Friday, July 14, 2006

A.C.: Atlantic City or Adult Children?

"There is no possible way that Pee-Wee had sex with Chair-y. Now Cowboy Curtis and that dog chair, on the other hand, is a different story. that nose was right on his crotch."

"Here's the most obvious hint: once Optimus Prime gets done fucking this person, he screams real loud."

"Yeah, I think that if you landed on top of that, you'd be Rod Roddyed."

"I can't believe that you were thinking of Balki at the exact same time I was!"

"If that female puppet fucked me, I'd be getting sex AND a handjob at the same time!"

"I'll give you $2 if you go up to that window and ask if Santa Claus is working."

"I would fuck a poster. It can't say no."

"'The Price is Right' is still my bitch."

"Amy Jo Johnson and Dot from 'Animaniacs'? That'd be beastiality, pedophilia, and screwing someone from a different realm of reality all in one! In fact, the lesbian aspect would be the LEAST taboo."

Believe it or not, the above is a mere SAMPLING of some of the sounds our vocal chords produced recently when I, my sister, and my friends Dan and Rusty decided to take a late-night trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey. And I have yet to post the most offensive one.

Interestingly, this trip almost failed to occur. See, it came at the tail end of the early July 2006 week that New Jersey lawmakers could not agree on a budget, which resulted in...what else?...a complete and utter shutdown of the entire state government. Now, while this would be an improvement for most states (not to mention the country as a whole), it really fucked up the Garden State, which is no easy task. Since gambling operations are regulated by the government, all reels, wheels, and other gaming terms that end in "-eels" came to a halt once employees assigned to casinos were told to take an indefinite unpaid leave of absence. Those who have not been to the area don't realize that A.C. is no Las Vegas. In Vegas, there are actually activities outside of gambling: world-class entertainment, trips to Hoover Dam, prostitution, etc.

Atlantic City, without its casinos, is essentially Harlem with a beach.

Of course, this initially put a sour spin on our plans, which we made extremely far in advance (the previous Tuesday). If we missed this opportunity, we might have to wait an entire WEEK before we'd get another one like it! I soothed Dan's dreary outlook with the observation, "Hey, if we still go down when the casinos are closed, we'll still leave with the exact same earnings we left with each time they WERE open!" What can I say? I'm a confident bastard.

Fortunately for us (but not for people who were there during the shutdown, but fuck them), the budget crisis was straightened out THAT DAY and all casinos reopened. Sure, New Jersey increased its sales tax by 1% as a result (to 7%), but that didn't matter to we 6%-sales-tax-paying Pennsylvanians...or to the filthy rich New Jersey citizens who feared that the budget solution would eat away at their tax breaks. So the mom with three kids has to pay more for milk, clothing, and therapy; what matters most is that Jacob Wellington Pewterschmidtt III gets to keep his yacht. However, I must admit that I did find humorous that citizens who frequent A.C. bitched about the sales tax, seconds before (or after...or during) they fed the better part of their annual salary into a video poker machine.

Despite living within an hour's driving distance of the Garden State's gambling Mecca, which made our late-night trip (we LEFT suburban Philadelphia close to 11pm) a worthwhile possibility, it nevertheless produces a sight that I have yet to see on ANY day trip I have taken:

The sunrise.

Seriously. Sure, I've seen the sun SET numerous times and have often departed and returned home within the same 24-hour span (yet with both the departure and arrival times ending in "AM"), but I have never seen the beginnings of the next day before. Fortunately, this happened well after I had taken everyone back to their respective homes, so I just chalked it up to being overly tired and hallucinating, which is a perfect state to be when you're traveling on an Interstate highway through one of its many construction zones.

The Saturday on which we left had a few minutes left to live as we pulled into the neon-lit chaos of what is commonly referred to as "A.C." by writers too lazy to continuously type out lengthy words like "city." Needless to say, the trip down was more or less uneventful, though we did amuse ourselves by partaking in an activity that is highly amusing to each and every person on the planet...assuming Dan, Rusty, and I were the last people on Earth: saying insane shit in front of tollbooth attendants.

We figure that tollbooth attendants have a pretty dull job, so we figure that we will take pity on those who take money by engaging in psychotic, often embarassing conversation as we hand over our toll. At least we give these highway drones an opportunity to go home and tell their significant others (assuming they have one) the story of a car full of guys enthusiastically discussing whether or not select characters on "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" had sex with each other. While we did indeed start these conversations on purpose, we did not count on actually CONTINUING them as we drew closer to the city limits, which explains the existence of the puppet comment in the quote list heading this column.

Aside from that, which will grow into a full-fledged, albeit just as fucked up, competition later on in this column, the only other point of note during the route involved a road sign. Seriously. Dan thought that he had seen a sign advertising Margate City's infamous "Lucy the Elephant" attraction alongside the darkened highway; had said highway not been the Atlantic City Expressway (which has a speed limit of "Autobahn"), I would have instantly spun around to double-check. A few days later, Dan, on another excursion to A.C. (sans the rest of us), not only got a good look at the sign which only existed in a "possible" sense prior, but actually called me to tell me about it. Seriously. The background noise on his end of our phone conversation gave away that he was indeed still on the road and had literally JUST PASSED this sign.

Yeah we need to get laid.

Anyway, we made our way to the Monopoly-themed streets of the city and began scouring a parking location. While each casino-hotel-buffet restaurant has its own set of unique charms, we decided to park at Ballys for a very special reason near and dear to our collective hearts: it was free.

Apparently, Ballys was sponsoring some type of car expo throughout the entire week and was offering free parking as a way to draw people in. The mere fact that I'm not 100% certain as to what exactly the occasion was even NAMED should be enough of a clue that the event's plan wasn't exactly thought all the way through. I mean, take a look at some of the events casinos sponsor: car shows (I think), boxing matches, live entertainment, etc. All of these should possess SOME degree of loudness...yet no one ever notices, thanks to their unyielding focus on three spinning reels containing pictures of various fruits or digitally rendered playing cards in front of them. If the events of 9/11 happened to take place in "A.C.," there would have been a hell of a lot more casualties than what was seen in New York or Washington. The attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center proved that people will run as far away as possible from their job. Hell, I want to do that right now and no airplanes have even come near the place. But slam an aircraft into a casino...and you'll have people either not notice or who will give that slot machine handle one last pull before the building TOTALLY collapses.

Applauding for a series of really cool windmills that dot the back bay of the resort town, even though the night sky prevented me from seeing them 100%, we made our way through the parking garage and to the elevators leading to the casino floor. I attempted to touch the ceiling a few times; while I succeeded in slapping my palm against the hanging concrete rafters, trying for the part of the ceiling itself resulted in my success at touching the (just as concrete) floor with many parts of my body at once, much to the collective amusement/embarassment of the others.

As the elevator made its descent, it did perhaps the last thing you ever want an elevator to do: it stopped at a floor where about 12 overweight drunk fucks were waiting. Oblivious to the mechanical carriage's 2000 pound weight limit, these assholes, one of whom was openly smoking a cigarette, essentially squashed we healthy people into the back wall for the remainder of the trip. Sadly, Dan and his 5'2 stature were forced behind a woman who took Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1990s hit "Baby Got Back" to heart. We later deduced that we were within full legal authority to slaughter the pack (even though none of us possessed a military tank, which would have been the only effective weapon).

ME: We could have killed them to uphold the weight limit and "No Smoking" rules.

DAN: We could have killed them because I had a face full of ass!

Fortunately, posters featuring rather hot Asian women advertising something (I really don't remember...and I shouldn't be expected to) lining the passageways between the elevator lobby and casino floor made us feel better. I felt better when realizing (and stating aloud) that I would fuck one of the posters, for it cannot say no. Dan felt better because he looked normal next to the asshole behind him expressing a desire to fuck wall-mounted pictures.

With my first $15, a few pulls of the slot handle resulted in my being ahead by the usual amount (a figure that ended in "cents"). Of course, such a lucky streak was short-lived, as that $15 and another twenty spot were gradually sacrificed to various one-armed bandits as the night wore on. And a lot of that managed to transpire before we even departed Ballys.

