Monday, March 31, 2008

Philadelphia Freedom

We spent the past weekend in the city of brotherly love. It was our first visit to the city as adults. We were there for that most adult of activities, the bachelor/bachelorette party. The women spent the weekend doing whatever sick and depraved things women do at bachelorette parties. We guys spent most of our time in a little place on earth known as South Philadelphia. South Philly is an interesting place. Imagine an hermetically sealed old school white ethnic urban neighborhood that has managed to evolve into the 21st century and probably even gentrify to a certain extent without losing a lot of its character.

We spent Saturday afternoon at the ballpark. After not making it to any major league games last year, I managed to attend a game this year before the season even started. It was the first time I've ever attended a spring training game, if you can call a game in barely 50 degree weather with a 20+ mph wind blowing in from center field part of spring training. The Phillies lost to the Blue Jays 5-3 in a pretty uninspiring game. It was my first visit to Citizens Bank Park. It's pretty similar to most of the new baseball parks. It's more comfortable than the classic ballparks and more attractive than the second-generation multipurpose stadiums, but it feels kind of sterile. My favorite feature as the giant lighted Liberty Bell sign in right field that animates and rings whenever a Philly hits a home run.

Philadelphia is interesting because all of its sporting venues are right next to each other. Citizens Bank Park is located next to site where Veterans Stadium used to stand (it's now a parking lot). Across the street is the old Philadelphia Spectrum. I thought that the Spectrum had been torn down years ago, but it's still being used by Philadelphia's second-tier professional sports franchises (Phantoms, Kixx, and Soul). Behind the Spectrum is the Wachovia Center, where the Flyers and the Sixers play, and across from there stands the Eagles new home, Lincoln Financial Field. It kind of makes sense to build all of these venues next to each other, though it probably gets pretty crowded in the early fall when all four of the major professional sports leagues are in session.

After the game, we went on a South Philadelphia pub crawl. We started at the Pub on Passyunk East (P.O.P.E.). It featured a diverse selection of craft beers, Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on tap, and Operation Ivy playing on the jukebox when we walked in. Needless to say, I was a big fan of this place.

Our next stop was a few blocks up the street at a neighborhood watering hole called The Triangle Tavern. The tavern was empty, sans a few guys who I can only assume are regulars, and by regulars, I mean guys who spend at least 20 hours a week there. The sun was still up when we arrived at the Triangle, but it had long since set by the time we left. Geno's and Pat's, South Philly's world-renowned culinary institutions were conveniently located between the tavern and our final stop for the evening. We stopped at Geno's, if for no reason then we were already on that side of the street. Geno's is a monument to Italian-American culture, where the only thing more over the top than their garish decor is their reactionary patriotism. I have to imagine that there aren't too many illegal immigrants who are crying themselves to sleep because they will never have the privilege of paying $7.50 for a six-inch sandwich with 4oz of chopped steak and a dollop of Cheese Whiz. I was talking to a native Philadelphian a while back who felt that both of Philly's iconic cheese steak shops had gotten a bit too tourist-trappy over the past few years and while this was my first visit to either, I would tend to agree. Still, I was pretty hungry and intoxicated by the time we got there, so everything tasted pretty good.

Our final stop of the night was a place called The Dive. By definition, no bar that calls itself a dive can actually be a true dive bar, and The Dive was no exception. It was full of guys with odd facial hair and the walls were covered with handmade flyers from past shows by bands with ironic names. We drank $9 worth of Schlitz (6 cans) and called it a night.

No comments: