Jun 8, 2023

Driving Two Hours Through The Apocalypse For Pizza

Butler Pike - Conshohocken, PA
This was the longest road trip that I've ever taken for two slices of pizza, but in fairness to Conshohocken Pizza on the Butler Pike, it was pretty damn good.

Dad and I had tickets to see last night's game between the Phillies and the Tigers.  The game was intended to kick off with a tribute to Tigers designated hitter and future first ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera.  This is Cabrera's final season in baseball.  In addition to being the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 and one of only three players in history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (the other two being Hank Aaron and Willie Mays), the 20 year veteran has the distinction of being the last active player who has played a game at Veterans Stadium.

Unfortunately, smoke from the Canadian wildfires has covered much of the northeast with an grey or orange haze that they say is unhealthy to breathe for extended periods of time.  I'm still a bit unclear on what "unhealthy" means in this context.  Obviously it's not good, but lots of things are unhealthy and I'd like to know how big of a risk this is.  Is it as bad as eating a Big Mac, or smoking a pack of cigarettes, or shooting up heroin?  I'm not sure where this falls on the fast food to hard drugs scale, but I am pretty sure that it's a good idea to avoid doing anything that could cause you to breathe heavily outside, so I expected that last night's game was going to be cancelled.

My house is about 100 miles from Citizens Bank Park.  I can make it there in two hours if conditions are perfect and I speed down the turnpike, but it usually ends up being closer to three hours with traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway.  The gates opened at 4:30, and a performance by Jawn Of The Dead was scheduled for around the same time on Ashburn Alley, so we had to leave at around 1:30 if we wanted to be sure to get there in time for the show.

I called the Phillies ticket office just after noon yesterday and was assured that the game was still being played as of right now, and if they were going to postpone due to air quality that the decision would be made before 1:00 pm and I'd be notified on the app that held my tickets.  I also checked their website and found that there was no plans to cancel the game.

We arrived at the ballpark at around 4:00 pm and nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the exception of the haze in the air.  To be honest, it looked nothing like the dark orange skylines that I've seen on the news.  It just looked foggy; not much different than a day when you'd expect that a thunderstorm may be coming.  There were fans lined up at every gate and all the things you'd expect to find at the ballpark a half hour before the gates open up to let people in.  The Phillies announced their starting lineup, and both Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported just over a half hour before the ballpark was scheduled to open that manager Rob Thomson confirmed that the game was being played.  So, we had a little time to kill before the gates opened at 4:30 so we headed across the street for a couple of beers before the game.

The news came while we were on our way back to the ballpark.

It's a bummer that the game was cancelled, but I get it.  There's a serious issue with the air quality in Philadelphia right now, and playing an MLB game in this is not worth the risk.  So, why would I even drive down to the ballpark if I felt this way?  Because if I didn't and they played the game anyway, I would have just wasted the tickets.  They don't refund your money or exchange your tickets if the game is played and you don't show up.

My problem is not with the fact that the game was cancelled, but with the timing.  The issue with the air quality was known well in advance, but they kept saying that they were still going to play the game.  Hell, the manager of the team confirmed it 40 minutes before the game was cancelled.  Ticket holders were put in the position to either risk wasting the tickets if the game was on, or risk wasting their gas (and PTO time) going to the ballpark for a game that is cancelled.  They could have easily made this announcement at noon, but they chose not to.

Fox 29 Philadelphia were on the scene to report about the postponement of the game, and my status as King of the B-Roll is as strong as ever.  At least they didn't catch me eating this time.

We did grab some food, and that's where this comes full circle to Conshohocken Pizza.  We both had the Cheesesteak Pizza, and it was the best pizza that I remember having in a long time.  I'm not sure if it's worth a two hour drive through an atmosphere that's being described as hazardous by every media outlet in the country, but it's pretty damn good nevertheless.

If you find yourself in Conshohocken at a time when the area isn't being talked about in apocalyptic terms, I highly recommend stopping in for a slice and a Coke... and if that's not a review worthy of printing on the cover of their next menu, I don't know what is.

