Aug 23, 2019

A Short Title About A Funny Product

Burrito Blanket
I love the idea, and I might have gotten one if not for the gimmicky nonsense that they use to try to sell them.

For starters, I bookmarked their ad three months ago.  At the time, there was a message warning me that I had better hurry because there's only five more left.  Also, the clock is ticking, because the sale will end in just a few minutes, after which the price goes back up to $89.95.  Sure enough, I clicked on it today and by an astonishing coincidence, there's only five in stock and a half hour left in the sale.  It's a bit hard to believe that this blanket won't fall apart when everything else they have to say about it is such obvious crap.  Then, there's the e-newsletter pitch on the website, which they have hilariously not changed from the template.
I don't know about you, but that short sentence that described what I'll receive by subscribing has really inspired me to start handing over my contact information.  Sorry, Team Burrito Blanket.  You've outsmarted yourselves.  I'll wait until they're at Dollar General for five bucks.

Aug 22, 2019

The True Mavericks Of Baseball

The Battered Bastards Of Baseball
Netflix (2014)
It's been a long time since I watched a baseball documentary that was as enjoyable as this.  This is the story of the independent Portland Mavericks of the Class A Northwest League.  The team was founded by actor Bing Russell in 1973 after the Portland Beavers moved to Spokane, Washington.

Unlike the majority of minor league clubs, the Mavericks were independent (not affiliated with a major league franchise), and the team was made up of players who weren't drafted and players who were released by other clubs, including the owner's son, actor Kurt Russell (1973, 1977) and Ball Four author Jim Bouton (1975, 1977).  Until they were forced out at the end of the 1977 season by Major League Baseball, they dominated the Northwest League, winning four division championships in the five year existence of the franchise.

It's a damn shame that the Mavericks had such a short run.  Had they been able to continue after the 1977 season, I'll bet that Bill "Spaceman" Lee would have felt perfectly at home on the mound pitching for Portland.  Even though the team is gone, I'm glad that the fun spirit of a team that played baseball for all the right reasons has been captured and preserved in this documentary.

Aug 21, 2019

The Home Of The Future

Futuro House (1968)
Futuro Corporation - Philadelphia, PA
The UFO building that was used in the Star Trek, Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back attraction at Morey's Pier in the late 70's and early 80's was designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen.  The Futuro Corporation created 96 of these beginning in 1968 with approximately 60 still in existence today.

Five years ago, the one that was used in the Wildwood ride was put up for sale on eBay for $29,900.  It was in Berlin, New Jersey at the time.  The seller shared this document with the dimensions of the fiberglass and plastic structure, as well as an original floor plan and publicity photos that show how it can be turned into a living space.

After the sale, the Futuro House was transported to 390 Hancock Harbor Road in Greenwich, NJ.  Five months ago, photographer Jeff Heilman shared a short video of the inside and outside of the structure.  Sadly, it has not been turned into a home, but it's been preserved and remains an attraction in New Jersey.

For more information on the former Wildwood attraction and the remaining structures, check out  They do an excellent job keeping track of the remaining Futuro Houses with photos and videos of each of them that are still known to be in existence.

Aug 20, 2019

The Boardwalk Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back: The Ride (1980)
Morey's Pier - Wildwood, NJ
The Star Wars ride was updated after the release of The Empire Strikes Back in the spring of 1980.  The spaceship, which had been white in the days of the Star Trek and Star Wars ride, had been painted like the Millennium Falcon, and the mountain on the right was turned into a massive Darth Vader helmet (photo credit: James Ippoliti).

After the ride closed, the UFO portion was moved to Berlin, New Jersey.  In 2014, it was put up for sale on eBay as a Futuro Home.

Aug 19, 2019

Star Wars At The Seashore

Star Wars: The Ride (1978)
Morey's Pier - Wildwood, NJ
This incredible photo (above) was shared by Lack Emeyer whose father recently scanned a collection of slides from the late 70's.  The ride debuted on the Wildwood boardwalk in 1975 and was originally called "Star Trek: Journey To The Planet Of The Apes" and was converted for the summer of 1978 when the world was in the grip of Star Wars fever.

