103 Things We Love About Philly
Sure, she can rap, but if you saw Barbershop, you saw the multidimensional Eve. She's also got a TV show coming in the fall, a new line of clothing called Fetish, and she's appearing in a new Reebok ad (left). She's all Philly, but damn if she ain't biting big from that apple.
38. The rise, fall and rise again of R5 Productions
Agnew started out in this city a few years ago, bringing all-ages hardcore shows to town in a braver fashion than the city has ever seen--especially when it comes to the arduous task of booking hundreds of bands that all basically sound the same. But as time went on, his palette expanded, and that's where he got into trouble. Perhaps running afoul of previously established feudal rock club systems, or perhaps just trying the patience of his venues and neighbors a bit too much, about a year or so ago Agnew found himself squeezed out of almost every venue he could get near. But then something curious happened: Agnew got over. After a now infamous dust-up with an alleged secret "indie" wing of Clear Channel over a Will Oldham show, Agnew blabbed, and the whole city was ready to listen. Just like that, his modest kingdom was established, and suddenly he's getting such hotly bidded-on shows as Cat Power and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Which, if you like things like fair play, is pretty awesome. There's also a really funny (and realistic-looking) picture of Dave Pianka sucking his ding-dong going around the Internet now, too, so that's pretty awesome as well--to say nothing of Agnew's whole thing about a potential run for for City Council. Why, then, is this rags-to-riches/Turk 182!-ish story only clocking in at No. 38? Ah, mostly because he's still rocking the Elliott Smith look. It's time, dude. It's time.
37. We've got way cool architecture
You can walk from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill and see examples of every major period in American architecture from the last three centuries. No other U.S. city boasts this breadth of styles within such a small area. Not only are all the important periods represented, but Philly has some of the best examples of them that ever were. Consider our Hollywood-ready Second Empire City Hall and the landmark deco PSFS building.
>> Walk Philadephia, a program of the Center City District, offers guided architecture tours. 215.625.WALK. www.centercityphila.org
36. Chess with one of the old-timers at Rittenhouse Square
You'll see this crowd again as it gets warmer, setting up camp on the north side of the park's stone benches. Sometimes college kids will show up all confident and loud, but that doesn't much bother the old-timers. They've seen it all before. A guy named Leo plays there sometimes. He's a retired security guard from Roxborough who makes his way over to the park when he can so he can play and "see what's what." Play him and he'll rock slowly back and forth the entire game, and every time you make a move he'll say, "I see, I see."
35. We can eat like pigs and dress unfashionably
Hey, it's Philly! Who's there to impress? Even our stars are shlubby. (Take heart, David Morse. It's a good thing.)
34. Fairmount Park
The largest municipal park in the country makes the city beautiful, provides great recreation opportunities and just makes life here better. Plus, you can't beat the view from Belmont Plateau or when you drive (or pedal, or walk, or run) to Center City through the park and down the Parkway. It gives Philadelphia 9,100 acres of green space. Hey, and look at all the doggies!
33. Whispering Bench
A stone's throw from Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park sits the monolithic Smith Memorial Arch, a tribute to Pennsylvania's Civil War heroes. The turn-of-the-last-century memorial was erected on the dime of one Richard Smith, who made his fortune manufacturing printer's type, and by the time it was finished 15 years later he was out $500,000--an obscene amount of money in those days, so you can almost forgive him for including a statue of himself, even though he was not a Civil War hero. Better still is the polished stone Whispering Bench that arches around the memorial and somehow possesses the magical power to carry a whisper along its length the way a wire conducts electricity. A person sitting at one end can whisper sweet nothings to somebody sitting at the other end--a distance of nearly 30 yards--and the message comes through semiloud and clear. It's the perfect place to go for a first kiss.
32. Sweet memories of Dr. J
Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Babe Ruth. Some names transcend their sports. Some names grow so large with time and phat with the weight of significance that their syllables come to sound like a melody, jerking tears from otherwise dry eyes. Julius Erving's got one of those names. He sired modern-day basketball. He turned the dunk into a measure of a man's artistry. He brought this town that rarest of all local commodities: the treasure of a championship celebration. In comparison, A.I.'s a ringless wannabe, Vince Carter's got no heart and Michael Jordan? Yes, Michael Jordan was the greatest. But without Julius Erving's endless spirit of on-court invention, Michael Jordan would never have been possible. Julius Erving proved that true b-ball immortality is as much cerebral as it is physical. You couldn't watch him play without thinking he jumped so high and soared so far not simply because he could, but because he knew how.