With no business lacking a coin redemption booth open, we passed time in between casino stops by strolling along the shore town's boardwalk. I learned the hard way that the beach's "Bikini Bar" was a very false advertisement, which, given the size of some of the patrons, wasn't entirely a bad thing. Being the animal lover he is, Dan expressed his lifelong desire to feed an Alkaseltzer tablet to a sea gull, as he had heard wondrous tales of the results of such a thing...from his father. Humph. Well, I'm glad that MY father doesn't do things like that; he instead engages in more mature activities, like intentionally running over neighborhood squirrels with his Jeep.

We entered the Trump Taj Mahal Casino-Hotel-Spiffy Restrooms for the sole reason that we had come to the end of the boardwalk's line of establishments. Inside, I made sure to slowly donate the aforementioned twenty spot and some pocket change to Uncle Donald's newest toupee. That's right, you "Apprentice" bastard, I can insult you on the Internet; you took my money! Okay, well actually YOU didn't take it, the slot and video poker machines took it...and that wouldn't have happened had I not consciously placed the bills within grasp of their money slot and pressed the "Spin" and "Deal/Draw" buttons instead of the "Cash Out" button. But still! You, er, never gave it back! Bald fuck.

Pardon the resentment there; I may still be a bit pissed from a trip Rusty and I took through the casino. See, a large array of signs dotting one wall advertised slots reflecting various themes, among them "Star Wars" and "The Addams Family." Rusty and I must have walked for over 5 whole minutes looking for these phantom devices, finding nothing more than "Munsters" machines. Hey, Fred Gwynne was an all right guy, but I still say that "The Munsters" is like "Diet Addams Family." Fuck Al Lewis; give me John Astin any day...at least the latter man is still alive (though he holds a prominent spot on my 2006 dead pool...which, in retrospect, could have netted me a winner had I replaced him with Lewis, who expired in January of this year).

Fed up with disproving each and every casino billboard's "99% payout" slogans, we made our way back to the parking garage. Fortunately, the elevator ride was uneventful, unless you count my attempt to start up the "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" debate while we...and another middle-aged man...were aboard, much to everyone's shock/amusement/contempt.

Maybe it was breathing in New Jersey's chemical-filled air after having been awake for over 16 hours, but somewhere on the car ride home, we decided that we should...why not?...extend the "Pee Wee's Playhouse" discussion a bit. It started out small. Following a discussion of Bill Kirchenbauer (the dad on the 1980s sitcom "Just the Ten of Us"...and don't ask how he got brought up...somehow, he always manages to snake its way into each and every word exchange Dan and I have), Dan had what he called the perfect fucked up conversation to have in front of the tollbooth attendants. To keep the improvisational nature of the discussion strong, he told me that it did indeed involve Kirchenbauer...but would not mention whom the actor was engaging in X-rated relations with.

ME: Let me guess. (Pause) Is it Balki?

DAN: Holy shit!

Not since the guy we rode with in the elevator two paragraphs ago have I seen someone with such a shocked look gracing their face. Out of nowhere, I had come up with the obscure 1980s sitcom character Dan was thinking of, which pretty much made him scared of me the rest of the night (though I'm sure the topics I brought up before had a little hand in that fear as well).
So naturally we made a game out of it.

Now there's no way I can prove this, but I'm fairly sure that we were the only people on the Atlantic City Expressway that night who were guessing the identities of exactly which two obscure 1980s and 1990s sitcom stars were fornicating, as pre-selected by another member of our party. Exactly why a car full of straight males (and one straight female) were casually holding conversation about sodomy between personalities who had not enjoyed fame since the Gulf Invasion is still beyond me to this day. But fuck, it passed the time.

Then I came up with it.

The most offensive line ever. One that did not make it into the previous batch of quotes because I wanted to draw specific attention to it (meaning that I wanted to shoo away readers who are easily offended). I said most of this quote in front of the Walt Whitman Bridge's tollbooth attendant before laughing through the final few syllables as we pulled away. Ready?

"If I were gay, I think I'd want a hand job from Michael J Fox. He'd do a pretty good job, don't you think?"

Amazingly, the only thing that bothers me about that above statement is whether "hand job" is a one- or two-word term. I'd look it up here on the Internet, but yeah, that wouldn't yield intended results.

Yeah, I'm going to the V.I.P. section of Hell. Dan would later remark in an Instant Message conversation that even if I went to confession every hour, swam in an ocean of holy water, and prayed the rosary a million times, the BEST I could POSSIBLY hope for in the Afterlife would be A SHOT at purgatory.

I will end there, partly because I already gave away the ending (I saw the sunrise, remember?) and mostly because no joke or humorous observation (or even sick observation, for that matter) can top that line. So the next time you decide to take a trip to Atlantic City, roll up your car windows so the air full of my rather filthy language doesn't seep into your car.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Worst Line in the Universe

One day, as is the norm, I became bored at work. It was one of those bouts of boredom where you constantly find yourself checking each and every e-mail account you have, in hopes that someone, somewhere sent you something worth reading in the 3 or so minutes since you last logged in to check.

I considered actually doing my job, but decided that this too would be boring.

Instead, I decided to call upon Google to locate me some reading material. Interested in finding pages devoted to topics of my liking, I typed the following phrase into the search field:

"i hate people"

I am a very twisted individual. Sue me.

At the time, the first result was a site entitled "The Best Page in the Universe." I clicked the link and entered the site.

And I became hooked.

The Best Page in the Universe, which can be accessed from a number of domain names, including "thebestpageintheuniverse.com" and "maddox.xmission.com," is an advertisement-free, simply arranged site featuring little more than columns on a number of topics. Written by a self-proclaimed pirate assuming the moniker "Maddox," each and every column is full of hilarious and well-written rants on the subject at hand, whether it is Helen Hunt, "Titanic," or hate mail people have sent him regarding a previously-written piece. Among some of his work:

"To be fair, having a rock that sort of looks like a face as your state symbol is like diving into a tub full of tits when compared to Idaho, where there's so little going on that they proudly proclaim how famous their potatoes are on their license plates. Are you kidding me? Celebrities are famous. Landmarks are famous. The starchy, underground stems of plants that are used for deep frying side dishes are not."
--from the column "Idaho Blows"

"I'm sick and tired of lazy gluttonous Americans bitching about immigrants "taking" our jobs. It's not like they can literally come to America, ambush us in the parking lot and take our jobs."
--from the column "Oops! You're Racist!"

"More and more, I'm running into dumbass jocks I went to highschool with bagging my groceries, cleaning my dirty dishes and renting out my videos. They're the ones stuck doing shit work after being out of highschool for 4 years. Oh sure, they ate coal and shit diamonds when they were in highschool, acting all high and mighty with their rented limos and cheap perfume, taking their dates out to school dances and bragging about the sub-par action they had the following day, but now it's a different story. They're no longer rewarded for screwing off in class because they're on the school football team. They're no longer let out early to go run laps and throw baseballs. They're no longer favored by coach fill-in-the-blank that's teaching math instead of a real teacher. Nobody gives a shit anymore jock-boy, now BAG MY GROCERIES."
--from the column "That's right asshole, bag my groceries!"

You should have a pretty good idea by now of not only Maddox's writing style, but also where I personally am influenced. If you don't, then you're a moronic asshole. Go bag my groceries, prick.

Anyway, since its late 1990s launch, Maddox and The Best Page in the Universe steadily grew in popularity to the point where he bragged about having his text-based, ad-free page visited more than the homepages of corporations such as McDonald's, Pepsi, etc. By 2005, he had landed a book deal, and a few short weeks ago, that book, "The Alphabet of Manliness," was published.

And I was going to have the bastard sign it.

