Monday, March 02, 2015

Jon Stewart to Appear on WWE Raw Live from Newark, NJ Tonight



WWE Superstar Seth Rollins recently called out the soon to be former host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart. The Money in the Bank winner declared that he could be Stewart's replacement and actually make the show watchable.

After Stewart cut his own rebuttal, Rollins ambushed him on one of his recent shows by making it seem like he was beamed in via satellite when he was actually right there in the studio. WWE has now confirmed that Stewart will appear on Raw tonight, live from The Prudential Center in Newark to possibly confront Rollins. Will they settle their gripe at WrestleMania? Doubtful that Stewart would actually take a bump, so it's likely he will be in the corner of Rollins' opponent at WrestleMania. Right now, it looks like Rollins will be facing "The Viper" Randy Orton.

Although he was born in New York, Jon Stewart's family moved to Lawrenceville, NJ, where he lived for many years. When thinking of the path to becoming a household name in stand-up comedy and Television, it's easy to forget the odd jobs one takes on the way to the top. Before satirizing the news on The Daily Show, appearing in movies, and a possible appearance at this year's WrestleMania, Stewart held various jobs in Jersey, including working as a contingency planner for the NJ Department of Human Services and a bartender at the famous City Gardens night club in Trenton. Stewart is also a big Bruce Springsteen fan, naturally.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ExtraComicular Activities #2: Mars Attacks the REAL Ghostbusters!


From the Comixology description:
Something even stranger is in the neighborhood when the restless spirits of some merciless martians are stirred from their slumber to attack again! It's up to the REAL Ghostbusters to save New Jersey from this angry red threat. Well...if they must. Written by: Erik Burnham with Art by: Jose Holder and Ray Dillon
--

In 1996, Tim Burton revived Mars Attacks! and brought it to a worldwide audience. I was working at the local movie theater when it was released and it was one of a string of films during that time that I remember loving, but it didn't seem to catch on. Although it broke even at the box office, it's largely seen as a disappointment, except to many of us geeks and Tim Burton fans. But, it turns out these aliens have got a lot more to say than just Ack, Ack, Ack!

The inspiration for the movie was a series of controversial trading cards that debuted in 1962. Apparently, alien invaders wreaking havoc was very controversial in the '60s, OK? Other than merely knowing that the series existed, I never became acquainted with the Mars Attacks! on again off again comic book series that spawned from the trading cards. But, one thing I am vastly familiar with is Ghostbusters! Whether it's live action, Filmation, or the REAL guys, I've been crazy about them since I was a little kid. To have the chance to read a comic book that combines these two entities sounded immediately appealing to me.

Presently, the comic company IDW prints an all new Mars Attacks! series, but back in 2013, they pulled off a pretty epic mini-series consisting of one-shots that pitted Mars Attacks! aliens invading five other IDW comic book properties such as Transformers, Judge Dredd, Popeye, and even my favorite rock band of all time, KISS. The issue I wanted to read even more than the KISS issue though, was Mars Attacks the REAL Ghostbusters.


Released January 1st 2013, Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters actually ties in four concepts, not only two as the title suggests. The third aspect of this book includes a recurring War of the Worlds theme. You know what that means: it takes place in New Jersey! Of course, it's not much of a stretch to have the Ghostbusters drive over the bridge to bust some ghosts in Jersey, but weaving in the Mars Attacks! aliens with War of the Worlds was pretty f'n cool. And last but not least, the nod to War of the Worlds also alludes to my favorite holiday because the historic radio broadcast that they parody here was a Halloween special that aired on mischief night in 1938.


A showdown where our cartoon heroes The REAL Ghostbusters attempt to take down some alien scum instead of a class 5 full roaming vapor might sound weird to you at first, but check it out for yourself because there's a couple of cool twists along the way. As whacked out as some of the ghosts and villains on the REAL Ghostbusters cartoon were - angry, big-headed aliens in space suits fit right in.


This comic one-shot isn't too highly rated, and it won't blow your mind or prompt you to write a thesis on it, but this was a quick, amusing read and I recommend it if you are looking for light comic fare that depicts the REAL Ghostbusters with alien opponents that will only happen in this book and probably never again.