Jun 7, 2023

The Saw Is Family

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Yesterday was National Drive-In Day, in which movie fans across the country celebrated the 90th anniversary of the first drive-in movie theater which opened in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey on June 6th, 1933.  We celebrated at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater with one of the most batshit crazy horror sequels of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2.

Everything seemed normal when we went to work this morning.  The skies looked the same as they do on pretty much ever other day, and there was no strange odor in the air.  By the time we left the office, there was a reddish grey haze and it smelled like the whole region had stuck its face in the remains of a campfire that was just extinguished.  By the time we got to the Mahoning, the sun was an ominous color when seen through the things that are now in our air.  This is the result of over 150 wildfires that are burning all over Quebec and Ontario, and the winds changing to blow the smoke down from Canada into the United States.  It has been reported that this cloud of smoke is so large that it can be seen from the International Space Station.

I'm not sure what the air is doing to our lungs, but at least it didn't hurt the quality of the picture on the screen.

Last night was my second time seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  I saw it once as a teenager and thought that it was one of the craziest movies I had ever seen up to that point.  Time has not changed my viewpoint on this.  This movie is definitely not the horror classic that its predecessor was.  The plot is absurd, the dialogue feels like it was written by a 12 year old on cocaine, and the acting is some of the worst you will ever see, including what feels like 100 different shots of Dennis Hopper going wild with a chainsaw on the wooden beams that keep the Sawyer family's underground lair from collapsing in on itself.

Texas Chainsaw 2 has gained a cult following in recent years.  It has been praised as a brilliant satire of the first film and of the slasher genre in general, but whether or not this was Tobe Hooper's intention is debatable.  I'm sure that he'd be the first to claim that it was, but when you make a movie that's as bad as this and people react to it as if you did it on purpose, you'd be a fool to not just roll with it.  Make no mistake - this movie is terrible.  The plot makes absolutely no sense at all, and just about every word out of every character's mouth makes the conversation on an episode of Jerry Springer feel like a scholarly lecture.  However, this is one of those times where a movie is so awful that it's a lot of fun.  I wouldn't recommend it to everybody and I'd strongly recommend that you don't go into this movie expecting anything similar to the experience that you had with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but if you can turn off your brain for 100 minutes and go for the ride that this is taking you on, you'll have a good time.

One fun side note to this movie is that the last cast member that you'll see in the end credits is Joe Bob Briggs.  As hard as I find it to believe that any editing was done at all, the scene that he was in was cut from the final film.  Here is a clip from a 1986 episode of Entertainment Tonight that D'arcy shared on YouTube featuring the king of the drive-in talking about the first film and his experiences working on the sequel.

Jun 6, 2023

The Mountains Of Might

Mountains Of Might Flyer
Mountain Dew (1988)
Throughout the summer of 1988, Mountain Dew was the official soft drink sponsor of the World Wrestling Federation's flagship television program, Saturday Night's Main Event.  This resulted in a few strange advertisements, including this flyer that features the Mega Powers seemingly being billed as the Mountains Of Might who are promising to "dew you right".

Jun 5, 2023

Be Sure And Tell 'Em Large Marge Sent Ya

Pee Wee's Big Adventure
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The lot was in nostalgia overload on Sunday with hundreds of vintage toys on sale for what I hope will be the first annual Retro Toy Market at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, along with a screening of Tim Burton's feature film directorial debut, the 1985 classic: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

The poster for Sunday was designed by artist Derek Draws.  You can find his work on derekdraws.com where he sells prints of his artwork for very reasonable prices.  Derek had a merch table set up in the concession building that I unfortunately found a bit too late in the day because I spent a little too much at the Retro Toy Market tables outside, but I did have enough to pick up an awesome Hulk Hogan McNugget Buddy sticker.
Whatcha gonna do when the McHulkster dunks wild in barbecue!

