Jan 29, 2018

Chexx On Broad Street


Flyers Super Chexx Pro
Innovative Concepts in Entertainment
Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
There are a lot of Chexx bubble hockey arcade machines in the Wells Fargo Center where the Philadelphia Flyers play their home games.  For two dollars, you get to argue with your friend over which of you has to play as the Los Angeles Kings, then battle it out on the ice.

The only thing that could make this more awesome is if it had the Soviet Red Army as the opposing team.

Jan 28, 2018

A Royal Return


2018 WWE Royal Rumble
Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
Photo Album - Ticket
I flew back to Philadelphia from El Paso and arrived just in time to see my first WWE pay-per-view event live, the 2018 Royal Rumble.  My phone's battery was pretty low so I didn't get to take as many photos as I usually do, but it didn't bother me too much.  The entire event is recorded for the WWE Network, so it's not like I'm going to forget what happened.

The night began with a taping of the final segment of the KFC Colonel Rumble commercial.  Rusev and The Miz battled in the ring for a few moments before Ric Flair, dressed as Colonel Sanders, came to the ring to win the "match" by eliminating both men.  It wasn't his 1992 appearance, but it was fun and I'll always be able to say I saw Ric Flair wrestle at the Royal Rumble.

Other than NXT and podcasts, I hadn't followed the product too closely in the months leading up to the Rumble, so I was a little shocked to see that Lince Dorado was a member of the roster.  I last saw him wrestle for Chikara.  He was a cool dude, and I was happy to see that he found a home on 205 Live.  I also popped pretty hard to see the original Bullet Club (Gallows and Anderson) and Bobby Roode on the pre-show, complete with his "Glorious" entrance to the ring.

The World Heavyweight Championship match was a bit disappointing.  I've been a fan of AJ Styles, Kevin Steen (Owens) and El Generico (Zayn) since their ROH days, but I would have strongly preferred to see a 1 on 1 match for the title instead of a gimmick match on a card full of gimmick matches.  It was a decent match, but it's hard to suspend disbelief and take it seriously when the premise is so goofy.  Frankly, I took the United States championship match on the pre-show more seriously.

The Universal Championship match was shorter than I expected, but it was a good, hard-hitting brawl with a lot of table spots.  Lesnar retained the title by giving his F5 finisher to Kane, so I imagine that they're setting up a "Battle of the Beast" feud between Lesnar and Strowman for Wrestlemania.  Knowing the company, they'll probably try to squeeze Roman Reigns in there - the "New Coke" of professional wrestling.  They're hell bent on trying to make him their modern day Hulkster despite the fact that he's been rejected in that role by virtually everyone in the audience over the age of 12.

I hate to be overly negative, but both the Raw and Smackdown Tag Team Championship match had disappointing writing ruin a good match.  They had an awesome team in Chad Gable and Jason Jordan in NXT, but instead of continuing with something that the fans enjoyed and accepted, they changed things for the sake of changing them by putting Gable with a returning Shelton Benjamin.  I guess they figured we'd never notice if they swapped one black guy for another?  Even more strange was the pairing Jason Jordan in an odd couple team with Seth Rollins.  Both tag team matches featured good wrestling, but the storyline was so awkward and pointless that I couldn't lose myself in it.  For both matches, all I could focus on is how good it could have been if one of the matches featured Gable and Jordan fighting for the titles.  WWE writers tend to outsmart themselves with complicated, soap opera plot twists resulting in forgettable matches that could have been memorable if they would only stick with what works.

