Saturday, November 12, 2011

Travelblog: The Great Nor'easter—Episode 8

...I was 2/3 of the way through my trip.  I deftly avoided the brown acid and navigated my way through downstate New York to the hamlet known as Bethel, home of the iconic Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in August, 1969.  I was originally planning to visit Bethel before New York City, but road closures caused by the flooding in the area put the kibosh on that plan, so I swung up that way after hitting Gotham instead.  The concert took place in the field beyond the fence here, which was (and still is) a perfect natural bowl and the stage was situated near the dark strip in the grass in the upper part of this photo.  Also on the site is the Museum At Bethel Woods, which of course chronicles the entire event and includes an art gallery and a small outdoor concert pavilion (that you actually have to pay to get into, unlike the festival).  The museum is a pefect indocrination for those who are uninitiated on Woodstock lore, but for me it was pretty much all review, since I'm so knowledgeable about the subject.  After seeing the area firsthand, it's no wonder this thing morphed into the world's largest clusterfuck of people ever, given the lack of decent roads in and out of Bethel.

You are looking at 1818 Tusculum Street in north Philadelphia, fictional former home of fictional pugilist Rocky Balboa.  The row of apartments appeared way smaller to me in person than in the Rocky flicks until I realized that the two units at the far end of the block (below the el train tracks just to the left of the telephone pole) have since been torn down.  The front door still has the same hand-painted '1818' on display, and it appears Rocky has moved up in the world, judging by the satellite dish on the side there.

Just a few blocks down the way by the el train is Mighty Mick's gymnasium, which is hardly mighty anymore.  Pretty obvious by the dimensions here that there ain't no gym on the top floor.  The pet shop where Adrian worked right across the street really was a pet shop back in the day, but it's long-since closed too.  Not far from Rocky's apartment is Adrian and Paulie's house, but I didn't get a photo of it because I was a tad intimidated by the heathens roaming the streets in the neighborhood.  To wit, we ain't talkin' Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids!  Never once did I feel unsafe anywhere in New York City (even in Harlem), but I high-tailed my big honkin' Mercury Grand Marquis (with Missouri plates that screamed out, "TOURIST!") outta north Philadelphia before they could bring my hat to the hospital.  This area looked rough 35 years ago in the first Rocky film and it's infinitely worse now.  I'd rank north Philly right down there with East St. Louis and Gary, Indiana in the Shithole Sweepstakes.

This would be the Philadelphia Eagles locker room, which I got to visit during my tour of Lincoln Financial Field.  Damn thing is so gi-normous that my entire house could fit easily inside it, top-to-bottom and side-to-side.  I honestly think it covers multiple ZIP codes.  This isn't even the whole thing--there was more of it behind me when I took this photo too.  Their bloody mascot even has his own locker room!  The stadium itself is pretty nice, but like all the new NFL venues these days, it has too much of a Country Club aura about it. 

Here's where I'd love to work someday—NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, across the river from Philly.  My "dream job" would be film librarian/ archivist—I could sit and watch those old highlight reels from the '60s and early '70s until the cows come home.  I'd even watch them with the bloody cows...

They just love their statues in and around the Philly ballparks.  They've immortalized Hall of Fame players like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Connie Mack and Richie Ashburn in bronze, as well as beloved play-by-play man Harry Kalas, who you'll find on the lower level of Citizens Bank Park in the left field corner plaza.  CBP is everything it's cracked up to be—excellent ballpark all the way around, relatively inexpensive beer (for a Major League stadium, anyway) and killer eats at Luzinski's BBQ in center field—best ribs I've ever had east of the Mississippi.  Between Philly and Pittsburgh, the state of Pennsylvania has two of the finest parks in beisbol.

For all my K.C. friends out there, this is what the eastern terminus of I-70 looks like, on the west side of Baltimore.  Rather unique, too—I've never seen the end of an Interstate where you can simply make a U-turn and head back the other way!  There's also some sort of park-and-ride commuter lot in between the highway. 

This is the site of Memorial Stadium on Baltimore's north side, former home of the Orioles and Colts where Unitas, Berry, Ameche, Weaver, Palmer and the Robinsons once roamed.  In the case of the Colts, the place was affectionately known as "the World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum".  I always thought Woodstock was the WLOIA, but I digress.  The footprint of the stadium has been preserved, and is now flanked by newly-built townhouses.  The famed old all-dirt playing surface has been replaced by fake flubber turf (which was being used by some goomer practicing that faggot college activity lacrosse while I was there), and those trees off in the distance are the same ones that were always visible beyond centerfield when the stadium stood.  I love it when they can pay tribute to old ballparks like this—nicely done, Balty-More! 

Not pictured, but well worth the visit if you're in Baltimore is the Sports Legends museum adjacent to Oriole Park @ Camden Yards.  Excellent displays on the Orioles and Colts (including the back of a Mayflower moving van in the case of the latter), as well as all the local colleges and even a tribute to indoor soccer's Baltimore Blast.  I didn't get a chance to visit the nearby Babe Ruth museum, but I've heard it's outstanding as well.

This is the view from my $40 parking space at the Washington Redskins game I attended at FedUp Field in suburban Landover.  That's right, I said 40 bucks—one of my hotel rooms was actually cheaper than this!  You'd think 40 bucks would at least garner me an asphalt parking surface and a space within half a mile of the stadium, but noooooo!  Wait—this gets better...

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS... FedUp Field we go—literally!  The signage around the 40-dollar-a-pop gravel parking lot warned fans NOT to walk through the woods to get to FedUp Field.  The Redskins wanted everyone to walk an extra quarter mile around the woods, but some enterprising 'Skins fans have erected this rickety, yet effective, bridge to circumvent team management's edict.  In lieu of bread crums, one only needs to follow the trail of beer bottles/cans through the Hundred-Acre Wood during their journey to FedUp Field.  Fuck you, (Redskins owner) Daniel Snyder!

My Redskins experience was a major disappointment all the way around.  For such a storied franchise, I was unimpressed with the passive nature of their fans—FedUp Field holds way more people than Arrowhead Stadium does, but Washington fans can't touch us in terms of noise and ambience.  This was more wine-and-cheese party crowd than a rowdy football mob—polar opposite of the way it was over at R.F.K. Stadium back in the day, I'm sure.  FedUp Field also reeked of corporate weasely-ness, even moreso than most NFL stadiums do, and the Redskins gameday presentation was extremely dull.  On top of that, the nosebleed section I sat in was infested by a swarm of bees, and a gal two rows in front of me got stung on the neck.  About the only good thing I can say about my day with the 'Skins was their hot dogs were damn good for stadium wieners.