The 'I am not leaving the US on my own accord' Road Trip: Day 2 (Continued from here)

Summer 2008

Philadelphia, PA (rough map)

I slept in the back of Chad's car from Pennhürst over to King of Prussia and into middle of the night Camden, New Jersey. Tired from the previous full day of Pennsylvanian wanderings, we overslept and were promptly awakened by the cleaning guy. Chad & I were both up and ready before UJ, so we threw our bags in the car and sat outside. Time soon grew past 11 and I watched as the gumpy, wigger cleaning guy came to the door and was about to open it with UJ still inside. I glanced at Chad and realized he wasn't paying attention; I had to quickly decide whether to stop this guy or watch hilarity ensue.

It was a split-second decision to be a nice guy and holler at the dude that the girl was still inside.

A few minutes passed and UJ emerged from the 2nd floor apartment; allowing us to escape the Jersey heat by leaving in the air conditioned auto. Scared that Chad & UJ might not eat for a while, I devoured a Dunkin' Donuts southwest breakfast bagel combo and also stashed an extra muffin like a squirrel preparing for the long winter.

Overly full, I felt I was now ready for the day and it was back to Philadelphia for the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State was built in 1829 to the designs of famed 19th century Philadelphia architect John Haviland.

The world's first true penitentiary, its radial floor plan and use of the Pennsylvanian system of prison management became the basis for 300 other prisons worldwide.

The Pennsylvanian System, or Separate System, of prison management heavily featured solitary confinement. It was believed that this solitary confinement would lead to silent reflection and eventually to 'penance' - hence, a penitentiary.

Solitary confinement was also used in these designs to break the spirit of the prisoner and to curb the criminal activity that flourishes inside prisons.

Prisoners had to where masks over their faces when they first came to the prison and whenever they would go to their one person exercise yard. The guards weren't allowed to talk to the prisoners and they had to wear felted shoes to muffle the sounds of their footsteps.

The original design called for 7 one-story cell blocks; but by the time they got to cell block 3, there was already a serious amount of overcrowding. The remaining cell blocks were built two stories high and the last blocks were built in a tremendous haste.

This overcrowding would lead to cracks in the system as prisoners began to be placed two to a cell. In 1913, Eastern State Penitentiary would terminate their use of the Pennsylvanian System.

Eastern State would go on to adopt a more common prison management system in allowing prisoners to interact through exercise and sports. This system continued until 1970, when the heavy deterioration of the mechanical and electrical systems at ESP led to its closure. Most of the prisoners were sent to Graverford Correctional and the prison only housed criminals once more when it temporarily held persons from the Holmesburg Jail Riot.

The prison sat in limbo until the mid 90's when work began to turn the site into a tourist attraction.

UJ had a connection that was supposed to get us a special tour, but he apparently didn't let anyone know and we had to take the standard tour, complete with an extra $10 fee for Chad & I as we had tripods.

The $10 fee did get us some super sweet 'tripod pass' buttons though.

In addition to our cameras, tripods and buttons, we also had large headphones and walkmans for the audio tour hosted by Steve Buscemi - of Fargo & The Big Lebowski fame.

At first, we were all humoured by the fact that Steve Buscemi led the audio tour; but afterwards we all agreed that he did a good job. Steve Buscemi may have been an odd choice, but it did work.

The first section we saw was a museum of sorts which contained items and documents from ESP.

The first picture shows the original key to ESP which is far larger than it appears. The second picture shows a collection of shanks found inside after the prison closed.

From the museum section, we went from inside the actual prison walls to the area enclosed by them.

The audio tour began once we were outside and led us into our first cell block. Throughout the day, we found cells varying anywhere from fully restored to downright forgotten. You could walk into some and others you could only stretch to see, as bars or doors stood in your way.

City of Philadelphia sewer lids were located throughout the various cell blocks.

One of the displays talked about some historian who has seem 'all' of ESP...even the steam tunnels! This was said in a fashion which would scare the masses, but it made me salivate at the thought of some grimy tunnels beneath this behemoth, rotting away after 30 years. Mmmmm.

We passed a display with quotes on it. I forget if UJ or Chad was the one who read it first and moved on, but I read it second and pointed out to the third person how Matthew Epps had been a guard...then an inmate!

Some of us choose interesting paths in this life.

These displays would have audio numbers on them allowing you to listen to more specific pieces after you were finished with Steve Buscemi. I listened to a few, and you can best believe I listened to the one on sexuality. It talked about how early in the prison's life, the lawmakers believed that masturbation was wrong and a means of self deprecation; hence, it was forbidden.

A few children were born at ESP during its lifetime, one being Mr.Enckler. His father being the deputy warden, Mr.Enckler grew up at ESP and his birth certificate even reads ESP as his parent's place of residence.

He came back to the prison in 1999 with a family album which showed him as a toddler playing in the prison gardens and behind the gargantuan walls.

ESP also had a four legged inmate. After a dog had killed the governor's wife's precious cat; the wife had her husband imprison Pep 'The Cat-Murdering Dog.'

After the prison closed in 1970, a local man took to feeding the stray cats which made ESP their new home. After a while, he asked the City of Philadelphia for a key to the prison so that he could actually enter and feed the cats inside, as before he was feeding them outside the gates. The city gave him a key and he religiously fed the cats for the next 22 years.

Once the tours and restoration began, the cats which made ESP home underwent a Children of Men-esque event where mass neutering left them unable to bear anymore offspring and their population would eventually dissipate.

ESP also has 'art' installations throughout. They ranged from ceramic cat installations to Guantanamo Bay versus ESP cell comparisons to a television set inside the showers which showed famous prison scenes.

I found it funny that when I snapped the picture, it just so happened to show a prison shower scene.

