Aug 31, 2023

The King Of Cheesy 80's Comedy

Police Academy
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Sunsets at the Mahoning are pretty amazing.  I've yet to take a photo that does it justice, and this one is no exception.

This is our 12th Tunnel Vision Tuesday of the season, and we'll be in attendance for at least four more of them.  This year's screenings have been a pretty eclectic mix, especially with the inclusion of classic comedy films that don't often show up in the weekend events.

This week's screening was a movie that kicked off a franchise that has become synonymous with cheesy comedy film from the 80's; the 1984 classic: Police Academy.

When I was a kid in the 80's, this was one of the movies that I always wanted to rent that my grandfather wouldn't allow it.  I should make a list of them one of these days, or maybe pick up some cheap VHS copies and put them on a shelf as a display of the movies that my 9 year old self would ask for every weekend, but that I didn't get to see until I was old enough to rent them on my own.

It's not that my grandfather had any objection to the Police Academy series.  He would let me choose Police Academy 2 through 6 without an argument, but he would not under any circumstances let me pick a Rated R movie.  If I asked him why, the answer was always the same: Z.  You know... it's the letter after Y in the alphabet.  Get it?  Grandpa was a kung fu master of both stubbornness and deflection, but it was always done with kindness.  What kind of argument could a kid even muster up when he asks why he can't do something and the only answer he gets is "Z"?  That, of course, was the point of his answer.  It was his nice way of saying "Hey kid... this isn't up for debate.  It's a hard no.  Pick something else before we go home with nothing".

I figured out pretty quickly what his reasoning was when I saw this movie for the first time when I was in middle school.  Police Academy would set off a thousand alarm bells today, mostly from the over-sensitive left, who seem to have picked up the censorship ball that was fumbled by the Jerry Falwell and the Bible Beaters at some point over the past twenty years.  However, for its time, it was considered to be pretty tame.  My grandfather's ban on Rated R movies when I was a kid was basically just a way to keep me away from sex, boobs, and the f-word, all of which feature to a very mild degree in the first Police Academy film.

This is a movie, and a movie series, that I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for.  They're silly, dumb, fun comedy flicks, and they don't pretend to be anything other than that.  You're not meant to take them seriously, or analyze their meaning and search for social commentary, or write long critiques about the acting performances and the cinematography.  They're just a bit of fun, and I'm always going to appreciate something like that.  I'm glad to have had the opportunity to see it at the drive-in.

Aug 30, 2023

The Historic Home Run Pace Continues

Dad and I got tickets for this game in exchange for the June 7th game against the Tigers that was postponed due to poor air quality as a result of the Canadian wildfires.  It turned out to be a good news and bad news situation.  It was a bummer to miss out on seeing future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in his final season, and I'm going to have to wait a bit longer to check the Tigers off of my "teams that I haven't seen in person" list.  On the bright side, we got to see a player who is in the middle of what is arguably the greatest season ever played by anyone in the history of the sport, Shohei Ohtani.  But before I get into what took place on the field on Monday night, I've got to take a moment to write about a delicious chicken sandwich.

Colbie's Southern Kissed Chicken opened their Citizens Bank Park location at the beginning of last season.  The opening got a lot of attention because Ryan Howard is one of the restaurant's owners, and because they serve a chicken sandwich named after the 2008 World Series Champion first baseman.  It's called The Big Piece.

The Big Piece is a sandwich made up of a large piece of southern fried chicken with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, pickles, and garlic aioli served on a sweet Hawaiian bun.  It was both delicious and filling and I highly recommend them!

We saw the Phillies play the Angels last season before the trade deadline.  It was on June 5th and it's the best game that I've ever seen in person.  The Phillies were down 6-2 in the bottom of the 8th, but Bryce Harper hit a grand slam to tie the game.  The Angels took a one run lead in the top of the 9th, but the Phillies bounced back again to win the game when Bryson Stott hit a walk-off three run homer for the win.

These teams completed a couple of trades with each other a little less than two months later.  The Phillies traded former #1 overall draft pick Mickey Moniak to the Angels for Noah Syndergaard.  It worked out in the short term because they needed some help in the rotation and Thor played a role in helping the 2022 Phillies win the pennant.  However, I've always liked Moniak and he's been having a good season, so I think that the Angels came out ahead in that deal.

