After a brief tour of Penn's Landing, I headed to South Street, still a hip, bustling place, but much different than I remember from those college days. I have one fond memory of ditching the French Film Marathon at the TLA in favor of shopping the punk rock stores with a fellow dorm-inhabiting music-major friend. At breakfast one Saturday he explained he wanted to stock up on animal print T-shirts before he went home to Erie, PA, where they were in short supply. I had hoped to stop for lunch at Jim's Steaks, but the line was around the corner (see picture). Instead, I ducked into South Street Souvlaki, a favorite of my later Philadelphia years when I had a vegetarian friend. I ate some hummus and moved on.
This is Washington Square, a quiet park on Locust Street from Sixth to Eighth. Unlike the more popular Rittenhouse Square on the other side of Broad Street, Washington Square is a quiet secret, the place you would go with your book or your dog if you're not particularly interested in hunting for a place to sit or peoplewatching.
Ahhh, one of my favorite places on earth is the Academy of Music! I spent hours and hours in line here waiting for two-dollar orchestra tickets on Friday or Saturday nights. Back then, the Philadelphia Orchestra shared this performance space with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet. I had subscriptions to all one year or another, always the cheap seats way up in the top of the room (the dreaded Amphitheater). It's no exaggeration to say that I saw hundreds of performances amidst the red velvet upholstery of this hall. When it appeared in the movie, "The Age of Innocence," based on the Edith Wharton novel (a favorite), I recognized it immediately.
This is where I lived for five years while pursuing my Master of Music degree in Music Theory and a few years after. It's at 1324 Locust Street, was called the Sylvania House then, and now it's the Arts Condo. My apartment consisted of one room with a high ceiling, a small bathroom with a nice-sized tub, a teeny-weeny olive green kitchen unit in the main room, and a rusty-orange carpet. I had many spider plants on the sunny southern exposure windowsills along with houseplants I bought each year at the Philadelphia Flower Show back when it was held in University City. The apartment was nothing to brag about, but the location was perfect for a music major: across the street from the Academy of Music and the Merriam Theater, a few blocks from a large-for-then Barnes & Noble with a loft full of compact discs where I was in line behind Riccardo Muti once, and a few feet from the Broad Street Subway I used to go to school. This is the place where I hooked up my first CD player and my first VCR, and had my sewing machine set up to make most of my own work clothes inspired by the ladies of Dynasty and Princess Di herself.
I knew that many of my favorite haunts had changed over the years because I still visit Philadelphia frequently. There were few surprises other than Outfest 2009 blocking Locust Street and the conspicuous absence of The Book Trader on South Street. These big black boxes are new, and they were all over the city. I'm intrigued--can anyone explain how they work? Maybe I'll be a good librarian and Google 'BigBelly Solar Compactor'.