We got over to the motel and luckily the room was empty, so we just headed right up. It wasn't an amazing room, but it wasn't completely rinky dink. The carpet was a bit of a mess, the windows were bolted shut and two of the lamps were broken as was the alarm clock, plus someone scratched up the wall paper, but the bathroom was spotless, the shower and toilet not only worked but rocked (especially the shower... awesome shower) and the TV didn't have a guide channel, but we got HBO and Cartoon Network and those came in handy in the mornings getting ready and at night before crashing out.
Then we headed off to our first location. We were lucky and found ourselves free two hour parking on a side street. I've got to say, parking and driving in Philly is actually more hectic and a pain in the ass than NYC. No joke. The streets make no sense and getting onto highways for fastness is really a bitch and traffic on main roads is just... immense. It didn't ruin the trip, but it was quite the hassle at times.
The first stop we made in this big Philly trip was Eastern State Penitentiary. The castle-like structure is right in the middle of the street. You come in, pay your admittance fee and get handed an audio device and headphones. They do offer guided tours as well, but Nick and I opted just to explore on our own. The audio tour is hosted by one of my favorite actors of all time Steve Buscemi and that makes it so much better. Although I must say the audio is not very timed to the time you'd actually spend in each section of the prison. I'd of walked pass a corridor, enjoyed it for a minute or two and gotten a real good feel for, plus taken a photo, reached the next section of the prison where a sign would ask me to press over to the next part of the audio tour, but the audio part I was in wasn't finished yet. Some really shoddy production there, but it's been that way for 7 years so it's not going to change anytime soon.
Walking through the structure there is so much to admire and appreciate. There are artist installations, but some of the cells themselves are just artistic from the way they exist on their own. Be it because of one with a random barber chair in the middle, despite not being the barber shop or another where a tree actually grew from the wall. There's a ton of good information to read as well and as both an actual historical monument and museum it is an amazing experience and one I am very proud to have had. My one memorable purchase was a magnet based off a photo of a shank found on the premises. It's really really cool.
After this visit to true history we ventured to a bit of a more off the beaten path kind of history. Research conducted by both us guided us to a freight line which also had an unused, but lit tunnel section. As we walked along the tracks for a short bit we were unsure if this would bear fruit, but as we got closer to the tunnel the graffiti appeared and then we walked in and boom. The colors blasted out out at us. Beautifully intense burners and character pieces that bounced off the walls. One of my favorites had a Doctor Doom of Marvel Comics on it. I was pleasantly surprised to also see some artists I know as being New Yorkers up in there. The tunnel sections were only lit in certain parts, but pitch black in others and the ground was all gravel. It was quite an exhilarating adventure to walk as far as we saw art and then walk back to where we had parked the car. It was at least a mile or a mile and a half and we were pretty beat and very hungry by then.
We ended up at a spot near Temple University called Draught Horse Pub that Nick had known from when his step-daughter was looking into the college. We both had some cider, shared calamari and loaded fries and had Draught Horse Burgers (onions, mushrooms, smoked bacon, cheddar and chipotle mayo). These were damn good burgers, they weren't patties, they were cooked just right and scrumptious. The calamari was also really well done and the loaded fries were waffle fries with scallions, melted cheese and bacon and my god yum.
After dinner we started cruising around. We first checked out the Divine Lorraine Hotel. According to Wikipedia reconstruction began and folks would move in by Fall 2009, well it is Spring 2010 and the place is still fully abandoned. We didn't attempt going in as we were too tired for a full mission then and there and sadly never made it back during the trip.
So our plan after was to try and hit up some of First Fridays in Old City, but we couldn't find any reasonable parking and then got lost a few times as my phone battery died so we were without a GPS. We eventually gave up when we realized it was 7 PM and if we ever found parking we'd still have no real time to enjoy anything. Since none of us were interested in the bar scene and didn't know the night life in terms of say free music or a poetry slam or something of that ilk and too tired for something like a movie in a dark theatre we very slowly found our way back to the motel.
At some point though neither of us were falling asleep, so after some pushing and prodding and “please shut up Nick”, we went down to the motel's bar where we actually had an interesting conversation with the bartender as the place was dead and had a drink or two before going back to the room and crashing.