The Rumble matches themselves were a breath of fresh air compared to recent years.  Shinsuke Nakamura eliminated Roman Reigns and announced that he will be facing AJ Styles for the title in the main event of Wrestlemania.  My first time seeing Nakamura was on NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 where he defeated AJ Styles to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.  It was an amazing match, and I immediately became a fan of Nakamura and went back to watch his previous work.  He's one of the most athletic and charismatic performers I have ever seen, and the upcoming title match may end up being the greatest main event in the history of Wrestlemania.  The rest of the match was a lot of fun.  Heath Slater kept getting knocked out before he could enter the ring.  Bray Wyatt and "Broken" Matt Hardy had a confrontation.  Kofi Kingston had his annual elimination escape by standing on pancakes.  There were surprise entrances by Andrade "Cien" Almas, Adam Cole, The Hurricane, Rey Mysterio and Sami Zayn, who knocked out Tye Dillinger and took his spot in the match.  John Cena came in at #20 and wrestled in the match for almost a half hour before being eliminated by Nakamura.  Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins worked together throughout the match before Reigns eliminated Rollins with a shrug (which I'm sure the announcers highlighted with the ol' "every man for himself" line).  The Philly crowd not only did the countdown for each wrestler's entrance, but also loudly made the buzzer noise when a new wrestler came out.  It was one of the best Royal Rumble matches in recent memory, and I'm glad I was there to see it first hand.

The first ever Woman's Royal Rumble match was the main event of the show.  I didn't enjoy it as much as the Men's Royal Rumble, mostly because nearly a third of the participants were women who wrestled for the WWF/E between 5 - 10 years ago and were brought back for one night only as filler to bring the match up to 30 participants.  One or two surprises from the past are a fun part of the Royal Rumble, but when they have to resort to adding performs like Vickie Guerrero and Kelly Kelly to the mix, it's gotten out of hand.  It would have been a much better match if they had 20 wrestlers, but the company has gotten into the habit of doing the "first ever women's (insert match here)" just for the sake of doing it, whether it makes sense to do so or not.  Asuka had an awesome performance (as always), but the highlight came after the match.  The company's two women's champions, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, came to the ring.  Asuka was about to announce which of the two titles she would fight for at Wrestlemania when Bad Reputation by Joan Jett started blasting and "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey came to the ring.  It was rumored that she'd make her first appearance for the WWE in the weeks leading up to the Rumble.  She came to the ring in Roddy Piper gear to point at the Wrestlemania sign.  I'm guessing this means that Asuka will be fighting for one of the titles and Rousey will be fighting for the other one.

Results:
Royal Rumble participants: [1] Rusev  [2] Finn Balor  [3] Rhyno  [4] Baron Corbin  [5] Heath Slater  [6] Elias Samson  [7] Andrade "Cien" Almas  [8] Bray Wyatt  [9] Big E. Langston  [10] Sami Zayn (taking the spot of "The Perfect 10" Tye Dillinger)  [11] Sheamus  [12] Xavier Woods  [13] Apollo Crews  [14] Shinsuke Nakamura  [15] Cesaro  [16]  Kofi Kingston  [17] Jinder Mahal  [18] Seth Rollins  [19] "Broken" Matt Hardy  [20] John Cena  [21] The Hurricane  [22] Aiden English  [23] Adam Cole  [24] Randy Orton  [25] Titus O'Neil  [26] The Miz  [27] Rey Mysterio Jr  [28] Roman Reigns  [29] Goldust  [30] Dolph Ziggler
Royal Rumble participants: [1] Sasha Banks  [2] Becky Lynch  [3] Sarah Logan  [4] Mandy Rose  [5] Lita  [6] Kairi Sane  [7] Tamina Snuka  [8] Dana Brooke  [9] Torrie Wilson  [10] Sonya Deville  [11] Liv Morgan  [12] Molly Holly  [13] Lana  [14] Michelle McCool  [15] Ruby Riott  [16] Vickie Guerrero  [17] Carmella  [18] Natalya Neidhart  [19] Kelly Kelly  [20] Naomi  [21] Jacqueline  [22] Nia Jax  [23] Ember Moon  [24] Beth Phoenix  [25] Asuka  [26] Mickie James  [27] Nikki Bella  [28] Brie Bella  [29] Bayley  [30] Trish Stratus

    Maybe He's Getting A Slim Jim


    2018 Royal Rumble
    Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
    The lines at the snack bar of a WWE event can be savage.

