On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief Maker Reality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.
It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA). Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory. It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone.
Following the prison breakout, we strolled through the charming Bookhaven used book store on Fairmount Avenue (which featured in a prominent scene in the novel) where I picked up some great additions to my “Mantelpiece Collection” – a beautifully illustrated version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a gorgeous 1966 Heritage Edition of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, and a classically worn collector’s set of William Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy.
Before waltzing around the rest of the neighborhood (with the requisite stop on Green Street at “Felice Morrison’s House” aka The Bergdoll Mansion) we ate at Zorba’s Tavern. The family owned Greek restaurant has been featured in my dining guides previously, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…Zorba’s – hand’s down – serves the greatest Greek food I have ever eaten. It’s the type of restaurant where if after finishing my meal, I expired right there at the table, I would die a happy man. I frequented the establishment circa 2005-2007, and it’s nice to see some things don’t change, and if anything, Zorba’s Tavern has only gotten better. By the time we came to our baklava and Greek coffee, we felt like we had lapsed into comas, only to find our spirits floating outside the restaurant to continue the reality tour.
And now for your viewing pleasure…some snapshots: