From Mallrats to Miracle World: Monster Mania Adventure Part 3

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Enhancing the ambiance of our departure from Monster Mania was the gray skies, rain, and my fogged up windshield. I couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque day. The sun is nice once in a while, but for this type of weekend, I prefer it to be a horror movie outside. If you’ve been reading along you know there’s a few more stops to make before heading home. Where we’re going we don’t need Google Maps…actually, wait, yes we do. Shit, why did you throw the GPS out the window? Pull over.

It may sound pretty generic, but my first stop was the Cherry Hill Mall. The mall was only a few minutes from Monster Mania so it would’ve been a crime not to stop there. Shannon from Mallrats ™ wouldn’t have any reason to criticize me because I actually did have a very specific shopping agenda. I wasn’t going to buy men’s slacks, nor was I looking to get some junk jewelry and scrunchies from Easy Pickins. Nope, I was there for refreshment of the liquid type. Matt and Ms. X had no clue what the hell I was up to.

I must’ve driven around the entire mall 12 times before I finally settled on a entrance tucked away in a corner. Naturally, this entrance couldn’t have been further from our eventual destination within this “monument of consumerism” (Mallrats ™.) I can’t help myself with the Mallrats references, I’m already getting excited for the sequel.

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For the last several months, I’d been overcome with an insane craving for an Orange Julius. The problem was that there’s no Orange Julius places near me. There’s a Dairy Queen nearby, the company that owns them now, but I really wanted an Orange Julius from a standalone Orange Julius store, is that too much to ask? Getting an Orange Julius from a shop that’s solely a Dairy Queen is like getting a Dole Whip any place that’s not Disney World.

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The mall by me had and Orange Julius for as long as I can remember, but it closed down several years back and millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. This was devastating and I haven’t been able to indulge in one in a long time. I remember my mallrat days and there wasn’t a mall visit that went by when I didn’t have either an Orange Julius or an ICEE in hand.

Man, things have changed. It seems like all the good shit has to be 5 thousand miles away nowadays (we took quite a trip just to get Ghostbusters donuts the morning they came out), so incorporating the satisfaction of my craving into the MM weekend worked like a charm. And now, behold, the greatest photo you will ever see of an Orange Julius sitting on top of a trash receptacle in Cherry Hill Mall. Its a very specific genre of avant garde photography. I’m presently teaching a lab course on this at The Learning Annex.

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After my tastebuds took part in a delightfully euphoric makeout sesh with that creamy orange goodness, it was onto the next stop, all while obnoxiously sipping an empty cup thinking some extra Julius would magically get sucked up through the straw. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t make our way to at least one flea market on this trip. After the sad news about The Columbus Flea Market, which we visited last time, I felt that we should drop into another popular Jersey flea market.

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I wonder if Ivannah with the 3rd nipple was doing the psychic readings in that room back there?

Surprisingly, I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life and had never been to the Collingwood flea market. History was about to change. With the rain, we didn’t get to experience the outdoor vendors, although the inside had old school superhero murals on the wall that had clearly been neglected and covered up over the years. They might have been the most intriguing thing about this place for me.

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We also stopped into a comic shop within the market which sort of reminded me of the vibe of a comic store I used to go to at the old US1 Flea Market.

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From what I saw, the Collingwood market isn’t as eclectic as Englishtown, nor as amazing as Columbus was, yet still a worthwhile stop if you happen to be in the area. #Undertak

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Have you had enough? You can’t tap out just yet, there’s one more detour to make before we get home: Zapp Comics in Manalapan. This was my first time at this shop and it was awesome to see that they offered such a wide selection of new comics, back issues, action figures and collectibles. It’s where Matt picked up Odious Ogre from Dungeons and Dragons. There’s something awesome about a store who has tons of used action figures in plastic Ziploc bags neatly stocking the pegs. Makes them feel brand new, even though they are not MOC or MIP. They are OPP, but not BBD.

