Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vacation ... FINALLY!

I really can’t wait for this week to be over – you see, on Saturday, my wife and I, along with some of our closest friends, are heading to the Outer Banks for a week. For those of you not familiar with the Outer Banks, you can click here to find out more: I’ve been there a number of times, and have never been disappointed.

As you probably already know, I’ve lived near Philadelphia all my life. The normal beach places for us Philly folks to travel to are in New Jersey, and while they’re, for the most part, quite nice, they are expensive, and overcrowded. The Delaware beaches are nicer, in my opinion, but you still have to deal with annoying people. So, how did we “discover” the Outer Banks?

Actually, my friend Davers’s parents went down to Nags Head many years ago – probably the early 1980’s. Back then, Nags Head, and most of the Outer Banks, was nothing more than a fishing resort. Davers came back from that vacation raving about how great the fishing was. We had made a pact that someday, we’d make it down there.

That day was the summer of 1999. Davers and I, along with another friend, made our trek to the Outer Banks, in search of fish and a good time. We stayed in Nags Head again – and Davers commented on how much more “commercial” Nags Head had become. Now, it is nowhere near as commercial as the Jersey shore, but now there are other things to do besides fish.

The first thing I realized was that renting a house in the Outer Banks is SO MUCH CHEAPER than the Jersey shore. And, the fishing was indeed very good – we could many weakfish, spots, croakers, bluefish, and even Spanish Mackerel on a daily basis. The nightlife was actually pretty good in the Kill Devil Hills – Nags Head area – good bars, and great restaurants.

Keep in mind, the Outer Banks stretches for hours – which means there are family friendly areas like Duck and Corolla. There are areas with good nightlife like Kill Devil Hills, and there are still areas for the guys that just want to fish, like Cape Hatteras. It’s got everything – it really just depends on what you want to do.

Davers and I went down to the Outer Banks one more time in 2000 – and again, had a great time. My wife, Babs, and I started going down there, probably in 2005 – we went twice and had a fantastic time. The place we got two years ago was huge – it had an in-ground pool, a game room with a pool table, and plenty of room to sleep about 8-10 people. This year, we’re heading back to the same place, but this time with more friends. I can’t wait!

I’ll post some pics and stories when I get back. In the meantime, behave yourselves!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Los and Restaurants ...

Growing up in my family, I was very sheltered when it came to food and cooking. It really was only the basics for me – you know, hot dogs, burgers, chicken (usually cooked the same way), gray steak (long story) roast beef, and some specific German cuisine like Goulash, and Ruladen. Heck, I didn’t evey try Chinese food until I was off in college, and the closest I got to Mexican food for the longest time was Taco Bell.

My wife was probably mortified at the lack of diversity in the foods I ate (and really, continue to eat). I prefer noodles over rice and potatoes (with the exception of French Fries). I like a traditional breakfast that is made up of bacon, eggs (scrambled, over easy, or hard boiled), and toast – I really don’t like to stray too far from there (sure, pancakes are ok).

My wife loves to discover and experiment with new foods. Anytime a new restaurant opens, she’s excited to go and sample the menu. I, on the other hand, really just want to either eat bar food, or schlep to a chain restaurant that has steak, burgers, or crabs on the menu. Without a doubt, this frustrates my wife. I’ve gotten a little better over the years – for instance, I actually enjoy sushi to an extent (still, I’m hungry after eating sushi). I’ll give anything a chance, though.

With that said, here are a couple of things that I try to steer away from when picking a restaurant to go to:

* Any restaurant featuring anything braised, seared, or glazed. There’s a really good chance I won’t like it. I want the waiter to ask me how I want that meat cooked (medium, medium well, well done, etc.). I don’t want any other options. That’s just me, I guess.

* Any restaurant with a number as its name. For instance, a new restaurant named “19” opened in the city – that’s way too trendy and classy for me.

* If the restaurant name is a color that I'm not familiar with. See the above reason.

* If the restaurant menu features ham – good chance I’ll hate it. As many of you know, I have a ham anti-fetish.

* If the restaurant has some trendy decorations, like lots of curtains all over the walls. I think I feel suffocated with is layout.

* If the restaurant has entirely too many candles as the lighting, and I can't really read anything. In addition to not being able to read, I have trouble seeing what I’m eating (I need this!).

