The author in Philadelphia (image courtesy Una Zipagan)
I would also elaborate that fact that whereas Miami is in geographically located on the coast of the Atlantic, the only coastlines in Pennsylvania are those along the Delaware Estuary and Lake Eerie — which is part of the Midwest Coast. I’ll stop short of suggesting that Pennsylvania is more truly Midwestern than East Coast even though there are some apparently pronounced cultural similarities between Pennsylvania and the states of the Midwest and Upper South. (*cough* Pennsatucky *cough*).
Most of my childhood was spent at the other end of the coal and rust belts, in Kentucky and Missouri (aka “The Pennsylvania of the West”) but I had few strong associations with Philadelphia beyond those formed by Colonial history lessons in school and the cartoon, Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, at home. I also vividly remember the MOVE bombing (the subject of a recent documentary, Let the Fire Burn), which, along with the intro to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, painted a darker image of at least West Philadelphia but did little to influence my presumptions in very concrete, immutable ways.
When I arrived in Philadelphia with Una, friends offered a variety of recommendations. “Look for graffiti by Cornbread” (I didn’t see any) and “Get a SEPTA day pass” were joined by suggestions of places to explore (Fairmount Park, Olde City, and the abandoned Reading Viaduct), movies and television programs to watch (American Bandstand, Birdy, Gia, Rocky, and Trading Places), places and items to eat and drink (Barcade, Frankford Hall, Monk’s Café, Rita’s Gelati, Yards Brewery, and soft pretzels), museums to visit (Betsy Ross House Museum, Mütter Museum, Philadelphia Art Museum, and Rodin Museum ), and more (the Liberty Bell and Reading Terminal Market). All are undoubtedly great suggestions and but for me most will have to wait until I’m able to return, which I hope to do sooner rather than later because during my short time in Philadelphia, I enjoyed it immensely and really got the sense that there was something special there.
As a result of the 1854 Act of Consolidation, Philadelphia’s borders expanded and only in doing so restored it to the number two spot. The 1930s saw the first population decline, not just in Philadelphia, but also in St. Louis, Cleveland, and Boston. In the latter half of the 20th century, roughly 55,000 Philadelphians moved out of the city – a decline which finally began to reverse by the 2010 census, which gave evidence to the city’s first growth in sixty years.
In other ways, Philadelphia is rather unlike other Rust Belt cities, most of which were eclipsed by newer metropolises in the Sun Belt — even with decades of decline (and recent growth), Philadelphia remains one of the US’s largest cities – the nation’s fifth largest, in fact (coming in behind the Sun Belt’s Houston), and the tenth largest on the continent (coming in behind Ecatepec de Morelos).
Food is high on the list of almost any visitor’s priorities and I like to explore local cuisine as much as I can whilst remaining vegetarian. Probably the most iconic Philadelphian culinary creation is the Philly Cheesesteak; a steak, onion, and cheese sandwich which I do remember enjoying when I still ate meat – although I suspect that the sandwich’s fans might bristle at the fact that it was from the hoagie chain Blimpie, where I worked as a teenager in Tampa.
Other mostly unhealthy icons of Philadelphia’s food scene include the soft pretzel (which, despite roots in the Francia during the Early Middle Ages, is dear to Philadelphians), the hoagie (aka submarine sandwich),German butter cake, scrapple, Peanut Chews, stromboli, Tastycake products (Krimpets, Kandy Kakes,Tasty Pies &c), spiced wafers, cheese sauce, the Texas tommy (a cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped hot dog), tomato pie, water ice, and soda (Philadelphia is home to Hires Root Beer, Frank’s Beverages’ Black Cherry Wishniak and Vanilla Cream, and Levi’s Champ Cherry) — none of which I enjoyed during my short visit.
PHILADELPHIA IN MOVIES
Other Philadelphia-set (in some cases partially) films that I’ve seen include Best in Show, The Last Detail, Mannequin (1987), Mannequin Two: On the Move, Marnie, The Master, Philadelphia, Trading Places, 12 Monkeys, and Witness – none of which I realized were set in Philadelphia except, of course, Philadelphia.
