Feb 28, 2023

The Mystery Continues...

Regal Mystery Movie Monday
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
My local theater has a promotion that they do once in a while called Mystery Movie Monday.  Tickets are $5 (or free with the Regal Unlimited pass) for a movie that's scheduled to screen on Monday night at 7:00 pm, but you don't know what the movie is going to be.  The only thing that you know for sure going in is the movie's rating (this one was PG-13), and it's a movie that hasn't been released yet, so there's no chance that you have seen it before.

Sounds like fun, right?  I thought so too.  Unfortunately, while we were waiting for the start of the show, a staff member came in to tell us that they were unable to show the movie due to technical difficulties.

I'm bummed that we didn't get to see the movie, but the real disappointment would be if they don't get the next Mystery Movie Monday event in Hazleton.  I don't know how the corporate office decides which theaters get to screen these, but we typically don't get any of the special events at my local theater.  They finally had one, and something went wrong, so they'll either have to report that there was a problem with the theater's equipment that prevented it from being shown, or report that the screening had zero ticket sales.  Either way, it doesn't bode well for the next one coming to town.

The other thing that I was bummed out about was the possibility that the Mystery Movie Monday event would be the only screening of whatever was shown (like if it was a movie with a limited theatrical release), but that's not the case.  We found out after we got home that the movie that was supposed to be screened was the upcoming Woody Harrelson basketball comedy Champions.  It isn't scheduled to premier until March 10th, but it's a big budget flick, so it's a pretty safe bet that they'll be showing it at our local theater.  It would have been cool to get a sneak preview, but no biggie.  We'll get to see it soon.

Feb 27, 2023

When Was The Last Time You Remember Seeing Daylight

Dark City
New Line Cinema (1998)
This trippy sci-fi noir film is a quarter century old today.  I went to see Dark City at the Church Hill Cinema in March 1998 when I was 17 years old and it was unlike anything that I'd ever seen before.  I didn't fully understand it the first time I saw it, but my eyes were glued to the screen from start to finish and I grew to appreciate it more when it was released on home video.

The Times Leader - Wilkes-Barre, PA  (March 1, 1998)

I'm not sure how to describe Dark City without spoiling part of the story.  Most of the reviews that were written at the time had the same problem.  Hell, even this newspaper ad gives away more of the plot than I think it should.  It's the kind of movie you really should see for yourself, with as little advance knowledge as possible.

If you're a university student or you have a public library card, you can stream it for free on Kanopy.  Otherwise, you can pay to stream it on a variety of platforms, including YouTube and Amazon.  It's not the kind of movie that I'd recommend to everybody, but if you like science fiction and mystery flicks that are heavy on atmosphere, give it a shot.

Feb 26, 2023

Stranded On VHS

The Stranger
Bing Crosby Productions (1973)
Fifty years ago today, NBC Monday Night At The Movies aired a made-for-tv science fiction movie called The Stranger.  It was intended to be the pilot for a television series, but it was never picked up and the tv movie was largely forgotten.  In the decades that followed, it was rebroadcast a few times under the title Stranded In Space, and it was the subject of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 under this title, but that's about it.

The only time that I'm aware of that it has ever been sold on physical media was a 1988 VHS release by Questar Video.  Today, on it's 50th birthday, it is not available on DVD, BluRay, or on any of the streaming services with the exception of a few fan uploads on YouTube that could disappear at any time.

I'm not going to tell you that this is the greatest science fiction movie ever made, but it's pretty damn good.  It follows the story of an astronaut who crash lands on what he first believes to be Earth, but soon discovers is something else entirely.  I saw it for the first time when I was 8 years old and rediscovered it when I was 40, and I found it to be absolutely fascinating both times.  The concept explored in this movie is so brilliant that I'm surprised that no one has tried to do a remake.

I'm going to leave my description at that so that I don't spoil the story for you.  If you don't mind some mild spoilers, click here to read a bit more that I wrote about the movie a couple of years ago.  If this sounds interesting to you, pop some popcorn and click on the first video below to enjoy a strange science fiction story exactly 50 years from the day that it was first broadcast on television, or click on the second video and enjoy a few laughs watching the syndicated version with Joel and his robot friends... or if you're as big of a nerd as I am, make it a double feature.

