Flea Market Fiasco!

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Recently I mentioned to Dinosaur Dracula that I had never been to the Englishtown Flea Market. For some reason, I’ve been to every other damn flea market in existence, but not Englishtown. Lived in Jersey my entire life, never been. To others from around here, that’s not an outrage or an insult or anything, but it’s more like “you’ve breathed in air before, right?” I felt that 2014 was the time to finally make this trip happen.

The flea market is not far away and I always heard friends mention that they tend to find cool stuff there, so I really had no justification for never going there. Who better to join me on my first visit to this place than Dino Drac? Partners in crime is really an appropriate moniker for all the calamity and misadventures we’ve inadvertently entangled ourselves in. Matt’s been there several times and he kept mentioning a pretty awesome vintage toy shop that he found in one of the buildings. That was literally all I needed to hear to get me to want to go.

Also encouraging me was the forecast, Saturday was going to be partly sunny and reach the low 50s. Since most of us in the Tri-State area have been cooped up at home for the last month or so battling all these ridiculous snow storms, it was about time that we had a nice sunny day that we could go outside and enjoy rather than breaking our backs shoveling snow and freezing our asses off. Parts of this flea market are indoors while many of the vendors are outdoors, so either way it was a win.

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Loose TMNT figures on a peg board at the Flea Market

Matt, Ms.X, and myself took a laid back drive down Route 9 as I sipped a Monster and we bullshitted. None of us knew what we could encounter on this day. The possibilities were endless. How many useless things would I come home with? I was feeling really confident that going to Englishtown was the right decision. It was the perfect thing to do on the first sunny and mild Saturday we had in forever. Spending it with good friends and having a few laughs was the right move. It’s almost like therapy after the mind numbing grind of a long work week. It all made sense…for a little while.

Finding parking is one aspect of my life that I don’t like to spend too much time on. I’m not sure it’s an actual pet peeve, but for instance, I have absolutely no time in my life to waste on searching for the perfect parking spot at a mall during the holidays. I’d just as soon park 2 miles away and walk. I was pleased to find that the parking scene at the Englishtown Flea Market wasn’t even bad at all. Considering there were two huge lots to park in, I didn’t have to stress about it.

The first lot was literally made of mud. The entire ground was all mud. I started into some My Cousin Vinny lines while we all made the conscious decision NOT to park in the lot that was all mud because my car might sink into the mud and we’d be stranded there. I pulled right out of there and drove into the adjacent lot which, oddly enough, only had about 7 cars in it. Fortunately, this lot wasn’t all mud, it was ALL ice and slush. Much of the ice and snow started melting in the past few days but we figured it would be wiser to park on ice and melted snow than…mud. I walked away with the positivity that we made a very clear headed decision that would benefit us in the long run.

Hopping over puddles and snow, into the flea market we went. At first, it reminded me of any other outdoor flea market. Lots of vendors, lots of similar crap. Discounted drinks in bulk. Women’s bags. Cheap fragrances. Insanely huge Rey Mysterio blankets. You know, all that kind of stuff. Flea Market stuff.

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Airbrushed Terminator T-Shirt and my personal fav: DOUG.
What’s a New Jersey Flea Market without an airbrush shop?

I knew not to really expect much from a flea market because they’re usually inundated with aisle after aisle of the same crap. As you walk through the rows of vendors you’ll notice every 3 of them offer bootleg action figures. You know them – the multi-pack where Batman looks like he’s a repainted Frankenstein and Superman has blue hair and a very scared look on his face. Then always right beside those are bootleg Marvel and Power Rangers figures.

Down each aisle we ventured to see the real garage sale type fare. These people offered the kind of items you might see at a local yard sale or out on the curb in your neighborhood. Piles of used clothes, old cassette tapes, old stereo equipment, random packs of gum, and that was all the high end shit. Down one of these aisles of doom is where I made my first of two purchases of the day.

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If you’ve had no luck trying to track down a high quality King Tut sweatshirt, 
Englishtown Auction is YOUR one stop shop! *Thank you to Sam for correcting me in the comments- I mistakenly referred to this as the Sphinx.

A couple of sellers had random piles of old records. If you know me, I need more records like I need a hole in my head, but for those who aren’t aware, I don’t need more music options at home. I’m inundated as it is. But to me, when it comes to vinyl, I completely grasp the sound differences, but it’s more about discovering a record I would enjoy in a big pile of them and then appreciating the front and back cover art, that’s what really grabs me. Out of piles from two different sellers, I found Blondie’s Parallel Lines and the Flashdance Soundtrack. Although I’ve never even seen Flashdance, it’s got a pretty legendary soundtrack and a great cover, so I went with it. A buck each!