Other Philadelphia-set films include A History of Violence, A Kiss Before Dying, Alpha Girls, America: A Call to Greatness, The Amati Girls, The Answer Man, Baby Mama, Big Fan, Birdy, Blow Out, Clark: A Gonzomentary, Clean and Sober, Dare, David and Lisa, Devi, Downtown, Fallen, Fat Albert, Fighting Back, Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story, 42, From the Terrace, Gia, The Greening of Whitney Brown, The Happening, The Happiest Millionaire, Her Only Child, The Husband She Met Online, In Her Shoes, Inventing the Abbotts, Invincible, Just Wright, Kitty Foyle, Lady in the Water, Law Abiding Citizen, The In Crowd, Love Hurts, Maximum Risk, Money for Nothing, My Architect, National Treasure, Neighbor, Next Day Air, The Old Maid, Pride, Renegades, 1776, Shadowboxer, Shooter, Silver Linings Playbook, The Sixth Sense, State Property, State Property 2, Stealing Home, 10th & Wolf, That Midnight Kiss, Train Ride, The 24th Day, Two Bits, Up Close & Personal, The Watermelon Woman, and Worth Winning.
PHILADELPHIA ON TELEVISION
I already mentioned that I used to watch Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids – I also have several Bill Cosbystand-up records on which Cosby shares stories of his old gang – but I haven’t knowingly watched any other Philadelphia-set television shows other than It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which though popular amongst some of my friends struck me as so gratingly shrill and dudebro that I would say that I was subjected to it rather than that I watched it. I also, in researching the city, watched part of an episode ofFamily Ties in which Alex P. Keaton has a crazy dream.
Other Philadelphia-set television shows which I’ve yet to form an opinion of include Amen, American Dreams, Angie, The Big House, Body of Proof, Boy Meets World, Brotherly Love, Brothers, Bustin’ Loose, The Class, Cold Case, Dads, Do No Harm, Family Album, Hack, How to Get Away with Murder, Instant Mom, Little Bill, Maybe This Time, Minor Adjustments, Parking Wars, Philly, Pursuit of Happiness, The Real World: Philadelphia, Ryan Caulfield: Year One, Shannon’s Deal, Strong Medicine, Teach: Tony Danza, Thirtysomething, ‘Til Death, The Tony Randall Show, and Wreck Chasers.
MUSIC OF PHILADELPHIA
Finally, both because Amoeba is primarily a music store and because there is so much of it, there’s the music of Philadelphia to consider. It’s my view, too, that the music that emanates from a place generally reveals a lot more about its soul than almost any Hollywood film could ever hope to.
Philadelphia’s music goes back several centuries. Founding father and Philadelphia resident Benjamin Franklin was also an accomplished viola da gamba player, composer, and inventor of the glass armonica, an instrument which went on to be composed for by George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and Damon Albarn.
One of the oldest songs pertaining lyrically to Philadelphia is Francis Johnson‘s 1818 song, “Philadelphia Fireman’s Cotillion.” Johnson was a composer and virtuoso of both the keyed bugle and violin. He was also the first black American composer to have his music published as sheet music. Though born in the West Indies, he later resided and died in Philadelphia.
Another great, black composer of the era with ties to Philadelphia was James A. Bland, His song, “O, Dem Golden Slippers,” was popularized by the Fisk Jubilee Singers and later unofficially adopted as the theme song for the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. Johnson too was born elsewhere (in Flushing) but also moved to Philadelphia, where he died.
Philadelphia has played an important role in Doo-Wop, Rock ‘n’ Roll (Philadelphia was the birthplace ofAmerican Bandstand), Gangsta Rap (Philadelphia’s Schoolly D is usually credited with the genre’s creation), and a smooth strain of R&B known as Philly Soul, developed and popularized by Archie Bell & the Drells, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Maze, The Stylistics, Teddy Pendergrass, The Trammps, and others — a couple of whom originally hailed from other cities but recorded songs by Philadelphian songwriters like Bobby Martin, Thom Bell, Linda Creed, Norman Harris, and Dexter Wansel for Philadelphia International Records and were instrumental in establishing the Philly sound.
