Phun in Philadelphia —
Mutter Museum, Marilyn Manson at the Electric Factory,
Eastern State Penitentiary, Grossology at the Franklin Institute,
Even though my right foot hurts like the dickens we already had tickets for the non-Ozzfest Marilyn Manson show August 8th at the Electric Factory in Pittsburgh, so it was just time to do it. I’m definitely paying for it today, with my foot back in my special shoe, but we had a quite memorable time in Philly that will last longer than the soreness in my foot.
I had called the Mutter Museum‘s director Gretchen Worden the day before leaving and she mentioned dropping by right after arrival at the Amtrak station. Our train was late and we just wanted to dump off our stuff at the hotel, grab coffee and get over there. Of course now we realize that the Mutter is mere moments from the train station. Still, we managed to cram a whole hunk of information into an hour, and we had a lovely chat with the incredible Ms. Worden outside so the staff could close up the building.
From there we shopped at the Gap, of all places, changed and went off to the Electric Factory for the Manson show. A real nice small club, great for an intimate encounter with Manson’s showmanship. Manson was in great form and the eye-level superb for his Grotesk Burlesk. Two near-nude female dancers truly strutted and shook their genitalia onstage, and the crowd were true Manson fans, something he probably only sees partially while touring with Ozzfest. As we left we found a site marking one of Edgar Allan Poe’s homes and caught a cab back to the Latham, our European-style–exteriored temporary abode.
The next day was spent sipping coffee and telling my foot not to feel pain. We had to return a pair of shorts to the Gap and the nice man gave me one of the bonus Madonna CDs without buying the jeans. Good deal! We made our way down South Street and found this wild, crazy house and other artsy things and found this little place, Sabrina’s Cafe, with one of the better breakfasts around. I ignored the sugar content and gorged on caramelized challah french toast stuffed with farmers cheese and bananas and topped with vanilla bean maple syrup. Mmmmmmm!
We decided Eastern State Penitentiary should be our Saturday stop and boy was that a smart choice! Sunny when we arrived and rainy when we left, the mood of the day changing from our first long multi-celled hallway to the ruined hospital and lastly, at the peak of heavy paws of the cats and dogs rain trampling on the roof, and the sky the grayest it can be before the black of night, Death Row. The bright Sunday morning sun followed our guide of the first hour, who took us on an alternate route to a closed part of the prison. We entered a marvelous long hallway with tree roots bursting through the walls of the small cells. Above a bird or two would take flight and block the sun filtering through the overhead skylights. Eastern State Penitentiary’s original philosophy was to keep prisoners in solitude, giving them time to think over and regret their crimes, thereby felling penitent, hence “penitentiary.”
Well, of course this didn’t work too well and actually created more crazy people than reformed prisoners, but the long church-like tunnels of the building and its 200-year-old history are marvelous. Al Capone’s cell has been redecorated to his tastes and abilities of the time and other roofs and hallways are undergoing renovation as the prison was abandoned in the early ’70s and neighborhood ruffians chose vandalism over preservation. At Halloweentime the prison hosts Terror Behind the Walls, which must be a blast. The creepy hallways filled with odd artworks were equally cool, and Death Row had even smaller cells, with no exercise areas whatsoever. This would be one building to be locked up in for a weekend for grand exploration.
In the evening we walked around the rainbow flag part of town and had dinner at Bump at 1234 Locust Street, a sort of Queer as Folk restaurant with fit young men, pounding house music, and modern decor, arriving just in time to catch their Saturday night half-price dinner special (filet mignon for us), and washed that down with martinis, mine flavored with pear nectar. Tasty!
The next day we hit the Grossology exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Really designed for kids, it’s great for adults to watch the children play among the boogers, urine and turds that act as teaching aids for inner body functions. My favorite part was watching tots playing in the giganto-sized mouth, stomach, intestine and finally rectum and come tumbling out of the shit-chute laughing and oh so clean. Cute! We also had a longer visit to the Mutter, albeit with tourists rather than the quiet solo treatment, followed by a run over to the nation’s longest continually inhabited residential street, Elfreth’s Alley, as quaint as quaint can be. We actually saw a young man moving into a home on this block, and while they all looked quite nice with gorgeous classic brickwork, shutter latches, and small brick-laid alleys, the idea of having tourists constantly peaking in the windows at all hours is too unattractive to consider this spot for living. But nice to visit!
We made a quick pass past the Betsy Ross House and made a go for the Liberty Bell but the line was way too long and that afternoon’s rains had increased the humidity level to what felt like 150% so we instead grabbed a cab and spent our last hour at the high-ceilinged and well-lamped 30th Street Amtrak station. We would’ve hit The Forum porn theatre, just moments from the train station, but we ran out of time, mainly due to the self-inflicted tardation of my poor lame foot. Argh!