Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Philadelphia 80s Memory Tour

It all started with a crazy plan to visit the Diana: A Celebration exhibit at the National Constitution Center. This was crazy because most other people in the Delaware Valley had the same idea. After waiting in two long lines (and I suspect that those of us who bought our tickets online waited longer than those who bought on the spot), we were finally let in to see the Diana artifacts. I was (am) a big fan of The Princess, so I was captivated by the childhood memorabilia, diaries and photos. Then there was The Wedding Dress in a giant glass case. The ivory silk is sumptuous, made from England's only silkworm farm. It was displayed with her shoes, a matching umbrella (just-in-case), a clutch, and a bridesmaid dress. Wowee. Then another room with about twenty-five dresses including ballgowns, cocktail dresses and day dresses. I took the time to admire each one and note the designer and fabric. The exhibit wrapped up with two rooms devoted to the end of Diana, including a display of the memorial books people signed, Elton John's hand-written lyrics for "A Candle in the Wind" and a video of the funeral.

The exhibit got me thinking of the eighties and nineties and what I was doing then. (The eighties are hot right now.) Since I lived in Philadelphia for most of the eighties while I attended Temple University, I took off on a walking tour of my old haunts east of Broad Street. I walked from the National Constitution Center to Penn's Landing, then down South Street, north to Locust, west through Outfest 2009, up Broad Street to Market and back to the car. I wish I had remembered to activate my iPhone pedometer!

These stones look really cool, but hurt my feet. Luckily they were in the beginning of my tour before my feet started to hurt a lot. While touring my old haunts, I remembered my college and graduate school days and how I knew I'd miss living in Center City when I inevitably moved away. I had hopes and dreams then and few have been realized. I can't say I have regrets, though: life had many surprises for me along with challenges. I often think that when I'm an old woman I'll not only wear purple, but I'll move back to the city and drive my purple Vespa all over.

This is the Ritz Theater, a place where I spent a lot of time in the eighties. I saw many movies here with my friends Vince and Carol even when the price went up to five dollars a ticket: "Out of Africa," "A Room With a View," and "My Beautiful Launderette" in addition to many, many French films.

A long time ago, I toured the Olympia (the ship) and the Becuna (the submarine) with my friend Vince. I remember I didn't feel very well that day and it was stifling hot, but I didn't regret the walk down the Penn's Landing because these ships were fascinating. They are still there:

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'.


Caroline - Philly Tourism said...

This is such a great walk down memory lane in Philadelphia -- and a nice way of showing Philadelphia today!

Glad you enjoyed your trip.

Margaret said...

Thanks Caroline! I had a blast walking around, shooting photos and then writing about it while I rested my aching feet later that evening. I'm looking forward to creating a Part 2 West of Broad Street soon.