There were enough toys on the lot to open a well-stocked vintage toy museum.  I didn't take too many pictures so as not to get in the way of the other folks who were shopping for goodies, but there were two things in particular that were a bit out of my price range, but still way too cool not to share.

At some point in the 80's, Milton Bradley released a board game adaptation of the 1983 laserdisc arcade classic Dragon's Lair.  It was sold only in Canada, so I never even knew it existed until I saw it yesterday at one of the vendor stands at the Mahoning.  It's so rare that there isn't even one available for sale on eBay as I'm writing this.

The Dragon's Lair board game may have been new to me, but I am very familiar with Snake MountainSkeletor's lair was one of my favorite toys when I was a kid.  I haven't seen one in its original box like this since I unwrapped it on Christmas morning when I was six years old.  They've become a sought after collectible these days, but even if I had two hundred dollars to spend on a toy, this is much larger than I have room for.

Even though I stuck to a pretty modest budget, I found a few treasures from my childhood that now have a new home.

The first thing I found was an Emperor's Royal Guard collectible eraser in its original package.  These were originally sold in stores in the mid 80's when Return Of The Jedi was still in theaters.  I've had an Admiral Ackbar one for a long time, so now I've got one member of the Rebel Alliance and one member of the Galactic Empire.

The Big Kid Store sponsored the show, and they had one of the coolest merch tables on the lot.  Not only were they super nice, but they had an adorable dog named Melvin and so many vintage goodies that it would take me all night to list them.  One of the things at their stand was a box of Garbage Pail Kids from the original series released from the mid to late 80's.  I absolutely loved these things when I was a kid, and they gave me a great deal on a big pile of 'em.

As much as I love Star Wars and Garbage Pail Kids, there's probably nothing that I enjoyed more when I was growing up than playing video games at the arcade.  This Donkey Kong bank was sold in stores in 1981 when the arcade game was brand new.  This was a time when Nintendo was just another name that you'd see on an arcade cabinet, years before anybody ever heard of a little plumber named Mario.

I'm in the process of converting my basement into a game room, and DK is going to make an excellent addition to it.  I got an incredible deal on this guy, so he's off of the vendor tables and back in the arcade where he belongs.

Last, but certainly not least, Tyler Peterson brought his screen-accurate replica of Pee Wee's bike all the way across the country to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  Just as in the movie, the bike was not available to purchase for any price, but fans spent the entire afternoon and evening lining up to take photos with it.

The sun went down just after 9:00, and after an incredible trailer reel (including one for Ghostbusters 2), we got to kick back, relax, and take in a true 80's classic projected from 35mm on the beautiful Mahoning screen.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a movie that I was relatively late in seeing.  It premiered in theaters on August 9th, 1985 when I was five years old.  Even though I loved the Saturday morning tv show, I didn't get to see the movie until I was about 11 or 12 years old, but I instantly fell in love with it and have watched it many times in the years since.  I never thought I'd get to see it on the big screen though.  Check another one off the bucket list thanks to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

Jun 4, 2023

Dusk Til Dawn Under The Full Moon

The original plan for Werewolf Weekend was a double feature on Friday night followed by another double feature on Saturday night.  That couldn't happen due to downed power lines which caused a blackout to most of the area on Friday night.  Instead of two nights of double features, Saturday night turned into an epic dusk-til-dawn quadruple feature that kicked off with An American Werewolf In London, followed by The Howling, then Teen Wolf, and finally Silver Bullet.

The poster for Werewolf Weekend was illustrated by Grant Hurlbert.  This is his first poster for the Mahoning that I'm aware of, but he has a lot of impressive artwork on his Instagram profile.  I picked mine up on Friday night, and they sold out pretty quickly on Saturday.  It's easy to see why because this is pretty badass!  I hope he does more of then this season.

The Slaughtered Lamb Pub on the moors in Yorkshire may not serve food, but the Mahoning Snack Bar certainly does.  The special burger for the night was The Bangers & Mash Burger which was a delicious part of your complete pre-show.