The sun was beaming down and we were enjoying the day as we continued scanning each table. “Let’s check in one of these buildings to see if we can find that toy shop,” Matt said in a very Jay is probably going to write about this so I will make this sentence sound very generic sort of way. The interior definitely reminded me of the types of flea markets that I’ve been to in the past, so I was in familiar territory now. The giant drums of pickles, airbrushed t-shirts, the faint scent of leather, it was all present.

We couldn’t find the toy shop in the first building we went into, but the day was young. Matt and Mrs.X bought some fresh spicy nuts imported from TOMS RIVER, NJ, which I guess is the spicy nut capital of New Jersey. You’d think I would’ve known this tidbit, but I had no clue!

We stopped into a few decent shops, but couldn’t find the one Matt was describing to me.

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There was an action figure shop that had tons of wrestling figures, G.I Joe’s, and TMNT figures, so we were guided by the scent of old plastic and dust. This is where my second purchase comes in. Total impulse buy. At one time I owned every WWF Hasbro figure ever and eventually I sold them on eBay like a chump for no good reason. For a while now I had the original Macho Man Randy Savage back on my radar. This was not the Macho King or the later Macho Man release with the white jacket and hat – this was the original with the star trunks. $10. So worth it, wouldn’t you agree?

We did manage to find one shop that housed everything for your army/navy surplus needs all the way to a Ben Cooper style Jake Lloyd costume from Phantom Menace. There’s four dealers in the world who specialize in young Anakin collectibles and this guy must be one of them. This store looked like someone’s basement. 50 years worth of dusty junk packed into this tiny little store. Hanging from the ceiling and stuffed into shelves were a couple of TV trays that caught my eye. One was Batman Returns and the other was E.T. I can’t remember the exact price the guy quoted me for the used Batman Returns tray, but I believe he said he couldn’t accept less than $20 – $30 dollars because “these TV trays are really hot right now.”

At this point, I was almost happy that we didn’t find the toy shop yet because knowing me I would’ve found something that I desperately wanted for some exorbitant amount of money. The same moment that thought crossed my mind is the exact same moment Matt found the toy shop. He wasn’t joking, this place is the crown jewel of the Englishtown Auction. Matt and Ms.X had me close my eyes as I walked in. Opened them up and was immediately in awe.

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I spy a Jack Napier WANTED Poster hanging on the wall!

From a vintage Strawberry Shortcake bake shop to about 200 original Kenner Star Wars figures in varying degrees of condition, this place was definitely worth the trip. You’re not going to get yard sale prices here though, prices here basically mirror what’s on eBay. Nothing stood out for me specifically, but I think this is where Matt came into contact with his latest toy “adoptions” as it were. More on that in a bit.

Next, I needed to find a bathroom to pee out all the energy drink from earlier. We found one and I cautiously entered. I saw a bathroom greeter, the type of greeter you might see at a swank restaurant. Sometimes they hold the towel for you as you wash your hands. Well, this guy was the absolute greatest men’s room greeter OF ALL TIME. This was his schpeel word for word or as accurate as I can remember it: “WELCOME TO THE BATHROOM MY GOOD MAN, I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY, THIS BATHROOM IS VERY CLEAN AND SMELLS OF FINE, FRESH CITRUS FRUITS, IF YOU SO CHOOSE PLEASE LEAVE A SMALL TOKEN OF YOUR APPRECIATION AND YOU WILL BE GRANTED ONE WISH – THE CHOICE OF ANY CANDY OUT OF THE 8 RANDOM PIECES ON THIS MAGICAL PLATE THAT I FOUND OUTSIDE. PLEASE COME BACK AGAIN VERY SOON.”

On that note, we ended our stay at the Englishtown Flea Market. 
We headed back to the car. Happy with all our purchases we hopped in and I started up the car and the music. Only problem was, the wheels were spinning, but we weren’t moving. We were kicking up lots of mud and eventually it sunk into our heads that WE were also sunk…IN THE MUD. Underneath all the snow and slush was mud, just like that other lot. Who knew that we probably would’ve been better off parking in that other lot after all? 
Matt suggested that we use our records to wedge under the wheels to give the car some traction. It was a valiant effort. Him and I then used our incredible super powers to try to push the car out, but that didn’t work either. Ms.X wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty and she hacked away at large pieces of ice near the wheels. Luckily I had a shovel in the back of my car and I was trying to shovel us out, to no avail. There was no winning this battle. The wheels were sunken into the mud about halfway! Making matters worse, the front bumper of the car was hanging over one of those concrete stoppers that kept you from driving out onto the road. This cause the front of the car to basically snap off.
My only defense was calling road service. As I did that, a nice guy with a giant 4-wheel drive ORV with bullet holes the size of matzoh balls who looked like Lebron James offered to tie a rope to the back of my car and attempt to pull me out. This guy also helped several other cars that got stuck in the mud and slush as well. Thank you to that guy. I would say “if he’s reading this,” but there’s less than zero chance that he read The Sexy Armpit. This guy saved us from sacrificing those records!