* If the restaurant is located in center city and has valet parking. Without a doubt, this type of restaurant did not have me in mind when it was created.

* If the restaurant has a strict dress code. Now, I don’t mind putting on slacks or Khakis, but I HATE eating food with a tie on.
* If the restaurant’s menu is in a language that I don't know. Good chance I won’t like very much on the menu with the exception of the bread.

* If the restaurant serves alcohol, but not beer. Way too stuffy for me.

* If the restaurant’s music consists of a live band consisting of violinists. Way too stuffy again. Plus, I feel like I have to be on my best behavior … and that’s way too much like work.

* If it takes more than an hour to get my food. I go to a restaurant to eat … not to sit there and get even more hungry.

* If the restaurant’s entrĂ©e' has more show than actual food. I’ve been to a couple of places in which it seems like presentation is more important than the actual quality and amount of the food on the plate. I’m sorry, but if I’m still hungry after I eat, that’s not good.

* If a restaurant’s chicken salad has grapes, apples or raisins in it. I’m very traditional with this – chicken salad was not meant to have fruit in it … end of story.

* If the restaurant opens for breakfast on weekends, but does not serve toast. This happened to me about 7 years ago in …. Surprise, surprise … Center City, Philadelphia. I ordered my breakfast and asked if toast was being served … the waitress gave me some sort of crazed look like I had asked her to was my scrotum.

These are just a few of my restaurant thoughts …

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust ...

The news came out a few days ago – the Philadelphia Spectrum, former home of the Philadelphia Flyers and Sixers … once titled “America’s Showplace” … will be demolished in 2009. Sadly, this is the last building that housed a major champion in Philadelphia (The Sixers in 1983, and the Flyers in ’74-75). I’ve seen some great events there – here’s a list of a few of them:

• Hockey – I got to see legends like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux play my hometown team. I saw Philly legends like Bobby Clarke, Billy Barber, and even Pelle Lindbergh. Best of all, I saw them with my family.
• Basketball – I didn’t go to many basketball games, but I did see the Sixers vs. Celtics when Larry Byrd and Dr. J. were still playing, and I got to see Michael Jordan shred the Sixers in the playoffs one year.
• Concerts – No, I never got to see the Stones perform there, but I did get to see some shows, including Eric Clapton, which didn’t suck. I honestly can’t remember going to more than a few, because by the time I was regularly going to shows, the Center had already opened up.
• The Circus – I remember going to the Spectrum on a class trip to see Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. I remember being frightened by how high we were sitting, and how steep the stairs were … oh, and I also remember worried that the tight-rope walker would fall … he never did, though.
• Disney on Ice – This used to be a family tradition around Christmas time. I loved going to this … and no, I’m not gay. I was probably around 6 or 7 when we first started going. For some reason, we stopped – I guess it got too expensive … or maybe my parents feared I was getting too much in touch with my feminine side.
• Other things – I’ve seen the Philadelphia Bulldogs roller-hockey team, The Philadelphia Phantoms AHL hockey team, The Philadelphia Fever and Philadelphia Kixx indoor soccer teams, and the Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse teams there.

One thing is really sad about all of this (besides the memories). The entire landscape of the “sports area” in Philadelphia has changed so drastically since 1988, that there really won’t be anything left from back then – The Vet’s gone, JFK’s gone, and the Spectrum will soon join them. Seriously, one of these newer stadiums needs to host a champion, and soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Am I Making Too Much of a "Big" Deal About This?

You remember that movie, Big, staring Tom Hanks that came out in the late 1980’s? Outside of never understanding how Elizabeth Perkins got the leading role in this, I loved the movie. With that being said, something about this flick bothered me, but I never could figure out what it was … until a few weeks ago.

I was watching the ending of Big – you know – when Elizabeth Perkins drops Tom Hanks off at his mom’s place, and then as Tom Hanks is walking to the house, Perkins looks away, then looks back and sees the little kid that Hanks changed back into. It hit me – Perkins had sex with Hanks in the movie, right? So, Hanks was an adult, but not really, right? So, was Perkins actually having sex with a minor?