Things to look out for:

- The Mars Attacks! aliens crash land in Elmo's Hill, NJ. This is a play on Grover's Mill, NJ the site where aliens crash landed in the War of the Worlds radio broadcast. One part Sesame Street Muppet + rhyming word = parody alien crash site.

- I always loved the REAL Ghostbusters TV bumper where the ghost in the No Ghost sign welcomes us back to the REAL Ghostbusters. He does just that in this comic, a nice little touch to make it feel like an episode of the animated series.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Columbus Chronicle: Part Two


Where were we? Oh yes, we were driving up the New Jersey Turnpike after the Monster Mania convention and decided to make a little detour...

With the record breaking cold temperatures here in New Jersey, reminiscing on one of our warm weather adventures is comforting. We saved the best for last and did our exterior inspection first. The outdoor portion of the Columbus Flea Market is an endless sea of vendor tables. I may be off by one or two, but there must have been 75,000 vendor tables selling everything from knockoff colognes featuring scents like Sweaty Taint and Phys-ed Funk to multicolored belts, statues, and cheap sunglasses. Naturally, we made it our f'n mission to literally walk through every single aisle as if the tables were the hedge maze and we were The Torrances.

Let's see how much more I can elaborate on the junk at the outdoor tables. We're talking cheap motorized toys, belts, gaudy sweaters, faux jewelry, generic brands of laundry detergent, and lots of other weird, totally random shit. And then the handbags. Jeezus, ladies and their handbags. If guys were girls they would have one handbag, but girls are girls and they have like 12 and they're always looking for two more, one for that wedding they have to go to and the other because the ones they have just can't fit everything. I think I just had a heat stroke. Man it was hot out there.

My body does not handle the sun and heat very well, so we made our way inside to see what treasures awaited us. As we passed through the entrance, Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," lightly trickled out of the ancient P.A system like a refreshing mist of cool rain.

"...Nothing ever lasts forever..."

The white tile floors, no longer shiny, coated with a decade of dust, forced my eyes to the storefronts that housed all kinds of bizarre bullshit. To the left, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the neglected vending machines, red, encasing charms that now easily exceed their quarter price due to their age. A dollar at least, by today's eBay standards. Soda machines had the cooler, early '90s logos. We were in a blissful wonderland, one of the biggest and oldest flea markets in the state and we were having a blast.

You always know the types of stuff that will set off your nerd alerts, but there are also things there that you'd never expect would excite you. For example, I never thought I'd pop so big for Rebecca's Soft Pretzels, mostly because I barely ever eat pretzels, unless they're from WaWa and filled with sweet cream, but their menu signage was so damn gigantic, hanging from the drop ceiling like a cumulonimbus cloud made of toasted almond sprinkles, it was hard not to be enticed. I didn't wind up getting a pretzel, but for some reason Rebecca's Pretzel's stuck out in my head. Probably because it was nestled in an offshoot wing of the flea that might have been some sort of Amish haven, if I recall correctly. But, I might be pulling a Brian Williams here, so don't hold me to that. #WhoopiePies

The reason I go anywhere is if there's a possibility of seeing or buying old toys, records, or collectibles, because what else is there in life? We immediately zeroed in on one store in particular. I'm sorry Wicker emporium, tablecloth store, Bologna Kitchen, and bedazzled ladies leisure wear shop, you can all go screw.

That Dracula blow mold!! I vant it.

As we continued exploring the shops, there was one store window that had plush toys and giant stuffed animals that looked as if they were manufactured sometime in 1993. If you've seen one knock off Lots-a-Lots-a-Leggggggs you've seen them all, but, coincidentally, it was another storefront where Jason Voorhees himself brought our Nikes to a screeching halt. "15% off marked toys," read a homemade cardboard sign laying underneath Grover and Scooby. Yuuup! It was a collectible shop and we were heading inside in full force.

What did we do next? Dove right into this ginormous mess of CRAP, some call it treasure. In this case, it was like a collector's neglected musty basement where stuff was thrown in every corner. There was absolutely zero organization and no logic to where items were tossed. Put it this way, if you were a contestant on Finders Keepers and had to find a baseball buried in this store, you'd be completely fucked.


It was impossible to process the magnitude of stuff that was stacked, scattered, hanging, and buried around this shop. Paint the picture in your mind of the following items in complete disarray: old magazines, records, statues, loose toys, playsets, sports memorabilia, autographs, mint in box and carded Star Wars and Wrestling toys, masks, ride-on toys, Cabbage Patch Kids, the list goes on and on. Really, none of it was in the best condition, but if there was one specific item that you were looking for, and they happened to have it, you'd be one happy camper.