The photo from shows the mountain on the right of the ride's entrance.  This would later become Darth Vader's mask when the ride was converted for the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Aug 18, 2019

Captain Kirk and Dr. Zaius Go To Wildwood

Star Trek: Journey To The Planet Of The Apes (1975)
Morey's Pier - Wildwood, NJ
In 1975, vacationers to the Wildwood boardwalk were treated to an incredible sci-fi crossover experience.  The ride was created by Fred Mahana with the UFO portion created from a 1968 Futuro prefabricated home.  It was described by Wildwood Video Archive as "a one-of-a-kind attraction which allowed riders to travel through space until their ride was cut short by apes who would attack the crew".

The ride would continue for three years until it was converted into a Star Wars themed attraction for the summer of 1978.

Photo Credit: Wildwood Video Archive

Aug 17, 2019

A Year Of Unlimited Movies

A Year Of Unlimited Movies
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
I love movies, but it's not often that I go to the theater.  All the movie trailers tend to look the same, so they don't usually inspire me to take a chance on dropping $12 on a film that I may not like.  The Regal Unlimited subscription provides the freedom to check out a movie that you may not have heard of without the risk of feeling like you've wasted your money.  In fact, it does the opposite - it inspires you to go see more movies to get your money's worth from the subscription.  That's not hard to do at $18 a month because the subscription pays for itself if you see two movies a month.

Aug 16, 2019

The Moment...

Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies (2019)
This is the moment that every kid who has ever played little league has fantasized about - bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth - two strikes - and here's the pitch...

Last night, Bryce Harper lived that moment.  The Phillies were down 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth.  Harper stepped up to the plate and smashed a second deck grand slam that became an iconic moment in the history of Philadelphia the second the bat made contact.  With this win, the Phillies have just swept the Chicago Cubs and remain undefeated since Charlie Manuel returned to the team as the hitting coach.

This may be the moment when the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies turned it all around.  Just watch.  It's a thing of beauty.

Aug 15, 2019

A Moment In Time That Will Never Be Equaled

Woodstock Music and Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition
Max Yasgur's Dairy Farm - Bethel, NY
August 15 - 18, 1969
Fifty years ago today at 5:07 pm, Richie Havens took the stage and played the first notes at what would become the most iconic gathering in the history of music.

Starting at 5:07 pm today, Philadelphia's WXPN Radio will broadcast the reconstructed audio archive of the concert.  Every moment of audio recording that exists today - the concerts, the announcements, everything - will be shared in as close to real-time as possible.  If you live in or around Philadelphia, you can listen to it at 88.5 FM.  If you live out of the area, you will be able to stream Woodstock for free on your PC or via their mobile app, available on Google Play and the Apple Store.  The schedule is below.  Stop in and experience a moment of peace, love and music.

Thursday, August 15
5:07 pm — Richie Havens
7:10 pm — Swami Satchidanadna
7:30 pm — Sweetwater
8:30 pm — Bert Sommer
9:20 pm — Tim Hardin
10:20 pm — Ravi Shankar
11:20 pm — Melanie
11:55 pm — Arlo Guthrie

Friday, August 16
12:55 am — Joan Baez
12:30 pm — Quill
1:20 pm — Country Joe McDonald
2:00 pm — Santana
3:30 pm — John B. Sebastian
4:45 pm — The Keef Hartley Band
6:00 pm — The Incredible String Band
7:30 pm — Canned Heat
9:00 pm — Mountain
10:30 pm — Grateful Dead

Saturday, August 17
12:30 am — Creedence Clearwater Revival
2:00 am — Janis Joplin
3:30 am — Sly & The Family Stone
5:00 am — The Who
8:00 am — Jefferson Airplane
2:00 pm — Joe Cocker
6:30 pm — Country Joe & The Fish
8:15 pm — Ten Years After
10:00 pm — The Band

Sunday, August 18
12:00 am — Johnny Winter
1:30 am — Blood, Sweat & Tears
3:00 am — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
6:00 am — The Butterfield Blues Band
7:30 am — Sha Na Na
9:00 am — Jimi Hendrix

Aug 14, 2019

Cole Comes Home

Cole Hamels
Chicago Cubs (2019)
Cole Hamels returned to Citizens Bank Park for the first time since he was traded on July 31st, 2015.  The last time he took the mound in Philadelphia, he was pitching against the Chicago Cubs, and in his last start as a member of the Phillies, he threw a no-hitter.

