Near Abroad: A Guide to Philadelphia

Muke gives us his loquacious guide to Philly, for some reason. Enjoy!

In an effort to inform and entertain, I offer this look at Baltimore’s northern neighbor, Philadelphia. At a mere 100 miles, this great city should be a great destination for a weekend getaway. What do you need to know before you make the trip?

My cousin in his awesome shirt.

My cousin in his Phillies shirt; less douchy than a Lax player.

First, a bit of disclosure, I grew up in the suburbs North of the city and rarely spent any time in the city itself. Delaware Valley, as they call it, the verdant green-and-parking-lot-covered marks the cultural boundaries of the city. I only found out after I moved to Southern Maryland that Philadelphians pronounce water like “wooder.” But culture means more than linguistic tics as any Baltimorean will agree.

  • It means a total lack of highways, so that any trip away from the turnpike entails a warren of tiny, two-lane local roads, poor signage and constant, surly road workers. PennDOT is notorious for its road crews which work slowly if at all. Bring your GPS.
  • It means a culture of processed meat. Sure, everyone has heard of the famous Cheesesteak, whose face launched a thousand heart attacks, but let us not forget the mighty Italian Hoagie! (You can get a pretty good approximation from Wawa, but you won’t write home about it…) Too often forgotten, however, is that processed meat is the basis of our local economy. The local towns are vibrant centers of meat: from the local sandwichery to the industrial meat packer. Our least exported cultural idiosyncrasy is an under-appreciated meat called scrapple. In composition, I believe it is created using a combination of meat shavings, wood dust, and congealed fat. Fried, perhaps served with eggs, it is a like taking a sausage up to 11.
  • I’ve heard some complaints and whining from certain individuals whom I will not name that “Wizz” is dumb. QED, they say, cheesesteaks are dumb. Such a bankrupt argument merely illustrates the ignorance of the local Baltimorean named [redacted]. Would you, proud Marylander, allow me to dismiss the mighty crab because it has too much Old Bay? Besides, everyone orders their cheesesteak with onions and provolone; only a tourist sits in line at Pat’s or Geno’s for cheese Wizz.
  • Seriously though there are great delis in almost every area around the city. They make great sandwiches of all flavors. If you can find a local pizza place–I went here–you’ll get NY-style with extra grease.
  • Philadelphia now has a thriving microbrew culture. Home to the oldest brewery, Yuengling, it now boasts several excellent small breweries in the city. Yards is now available all over Federal Hill. Stoudts and Troegs are outside the area, but are great breweries. Victory Brewing in Downingtown is growing (much like Dogfish Head) and close enough for a brewery tour. I think the difference in the number and quality of the microbreweries is surprising. I’d expect Baltimore to have a great local brewery. (I don’t count Brewers Art.)
  • If you listen to local news radio (AM 1060), they are reporting from Independence Mall, not “In-de-pendant Small,” as I thought for years.

So, now you know a bit about how to navigate the tangled web of culture. What should you do when you get there? The Franklin Institute rocks. They have some art museum with stairs I hear. But a real experience should probably include a baseball game. And here I want to dwell on the crucial difference between Baltimore and Philadelphia baseball: the Phillies are winning.

Here’s how you create an awesome experience around a blog.

  1. Sell awesome t-shirts on an awesome blog that does bitmap art.So Cuttered Hoppy Wheat Label
  2. Release a themed microbrew in conjunction with a local brewer and release it the night before another blog hosts their Fightin’s Tailgate. Name the beer after your best pitcher: So Cuttered Hoppy Wheat from Iron Hill Brewery.
  3. Have the brewer, Vince Desrosiers, whose beer was awesome, show up with growlers for the tailgate.
  4. Have a dude in the same damn shirt as me but make him odd. Then let him rogue elephant his way around the parking lot.
  5. Novelty sunglasses. In a pinch, skip steps 1 – 4.
  6. Have your best pitcher start. You know, the one who took a pay cut to play for your team, then have him win.

To make you feel more at home, some random Philadelphia hipsters:

IMG 0665

(Thanks to Iron Hill Brewery, ZWR, and The Fightin’s for a great weekend with my cousins. I do hope the assistant brewer at Iron Hill–and his poor wife–got home safely, because damn that guy was lit.)

1 thought on “Near Abroad: A Guide to Philadelphia

  1. Also something worth noting: None of the lights on Broad Street, Philly’s main drag, are coordinated. Bastards. But, most fascinatingly, there are parts of South Philly that never changed. As in, nobody left in the ’70s and ’80s, like they did in nearly every other American city. The neighborhoods aren’t gentrified, like they are here. They’re lived-in. Old school. You can walk into a neighborhood and think, ‘This is what a city was like 50 years ago.’ And then get freaking hammered.

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