This lack of organization was like anarchy. It can cause an unfathomable amount of anxiety to a collector. Seeing so many collectibles in such shambles agitated me a bit, but I also found some charm in all of it at the same time, since it created a stark contrast to one of those cold, museum-like stores with no personality. Here, it seemed more likely that there was something really amazing buried beneath the debris. Would we find it?

I kept gravitating toward a full wall-sized shelf that was packed with tons of random retro relics (how ya like me now?). The shelves were like the walls of the 53rd precinct and were literally bleeding junk out of each compartment. I needed a closer look.

OWNER: "You can't go back there"

ME: "I'd like to look at something I want to buy."

OWNER: "Nobody goes back there, you'll knock everything over."

This was a 12-15 foot span of wall shelving set behind another span of lower shelving chock full of stuff that the owner would not allow anyone to inspect. After his warning, a middle aged woman complained to me that she had the same issue with him and she didn't understand why. Things couldn't really get more messed up in there anyway. My eyes kept locking in on old Munsters and Gremlins stuff. Much of the stuff was still in its original, worn boxes.


Eventually, I pitched gaining access to the store owner again because there was one thing I wanted to look at further, I can't remember what it was, but at the time it was screaming for my attention.

ME: "Can I please just go back there for a minute? I promise I won't touch anything or knock anything over."

Somehow, I must've assured him enough that I wouldn't mess anything up and persuaded him to let me get in there. It was during all this that Matt was having a moment not too dissimilar to the time when Janosz locked eyes with Vigo, except picture Dino Drac and a 1979 12" Kenner Alien figure. It was broken, of course. Even though the figure was loose, far from mint, and its leg was removed, the owner explained how Matt could fix it. The ludicrous price tag for such a fixer upper was so not worth it. It was so expensive that Matt wasn't heartbroken when he had to part with it when we left. Now, if the Alien figure came with a homemade crutch and the broken leg had a cast on it with a fake Sigourney Weaver signature on it, I think Matt may have paid the guy double for it. Further down to the rear of the store you can see the $4,000 dollar Watto, he was out of both of our price ranges too.


Being in this store was both amazing and completely underwhelming at the same time. Then the mood became borderline sad. "The whole store is on sale for $50,000," the store owner told me.

Smirking, I looked at Matt and we tried desperately to decipher if we both really just heard that. The price was a bit preposterous. He didn't mean 50k for the actual deed to his space in the flea market, nope, just the garbage inside of it.

I decided to ask him the prices on a few things just to see if he was trying to scam customers. A vintage Cher doll was a "Hundred bucks." She was loose, had messy hair, and didn't have the original clothes. The high prices seemed to be a recurring theme in there. We didn't buy anything.

I'm sorry to do this to you. Talk about an Empire Strikes Back ending.

A few months later, the poor old guy who ran the store died of a sudden heart attack at the flea market one day. I couldn't help but think the guy may have been trying to raise money for his own medical bills, or pay some kind of debt, but who knows? Either way, without knowing the specifics and personal situation of the owner, the message I glean from this whole story is that you can literally become buried in your own stuff, and it can weigh you down and cause anxiety. So, why not open a shop and sell all your shit immediately for 50 grand?


Fast forward to November 2014. News broke that a large portion of the indoor part of the Columbus flea market burned to the ground, well at least the majority of the building did. I was shocked. What's crazier is that I hadn't heard about any of this until last week when a friend at work mentioned it. Most people I talk to knew about the fire, but not the owner of the store.

It's been a few months since the fire, and we're mere weeks away from the next Monster Mania, so there doesn't seem to be a more appropriate time to reminisce. Looking back, not jumping right away to post a blog and pictures from this trip was probably for the best. It's given me the chance now to look back on this place and the quirky memories of the day we spent there.

If you're a collector or just like to go to weird junk places, they sort of all bleed together in your mind after being to so many of them, but this one definitely stands out, not for the bizarre toy den, but more for the PIZZA. Ahh, see, for a second you thought this post was booked to be the most grim in Sexy Armpit history, but, nope, I have other plans.