The other trade worked out extremely well for the Phillies, both in the short and long term.  They acquired center fielder Brandon Marsh for top catching prospect Logan O'HoppeO'Hoppe may develop into an excellent catcher, but he was blocked by JT Realmuto in Philadelphia, and Marsh wasted no time in becoming a keystone of this team.  He won't hit free agency until after 2027 and he's having a hell of a season and is one of the reasons why this team has gone on the incredible stretch that they've been on since June.

With Mike Trout on the injured list, we got to see both Moniak and O'Hoppe in Monday night's game, and one other former member of the Phillies who once again came out of the bullpen to pitch against his former team.  We also got to see Shohei Ohtani, who is having an other-worldly season, and a rookie named Trey Cabbage who made his MLB last month and whose name resulted in no fewer than a half dozen puns throughout the game between my dad and I.

Monday night's game was between Taijuan Walker, who the Phillies signed this past winter to a four year deal, and Lucas Giolito, who the Angels just acquired at the trade deadline from the White Sox.  The Angels made a bold decision to acquire talent at the end of July to push for a playoff spot in what will probably be Shohei Ohtani's last season in Anaheim.  That decision to buy instead of sell hasn't worked out well for the Angels, but I'll talk more about that later.

This was a pretty even matchup of starting pitchers.  Giolito was an All-Star in 2019 and has a no-hitter under his belt, and he comes from a pretty interesting family.  His mother is actress Lindsay Frost, who was the female lead in Dead Heat which we saw at Zombiefest IX at the Mahoning earlier this season, and his uncle is Mark Frost, who was the co-creator of Twin PeaksWalker may not have any relatives in Hollywood, but he entered this game with a record of 13-5 and is among the league leaders in wins this season.

There was nothing as dramatic as the game tying grand slam and walk-off home run that we got to see last season, but this was an awesome game that was close and competitive.  

Things weren't looking too good for Taijuan Walker in the first inning.  He started off the game by plunking Nolan Schanuel and giving up a single to Shohei Ohtani to put runners on first and second with no outs.  He managed to record two quick outs, but Luis Rengifo hit an RBI single to give the Angels an early lead.  This brought our old friend Mickey Moniak up to bat.  He bunted and hustled his ass to first base and was called out, but the call was challenged and overturned which brought our other old friend, Logan O'Hoppe up to bat with the bases loaded.  Thankfully, he grounded out to end the inning and limit the damage to one run.

Lucas Giolito looked a lot sharper than Walker in the first inning, but thanks to a solo home run off the bat of Trea Turner, the results were the same, and the Phillies and Angels entered the second inning tied at 1-1.  Turner's home run was his 400th extra base hit of his career.

Things settled down until the top of the fourth inning.  Walker retired Logan O'Hoppe and Trey Cabbage pretty quickly, but he then gave up a two out walk to Randal Grichuk followed by a double by Nolan Schanuel.  Shohei Ohtani then walked to load the bases which brought second baseman Brandon Drury to the plate.  He hit a single to center field which scored two runs to give the Angels a 3-1 lead before Mike Moustakas grounded out to end the inning.

Photo Source: Phillies Instagram

Once again, the Phillies wasted no time in erasing the Angels lead.  Trea Turner walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth.  That brought Bryce Harper up to the plate who smacked a two run homer to once again tie the game.  It was Harper's 298th career home run.  In the weeks leading to this game, I thought that there was an outside chance that we'd get to see his 300th career home run.  It turns out that we were two days early.  He hit #300 earlier today in the final game of the series against the Angels.  He's just the fifth player in franchise history to hit his 300th home run in a Phillies uniform.

Sunsets at Citizens Bank Park can be incredible.  I wasn't able to get the whole ballpark in a single photo from our seats, so this doesn't at all do justice to how pretty the ballpark looks at this time of day.  The red in the sky pops a lot better in the background of the photos that the Phillies posted on Instagram of Harper's 298th home run.

Jake Cave singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth.  Kyle Schwarber, who entered this game with 36 home runs and 36 singles this season, struck out.  This brought Trea Turner to the plate, who hit his second home run of the night to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.