The special burger for Werewolf Weekend was a reference to the pub that David and Jack visit at the start of the first film of the night, which was An American Werewolf In London.  This is another one of the movies that I saw for the first time when I worked at Blowout Video as a teenager and brought home the VHS tape, and I'm pretty sure that last night was my second time seeing it.  It's a damn good horror movie that I don't think I fully appreciated until I saw it on the big screen at the Mahoning.  I'm sure that part of the reason is that my memory jumbled together plot elements from this movie with its 1997 sequel that I saw in theaters during its original theatrical run: An American Werewolf In Paris.  The sequel is pretty terrible. but the 1981 original An American Werewolf In London is an absolute must-see.

The second movie of the night was The Howling.  It's the second time that I got to see this 1981 horror classic on 35mm at the Mahoning because it was the movie that closed out the 2021 season on Halloween night (with the movie's star Dee Wallace in attendance!).  That night was the first time I saw the movie and it quickly became my favorite werewolf horror film of all time.  If you haven't seen it before, I strongly recommend it.  You can stream it on Shudder.

The third movie of the night is the 1985 comedy Teen Wolf.  This was the main reason I was excited to come to the drive-in on Friday night before we knew about the power outage.  I grew up with this movie, and with the Saturday morning cartoon series that was based on the movie.

Finally, the night ended with the movie that based on the Stephen King novella that Louie gave us a dramatic reading on on Friday night.  The novella is called Cycle Of The Werewolf, but the movie adaptation that hit screens three years later is called Silver Bullet.  This weekend was my first experience with the book and the movie.  There are quite a few differences between the two, but I found both to be very enjoyable.  Gary Busey as a drunken uncle with a heart of gold is just about the most perfect casting I've ever seen, and he did a fantastic job in the role, as did Corey Haim (despite the fact that I thought it was Ben Savage, even though he would have been far too young for the role back in 1985).

The sun began to rise during the final scene of Silver Bullet, making this a true dusk-til-dawn experience.

I honestly didn't expect that I was going to be able to stay up for all four movies, but somehow I did, and I managed to do it without any coffee or energy drinks... just a whole lot of Coke Zero Starlight.  There's going to be a retro toy market, followed by a screening of Pee Wee's Big Adventure on Sunday night at the Mahoning.  I'll be operating on just a few hours sleep, but I'll be there!

Jun 3, 2023

Submitted For The Approval Of The Mahoning Society...

Werewolf Weekend Night One
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Sometimes things don't go according to plan, but then they turn into something pretty awesome that wouldn't have existed otherwise.  That was the case last night at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

Night One of Werewolf Weekend was supposed to be a double feature of the 1985 comedy Teen Wolf and the 1985 horror flick Silver Bullet.  As we were driving to the theater, we noticed that the traffic light on Route 443 before we come to Seneca Road was out.  I thought that was odd, but hey, screws fall out all the time... the world's an imperfect place, right?  Soon afterward, we got in line at the front gate and turned on the radio to 89.3 FM, but there was no music.  Ok... no big deal... maybe the person DJing that night got stuck in traffic, or maybe there was some issue with the equipment.  It happens.  However, we learned that these two things were related when Dave checked us in.

I'm not sure if there was a lightning strike or if the wind caused the damage, but at around 5:00 pm, several power lines fell which caused a brush fire and a power outage to the entire area.  Some of the folks we talked to on the lot told us that they saw blue flames erupting from one of the poles or possibly from the transformer.  Whatever the case was, the result was the same - there was no power at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, and there was a good chance that last night's double feature wasn't going to happen.

What happened on the lot was the perfect illustration of why I love this place as much as I do.  Just about any other business in this situation would have probably put a closed sign on the front door, issued refunds, and called it a night.  Instead, they hung in until 10:00 pm in the hopes that the power would come back on and we'd still be able to enjoy the double feature.

JT and his brother built an incredible photo op on the stage outside the concession building, and they rounded up some cars to point their headlights at the stage so that folks could get a picture with the werewolf.