You've heard the old quote about how all pizza is good pizza, and even bad pizza is good because it's still pizza, right? Unless we're talking certain kinds of frozen pizza, that statement always rings true.


Inside the Columbus flea market we sat ourselves down at the stools of a large rectangular bar that served pizza. We were lured into Pete's Pizza because it smelled amazing and the sign was glorious. Their mascot was like a cross between Little Caesar and Frenchy Martin. It was one of the best pizza places ever. Why? Well, a lot of it had to do with the lady behind the counter being so attentive to us, and of course, the pizza was delicious, but what cemented this honor was their choice of dinnerware. Our pizza was served on Happy 5th Birthday paper plates! This is the only thing that can help you forget about the death, disorder, and fiery madness that you've had to endure in this post. Happy 5th Birthday!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Columbus Chronicle: Part One


I fear that if I described a place as "a time warp," it wouldn't be as impactful as it once was. I find myself using the comparison fairly often due to various trips to old dingy antique stores or crappy flea markets that all look like they stopped operating legally in the mid '80s. These are usually my favorite spots. To me and friends like Dinosaur Dracula it's become commonplace to find ourselves at a hotel, store, carnival, or Christmas display that has been preserved somewhere in time. Same as it ever was...

There's opposing ideas at work here. It's quite astonishing that there's such a newness to old places we've never set foot in that simultaneously feel so familiar, as if we have been there a hundred times.

For us, the thrill has not disappeared.

Often though, the thrill in question doesn't inject my spirit with enough juice to immediately compel me to memorialize it on my blog, at least until the right time.

Whenever I feel like I'm building up some really decent motivation with a steady pace of blog updates, I get knocked off the ladder. Whether it's a job situation, an issue with my condo, or just plain physical fatigue, publishing a blog post that summarizes in detail how there's one line of dialogue in an obscure movie where they mentioned a random town in New Jersey is not even in the top 10 on my to-do list. I certainly wish it could be, but you know how it is sometimes. These occasions seem to pop up more and more as time goes on. In fact, one of them happened last summer.

We visited a really cool place and here I am writing about it 6 months later.

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The aftermath of one of our Monster Mania con trips is the stuff of shame. You may have thought I was gonna go with "the stuff of legend," but, embarrassment, blurry memories, foul language, obnoxious behavior, late night wandering, later night second wind drinking, surreal elevator rides, absurd verbal exchanges with complete strangers, are much more accurate. All of it builds to an extra long car ride home that seriously makes me contemplate what I'm doing with my life. But, fortunately, we had Tequila.


After a night of nostalgia, chaos, and noise, we (Freddy in Space, Dinosaur Dracula, the ladies, and myself) got very little sleep. At some point in the night, at least a couple of us were involuntarily cemented into the same position we'd been in moments before falling into our little mini comas, some of us with our faces set in that weird about to say something look. It was a sight to behold. It's like that scene when all the citizens of Oz turned to stone in Return to Oz. It was bleak and somewhat horrifying.

The next morning, we were dragging ass. For some reason, the TV is ALWAYS on and blasting when we wake up, tuned to some poorly produced infomercial for a local car dealership. Once the self loathing surges to record levels, we realized that the sun was out, it was actually a nice day, albeit a few degrees too warm, and blindingly sunny, and that we had to get the fuck out of there as soon as possible.


For the ride home, it was all about the energy drinks and the most random mix of music on my iPod to power us through the drive up the New Jersey Turnpike. "If you wanna go and take a ride wit' me we three wheelin' in the fo' with the green and Dino Drac and Ms. X in the back."

With the surge of motivation derived from the Red Bulls and 5 Hours that were miraculously keeping our hearts pumping after our Monster con bender, we couldn't just head home because that would be us tapping out, and defeat was not an option.


It would be an automatic fail if we arrived at home without taking some kind of detour on the way back first. If anything, it breaks up the monotonous drive. And I'm not talking about just rolling into Cracker Barrel with fanny packs engaged, wearing our Zubaz pants either, I said, "Let's go to one of the most famous flea markets in the entire tri-state area." I said it exactly like that too, as if I was in a local TV commercial for the place with the owners niece holding a balloon as his Guido cousin touted the 3000+ vendors and the 56 dining options including pretzels and meat sandwiches. "So come down to the Columbus Flea Market, Route 206 in Columbus New Jersey!" That ad probably ran right just before the car dealership infomercial on TV that prompted me to rise like The Undertaker from my temporary departure from consciousness earlier that morning.