    Jan 27, 2018

    Adios El Paso


    Touch
    11395 James Watt Drive
    El Paso, TX
    The drink on the left is called Adios Motherfucker, and cousin, lemme tell ya it lives up to its name.  I had two.  I have no idea what the drink on the right is called, but the pic was on my phone and the little Mexican flag was in my pocket when I sobered up, so I'm sure it was good too.

    Jan 25, 2018

    Gentleman Jim Is Going To Cooperstown


    Jim Thome
    2018 Baseball Hall Of Fame
    With over 89% of the vote, one of the greatest first basemen and best human beings to ever play the game is officially a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Jim Thome will always be best known as a member of the Cleveland Indians, but he spent three and a half incredible years in Philadelphia.  He signed with the Phillies in December 2002 and was our first baseman in the last year of Veterans Stadium and the first year of Citizens Bank Park.  In his first season with the Phillies, he came within a single home run of tying the single season franchise record, and he hit his 400th career home run the following season.


    Thome's injuries in 2005 changed the course of Phillies history.  His time on the disabled list opened the door for a 25 year old prospect named Ryan Howard to get his first regular playing time at the big league level.  Howard would go on to bat .288 with 22 home runs in just 88 games and win the 2005 NL Rookie Of The Year award.

    If the Phillies played in the American League, the Phillies could have moved Thome to the DH spot to make room for Howard at first base.  To this day, I still think about how incredible the 2006 Phillies would have been with a lineup that included Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Howard, Thome and Burrell.  Unfortunately, the National League does not have the designated hitter rule, so Thome was traded to the White Sox that winter.  As Chicago's DH, he bounced back from injury to hit 42 home runs in 2006 and topped 30 HR in each of the two following seasons with the White Sox.  The Phillies would go on to have their most successful run in franchise history, culminating in a 2008 World Series Championship.  Had the Phillies not traded him, 2008 would have been the last year of the six year contract that Thome signed after the 2002 season.  It would have been awesome to see him standing next to Ryan Howard in the parade down Broad Street.  There's every possibility it wouldn't have been their first, as it's easy to imagine Thome's offense being a difference maker that could have fueled a championship run for the Phillies in 2006 and 2007 as well.


    In the winter following the 2011 season, GM Ruben Amaro brought Jim Thome back to Philadelphia on a one year contact.  It was a bold move.  Thome was 41 years old and entering what would be the final year of his playing career.  He wasn't the offensive juggernaut that he once was, but I thought it was a brilliant move at the time, and I hold to that opinion today.  Ryan Howard tore his Achilles tendon in the final at bat of the 2011 NLDS and began the 2012 season on the disabled list.  Thome spent the winter preparing to play first base once or twice a week.  The idea was that he would split time with Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr. at first base until Howard was healthy.  He would be available as a power bat off of the bench like Matt Stairs before him, and he could DH in interleague games in AL ballparks.  It was a good plan, and it brought an icon back to Philadelphia in the hopes that he would finish his career with a World Series ring.  Sadly, it did not work out that way for Thome or for the Phillies.  He would hit only five more home runs for the Phillies, but two of them were historic, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for one of them.

    The first of Thome's historic home runs in the 2012 season happened in Toronto on June 17th.  Thome was the DH batting in the cleanup position behind Hunter Pence.  Thome led off the top of the 2nd with a deep home run to right center field to cut the Blue Jays lead in half.  It was his only hit that night, but it was his 100th career home run as a member of the Phillies.  He became only the fourth player in MLB history to have hit 100 homers for three different teams, having previously topped the 100 HR mark with the Indians and White Sox.  The only other players to have done this were Reggie Jackson, Darrell Evans and Alex Rodriguez.


    The second home run I'm referring to came six nights later at Citizens Bank Park, and it's one of my favorite memories of any game I have ever attended.

