Oh, Happy Days (Or, Mummer's the Word)

Thanks to the snow, what was going to be a nice leisurely two-day, two-concert trip to Atlantic City for my mom and me turned into me (Mom, having the wisdom of age, bailed on the trip) getting up at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning to catch a bus from the Port Authority and getting back to my apartment at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Here's a rundown from the run-down:

*My attempts to unload my extra ticket to the Mummers' Show of Shows at Boardwalk Hall hit a snag when I took stock of the people walking up to the box office and thought, "Do I really want to spend the next three hours sitting next to someone who has plans to see the Mummers alone?" And then I realized that I had plans to see the Mummers alone. So the question became, "Do I want to sit next to me for three hours?" And that was a resounding no. So I ate the price of that ticket.

*I dug the Mummers, but the biggest thrill of Saturday afternoon was seeing my favorite dancer in the world taking up residence on the boardwalk. In case you need a reminder, here it is:

I hadn't seen him the last few times I was in AC, and I certainly wasn't expecting to see him on a February afternoon. But there he was, a little more bundled up and wearing a backpack, which limited the dance moves some. He's also got new glasses, and perhaps some gender-identity issues, because his nails were painted pink.

I honestly could have sat and watched him all afternoon. Unfortunately, I had $25 worth of slot play to burn at Tropicana.

*In the golden days of Atlantic City bus travel, some of the casinos would just give you cash when you got off the bus. You'd hand them your casino voucher, and they'd give you a $20 bill. Sadly, those days are gone. Now, all the casinos give you slot play, which means you have to sign up for a casino card, which will have $25 on it that you can waste, er, spend on the slots. So, I went to the Tropicana (where I actually had an account from a trip nine years ago to Polkapalooza, lovingly documented in the cult classic, Critical, But Stable), got my new card, and headed to the first machine that caught my eye when I came into the casino--the 1-cent Happy Days machine.

About 15 minutes later, and while sitting next to a guy who was repeatedly hitting his Happy Days machine and calling Fonzie a cheeseball, I walked away with a voucher for $66.80. Ayyyyyyyyyyyyy!

That is now my biggest casino win of all time, shattering the $14 I won playing War in Las Vegas.

*After that big win and my subsequent attendance at a mass presided over by a Filipino priest who seemed to wish he was a Baptist preacher, I decided it was light enough out to take the ultimate gamble, walking through the streets of Atlantic City to get to Harrah's to see the Levon Helm Band. It was a nice day for a walk, and I was feeling lucky. I figured out a relatively well-traveled route and made it to Harrah's about three hours before showtime without being raped, beaten, or killed. I was on a roll!

*The walk was uneventful, and certainly nowhere near as bone-chillingly frightening as the Ed Hardy-sporting, heavily tanned denizens of Harrah's biding their time until The Pool at Harrah's opened up for the night. While eating my chicken cheese steak across from the line that was forming to get into The Pool, I was reminded of (a) why I didn't care for high school that much and (b) why watching "Jersey Shore" is a lot more fun than feeling like you're in the middle of a taping of it.

*I had no luck unloading my Levon ticket, but my Happy Days windfall took some of the sting out of that. Again, the problem of unloading a single ticket in Atlantic City popped up, but in this case, anybody who wanted a single ticket was probably able to get a comped one from the casino, so even unloading my ticket at a deep discount wasn't likely to fly.

The show was good (Levon's voice sounds stronger each time I see him, though he's still only singing a few songs), though slightly marred by the aforementioned comped attendees walking out five or six songs into the show. Maybe they thought The Pool would be more fun.

*I was the lone passenger when the Academy bus left Trump Marina (my vote for the scariest casino in Atlantic City), but we picked up a bunch more passengers at Trump Plaza. We pulled into NYC at right around 3 a.m. and I was safe at home by 4:30. Another full day in the life of Tinsel and Rot.

Here are some Mummers photos for you:


The Great Outdoors

[Here's a cross-post from the other blog, The Palm Isle, which is updated even less frequently than this one. Enjoy! And for more Outdoor Classic coverage from the Palm Isle, go here.]

It takes a special kind of person to want to spend a winter afternoon in central New York watching a minor-league hockey game at a state fairgrounds. Lucky for you, the Reverend Zamboni and Mr. Bad Example are special kinds of people. And, so, here are some of the sights and, as a special bonus to you, Faithful Reader (and we use that not as an all-encompassing term, but as an actual description of the one person still likely reading this blog), some words to describe the sights of the Mirabito AHL Outdoor Classic between the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators.

