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Walkabout

Walkabout

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Joepoon

Philadelphia has a promotional podcast. The news is that as a walking tour, it's not totally lame.

The idea behind Sound About Philly was to create a series of audio bits for visitors and locals to hear while sauntering around town with an iPod  - or for someone listening in Peoria by laptop.

It debuted yesterday, this project from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp, and it's got promise. Teams of interviewers have roamed about, telling stories of the usual places as well as the unsung spots that give this city its charm.

The beauty part is that you can upload your own audio tour, and that presents some creative opportunities that I can't wait to hear.

The first three podcasts of are up now, called "My Philly," "History Unplugged" and "Foodadelphia." I picked "My Philly' to start.

A family's fondness for running their dog along Forbidden Drive begins the tour - actually some choice words about the place from Edgar Allan Poe set the mood first - followed by suggestions for a rainy day (the Ritz Theater), a casual meal (Tacconnelli's), a place to party (L'Etage), hear music (The Tritone), shop (Charlie's Jeans), find deals (Sundays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art), take guests ("Shoe-gasms" on South Street).

They're little audio travelogues. Not so little, actually. The Forbidden Drive portion, alone, takes five minutes to play.

It's graphically simple and sound. Hit "Casual Meal" and a balloon pops up on a Google map, showing Tacconelli's location on East Somerset Street, and offering a 4:37 minute piece topped with informed comment from locals about the ethnic pie that is Port Richmond. It's practical as well: They tell you that if you want to eat, you should call that morning at 10:30 to reserve your pizza dough. Don't expect appetizers or dessert. If you order more than three toppings, you get yelled at.

At "History Unplugged," I learned that City Hall would have been the tallest building in the world, had it not taken 30 years to build. I wish they'd talked about the graft. The Reading Terminal Market piece talks of the market's industrial past as well as its epicurean present.

At "Philadelphia Flavorhoods," I checked out the tour of the El Centro de Oro on North 5th Street, and listened to Mexican, Puerto Rican and Columbian restaurateurs hawk their beans, rice, pig ears, paella and potato balls.

All very nice, really. But what I love is the opportunity for us to put our own audio tours on the site. They've stocked the Users portion with three tours - "Hands-On Fun" by James, "Ride Your Bike Here" by Veronica and "Literary Philly," again by James.

Truth be told, they're tourism-board employees. Spokeswoman Caroline Beam explained that it's just the first day, so they put up "home-made" audio posts to get things started. But it's a good idea.

I see great things ahead.

A tour of Gruesome Philadelphia could include the Mutter Museum, Gary Heidnik's House of Horrors, Marty Graham's hellhole, and the place from which a Philadelphia physician named Martin Spector mailed his box of human heads.

Mobbed Up Philly could take us to some of the more notorious sites in South Philly, where made men were hit. The Chicken Man, Sal Testa, The Gentle Don -- this could be a spicy tour.

Jazzed up Philly could take us to the spot between 20th and 21st Streets and Ridge Ave, where the Fletcher Henderson used to play the Pearl Theatre, where the Standard and the Dunbar theaters stood on South Street, the fabled Showboat, or Isadore Granoff's famous musical school, where the young Trane and Dizzy blew.

Any other tours you'd want to see?

I'd pay to hear Ron Avery narrate a tour of Odd Philadelphia, including Grip, the Raven, Painless Parker's Bucket of Teeth and The Grumblethorpe Blood Stains.

Caroline
Posted 09/20/2006 09:04:27 AM
Cool, Dan! Glad you like the tours. We have four more tours in the works... and countless ideas for more--though I definitly like your suggestions. Jazzed Up Philly is a must! So check back.
Daniel Rubin Inquirer Columnist
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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Karen Heller, Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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