May 31, 2017

Get Your Spinners Here (no refunds)

Fidget Spinners
Hometown Farmers Market - Tamaqua, PA
If an alien landed from outer space and wanted to quickly find out what toy happened to be trendy at the time, he or she should land their UFO at the Hometown Farmers Market.  Whatever the hot toy happens to be, there will be about 200 vendors selling bootleg versions of it.  When I was a kid, it was plastic bell clip charms and slap bracelets.  Today, it's Fidget Spinners... or Krazy Spinners... or Kool Spinners.

May 30, 2017

The Big Train's Last Run

Walter Johnson
1973 Topps - Card #476
Ninety years ago today, Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson pitched a three hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox in his first game of the 1927 season.  It was the 110th and final complete game shutout of his career, which is a MLB career record that isn't likely to ever be broken.

I'm not sure why this 1973 Topps card has him listed with 113 career shutouts.  I thought they might have been combining his post-season totals, but he only had one, Game 4 of the 1925 World Series, so it must be an error on the card.  Either way, he's in first place by a mile in the career shutouts list, and with modern pitch counts and bullpen usage, I strongly doubt that anyone will ever come within 50 of Johnson's total, let alone break his record.

May 29, 2017

By The Power Invested In Me, I Pronounce Us Ready To Eat

Sister Act
Buena Vista (1992)
One of the most fun and entertaining comedies of the 90's was released in theaters 25 years ago today.  It's not a movie that I think to watch very often, but it never fails to put a smile on my face every time I see it.

May 28, 2017

A Rough Start

There have been a few reasons for optimism, but far more causes for concern this season.  On one hand, Tommy Joseph, who has had two walk-off hits in three days.  However, the Phillies have lost nine consecutive series, which is their longest series losing streak since they lost ten in 1997.  A big part of this has been the fact that Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are both batting under .220.  After their loss to the Reds this afternoon in which Zach Eflin gave up four home runs, the Phils are 17-31.

May 27, 2017

Art Thou A Descendant Of Erdrick?

Dragon Quest
Enix (1986)
One of the most influential video games in the history of the industry was released for the Famicom in Japan 31 years ago today.  Although it wasn't the first role playing game to appear on a home computer or console, Dragon Quest laid the groundwork for many of the concepts that are widely used in JRPG gaming to this day.

We didn't get the game here in the States for another three years.  When it was finally released for the NES in August 1989, the name of the game was changed to Dragon Warrior.  I was nine years old at the time, and I had been reading about it for months in Nintendo Power before I played it for the first time on Easter Sunday in 1990.  I was going through a rough period in my life that I'm still trying to understand almost 30 years later, but no matter what else was going on, I always had a smile on my face while I was playing Dragon Warrior.

I was living with my maternal grandparents in Beaver Meadows in the spring of 1990.  My bedroom was in the attic.  When you came down the attic stairs, you were in a small room that had a closet.  There was a hallway that led to my grandparents bedroom and a small bathroom with no shower, and a door to another bedroom that was parallel to the stairs that led to the first floor.  It wasn't a big room at all, but my grandmother had it set up with a desk, a chair, and an old console television with a Nintendo hooked up to it.  We spent hours in that room playing Dragon Warrior.  The picture tube on the tv eventually blew, so my other grandparents gave me an even older black and white television that they've had up in their attic since the 60's.  We plopped it right on top of the broken console tv, and somehow my grandfather managed to chain together enough wires to hook the Nintendo up to it.  After a few months (much of which was my grandmother leveling up our character to a ridiculous degree), we finished the game and saw the ending in glorious monochrome on a television that was built before the moon landing.

May 26, 2017

A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles (1967)
One of the greatest and most influential rock albums of all-time was released fifty years ago today.  I wasn't born for another 13 years, but when I read about the transitional time that was 1967, I picture a massive traffic jam of art and culture and ideas all collecting behind a traffic light.  Things were most definitely happening, but everything was about to get amplified.  The release of Sgt. Pepper was the moment when the traffic light turned from red to green, and the flood of moment that followed became the Summer Of Love, after which the world would never be the same.

Every song on this record is amazing.  Set aside 40 minutes of your day today to put on a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and be fully present for some of the most incredible music ever recorded.

May 25, 2017

A Gourmet Bacon Cheeseburger

Gourmet Burger
Ollie's RestaurantWest Side Mall - Edwardsville, PA
The photo doesn't do justice to the meal.  This was a very tasty cheeseburger with thick bacon and lots of cheese.  The size of the bun makes the burger look smaller than it is, but I'm a big eater and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Old Bay seasoning for the fries was another nice touch that gave my dinner a Chickie & Pete's flavor.