31. Philly's film scene
Unless you're an agoraphobe without a phone, TV or radio, you've probably noticed Philly's reputation as a something of a film town is growing by the nanosecond. Whether it's Kevin Smith and J. Lo shooting a movie here, the countless film festivals or the plethora of Temple film students running around the streets wielding Bolexes or DV cameras, cinema takes up nearly as much of Philly's heart as music, theater or, well, art in general. Want more? You can pick any evening at random and find someplace--the Prince, International House, the Chestnut Hill Film Group or Secret Cinema, just to name a few--showing some fab repertory film. Resident filmmakers range from also-ranked M. Night to Chestnut Hill's Andrew Repasky McElhinney, whose infamous opus, A Chronicle of Corpses, wound up on the New York Times' 2001 Top 10 list. The newly renamed Philadelphia Film Festival, which kicks off early next month, is finally gaining some international notice. And much of this is aided by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, which--thanks to Goldilocks--is only growing in strength and success. Put simply, there's always something movie-related to do here, whether you want to be the next auteur or simply want to sit back and watch something truly odd.
>> Greater Philadelphia Film Office, 215.686.2668. www.film.org
30. Everything's old and dirty
Walk a block off Walnut Street in Center City and miles of sober gray stone envelop you in their cold, clammy embrace. (Just make sure they let you go when the moment's over.) Oh, and don't forget filthy City Hall was the picture of the post-apocalypse in 12 Monkeys.
29. People from other cities think we're so tough
Next time some Boston buttwipe tries to give you the business, show him that big-ass crack in the Liberty Bell.
28. The ODB McDonald's
Even gangsta rappers on the lam need sustenance. But maybe Ol' Dirty Bastard should have sent a friend to grab him a Big Mac from this Grays Ferry McDonald's back in November 2000. The erstwhile Wu-Tang Clan member with the mouthful of gold had split from an L.A. drug-treatment facility in October 2000 after serving six months in jail for violating the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol. With crack possession charges in New York pending, his flight caught authorities unaware. Next thing you know, he's in the McDonald's parking lot greeting a throng of fans. The restaurant's manager--oblivious to ODB's presence-- noticed the commotion and called the police. When the fuzz arrived, they spotted ODB and made their approach. Once the rapper realized it wasn't his autograph they were after, he took off on foot, only to get nabbed in the drive-through lane. He spent three weeks in a Philly jail before New York cops took him into custody. He later received a two- to four-year sentence for parole violation and the crack charges. And he didn't even get fries with that.
>> The ODB McDonald's, 29th St. and Grays Ferry Ave. 215.462.6750
27. Sameric die-hards
Through rain, sleet or snow, even on Christmas Day, there were people out to celebrate the 74th birthday of the historic Boyd Theater. Perhaps it's the climate of the world today--a nostalgia or an instinct to preserve an institution from a simpler time. Whatever the reason, the Sameric has captured our imaginations. Well, some of our imaginations. For a time, the Saturday gatherings outside the theater drew a crowd. But that was summer. The ranks have dwindled (on one recent occasion the crowd was down to a lone man with a clipboard). But the fight is definitely not over. The Committee to Save the Sameric is drafting plans to rescue the theater. Philadelphia's last remaining movie house was once a beautiful example of art deco architecture, but was closed down last spring and scheduled for demolition. Those who remembered the theater in its heyday, before the United Artists acquisition and miles of sticky floors, called for restoration. They've collected signatures, rallied outside the Department of Licenses and Inspections, and envision a future for the theater as a multiuse cultural and community venue.
>> Sameric Theater, 1908 Chestnut St. www.savethesameric.org
26. Ritz Theaters
Duh. Sure, it's a bit odd that the films most accessible to the city are of the art-house variety (the Bridge aside, we really do need a better place for mainstream cinema), but the Ritzes have maintained their promise of comfortable seating, a genial staff, well- maintained restrooms, fine projection and, of course, a wide array of tea choices. Plus, where else can you see a movie while munching on Pirate's Booty? Being a snob rarely feels so cozy.
>> $5.50-$8. Various locations. 215.925.7900. www.ritzfilmbill.com
25. The fishpond
Philadelphia is not unlike a large village. If you meet a new person, chances are they've dated someone you've dated, know someone you went to high school with, or, heaven forbid, are carrying a venereal disease you've unwittingly helped spread. If you break up with someone badly, you find you have to avoid entire parts of town in order to not run into them. And that's another thing--you're always running into people you know. In Super Fresh buying matzo balls. At the record store. In your pajamas, when you've just run out to get coffee and you have pinkeye and wild hair. Is all this closeness a bad thing? Not really. It's nice to live in a city that's not anonymous, where you are recognized, where people remember things about you and have experienced things with you. It gives you a feeling that, well, not to be cheesy about it, but, you matter. If you choked on said matzo ball in your apartment, someone might notice your absence and find your rotting corpse before it stinks up the neighborhood. There's a certain camaraderie that grows between long-term Philadelphians. After all, we're just a b
PW's Holiday Guide 2014