Turner has been on fire after a slow start to the season.  In his first 107 games as a member of the Phillies, he was batting .235 with 10 home runs and  .657 OPS.  Fans in Philly gave him a standing ovation on August 4th to show our new shortstop that we've got his back and we're confident that he'd bounce back.  Since that day, he's batting .359 with 8 home runs and a 1.122 OPS, and he's currently riding a 19 game hitting streak at Citizens Bank Park, which is the longest single season home hitting streak by a member of the Phillies since Placido Polanco 12 years ago.

The game was turned over to the bullpen in the sixth inning.  Matt Strahm came in to relieve Taijuan Walker in the top of the inning, and former Phillie Aaron Loup came in to relieve Lucas Giolito in the bottom half of the inning.  Both pitchers got out of the sixth inning cleanly, but Strahm ran into a little trouble in the seventh.  Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo singled, which brought Mickey Moniak to the plate with one out and runners on the corners.  He smacked an RBI single to left center, which knocked Strahm out of the game.  He was replaced by Jeff Hoffman, who retired Logan O'Hoppe and pinch hitter Hunter Renfroe to end the inning with the Phillies still ahead 5-4.

Gregory Soto pitched a clean top of the eighth, and the Phillies added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.  Alec Bohm led off with a double, and Brandon Marsh brought him in with an RBI single.  Craig Kimbrel came in to pitch the ninth and notched his 21st save of the season.  I don't think I've ever been in attendance for Kimbrel being brought in during a save situation, because I'm pretty sure I would have remembered this.  All of the lights in Citizens Bank Park go out for a few seconds before they strobe on and off while the speakers blast Welcome To The Jungle.  It's pretty bad ass!

After the Phillies 6-4 win on Monday night, they had a record of 73-58.  Today, it stands at 74-59, and barring a complete collapse in the last month of the season, they're headed for the playoffs.  They hit 59 home runs in the month of August, which is tied for the third most home runs that any team has had in a single month in the history of the sport.  The bullpen is beginning to look a little shaky, but things are looking good overall.

The Angels finished the month of August with a record of 8-19.  They're now six games under .500 and 11.5 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot.  In addition to that, Ohtani tore his UCL and won't be pitching for the rest of the season, and Trout is back on the bench just two days after he was reinstated from his previous 38 day stint on the injured list.  While I admire the fact that the Angels went all-in to compete for a playoff spot at the trade deadline, the decision has completely backfired.  Instead of selling at the deadline so that they could pick up a few prospects to build for the future, they've decided to place Lucas GiolitoReynaldo L√≥pez and Randal Grichuk on waivers, all three of whom they traded prospects away to acquire at the trade deadline.  They've also placed Matt Moore and Hunter Renfroe on waivers, which means that another team could claim any of these five players, and the only thing the Angels get in return is a little bit of salary relief, as the claiming team would have to pay a prorated portion of their salary.  This may be the most immediately disastrous trade deadline that any MLB team has ever had.

Unless a ridiculously good deal falls into my lap, that will be a wrap on our games for the 2023 season.  I'd love to go to a post-season game, but the ticket prices for playoff games in Philadelphia are far more than what I am comfortable paying.  We'll be back in 2024.

Aug 29, 2023

My Old Wildwood Home

Beach Rest Motel
423 East 25th Avenue - North Wildwood, NJ
I found this for a good price on eBay earlier this year and couldn't pass it up.  It's a postcard of the Beach Rest Motel, which is where my family and I would stay when we went on vacation in Wildwood, NJ when I was a kid.

I'm not sure exactly when the photo on this postcard was taken, but I'm guessing that it's from the 1950's or early 1960's.  There's no copyright year and it wasn't mailed so there isn't a postmark, but the motel's address is printed on the back and it doesn't include a zip code.  The US Postal Service introduced them in 1963, so I'm thinking that the postcard has to be older than that.

My grandfather picked up this postcard from the lobby of the Beach Rest Motel when we were on vacation in 1986... specifically August 29th, 1986, which he wrote on the back of the postcard when he filed it away with our vacation photos.  The way that the motel looks in the photos on the postcard is exactly how I remember it.

The photos are taken from slightly different angles, but I think that it's interesting to see the differences in the property over a span of about 30 years.