Philadelphia also either produced or is closely-associated with the following:
Arthur Cosenza, Asher Roth, Aspera, The Assembled Multitude, Audrey Landers, Az Yet, Bahamadia, Barbara Mason, Bardo Pond, Barleyjuice, Beanie Sigel, Bell and James, Benny Golson, Bernard Wilson, Beru Revue, Beryl Booker, Bianca Ryan, Bilal, Bill Doggett, Bill Haley, Billie Holiday, Billy Bean, Billy Butler, Billy Kyle, Black Thought, Bleeding Rainbow, Blood Feathers, Bloodhound Gang, Blue Magic, The Blue Method, Bobby Durham, Bobby Eli, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Timmons, Bonehead,
Bootsie Barnes, Boyz II Men, Bree Sharp, Brenda & the Tabulations, Brett Kull, Britny Fox, Broadside Electric, Brothers Past, Bruce Montgomery, Bruce Saylor, Buddy Deppenschmidt, Buddy Greco, Bunny Sigler, Burn Witch Burn, Burning Brides, Calvin Jackson, Camille Zeckwer, Carfax Abbey, Carol Lynn Maillard, Cashmere, Cassidy, Catalyst, Celestine Tate Harrington, Center City Opera Theater, Chalmers Alford, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Charles Albert Tindley,
Charles Earland, Charles Fambrough, Charli Baltimore, Charlie Biddle, Charlie Gracie, Charlie Johnson, Chiddy Bang, CHOPS, Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, Christian Martucci, Christian McBride, Christina Perri, Chubby Checker, Chuck Treece, Cinderella, Cindy Birdsong, Circa Survive,Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clara Ward, Claudine Clark, Clifford Thornton, Clockcleaner, Cold Cave, Coles Whalen, Colin Marston, Cool C, Cosmo Baker, Count To Four, Courtney Cox, Crypt the Warchild,
Cynthia Cozette Lee, Da Youngsta’s, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Dandelion, Danny & the Juniors, Danny Rapp, David Amram, David Bispham, David Bromberg, David Jack, David Newman, David Raksin, David Ricketts, David Ruffin, David Tudor, David Uosikkinen, The Dead Milkmen, Dee Dee Sharp, The Defog, The Delfonics, Demoz, Demrick, Denny Dias, Derrick Hodge, Derrick Murdock, Des Devious, Devo Springsteen, Dexter Wansel, Dice Raw, Disco Biscuits, The Dixie Hummingbirds, DJ Cash Money,
DJ Drama, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Doap Nixon, Doc Cheatham, Don Cannon, Don Gardner, Donald Bailey, Donald Washington, Double Exposure, The Dovells, Dr. Dog, The Dreamlovers, Drew Parsons, DrivetimeUOJ, Dusolina Giannini, Earl Young, Echo Orbiter, Echolyn, Eddie Fisher, Eddie Lang, Eddie Layton, Edison Electric Band, Edwin Pearce Christy, Eliot Fisk, Elisa Fiorillo, Elizabeth Greenfield, Elliot Lawrence, Emmaline Henry, Empty Stares, Enon, Enrico Di Giuseppe, Eric Bazilian,
Eric Gravatt, Eric Owens, Ernie Andrews, Espers, Essra Mohawk, Ethel Waters, Eugene Ormandy,Eve, Ex Reverie, The Extraordinaires, Fabian Forte, Familiar 48, Fat City Reprise, Fat Larry’s Band, Fayette Pinkney, Ferko String Band, The Fireflies, First Choice, Florence Quivar, Flowchart, The Four Aces, Fran Smith, Francis Hopkinson, Frankie Avalon, Frankie Beverly, Franklin Bridge,
Franny Beecher, Fred Mascherino, Free Energy, Freeway, Fritz Scheel, G. Love & Special Sauce, Gail Ann Dorsey, Gamble and Huff, Gene McFadden, George Brunner, George Frederick Boyle, George Howard, George Stanford, George Tunnell, Gerald Veasley, Gil Saunders, Gilbere Forte, Gilbert Raynolds Combs, Gladys Bentley, Gloria Mann, The Goats, God Lives Underwater, Gogi Grant, Gordon Bok, Goreaphobia, Green Fields of America, Gregg Foreman, Grey Eye Glances,
