Sep 30, 2021

So Nice To See You Again, King Tut

Pharaoh's Fury
Bloomsburg Fair (2021)
I found this ride sitting on the back of a truck in the Regal Cinema in Hazleton a few months ago.  It was there for the Spring Fling Carnival that was held in the Laurel Mall parking lot.  Since then, it made the trip down I-80 West and is now at the Bloomsburg Fair.

Sep 29, 2021

A Different Kind Of Decepticon

Transmutation Vehicle
Bloomsburg Fair (2021)
Not to be confused with the Transformers, these Transmutation Vehicles play music while they randomly drive around bumping into things in your living room to "transmutate" from car to robot.  They are also battery operated for the "utmest of convenience".  I'm not quite sure how to explain the "coming soon" decal on the front windshield though.

I'm not gonna lie - I love seeing these bootleg toys.  They try so hard to make them look real, and the harder they try, the goofier they end up being.  They're ten bucks each at one of the tables under the grandstand at the Bloomsburg Fair.  Get 'em while you can, because I suspect that supplies are limited to about ten million units.

Sep 28, 2021

Autumn Walk

Look at my good boy smiling on his walk!

Sep 27, 2021

Beef, Crab, & An Armadillo Egg

Bloomsburg Fair 2021
Bloomsburg, PA
For as far back as I can remember, this has been one of my favorite places in the world.  When I was a little kid, I spent the day here with my dad and my grandparents and spent the car rides back to West Hazleton opening packs of Garbage Pail Kids and baseball cards.  When I was a teenager, I came here with friends.  As an adult, I've made it back for at least one day of the Fair every year that it was held.  It's been cancelled twice over the past ten years - in 2011 due to flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, and again due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 (the only other times that the Fair was cancelled in its 166 year history was due to World War I and World War II).  The cancellation of Funfest in Hazleton this year due to the Delta Variant led me to believe that they might cancel the Bloomsburg Fair for the second consecutive year.  Cancelling was definitely the right move in 2020, but we have a vaccine that keeps the overwhelming majority of those who take it from hospitalization or death from Covid, so I'm of the opinion that the world shouldn't stop for those who refuse to follow the advice of medical experts and get vaccinated.  I'm very happy to see that the organizers of the Fair agree, and it's open for business in 2021.

There are a bunch of reasons that I enjoy and look forward to the Bloomsburg Fair.  At the top of the list is the food, so I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge some of my favorites.

The first stop we typically make at the Fair is Top Of The Beef.  They serve smoked ham and roast beef sandwiches.  I couldn't tell you how the ham is because I never get it, but they make the best roast beef sandwich I have ever eaten anywhere.

There will always be a line no matter what time of day you visit, and the sandwiches aren't cheap at $11 bucks, however it's worth every penny.  They could charge money for people to stand near the place just to smell the smoke coming off of the pit, and people would probably pay it.  It's that good!

The Top Of The Beef sandwich is pretty filling, so it was a couple of hours before I started feeling hungry again, but I knew exactly what I wanted - a soft shell crab sandwich from Crabby John's Seafood.  I first discovered this back in 2019 and it was so tasty that I went back for a second one later that week.

The best kept secret at the Bloomsburg Fair is the apple cider float from The Apple Cart in the Agricultural Building.  It's not fancy, just two big scoops of Turkey Hill Vanilla ice cream in a cup that is then filled to the top with apple cider, but it's the perfect refreshing dessert to enjoy as we get into the Fall season.

This is also the best value you're ever likely to find at the Fair.  Food and drinks can be a bit on the expensive side on the fairgrounds, but these have been three dollars every year since I found this stand for the first time over 15 years ago.  With all of the price increases and supply chain issues that have happened since the pandemic began, I was fully expecting this to be a bit more expensive, but nope, it's still three bucks.  You can't go wrong!