Maddox was appearing at a Borders Bookstore in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which is your typical suburban community: predominantly white populace, right-turn lanes instead of sidewalks, traffic-attracting shopping mall, etc. Approximately a 2 hour drive from my home in suburban Philadelphia, it is safe to assume that the fact I spent the better portion of a rainy Saturday afternoon making this journey proves I absolutely have no life whatsoever.
I mean, think about it: I was driving two hours to a bookstore in the New Jersey suburbs to meet a guy who bitched about Idaho on the Internet and have him sign a $15 book I purchased.
With rain pounding my car the entire way up, I slowly but surely made my way across the Delaware River, through several towns that neither I nor anyone else residing outside of those towns are aware existed, and to the shopping center housing the Borders Bookstore. Gripping my copy of "The Alphabet of Manliness," which I still have yet to read, I made my way across the massive parking lot and into the store.

Now, for a moment, I'm going to guide you through my mind.

First of all, this is not the first time I went out of my way to meet an Internet celebrity. In a previous column, I noted that I had met Tucker Max (of the website tuckermax.com, which itself provides a link to Maddox's page) when he kicked off a book tour at the University of Pennsylvania. Max was signing copies of his New York Times bestseller "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" in the lobby of one of the Ivy League university's fraternity houses; having learned about his site through both Maddox and my friend Bill, I became a fan of his as well and plunked down yet another $15 for his own hilarious tome.

When I attended this signing, maybe 5-6 people stood ahead of me in the rather anorexic line, with a dozen or so more students doing nothing more than hanging around. In fact, as I waited, some people actually entered the frat house and WALKED PAST Max and his books, en route to their rooms to study or shower or do something equally stupid. Maybe I had gotten there early, or maybe not too many people in the vicinity took enough of an interest in Tucker Max, but whatever the reason, I got TWO copies of Max's book signed in a very tiny amount of time.

I assumed Maddox's signing would be the same.


I assumed wrong.

We may now leave my mind.

Beginning somewhere near the front of the store, the line of people waiting to get their copies of "The Alphabet of Manliness" signed actually stretched AROUND THE ENTIRE FUCKING INTERIOR. It was the first time that I had ever stood in a line this long that did not have some sort of amusement park ride at the front of it.

Somehow, every last computer geek in the entire state of New Jersey had managed to cram their way into the store. Despite there being enough people present that day to fill a stadium, the diversity was about as varied as that found in, say, a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Damn near 100% males, the line members all looked like those kids that you avoided talking to or walking near in high school. Even I would have avoided these people in high school, and I often consider myself to be a peer!

Picture this: you're standing for over a full HOUR behind two male teeny-boppers (so noted because of their inability to make any statement that did not sound like a question: "So we went? To the mall? And we were gonna buy this game?...") who were trying to get their PSP portable video game systems to access the store's wireless Internet. At their just-graduated-high-school-last-week ages, I would not be surprised if they were more envious of an IT engineer than they were of a Hollywood celebrity. These guys weren't nerds; nerds could kick their asses. They were BELOW nerds.

Behind me, I found the clones of the two Nerdy Boppers in front of me, only aged about 10-15 years further. Actual IT geeks, they seriously used words like "analog" and "coaxial cable" in colloquial, public conversation as if they were discussing the weather. While my knowledge of computers is a bit more advanced than that of most people I know (which isn't really saying much), it is still limited. Nevertheless, just by listening to these two hold a casual conversation, I felt a sincere belief that I could build a computer network from scratch. Using coaxial cables, of course.

As we inched ever closer, the Nerdy Boppers exponentially increased their levels of annoyance. Every single object in sight was awarded a loud description and ensuing discussion, broken only by continued attempts to render their PSP operable or to answer their cell phones. Every book we passed was picked up and reviewed, every chair that we passed was sat in, etc. I could just see them running...er, being driven in an SUV by their divorced mom reeling in alimony checks...home after meeting Maddox, popping the latest "Grand Theft Auto" release into whatever ridiculously advanced video game system is all the rage these days, and spending the remainder of the weekend holed up within their McMansion, exiting only to check the mail to see if their latest eBay purchase had arrived yet.

If these types of males were in a war, their role would be "bait."

I wasn't the only one pissed off at these two. The Tech Geeks behind me apparently perked their ears up when the Nerdy Boppers began a laugh-filled conversation about adoption. "You're adopted because your mom think you suck!" was one of the many gems of knowledge expelled. One of the Tech Geeks turned to the other one and said, loud enough for everyone in line to hear, "I should tell them that I have adoptive parents because my biological parents were killed in a car accident."

Want to know the killer part? Though both groups of geeks were within audible distance of each other, neither replied to the other. It was the real-life version of a chat room's empty threats.
Another odd aspect of the day included Borders staff members visiting each and every person in line and affixing various stickers to their copies of "The Alphabet of Manliness." To illustrate this, my copy of the book entered the store with nothing else aside from its receipt.

At one point, some bitch came around and affixed a gold-colored sticker featuring Maddox's "pirate face" symbol onto each person's book. Underneath the image was the phrase "Official autographed copy." Yeah, as if the fucking AUTOGRAPH wouldn't be enough to prove that I had a signed copy.

A while later, the same bitch came back around, this time making sure that everyone had paid for their book. Those who didn't got a red sticker. It was like fucking school.
Even later, the bitch came around again with yellow Post-It notes, on which we were to write our names and paste them to the page Maddox was to sign. Couldn't we accomplish this just as effectively with, oh I don't know, vocal chords?

Just before we got to the signing area, we were given torn pieces of a Post-It note to stick into a certain page of the book, for the tome's illustrator was also signing and would more efficiently perform his duty if he knew exactly which page to turn to that would allow him to sign over his artwork.

My book, which entered the store resembling a piece of rectangular literature, now looked like it had thrown up Post-It Notes and gotten several tattoos.

As for Maddox himself...you know, the guy who I drove two hours, only to wait another hour in line, to meet...was a very nice guy in person:



"Mike:
I am amazing
Maddox"

Hopefully those five words increase the value of the tome once I get sick of reading it and decide to make it the latest eBay item. By the way...yes, I am aware that he is wearing a crown, but no, I have no idea why.

The book was passed to Tom the Illustrator, whom I kind of felt bad for, seeing as how he was more or less a second, maybe even third, banana to Maddox. He was like Judy Winslow from "Family Matters".

Aside from the rain, four hours of driving, one hour of waiting, and damaged brain cells, the day wasn't all that bad. I met the second of many Internet personalities that I had hoped to come across before I decide to grow up. In fact, he even replied, rather promptly, no less, to an email I had sent him containing the above picture. It was definitely a decent gesture and one which definitely makes me recommend not only his website, but also his book.

Now bag my groceries, assholes.

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.com/

Monday, June 05, 2006

I Went to Atlantic City and All I Got Were These Empty Pockets

Looking at my debit card's activity history for this past Saturday, I spent over $100. Even though this figure isn't THAT astronomical an amount, one would think that, at the very least, it was translated into something worthwhile.


Aside from some digital photographs documenting the day, the three-digit amount of money I spent resulted in nothing more physically than a plastic 7-11 cup and a stuffed elephant. But, oh, the wordy stories contained in the acquisition of these items!...

Atlantic City, New Jersey is one of the few Garden State areas that people actually view as a destination; the rest of the state's towns merely serve as labels for highway exits and grassy areas to place each subsequent "_________ miles to New York/Philadelphia/Delaware" sign. Often dubbed the "Las Vegas of the East" by people who have never been to Las Vegas and are thus unaware that it cannot be compared to any other place, the coastal town of "A.C." served as the destination of my friends Dan, Rusty, Chrissy and I. The fact that none of us currently own a mansion should be proof that none of us have ever had titanic luck at the gambling Mecca. I personally have had the luck of the Titanic, but never titanic luck.

It had rained on the Friday before, producing the usual giant puddles and clots of frustrated suburbanites saying "It doesn't rain all week, but once the weekend comes, it pours!", all of whom completely forget that they would have spent the ideal "nice weather" holed up inside a shopping mall. Fucking retards.

Anyway, the amount of rain that was poured onto the tri-state region on the aforementioned Friday made us believe that there simply wouldn't be any precipitation left to fall until maybe September 2009. I should note that the "us" used in that previous sentence included not only my friends and I, but also the meteorologists at the Weather Channel, who had filled their cable channel's information screens with forecasts detailing how rain would be ending "early Saturday morning," leaving the remainder of the day to bask in 72-degree temperatures. We believed this to be true.

