Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Morning News: Yo, Rocky Travel

Top: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Right: Crappy "Rocky" statue before they moved it down to the sidewalk.

The city where I was born, Philadelphia, has always had a split personality. I personally once heard the thuggish late mayor Frank ("I'll Make Attila the Hun Look Like a Fag") Rizzo refer to the Philadelphia Orchestra as a "band" -- which kind of sums it up for me. Though in fairness I should add that he did call it a "really great band."

Here's a link to Rizzo.

Actually, it's a nice town in a lot of ways -- not all of which are apparent in some Philadelphia-generated tourism information, which tends to focus on things like that godawful kitsch statue of the movie character Rocky Balboa, which was once located actually above the magnificent steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before some of the more sensible people in town managed to haul it down to a basketball arena in South Philadelphia and then, under pressure, install it in a less prominent spot near the Art Museum.

And don't let anyone tell you that a visit to Philadelphia should include a stop at the 9th Street Market, more commonly known as the Italian Market, in South Philadelphia. The last time I was there it looked more like a souk in Yemen, but without the charm, selection, sophistication, sanitation and fresh produce.

Here's some ungrammatical local hype on the Philadelphia 9th Street market -- and yes, on the side of that building, that's a kitsch mural of the late Mayor Attila the Hun himself. Incidentally, Rizzo was still another of those tough-guy warriors who somehow managed to avoid combat -- unlike, say, the actual Attila the Hun. Rizzo the Hun was in the pre-World War II Navy for less than a year before he was discharged under circumstances that have never been adequately explained.)

[If you're visiting Philadelphia, don't say I didn't warn you about that grossly overhyped street market. Here is an excerpt from a travel review of the market on last year: "The thing we were most surprised and disappointed about was how small the "Italian Market" area was, and how many vacant stores there were. The worst thing about it was the filth - the streets and sidewalks were absolutey filthy with trash, as well as a lot of dead pigeons. ..."]

But back to Rocky:

In Philadelphia, the Rocky statue/movie prop, now installed on a sidewalk near the Art Museum, at least out of the way of the grand view, is notable for its utter lack of irony.

On the other hand, there's a gem of a story in today's Times about a Rocky Balboa statue in Serbia, where there appears to be a new culture, perhaps politically derisive, that evokes American kitsch iconography, perhaps ironically.

The nuance of it all! Makes me actually think that maybe Serbia might be worth a visit, if that's the way they're thinking about stuff there these days.

Also, the photo caption on the Times's Serbian Rocky statue picture, which begins with the words "Yo Adriatic!" is itself worth a special Pulitzer Prize.

And by the way, the word "Yo" does not come from hip-hop culture. In Philadelphia, it has always been the way to begin most exclamatory and many interrogatory sentences.


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