    The Phillies were playing the Tampa Bay Rays and were clinging to a 6-4 lead in the top of the 9th inning.  Jonathan Papelbon was brought in to close the game.  He gave up a single to Hideki Matsui and walked Jose Lobaton to put runners on first and second.  A two out single by Jeff Keppinger scored Matsui to narrow the lead to 6-5, which was followed up by a Brooks Conrad single to tie the game, earning Papelbon a blown save.  I was pretty disgusted at this point, so we headed toward Ashburn Alley to watch the rest of the game from the outfield and get a jump on the crowd after it was over.  I fully expected the Rays to take the lead, but Pabelbon managed to strike out Sean Rodriguez to finally end the inning.


    By this point, I was standing above the visitors bullpen.  Fernando Rodney had been warming up, but the Rays opted to stick with left hander Jake McGee who had a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th inning, retiring Placido Polanco, John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Martinez on just 14 pitches.

    With the pitchers spot due up for the Phillies to lead off the bottom of the 9th, Jim Thome came into the game to pinch hit.  He worked a full count against McGee, and smashed his 8th pitch of the at-bat into left field for a walk-off home run.


    This home run was special for many reasons, some that were known at the time and some that we didn't.  It was Thome's 609th career home run, which tied Sammy Sosa for 7th most of all time.  It was his 13th career walk-off home run, which broke a tie he held with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson to give him the most of all time.  The victory was also a milestone for Charlie Manual, as it gave him his 900th career win as a manager in the big leagues.  This historic homer was memorialized on card #152 of the 2012 Topps Update set.

    What we did not know at the time was that this would be Thome's final National League home run, and his final homer as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.  With the Phillies under .500 and fading out of contention, they traded Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles to give the aging slugger one last shot at a World Series Championship.  The Orioles made the playoffs, but were defeated by the Yankees in the 2012 ALDS.


    Thome would go on to hit three more homers for the Orioles to finish his career with 612 home runs.  When he retired from the game at the end of the 2012 season, there were only six players in the history of Major League Baseball to have hit more home runs: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and former teammateKen Griffy Jr.

    Congratulations to one of my favorite ballplayers ever to wear a Phillies uniform, or any other uniform for that matter.  You are truly one of the all-time greats and deserving of baseball's ultimate honor.  Welcome to the Hall Of Fame, sir.

    Jan 24, 2018

    Sharing My Wiener Love


    Wienerschnitzel
    1441 North Zaragosa Rd.
    El Paso, TX
    I've definitely had more exciting food than this since I first came to El Paso, but we don't have these back home, so what the hell.

    Jan 23, 2018

    Double Dipped Wings On A Train



    Track One
    Robert E. Lee Road - El Paso, TX
    On a recommendation from the class, Kenny and I checked out this restaurant that is built out of a train.  It was definitely worth the trip.  It's an interesting place that is built out of three remodeled railroad cars: a 1920 Vintage Southern Pacific dining car, a caboose, and a reefer boxcar.



    I ordered a Moscow Mule and was immediately asked for my drivers licence, but they didn't want it to prove my age.  They wanted it so they could hold it hostage until I gave back the copper mug after I finished my drink so I didn't run off with it.



    These are Spanky's Spud Chips.  They're basically thick potato slices which are deep fried and topped with bacon, cheese and seasoning, and they're served with a side of sour cream and guacamole.



    This is what I was told that I should order here: Track One Double Dipped Wings.  They're dipped in pure honey and hot sauce, which are a perfect combination.  They're messy as hell, but they may have been the tastiest wings I've ever eaten.



    I hope that I get back here before I leave.

    Jan 22, 2018

    Cast Iron Stomach



    Clasico Kitchen Bar
    9615 Montana Ave - El Paso, TX
    Marco and Christian introduced me to the latest El Paso establishment to give my stomach a workout: the Clasico Kitchen Bar.



    This tasty beverage is a Clasico Hangover Clamato.  It's an old fashioned clamato that includes clams, shrimp, dry beef, green olives, celery, lime, salt, pepper and special sauce with a salt rim.  I added a Dos Equis to defeat the purpose of it's name.



    These are Toro Eggs.  It's an appetizer made from grilled jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.  I could eat these every day of my life and still want more.