I’m actually surprised nobody really discussed this … or at least I never heard of discussions. I mean, the movie is ending, and Perkins kind of smiles as a tear rolls down her eyes, when she sees that Hanks is actually a kid. Geez, shouldn’t she be sh*tting bricks and throwing up on the dashboard at this point, saying to herself, “Oh my god, I just bumped uglies with Opie from the Andy Griffith show?”

On the other side, how does the young Hanks deal with the rest of grade school at this point? I mean, he just went from being an important executive at a toy store, to being an adolescent again. Sure, he’s probably got great stories to tell his other pimple-faced friends about baggin’ a babe, and making and spending all kinds of money. But, at the same point, the kid has got to be bored back in school, doesn’t he? I mean, he doesn’t have the bankroll or the babe anymore. He is no longer autonomous and is once again ruled over by his mom. And, finally, he can’t enjoy a fine alcoholic beverage legally anymore.

How about the company he works for? All of the sudden, he disappears without a sign. Wouldn’t there be a large manhunt for him? Don’t you think people would get concerned with the disappearance of a highly successful executive? Seriously, at this point, somebody needs to make a sequel to Big, so we can find out exactly what happens … there are WAY too many loose ends … oh, and sorry for ruining a movie for you guys and gals.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Decice I Discovered

So, I was reading my Paste magazine a couple of weeks ago (and no, that’s not some kind of a porn mag – it’s a music magazine). One of the articles mentioned this “Slacker” portable music device. As some of you may know, I loves me some music, and any chance I can get to find new outlets, software, or systems that support great (and new) music, I tend to get interested.

Anyway, the magazine gave the Slacker high marks, so I decided to do some research. Folks, this music player is out of this world! Let me back up for one second. First, let me talk about the Slacker music site – it’s similar to I-Tunes, in that you can create a music library. It has a bunch of pre-created stations ranging from country, to rock, to folk, rap, heavy metal, standards …what I’m trying to say, it’s got a pretty good selection. Now, here’s the difference. You can play these stations, and rate that you either love or hate a song. If you hate a song, the station will never play that song again on your “site.” Basically, this means that it slowly customizes stations to your liking.

Another great feature is that you can create your own stations, with only the artists you want to hear. How cool is that? Obviously, I’ve already created a Rolling Stones, Electric Six, and new-alternative station. I even created a Madonna station for my wife. Again, it’ll play songs from these groups, and if you really like a song, you can vote to have it play more often, and if you really hate a song, you can have it “banned” from your custom station!

So, you can download this software to your computer, but you can also log onto Slacker at any computer and put in your username and password – it will “remember” the stations you created, and you can listen to them at any computer – how cool is that? And sadly, no, they aren’t paying me for this.

It gets better - Slacker created a portable player that you can download these stations to, in addition to adding MP3’s like a traditional MP3 player. What you do, is you plug in the portable player to your computer (or any WiFi access point), and you “load” the stations onto your Slacker. The Slacker will download something like 100 songs per station onto your player – you can refresh this every time you plug in the Slacker – so, the player will continually add new music to your player. Plus, you can vote on whether you like or hate a song just like you could on the website.

Best of all, the basic service is free … and for a free service, it is damn good! There is a premium service in which you get to skip an unlimited number of songs, make a music request to the “station,” and download songs you like from the station to your player – all for $7.99 a month – not too shabby.

Oh, I forgot to mention – the player has this huge video screen which gives information on the song, group, and album – even displaying the album art. It’s really innovative … something I-Tunes should probably jump on, eventually. Check out the site – At least, download the free player – you’ll thank me later!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Hate To Do This, But ...

About a year ago, a Thai restaurant by the name of Buppha Thai opened up right up the street from us. My wife and I, always scouring for new restaurants, decided to give it a whirl – and we really enjoyed it. We told our friends about it, and I think some of those friends even went to it.

In April, we celebrated Schue’s (my wife’s) birthday. My brother and his wife, along with others, came up with a great idea – a “Taste of Delaware County” gift – which included gift certificates to Nora Lee’s (great Delco New Orleans style restaurant), The Frontier Saloon (hole-in-the wall, with some great beer on tap), and Buppha Thai.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to order out, and we thought it would be a great time to use the Buppha Thai gift certificate. My wife called, and right before ordering, she mentioned that she had a gift certificate. The man at the restaurant tersely informed her that the restaurant is under new management, and will not honor the gift certificate.