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After all this blousing, I mean browsing, we were starving. Turns out that an Orange Julius won’t carry you through all day, so it was time to eat.

But, hell, why not cram in one more thing before we finally shoved food in our bellies. It was my birthday a few days prior and I still had a present to open from Matt. I may have been secretly waiting to open it to extend my birthday weekend that much longer. It wouldn’t be a gift from Dinosaur Dracula unless it was awesomely nostalgic and this took me back to when I was a kid playing Sega Master System on my mini wooden rocking chair.

 photo AlexKiddInMiracleWorldBx_zps3ybwq1pe.jpgBehold, ALEX KIDD in Miracle World. One of my favorite Master System games of all time and Sega’s answer to Super Mario well before Sonic the Hedgehog became synonymous with Sega. Thanks to Matt for the trip down memory lane. Once I’m through posting this I’m going to punch the shit out of rocks with my hysterically giant fist.

Eventually, we decided to eat at a Mexican place called Salsarita’s in Old Bridge. At the time, I had no idea that this was a huge chain. Ordinarily, I make every effort to go to Mom and Pop restaurants because they are usually the hidden gems, but it didn’t matter because I inhaled the food anyway. We were only halfway through our meals and it looked like someone bombed our table with exploding tacos, rice and beans and salsa and chips. It was delicious. The food at this place edges out Chipotle and they also get points for embracing the Mexican cantina atmosphere in contrast with the very basic look of the interior of Chipotle. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, pick up my new informational pamphlet all about my thoughts on Interior Design in fresh Mexican food chains, it’s called LET’S TALK ABOUT MEX BABY!
You’ve finally made it to the end of our Monster Mania extravaganza. It was quite an elongated account of what really only amounted to the span of Friday night into Saturday afternoon, but reliving it through this post extended the fun even more! Thanks for reading.

SUMMER KICKOFF 2014!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1aHRP1NW84]

Watch the 2014 Summer Kickoff Show with The Sexy Armpit and Idiot at Play. It’s filled with nonsense, and a few good ideas of how you can enhance your summer experience. Plus, summer reading recommendations including Last Exit in New Jersey, Exit Zero, and The Non-Linear Flow of the Universal Tides by Michael Gary Wirth. Music by Lipstick & Cigarettes, Lux Devil, and Kevin McLeod.

BIZARRE AC Expo 2013 Recap Part 2

Where were we? Snowstorm is looming. I’m just pulling into the Trop. 

If you’re the geek/fanboy type like me and you’ve never been to the Tropicana in Atlantic City, there’s one thing that will strike you about it. Their parking garage is almost a replica of the one you see in The Dark Knight where Batman utters the greatest line in movie history “I’M NOT WEARING HOCKEY PADS.”

There’s never a time when I’m entering the Trop that I don’t pretend that I’m Batman in the Batmobile Tumbler navigating the wild mouse roller coaster-like turns and insanely steep inclines of that parking garage. It’s like a ride in itself. It’s also one of the more inviting garages in all of Atlantic City, because each and every one of them is abysmal. Bringing yourself to a near heart attack, getting rear ended, and not understanding the signage are constant possibilities in A.C’s parking garages. At least at the Trop you can pretend to have a run-in with Scarecrow and his goons.

bizarreACxmasAside from the nasty accident I passed earlier, things were going strangely smooth. I even found a parking spot about 20 feet from the elevator to the casino. This translates to “I was meant to go to this thing.”

Once inside the casino, it did seem a bit light on people. Is online gambling in NJ taking away from attendance? It’s possible, or it was just the shitty winter weather putting a damper on people’s weekends.

The setting of the Bizarre Expo provided a refreshing change compared to the other conventions that we’re accustomed to. Holding the event at a casino adds a bit of glitz to what’s usually just a bunch of people standing around a hotel lobby or convention room when you really think about it. Chiller and Monster Mania, I love you guys, but the hotel setting is limited and does grow a bit stale. There comes a time after 20 years of a convention that it needs to graduate to the next level of facilities. Bizarre skipped a grade. If only it went to school in the Spring time.