I hope there are some silver bullets in this thing!

There were quite a few folks who stayed, and most of us spent the evening wandering around in the dark or hanging out in the concession building, stopping to chat with each other and pet the occasional dog.  It was generally just a bunch of people who like movies enjoying the vibe.

Unfortunately the power did not come back on, but the night turned into a unique experience that probably would not have happened in any other way.  Louie Sullivan, who is a longtime fan of the Mahoning and who recently began working at their merch table, brought along his copy of Stephen King's 1983 novella Cycle Of The Werewolf, which was adapted into a film that was meant to be the second half of last night's double feature, Silver Bullet.  So, he took to the stage while a bunch of us gathered around, and by the light of the full moon and the headlights of several vehicles, he read the entire book to us from cover to cover.

To just say that he read the book does Louie a disservice.  For over two hours, this dude told the story like we were all members of the Midnight Society, and he did the voices for all of its characters, including a brief but hilarious Nashville-Slovakian accent that only made the experience that much better.

So, what does this all mean for Werewolf Weekend?

It means that all four films will be played back-to-back-to-back-to-back in a massive Saturday night dusk-til-dawn quadruple feature.  Dude... four classic werewolf movies at a drive-in under the light of the full moon.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Jun 2, 2023

A Weird And Welcome Addition To My Wall

Weird Al Yankovic poster
FM Kirby Center - Wilkes Barre, PA
Last May, Weird Al Yankovic performed at the Kirby Center as a part of The Unfortunate Return Of The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  It's a pretty awesome tour in which Weird Al performed only the comedy songs from his albums that aren't parodies of popular songs.  We weren't able to make that night, but we did see one of the earlier shows on this tour.  It was on March 18th, 2018 at the American Music Theater in Lancaster, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.

My dad goes to Kirby Fest every year, and one of the things they do to raise money for the theater is to auction off memorabilia for the concerts and other events that they've had there over the past year.  This year, he won this autographed Weird Al poster and surprised me with it a couple of weeks ago as a present.  I've listen to and sang and laughed along with his songs since I was five years old, so having an autographed poster from the tour where I saw him perform live for the first time is pretty awesome.  My dad is a good dude!

Jun 1, 2023

My Spidey Senses Aren't Tingling

Spider-Verse Whopper
Burger King (2023)
In honor of tonight's premier of Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse premiering in theaters tonight, here is the limited edition Spider-Verse Whopper from Burger King that I had the opportunity to try a few weeks ago.  It was a non-meat day for me, but I was able to swap out the meat for an Impossible Whopper patty for a slight upcharge.  I'll give credit where it's due - the meatless version tastes pretty much the same as a regular Whopper.  I'm sure you could tell the difference between the two if you were eating the patties by themselves, but with the bun, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and condiments on top, they're virtually identical.

The Spider-Verse Whopper is made on a red bun that has black sesame seeds, and it's topped with Swiss cheese instead of American cheese.

Burger King has made a practice out of changing the color of their bun to make limited edition variations of their WhopperEight years ago, they released a Halloween Whopper with a black bun that was infused with A-1 Steak SauceFive years ago, they came up with the Nightmare Whopper, which had a green bun and had a chicken patty and bacon in additional to the traditional Whopper ingredients.  Last year, there was a Ghost Pepper Whopper, which included ghost pepper cheese, bacon, jalapenos and a cheese sauce on a bright orange bun.

Compared to the last few limited edition burgers they've released, the Spider-Verse Whopper isn't all that exciting.  The bright red bun is neat, but the cheese swap really isn't enough to make it taste any different from a regular Whopper.  Maybe if they added some kind of special Spidey Sauce would have helped distinguish this a bit more (maybe a spicy Buffalo sauce to make your spidey-senses tingle), but the only significant difference here is the way that it looks.  Go ahead and give it a shot if you find yourself at a Burger King while these are still available, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to try it or losing any sleep if you can't find one.

The crowns are pretty awesome though, so make sure to grab one of these before you go!