No offense, but I think that’s bull-sh*t. I think that if you take over a restaurant, you should be also taking over and honoring any of the gift certificates that are still owed to the restaurant. First of all, it’s just good business, isn’t it? I mean, don’t you want to start off on the right foot without pissing off any existing customers? Second, something tells me there may be some legal implications to this (I think I’ll ask my brother’s wife to dig into this – she’s good with that kind of stuff).

My wife and I enjoy “mom and pop” restaurants, and will normally choose these over the chains (for many reasons). I try never to bury any of these places, but when I feel I’ve been screwed, I have no choice. I will never, ever eat there again, AND I’ll make sure that I tell everyone I know to ignore this place. The restaurant name is now called “Thai L’ Elephant, and is located on Mac Dade Boulevard in Folsom, PA. The website is:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

4th of July Weekend

Wow, what an exiting 4th of July weekend we had – it’s a shame it went by so quickly! I spent a good portion of Thursday night and Friday preparing wings and ribs for my brother’s barbecue/party on Friday afternoon/evening. The weather was great for the first few hours, but we ended up getting some rain on-and-off throughout the evening/night. We still managed to have fun.

The party was a good mix of family and friends, with a noticeable exception of one family member who seems to miss every get-together. Hey – his loss, right? My brother was a cooking machine that afternoon – I’m not sure how many hot dogs and burgers he cooked, but with nearly 60 people at the barbecue, I’m guessing it was a lot.

As the night moved on (and the rain became more steady), we moved the party inside, and of course the guys went to the basement and the girls sat in the living room. We ended up doing more drinking, and I think we’ve already come up with a DBT t-shirt idea for 2009, and a possible theme for this year’s Halloween party. Heck, if we would’ve drank a little more, maybe we could’ve solved the global warming crisis.

On Saturday, my friend Rich and his wife invited us to a barbecue at their house – which is on the fringes of Amish country in Philadelphia. It’s a bit of a ride, but we always seem to have a good time – this day/night was no exception. Again, more burgers and dogs, and Rich made some fantastic ribs as well.

It started off a little slow – I was still trying to shake off a headache/hangover from the previous night’s party. After drinking a few bottles of water and ingesting some food, I started feeling better. I decided to have a little “hair of the dog that bit me,” and the headache was gone. We threw horse-shoes for about 3 hours or so – I’d probably throw horse-shoes every day if I could (that’s why I continue to buy lottery tickets).

Our friend Brian should up with about $500-700 in fireworks, as well as some platforms he built for said fireworks. The man set this stuff up like he had a blueprint on how to do this. At one point, he asked me if I was a pyromaniac. My response was silence. He organized us and the fireworks into stations – he had a master plan and he was making sure we wouldn’t screw it up.

You know how to figure out if a man is serious about his fireworks? There are a number of ways – first, if the man is on a first-name basis with a fireworks shop in Elkton, Maryland, he might be serious. Second, if said man brings blow torches to light said fireworks, it’s probably become more than a hobby. Third, if said man builds fireworks launching platforms with hinges, he’s the real McCoy.

With all that being said, the fireworks display was amazing – it certainly rivaled many towns’ fireworks nights. I got to light some of these big fireworks, and let me tell ya – I can easily see how somebody could get into this. I think we had fireworks going non-stop for about 20 minutes – and the Amish were probably cursing us to high heavens. Oh well, all in a night’s work, I guess. Looks like I’ll have to buy some fireworks on the way to/back from the Outer Banks …

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Baseball Outside of Philly????

Thanks to my college roommate, Mung, I have now had the opportunity to watch a Major League Baseball game in 4 cities – Philly, Cleveland, Baltimore, and DC (in looking at this, it’s not exactly the hub of major league baseball, but still). Last Sunday, Mung invited me down to take in a game in D.C. pitting the Nationals against the Orioles … they dub it the “Beltway Brawl.” I guess they’ve gotta market it somehow, considering neither team is much of a threat to reach the post-season anytime soon.