What’s cool about having the expo at the Trop, is that you’re right on the boardwalk looking out at the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Since it was bitter cold, walking on the boardwalk is an activity reserved for those of us on shrooms, people who like running, and those who don’t mind a little hypothermia now and again. Here you have the option to gamble, or you can get really drunk and then walk through two big horror convention rooms as well as a movie screening room. I always choose the horror option.

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After I got situated and registered, I made my way into the first large convention room. This room housed the aptly named Bizarre Bazaar. As soon as I walked in I noticed the “look” of the event. Something about the whole space just looked cool. It’s hard to describe, but it’s possible that it was the lighting. It definitely gave the impression that it was a step above other conventions as far as presentation goes. There weren’t as many merchant/vendor tables crammed into a tiny space in the way we are all too familiar with. This gave them a nice boost since it focused your attention to the tables and the people running them rather than missing stuff in order to navigate through a mob of people.

The Saturday installment of Bizarre had just begun. As the day went on more and more people started filing in. Luckily for me, it wasn’t crowded to the point where you couldn’t walk around comfortably. This is important because I get claustrophobic in crowds. Of course, the promoters of the event probably preferred the floor to be packed with people, but it’s way more frustrating for attendees when it’s like that. I always prefer a larger space that’s less crowded to a smaller space with the same amount of people.

Shannon from Mallrats wouldn’t be too pleased with me since I didn’t have much of an agenda. This was a brand new event and I really wanted to enjoy it and take in the scene. As I strolled around, it was cool to run into a few friends at some of the merchant tables.

Maria from the 2014 Gorgeous and Gory Zombie Pinup Calendar

My buddy Jess Rajs from Gorgeous and Gory was promoting the new 2014 Zombie Pinup Calendar. It’s filled with hot undead women and it’s a perfect gift for the person with a zombie fetish in your life. She firmly believes this one is their best work yet, and coming from a dude who has all of them, I have to agree with her! Check out some of these incredible photos and head over to http://www.gorgeousandgory.com to get your own!

One of the best shops in the whole state is True Jersey. They are proud to be from NJ and all the stuff they sell reflects that. Naturally, I couldn’t walk away without picking up a shirt that I’ve wanted for a long time! Another t-shirt? Really? But, I’ve had this one on my mental wish list for quite a while now. It’s Jersey done in the style of the SEGA logo. Since I was a Master System kid this t-shirt was made for me. Aside from tees and other clothes, True Jersey also offers collectibles, accessories, and housewares.

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I am a sucker for haunted attractions so I stopped by the Fear Factory Haunted House table. This is a newer haunt that I was meaning to get to this Halloween season, but, prior to its opening, it ran into all kinds of roadblocks from the town and it hindered them from having a proper opening season. Then, after talking to the girls from the haunt, I found out that there’s only TWO MORE NIGHTS of their Christmas haunt, Tinsel Town Terror. Not happy about the idea of missing this. Well, I made it to Bizarre A.C, so perhaps there’s a trip to Mays Landing in my near future for some yuletide terror?

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Freaky Deekys horror and geek pillows

Just so you know, skipping the merch tables and going straight for autographs is never a good idea. You’ll definitely miss out on cool stuff. I did manage to buy ONE Christmas gift. I was hoping to get a few more, but funds were diminishing. But, I will say that the $5 dollar margaritas were pretty cost effective.

The horror personalities were out in full force and Bizarre offered the opportunity to hobnob with them without getting shooed away due to crowds. Just a few of the actors I saw signing and chatting with fans included Heather Lagenkamp, Doug Bradley, Kane Hodder, John Kassir, Bill Mosely, Tom Savini, Alex Vincent, Micheal Berryman, former WWE Superstar Gene Snitsky, and Clerks’ Brian O’Halloran.