We all, at one point, also believed the legends of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and God to be true.

Under a steady stream of water succumbing to gravity a half-hour shy of high noon, we made our way to the Walt Whitman Bridge, one of several Delaware River crossings linking the 2nd state in the union with the 3rd state.

Note that I said we simply made it TO the bridge. We sure as hell weren't going to make it ACROSS the bridge, seeing as how cars were apparently being produced en masse from an assembly line located somewhere on the Philadelphia side of the span and immediately shipped out. I switched on the region's all-"news" station (I utterly refuse to leave "news" outside of quotation marks when referring to this particular Philly AM frequency, seeing as how the Philadelphia Eagles' mere EXISTENCE in the Super Bowl XXXIX city of Jacksonville, Florida was a top breaking news story for much of January 2005).

Here's what the traffic report LED with:

"Well, let's update the main problem spot in New Jersey, right at the base of the Walt Whitman Bridge..."

Oh how fucking wonderful.

It turns out that some cars decided to get into an accident and overturn. Now, if you know me personally or plan to continue reading this sentence, you'll know that I am all for people getting into accidents and ridding the world of themselves and (presumably) their gas-guzzling SUVs. But don't they realize that there are places OUTSIDE of our destination's route wherein this can be accomplished?!

A detour that got us out of the jam eventually led us into New Jersey via the nearby Ben Franklin Bridge. From there on out, the only thing that was going to further keep us from reaching our destination was the desire of yours truly to see a giant ass elephant.

A few months ago, I was turned on to the "Weird N.J." series of magazines and books to the tune of more money than I spend per month on student loan payments. Unbeknownst to me, the Garden State contains more roadside oddities than its 49 compatriots combined, or so it seems. And seeing as how the town acting as our destination bordered a town containing one of these attractions, I decided that our trip could very well include a quick stop to this yet-to-be-named place. I used the following argument to substantiate my desire:

"Because I'm driving."

We departed the tree-lined Atlantic City Expressway and immediately found ourselves in shopping-center-and-furniture-outlet-filled Random New Jersey Town #44035-A. We didn't even escape this area without a laugh:

Check out the signs between "Kohl's" and "Michael's". I'm only 26 in terms of years aged. Mentally, I'm still 14. Fuck you. Poophead.

According to Google Local, whose interactive online map was, in my defense, still relatively fresh in my mind, the road on which we found ourselves was to almost immediately dump us out onto Ventnor Avenue, which leads to Margate City, home of my desired destination.

For years, Dan, Rusty, and Chrissy will not be able to hear the term "Ventnor Avenue" without suffering extreme rage and immediately seeking me out, wherever I am, and beating me mercilessly.

I ignored the claims of "I think you passed it" and "We're in Atlantic City, for Christ's sakes!," going so far as to deny the latter claim, despite being within walking distance of the Trump Taj Mahal casino-hotel-buffet. Upon finding Ventnor Avenue, it was now time to travel "a bunch of blocks" (which I had actually written on my hand-drawn map and directions) until coming to Decatur Avenue, which fails to intersect with Ventnor, as we learned the hard way. Despite being geographically closer to the bay separating southern New Jersey from Delaware than to any viable New Jersey location, I nevertheless turned the car around, turned onto nearby Atlantic Avenue, and drove back down towards A.C. until we saw it:

Oops, maybe that isn't the most flattering view. But it IS the first view we saw, which didn't exactly make the 45 minute duration between our exit from the expressway and now that worth it.

That's better.

Lucy the Elephant, overlooking the beach in Margate City, New Jersey, is the last of her kind to exist; for some reason, there is not much of a market for 65-foot-tall wooden pachyderms. Having once had cousins in nearby Cape May, New Jersey and in not-really-nearby Coney Island, New York, the innards of Lucy did not house authentic, oversized replicas of elephant intestines or anything, but rather (according to Wikipedia) a hotel, restaurant, tavern (yeah, that must have been fun to see, especially when patrons exited after happy hour and turned around to look at the building they just departed), and even a business office.

A BUSINESS OFFICE.

Can you imagine draping your ass in a bland white shirt and tie every day, only to travel to a fucking ELEPHANT? I gaze dreamily out of the windows at my current job, thinking how pathetic it is to be cooped up in a dull office park building. Suppose I was doing this at the window built into Lucy's ass?

Though jumping from that window would have made for one funny-as-fuck suicide.

I guess Lucy as an alternative skyscraper failed when clients would show up to the address they were forwarded, only to find an African mammal the size of their McMansion at the location. Of course, the place currently serves as (why not?) a museum, dedicated to (surprise!) the history of Lucy. Today, Lucy enjoys a spot on the National Historic Landmarks list and tourists may visit her interior for a mere $5, provided the crazy parking lot lady doesn't give you any crap, which was not particularly the case with our visit.

Parking the car in the designated lot, a clipboard-toting older bitch who looked like she had forgotten to take her medication since the 1980s dashed up to us and, with the urgency of an NYPD officer stuck on crowd control during the actual collapse of the World Trade Center, asked, "Are you here for Lucy?"

Look at a map. There really isn't anything else to Margate City aside from this thing. But no, a group of people dressed like it's early March with out-of-state plates are here for the fucking beach.

ME: "Uh, yeah."

WHACKJOB: "Good. Because he tows people who aren't. Like right away."

He? Who? Jesus? Snuffleupagus?

We headed off to the gift shop (what elephant DOESN'T have a gift shop?!) as the crazy lady wrote down the make and model of my car for some inexplicable reason. None of us really wanted to spend $5 and a half hour touring this stupid thing...but then again, we didn't want Whackjob and the still unnamed "he" to tow our car, claiming that it was well-justified since all we did was visit the gift shop. Finally, I came up with a financial compromise that would benefit all involved:

I would buy a stuffed "Lucy" doll for $10 (twice the price of a ticket), and Dan, Chrissy, and Rusty would look at me like I was an idiot. Dan and Rusty would silently make plans regarding who would drive home later that evening when the last of my brain stopped functioning.

But it was worth my ten dollars plus tax! For I am now a proud member of the "Save Lucy Foundation," which was announced to me by her highness, the Gift Shop Cashier. She honestly let me in on this with the enthusiasm Cuba Gooding, Jr. exhibited upon winning "Best Supporting Actor" all those years and bad movies ago.

Our need to see, in person, a giant wooden elephant was now satisfied for the next few millennia; now it was time to quit wasting our money on worthless souvenirs and foundation dues and instead spend it sensibly: on slot machines.

Now let's make a sharp left into the parking lot of a 7-11, much like I did upon seeing Atlantic City's Atlantic Avenue outlet of the nationwide convenience store chain.

About to assume the role of "embarrassed female," Chrissy watched helplessly as her own boyfriend, along with Dan and I, plunked down a good $2.50 for perhaps the coolest piece of merchandise to have ever come out of the 7-11 corporation this week:

Just so you don't think I'm the only person who documents their experiences with regards to novelty cups purchased at 7-11, please check out this link:

http://www.i-mockery.com/blabber/?p=43#comments

UPDATE: More Superman cup reviews and thoughts from X-Entertainment:

http://x-entertainment.com/updates/entries/archives/00000782.html

Dan and I were immediately sold upon following this link.

Yes, I, the same person who once would have hesitated spending a dollar to save an immediate family member from death, now spends $2.50 (plus tax) on a cup from a movie based on comics he's never read and following movies he hasn't seen simply because a website BLOG made it look cool.

As Rusty suffered numerous bouts of "brain freeze" at the hands of his Super cherry Slurpee, during which I helpfully suggested that he should have followed my lead and purchased the Coca-Cola-flavored Slurpee like I did, we made our way through the sea of casino buses and taxi service cabs to the 8th level of the "Ballys Parking Place" parking garage.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the area, "Ballys Park Place" is a popular casino. "Ballys Parking Place" is an awful pun that wouldn't even meet Disney's standards for corny phrases. We should have been allowed to park there for free just for the suffering encountered reading that phrase everywhere.