The Fair starts to wind down around 8 pm with the vast majority of stands closed down at 9 (except for a few that stay open for the folks who stay late for the grandstand concerts).  Because of this, we typically take our last meal of the night to-go and eat it at home.  The words "Home Of The Armadillo Egg" on the side of the Stahl's Smokehouse stand stopped me dead in my tracks, and I knew I had found my final food stop of the night.

The Armadillo Egg is a quarter pound of Italian sausage that is mixed with diced jalapenos and cheese, which is then wrapped with bacon, and you can get it served on a "nest" of mac and cheese.  Sold!  I also got a pulled pork carolina bbq sandwich.  Everything was delicious!  We're going back to the Fair on Wednesday, and I'm going to have to make it a point to head back to this stand!

Stahl's Smokehouse might have been my last place to stop for a meal at the Fair, but I couldn't leave without picking up one last snack.  Judging by the line at Mr. Sticky's (which is strategically located right next to the fairground exit), I wasn't the only one who had this idea.  My favorite is the walnut sticky bun with cream cheese icing on the side.  Not only does it make a wonderful breakfast for the morning after the Fair, but it makes the car smell amazing for the ride home!

Sep 26, 2021

The More Things Change, The More Remains The Same

By Dan Piraro

A Tired Song Keeps Playing On A Tired Radio

Goo Goo Dolls (1995)
There aren't a lot of songs that can make me cry more than once, but if you catch me in a certain frame of mind and play this song, which was released as a single 26 years ago today, there's a chance that I'm going to fall apart right in front of you.

And even though the moment passed me by
I still can't turn away
'Cause all the dreams you never thought you'd lose
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send
Get lost or thrown away

And now we're grown up orphans
That never knew their names
We don't belong to no one
That's a shame

If you could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won't tell no one your name
And I won't tell 'em your name

And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there
Did you get to be a star
And don't it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are

We grew up way too fast
And now there's nothing to believe
And reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio

And I won't tell no one your name
And I won't tell 'em your name

I think about you all the time
But I don't need the same
It's lonely where you are, come back down
And I won't tell 'em your name


Sep 25, 2021

Pluto And The Weekend Of Terror

Weekend Of Terror VI
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
Dude... this place just keeps getting better and better.  The fact that I live within driving distance of the Mahoning Drive-In makes me feel like I've hit the lottery.  Look at that incredible list of horror flicks!  If that's not awesome enough, Michael Berryman was in attendance on Thursday and Friday, and three members of the family of cannibals from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will be at the Drive-In later tonight: Ed Neal (the hitchhiker) Allen Danziger (Jerry), and John Dugan (Grandpa).

As much as I wanted to go to all four nights of the Weekend Of Terror, we were only able to make it to Friday, but what a hell of an awesome night it was!  The Hills Have Eyes and Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer are two of the greatest and most truly terrifying horror films of all time, and while I've never heard of Poor Pretty Eddie before, I'm always happy to go experience a classic for the first time, especially at the Mahoning Drive-In.

Check out the incredible poster from artist Jason Cortez.  I've seen a lot of awesome posters from many very talented artists this year, and there's are dozens more hanging on the walls in the snack bar from previous seasons.

I'm thinking about trying to reach out to all of these artists over the winter to see if they'd be interested in turning their work into a series of Mahoning Drive-In trading cards.  The front of each card can be a miniaturized version of each show poster, and the back can have facts about the movie, or the performers, or even a history of when the movie originally screened at the Mahoning.  They'd make a great collectible, and a pretty cool thing to ask the special guests to autograph when they come to the drive-in for meet-and-greets.

A lot of the vehicles were decked out for the movies that are showing during the Weekend Of Terror, including this awesome setup of Grandpa from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

J.T. and the rest of the crew outdid themselves with the photo op stage for this weekend.  That's him under the mask holding the chainsaw with me on the meat hook.