After an attempt to sidestep the lines for parking, a subsequent detour through scenic Solvay, NY, and our eventual decamping in a less busy though significantly less close parking lot on the New York State Fairgrounds, we headed into the game around noon, picking up our complimentary Outdoor Classic towels as we entered. We soon checked out our seats for the day.

Not too shabby for $30. For $30, I imagine I could have sat on the sidewalk at the House of Blues and listened to the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway, so this wasn't bad at all. We hung around the seats long enough to throw a blanket down and then went to soak in some atmosphere on the ground level. Soon after we got down there, the glass behind the goal shattered during warmups.

It didn't look like anyone got a glass shower, but there was no time to confirm, because I needed my picture on the Ice Throne. So I, a 33-year-old man, queued up behind a group of children to ascend the Ice Throne. They could've sped things up, but I think it was worth the wait.

After our Star Time with Bobby Nystrom, we were turned away from cutting through the VIP area to get to the other end of the ice (where the hot tub was...no kidding), so we headed back to our seats. The start of the game was delayed a bit as they replaced the glass, but soon the pomp and circumstance began. Special guests (including Nystrom and former Sabres Danny Gare and Rob Ray) were introduced and then the mike was handed to Governor David Paterson who, judging by the crowd reaction, might want to rethink his upcoming gubernatorial campaign. I have heard politicians booed before, but, good lord, never with such passion. He aint my governor (we've got our own problems in Jersey), but based on the interview I saw on the game telecast later that night, in which he said he grew up watching the Islanders win the cups and, then, "nothing much has happened there since" (or something like that), I'll boo him the next time I see him, too.

Once the puck was dropped, we realized that it was a bit of a struggle to see the ice, particularly on the near-side boards. So we looked around for better vantage points. Then we were interrupted by this:

Even the linesman loved it.

At the first TV timeout (and after Alexandre Picard's goal for the Crunch), we moved to the general admission bleachers, which were a potential-lawsuit-safe distance away from the ice, which meant they were practically in Auburn (shoutout to Prison City). But at least we could see more of the ice now. Of course, it's hard to focus on the game when the guy in front of you is wearing a hat and jacket covered with Cheez Doodles. You will only find that sort of lunatic at an outdoor game in central New York, where the people are a special kind of crazy that is rarely seen in the rest of the human race.

Since we were pretty far away from the ice, I went on a reconnaissance mission to see what the situation by the boards was. As near as we could figure, no one anticipated that, if you left the area around the boards unimpeded by any sort of barricade, people would just park themselves right on the glass to watch the game. But they did. And so we did for the entire second and third period.

Despite the brisk winds, most of the crowd stayed until the bitter end, watching the hometown Crunch take a 2-1 victory. They were rewarded by being given the opportunity (or perhaps just taking the opportunity) to walk out with boxes of the giveaway Dunkin' Donuts plastic cups as they headed back to their cars. The final entertainment of the day was the Great Slip and Fall that took place in the tunnel that was on the way to the parking lot. We saw about five people go down hard (and a bunch more come close) amid a constant chorus of "Whoa!"s from the drunken hockey lovers of central New York. I probably would've paid $30 just to watch that. (So you don't think I'm completely heartless, everyone that hit the ground--including the guy behind us who turfed out with a sickening thud--bounced right back up. Here's to the resilience of the hockey fan! And the numbing effects of alcohol!)

So, for $30 plus fees, we got to hang with Bobby Nystrom for a few minutes, see a skydiver brave the Syracuse winds to drop onto the rink, watch two-thirds of a pretty competitive AHL game about ten feet from the ice, see an awesome hockey fight, and watch drunk people fall down. Plus my body didn't start shaking involuntarily from the cold at any point (that Inauguration 2008 training came in handy).

A pretty damn good day. And another reason why hockey (and the AHL) kicks ass.


What I'm Watching (Or, Sometimes It's Hard to Believe I'm a Man)

I've slacked off a great deal from my TV watching, but now that I'm curbing my Internet usage (yes, the blog suffers, but, well, I apologize to the three of you still interested), I have unearthed a few shows that are now firmly ensconced in the rotation, along with a few others looking to make their way in. Let's take a look at them, starting with the most manly and working our way down to the sad, girly stuff that a 33-year-old man watches intently.

