We only had a day or 2 in Philadelphia, so there was really only 1 thing to see & do. The Rocky steps. It’s impressive, that even though the film was released in 1976, there are still people selling t-shirts, and teenagers running up the steps and pumping their arms in the air at the end (well, the ‘size’ of certain tourists, meant there wasn’t too much running). The steps are actually at the Museum of Art, but I think that gets lost a little (i.e. even if you google maps Rocky Steps the museum comes up), and we didn’t bother going inside either – even though it has had a huge extension and is meant to be very impressive - we just didn’t have the time or inclination to shell out the $25 on a ticket. So, once Meg & Gogi had sauntered up the steps, we headed off to the State Penitentiary that had been recommended to us.
Interestingly, the prison was the template for multiple prisons around the world, as it used a wagon wheel type layout, with corridors with prisoners coming off a central point (so that the guards can see down each corridor from one central part). But more interestingly the prison was pretty much in the same state as it was finally closed in 1971. They had tidied up a few of the cells, but it was eerie seeing a lot of the building simply crumbling, with paint peeled, and broken cell doors, toilets, etc (you can see why they filmed 12 monkeys here). They even had a mocked up Al Capone’s room as it had been at the time, known as Park Avenue, because of its luxury – including a radio, book shelf, armchairs and carpet. People are still unsure why he got such special treatment when he was pretty much gangster number 1 at his time of incarceration there. That evening we hung around with Meg’s cousins, enjoying their hospitality and local knowledge (not that I’m sure Gogi enjoyed their dog’s friendship so much!), before heading off the next day for New York, via the ubiquitous Philly steak sandwich.
We were naturally hesitant about taking Milton into central Manhattan, so decided on finding a commuter station, to park up for a few days, and simply get a train in. Caroline, a friend of mine from Australia very kindly offered to let us stay at hers in the East Village, so that was a god send. I hadn’t been to NYC for about 10 years, so it was great to be back. Whilst we naturally ticked off all the tourist stuff, we actually much preferred being around Soho, Greenwich, Little Italy, with its constant goings on, its art, great little stores, etc. And Caroline took us on a great trip over the water to Brooklyn & Williamsburg which gave a good insight into the areas that are being renovated for those that can’t afford/can’t be bothered to live in Manhattan. One of the impressive sights for me, was the 9/11 museum. In previous trips I had actually been up the World Trade Center in 1999, and then saw ground zero in 2005, so to be back to see its current iteration was quite something. The museum was huge, and 2.5 hours in we still didn’t get a chance to see it all. And it was quite a chilling experience, having all the memories come back of that day, and the chaos that ensued. Very sombre, but well worth a visit (particularly as they offer free tickets on Tuesdays after 5pm).
On our way to Ohio, we stopped off at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house, pretty much one of the most famous houses in the US. It was pretty rammed full of tourists, but we managed to get ourselves onto a tour. It is an amazing looking house, and definitely a place I wouldn’t mind having (and would fill it with all of the Wharton Esherick items we saw in his house!). But, it does seem to have quite a few leaks, and with the cost going from a $30k budget to $115k final cost (in the 1930s), perhaps I might need to scale back my ambitions…