Hunger struck. We made our way out of the garage (via enclosed, elevated, and motorized walkway that featured visual and audible advertisements, including a man declaring in a booming voice "Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER!!!!!!!!!!"), through the casinos (whose majority of slot machines no longer have coin slots!), and out into the rainy southern New Jersey atmosphere. Neglecting a return trip to Bill's Gyros, where our friend Bill had gotten drunk and insulted a Greek waiter whom he had deemed Santa Claus simply because he had a white moustache...and no other features associated with Kris Kringle, we decided on the Random Upstairs Buffet to eat. Approximately $8 per person, this buffet offers all sorts of delicacies for the gambler who has next to nothing to spend so he goes to all-you-can-eat places, only to be promptly kicked out at closing time:

--Lukewarm pudding of differing colors (I'm not entirely certain that there were actual differing FLAVORS of said pudding)
--Bacon bits manufactured when "Schoolhouse Rock" was still being produced
--A carpet of pepper sprinkles, underneath of which may or may not be turkey slices
--Vending-machine quality soda at aforementioned Superman cup quality prices
--Saltines that have been stepped on for your convenience
--Fried chicken featuring the latest culinary breakthrough: actual RED meat. Not pink. RED.

As our digestive systems contemplated going on strike each time we came to New Jersey, we decided to behave completely unlike most A.C. denizens one last time and actually get something for our money. "Something" in this case happened to be a $13 admission to:

Yes! Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Spend the better part of a 20 spot walking through what the traveling carnival's funhouse charges three tickets for!

(Seriously; the place had air shooting out of the floor and a two-way mirror)

Yes! Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Come See the World's Tallest Man and People Who Have Had Yard Implements Shoved Through Their Faces! Or statues of them anyway! Accompanied by grainy, possibly Photoshopped photographs!

Come see shitloads of stuff made out of matchsticks! No we don't operate under this newfangled "fire code" thing!

Come see optical illusions that you will never see anywhere else, unless of course you have access to the Internet or some moments to spare in Borders' "Magic Books and Puzzles" section!

Despite my exclamation-mark-filled criticisms, Ripley's was seriously a pretty neat experience...and I'm not only saying that because they blast the music from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" onto the boardwalk. Upon paying, you self-guide yourself through a series of rooms, all of which are filled with interesting phenomena, most of which is constructed out of matchsticks. Seriously; who has the time/patience/lack of masturbation skills to construct such things?


All 5 feet and 2 inches of Dan posing next to the World's Tallest Man's official mannequin. The statue may have Dan beat in the height department, but Dan wins hands-down when it comes to not resembling a mentally challenged Waldo from the "Where's Waldo?" books.


Now you see the holographic Mr. Ripley...


...and now you don't! Camera flashes make men vanish!


Wooden arrows through a glass bottle. Believe it or not!


Anyone carrying Jesus' head on a plate is perfectly OK in my book. I'm assuming this scene was deleted from "Passion of the Christ."


A fur-covered trout. Or possibly a regular trout with some extra shag carpeting glued onto it and mounted on a wall for idiots to gawk at. I'll go with Option #2.


Hopefully this mannequin with the fence post shoved through his chest didn't have to suffer much. Ripley's was very anti-mannequin.


A wall full of Monopoly money. The bear in the foreground is made of shredded paper money...money that COULD have gone to me, but god forbid Ripley's goes without a bear that could have been made out of matchsticks or something.


Stuff that lights up when you push a button is more than amusing to people in their mid-twenties. I personally must have spent ten solid minutes at this exhibit...and I still have no idea what its topic was. It could have been "Pictures that Light Up When You Push a Button" for all I know.


A pile of books apparently defying the law of gravity...and Rusty reaching for one. I bet no one else has ever thought to pose in this manner!


Now here is something that I KNOW was for something else unrelated to a man and a horse sleeping with each other, but the image alone was all that I needed to capture.


Exactly how a mannequin of an old man taking a picture of another mannequin (not pictured) is a "Believe It Or Not!"-type attraction is beyond me, but it did allow Rusty to get in touch with his "I like to fuck fake old men" side.


Way back in ancient times (which, to me, is any period of time before my birthyear of 1980), Asian countries used to force women's feet into rather uncomfortable shoes, resulting in such painful foot formations. I guess this is back before these countries discovered manga, anime, and other forms of artistic expression that concentrates on virtully every part of Asian women EXCEPT for the feet!


More mannequin abuse. Suspended from his nipples, this thing rotated around in a circular pattern. Talk about a titty twister.


This staple of the museum's much-sought-after restroom is just cool. And I was right on target. Don't worry, I checked; there were no bullseyes inside the regular toilets.


Wow! Water coming out of a spigot that isn't attached to anything here in this day and age of filtration pumps that are sold at Spencer's!

Sadly, one picture that is not included thanks to its non-existence was one of Dan and I on the opposite side of the two-way mirror, directly giving people the finger as they look at themselves in the mirror, attempting to "roll their tongue" in front of it because a sign says so.

Finally, it was time to gamble.

Between three different casino-hotel-gift shops (Sands, Ballys, and Caesars), I donated over $40 to the wallets of their corporate executives. One gallon of Leer jet fuel on me, guys! I hope it catches on fire when you're over the Pacific!

Many things were going through my mind, most of them swear-laden, as I bit my fingernails in anticipation of seeing what my latest push of the button/pull of the handle would do. Some things, however, did not penetrate my consciousness:

1. The fact that I was biting my fingernails after using them to touch a button/handle that 1000 others had touched in the past hour.
2. My life circa 1999, when I was employed in retail at the local mall, earning a benefit-lacking, part-time pay a staggering 10 cents above minimum wage. Those days, I would have my dinner at the mall's Mr. Bulky candy shop, for it was the only store in the mall selling various food items for under a dollar. $1.25 could get you a five-course meal there, provided that you don't mind your "courses" being a 2 X 2 inch box of Nerds candy, a single Pixy Stick, etc. Amazing how times and priorities change.
3. The fact that, despite posting numerous photographs of their bigtime winners near the entrance, each casino wouldn't have enough space in the CITY to post photographs of all the people who lost.

But when you gamble, there is no room for thinking. Gambling and thinking are natural enemies. I personally am a college degree holder AND 8th grade spelling bee champion...yet will still spend $1.25...multiple times...to align some cherries and black "bar" symbols on a computerized machine programmed by Lucifer himself.

Want even more proof?

This is a pool of water that is part of the fountain near the boardwalk entrance of Bally's Wild Wild West Casino (which really makes you feel like you're in the Old West, assuming the time period had overweight, chain-smoking senior citizens and trailer park residents sitting perfectly still, their eyes permanently bonded to slot machines). As if the massive amount of change lining the floor of the fountain wasn't enough...there are actual DOLLAR BILLS floating in it! Yes! Dollar bills! Dropped into a FOUNTAIN!

This is Dan at one of Ballys' "Price is Right" machines, which he was more elated to see than his college diploma. After the late "Price is Right" announcer Rod Roddy blared "Thank you for playing," Dan wandered away and became the first person in the casino that day to say, "I made the Price is Right my bitch!"

It was a nickel slot, so he won about $2.

Next, we vacated the boardwalk-hugging edifices for one of only three casinos built on the city's marina section. Sure, we literally had to exit town and make a U-turn to get to there, but that didn't matter. It is against the law to go somewhere in New Jersey and NOT spend more time in the car than you do at the actual destination.

The Borgata is, as of this writing, Atlantic City's newest casino-hotel-resort-Starbucks location. It is the site where Jennifer Lopez' mother won a cool $1 million, much to the dismay of everyone who was not Jennifer Lopez' mother. If my friends and I are any indication, no one has won shit there since.

So, you might ask, what did I take away from this place. Its overly posh interior? Its 34-1 ratio of hot girls in revealing clothing to senior citizens (which is grossly reversed elsewhere in the city)?

Nope. This view:

I had seen these things from one of the boardwalk hotels:

...but not until parking did I realize how many of them there were! I have no idea why, but I found these things to be among the coolest inventions the world has ever seen. Even if they serve no other purpose than to spin, that is totally all right with me.

