Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - Five tips to a great holiday


Monday, October 26, 2009

Sleeping behind the wheel? Flying Blind in the Midwest?

Ever drive a long distance and miss a highway exit or turn while fighting with spouse or listening to favorite song or just zoning out. And then about 5-10 minutes later you realize OH SH@T! Turn around and correct course. We have all been there. BUT HOW DO YOU FLY 150 MILES past your destination? HOW DO YOU MISS TWIN CITIES? Sleeping? Fighting? I do not care, these guys should be fired. Those pilots are damn lucky that no one was hurt in their lack of focus. With terrorism and simpl accidents, can we afford to have anyone not pay attention at the wheel. From now on if Captain Sully is not flying I am walking.

THE PERFECT DAY: Great Show, October Fest, Yankees Win!!!

Yesterday was therapy. One could not ask for a better day - from the weather to every moment start to finish. The day I really needed after a week of drama and insomnia. Jimmy, my 5yo alter-ego, was in the driving seat.

It was Sunday, October 24, 2009. I first noticed how great the day was at 10:30am. WOW, the first time in months I slept in. Rolled out of bed with a renewed energy, answered a few emails from clients with new gig prospects, and then got ready for an afternoon gig. MMMM… Cold pizza and coffee - OK – not great – but not too bad either.

Driving in the new NAVY-8-OR – the EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH GIG mobile – was a true delight. There was a slight chill, but the air was clean and crisp. Northern Jersey was beautiful with autumn leaves in full display, maximizing the color palette. We get off the exit at HO HO KUS. We have passed HO HO KUS a hundred times en route to other gigs, always begging the question, “How do you make a HO HO KUS?” But upon arrival, the town has a very special aura. Seriously, more autumn leaves with classic houses of brick and a very cute town center complete with rambling brook and bridges reminding me of Vermont. Was the whole town here in NYC for a protest?

We pull up to the school. One could not ask for nicer clients – so gracious. The school offers more classic masonry and reveals a hidden treasure of a theater. Inside had a colonial feel with old bank style ceiling – flat cement with ornate moldings - and thick cement walls, both providing amazing natural acoustics. The wooded chairs suggested age but were in good repair. The stage had multiple entrances, beautiful curtains and more than enough lighting. Even the sound system was better than average. Oh, did I mention the piano was in tune and every key worked? This was more of a cathedral than a school.

We were early so we stepped out for a bite. Laurice was starving; Spero and I never turn down food. Chris and Charles were driving up separately later. Looking for a diner we must have made a wrong turn, getting a nice tour of the town trying to get back on track. We stop in a bagel joint to ask direction. It smelled so good we stayed. Have you ever heard of the bagels in New York. Unfortunately, mostly due to commercialism, it is getting harder and harder to find the great bagels, pastries, and pizza New York has bragged for decades. I grew up hearing tales from my Brooklyn born mother, and how the water in Maryland will never allow these knock off chains to truly recreate the magic. WELL, if want the real deal, go to HO HO KUS - Right in the center of town, next to the pharmacy, is a little bagel shoppe. Hey were busy and seemed to be running out of things. I settle for a Wheat bagel. The last wheat bagel had been taken. I explain I really wanted everything – everything bagel that is (I know I am a glutton but not that bad). Well it just so happens that a fresh batch of everything bagels had just come out of the oven. So I get a fresh everything bagel loaded with lox cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions and tomato. THIS IS WHAT MOM WAS TALKIN’ ABOUT!!! OH YEAH!!! Of course my breath was not potent enough to strike down every child in the audience but I was happy. Laurice had a turkey sandwich with enough meat to feed a family of four, and we shared a chocolate coffee cake, which was AWESOME!!! To top off the experience, the 5-star bagel deli from heaven was playing a Flintstones Marathon. I forgot how great that show was and how Simpsons, Family Guy and so many others are really ripping them off. The last thing we heard was Pebbles and BAMBAM singing “LET THE SUNSHINE IN”. As we paid we learned the deli owner’s family was headed for the performance. Again I dare you to find a more gracious family.