May 24, 2017

Luchador Nerds Win The Title

Our new Lucha Grande Nerds won the National Confectioners Association award for the most innovative new sweet snack.  Take that, Mil M├íscaras!

May 23, 2017

The Loss Of A Pure Soul

Margie Stufflebean
December 29, 1980 - March 15, 2017
This hurts.  This hurts a lot.  I know that there's nothing I could ever write on here that is worthy of paying the proper honor and respect to her life and her memory.  Certainly, there were many who knew her much better than I did, but I will do my best.

Although I knew who she was prior to meeting her, Margie and I first met and became friends in February 1997.  We were 16 years old at the time.  She immediately struck me as genuine and authentic.  When you talked to Margie, you got the real Margie, whether you were her closest friend or a stranger saying hello at a coffee shop.  She had gone though more hell than I could ever imagine a single person going through in her childhood, and still she had a smile on her face and nothing but pure kindness in her heart and in her words and actions towards others; even those who didn't deserve it.

When I had no one to turn to, Margie was there.  When I was at my lowest point, Margie was there.  She was honest, but never judgmental.  Warm, but never condescending.  She was one of the true genuinely good people I have had the privilege to know.

I lost touch with Margie when I moved to Nebraska in 2002.  By the time I came back to Pennsylvania, she had moved.  I bumped into her a few times in the years that followed.  The last time I saw her was when I bumped into her randomly at college in 2008.  I didn't even know she was on campus.  I was headed to class and didn't want to be late, and she was headed somewhere else, so we didn't really have time for more than a quick hug and a hello.  We talked a few times though MySpace,  but we never had the chance to hang out again.  I guess I thought there would always be time for us to catch up, maybe have a cup of coffee and talk about old times when we were staying with Tina in Ebervale, or when we'd play Metroid on the tv in her mom's living room, or when she would come visit me at my apartment in Beaver Meadows and we'd play Karate Champ on the old, beat up arcade machine that I used to have, or when she was my next door neighbor in Barnesville.  We always think there's going to be more time.  Few of us ever can recognize the last time we see a sunrise.

There was a lot more to Margie than what I've written here, but I don't know how to put it into words.  Suffice to say that she had a lot of demons from her past, and absolutely none of them were her fault.  She wanted to trust people and believe that people were good, and there were plenty of people who were anything but good to her.

I don't know what possessed me to look her up yesterday, but I did, and I found her obituary.  She left Pennsylvania at some point after 2008 and ended up living in Lawton, Oklahoma.  She died on March 15th.  She was only 36 years old.

God damn it... she deserved more than what this life had to give her.  I love you, and I miss you, and I wish I hadn't always been so wrapped up in my own bullshit and could have been there for you as much as you were always there for me.  I wish I hadn't lost touch with you.  I wish I could have been a better friend to you.  I'm sorry.

May 22, 2017

A Refreshing Barbecue Sauce Candy Bar

Texas BBQ Payday
Hershey (2017)
I don't know what member of Hershey's product development team came up with this, but I want to keep them on retainer as my personal lawyer.  I don't care if they don't have a law background.  If they managed to convince a billion dollar food company into making a candy bar out of peanuts, caramel and barbecue sauce, they can argue their way out of anything.

It's actually not as bad as it sounds.  I wouldn't say that it's good, but the fact that it's not disgusting is quite an accomplishment.

May 21, 2017

Finds From The Flea Market

Garden Drive-In Flea Market
Hunlock Creek, PA
I've found some pretty cool things here over the years.  Here's a random assortment of things that were available for sale today.

This poster of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (both Jewish!) was apparently sold by the American Gallery of Art and is framed behind real picture glass.  I think it's from the 1979 release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I'm far from a Trek expert.  I will say that it's not the greatest photo they could have used.  It looks like they took a sticker from one of those old Panini albums and blew it up to poster size.

I think every boy in America had a Starline poster hanging on their wall in the 80's.  These ones of Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan are from 1988.  They look like the kind of thing you could win at one of the Bloomsburg Fair carnival games.

I've worked for Nestle since 2011 and I've never heard of this product before.  After doing a little research, I learned that the Coffee-mate Latte Creations line was discontinued in May 2007.  So, even if this was the last one to come off of the production line, this powdered creamer is ten years old.  I don't know if the vendor found it in their cupboards this morning and decided they were sick of looking at it, or if it's been schlepped from one flea market to the next and brought out to sit in the hot sun once a week for the past ten years.  Either way, it doesn't sound like a promising addition to my morning coffee.

Good news!  Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are back from the moon, safe and sound.  You can read all about it, and god only knows what else, in this box of newspapers from 1969.

It was a pretty good day at the flea market for retro gaming.  There were more than a few stands that had a decent selection of Atari, Intellivision, NES and SNES games, and most of them were being sold at reasonable prices.