Grover Washington, Jr., Hail Social, Hall & Oates, Hannah Sylvester, Harry Link, Hash Jar Tempo, Heath Brothers, Heaven’s Edge, Heavy Metal Kings, Henry Grimes, Herman Foster, Hershy Kay, Hezekiah, The High & Mighty, The Hooters, Hoots & Hellmouth, Hop Along, Hot Cross, Howard Lanin, Howard Tate, Hub, Huffamoose, Hugh McDonald, Illegal, Ink & Dagger, Instant Funk, The Interpreters, The Intrigues, The Intruders, J. R. Mitchell, Jack Ashford, Jaco Pastorius, Jamaaladeen Tacuma,
Jamal, James Darren, James DePreist, James Lee Stanley, James Mtume, James Poyser, Jan Savitt, Jared Hasselhoff, Jay Bezel, Jay Krush, Jay Mehler, Jazmine Sullivan, Jazzyfatnastees, Jeanette MacDonald, Jeanne Behrend, Jedi Mind Tricks, Jeff Lorber, Jena Kraus, Jenn Bostic, Jerry Ragovoy, Jerry Ricks, Jill Scott, Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops, Jim Beanz, Jim Beard, Jim Boggia, Jim Croce, Jim McGorman, Jimmy Amadie, Jimmy Bruno, Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Pop, Jimmy Preston,
Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Woode, Jneiro Jarel, Joan Jett, Joan La Barbara, Jobriath, Joe Beck, Joe Chambers, Joe Venuti, Joe Wilder, Joey Corpus, Johannes Kelpius, Johannes von Trapp, John Adriano Acea, John Blake, John Coltrane, John Corabi, John Gilmore, John LaPorta, John Whitehead, Jon Fishman, Jon Gutwillig, Joseph Tarsia, Josh Wink, Journalist, JuJu Mob, Jukebox the Ghost, Julia Wolfe, Jus Allah, Justin Guarini, Jymie Merritt, Karl Pohlig, Katherine Hoover, Katie Crippen, Keith,
Keith Andes, Kenny Barron, Kevin Eubanks, Kevin Michael, Khia, Kid Dynamite, Kill Verona, Kindred the Family Soul, King Britt, King Syze, The Kinleys, Kitty Kallen, Kurt Vile, Kurupt, Labelle, Lady B, Larry Ferrari, Larsiny Family, The Last Emperor, Laura Shay, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, Lee Morgan, Lee Ving, Len Barry, Leo Smit, Leon Bates, Leonard MacClain, Lester Lanin, Lew Tabackin, Lewis Redner, Liam and Me, Lilys, Linda Creed, Linda Sharrock, Lindsay Pagano, Lionel Barrymore,
Lisa Lopes, Lisa Roma, Little Joe Cook, Lloyd Parks, Lobo Nocho, Lon Satton, Lou Bennett, Lou Stein, Louis Karchin, The Loved Ones, The Low Budgets, Lydia Artymiw, Major Figgas, Malik B., Man Man, Marah, Marc Blitzstein, Marc Nelson, Marian Anderson, Marilyn Crispell, Mario Lanza, Mark Andes, Mark Kramer, Mark Tulin, Marsha Hunt, Martín Perna, Matisyahu, Matt Pond PA, McCoy Tyner, McFadden & Whitehead, Meek Mill, Melinda Wagner, Melody Gardot, Mendelssohn Club, MewithoutYou,
MFSB, Michael Bacon, Michael Brecker, Michael Caruso, Michael McCary, Michael Philip Mossman, Michael Schelle, Michael Sembello, Mick Moloney, Mike Brenner, Mike City, Mike Merritt, Mike Pedicin, Mirah, Mocean Worker, Modern Baseball, Mondo Topless, Mose Giganticus, Mountain Brothers, The Movement, Ms. Jade, Musiq Soulchild, Mutlu Onaral, Nathan Morris, Nazz, Neef Buck,Nelson Eddy, Neo da Matrix, New Born, Nick Falcon, Nick Perri, Nick Travis, Nickelz, Nona Hendryx,