This is when Dan, Rusty, and Chrissy began walking further away from me. Personally, I don't know what took them so long.

We all enjoyed dinner in some Borgata restaurant possessing a name that I couldn't pronounce. All I can recall while ordering is that there was some menu item with the term "three-way" in it, of which I lamented not getting photographical evidence.

Needless to say, I exhibited other examples of high class, seeing as how I have been to Dennys on multiple occasions and thus am an expert on fine dining:

--Reaching for my own ID when Rusty and Chrissy were the only table members purchasing alcoholic drinks
--Scooping each individual vegetable piece out of my soup
--Phonetically pronouncing the wine list
--Expressing my hatred for the pickle served alongside my bacon cheeseburger by tearing the piece of the roll that came into contact with said pickle off
--Finishing half of my burger...but ALL of its bacon, strip by strip

A few plays of the slot machines (and one "I'm not paying $60 to see Lewis Black!") later, we were on our way out...though not before Dan and I swiped some washcloth-quality paper towels from the men's restroom. Honestly, you could wash dishes with these things. By now it was dark; the bright lights of A.C.'s various establishments illuminated the sky majestically:


A few Slurpee refills at 7-11 and we were back on the expressway, speeding towards home, pausing only to pay tolls

...and have inane conversations about whether or not select female comic book personalities use strap-on devices

...in front of the tollbooth attendants.

I couldn't think of any better way to end such a day.

Oh, wait...yeah I can.

I could have taken THIS home instead of a damn plush elephant:

Check out Dan's less wordy (and probably funnier) account of the trip upon his posting at http://whatdanlearned.blogspot.com

Monday, May 08, 2006

What Ex-Communications Majors Do When They Are Bored, Part I

Sometime between 8:30am and 9am on a recent Saturday, I stopped in a convenience store to buy a hot breakfast sandwich and an energy drink.

I mention this because it turned out that it was the last time that day that I would do anything even remotely normal.

My friend Dan and I both work in office jobs five days a week. Lately ("lately" meaning "since we got hired at said jobs"), we discovered that the tedious, boredom-inducing nature of this daily hell had to be complimented somehow.

My friends Shana and Tara are days away from their college graduation and have spent the past few weeks devoting their lives to making sure they accomplish every task that was thrown to them at the last minute by surly professors who are pissed off that they get to leave High School 2.0 in a few weeks whilst they are stuck teaching the same crap to a whole new group of students in a few months' time. Lately ("lately" meaning "since they decided to pursue secondary education"), they discovered that the tedious, stress-inducing nature of this daily hell had to be complimented somehow.

And a lot of their normal friends were unavailable that day.

When you live in suburban Philadelphia and wonder aloud if there is anything more to life than repeating the work-eat-sleep cycle day in and day out for extensive time spans, you tend to participate in activities that don't exactly fall inside the realm of what most of society considers "normal" or "sane." Most people our age have since accepted the fact that, no, there really is NOT anything more to life than the work-eat-sleep routine.

Then again, none of them majored in communications.

Dan and I majored in the very laughingstock of a major from which Tara and Shana will soon graduate. Moreover, we all studied at the same university, which, as we discovered too late, assigned its communications studies department the same level of importance as it did the vending machines in the student center (which were often broken). Those of you who think that I'm joking may think differently upon my revealing of the fact that not only was the major the only one of its kind on campus to be operated out of, seriously, the basement of an old church, but also filled its 8- or 9-person staff with incompetent and inept instructors whose sole contacts in the entire communications industry were each other.

So, yeah, when you recall that you spent part of your collegiate years editing a video laced with "fucks" and "shits" and one "Holy rim jobs by the Virgin Mary" directly underneath a room containing a set of pews and an altar, it makes you realize that maybe how you spent a Saturday is relatively "normal" in comparison.

RED BANK, MIDDLETOWN, AND LEONARDO

Being females who have social lives and other friends, Shana and Tara had yet to realize that filmmaker Kevin Smith's library of classic films ranging from "Clerks" to "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" to "Clerks II" was indeed its own subculture, as opposed to a bunch of should-have-been-released-directly-to-video flicks rife with B list celebrities.

Dan and I, meanwhile, had solidified our places in said subculture when we joined the numerous other soon-to-be-disappointed fans in theaters when Smith released "Jersey Girl" in 2004. Additionally, he and I had completed an excursion to the former hometown of the director/producer/writer/editor/co-star/catering service abuser a mere two months earlier.

So in order to justify spending a heaping amount of toll and gas dollars to travel the distance between southeast Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey (where Smith hails from and where he shot most of his movies), I actually brought a portable DVD player with me and had the girls watch a rented copy of "Clerks" in the car, with yours truly providing helpful narration from the front seat based solely on what I was hearing.

ME (without looking at the screen): See that guy on the right? That's Kevin Smith.

Several Hi-C Shoutin' Orange Tangergreens (the juice company's current equivalent to its much more beloved beverage of the past, Ecto Cooler) later, New Jersey's major highways were behind us and we pulled off at the Garden State Parkway's Red Bank exit, where we were greeted with:
"Perot for President" sticker (center of pole, bwtween "One Way" sign and white square).

This sticker has not only been there since our last excursion to the northern reaches of the Chemical Commonwealth, but apparently also since "Saturday Night Live" was still watchable.

A few wrong turns (no trip to New Jersey is complete unless you make at least one wrong turn during your trip) later, we were in the heart of Red Bank. Aside from showing off the exact same "Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash" novelty store I had just been to/inhaled the comic book ink odors of two months prior to Tara and Shana, there really isn't much more to say.


However, both girls agreed that I would make a great tour guide, which I took as a compliment despite the fact that my knowledge of Red Bank doesn't go more in-depth than what I saw in "Chasing Amy" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," whose Red bank filming locations are directly across the street from each other. As far as I know, the town was constructed just FOR the filming of "Chasing Amy" back in 1996-1997.


Of course I couldn't leave the Stash without three issues of what is slowly becoming my new favorite magazine, "Weird NJ." The fact that New Jersey is so fucking strange that there is a MONTHLY publication devoted to oddities is something I find rather intriguing and thus something well worth the $4/issue price.

Obtaining directions to the Quick Stop and RST Video stores in Leonardo, New Jersey (sites of Smith's first film, the ultra-low budget "Clerks."), we headed back to the car and prepared to enter the throes of New Jersey once again.

Unbeknownst to our female companions, however, Dan and I had been preparing for a "quick stop" of our own on our way to the "Clerks." locale. Yes, they probably wished that they ran away from us the second we parked in Red Bank when I pulled into the parking lot of a Spirits Liquor Store on Route 35 in Middletown. Were we planning to purchase alcoholic beverages that we would then consume whilst traversing unfamiliar New Jersey roads, quite possibly ending the trip in tragedy?

They wished.


Yes, the "Evil Clown of Middletown" (New Jerseyians' official name of it) that Dan and I had lovingly dubbed "Jackoff" for obvious reasons on our last trip upon first seeing it. Funnily enough, this turned out to be the site at which we spent the most amount of time outside the car in the Red Bank-Middletown-Leonardo area. Our arsenal of digital cameras and my new digital camcorder made our way to the towering circus character, where each one of us, even Tara and Shana, posed for pictures.



For the record, not a single one of us even stepped foot in the actual liquor store, despite all of us being of age.

En route to Leonardo, Dan and I were saddened to discover that a public library's exterior sign that had had the "L" removed from "Public" on BOTH sides of it on our last trip had been repaired.

Of course, we were both relieved to see that one could still adopt a roadway jughandle:



...and could also patronize this establishment:


...which I'm assuming is a darkened hospital whose employees look at you with dreary eyes and suggest "suicide" as a remedy for any and all problems you come to them with, including a stubbed toe.

We arrived at the intersection of Leonard Avenue and NJ Route 36, a few feet from which sits a small strip of stores boasting Quick Stop and RST Video, the latter of which has since closed up shop.