Anyway, I left my house (near Philly) at around 8:30 a.m., and amazingly made it to Mung’s house in Baltimore in less than 1 hour and 15 minutes (personal record). Mung’s wife was nice enough to drive us to the train station, so that we could get inebriated prior to the game. We settled on a place named “Clyde’s” in the heart of the restaurant/bar district in D.C. I enjoyed a few Yuengling’s and a Roast Beef Au Jus sandwich – Mung had some Mad Hat brews and a Buffalo Chicken sandwich. We chatted for a while, mainly making fun of the bartender. By the way, the Sunday morning bar tenders in the summertime are “chosen” because they aren’t very good, and this guy was no exception. He was telling customers jokes, but (a) the jokes sucked, and (b) his delivery was worse. We really couldn’t wait to get outta there.

We go back on the Metro to Navy Street – this is where the new stadium is located. Mung was amazed how how unrecognizable the place was – he had taken in a concert there a few years ago. All the dreck has been replaced by office buildings. The stadium itself was nice – a little on the non-descript side, but still nice. Food and drinks were overpriced (even more than Philly), and the Teddy Roosevelt mascot got to be kind of annoying (although the DC fans seem to LOVE him).

We had fantastic seats – first row in left-field, about 6 seats away from the foul pole. The only “slight” problem was that the temperature had gotten dangerously close to that of the surface of the sun, and the humidity was about 800%. I was sweating so much by the third inning, I was sitting in my own puddle. I got to the point that I was hoping somebody would either throw a bucket of ice water on me, or fill me full of lead.

We ended up watching the remaining few innings in the “Red Porch” bar – truthfully, it looked more like the snack bar at a local public pool. We watched the baseball game as well as the soccer game (damn those Germans!). Then, we took the Metro back to the bar area, and watched the second half of the soccer game at a bar called Fado’s – nice Irish bar, with the exception of all of the Spanish soccer fans. Do that many people really hate us Germans?

Anyway, we finished our beers, and got on the train back home – weary, tired, and a little buzzed still. When we reached Baltimore, Mung was happy to be home … I was saddened that I still had an hour-plus ride home. I ended up making it home around 9:00 p.m. – a long, but fun day indeed. Sadly, work beckoned on Monday … sigh.

D.C. Stadium ... Nice, but nothing to write (or blog) home about.

Teddy's gotta be rolling over in his grave, doesn't he?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Family Trip to Fortescue!

Beautiful morning at Fortescue!

Every year, my family (usually my cousin Trish and her husband, Neffer) plan a family bay fishing trip to Fortescue, “The Weakfish Capital of the World.” Sadly, Fortescue really hasn’t lived up to that reputation for at least 20 years, but still. We usually get about 10+12 family members and close friends to go on this trip, and usually catch something – whether it’s bluefish, flounder, sharks, skates, or sea bass – hey, like the old saying goes, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.”

Last year, we didn’t have quite as good of a time – the boat we normally take was kind of crowded, and filled with some questionable individuals (a.k.a., jerks). We decided that this year, we would actually charter the boat, which means, only my family and friends would be going on the boat – we hoped this would increase the amount of fish we would catch.

Just to backtrack a little bit, Fortescue sits on the Delaware Bay-side of New Jersey – not too far from the inlet. Many, many years ago, this was THE place to fish in New Jersey – my dad told me stories of packing the cooler with 30 or more fish, and having to actually throw back a bunch. He said, they were catching so many fish that he actually stopped fishing, because he was getting bored. I find that very hard to believe, as I’ve never experienced getting tired of catching fish.

The bay has been overfished, and with commercial fishing boats scouring the area, the fishing is nowhere near as good as it used to be. Still, we’ve had some moderately successful fishing trips in the past. We’ve done pretty well with flounder and bluefish, and on a few occasions, croaker and sea bass. Once in a blue moon (great beer, by the way), we’ll catch a stray weakfish (many of you may call them sea-trout), but usually, they aren’t keeper size.

Currently, the keeper size for flounder is 18 inches – this is a huge fish, by the way. I’d be VERY disappointed if I got a 17 ½ incher, and had to throw it back. Keeper weakfish go at about 13 inches, and bluefish, you can basically keep any size.

It was a beautifuly day on the bay, and even though we didn't "kill," we did pretty well. Sure, we only caught one keeper flounder - my brother hauled in a 21 incher (the captain hooked into one about that size, too), we had decent action all day. We also ran into a few bluefish schools, and were able to pull out around 20 or so. But, hanging out with close family and friends is always a good thing, and more than makes up for some slow fishing. I had a blast, and can't wait to do it again!

Enjoy some of the pics!