I swear that I can smell the room just by looking at this picture.  It's difficult to explain, but our room at the Beach Rest Motel in Wildwood had a very distinct smell that has been burned into my memory.  It was a combination of the salty ocean breezes blowing in from the beach with the old air conditioners in the room, and the smell of whatever products the motel used to clean the room.  I know that this description makes it sounds like the room smelled terrible, but it didn't.  It was wonderful, and it smelled exactly the same every year that we were here.  My grandfather would open the door and the smell of the room would just wash over me.  I knew that for the next three days, there would be rides, boardwalk food, mini golf, arcade games, cheesy souvenir shops, and my favorite part of all, Castle Dracula.

This postcard shows that was at the Beach Rest Motel.  It wasn't huge and it wasn't fancy, but it was special to me.  It's the pool where my grandfather taught me how to swim.  It's where we went to cool off on a hot summer day before hitting the Boardwalk.

This little motel meant a lot to me.  It was home base for some of my happiest childhood memories with my family.  Hell, my grandfather taught me how to swim in their swimming pool.  If I could go back and re-live any three days from my childhood, it would be the three days in the summer that we'd spend in Wildwood, where I'd rest my head for the night on the pillows of the Beach Rest Motel and then wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

Like so many parts of the world that I grew up in, the Beach Rest Motel no longer exists.  It was demolished in 2005 and replaced by rows of condominium apartments.  I'm sure they're very nice and probably have much better amenities than the old Beach Rest had to offer, but it'll never be the same.  Even if I hit Powerball and could buy the whole block of them and visit whenever I wanted, it could never be the same.  Time marches on and we march in step with it whether we like it or not.

Aug 28, 2023

Party At The Moon Tower

Dazed and Confused
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Last night, we got to see a 30th anniversary screening of one of my favorite movies from the 90's, the 1993 Richard Linklater classic, Dazed and Confused.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Dazed and Confused premiered in theaters on September 24th, 1993, and although it wasn't a big hit at the box office, it became a cult classic when it found its audience on home video.  This is where I discovered it as well.  At some point during the mid 90's, some friends and I picked up a pizza and wings and rented a few movies from Blockbuster.  I don't remember what year it was or what other movies we picked up that night, but I do remember that we spent the next few months quoting lines from this flick to each other every chance that we got.

We brought Harvey out to the lot and he had a great time as always.  He was excited to have the opportunity to play with his little buddy, Gizmo, who was brought out to the drive-in by two of our friends.  He also sat nicely to pose for a photo in the 70's den photo op on the stage outside of the concession building.

Donnie went above and beyond with buttons for this screening.  There were three Matthew McConaugheyWooderson buttons.  The one on the left is a reference to Mr. Nasty from VHS Fest, who is still chasing after residuals for a tape that he appeared in which may have sold a dozen copies worldwide.  The one on the right is for all of those lovely people who don't know how to turn their headlights off when they're at a drive-in theater, and the one in the center is a plea for the Mahoning to add the greatest concession item in movie history to their menu.

Bring the Personality Pickle to the Mahoning!

There were four more Dazed and Confused themed pins that Donnie brought to the lot.  Just to give you an idea of what a good dude this guy is, he pays for these out of his own pocket and he hands them out to folks on the lot for free.  It's guys like Donnie that really make this place feel like a community.

After the sun went down, the film hit the screen, and it was an absolutely gorgeous 35mm print.  Dazed and Confused is the perfect drive-in movie.  I missed out on seeing this during its original theatrical run and I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to see it in my favorite place in the world to watch a movie.

There was a secret feature at the end of the night that we once again have Donnie to thank for.  Not only did he bring the movie to the lot, but he had special buttons made up that he passed out to folks who stuck around to see it.  The rule on the lot is to keep secret features a secret, but I will say that it's a movie that I've never seen and has been on my watch list for a long time.  The button is a pretty good clue to folks who are familiar with this film.  I wouldn't say that I'd rank it on the same level as Dazed and Confused, which is is often compared to, but it was a fun flick and I'm glad to have had the chance to see it on the big screen.

Aug 27, 2023

More Sex and F-Bombs Than Scarface

Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
Well... it definitely made me laugh.  This isn't a movie for everybody, and it's not something that I see myself watching a second time, but if you're in the mood for something that's stupid and fun, you could do a lot worse.

Aug 26, 2023

Dogs And Cats Living Together - Mass Hysteria!