The first movie of Friday night was the second film from the great Wes Craven, the 1977 horror/thriller classic: The Hills Have Eyes.  This has been one of my favorite horror movies of all time.  As much as I love slasher villains like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, they tend to wear a little thin on me after while.  They remind me of a Hulk Hogan match because they're fun to watch, but you start rolling your eyes a bit when it becomes clear than no matter how much they get beaten down, they're going to "hulk up" and come back for the big win.  I prefer a villain that can be defeated to one that gets shot at point-blank range a dozen times and keeps coming back.  I'm not saying that the villain has to win, but it shouldn't be a foregone conclusion, which is what it has become for a lot of popular horror franchises.  The terror of The Hills Have Eyes is in its realism. The family of cannibals are pure evil, and family sitting in their broken down truck and camper in the middle of the Nevada desert are sitting ducks.  It's a level of tension that few movies can match.

The folks at the Mahoning shared the two bottom photos on Twitter during the screening of The Hills Have EyesMr. Michael Berryman was in the projection room during the film watching as his character, Pluto, continues to terrorize the movie audiences around the world 44 years later.

The second movie of the night took realistic terror to a new level that I don't think has been equaled since it premiered in 1986.  The title character in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, played by the incredible Michael Rooker, is my pick for the single most frightening character in cinematic history.  He doesn't yell and scream.  He doesn't have a clever catch phrase, or a special weapon that he uses on his victims.  He's an ordinary guy in every sense of the word.  You've met and forgotten countless people in your life who are just like him.  Some of them have done things behind closed doors that would send shivers up your spine, and you would never know it.  Henry is the kind of person you have the most to fear from, because there is no motive, no pattern, and no reason for you to be their target, but no reason for you not to be.  The world isn't full of Freddy Kreuger's.  It's full of Henry's, and their victims never see them coming.  If you haven't seen it, find a copy, turn off the lights, and spend 83 minutes experiencing the closest thing to a real world horror that you're ever going to experience in a motion picture.

The final movie of the night has had many different versions released under many different names, but the original title of this 1975 grindhouse film is Poor Pretty Eddie.  The version that was screened last night was titled Black Vengeance, which was the title it went by when it was marketed as a blaxploitation film.  I'm not sure if there were any additions or subtractions from the original that changed the story in any way, but there are some versions in existence that drastically change the tone and plot of the movie.

The making of Poor Pretty Eddie is probably more interesting than the movie itself.  It was financed by a convicted murderer who escaped from prison in 1978 and was at one time on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List.  It's not my favorite movie in the world by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, it's pretty uncomfortable to watch, but I suppose that's the point.  It might have redeemed itself if the Liz Wetherly character had a more suitably brutal revenge to enact on Eddie Collins, but the ending was anticlimactic and fell a little flat in my opinion.  I'm glad I got to see this movie, but I'm not going to want to see it again.

And so ends another incredible night at the mighty Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  I'll be back next weekend for Tarantino-A-Go-Go.

Sep 24, 2021

Smells Like Magik

Flea and Kurt Cobain
Thirty years ago, two of the most iconic records of the 90's and of rock music in general were introduced to the world.  Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magik were both released on September 24th, 1991.  They launched Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers into superstardom (photo by: Kevin Mazur / London Features).

I've listened to both of these albums so many times as a teenager that I can sing every word of every song, so this could easily turn into a 10,000 word essay of memories and connections that these songs have had to events in my life, but I have a late night of movies at the drive-in, so I'll keep it brief.

Nevermind was Nirvana's first album on a major label and their second album overall after their 1989 Sub Pop debut record, Bleach.  It went on to achieve over 16 million certified album sales with an estimated 30 million copies sold worldwide, making it one of the top 50 highest selling albums of all time.  My favorite tracks are Lithium, Drain You and Something In The Way, but the album is best known for its opening track which was repeatedly called the anthem of Generation X by the media, Smells Like Teen Spirit.  It's a damn good song, but frankly, I never bought into it as an anthem of anything, and I don't think Kurt Cobain did either.