One of the Q&A sessions was going on as I was walking around the merch tables. This one was called “Being Jason,” and it featured Kane Hodder and Steve Dash answering questions from the audience about their experiences playing Jason in the Friday the 13th films. This was enlightening to several members of the audience who apparently have never seen or read Crystal Lake Memories.

Just before I made my way down the escalator to the 2nd convention room, I ran into our NJ friend Ryan Scott Weber, writer and director of Mary Horror and Sheriff Tom vs. The Zombies. At the moment, Ryan was screening Sheriff Tom and we were shooting the shit about the upcoming third part of the trilogy called Witches Blood. It’s coming out soon so look out for it! I also talked with the Jersey King of No Budget Horror, my pal Armageddon Ed.

After a while, weather apps and text messages kept alerting me to how bad the snow was getting up north. This meant that I had to miss out on the costume contest and some of the other truly Bizarre aspects of the expo and hightail it out of Atlantic City. In various parts of the state there was already 3 or 4 inches of snow. Oddly enough, the South Jersey area and Atlantic City was spared and only got rained on. As I made my way back up the Garden State Parkway, I was baffled because all I hit was rain. Then, sure enough, around exit 100, I abruptly entered Hoth. The rest of the trip home turned into my very own Twilight Zone episode called Nightmare at 15 Miles Per Hour.

Hosting a convention in December runs the risk of inclement weather. The snow definitely had an impact on attendance, but the expo kicked ass. If you didn’t make it, you missed out because the organizers improved upon horror fans gripes of other local conventions and it showed. Hopefully if this becomes and annual thing, the Bizarre Expo will only get bigger and more enticing next year. You’re going to look back and wish you were at the first one because you know how many jackasses (myself included) will be bragging about how “I was at the FIRST Bizarre Expo man!” 

Arcades In The ’80s – We Went OUT To Play Video Games!

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 Chuck E. Cheese’s in New Jersey – 1984 (Photo from Sulaco99)
I found Sulaco99‘s photo in the Flickr Pool: Growing Up In Arcades 1979-1989

It’s impossible not to sound super old when talking about arcades. Kids nowadays get a big laugh out of the fact that we used to actually go out to an arcade to play video games. Even though most of us eventually had an Atari home system growing up, we still blew our pocket full of quarters in the ominous looking Star Wars Arcade game at the local Space Port in the mall – at least I know I did! The ultra high tech, home based and portable video games of today are no longer the multi-faceted sensory ritual they used to be in the ’80s.

Even though video games have evolved so much from a technical aspect, they are no longer the full blown experience they once were. Sure, new games can immerse us into the creepily realistic world of a first person shooter on X-Box or PS3, with 3-D graphics that will make us question whether we’re in our living room or some chemical plant fighting bad guys, but it’s not the same. Nothing can compare to the feeling I used to get before hopping into the Space Harrier arcade game at RazMaTazz in Sayreville, NJ!

In the arcade, so much care was put into designing the game cabinets that housed the screen, joystick, and buttons. If the artwork on the side panels wasn’t elaborate and eye catching enough, we might’ve passed right by it. You don’t have to slip quarters into your home console or your tiny portable, you don’t even have to go to a store to purchase a game anymore! At this point in time we can beam a game directly to our home console in literally under a minute.

The communal aspect of physically being in the same dark room and hearing the same fusion of sound effects from various games around the room with button tapping and click clacking as the back beat, and even gaining an occasional crowd to root you on has evolved into a primarily home based adventure. This transition is much like the way Netflix and Redbox have made some of us opt to stay home rather than go to the movies.

There’s plenty of gamers much older than me who have moved with the ever changing technology. Personally, I’ve never played a game against someone online and I don’t think I ever will. I don’t want to wear a headset while playing, nor do I care to hear people talking video game trash in my ear. If they were physically beside me in a black lit room, eyes transfixed on the action on the glowing screen, playing a finger numbingly competitive game of WWF WRESTLEFEST, I would welcome the trash talkin’. I think my days of video gaming are tucked away with my memories of my beloved Sega Master System.