Today, he took the mound for the Cubs against the Phillies, and he did so wearing a DLM patch in tribute to Phillies president David Montgomery, who passed away in May.

Phillies fans in attendance gave Cole Hamels a standing ovation in his return to Philadelphia, both when he took the mound and in his first at bat.  He may be a member of the Cubs this season, but Cole Hamels will always be a loved and respected icon in Philadelphia.  He will become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season, and nothing would make me happier than to have the Phillies sign him so that he can end his career where it began.

Tonight's game was also the first official game with Charlie Manuel as the hitting coach, and the team wasted no time in declaring the start of hitting season.  Cole had a warm reception from the fans, but the Phillies offense welcomed him by scoring 8 runs off of the left hander, knocking him out of the game with no outs in the third inning.  He was relieved by Alec Mills.  The offense wasted no time in loading the bases to set up J.T. Realmuto to hit a grand slam that gave the Phillies a 10 - 0 lead.  As Realmuto rounded the bases, the fans in attendance chanted Char-lie, Char-lie in what may have been the first standing ovation and chant for a hitting coach in the history of baseball.

It's been a rough season, but damn...  I love this team.

Aug 13, 2019

Welcome Back, Uncle Charlie

The greatest manager in franchise history is back... as the hitting coach.  Charlie Manuel led the Phillies to five straight NL East Championship seasons from 2007 to 2011, which included a National League Championship in 2008 - 2009 and a World Series Championship in 2008.  He was abruptly (and unjustly) let go on August 16, 2013.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the 75 year old was the last successful manager the Phillies have had, present company included.

Charlie will take over for John Mallee who has been relieved of his duties, and not a moment too soon.

Aug 12, 2019

Wakey Flakies

The Dick Van Dyke Show
CBS (1961-1966)
Wakey Flakies were used on a variety of shows back in the 50's and 60's.  They weren't a real product, but they really should be.

Aug 11, 2019

Applesauce!! Applesauce!!

Wheel Of Fortune
ShareData Inc. (1987)
Retroist recently shared this photo of the old Wheel Of Fortune game running on a Tandy 1000 at the Living Computers museum in Seattle.  Seeing it brought back a pleasant memory of my maternal grandmother.

When I was six years old, Mom Mom had a Tandy in her home office with three games on floppy disk: Shanghai, Police Quest and Wheel of Fortune.  We played all three of them frequently when I went over to their house, but Wheel of Fortune was the one that we played the most.  There are two things that I remember best about this game.

  1. Vanna White took forever to cross the stage and reveal the letters (check out this video of the game in action).
  2. When you solved the puzzle, the bottom of the screen would read "Applause!!  Applause!!"  The first time I saw this at six years old, I read it out loud as "Applesauce!!  Applesauce!!"  Through her chuckles, Mom Mom corrected me, and I still remember it 33 years later.  Who says video games can't be educational?

Aug 10, 2019

Nice Start, Corey

Exactly two months ago today, newcomer Jay Bruce was named Player Of The Week in his first week in Philadelphia.  Corey Dickerson is well on his way to being the second member of the Phillies to earn that distinction in 2019.

Aug 9, 2019

I've Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Impossible Whopper
Burger King (2019)
Earlier this year, I had Impossible Meat when I tried the Questlove Cheesesteak at Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day.  It was good, and it made a without meat that tasted more or less like a regular cheesesteak at the ballpark.

The Impossible Whopper is more of the same.  It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, and when you put it on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and condiments, it's not much different from a regular Whopper.  The main difference I noticed is that it doesn't smell like a Burger King hamburger.

The Impossible Whopper patty - complete with flame-grilled marks.

It's cool that they make it, and I hope that it helps out vegetarians who have been craving a Whopper, but unless they suddenly become less expensive than a traditional Whopper and I'm strapped for cash, I think this will be my last Impossible Whopper.

On a side note: maybe it's just me, but the Impossible Whopper logo reminds me of an upside down German flag.