Feb 25, 2023

A Close Shave

Jack The Clipper
4 Toynbee Street, London
This goes on the list of places that I'll need to stop if I ever get back to London.  The theme of the shop goes deeper than the "clipper" rhyme; one of the prime suspects for the true identity of Jack The Ripper was a Whitechapel barber named Aaron Kosminski.  You can learn more about the branding of the shop from Architonic (photo source: Viv Lynch).

Feb 24, 2023

Carbonated Strawberry Ice Cream

Dr. Pepper Strawberries & Cream
Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. (2023)
Fifteen years ago, they made a Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper.  It was one of the best limited edition soda flavors that I've ever had.  It hasn't come back to the market since 2008, but this new Strawberries & Cream flavor may be even better.  It tastes just like strawberry ice cream.  There's also a Zero Sugar version of it, and if it's half as good as the regular version, I'm going to need to stock up on it.

Feb 23, 2023

Video Poker Archaeology

Double Up Draw Poker
Merit Industries (1982)
One way to hide all of the weight I've gained over the past few years is to only be photographed behind the plexiglass of a 41 year old video poker machine.  I found this for sale at the Hometown Farmers Market.  I didn't buy it, but all kidding aside, it probably would make a cool picture frame for a family that's really into playing cards.

Source: Flyer Fever

The plexiglass came from a Double Up Draw Power arcade machine.  It was produced and sold by Merit Industries in 1982, along with a line of other card games that were "for amusement only", but were still used as gambling machines.

My grandparents used to play machines like these around town when I was growing up in the 80's.  I don't think they were any of these particular machines, but they worked pretty much the same.  The computer would deal you five cards, you'd press the buttons beneath the cards that you wanted to keep, then you'd press deal and your score would increase based on what hand you ended up with.  The poker machines that I remember the most were at the Blue Comet Diner on Route 309 in Hazleton.  If they did well, they would tell the hostess.  She'd come out and check the machine and literally pay them out of the cash register.

The laws in Pennsylvania have changed a lot over the past forty years, but using one of these for gambling was highly illegal in the 80's.  That didn't seem to matter too much in my hometown.  It wasn't like they kept these machines hidden in the back room of the Blue Comet.  They were the first thing you saw when you walked in the front door.   The only place I see old poker machines like this today are in arcades like Playland at Knoebels, and they pay off in prize tickets instead of cash.

Feb 22, 2023

A Spaceship Shooter In Your Mouth

Plaque Attack
Atari 2600 (1983)
A unique and addictive shooting game was released by Activision 40 years ago.  Plaque Attack was designed by Steve Cartwright, who would go on to develop several other very fun games that I played on the Atari 2600, including Megamania, Frostbite, and Seaquest.

left: New York Daily News  (January 17, 1983)
right: Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale, FL  (February 1, 1983)

As always, it's difficult to pin down the exact release date of games from this era.  Some online sources have it listed as early as February 22nd, 1983, while others have documented its release to late April or early May alongside Keystone Kapers and Dolphin.  The earliest mention of the game that I could find was in a blurb published in the New York Daily News on January 17th, 1983, which leads me to believe that the February 22nd date might be closer to being correct than the others. 

Miami Herald  (September 24, 1983)

Plaque Attack plays very much like a space shooter, with your character and the enemy characters flying around in an open space.  However, there are two main differences between this and a traditional space shooter.  The first and most obvious is the fact that the graphics have set the game inside of a mouth with toothpaste and food taking the place of spaceships.  The second difference is that the enemy "ships" (food) don't attempt to shoot your character, and they can't kill you by touching you.

Your character is a small tube of toothpaste in a large mouth that is being invaded by food.  The goal is to shoot the food before they can attach themselves to the teeth and destroy them, but you have a limited number of shots per level.  This is represented by the fact that your tube of toothpaste gets smaller every time you shoot, so you have to make your shots count.  As you progress through the game, different food items fly in faster and travel in more erratic patterns.  Some of them have shapes which make them very challenging to hit, like candy canes.  Like most of the games of this era, there is no end to the game, which means that the goal is to get as high of a score as you can before you lose all of your teeth.

If you were able to score over 35,000 points, you could take a photo of the screen and send it in to Activision to receive a free No Plaque Pack patch as a prize to celebrate your accomplishment.

The Morning Call - Allentown, PA  (August 7, 1983)

The game was promoted throughout the summer of 1983 in a cross-branded campaign with Aqua-fresh.  If you purchased Plaque Attack and a tube of Aqua-fresh toothpaste, you could send in the proof of purchase from the box of each product along with the sales receipt for the game to receive a $3 rebate.