Taking a few pictures of the exterior not so much for tourism as much as it was for later inclusion in Photoshop documents, we entered the Quick Stop, where I blew $8 on:



Quick Stop is one of only two stores in the galaxy that I know of that sells La Choy brand fried rice. Oh, it might not look/smell/taste all that good. Oh, it might leave a nasty metallic aftertaste in your mouth for up to two days following consumption. Oh, and the thin layer of dust coating the lid of the can...probably the only cylindrical tin food container that has not yet been replaced with those sanitary "pull-tab" lids...might mean that the product is a few years past the date appearing under the "Best Used By" stamp. But I've been eating it since I was young.

Then again, I also believed in the tooth fairy, God, and other mythical creatures when I was young.

Fuck, I don't know why I buy the stuff. At $1.79 a can, no less.

The latter item is like a symbol of our day. Tell someone that you bought a laser pointer that has an FM radio built into it at a convenience store and they will almost certainly reply, "You did that in Jersey, didn't you?"

You know, once they say the obligatory "What the fuck?" comments first.

We met a few other people inside who had come all the way from Michigan to see a punk rock show in Newark and were stopping to see the Kevin Smith sites at the request of the group's sole (surprise!) male member. Out of all 8 people in the store (our group, the Michiganites, and the clerk behind the counter), only the clerk hailed from the store's actual state.

No doubt that said clerk was wishing all of us would die via spontaneous combustion, seeing as how she can probably barely afford to travel the distance from her house to work every day, what with paying today's tremendous gas prices with money earned from jockeying a register at a dumbed-down 7-11. Meanwhile, the rest of us had come from other STATES to this store just so we could gawk at freezer cases we saw in a horribly edited, horribly acted, superbly written independent filmn that was over 10 years old.

So we had been to/seen the facades of a number of local businesses that had been featured rather prominently in one director's array of filmwork. Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Smith himself, and numerous others had been to and subsequently immortalized the very places that we visited...places whose continued existence, upkeep, and appeal serve as strong evidence that, yes, independent cinema can indeed have an impact.

In other words, we all agreed that Jackoff the Evil Clown was the best part of the journey thus far.

It was time for us to officially complete the first leg of our journey, a leg that would take us past a hilariously named chicken stand:

...before our eventual exit. We made our way back to the Garden State Parkway using an impromptu route that I had suggested after clearly (or so I thought) remembering its layout on Google Local a day earlier.

By the time NJ Route 36 and NJ Route 18 eventually dumped us out onto the Parkway, Dan, Shana, and Tara were pretty much convinced that, if I ever wanted to go from New Jersey to England, I would travel WEST and circumnavigate the globe to get there.

Unlike our last trip to the tri-town region, we were NOT going to have our meal at White Castle. We had done so previously because none of us knew better and fucking John Cho and Kal Penn made the food look so damned tasty in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle". At no point did the 2004 film mention the fact that the miniscule dinner rolls that the "burgers" were served on probably had more meat in them than the actual patties, which were made of some random gray matter that I and several top scientists have yet to identify.

Once our digestive systems forgave us several weeks later, Dan and I decided that we would never eat at White Castle again. Never again would we eat at a place simply because a movie made it look cool.

NEXT POST: Our trip to a "Medieval Times" restaurant, which our only exposure to was through Jim Carrey's 1996 flop "The Cable Guy."

Be sure to check out Dan's much less wordy account of the day...the entire day, no less.

WTF

--I drove an hour and a half to go to a comic book shop and a convenience store, then another hour to go to a restaurant.

--I convinced 3 others to come with me.

--As I ate chicken, I watched a swordfight

--I stood in line to see up close a guy in a plastic bubble filled with water

--I bought a soda for the sole purpose of balancing its bottle cap atop my forehead.

More to come, once the attendants allow me something sharp to write with.

Friday, April 28, 2006

United 93

"United 93" opens today.

And I probably won't be seeing it.

Now, everyone has their own reasons for wanting to avoid the first major theatrical release to capitalize on the events that ruined countless lives and instead see something like "R.V.," which merely ruined Robin Williams' credibility. A lot of people are saying that it is "too soon" to make a movie showcasing what transpired on September 11, 2001...a point which Oliver Stone took to heart, as his "World Trade Center" opens a few months later. "April is too soon, but August should be OK," thinks the "JFK" mastermind. "Also, most people should have seen 'Superman' by then."

What's interesting is that a lot of these people probably had no problem whatsoever driving up the profits of "Pearl Harbor," "Titanic," and "Saving Private Ryan." It's okay to capitalize on a disaster, just as long as it occurred before our birth and has a good-looking, well-known male lead. Put Ben Affleck or Tom Hanks aboard "United 93" and people might shut up about it and obediently plop down cash.

The reason I hesitate when people ask if $9 of my money will be exchanged for a "United 93" ticket is actually twofold. It has nothing to do with the actuality of the disaster. Yes, I know it's still relatively fresh in everyone's minds...but I've also learned that Hollywood is going to capitalize on ANYTHING sooner or later. The reason that the aforementioned movies came out when they did is because Hollywood still had some original ideas during the time span separating the actual events and their respective celluloid reproductions. With the exception of "Pearl Harbor"'s 2001 release, the film adaptations I mentioned above were 1990s flicks. Shit, back then, "American Pie" had yet to be made! The only films to possess multiple sequels were those beginning with "Friday the 13th" or "A Nightmare on Elm Street." In short, Hollywood wasn't exactly yearning for new and different material.

Compare that with today, where not only is there a "Scary Movie 4," but freaking "Big Momma's House" and "Basic Instinct" were granted sequels! Take a look at the list of movies that are scheduled to be released during summer 2006 and tell me how many of them do NOT end in a number. Hollywood needed ideas, so it finally tapped 9/11, which, if you will recall, was being exploited long before the first reel of "United 93". Shit, in some ways, it was being exploited AS IT HAPPENED.

"Our CBS-2 weather cam is showing that a second plane has now hit the World Trade Center."
I swear I heard something to that effect.

Anyway, the reasons I will most likely avoid "United 93":

1. I already know what happens.

I guess this is a given. But don't you go to movies to ESCAPE from reality...to become engrossed in a story whose outcome is always a surprise, be it good or bad? Yeah, I know that everyone realized how "Titanic" ended, too, but at least that featured the death of Leo DiCaprio as a bonus. Seeing a movie where you know all the main characters will die is kind of depressing, whether it really happened or not.

2. The guy in the promos is NOT Johnny Knoxville.

One character I saw in the theatrical preview was played by Johnny Knoxville...or so I thought. While the rest of the audience was more than likely bothered at the reality contained just in the movie's preview, what bothered me was whether or not this guy was Johnny Knoxville. A later IMDb check debunked this claim, but this morning's screen capture of the movie on MSN's home page actually caused me to click the image and read through the cast one more time, just to make sure:



You have to admit that it's a damn strong resemblance.

Think of how cool that would have been. I know that whatever character Knoxville played would have died anyway, but at least he could have some "Jackass"-style fun with the hijackers. He could have stuck a firecracker in their turban or something. See how much of a help "Allah" is when you have Knoxville (and maybe Steve-O, in a surprise cameo) barrelling down the aisle in a shopping cart!

So if you see "United 93," enjoy it; if you don't...uh...don't enjoy it, I guess. Everyone handles large and small-scale events differently, and neither I nor anyone else should tell people what movies to see/not see and why they should/shouldn't.

But if you do see it, don't tell me what happens.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tard-becue and Hamburgerth

Half the time, my days spent at work are uneventful. The other half of the time, my days spent at work are FUCKING uneventful. These are the days wherein I find myself making 4 trips to the restroom every hour, even if I don't have to do anything, just out of boredom. Needless to say, the events that I will outline in this column took place on such a day.

I was sitting there at my computer regretting some of the mistakes I have made in my past, such as squeezing out of my mother's uterus without a fight. Behind me, some co-workers suddenly turned their attention to a TV monitor stationed in the room. For what it's worth, this monitor is hooked up to a traffic camera feed and thus broadcasts little more than dull shots of Philadelphia area roadways and the traffic contained on them. So whenever more than one person's interest arises at the sight of the monitor's current images, it is a safe assumption that something must be going on worthy enough of our collective attention.

School bus fire.