I ended up buying a big ziploc bag filled with loose Atari 2600 carts, a copy of Robotron: 2084, Tron: Solar Sailer and Lock 'N Chase complete in box, a few John Lennon and Beatles 45's, and a couple of old toys that I had when I was a kid.  Also, I couldn't pass up on the MC Hammer single for the song he recorded for The Addams Family soundtrack for a quarter.  Pretty good haul!

May 20, 2017

Maybe He'll Perform Summer Of '69

Um... exactly what service is Bryan Adams offering to my mom on June 13th?

May 19, 2017

Turnin' Back The Pages To The Times I Love Best

Gordon Lightfoot
Penn's Peak - Jim Thorpe, PA
I truly feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see one of my favorite musicians, and one of the most gifted singer and songwriters of all time perform - the great Gordon Lightfoot.

Unlike a lot of the music that I love, I never owned a Gordon Lightfoot album when I was growing up.  His singles weren't among the songs in the box of 45 records that my mother gave to me, which shaped a lot of my musical interests before Kindergarten.  When I bought CDs in the 90's, I gravitated toward grunge rock, punk, new wave and classic rock, so Mr. Lightfoot's music wasn't in the mix at that point either.  However, the music of Gordon Lightfoot has been a constant presence in the background throughout my life.  I couldn't tell you if I heard them on the radio, or if a member of my family played his records when I was in the room, but I knew his music and I knew it well.  The melody and lyrics of songs like Carefree Highway, Sundown and If You Could Read My Mind were burned into my memory.  I didn't know anything about the man who wrote and sang these beautiful songs, but I could sing along with most of the lyrics before I was out of elementary school.

It wasn't until the late 90's and early 2000's when the internet first became something that could be used for music that I learned about the man behind the music.  In the years that followed, I discovered more of his catalog, and every song had the same strong, but peaceful vibe that had a way of putting my mind at ease.  He's nearly 80 years old, so I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to see him perform.  When I saw he was coming to Jim Thorpe, seeing this show became one of my top priorities.

My seats for this show weren't the best.  I had Row A, Seat 1 which looked great when I was ordering the tickets, but it turned out that these seats were far off to the side where the restrooms are.  I'm not sure if the acoustics of Penn's Peak are wonky or if they're using a jet engine to run their bathroom hand dryers, but there were times when I could hear those as loudly as I could hear the guitar.  It's definitely something I'll keep in mind for the future when picking seats if I go back to this venue.  However, even the peculiar addition of a paperless hand dryer as an instrument did little to damper the beautiful music that came from the stage.  I hope that I get to see Mr. Lightfoot perform again sometime.

May 18, 2017

How Would I Know That This Could Be My Fate

Chris Cornell
1964 - 2017
My favorite singer has died.

I need some time to collect my thoughts before I say anything else.

May 17, 2017

Chasing Birds

Harvey caught two birds in our yard before I left for work. He didn't hurt them; just pounced around them, doing what I like to call his Intimidating Schnoodle Dance.  The birds could only fly for short distances, so I spent the morning chasing them around the yard to relocate them to the front of the house so that our little pup won't give them a heart attack.

So... how was your morning?

May 16, 2017

A Perfect Start To The Day

Vegetable Omelette
Chalet - Mountaintop, PA
I absolutely love diners - especially for breakfast.  There's something about settling in to a comfy booth with coffee, toast, eggs and potatoes as a start to your day.

May 15, 2017

Runnin' With The Devil Roll

Red Devil Roll
Five Star - Hazleton, PA
This is a made from spicy tuna and cucumber with spicy mayonnaise and eel sauce topped with black pepper tuna, and it's very, very good!

Fire The Zorlon Cannon

Yars' Revenge
Atari (1982)
One of the most creative games for the Atari 2600 was released 35 years ago this month.  Yars' Revenge was designed and programmed by the great Howard Scott Warshaw and remains a fun game to play to this day.

May 14, 2017

She Was One Tough Woman

Ethel Mae Tom
1936 - 2005
Happy Mothers Day, Mom Mom.  I miss you.

The Birds Were Chirpfully Unaware

Wilkes-Barre Record
March 3, 1947
While doing research to learn more about the old Nardy's TV & Appliances building in Plains, I found this front page headline that sheds some light on the property before it became a television store.  The folks who opened Nardy's bought the property in 1955.  Prior to that, it was a store called Neisner Bros.

It must have been a pretty big store for the area because it took up an entire city block.  The grand opening on Saturday, August 15th, 1925 was advertised in the Wilkes-Barre Record newspaper.  From the looks of the ad, it seems like this was the Wal-Mart of it's day with merchandise that included clothes, kitchenware, tools, housewares, candy, toys and an automotive department which sold an electric vibrating car horn for a dollar.  They also had a luncheonette counter which was advertised as the largest restaurant of its kind in Pennsylvania, with seating for 140 guests.  Unfortunately, the center fold in the newspaper didn't scan, so I can't tell you how much they charged for their roast leg of spring lamb, but you could get a pot roast and spaghetti dinner for 20 cents, and a full roast chicken dinner with all of the trimmings for 35 cents.