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We needed to get on the road so this day didn’t start to deteriorate even more rapidly. With some parts of the undercarriage dangling onto the road we hightailed it out of there. After a few miles, Ms.X and I saw a Mexican place on route 9 that reminded us of Jose Tejas. Formerly Damon’s Grill, this place took on a Mexican gimmick back in October. I’d been interested in going there, but haven’t had the chance. As we came upon it, I abruptly made an executive decision and turned into the parking lot. We needed some Mexican beer, Patron, Mexican food, and of course, guacamole power – in that order. It saved the day…for a little while. Name of the place is Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina in Manalapan, NJ if you’re ever in the area or want to replicate this debacle of a trip.

Thanks to Matt and Ms.X for all their help and their patience. We were all soaked and full of mud, but they persevered! Once we got home, I brought down the mood once again by losing an eBay auction on an item that I wanted more than you can imagine for the better part of my life. What a day! Thank God Miss Sexy Armpit brought snacks.

*I urge you to read about Matt’s finds from this experience. Being the benevolent guy he is, he found “5 Misfit Toys” that needed a home, and he paid the adoption fees and signed all the paper work so he could give them a good home. READ ALL ABOUT IT AT THIS LINK OVER AT DINOSAUR DRACULA!!

How I Discovered Music Not By Clicking a Mouse

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Mining through my parents vinyl LP collection was something I did often as a kid. On a summer weekday morning when my parents were working and my sister was yapping on the phone in her room, I’d be gazing in wonderment as I opened a colorful gatefold record sleeve.

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A few of my favorite albums to look at were The Beatles’ Greatest Hits The Red Album 1962-1966, The Blue Album 1967-1970, and the Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, simply because I thought they looked ridiculous (this coming from a kid who at the time thought Brutus Beefcake and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were the epitome of cool.) I was also mesmerized by every other album in their vast collection ranging from Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw to Sinatra and Streisand. I’d also feel remiss if I left out the free Christmas albums they got from the gas stations.

Discovering music in this paleontological way was risky. What if I scratched one of their records? I’d feel terrible and they’d immediately know it was me since I was the only “hi-fi curious” one in the household. In subsequent visits to my parents record collection, which resided in a shelf under the stereo components, I made sure I was extra careful. Once I got the courage to actually put a record on the turntable, I placed the needle ever so gingerly onto the groove of the record. I may have had my first heart attack at that tender young age when I heard the record playing on the wrong speed. After my ears nearly bled, and I almost soiled myself, I was convinced that I ruined their pristine records. Seconds later, I figured out what the problem was.

Once I got the hang of it, playing records became a favorite hobby of mine as a kid, especially when no one was around. Eventually, I inherited my sister’s portable turntable which I would set up on an open area of the floor, plug it in, and lay out my very own collection of 45’s. I used to play Bobby Freeman’s “Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes,” and spin around like a maniacal dreidel. Some of these mini records were mine and others were ones that my sister scratched or my father was bored with. I had a nice little collection going even though I padded out the bunch with some book and record sets like my absolute favorites, “Batman: Stacked Cards,” and Masters of the Universe The Power of Point Dread and The Danger at Castle Grayskull.

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I was about 5 or 6 years old when I started to have a major crush on a girl, Stephanie, and that record player really came through for me. My dad had given me a 45 of Ricky Nelson’s version of “The Very Thought of You” from Decca Records that he had since 1964. It’s definitely a testament to Teaneck NJ native Ricky Nelson that a little kid in the early ’80s used to lay on the floor spinning one of Nelson’s singles daydreaming about a girl he had a mind altering crush on. None of my friends at that time would have even known who Ricky Nelson was. I’m sure I would’ve gotten shit for listening to that and being in love with the little girl with dirty blonde hair who paid no attention to me.

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Around the same time, my neighbor Darren always granted me permission to admire his KISS record collection. Was he just being nice or did my incessant requests drive him nuts? The gatefolds of KISS Alive and KISS Alive II both made my senses go into overload. In fact, I remember literally asking the poor guy if I could look at his albums every time I was at his house. He must’ve thought I was out of my mind. In actuality, I was merely admiring the way the album sleeve opened up and featured these outrageously scary and bizarre photos of a larger than life band. Perhaps more enticing to me than those gatefold Alive albums were their albums Kiss, Dressed to Kill, Dynasty, and Creatures of the Night. These are album covers that focus on the band members’ faces which helped acquaint me with each of their “characters.” (The Beatles started this trend with their album “Meet The Beatles.”) I wasn’t old enough to know what multiplication was, but I sure as hell could tell you that Gene Simmons was the “scary one who spits blood.”