Plaque Attack has been re-released as a part of several Activision retro compilations.  The first one that I ever remember seeing was Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack: Volume 2 for Windows 95.  Just a few years later, it was one of the 30 games in the 1998 release of what I'm assuming is the longest title of any game released on Playstation: A Collection Of Activision Classic Games For The Atari 2600.  It was also one of the games in the 2002 release of a similar game with a much catchier title: Activision Anthology.  This was released on the Playstation 2, PSP and Game Boy Advance consoles, as well as on CD Rom for Windows XP and Macintosh.

It doesn't seem like Plaque Attack has received too much attention in recent years even from the retro gaming community, but it's a game that I had a lot of fun playing when I was growing up.  If you want to give it a shot, you can play it for free on Archive.org.  Click the link, then click the screen to load the game.  Once it's loaded, press 2 on your keyboard to start the game.  You can move the tube of toothpaste with your arrow keys and fire with the control key.  I'm sure there are ways to play it with a controller or on your mobile phone, but I'm the wrong guy to ask about how you would do that.

Feb 21, 2023

The World Beyond Blockbuster

Mom n' Pop: The Indie Video Store Boom Of The 80s/90s
Bobby Canipe Jr (2022)
We had the opportunity to watch this documentary with the other Simplex Tier members of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater's Patreon, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

It's only in recent years that I've come to realize how short of a window the video rental store had in our culture. If you grew up in the 80's and 90's, it was just a part of your world, no more or less prevalent than fast food restaurants, and the idea that it could all disappear in our adulthood wasn't even a consideration. Only now can we look back and recognize that this iconic part of our childhood, with its own unique feel and culture, was something that could have only existed at a specific time and place, and only for a short time.

This film examines that culture - specifically that of independent rental stores and the ways that they influenced our lives, and it does so in a way that fits what these rental shops were. It's not a sterile history lesson with a Blockbuster Video logo slapped on the cover - it's a collection of stories and memories shared by people who have a genuine love of movies and whose experiences at small, independent video stores have a permanent place in their memory and in their hearts. Watching this reminded me of my own experiences of renting tapes at places like Heights Terrace Video in Hazleton, PA or at the Pantry Quik convenience store near my grandparents house.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone who loves movies. Watching this feels like it felt hanging out at the video store when I was a teenager, and whether you were there to experience these stores or not, I'm confident that it will bring a smile to your face.

Feb 20, 2023

I Am A Quack Addict

Duck Donuts
The Shoppes at Montage - Moosic, PA
I was at the red light leaving Cinemark on Saturday with the left turn signal on to head home, but then I saw a sign up ahead that said Duck Donuts.  You can't just put something like that on a sign and not expect me to check it out.

They thankfully do not serve donuts made with duck meat, but I'm not going to pretend that I wouldn't have tried it if they did.  They're named after the town of Duck, North Carolina where the company was founded.  The company is based out of Mechanicsburg, PA today,and they have over 100 locations.  This one in Moosic just opened up last month.

The business model at Duck Donuts is pretty brilliant.  They have a menu of specialty donuts that you can order, or you can customize your own.  When you place an order for your donut(s), a receipt is printed with your name on it that is handed down the line to the crew, who are standing behind a counter of cambros that are filled with different flavors of icing, drizzles, sprinkles, and other toppings.  They get a plain cake donut that was literally just baked and is still hot, and they assemble it much in the same way that they make a hoagie at Subway or a burrito at Chipotle.

This place has only been open for a month, but these folks have this process down to a science.  There was a line stretching around the counter and to the front door, but they were moving through it quickly, and every single finished donut that I saw looked gorgeous.

My wife got the S'Mores Donut on the left, which is made from chocolate icing which is then topped with a marshmallow drizzle and graham cracker crumbs.  I got the Blueberry Pancake donut, which is made from blueberry icing with a maple drizzle and powdered sugar, and let me tell you, that thing tasted exactly like blueberry pancakes with maple syrup.

I'm trying to eat healthy and cut back on desserts and snacks in the new year, so I'm kinda glad that there's a significant number of miles between myself and this place.  I don't know if I'd be able to resist trying the rest of the donuts on their menu if they were right down the street.

Feb 19, 2023

Whatever Path You Take In This Life, Be True To Yourself

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Cinemark - Moosic, PA
One of the most challenging things I found about signing up for an account on Letterboxd was the option to pick my four favorite films.  It doesn't ask for your favorite action films, or comedies, or crime dramas... just your four favorite films of all time, period.  I changed my mind on the things that I have listed at the third and fourth spot quite a few times before I settled on Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski, but the first two on the list were movies that I didn't even really have to think about.