In hopes of finding some dumb old toys, we all unanimously opted in for the flea market. After all, nothing cures a hangover quite like dusty old records, military supplies, and crates full of paint-chipped action figures.

Known as one of the oldest and biggest flea markets in the area, The Columbus Flea Market made us feel like we literally entered a time warp. Interest gauge: Piqued. Mood meter: pinned in the red. Who needs to be whisked away to beautiful Waikiki when you can can be abruptly hauled back to a flea market circa 1990? That rhyme scheme was completely unintentional, but pretty slick.

Unfortunately, it's right at this point where you're realizing that all this fluff was just a lead-in to Part Two where we'll delve into one of the "special" shops we stumbled upon during our exploration of the Columbus Flea Market! Come back to read about it tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Devil Inside...The Hard Rock Cafe in Atlantic City, NJ

That Stoned Pimp, The Jersey Devil shilling for The Hard Rock Cafe, Atlantic City in this collectors pin. Here we see JD all duked out in sunglasses, jewelry, and tacky beachwear circa 2003, drinking Martinis on the Jersey Shore with two bikini-clad hotties 

Screw the long lines, head straight to the guitar shaped bar. I find it easy to relax there. The bartender, Cherish, is the type who is very much in control. She knows what she wants and what you want before you even decide. Even if you tell her what you think you want, she'll correct you and tell you what you actually want. I mean, tell you what you want, what you really, really want. So, yeah, Cherish. I wasn't sure if her parents were just hippies or if this was one of the best gimmicks ever where all the employees were named after songs. Unfortunately, none of the waitresses were named "Wannabe." Zigazigah.

CHERISH: "You'll have a Purple Haze"
JAY: "OK, I'll have a Purple Haze...and these"

As I said that, I squinted as if I needed reading glasses while scanning the menu with my finger to pinpoint the generic chicken appetizer that I kept going back to. "These" referred to what I get pretty much every time, the The Tupelo Chicken Tenders. Better the devil you know.

At the Hard Rock, always keep it simple. The Tupelo tenders are quick, easy, and do the trick. Plus, for some unexplained reason, at that very moment, you'll be compelled to spend the majority of the money you have to your name on alcohol anyway, so you won't have enough resources to splurge on a steak the size of an actual Led Zeppelin. What kind of insidious urge overcomes you at The Hard Rock, Atlantic City? Why, it must be the Devil himself, but the one from New Jersaaay!

The Hard Rock specialty drink, The Purple Haze, IS damn good, but more importantly, where the hell else are you gonna see Buddy Holly's 6th grade yearbook or a white leather jacket custom made for Richie Sambora straight from the New Jersey era of Bon Jovi? Not even The Smithsonian has relics so vital to our culture. The Louvre is irrelevant to me.

This Hard Rock Cafe pin is pretty badass. The Jersey Devil, circa 2007, looking fierce 
while playing a sick groove on his axe bass.

You might find yourself mishearing what your friends and your waitress are saying because it's crowded and loud. What's worse, is that sometimes I've waited upwards of 45 minutes to get the food I ordered, but it's all part of the ambiance. You know what they say "If it's too loud and your chicken tenders take too long to come out, you're too old!"

Moreover, music fans go to The Hard Rock to see some of that awesome rock and roll memorabilia. That's right, you can get tanked, inhale a cheeseburger, and then drool over KISS costumes and Instagram pics of guitars that belonged to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townshend.

Keep in mind though, if you're trying to hold on to some semblance of street cred, an establishment known for their overpriced t-shirts/tourist uniforms shouldn't be your regular hangout.

Although I've often fancied myself as some counter culture rocker who cannot play any instruments whatsoever, there aren't many cooler, more inviting places for me to be in when I'm seeking refuge from the sweltering summer heat on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

For the past couple of years, there's been talk of an actual Hard Rock boutique hotel and casino coming to AC to inhabit one of the casinos that has closed their doors. Boutique really just translates to EXPENSIVE ROOMS. Hopefully it does open one day, because I've always wanted to bare witness to the only existing pair of Meatloaf's high school gym coach's sweatpants.

And now, I leave you with a few more pics of some other kind of Jersey Devils!

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