The Spengler TrilogyGhostbusters / Ghostbusters II / Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This artwork from the very talented Tom Bifulco commemorates one of the coolest events that I've ever attended at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  This Friday and Saturday are dedicated to the franchise that came out of one of my favorite movies from my childhood.  The legendary 1984 supernatural comedy Ghostbusters spawned two fun sequels, several animated cartoon series, and video games released for consoles ranging from the Atari 2600 to the Playstation 5, and just about everything in between.

I've seen all three of these movies in theaters at different times in my life, but I'd still consider all three of these movies a bucket list screening because I never watched any of them at a drive-in before.  Movies hit differently here, and the Ghostbusters trilogy is no exception.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Both Friday and Saturday nights included a triple feature of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  There were also quite a few vendors on the lot selling toys, shirts, animated cels, and other memorabilia from Ghostbusters and other vintage favorites.

Tom Bifulco's artwork was used to create one of my favorite shirts that I've ever seen for sale on the lot.  It has the little baby Stay Puft Marshmallow Men crawling around a radio and a 35mm film reel with Slimer above them holding a Mahoning popcorn bucket and a carton of Hi-C Ecto Cooler.

Speaking of Ecto Cooler, Beth looked up some of the fan recipes that have been posted online and made a big batch of the Slimer-inspired beverage.  She got it pretty damn close!  It was the perfect beverage for Ghostbuster weekend on the lot.  The snack bar also had Ghost Dogs, which were grilled hot dogs with sauteed onions, sauerkraut and brown mustard, and a limited supply of Twinkies.  However, for as cool as all of these things were, the real superstar attraction on the lot this weekend was parked in the grass under the big screen.

Nick and Jay from Ectotech brought their incredible Ecto-1 NJ to the lot for folks to enjoy, admire, and take countless selfies with.  Of course, we were no exception!

This is our third year coming to the Mahoning and I've already had the opportunity to see the Batmobile, Doc Brown's DeLorean Time Machine, and Ecto-1, the latter two of which I got to sit behind the wheel of.  Here are some more photos of the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Sentinel that was turned into a screen-accurate Ecto-1 by the folks at Ectotech.

Seeing this is worth the price of admission by itself!

It wasn't lost on me that Ecto-1 sat in the shadow of the massive Godzilla statue from Godzilla-palooza.  That would be a hell of a crossover!

There were quite a few folks who showed up in costume, some of whom even came with their own proton pack, ghost trap, PKE meter and other ghostbusting devices.  Mark and JT gathered as many of them as they could find to come up to the front of the lot for a group photo.

The trailer reel started at around 8:30 with the first movie hitting the screen at around quarter to nine.

Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies ever made.  It was originally released in theaters a month before I turned four years old, but I watched it countless times on VHS throughout my childhood.  Both my wife and I got to see it in theaters for the first time ten years ago, when it was the first film shown for the Splatterday Film Festival at the Kirby Center.  That event in Wilkes-Barre was fun, but it pales in comparison to the experience of seeing a 35mm print at the Mahoning.  We found out after the screening that Krista ran the film by herself, without any assistance from Rob or Jeff, and she did a hell of a good job!

During the movie, the Ectotech folks snuck up to Ecto-1 to get everything set up to turn the lights at the exact moment in the movie when the vehicle comes out of the firehouse and races through the streets of New York for the first time.  They synced it up perfectly!

Next up was Ghostbusters 2.  My grandfather brought me to see this at Church Hill Cinema in Hazleton when I was nine years old shortly after it premiered in theaters back in 1989.  I loved it when I was a kid, then grew jaded with it in my teens and early 20's, and then grew to appreciate it again in my 30's and 40's.  It's definitely not as good as the first movie, but it has a charm all of its own, and I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to see it at a drive-in theater for the first time.

The final movie of the night was Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  We watched this movie at the Regal Cinema in Hazleton twice during its initial theatrical run in late 2021, and it's one of those movies that I love more every time I see it.  It is still the gold standard on how to reboot a beloved franchise for a new generation, and the end brings a tear to my eye every time I see it.

And that's a wrap on the 2023 Ghostbusters Triple Feature Fan Event.  These are movies that I will never get sick of, so if they bought this back to the drive-in at some point in the future, you can bet that I'll be there.