    Last, but not least, this massive sandwich is called the Habana Cheeseburger.  It's Angus beef with white cheese topped with pastor (pork marinated with chile and achiote), grilled ham, avocado and pineapple chunks.  I can't even begin to tell you how delicious this was!

    Jan 21, 2018

    Eagles and Elotes


    Cabo Joe's
    1700 North Zaragoza Road - El Paso, TX
    I met up with some of my colleagues to watch Nick Foles and the Eagles stomp the Vikings in the NFC Championship game.  Naturally, I wasn't going to pass up a chance to eat some tacos.  On Melanie's recommendation, I also tried elotes for the first time - corn on the cob coated and grilled with chipotle mayonnaise and topped with fresh cheese.  I'm not generally a big fan of mayo, but they were delicious!


    This all feels like a crazy fever dream.

    If you could go back in time and tell my younger self that I would be drinking in a Texas bar and watching the Eagles win a game to put them in the Super Bowl, I probably would have said that this scenario is highly unlikely.  If you were to tell me that literally the entire bar would be cheering for the Eagles, I would have thought you were a lunatic.  But, here I am, and the Texans you see in the photo at the top of this post were all loudly and proudly rooting for the Eagles.  I swear, I almost expected them to break out into a chorus of Fly Eagles Fly.

    Mixed Signals


    Papaburger
    Zaragoza Road, El Paso, TX

    Jan 20, 2018

    Carlos & Mickey's


    Carlos & Mickey's
    1310 Magruder St - El Paso, TX
    I've eaten a lot of good food in my time in Texas, but this takes the cake.  The restaurant has an incredibly cool atmosphere with beautiful architecture, fountains, statues and a mariachi band traveling throughout the dining rooms.  I had a Texas sized peach margarita that was the size of a fishbowl, and the Revolution combination dinner, which included carnitas, a tamale, a cheese chile relleno, a beef taco and a cheese enchilada with a side of beans, spanish rice and guacamole.



    This was followed up by a stop at a sports pub called Brew, then to Bowl El Paso.  Somewhere in between, we drove past this old Blockbuster Video that hasn't been converted to another store yet.



    I'm not sure exactly where this was because I was pretty drunk by this point in the night.  Thankfully, I wasn't driving, and I managed to get up to my hotel room without falling down.

    Sun City and La Equis



    El Paso, TX
    After lunch, I headed out for a view of the city from the Franklin Mountains.  The photos really don't do justice to how beautiful it is.  I don't know if I'd trade the mountains and woods in Pennsylvania for it, but I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to spend a few months here.

    You can see pretty far from the mountains.  The X that you see in the last photo is a nearly 200 foot tall sculpture called La Equis (The X) in Juarez, Mexico.  It was built by an artist named Sebasti├ín





    Do They Have A Delivery Service?


    Kiki's Mexican Restaurant
    2719 North Piedras St.
    El Paso, TX
    One of the folks that I'm here to train brought me to this awesome restaurant for breakfast.  They're famous for machaca, so that's what I ordered - absolutely delicious!

    Jan 19, 2018

    Blackbird


    Ink Xpressions
    7924 Gateway Blvd. East
    El Paso, TX
    When I was 15 years old, a friend who owned a tattoo gun inked my right arm with a red Star Wars Rebel Alliance logo.  It wasn't very good, and it didn't age well.  Mr. Look took care of me with this incredible cover up work.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Blackbird
    The Beatles

    Blackbird singing in the dead of night
    Take these broken wings and learn to fly
    All your life
    You were only waiting for this moment to arise

    Blackbird singing in the dead of night
    Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
    All your life
    You were only waiting for this moment to be free

    Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
    Into the light of the dark black night

    Blackbird singing in the dead of night
    Take these broken wings and learn to fly
    All your life
    You were only waiting for this moment to arise

    Jan 18, 2018

    How To Pee Like A Gentleman



    One Stop Kitchen & Bar
    7300 N Loop Drive - El Paso, TX
    I went out drinking with two of the guys that I'm training and the woman who will be the supervisor of the team, and I found this rather interesting bathroom door.  I can't say I've ever held my butt quite like that when I pee, but I'll have to give it a try sometime.