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The records I’ve mentioned had much influence in shaping my musical taste. I’ve always had an affinity for bands who have band members with their own distinct appearance. As basic and cliche as it is, it helps greatly in a band’s chance at success. C’mon…everyone had a favorite Spice Girl! One of the most classic cases of this is another gatefold album cover that I used to stare at while listening to their music: Time Peace: The Rascal’s Greatest Hits.
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The album was released in 1968…so what? I was a little kid and the music sounded fresh and rocking to me. All their big ones were on here, including “Good Lovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “It’s Wonderful,” “Groovin’,” “I’ve Been Lonley Too Long,” “Mustang Sally,” and “You Better Run.” What made listening to the album a complete sensory experience was that I could hold the album and stare at the comic strip style cover art that featured each member of the band. I remember wondering to myself “which one of them is singing?” during each song I listened to. It was almost 20 years later and The Rascal’s music sounded upbeat and made me feel like jumping around. What made them even cooler was that I remembered that my mother told me how a couple of members of The Rascals went to her high school and hung out in town before they were famous. (Eddie Brigati and Dino Danelli are both from Jersey.) In Bruce Eder’s All Music.com review of Time Peace, he writes “Arguably the greatest greatest hits album of the ’60s. A White-Soul classic.”

As I write this, it’s the first day of 2009. Vinyl records have since came and went and came back again just for shits (and collectors). I’ve lived through vinyl, cassette tapes, and CD’s…hey does anyone actually BUY CD’s anymore? I know I do. How else am I going to get to know each of the band members and get caught up in their aura? If CD’s are put to death, are actual living breathing bands still going to exist? Will music be made my nameless, invisible spirits? 1-click will bring us the sound. No more setting up a record player or carefully placing the needle down. I’ll never again have to fast forward a cassette tape to my favorite song for what felt like ages. I guess I’ll have to adjust to looking at slow-loading spammed up Myspace band profiles or promotional sites full of annoying bells and whistles. My eyes are straining already. My head is spinning. It’s not delivering me to another world. I’m not mesmerized. I’m definitely not in awe. I don’t really have anything to be curious about.
It’s sad to see the extinction of the process of a young kid discovering music in his own little way. In the next several years will kids discover books through the use of an Amazon Kindle? It just doesn’t sound as adventurous as walking up to the Turnpike bridge and then digging through old books in the air conditioned library on a hot summer day. I still want to discover music in my own way. Maybe I even want to daydream a little and not stare into a computer screen. I don’t look forward to the moment when time brings the official end of CD’s and downloading becomes the only avenue of procuring music. I still want to hold the artwork because it pulled me into another world. I want to open up a gatefold and see what’s inside. There was curiosity. Possibilities. Details. It wasn’t intangible, it wasn’t merely sound. I want to lay on the carpet with my chin in my hands, get hypnotized by the spinning black Decca 45, and imagine what it would be like if she was mine.

Ahh yes, The Cunt Grinders…

Holy crap it’s been a while since I’ve wrote anything on here. I’ve been a busy guy. I’ve been managing a traveling production of “The King and I.” I’m overseeing the entire show which is an ordeal. You should see me when the makeup girl shows up late. I like to call her a c–t grinder.

Of course you must be a complete douche if you believed that I have been managing a traveling production of “The King and I.” And calling someone a c–t grinder is not commonplace. In fact, I’ve never heard that expression at all until I was strolling the aisles of Vintage Vinyl with my girlfriend the other night. (After commisioning Noah’s ark to float back to Fords from the downpours.) I was looking through the metal section and right there in the front is a CD from a band called CUNT GRINDER. Wow, am I out of the loop? I’m not even the type of person who is offended by that word, but a band with that name? It’s genius. I fucking can’t stop saying it! I want to fucking sing it. I’ve been saying it over and over since that night. It’s like when a toddler learns a new word.

If I could I would pay Rodgers and Hammerstein to write a play commending them for creating the perfect band name. Then I would manage the traveling production of “The Cunt Grinders and I.”

The name is wonderfully toungue in cheek, totally over the top, disturbing, and offensive. You may as well call your band The SHITFACED FUCKBALLS. Or just THE FUCKFACED SHITBALLS. It’s interchangeable. I LOVE THE CUNT GRINDERS!!!!!!!!!!