* American Pickers, History Channel, Mondays, 9 p.m.

I came up with a revku to describe my initial thoughts on this show:

They sure find cool stuff
When they fleece the elderly
It bothers me some

The basic premise of the show is that these two guys in Iowa go around and try to find sale-worthy treasures in people's trash. Sometimes people call them, and other times they're just driving around, see a big shed, and decide to pay someone a visit. On the first show I saw, they stopped by an old guy's house and they got him to sell a samurai sword he had brought back from World War II for some ridiculously low price. I felt bad for the old guy for some reason. I guess I wanted him to hand that down to someone in his family, but maybe he had no family to hand it down to and it was just taking up space in his shed. Whatever the case, it bummed me out. But I kept watching. And I'm still enjoying it, though I enjoy it more when they visit people who have acres and acres of junk they've amassed over decades and they refuse to part with it. Or, as I like to call it, a glimpse into my future.

*Pawn Stars, History Channel, Mondays, 10 p.m.

The most annoying thing about this show is that I find myself over-enunciating the title so people don't think that one of my favorite shows is "Porn Stars." I'm trying to maintain an image here.

Anyway, this show follows a family-run pawn shop in Las Vegas. It's essentially "Antiques Roadshow" for men who aren't comfortable watching a show with "Antiques" in the title. And with more interesting people doing the appraising. Plus, while the joy of "Antiques Roadshow" (not that an incredibly masculine man like myself would watch such a show) is seeing the reaction of people when the item they bring in is worth more than they could have ever dreamed, "Pawn Stars" is best when people come swaggering into the pawn shop thinking they have gold when they don't.

*Pit Boss, Animal Planet, Saturdays, 10 p.m.

I resisted the urge to watch any of the approximately 40 gajillion shows about little people (and, believe me, it's hard not to watch a show titled "Little Chocolatiers"), but this one finally got me. It's about Shorty Rossi, a reformed criminal (spent 10 years in jail for a gang-related attempted murder) who now runs both a little person talent agency and a pit bull rescue group. It took me a few episodes to figure all that out, because I kept coming in in the middle of things, but now that Shorty's doing the press rounds, I think I've got it all figured out. And I'm still entertained by it.

* Cake Boss, TLC, Mondays, 9 p.m.

Would I watch this if I didn't work two blocks away from Carlo's Bake Shop? Probably, since I also watch "Ace of Cakes" and I don't work near Charm City Cakes. But having been there and seen a little bit of the Jersey attitude on display a few times makes it that much more enjoyable. What is slightly less enjoyable is waiting on a long line almost every time I'm in Carlo's, but, hey, you take the good with the bad.

*My Life as Liz, MTV, Mondays, 10:30 p.m.

I suppose if I had the gene for embarrassment, I would be embarrassed to admit that I watch this show. But, as a 33-year-old man who has pursued and obtained photos with four "Saved by the Bell" cast members and who gets a little bummed when a season of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" ends, embarrassment is just not something that comes up often in regard to my TV-watching habits. So, I'm readily admitting that, yes, I'm watching a some-kind-of-reality show about a teenaged girl navigating high school in Texas. So be it.

As you can see, Mondays are a busy TV night, which is why I'm hesitant to become fully invested in the new season of Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp on VH1. Well, that and (a) they're stretching "celebrity" thinner than ever and (b) I find it difficult to accept that Nicole Eggert is on "Celebrity Fit Club." But I will likely be sucked into that incredibly macho show in the weeks to come, too.

So, when you grow frustrated by the lack of posts here, know that I'm spending my time watching these programs. And then say a prayer for me.


What I Liked About January

*Bowling a 227 (new high game!) at Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park, NJ
*The birth of Nathaniel Jacob Balber
*Stumbling upon the New Orleans-style brass band in Union Square
*Woodstock pancakes, Kitchenette, NYC

*Levon Helm Band/Okkervil River, Terminal 5, NYC
*The Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band/Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives/Sarah Jarosz, BB King's, NYC
*Kelly Kulick winning the PBA Tournament of Champions
*Robbie Fulks and Jenny Scheinman, Barb├ęs, Brooklyn, NY

*Light of Day Benefit, Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
*Almost getting hit by the heel of Lauren Ambrose's shoe
*Judicke's Bakery, Bayonne, NJ
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places