Ich bin ein hamburger

Aug 8, 2019

Ice Cold Soda On A Hot Summer Day

Early 80's Soda
These are what soda cans looked like in the early 1980's when I was a kid.  I don't ever remember seeing Brownie Chocolate Drink, but it was still sold in stores as late as 2007.  You can see it in this photo at the top right hand corner beneath the Tab cola.

Aug 7, 2019

Anybody Order Fried Sauerkraut?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
Quentin Tarantino has been my favorite director since I first saw Pulp Fiction when I was 14 years old, but when I heard he was writing a movie about the Manson Family murders, I wasn't sure what to think.  I hate when I see pop culture glorify Charlie Manson.  He was a douchebag, his "family" are douchebags, and the jackasses who try to be edgy by wearing Manson shirts are douchebags.  I love blood and guts horror flicks as much as the next weirdo, but cheering on Michael Myers in a fictitious world and glorifying a piece of trash who orchestrated the murder of innocent people are two very different things, and it's not cool that so many people are comfortable crossing that line.  I'm happy to say that after seeing this movie, I feel like Mr. Tarantino might agree with me.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood comes from the Inglourious Basterds side of the director's brain, and it's absolutely brilliant.  The commercial jingles and vintage product and pop culture imagery are about as subtle as a flamethrower, but the over-the-top immersion in 1969 Hollywood is perfect.  Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are as fantastic as they always are, and the final scene of the movie is the most satisfying and enjoyable thing I've seen in any film since Donny Donowitz introduced Werner Rachtman to baseball.

Aug 6, 2019

Aye Matey

Treasure Chest
Long John Silver's (1986)
McDonald's may have had the best toys, but Long John's had pretty awesome boxes for their kids meal back in the day.  If they bring these back and come up with some gimmick where they have pirate treasure coins that have different characters every month or two, I'll bet kids would start bugging their parents to have fish for dinner to collect them all.

Aug 5, 2019

Slaying The Competition

Check out NXT Women's Champion Shayna Bazler rockin' the Slayer shirt this past Wednesday.

Aug 4, 2019

The Fight Of The Century

Chicago White Sox @ Texas Rangers
August 4, 1993 - Arlington, TX
I have seen a lot of fights on a baseball field in my life, but there's only one that I can remember with crystal clarity.  In fact, I think it's safe to say that no one who saw Robin Ventura charge the mound on Nolan Ryan 26 years ago will ever forget it.

Nolan Ryan had announced at the start of the year that he would retire at the end of the 1993 season, capping off a career that spanned four decades.  Take a moment to think about that.  His major league debut was in 1966 - three years before man walked on the moon.  When he threw his final pitch, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was available for the Nintendo Game Boy - a handheld system that contained more sophisticated hardware than the NASA computers used to launch the Apollo 11 mission that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the lunar surface.

The pitching legend was 46 years old on August 4th, 1993 when he took the mound against the Chicago White Sox.  In the top of the third inning, Nolan Ryan pitched inside to White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura and hit him in the back.  Before I go any further, it should be noted that Ventura was 26 years old at the time - twenty years younger than Nolan Ryan.  To put this another way, Ryan made his major league debut for the New York Mets 306 days before Ventura was born.

After he was hit by the pitch, Robin Ventura stepped out of the batters box.  He appeared to think about the situation for a few seconds before charging the mound to fight the future Hall of Famer.  Ryan responded by grabbing Ventura in a headlock and clocking him on the head six times before landing an upercut to the jaw.  To add insult to injury (literally), Ventura was ejected from the game, but Ryan was not.  To add further insult to injury, Ryan pitched seven innings and didn't give up another hit for the rest of the game.  He picked up the win, with closer Tom Henke getting the save.

Dad and I were in the living room watching the Phillies vs the Braves at the time.  TBS cut into the game to show the highlights of the fight as soon as it happened.  I then ran into my bedroom, popped a tape in the VCR and set it to record ESPN Baseball Tonight.  Not long ago, I came across the tape, converted it and uploaded it to YouTube (hopefully they won't take it down).  The game was still in progress in the 7th inning when this episode of Baseball Tonight aired, and it captures the moment and the immediate reactions to what remains to this day as one of the most memorable fights to ever happen in the history of the sport.

