In the Big City

Carl Sandburg said Chicago was the “City of the Big Shoulders” and if he meant wide streets and tall buildings he was on the mark. There was something broad and sprawling about the Windy City and it had a wide-open feeling to it. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has a more cramped, high-density vibe. Nonetheless we enjoyed our first foray into the City of Brotherly Love. We walked west this afternoon from our hotel in the Convention Center along Market Street and crossed the Schuykill River into the University District. Both the Drexel and Penn Campuses are between 30th and 40th Streets. Our first NoirCon event was a screening of the 1951 film noir The Prowler. A fascinating and thoroughly creepy movie starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes, the screenplay, credited to Hugo Butler, was actually written by Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted at the time. I remember reading his novel Johnny Got His Gun in high school. After the showing Eddie Muller gave a talk about his experiences tracking down the original 35mm prints of The Prowler and showing it to film festival audiences as well as interviewing Evelyn Keyes for his book Dark City Dames. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Muller and it was great to actually meet him in person. He saw my Giants hat and I got a fist bump, he’s a fan. I told him that my mom is responsible for my love of both noir and baseball and that she loved his book. He asked if she was still alive and when I said yes he said “well, give her my best.” You bet I will. I also shook hands with another author I’m a big fan of and that’s Christa Faust, creator of the Angel Dare series for Hard Case Crime. I told her my wife and I are desperately awaiting the third installment and she said that Angel’s next adventure will take place in the world of rodeo, much like the previous book was set in the world of MMA fighting. So, that was fun.

We took the subway back to the hotel and decided to head out to the Spring Garden area for a visit to the Prohibition Taproom on 13th Street. The walk there was short but through some dodgy looking areas but the place itself was inviting and comfortable. We had excellent food and they even served up a cask ale. In England they would have called this a “gastropub” meaning it had a homey atmosphere and catered to beer drinkers but served upscale cuisine. It was easily our favorite spot on the trip so far. After that it was a short but confusing walk to the PhilaMOCA (Philadelphia Museum of Contemporary Art) which despite the high-falutin’ name is a real hole-in-the-wall and hard to find. The NoirCon panels were interesting and we stuck around for most of them. We stepped outside and decided to avoid walking strange streets at night and looked for a cab. Sure enough I hardly thought about the right corner to stand on to hail one and a taximan pulled over as if he were reading my mind. Like I said earlier you can tell a great city by how easy it is to get a ride!

Tomorrow the conference opens officially at the Society Hill Playhouse early in the morning and continues late into the night. Happy Hallowe’en!

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