Back to the theater, the guys were waiting for us. A great family crowd was gathering. Our bagel family was right down front. It was a great show. I was feeling a little adventurous. During “World’s Worst” I was getting a very interesting list of “ask fors” (Suggestions for scenes). The cast gave me a dirty look when I said, “OK, lets start out with the world’s worst person to impersonate Chuck Norris.” WW is one of those games that tend to get very repetitive, so this successfully made us think and get very creative. Everything from martial arts blunders to me saying “I have been using the total gym for 30 years” and then pointing to my gut. I think the whole cast shared my love of the venue and audience. Even Spero, while chastising me for my emotional outbursts of joy, appeared moved and motivated to reach new heights. One of our best in a while. After the show Charles ran out, Chris ran to be scary for the Forest of Fear in Tuxedo, and we started home.

Spero and Laurice were talking about how tired they were and their desire to head home and wait for Yankees, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Californication. But I was still thinking what a perfect fall day this was. The smell and temperature remind me of growing up playing in the band with my dad and going to Oktoberfests - Dad on the trombone and I on the trumpet belting out Oom-Pah music. Not to mention the apple cider, pumpkins and hayrides. We are driving south on route 17 toward route 4 and the GWB. We pass Dykes Lumber, our favorite landmark in Jersey, and I say “Lets go to the Forest of Fear.” I think Laurice and Spero were in unison “Are you crazy”. It was 45 minute north, opposite direction of the city. But this was the only day we could enjoy the fall and I could not think of a better way to do it. We go back in forth. I think all three of us argued at some point the pros and cons for going home of heading north. We had jut gotten back to route 4 when we agreed to head north. So we turned around, the best you can on a road with no turn arounds or lights.

We drive up NJ- 17 to 87 to Woodbury. WOW lot of traffic at the Commons. Back down NY 17 to NY 17-a. We are a two hours early when we see the Forest of Fear. It lives on the grounds of the NY Renaissance Faire. This long winding mountai road just opens up to a grassy, muddy plain filled with carnival rides and attractions with the Halloween themes. We keep on going looking for something to keep us busy. I think we went all the way down and up and down again various mountaintops. We were fairly high up and could see for miles at one point. The locals are whipping around corners at alarming rates of course but we were enjoying our leisure drive. Again there were countless autumn leaves and rambling brooks. Just then we see aa sign for pick-your-own apples. How more FALL can you get this day? And it was on the way to Warwick, a town we were familiar with from previous gigs. The orchard was closed when we got there tough, so we pressed on.

In Warwick we stopped for a bite to eat. Very Americana. A small brick rail station was the center of town with walking trails and winding streets of antique shops, bars and cafes. Hundreds of locals seemed to be overflowing the bars to watch football and drink their favorite pint. At YESTERDAYS, Spero and I enjoyed a pint of Guiness. Wait I et a head of myself. The last 20 minutes, that wonderful lunch was starting to get to me. So as soon as we get their I find the true water hole. YESTERDAYS is a small bar and restaurant. Dark wood with stain glass separate a classic bar decorated with random kitsch and perhaps a 40-50 seat dinning area. There were two very small bathrooms just feet from the bar stools we chose to plop at. The Jets are killing the raiders. Come to think of it we did order the pints first before I excuse myself. The damage came quick due to the procrastination. I flush, wash my hands and turn for the door, only to notice the flush was not effective. DAMN these small toilets. I looked but no plunger to be found. Someone knocked on the door. “I’ll be right out” Oh boy. I crack open the door. The guy had gone to the other can. OK, no one was there. I peaked around the corner hoping to find a tool to use. Nothing. There was a waiter at a Positouch terminal right there. An older gentleman, with white hair, beard and stache, he resembled a thinner Santa or perhaps more like a classic railway man. I could imagin him in overalls etc. Now, those who know can attest I really do not have an indoor voice. So as subtly as I know how “So, I don’t suppose you have a plunger”, of course when I try to be slick, I tend to use my radio voice - deep, resonant and articulate. He said not to worry, he would take care of it. Of course I will never be able to look him in the eyes again. Not sure if the whole restaurant heard, but Spero and Laurice were floored. I walk over biting my lip but upon arrival nearly pass out from the brain rush of hysterics gushing. I must have been tomato red. I am cracking up as I type this now. Only ME MYSELF & I could possibly get into these messes - Borderline walking sitcom and wrecking crew. Both Laurice and Spero needed to “go” but feared what they would find. OH Did I mention how good the Fish ‘n Chips were? I had a second pint, this time Long Trail, micro brew from Vermont. Very good. No way I can drive. Way to giddy from the laughter and ale. I do not drink much anymore so those who knew me when might be surprised two pints is making me so tipsy.