Rocky and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon are my two favorite movies ever made.  It would be pretty hard for me to choose my all time favorite out of the two because I experienced them in very different ways.  Rocky was released in theaters three and a half years before I was born.  I saw it for the first time on home video when I was a teenager, and I already knew the story before I saw the movie because it had become a part of pop culture (especially in Eastern Pennsylvania).  The movie still had a profound effect on me, but I can only imagine that it would have been even more impactful if I was a teenager in 1976 and had gone to see it in the theaters for the first time, with my only expectations coming from the trailer and newspaper advertisements that promoted the film.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a very different experience for me.  I was at Battery Park in March 2001 and there was a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel called Lili's Noodle Shop & Grill where I had dinner.  This is where I had real ramen for the first time (in other words, ramen that didn't cost ten cents that I made in the microwave).  The restaurant had a "dinner and a movie" deal that allowed you to add a voucher for a movie ticket at the theater next door to your check for a discounted price, so I did that without really having a movie in mind that I wanted to see.

After dinner, I went next door to see what was playing and I saw that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was scheduled to start in about ten minutes.  It had gotten a lot of positive buzz at the time so I was aware of its existence.  I didn't really know what it was about, but I figured that they make thousands of movies in other countries every year and very few of them ever get a wide release in the United States, so for this one to be getting so much good publicity, it has to be a pretty good movie.  So, I cashed in my voucher, took my seat, and spent the next two hours being absolutely blown away by the story that unfolded on the big screen.

This was the most incredible experience that I've ever had at a movie theater in my life.  I'm sure a big part of what made me connect so strongly with it was that I was going through a lot of stress.  I was 20 years old, and my mental health was not at all in a good place.  I went to New York because I wanted to escape and forget about everyone and everything for a little while and let my mind calm down and reset.  Although I didn't realize it when I got the ticket, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was exactly what I needed in that moment in my life - a two hour escape from my life into a beautiful world with lush landscapes, an amazing cast of deep characters, two incredible love stories that are told throughout a story of revenge and regret, and some of the best fight scenes I have ever seen before or since.  This movie told me a story that made me feel like the world around me had disappeared and been replaced with theirs, and it came at a time in my life when I needed it.

I ended up seeing the movie in theaters two more times after that first time.  The second time was at a movie theater in Parsippany, New Jersey that I stopped at on my drive home from New York.  The third and final time was at the Hoyt Theater (which is now a Regal Cinema) in Hazleton, PA after I got back home.

The DVD was released in the summer of 2001, and I watched it so many times over the past 22 years that I don't think I even need the English subtitles to enjoy the film.  It's not that I've learned Mandarin Chinese, but I have so much of the dialogue memorized through sheer repetition that a translation is no longer necessary.  I've only watched the English dubbing of the film one time, and I have no desire to do so again.  I'm not trying to be a film snob, but it's just not the same.

I never thought I'd have the opportunity to experience this movie on the big screen again, but it's been re-released in theaters in the United States starting this weekend.  They're not screening it at my local Regal Cinema, but Cinemark in Moosic is showing it and it's definitely worth the extra miles to see this incredible movie at a theater one more time.

If you haven't seen it, this is your chance and I can't recommend it strongly enough.  Even if you're not into martial arts films, this is such an incredible movie that there is no one I can think of who wouldn't enjoy it.

Feb 18, 2023

Just Another Rush-Inspired Psychological Phenomenon

My brain does a lot of really goofy things that I don't fully understand.  One of those things it sometimes does is link two or more completely unrelated things together.  The example that I always go to when I try (and fail) to properly explain this to people is that my mind has forever linked the Sega Master System game Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars and Royal Dansk Butter Cookies.  I cannot physically experience one of them without mentally experiencing the other.

Now I know you're thinking "yeah dude, one thing reminds you of another... that's not a big deal", but this isn't the same thing.  There are plenty of things in this world that remind me of something else, but this goes to a whole different level.  I thought at first that this might be related to classical conditioning, but the thing I'm talking about doesn't require repeated exposure and there's really no physical manifestation.  It's just two external stimuli randomly becoming fused together in my memory.