Aug 3, 2019

The Turnbow NES Arcade Cabinet

The photo on the left has been making the rounds across Reddit and social media for a few years, and I wanted to learn more about it.  Unfortunately, most of the places where it was posted didn't bother to give a source, and a few seemed as if they were tying to pass it off as their own work.  After a bit of searching, I found the person who built this very impressive Nintendo home arcade cabinet.

This NES arcade cabinet was built in the late 80's by a 13 year old gamer named Will Turnbow in the summer between 7th and 8th grade.  It has a 19" CRT television as the monitor with two NES Advantage joysticks and places to hold two traditional controllers and two NES Max controllers (my weapon of choice back in the summer of '89).  The bottom of the cabinet has an open area to hold three stacks of NES cartridges, and the sides have built in cupholders and slots to store tip books and gaming magazines.  After he finished the cabinet, Will sent a letter to Nintendo Power with a photo, which was published in the July/August 1989 issue.

It's absolutely incredible work, and from what Mr. Turnbow wrote in his blog, it has held up well with age and is still functional today.  If I ever manage to turn one of the garage stalls into an arcade, I'd like to attempt to build a similar cabinet.

Aug 2, 2019

Ghosts Of Burgers Past

Abandoned Burger King
Governors Island - New York City, NY
For 30 years, Governors Island was the largest United States Coast Guard installation.  It was a self-contained residential community that had a population of about 3,000.  It was decommissioned as a military base in 1996 and opened for public use in 2005.

While it was still in service for the Coast Guard, the island had the only Burger King in the country that served beer.  It was in building 785 along with a bowling alley, and it remained unchanged from the day it opened.  Photographer Andrew Moore took this photo of the abandoned restaurant in all of its 80's glory before it was torn down.

Aug 1, 2019

Eight Men In

The MLB trade deadline passed at 4:00 yesterday afternoon.  While they didn't make any flashy or headline grabbing trades, the Phillies managed to acquire eight players in July without giving up any of their prospects, and several of them have the potential to be significant upgrades.

So far, the main addition has been Drew Smyly.  He silenced a lot of his critics when he struck out 8 in a six inning start against the Pirates.  That night, he walked two batters and only gave up a single run.  Two nights ago in his second start, he pitched seven shutout innings against the Giants.  He struck out five and walked just one.  Not too bad for a guy we signed after he opted out of his minor league contract with the Brewers.

Joining Smyly in the rotation is Jason Vargas, who we acquired in a trade with the Mets on July 29th.  Like the Smyly signing, most of the fan reaction I saw to this trade had a negative tone, and once again, I disagree with the pessimism.  While he's 36 years old and not the ace that fans hoped we'd acquire, he's only two years removed from an All-Star season with Kansas City in which he finished with 18 wins.  He's a solid lefty in the rotation, and his performance for the Mets so far this season has been better than Pivetta, Eflin and Velasquez has been, and his ERA is significantly lower than Arrieta.  Again, it's not a trade that's going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but it's a very smart move.  He represents a significant upgrade to the rotation, and it only cost a 26 year old minor league catcher who was batting .195 in Reading and who is a longshot to make the major leagues at all.

The Phillies grabbed a pair of right handed relievers from the Minnesota Twins to help fill in for the many injuries to the bullpen.  The first came on July 20th when they acquired Mike Morin for cash considerations.  The second arrived ten days later when the Phillies signed Blake Parker, who opted out of a minor league assignment with the Twins to become a free agent.  While they don't have quite the same upside as Smyly or Vargas, they are definitely needed.  The Phillies lost all three of their veteran relievers for the season to injury, and we just learned that David Robertson may be out for all of next year if he goes for Tommy John surgery.

This trade with the Pirates happened at the deadline yesterday, and while I'm happy with the deal, I'm also a bit concerned.  Like Vargas, Corey Dickerson was an All Star in 2017 when he hit .282 with 27 home runs as the left fielder of the Tampa Bay Rays.  He was traded to the Pirates before the 2018 season where his success continued.  He finished last season with a .300 batting average and won the Gold Glove.  He was hurt earlier in the season, but he seems to have bounced back since coming off of of the IL, and all we're sending the Pirates in return is international bonus allotments and a player to be named later.