Another very interesting item was the recreation of Al Capone's cell.

Capone spent a year incarcerated at ESP in 1929. The Philadelphia Daily Ledger posted a look into the mob frontman's cell that ESP has since recreated.

ESP continues to grow and offer more with each passing year, as donation money and portions of the admission fee go to various projects that administration has planned.

While we were there, the current goal was to restore the prison chapel - complete with inmate artwork.

^UJ photo

I had to ration my water inside ESP and I was glad that UJ had also brought some.

Regardless of how much water we brought, it was still a sweltering Philly day where Chad & I were both ecstatic to find this water misting device in the 'Eastern State Playground' outside Eastern State Penitentiary.

The next stop of the day was this amazing high school we knew about in North Philly. We were all very excited about it and left on our way after punching the coordinates into Chad's GPS.

Now this school was in a neighbourhood where we were definitely not welcome. I'd rather walk alone at night in the day1 neighbourhood, then walk in a group during daytime in this one. The high school had groups on all sides and we were even presented with an offer to buy crack as we moved through.

This wasn't the desolate run down areas we were used to, this area was heavily populated with people who rarely saw outsiders in their part of town.

We cycled twice and didn't see any obvious entrances into the high school. Normally we would take a closer look, but Chad didn't seem all that comfortable with leaving his car in this neighbourhood, with all of our road trip essentials inside. These 2 facts led to us begrudgingly passing on the high school and going for a cruise through the rugged North Philly streets instead.

A half hour passed and we had our fill of experiencing these streets. We decided to head downtown in search of Love Park.

Prior to finding Love Park, we found Philadelphia City Hall and the area across the street with all the puzzle pieces... know that place with the puzzle pieces; where Van Homan hopped to hop manualed in Seek & Destroy...

...and where he manualed that crazy rail in Criminal Mischief...

...and also, that rail that George Dossantos feebled to 180 and smithed in Neighborhood Superheroes...

...and the spot that Mike Griffin manualed around in ECD4/On The Down Low.

(I apologize for being unable to find the last two on YouTube)

Lastly, that spot Cory Martinez hopped to ledge ride in Federal.

As you can see, I was enamored as much with the City Hall as I was with the innumerable spots from pro biking videos.

I've been asked as well, if the spots are as crazy in person and they definitely are. Although, the blue rails aren't that intimidating, George Dossantos also did that back when no one was smithing or feeble-180'ing rails.

After I wandered around checking out the biking spots, I came back to find UJ & Chad watching a tranny prance around in the Love Park fountain with short shorts and pink scrunchies.

We took our picture of the famous Love Park letters, watched the 30-odd skateboarders for a bit and then moved onto City Hall.

A man had saw UJ taking pictures of City Hall and told her that we should walk over to it and walk through the portico connecting the courtyard and the street.

We did so, and were set aback at the stunning interior. The Philadelphia City Hall is a spectacular sight from the street, and then you see these passageways with their intricate detail and elaborate colours.

The tallest skyscraper in the world from 1901-1908 definitely didn't disappoint.

^UJ photo

As I had previously stated, I was crafty in the morning and ate a filling breakfast meal as I knew UJ & Chad were light eaters. Even so, it was now 8 hours later and the stomach was starting to grumble.

Thankfully, Chad & UJ had finally became hungry and we decided on the touristy, famous cheesesteak corner. We used Chad's GPS, UJ's relatives and our instincts to try and navigate the Philly streets. We may have got turned around a little bit, but I wasn't bothered as it simply meant more Philadelphia.

Approximately 40 minutes after leaving the area near City Hall, we arrived at the Cheesesteak Corner. The above picture is of Geno's and we chose to eat at Pat's. Pat's is the less flashy of the two cheesesteak options and had the shorter line. We hit the line and were ushered through like cows at an abattoir.

I chose the Steak and Provolone.

Chad asked for a recommendation and went with the suggested Steak and Cheese Whiz.

My Steak and Provolone dried and bored me as Chad's Steak and Cheese Whiz excited me and made me jealous of his decision.

Overall, the Steak and Provolone wasn't anywhere close to the best I've ever had. That, as well as the fact that they take for granted their customer base by being rude and rushing people through, left me severely dissatisfied with Pat's. For all the Philly people we know, I severely regret not asking one of them for a better cheesesteak place that only a local would know.

Next time I'm in Philly, next time.

After the cheesesteak corner, it was on to UJ's cousin's house somewhere in Jersey. We went inside and drank Leinenkugels and Birch Beer, while comparing the differences between living in Philly and living in Detroit. I've had Leinenkugels before, but Birch Beer was a new experience of a cola which tasted like a mixture of cream soda and root beer. Delicious.

Our Leinenkugels eventually dried up and it was getting late, we took to checking maps for a place to stay for the night. Seeing as our day 3 destination was in Southern Jersey, I took to convincing Chad & UJ that we should stay in nearby Delaware so I could check off state #30 from the visited list.

Chad had thought he had already been there, but since UJ & I hadn't, he decided it would be fine and we were on our way to Delaware for the night.

We reached our hotel after an hour of travel and I cracked a 40 of Silver Thunder - a new kind which I hadn't had before.

New 40, new state, great times.


Go Home

Day 1
Detroit to Camden
Spring City

Day 3
Delaware to Northern NJ
Paterson, NJ
Cedar Grove, NJ

Day 4
Northern NJ to Long Island
Kings Park, NY
Day 5
Long Island to Norwich, CT
Day 6
Norwich, CT to Taunton, MA
Jerimoth Hill
Day 7
Taunton, MA to Northern NJ
Nearby, MA

Day 8/9
Northern, NJ to Detroit
Cedar Grove, NJ