I should probably also mention that neither of these things hold any special significance to me other than their bizarre pairing with each other.  Don't get me wrong, I like Alex Kidd and butter cookies just fine, but neither of them would crack my top 100 list of favorite video games or favorite things to eat.  Nevertheless, if I even look at a tin of those cookies, I swear that I can hear the music from that video game in my head, and when I play that game, I can taste those cookies in my mouth.  I'm sure that I must have munched some of those cookies while playing the game at some point in my childhood, but I've eaten lots of things while playing lots of different video games.  I can't think of any other combination of food and game that have smashed together in my mind like they were held together with crazy glue, to the point where I am incapable of experiencing one without the other.

The Alex Kidd / Butter Cookies link isn't the only example of this in my life.  One other example that comes to mind, although it's not quite as strong of a connection, is that I always hear the Belinda Carlisle song Circle In The Sand in my mind every time I see Garbage Pail Kids, and I always picture those stickers in my mind when I hear the song.  That song got a lot of radio play in the late 80's and it came out at around the same time that I collected Garbage Pail Kids, so I'm sure there must have been a time when I was looking through my sticker collection and the song was playing when I was a kid.  But why did those two particular things become so inexplicably linked on my brain?

The only other mental pairing that I can think of as I'm writing this is the one that I'm about to explain below.  It's not like my entire brain is organized in this way, but I'd estimate that there are maybe a dozen other pairs like these in my mind.  I should really start keeping a list of them as I notice them to see if there are any patterns.

The most recent time that this happened to me is the one that I've been thinking about a lot over the past month, and it involves the 1982 Rush song Subdivisions.  I have heard this song many times over the years, but on the night of September 2nd going into the morning of September 3rd of last year, it became a part of one of these mental pairings.  The thing that makes this pairing strange is that I think I could feel this one burning into my brain as it was happening.

It was during Night Two of Camp Blood at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in between the screenings of Graduation Day and Blood Rage.  I forget who was DJing that night, but one of the songs that he played during the second intermission was Subdivisions.  I remember that it was just past midnight and the lot was packed with cars and people (Camp Blood is one of the most well-attended events of the year).  I was laying back in my camping chair in front of my car, and I was playing Pinball FX 3 on Switch - specifically the Space Station pinball machine.  I remember that as the synth hit in the beginning of the song, I looked up from my game and looked around for a little while.  I saw the people walking around and smelled their popcorn and burgers as they walked past me on the way back to their car from the concession building.  I looked up at the stars and felt the cool night air.  As the song played on, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity in which I felt truly at home, and I fully appreciated how special this exact moment in time was.  If life was a video game with save states, I would have saved my game right then and there so I could go back and re-experience this part of my game whenever I wanted.  It is very rare that a moment hits me as hard as that did, but when it happens, it feels other-worldly; almost euphoric.

As the intermission drew to a close, the feeling of that moment faded away.  It's not that I felt sad or that I stopped having fun or anything like that.  I enjoyed the final movie of the night and was still having a hell of a lot of fun, but the drug-like high of that moment had passed. 

I didn't think too much about this moment until I was playing the Space Station table on Pinball FX 3 recently, and I could hear Subdivisions in my head.  I've never been a massive Rush fan.  I've always liked them just fine and all, but unlike a lot of the things I write about, I don't have any strong childhood memories or decades-long fandom associated with the band or their music.  It was never a band that I connected with in the way that so many others have.  In fact, I didn't even know the name of the song that forced its way into my mind as I was playing pinball on Switch, despite the fact that it's one of the band's biggest hits.  I had to go through a few of their songs on YouTube before I found it, but as soon as I heard the synth in the beginning, I could almost feel the cool air on my skin and smell the popcorn from that night.  Once I noticed that this mental pairing thing had happened again, I started to pay attention to the song... not just hear it, but to really listen to it, and it was like a light switch in my brain got turned on.  I think I might have even said out loud to myself "oooh, now I get it".  Since that day, I've been listening to Rush quite a bit, and it's like I've unlocked a whole other world of music that I always knew was there, but somehow never truly experienced.

I don't know what the point of any of this is, but I wanted to write it down while I'm thinking clearly enough to put words to what I'm feeling.  Do other people experience these pairings and just not recognize them or talk about them, or these random moments of euphoria that seemingly come out of nowhere and then fade away just as fast?  Are these two phenomena connected and I've just forgotten about the euphoric feeling associated with the other pairings in my memory?  Is this just something that can happen with autism?  It's not the kind of thing that I can dismiss it by saying "it's all in my head", because it's obviously all in my head... but why is it in my head?  What the hell is this? 