I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends
They're in my head
I'm so ugly, that's okay, 'cause so are you
Broke our mirrors

Sunday morning is everyday, for all I care
And I'm not scared
Light my candles in a daze
'Cause I've found God

I'm so lonely, that's okay, I shaved my head
And I'm not sad
And just maybe I'm to blame for all I've heard
But I'm not sure

I'm so excited, I can't wait to meet you there
And I don't care
I'm so horny, that's okay
My will is good

I like it, I'm not gonna crack
I miss you, I'm not gonna crack
I love you, I'm not gonna crack
I killed you, I'm not gonna crack


Blood Sugar Sex Magik was every bit as important and influential of an album.  It brought the Red Hot Chili Peppers into the mainstream and it features three of my favorite songs from any band of any era: I Could Have Lied, Breaking The Girl and the band's biggest hit, Under The Bridge.  The latter is my favorite song to sing when I'm in the car by myself where no one else can hear me, but Breaking The Girl is the one that haunts me.

Breaking The Girl
I am a man
Cut from the know
Rarely do friends
Come and then go

She was a girl
Soft but estranged
We were the two
Our lives rearranged

Feeling so good that day
A feeling of love that day

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm

Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Raised by my dad
Girl of the day
He was my man
That was the way

She was the girl
Left alone
Feeling the need
To make me her home

I don't know what, when or why
The twilight of love had arrived

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm

Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You're breaking the girl
She meant you no harm

Think you're so clever
But now you must sever
You're breaking the girl
He loves no one else

Sep 23, 2021

Summer Silhouette

Dad bought this off of a man at the airport when he visited China in the Summer of 2007.  The guy who sold it to him was an old man who cut out an image of my dad's silhouette from a black square in a matter of seconds.

Sep 22, 2021

A Tall Frosty Polish Kielbasa

Conyngham Brewing Company (2021)
On Saturday afternoon, I spent some time at my dad's place.  We were drinking beer, eating peanut butter pretzels, and watching a British show on Decades that neither of us had ever heard of before.

It's called The Prisoner.  It originally aired on BBC in 1967, and it's really trippy and awesome.  It's about a British spy who was abducted and kept captive in a bizarre village community after he abruptly quit his job.  It kind of reminds me of the original Star Trek series for the way that it uses science fiction to hold a mirror up to society.  I'm definitely going to have to watch more of this.

Dad had been talking up a new beer called Grodziskie that he tried at the Conyngham Brewing Company that tastes like a smoked Polish kielbasa.  He bought a few cans to take home, but he hadn't tried them before Saturday.  It was pretty good, but he said that the one that was on tap at the bar was more flavorful, so off to Conyngham we went.

This was my first time visiting this place, and I love the vibe.  The front of the bar is decorated with a crew of pirate skeletons.  I'm not sure if they're decorating early for Halloween or if this is a permanent fixture, but it's awesome either way.

The Conyngham Brewing Company is small enough to be cozy, but not so small that it feels cramped.  It has a sitting room with tables and board games and big squashy couches.  Dad mentioned that it's the kind of place where you'd be happy to get snowed in, and I could totally see that.  Imagine being here at night with a tall, frosty beer near the fireplace while the snow piles up outside.

Speaking of a frosty beer, I tried the Grodziskie on tap and it was definitely tastes like a Polish kielbasa.  The Jalapeno Lager is pretty good too.  I also tried the Gruit, which the bar tender described to me as an ancient recipe that's brewed without hops.  Not sure how to describe that one.  I didn't dislike it, but I think I'll stick to the Grodziskie and the Jalapeno Lager next time.

Sep 21, 2021

Is It Anything Like The Musical

Animated Stories From The Book Of Mormon
Richcrest Animation Studios (1987)
I found this little oddity sitting on the shelves with the other donated tapes at the Mahoning Drive-In.  My mother's side of the family is Mormon, so I've had more than enough of this nonsense in my life.  Thankfully, they never made me sit through the cartoon, but in fairness to the animators, the artwork on the box does look half decent.