So back to the FOREST OF FEAR…. (Scary Laugh insert here)
We get there and it is really dark now. I should mention I do not have a track record with these types of attractions. Recently in Myrtle Beach, I shield myself with my wife traversing the Ripley’s Haunted House. A true macho man to the core. There is a long line. Chris hooked us up. There were comps waiting for us. In line various characters crawled and strolled around to get everyone in the spirit. A large woman with a chain saw was enough to scare a dozen teenage girls into running around me for shelter. Watch out girl, I will cut you and leave to the wolves. So coming at us was this ghostly nun. Blood dripping down the face with torn robes and zombie hands seemed a bit creepy until we heard “So did you guys get the tickets?” It was Chris. HILARIOUS!!! And CREEPY!!! He walked us up to the gate. Inside there were rigged darts and a dunk tank with heckling clown, ripping off everyone from Yucko, the Jerky Boys and Carlos Mencia. DUTUDOO. Wow ripping off the biggest ripmeister in comedy. Seemed right.

There was quite a line for the haunted mansion, but Chris came through again and slipped us in front. Maybe it was the beer or all the giddiness from the outstanding day but I loved every moment with hyperactive senses. I give tremendous credit to the designer of this Halloween attraction. No expenses spared on near Jurassic Park levels. Such detail was enhanced by great performances that are regulars from RENN FEST. Many classically trained in physical and vocal theater arts. With us two other friends, both from RENN FEST apparently, and about 10-15 others joined our group. Somehow I ended up in front. UH – OH. The maze of dark hallways opening up to rooms was filled with infinite number of actors jumping out of hidden doors with sudden screams. I was cracking up every time I jumped. The best part was the tunnel. I am sure you have seen these before. The rotating cylinder you walk through with a platform the rotating slightly putting you on an angle. I always get a little dizzy and love the illusion, but this is the first time I have been through with alcohol in the system. Oh boy. I could barely make it, holding on to the railing for dear life, laughing hysterically the whole time. AWESOME!!! I give the cast and crew a lot of credit. Job well done.

The rest of the carnival was OK but nothing all that spectacular. Chris hooked us up with a couple ride tickets. Spero and Laurice both refused to join me on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Laurice grabbed a candy apple. The caramel and nuts nearly broke my teeth. The highlight was the pumpkin funnel cake. I loved funnel cake growing up, again at the fairs with dad playing Sousa marches and goofy arrangements of 70s and 80s pop tunes. But in my adult years I never found a good one - always pre-made and sitting around getting stale. Well this one was fresh out of the fryer. In fact I had to wait two minutes for it to be ready. Top it off with a pumpkin butter cream icing and this was heaven. One bite was so sweet I felt nauseous but it passed and the sugar high was the perfect end to a perfect day.


We head back to the car and the Yankees were just starting GAME 6 of the ALCS. I think it was 3-1 Yankee lead when we dropped off Spero. I got home and fell asleep watching Mariano Rivera close it out, after giving up a rare earned run. THEEEEEEEEEEEE YANKEES WIN in the immortal words of John Sterling.

So onto Philadelphia. This is going to tear my family apart. Mom from Brooklyn – Dad from Philly.

So onto Fairlawn NJ for another show. Same cst as yesterday should be great.

So onto Election season for tons of comic material. It has been a while since I did Michael Moore.

So enjoy this and the coming holiday season.