Easter Bunny Blasphemy!

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JAY: “You’re f*cking kidding me, the Easter Bunny did this?
BRODIE: “All I said was the Easter Bunny at the Menlo Park Mall was more 
convincing and he just jumped the railing and knocked me down”
JAY: “He’s f*ckin’ dead…”
BRODIE: “Oh, let it go he’s under a lot of pressure.”
T.S: “What the hell happened to him?”
JAY: “The guy in the Easter Bunny suit kicked his ass!”

The territorial aspect of Kevin Smith’s films can’t be fully appreciated unless you are from New Jersey. If you’re from Pittsburgh, PA or Peoria, IL, the effect is not exactly the same. It’s like the way that people from Dallas felt a part of the long running prime time soap based on the Texas city, and it’s also no different than the way people in Philly connect with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If you’re an outsider you probably didn’t know that the people who suit up as Easter Bunnies at malls in Central New Jersey have a bad chip on their shoulder, so don’t f*ck with them!

This doesn’t mean that if you are a non-Jerseyan you like Mallrats less than us, it’s just in a different way. Much like Clerks, it was a thrill when I first saw Mallrats in the theater since there were so many references to the local area. The mall scenes in Mallrats were not filmed in Jersey, but Brodie mentions Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey. Menlo Park Mall was quite an institution. It was one of those places where my family and everyone we knew would be at constantly. I have fond memories of it, especially before it’s revamp in the early ’90s.

Along with the above Easter Bunny scene, Mallrats also has an exterior shot of the old U.S #1 Flea Market. It was a legendary emporium that I also used to frequent a lot as a kid with my family. The flea market closed years ago to make way for a Loews Cineplex, which has since been taken over by AMC Theaters.

Back in 1995, even though it was merely through a couple of quick references, Smith provided a completely fresh take on Jersey in Mallrats.  He put Jersey on a pedestal, years before it was considered trendy. When Kevin Smith was originally embracing his home state there were no reality shows, and especially none that took place in Jersey. At that time Jersey wasn’t getting a lot of play in movies either, and when it did, it was usually the butt of a joke.

Smith also pioneered the fact that it was cool to be a geek. I can’t claim that trend to have originated in New Jersey but I can tell you that since then Seth Cohen from the O.C and the guys on Big Bang Theory as well as many others have been proud of their geeky lifestyle. They can thank Kevin Smith for making Brodie one of the coolest S.O.B’s in the history of movies. He’s literally a fanboy icon. I used to think that if a guy who liked comic books and video games as much as Brodie did could be that cool, it just reassured me that there were others like me out there. Although I doubt I’d ever choose a game of NHL Hockey on Genesis over a roll in the hay with a bitter, post 90210 Shannen Doherty, but that’s another story.

Smith’s films have helped geeks become proud of their fixations and he’s created films that have upped New Jersey’s coolness factor. For example, after Mallrats came out, people in Tonganoxie, Kansas thought we slackers in Jersey were pretty f’n rad, and meticulous with our comic book collections. I have news for you, we still are.

American Gladiators re-runs!

Maybe I’m about a month behind, but this morning I discovered that American Gladiators is re-running on ESPN Classic. If there was ever a momentous occasion this is one of them. I used to watch that show religiously until the point that I realized maybe I should get my lazy ass up and stop watching these ultra athletic people and actually whip myself into shape. That didn’t last long until I found out about the American Gladiators video game for Sega. That game was as much fun as watching the show! During the hot summer vacation one year I must’ve played that game every day. I always felt that it would be awesome to take part in that show because the events are so cool. They are obviously more challenging than they seem on TV but those guys made it look easy. Why not re-build Gladiator arena at Universal Studios where it was fillmed? People can go in and watch like it was a real show sort of how they do Who Wants to be a Millionaire in MGM. I’m down for it…and I’m sure Nitro and Laser aren’t busy!