My concerns are not at all with Corey.  He's a solid and dependable bat, and he bats left handed.  I'm glad to have him on the Phillies.  However, I am a bit curious to know why the Phillies felt that they needed another corner outfielder.  Does this mean that the Jay Bruce injury may be more serious than expected, or is this a move to deepen our bench?  I'm hoping that it's the latter.

The final three new faces for July 2019 have been added for depth in the minors, and you might notice right off the bat that one of those faces looks less than happy.  Logan Morrison (left) opted out of a minor league contract with the Yankees and signed with the Phillies for a chance to return to the Major Leagues.  As you can probably guess by the Iron Pigs logo on his cap, that hasn't happened yet.  Like Dickerson, Logan was a member of the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays.  He hit 38 home runs that year, and he's been doing well this year with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders.  His primary position is first base, but he also plays left field, and I can imagine that watching the Phillies promote Nick Williams and trade for Corey Dickerson instead of promoting him hasn't improved his mood.

José Pirela (center) was acquired from the Padres for cash considerations.  He's a dependable utility player who has spent time everywhere except catcher, shortstop and center field.  Pirela has only appeared in two games at the major league level this season, but he's had a very productive season at Triple A with the El Paso Chihuahuas, batting .353 with 18 home runs.  I would imagine he'd be the first to be called up to Philadelphia if someone gets hurt.

The final trade of the 2019 season was made just a few minutes before the deadline.  The Phillies acquired right handed pitcher Dan Straily (right) from the Baltimore Orioles for cash.  He finished 4th in the voting for the 2013 AL Rookie Of The Year when he pitched for the Oakland A's, but to be very honest, he hasn't inspired a lot of confidence since then.  Like Morrison and Pirela, he's been assigned to Lehigh Valley.  I don't expect to see him in Philadelphia unless someone gets hurt, but the way this season has been going, that's a distinct possibility.

All things considered, the Phillies have increased their chances at a playoff run, and they did it without losing their top prospects.  Actually, they did it without losing anyone that they could potentially use in a trade this winter to prepare for the 2020 season.  Whether or not it's enough to win a Wild Card spot is debatable, but they improved the team without risking the future.  I'll take it.

Jul 31, 2019

A Square Meal From A Shady Place

Shady Maple Smorgasbord
East Earl, PA
I've heard about this restaurant for years, but I hadn't been here until this past Saturday.  The people who told me about this place said that it was huge, but nothing could have prepared me for just how large it is.  At first, I thought Google Maps had brought me to the wrong place, because the building looked like a megachurch or an arena.  It's neither of those things, but it is the largest buffet in the United States.

Not only was the place massively huge, but it was jam packed.  The line to pay to get in was about 15 minutes, and it was a longer wait in an even larger line to get a table.  It wasn't for a lack of tables or staff either.  There were hundreds of tables, and the employees had a table cleaned and a new family seated there at a speed that would have impressed the pit crew at a race track.  However, it was definitely worth the wait.

I didn't take photos of the buffet area, but it was massive.  There were stations where New York strip steaks were being grilled up alongside thick, juicy hamburgers.  This wasn't far from fresh grilled Cajun catfish and salmon station, and right in front of buffet tables that included crab cakes, fried chicken, turkey, potato stuffing, pierogies, roast beef, pork barbecue, and tons of other meats and vegetables from local Amish and Mennonite farms.  One of my favorite foods were the ham balls.  You can see one in the photo at the upper left - it's the big meatball-looking thing at the center right, next to the pierogies.

The drink options were almost as impressive as the food.  They had everything you could think of with multiple options for soda, milk, juice, coffee (hot and iced).  They even had an Icee Machine.  I had a strawberry banana kiwi juice that tasted like Snapple.  There were plenty of desserts too, but I didn't make it that far.  After these two very large plates of food, there was no room for anything else.  I can't eat the way I used to.

Afterwards, we went downstairs to the gift shop.  I was picturing a cash register with some postcards, t-shirts, magnets, and maybe some keychains.  What we found was a ridiculously huge department store that sold just about everything you could think of.  Seriously, it was larger than Boscov's.  There was at least a dozen toy aisles alone, and it wasn't little drug store toys - they were the types of toys you'd find at a Toys R Us, if they were still around.  I'm trying to be more careful with money, so I didn't buy anything, but this little guy was my favorite.

