But just a little bit.
The first time I visited Philadelphia, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. (Actually, it was the second time I’d been here, but I was only 12 years old for the first trip, and all I remember is the homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk as people walked over and around him. I have no idea what part of town we visited, we didn’t even see the Liberty Bell up close, as far as I recall.)
We were visiting a dear friend, and though she took us to nice places (including a coffee shop we now pass everyday) it was the dead of a very bitter winter, and no one was on the streets, and it just looked like a desolate kind of urban wasteland. Despite my best efforts, I was not impressed.
Well, this time around it’s quite different. We’re staying in a great area, and we cross through several others on our way from “home” to the theatre each day. So, I’m getting to see stuff and make sense of my very simple questions, like “Where do people actually live around here? Where do they spend their time?”
My primary issue, of course, is finding a decent coffee shop. Actually, let’s be honest, my primary issue is finding at least one of the best coffee shops in town. Lucky for me, I got a great recommendation from a local – RJD2 (whose new album, The Colossus, came out today). Spruce Street Espresso, as he told me it would be, is definitely the place. I knew I was in good hand as soon as I saw the Counter Culture logo on the door. To give you an idea … my favorite coffee place in Columbus, Luck Bros just became an authorized Counter Culture dealer, the first in Ohio, in fact. So, when I walked in and saw this …
… as was understandably relieved and excited.
So, today, after dragging myself out of bed, and through the shower and the kitchen a little bit, I packed a small bag of books and walked slowly but happily to Spruce & 11th. I spent a couple of hours sitting outside, chair-hopping and chasing the sun around the corner of the building. (I was reading Shostakovich’s Testimony, in case you’re interested. Yes, it’s for a future project, and no, I won’t talk about it.) Wonderful.
Then I pulled out the ol’ iPhone, typed in “book store,” and head towards South Street. Sean had already let me know that South Street was a retail paradise, and in fact it seems to be a hub of big chains (like Whole Foods) as well as local sellers. Atlantic Books was the first sizable book store I came across, so I stopped in. Of course, I always have a few things in mind, but I was willing to let the purveyors guide me as well. I walked out with a Solzhenitsyn tome that was an employee pick (vaguely related to the afore-un-mentioned project) as well as the first part of Cormac McCarthy’s Border-Trilogy, (I just read The Road, which is an absolute masterpiece.) as recommended by my dad. They also had this cute little book called eat.shop Philadelphia. It’s one of series. No, they haven’t made it to Columbus yet, but Bustown would be a great choice, it’s all about unique and local.
Okay. Coffee – found it. Books – accomplished. Next on the list? Comics. iPhone says … Atomic Comics, about 4 blocks away. Well … I don’t know if it was a name-change or just didn’t pop-up on the phone, but I came across Showcase Comics. Their window display included Crumb and Alan Moore as well as some new-ish super-hero stuff, so I jumped in.
It was glorious. They had a HUGE selection of trades, tons of good manga and a back wall of shelves of indie books of every shape and size. Did you know there’s a new Paul Hornschemeier collection? I didn’t, but boy that’s exciting. In the end, though, I didn’t get it. It was kind of expensive, and there was so much else I was dying for. They appeared to have every volume of the minx books (DC comics for teenage girls), of which I intend to collect every volume. (I know it seems counter-intuitive, but the editors did a great job of picking real-live talent and letting them do what they wanted with the stories.) I also grabbed a few issues ofWednesday Comics, which I’ve heard so much about and never seen. Blah blah blah … I bought some comics. Some are really good, and the Ultimate Avengers are horrible.
After that it was back to the homestead, back into the never-ending tech rehearsals. I’m getting to like Philly, though. I can finally see the map in my head, and see where the living is done. It’s nice.