The ad for their first anniversary sale from the August 24, 1926 Times Leader has a heavy focus on their music department.  They sold all of the latest hits on record, including Valencia, Bye Bye Blackbird and On The Riviera, at the low price of three for a dollar.  They've also still got their roast chicken dinner with dressing, mashed potatoes and a buttered roll, but it's marked down to a quarter on Wednesday.

From the looks of it, Neisner Bros. had a booming business in Wilkes-Barre for 22 years.  Things took a turn for the worse in March 1947.

The fire started in the basement of Neisner Bros. and destroyed not only their store, but it also destroyed or damaged a dozen other businesses and six apartments in the immediate area.

Speaking of which, I have the utmost respect for Mrs. Jane Miller who saved the lives of her dog and three canaries from the third floor apartment where she lived.  She refused to allow herself to be rescued by the fire department until they took the birds to safety.  Mrs. Miller then crawled out of the window of a burning building with her pup under her arms.

The birds were "chirpfully unaware of what destruction transpired" as they rested with the dog with Mrs. Miller at the home of one of her friends.

It seems like Neisner Bros. wasn't able to recover from their loss.  Within eight years, the property was sold and operating as the region's largest tv store: Nardy's.

May 13, 2017

Nardy's TV & Appliances

Nardy's TV & Appliances
Plains, PA
I saw this old television and appliance shop on the way home from our trip to Plains Antiques & Home Furnishings near Wilkes-Barre.  From the state of the outside of the building, it looks as if it's been closed for fifty years, but I know that it was an electronics repair shop as recently as 2002 because my wife and her brother rented the apartment upstairs at the time.

There's are a few vintage signs still hanging on the side of the building, including one for Philco and RCA televisions.  Also, it's not easy to see from these photos, but the words "Nardy's" and "TV" have neon right tubing in a zigzag pattern going through them.  There are also small neon tubes surrounding the word TV.  It must have looked incredible when it was lit back in the 50's.

Speaking of which, here is the newspaper advertisement that announced the store's grand opening on April 16, 1955:
Wilkes-Barre Record - April 15, 1955

And here's one from the following year where they outline their code of ethics:

Times Leader - March 13, 1956

The newspaper ads for Nardy's slowed down significantly in the 70's and 80's, but I found this one from the 1978 holiday season:

Citizen's Voice - December 18, 1978

Based on the advertisements, it looks like the store kept its focus on televisions and home video from 1955 to the mid-80's.  The store seems to have diversified during the late 80's and early 90's, as there are ads with the same address for Nardy's Packing and Shipping, which offered UPS and FedEx services, and some which promoted ceramics classes on the second floor of the store.

Then, in the late 90's, the ads picked up for a whole new business inside Nardy's:

Times Leader - August 15, 1998

They seemed to have one last hurrah in the late 90's and early 2000's as a pager and phone card shop, but it appears that they weren't able to keep things going long enough to transition into mobile phones.

It's a shame to see the building is in such a state of disrepair today.  When I saw it, there was a pickup truck parked in the driveway.  Hopefully they'll fix the place up and bring back that awesome neon sign.

May 12, 2017

Schuylkill Mall In The 90's - Pocket Change Arcade

K-Mart wing
Schuylkill Mall - Frackville, PA (1996)
The photo on top was taken between McDonald's (left) and Arby's (right) of the K-Mart wing of the Schuylkill Mall.  Throughout the mall, there were large round skylights that let the sun shine into the mall and onto trees and plants.  You can see the K-Mart anchor store in the center of both of these photos, but the photo on the bottom is much closer.  If you turn left at the K-Mart, it led to a hall past The Peanut Shack and to the movie theater.

The real attraction of this part of the mall was the arcade.  When I was a kid in the 80's, I would come to this mall with my grandparents and make a bee line for the Pocket Change arcade, which you can see on the right hand side of these photos.  It was very close to K-Mart, so I had plenty of time to spend some quarters while my grandmother poked around the anchor store.  To the best of my knowledge, Pocket Change was the first arcade in the area to have a row of Skee Ball machines and a prize counter.  It was a very large and well stocked arcade that had a nice mix of traditional arcade and ticket games throughout the 80's, 90's and early 2000's.

May 11, 2017

Put Your Paddle In The Air And No One Gets Hurt

Ping Pong Gun
Part of me regrets not buying this, but they were charging a bit more than I was comfortable paying.