All in all, this place left me feeling blown away.  My grandparents would have loved it - especially my grandfather.  I wish I could have brought him here.  I could only imagine how he would have reacted to all of this food.  My grandmother would have enjoyed it too, particularly the store, but I doubt she could have been convinced to sit that long in a car unless there was a casino involved.  As for myself, I will definitely make it back here any time I'm in Lancaster County.

Jul 30, 2019

Hearts In Aquarius

Heart - Sheryl Crow - Elle King
Love Alive Tour
Bethel Woods Center For The Arts - Bethel, NY
This was a very interesting tour.  An icon of rock & roll from the 70's and 80's headlining with an icon of the 90's and 2000's, and with a modern star opening.

The only thing I knew about Elle King coming into this show was that she's Rob Schneider's daughter and she has a lot of tattoos.  If I'm being honest, her music is not my cup of tea.  It's a little bit more country than rock & roll, and country isn't my genre.  The lyrics came across as a bit too much like a one-of-the-boys or "bad girl" cliché, and her voice has a squeaky, clipped sound that I found to be unpleasant.  I feel like she's trying to be Janis Joplin, but it comes across sounding like what I'd imagine Cyndi Lauper would sound like if she tried to sing with her jaw wired shut.  I know that sounds mean, so I'll give her benefit of the doubt and just say that her music is not part of my generation, so it didn't speak to me.  On a more positive note, she performed one of her hits that I did recognize called Ex's & Oh's, which I enjoyed.

Sheryl Crow was awesome and hasn't missed a beat since I first played Tuesday Night Music Club when I was 13 years old.  On a side note, I still wonder why MTV edited out the "Billy" character from the music video for All I Wanna Do.  She opened with A Change Would Do You Good, All I Wanna Do and My Favorite Mistake.  Then she did a couple of songs from her eleventh album, Threads, which is due to be released at the end of August.  She mentioned that Stevie Nicks sings with her on the second of the new tracks that she performed, and that she tried to sing Stevie's parts in her voice.  After these two songs, she went right back to performing six of her biggest hits, including Leaving Las Vegas as closing with my favorite of her songs, Everyday Is A Winding Road.

This was the fifth time I got to see an artist who has a James Bond theme song on their resume.  The other four were Chris Cornell (You Know My Name), Garbage (The World Is Not Enough), Duran Duran (A View To A Kill), and A-Ha (The Living Daylights).  Each of these four performed their Bond song at the show, but I wasn't lucky enough to make it a perfect 5 for 5 because Sheryl Crow did not sing Tomorrow Never Dies on her set.  I didn't really expect her to, so it wasn't too disappointing.  Besides, it's kind of impossible to be disappointed when one of your favorite artists beautifully performs a ton of hits that you've listened to for over half of your life.

Heart was equally phenomenal.  Ann Wilson has one of the most powerful and distinct voices in all of rock & roll, and it was fully on display.  What About Love sounded just as amazing as it has for the past 30 odd years since it first hit the radio.  However, the highlight for me came about a third of the way through their set when they performed my favorite Heart song, These Dreams.  The song is special to me.  It's for a strange reason that I can't fully explain, but I'll try.  The brain is a funny thing.  Sometimes, two completely different things can become tied together in your mind forever.  For example, every time I eat Royal Dansk butter cookies, I think of the Sega Master System (and vice versa).  Every time I hear These Dreams, I picture myself at six years old laying on my grandmother's living room floor looking at my Garbage Pail Kids stickers.  I've forgotten a million things over the years, but that moment in my childhood has somehow burned into my brain's long term storage.  I closed my eyes for a second at the show while they were playing this song and I could picture it, crystal clear.  It's a beautiful song, and I fully acknowledge that it's strange association, but These Dreams will always touch my heart because it reminds me of a much simpler time.

Their set included a few unexpected cover songs.  Right before These Dreams, the Wilson sisters performed a soulful rock version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, followed by a beautiful cover of one of my favorite songs of all time - The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel.  Later in the night, they began their encore with an incredibly haunting rendition of Stairway To Heaven.  After this, the ladies ended the night with two of their biggest hits (and two of my favorites): Alone and Barracuda.