Having worked in various facets of traffic production since 2003, I have witnessed all sorts of roadway incidents via television, so a bus with flames shooting out of it wasn't exactly something brand new to my eyes. For the record, this occurred shortly after 9am, so unfortunately there were no kids on the bus.

Someone then pointed out that this wasn't any school bus: it was a SHORT bus!

Tard-becue!

Several co-workers began imitating retards and making comments like "There's no kids on the bus; they all ran off into the woods." Those of you who have the misfortune of knowing me personally will surely be surprised to hear that yours truly kept silent the whole time. I was actually upset. Why?

Because OTHER PEOPLE got to the retard comments before I could!

Besides, it got me thinking about Hell. Again, those of you who know me personally are aware by now that the Satan-controlled ethereal plane will most likely be where I spend eternity once the Grim Reaper comes knocking. While my atheism has historically kept me apathetic to this fact, the events of this day almost had me considering repentance. See, I don't believe that Hell is a maze of caverns bathed in eternal heat; rather, I believe that each individual person experiences his/her/its own version of Hell. In other words, Hell would be, in my case (as well as in the case of pretty much everyone reading this entry) an eternity at work.

And if the people who made the retard comments today are any indication, I will have the EXACT SAME CO-WORKERS in Hell. It's almost as if Satan wants it to be an authentic replica.

Anyway, once we saw that the fire wasn't going to spread to the bus' gas tank any time in the forseeable future, causing it and the dumbass state troopers wandering around the scene to fly several atmospheres straight up in a massive fireball, I and my future damned souls returned to our workstations. From there, the day was pretty much uneventful, as I spent the remainder of my paid hours performing complex, Internet-related tasks such as checking my Hotmail, MySpace, and Fark.com accounts continually, in the hopes that in the three minutes that had elapsed since I last did so would register a flurry of activity. No such luck.

Once I left work, I decided to stop at a local Wendys for my meal. Notice I don't say "lunch" or "breakfast" or anything like that; when you work shifts as ridiculous as those bestowed upon me, meals lose any and all connotations. It's just Meal #1, Meal #2, etc. What sucked is that I decided to go at a time that the general vicinity's gaggle of white-collar workers refer to as "lunch," so a crowd consisting of about as many people as the population of Chicago had also decided to crowd into this same restaurant.

One of these crowd members, who was not only behind me in line but who also decided to sit directly across from me while I ate, was this overweight computer geek, lisping everything he said to some other dumbass, who really didn't look like he gave a fuck. Sporting a bald head and sunglasses, the man on the receiving end of the geek's diatribe and spittle fit the profile of your average ex-convict. I bet the judge assigned the guy to hang out with this lisping fat fuck all day as some form of community service. And I also bet that, if that were the case, Baldy would never again commit another crime.

Not only in line, but also at the table, Lispy talked about nothing else...and I mean nothing else...but TiVo. It was as if he had just discovered the service that morning and just had to tell the only person willing to spend more than 5 minutes alone with him (a convict serving community service) every last detail. He was even talking about TiVo's WIRING system...and how you can record DVDs or some such shit with it...and how he and his dad were watching "Cinderella Man" and that the movie stopped one hour and 33 minutes into the film and the screen went blank. I'm dead serious; he actually recalled the EXACT SPOT in the movie at which it stopped.

All the while he was eating...and all the while maybe 30% the food stayed in his mouth, for "Cinderella" became "Thinderella"; "wires" became "wireth"; and so on.

Hey, soon-to-be high school and college graduates...welcome to life.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Neon black

It's kind of eerie actually.

Bill moved to Hawai'i with the money he was originally saving to buy a car.

And, this past Tuesday, I bought a car with the money I had originally saved to move to Hawai'i.

But, as they say...

Out with the old...



...and in with the less old.



I'm not really sure which exact factor led me to give up the 1992 Ford Tampon...er, Tempo...that had acted as both my source of transportation as well as my source of bank account draining for the past year or so. Maybe I never really did want to part with the metallic eyesore that was originally constructed back when "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" was a recently released movie for a cool $800.

Even today, a tear comes to my eye (probably as a result of my contact lens) when I think back to how, just recently, my dearly departed automobile somehow created a rhythm from the various "oh shit" sounds it made, thereby guaranteeing that I had at least something to listen to after my $98 CD player was stolen because neither of its two doors locked.

My street doesn't seem the same without the car, whose once light blue but now rather parched exterior glistened in (or perhaps was further deteriorated by) the sun. Sure, its interior dome light popped off easily after being brushed by the head of the aforementioned CD player thief. Sure, its entire ashtray and car lighter unit became permanently dislodged after my friend Brian's leg brushed against it one day as he sat down in the passenger seat. Sure, the hood produced light smoke each time it idled longer than two seconds. Sure, the windshield wipers would inexplicably stop working when on the "intermittent" mode. And sure, I saw my occasional backseat passengers mouthing prayers each time I so much as turned the ignition key through my rearview mirror (on those occasions that I actually got it to balance on its cradle).

But will a new car be able to replicate such grand memories?

I fucking hope not.

Inching ever closer to the new millenium in my car selection process, the successor to my 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra (1998-2001), my 1991 Ford Tempo (2001-2003), and my aforementioned 1992 Ford Tempo (2004-this past Monday) is a 1999 Plymouth Neon. Aside from its jet black color and its current inclusion of hubcaps and a transmission that has yet to falter, it is not all that different from "Pisces," the name that my sister bestowed upon her white 1997 Plymouth Neon.

Some of the vehicle's more desirable features, which will give you some insight as to what kind of metallic turds I have been ferrying myself and frightened others around in since my 1998 license acquisition:

--You can actually see your reflection in its exterior body

--It has a horn

--Its doors all lock

--It has a working radio

--Its windows go all the way up

--The "Service Engine Soon" light is not permanently illuminated

--The dashboard lights work

--Its gas cap actually locks

--The speedometer does not end at 80MPH

--It runs without making any sounds that sound like metal scraping against metal and/or asphalt.

Yes, I and all of my friends are still miraculously alive...though a number have moved away, two to different time zones.

As with any $4000 purchase that I haven't had in my possession for a full 48 hours yet, I've spent my time outside the car rather terrified, for a number of reasons.

First of all, I must say that I am proud of this car; it is not one that I expect my passengers to enter into in fright. While historically such a trait has passed quickly, I am still currently protective of my "wheels." It is freaking IMMACULATE at the moment; no crumpled-up papers or forgotten food dating back to the Bush/Gore debates has yet to grace its interior.

That's what scares me, though.

Why?

Are we forgetting another person who was very protective of his ride?:



And we all know what happened afterwards.

I have no desire to go to the Alamo or ride big rigs with ugly-ass ghost women.

Furthermore, the last black car that came into an immediate family member's possession was a Chevrolet something that my dad seemed to be more proud of than anything my sisters or I had accomplished up to that point (I think this was sometime in the late 1980s, when Fred Savage was still a big staple of my life).

It was short-lived, sadly, as some local idiot lacking auto insurance ran a Stop sign and crashed into my dad, effectively totaling his prized possession. Physically he was unharmed, but emotionally he was crushed. I think he still is, seeing as how his next car was either that 1982 Buick Regal (which he insisted on keeping even after its passenger door refused to open, its ceiling liner peeled away, and, worse of all, I started driving it) or that 19-something Chevy Citation (which he kept until it could no longer ascend the 1-degree incline leading up to a railroad crossing near our house).

Other than that Chevy, no one in my immediate family has owned a black car.

Finally, what scares me the most is my cursed short-term memory. After almost two straight years of scanning parking lots until I found my sun-bleached, ratty-looking Tempo, I am now going to be completely lost anytime I go to leave a mall or something. No longer will my car be the lot's sole decrepit resident. I'm sure that, one of these days (it thankfully hasn't happened yet), I will be scanning the lot for my Tempo and, upon not seeing it there, make a panicky phone call to someone saying that my car got stolen.

Needless to say, this other party, be it a friend or family member, WILL remember that I got a new car, meaning that THEY will think that my brand new $4000 purchase disappeared.

Oh, that will be fun.