Sep 20, 2021

Dick Tracy At The Drive-In

Dick Tracy
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
Unless you were around in 1990, I don't think it's possible to fully appreciate the marketing campaign behind the Dick Tracy movie.  It was released on June 15th, 1990, which was almost one year exactly after Batman debuted in theaters across the country.

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, the idea of a movie based on a comic book was very different than it is today.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe was limited to a handful of Saturday morning cartoons and a few low budget live action series and made-for-tv movies.  There were a few comic book movies based on DC Comics, most notably the Superman series starring Christopher Reeve, but they had pretty much died off in the early 80's with the poorly received Superman III.  There were a handful of other comic book movies to hit theaters in the 80's, but most of them were box office bombs, like Red Sonja and Howard The Duck.

The incredible success of Batman in 1989 changed everything, and it inspired Disney to go all in with a marketing blitz for Dick Tracy that was as massive as any campaign I have ever seen for any product.  Images from the movie and the comic strip were everywhere.  There were shirts, hats, wristwatches, posters, toys, records, video games, and just about anything else you can think of that featured the silhouette of the title character.
The Standard Speaker newspaper in Hazleton, PA newspaper once had a paid column for local McDonald's franchise news (June 1990).

Naturally, there was a tie-in with McDonald's, including their Crimestopper Caper scratch off promotion that I wrote about last June for the 30th anniversary of the film.  There wasn't a Happy Meal toy associated with the movie, but they had plenty of signage and merchandise for the movie, including commemorative plastic cups and even a Dick Tracy fedora.  However, the most creative marketing that I noticed was the way that they sold tickets to opening night screening, which took place at 12:01 AM on June 15th, 1990.

If you wanted to see the first showing of Dick Tracy, you had to go to the theater ahead of time and purchase a T-Shirt Ticket.  Each location that screened Dick Tracy on opening night received a limited quantity of these t-shirts based on the seating capacity of the theater, and people were expected to wear the shirt as their ticket to be among the first in the country to see the movie.

There was a little yellow rectangle at the top of the ticket stub on the t-shirt where each theater location stamped their name and address.  If you showed up at that theater at midnight wearing this shirt, you were admitted to see the film.
Standard Speaker (Hazleton, PA) - June 16th, 1990

Each shirt also came packaged with an order form for a free poster of the special attraction that was shown in theaters before the start of movie.  It was a cartoon short featuring Roger RabbitJessica Rabbit and Baby Herman called Rollercoaster Rabbit.

Steven Spielberg, who owned 50% of the rights to Roger Rabbit, wanted the cartoon to be shown before Arachnophobia, but Disney opted to show it before Dick Tracy instead.  It has been speculated that this annoyed Spielberg so much that he pulled the plug on another Roger Rabbit cartoon short that was in production, and that Disney's decision ultimately led to Spielberg refusing to allow them to use his character to film a sequel to their 1988 blockbuster: Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

I didn't get to see Dick Tracy on opening night, but my grandfather did take me to see it at the Church Hill Cinema on opening weekend, and even though I didn't have a special T-Shirt Ticket, I was stylin' in my very own merch that probably came from Boscov's in the Laurel Mall.

Geez, would you take a look at that big dork in the red shorts?  And check out that green carpeting in my grandparents living room!  They had the house recarpeted in the mid 90's while I was living in Florida, so by the time I came back, it was kind of a dark beige color.  I missed the heck out of that ugly green carpet!

Fast forward to about 31 years after that photo was taken (give or take a few months) and I once again had the opportunity to see Dick Tracy on the big screen at the place that has been responsible for flooding my brain with good times and happy memories since I first set foot on the lot - the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to show the Rollercoaster Rabbit cartoon, but they showed a nice selection of trailers before the film, and the movie looked awesome on the big screen under the stars.

Unless there is a late addition to their current events schedule, Dick Tracy will be the last Disney Sunday night feature at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater for the 2021 season, but there's a lot left on the calendar, so expect more gushing praise for the drive-in to appear on this blog for the next six weeks.