucks, where Frankford Avenue becomes Bristol Pike). Andalusia is so obscure that when a resident's entry was drawn for the Daily News home run payoff contest (and got two tickets as a consolation prize), Harry Kalas mispronounced it as "Anda-loo-see-ya" instead of "Anda-loo-shia." (Hey, nobody's perfect.)

I'm guessing you're around Doylestown, which is indeed lovely country. (James Michener, an avid Phils phan, lived there for many years.)

I live in northern Virginia now, and one of the best things about that is the presence of Wawa (the nation's best convenience store chain, with apologies to 7-Eleven, AM/PM, Tom Thumb and several others). Great food and service.

To the person who griped about the cheesesteaks at Johnny Rocket's: No surprise they are bad, because the chain is owned by Dan Snyder of Redskins infamy...and like all his other properties, such as Six Flags, he's running it into the ground. Once the Nationals get their act together and begin contending in a few years, he'll be the best thing to ever happen to that franchise (in comparison).

Ken, one more thing: You mentioned Tom McCarthy, who used to have a sports talk show on a Trenton radio station. In late 2001, after Harry was announced as the Ford Frick award recipient, I called his show, noted the Phillies had an interleague series at Detroit for 2002, and suggested he and Ernie Harwell do an inning together. They did, and more -- Harry did a number of innings with guests during the season, including Vin and Marty. And when Harry went to Cooperstown, thousands of Philly faithful jammed the place; I was one of them, even if by then I was part of the Philly diaspora (north-central Jersey).

wv: "caten" -- wasn't he that Civil War historian?

PALGOLAK said...

Eddie Haskell became a member of the LAPD.

He was a (uniformed) guest on an episode of "Politically Correct" about 10 years ago.