Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Day in the City

Hub and I ventured into Philadelphia last weekend to rendezvous with family and celebrate Mom’s 92nd birthday (Wow!).

Dining options proliferate everywhere nowadays. However finding unusual, fun places can be challenging. My niece, a Philadelphia resident, discovers interesting city eateries when family gathers. This day’s selected spot: Victor Café in south Philly.

But before enjoying dinner and the family, hub and I had to get to the city.

Center city parking can be problematic and expensive, so we opted for car/train transportation. First we drove to a suburban train station, parked (free on weekends!), and then took a 25-minute train ride into the city. Round-trip senior fare for the two of us: $12.00.

Cheap, no traffic jams, no parking fees.

Once in the city we exchanged our suburban transport for a SEPTA train for a two-stop ride.

Cost: free!

Life as a senior sometimes has advantages.

Victor Café is an Italian restaurant with a history reaching back almost 100 years. An Italian immigrant with a love for classical music opened a record shop in 1918, actually a gramophone shop, and sold RCA Victor recordings. Eventually the owner, John DiStefano, added a café to keep patrons in his shop longer, and the store became a gathering place for music devotees. 

The café’s uniqueness is the entertainment. Every 20 minutes a bell rings. Everyone stops chatting, puts eating utensils aside, and turns their attention to a restaurant employee. The performers do double duty as wait staff and opera singers.

Our meal ended with the entire wait staff, a.k.a. chorus, approaching our table with a piece of cake for the birthday girl and singing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. It was the most beautiful operatic Happy Birthday any of us ever heard!

 On to the theater…by the way, the food was very good…for the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor, a Neil Simon comedy. The entire performance takes place in one office in a New York City skyscraper, the time 1953. The slapstick comedy initially opened on Broadway in 1993. Playwright Neil Simon evokes his experience working with the comedian Sid Caesar and a group of young writers who eventually made their mark on Hollywood, including Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart and Mel Brooks (different names used in the play).  The comedy also  reveals the political and social sentiments of the time. The actors rant about Joseph McCarthy, ethnic eccentricities, relationships, stereotypes, and attitudes toward women.

The play kept me smiling most of the time, but at the same time I got a sad feeling realizing too many of the issues highlighted in the show remain societal problems today, over 60 years later.