We traveled to Philadelphia, PA recently for a wedding. I worked at a client site in Philly for about six weeks several decades ago. I was on a ridiculously lax expense account so I dined like I suspect members of Congress do when they cross paths with a lobbyist. It was a fun six weeks except for the actual work I was doing: interviewing employees of our client, and ultimately making suggestions for the ones who needed to be laid-off.
I had good memories of South Street back then, so we rented an AirBnB apartment off of South Street. Like most things in life, it has changed into more of an eclectic neighborhood by day: lots of restaurants and sports bars, hat shops, sex toy shops, consignment stores (some good, some skanky), and a Whole Foods. The residential side streets off of South were charming, lined with trees in full bloom with either cherry blossoms or dogwood. No one we asked knew what they were. When the weekend rolled around, South Street turned into a block party, and not the kind with birthday balloons and people asking for neighbors to sign up for Spring Clean-Up Day. Sidewalk cafes were packed and often spilling out into the street. The goobers who ride around in their cars with music blaring so loudly their hoods are vibrating were out in full force. I only wish they had been playing the same song for continuity. This all was going on late Saturday night when we returned to our apartment which was on a relatively quiet alley walk-through.
In and around South Street, there are mosaic murals, some two-stories high, often covering entire buildings. My first thought was that they were there to discourage graffiti, but I was wrong. They are the work of Isaiah Zagar, and I probably would have never learned this if we hadn’t bumped into his son, Ezekial Zagar who lived a few doors down from us.
Ezekial was happy for the interest in his father, and explained that his father was diagnosed with schizophrenia many years ago. With a background in art already, his father discovered that making mosaic murals grounded him. Not just the process of making the murals, but finding all “the stuff” he incorporates into his pieces. Ezekial is proud of his dad’s work which can be found in over 200 public walls in Philadelphia. He once accompanied his father to Cuba, where they had constructed a mural together. Here’s a photo of Ezekial standing next to his house which is entirely covered in mosaics. He was rolling a joint the entire time we talked to him.
Besides our niece’s lovely wedding, I enjoyed going to The Barnes Foundation the most. It is touted as “The greatest private collection of French impressionist and post-impressionist art in America.” The Foundation (museum) is the result of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a man whose goal was to provide education and a love of the arts. The grounds and the architecture of the building are a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. I suggest breaking up the visit in two days. I think it is safe to say we all wanted to soak our feet in the cool reflecting pond afterwards.
Food. The best we experienced was at the wedding. We had reservations for Twisted Tail one night but it fell short, and although the place had good vibes and a hoppin’ bar, the food was not memorable. My grilled octopus was boring. My husband was underwhelmed with his dish as well.
Famous Fourth Street Deli, a Jewish Delicatessen since 1923 felt like a movie set for The Road to Perdition, a movie with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and Jude Law that took place during the depression. There was a large round table that stood away from other customers, several well-dressed (actually overly dressed for 9 am on a Saturday morning) were seated at the table. The owner was paying a lot of attention to them. I couldn’t help think of Paul Newman’s character, a crime boss and the hired killer who ultimately caught up with Hanks’ character. The customers at that round table, reeked power, but then that could just be my imagination going amuck. We all ate breakfast, which was over the top. I wish I had gone for more deli fare. This place is an institution, even if they are making deals at that round table…
Tuk Tuk, (not a plastic surgery franchise), but a great little Thai Taqueria on South Street. We went there twice. I liked the Lemongrass pork carnitas.
Out of things to say, and not because Philadelphia is a boring place. I’m packing and getting ready for our big vacation in less than two days to Amsterdam, Umbria, Italy, and Paris. Please stay tuned.