Norman Connors, Norman Harris, The Notekillers, Nouveau Riche, Ohene, Omillio Sparks, One Star Hotel, Opera Philadelphia, Orchestra 2001, The Orlons, Orpheus Club of Philadelphia, OuterSpace, Paint It Black, Pamela Williams, Pat Martino, Pattern Is Movement, Patti LaBelle, Paul Green, Paul Motian, Peedi Peedi, The People’s Choice, Pepper’s Ghost, Percy Heath, Phanatik, Phil Roy,Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company,
Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, Philadelphia Grand Opera Company, Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company, Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, Philadelphia Opera Company, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Philadelphia Slick, Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Philly Joe Jones, Philly Pops, Philly’s Most Wanted, Photon Band, Phyllis Hyman, Pieces of a Dream, Piffaro, Pink, Planetary, Plastic Little, Preston Ware Orem, Princess Superstar, Pure Hell, Questlove,
Random, Randy Brecker, Ray Benson, Ray Bryant, Ray Ellis, Raymond Louis Kennedy, Raynor Taylor, Ready Rock C, Red Rodney, Reef the Lost Cauze, Reggie Workman, Reilly, Relâche, The Renaissance Band, Res, Reverie, Rex Stewart, Richard Zeckwer, Richie Kamuca, RJD2, Robbie Tronco, Robert Conti, Robert Crumb, Robert Hazard, Robert Lowry, Robert Moran, Robin Eubanks, Ron Kersey, The Roots, Roscoe, Rosetta, Rosetta Hightower, Rudy Lewis, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder,
Ruse of Fools, Russ Castella, Russell Thompkins, Sacrament, Sam Dockery, Sam Fogarino,Santigold, The Sapphires, Sarah Dash, Saxon Shore, Scott Sorry, Scott Storch, Scratch, Sean Costello, The Sensations, Septimus Winner, Serpent Throne, Shai Linne, Sharon Little, Shawn Stockman, Sheila Ferguson, Shep Shepherd, The Sherrys, The Showstoppers, The Silhouettes, Simon Apple, Sister Sledge, Sol Kaplan, Solomon Burke, Sonny Dae and His Knights, Sonny Fortune,
Sorry and the Sinatras, The Soul Survivors, Spank Rock, Spanky DeBrest, Spanky Wilson, Specs Wright, The Spooks, Spruce Street Singers, Sr., Stan Getz, Stanley Clarke, State Property, Steady B, Stephen Costello, Steve Berlin, Steve Guyger, Steve Tirpak, Stick Men, Stinking Lizaveta, The Strychnine Babies, Sun Ra, Sundray Tucker, Sunny Murray, Susanne Mentzer, Swearin’, The Swimmers, T’Melle, Tammi Terrell, Tav Falco, Taylor Bright, Ted Curson, Teddy & The Twilights,
Teddy McRae, The Teeth, Terell Stafford, This Day Forward, Thom Bell, The Three 4 Tens, The Three Degrees, Three Times Dope, Tim Williams, Tin Bird Choir, Todd Rundgren, Tom Glazer, Tommy Bryant, Tone Trump, Toni Basil, Toy Soldiers, The Tridels, Trip Lee, The Trouble with Sweeney, Trudy Pitts, Tuff Crew, The Tyrones, Uri Caine, The Urxed, Vacationer, Valencia, The Valerie Project, The Vels, Victor Bailey, Vikter Duplaix, Vincent Montana, Vincent Persichetti, Vinnie Paz, The Virtues, The Virus,
Vittorio Giannini, Vivian Green, Vivienne Segal, Voices of Theory, Walt Dickerson, Wanderlust, Wanya Morris, The War on Drugs, Warren Covington, Ween, Whitehead Bros., Whitney Peyton, Wilbur Evans, Wilbur Ware, William Gilchrist, William Henry Fry, Willie Alexander, Willie Dennis, Wolfpac, The Wonder Years, Work Drugs, World Blanket, Wykked Wytch, Wyldfyer, Yameen, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Young Chris, Young Gunz, The Young Werewolves, and Ziggy Elman
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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