Anyway, here's Subdivisions.
Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights

Feb 17, 2023

He's My Favorite Honky

King Tut
Steve Martin & The Toot Uncommons
It was 100 years ago today that archaeologist Howard Carter broke the seal on the tomb of Tutankhamun.  The artifacts that were discovered by Mr. Carter and his team were shipped around the world as a part of a global museum tour that reached the United States in 1976.

On April 22nd, 1978, Steve Martin paid tribute to the King Tut craze that was sweeping the United States in the late 70's when he performed this song on Saturday Night Live.  The band that performed with him was billed as "The Toot Uncommons" for the song, but they were actually The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, plus Lou Marini on saxophone.

The song was released as a single later in 1978 and sold over a million copies.  It also reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the few comedy singles to chart in the Top 40 in the decade.
Now when he was a young man
He never thought he'd see
People stand in line to see the boy king

How'd you get so funky?
Did you do the monkey?
Born in Arizona
Moved to Babylonia
King Tut

Now, if I'd known
They'd line up just to see him
I'd taken all my money
And bought me a museum

Buried with a donkey
He's my favorite honky
Born in Arizona
Moved to Babylonia
King Tut

Dancin by the Nile
The ladies love his style
Rockin for a mile
He ate a crocodile

He gave his life for tourism.

Now, when I die
Now don't think I'm a nut
Don't want no fancy funeral
Just one like ol' King Tut

He coulda won a Grammy
Buried in his jammies
Born in Arizona
Moved to Babylonia
He was born in Arizona
Got a condo made of stone-a
King Tut

Feb 16, 2023

A Good Dude Who I'm Going To Miss

Ken Box
1956 - 2022
The Hometown Farmer's Market is a place I've been coming to since I've been old enough to walk.  It's only open on Wednesday and a lot of the vendors set up their shops outside, so it's a place that we typically go to quite a bit in the Spring and Summer but not so much in the Fall and Winter.

It was 66 degrees yesterday, which is not at all typical for mid-February in Northeast Pennsylvania, so we decided to stop by after work.  It's the first time that we've been here since last summer.  One of the shops here that I was looking forward to visiting was a used bookstore that's in the back of the main building.  I've found a lot of awesome things here over the years, but the main reason I wanted to stop was to talk with Ken.  He's a hell of a nice guy who I've spent hours talking with about books, movies, and baseball, but especially about music and concerts that we've been to.

The store is still there and it's still open, but Ken wasn't there.  A sign was tacked up out front to let his customers know that he passed away on September 24th of last year.

I didn't know him well, but I'm going to miss him.  I don't make friends easily, but he was an extremely nice person who was easy to talk with and very knowledgeable about rock and new wave.  Every time I came to the shop, we'd end up talking for an hour... and then hour and a half... and then two hours... and it felt like only 10 or 15 minutes had gone by.

In addition to being a bookseller and an encyclopedia of knowledge about rock music, Ken was an artist and he created a lot of framed collages that are still hanging in the store.  The one that caught my eye last year wasn't really a collage like some of the others, but it was a framed collection of The Far Side comics that he cut out and arranged.  I'm a big fan of Gary Larson's comics, and when I noticed this resting on a pile of books last summer, it started a conversation that Ken and I had about The Far Side, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and other newspaper comic strips.  It was still there in the shop last night, so I bought it off of his friend who is now running the shop.  I'm in the process of remodeling an area of my basement as a rec room to read, watch movies, play video games and listen to records, and I'm going to hang this on the wall above the table that's next to my recliner.  

Thanks for being a good dude.  Hope to see you on the other side someday.

Feb 15, 2023

The Mexidelphian

Philly Steak Burrito
La Tolteca - Wilkes Barre, PA
On Friday night before Casablanca, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Wilkes-Barre called La Tolteca.  It's been a while since I've been here, but everything I've ever tried here has been incredible.

I had the Philly Steak Burrito, which was roughly the size of a small baby swimming in a vat of melted cheese.  If I had to do it over again, I would have eaten half of it and brought the other half home for lunch the next day, but I stuffed myself and spent the rest of the evening feeling very, very full.

Feb 14, 2023

Eat Your Hearts Out

Fr❤❤t L❤❤ps Sweethearts
Kellogg's (2023)
They taste just like regular Froot Loops.  Happy Valentines Day!