    Jan 17, 2018

    Burger Don Cuco: The Cheesy Masterpiece



    Tacos Don Cuco
    North Zaragoza Road - El Paso, TX
    I got here just before the place closed, so I had to take dinner to go.  Not gonna lie, the menu was a little tricky to figure out for a Hawaiian boy from Pennsylvania, but I knew enough Spanish to order the Burger Don Cuco and a burrito.  Look at all of the cheese on that burger!


    Jan 16, 2018

    Texas Cheesesteak


    Crave Kitchen & Bar
    11990 Rojas Drive
    El Paso, TX

    Dear Texas,

    This was a tasty burger and I appreciate the effort, but please stop calling it a cheesesteak.  It isn't.

    Love,
    - Everyone who has ever set foot in Philadelphia.

    Jan 15, 2018

    Empire Over El Paso


    One of my trainees bought this for me as a present at an art show.  Not sure who the artist is, but it's a pretty awesome rendition of a battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance in El Paso.

    Jan 14, 2018

    In Flight Photos



    American Airlines: Flight 5912
    Phoenix to El Paso
    Yes, I am the kind of nerd who takes pictures from the plane window once in a while.





    Last Trip to El Paso


    Headed back to The Borderland one last time.

    Jan 13, 2018

    The Polka King of Hazleton


    The Polka King
    Netflix (2018)
    If you grew up in Hazleton over the past four decades, you know the name Jan Lewan.  Like Farmer's Iced Tea and Senape's Pitza, his name has been synonymous with Mob City since the 80's.  After many years of being a fixture on local television and radio, the Polka King was arrested for fraud in 2004 and served time in federal prison through 2009.

    Last year, a film starring Jack Black and Jason Schwartzman about the rise and fall of the Polka King was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.  It was released on Netflix yesterday, and I'm glad to say that it's very good.  Although none of it was filmed in Hazleton (to the best of my knowledge), they mention the city quite a bit, and they do so without taking cheap shots at the city or it's Polish-American senior citizens who made up much of Lewan's fanbase.  In fact, it captures Hazleton life very well.  The scenes between Jack Black, Jenny Slate and Jacki Weaver are shockingly authentic to life in Hazleton.  More than once, my wife and I looked at each other and laughed that Weaver's dialogue could have just as easily come out of my grandmother's mouth.

    The film does a good job for showing Lewan for who he is - a big personality who had good intentions and bad ideas.  The dude is most certainly guilty of fraud, no doubts there, but it's not the fraud of a guy rubbing his hands together, laughing that he pulled the wool over people's eyes.  It's the fraud of a naive dreamer who truly believed that it would all work out for everyone.  I'm happy that his story has been told respectfully and that he has embraced the film.

    Jan 12, 2018

    Video Games Live




    Video Games Live
    FM Kirby Center - Wilkes-Barre, PA
    This is a pretty awesome idea that I first heard about a few years ago, but haven't had the chance to see until today.  Video Games Live is a group that includes a full orchestra who goes on tour performing songs and remixes from the soundtrack of classic and modern gaming.



    Looking back on the history of the industry, the Playstation 2 era is my line in the sand.  The games that came before the release of the PS2 are from a time when I read the magazines, frequently bought new games, and followed the industry closely.  However, after that point, my interest in gaming began to fade.  I didn't stop playing altogether, and I still bought the occasional new game, but I really didn't care as much as I used to.  For that reason, about half of the songs that were performed were from games that I have no familiarity with at all.  I'm happy to say that there was plenty of representation from the 8 bit through 64 bit era, including music from Castlevania, Mega Man, Sonic The Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, Chrono Trigger, and one of my all-time favorite games, Chrono Cross.



    The orchestra is extremely talented, and the show was a lot of fun.  If you like gaming, or if you have children who do, I highly recommend it.