Excessive Excursionist

My life- in 2D.

Monday Music Pick- “Closer- The Ballad Of Burt & Linda” by Cheap Trick

Anyone that knows me, knows I am, simply put- a Cheap Trick nut.

Having seen them over a hundred times since 1980 (most recently, just this past Saturday in Atlantic City), it would be hard to argue that fact. They are truly an American classic, and unfortunately a dying breed- good, old-fashion, straight-forward Rock & Roll. Melodic rock with driving guitars; catchy hooks; fun, happy music; and in my opinion, the best damn vocalist in the genre.

For those of you that thought their career ended with “Live At Budokan” over thirty years ago, I have news for you- this band is alive and kicking, and kicking hard.

Their most recent release “The Latest”, released in 2009, is their most polished release, cover-to-cover, since “Dream Police, waaaaaaay back when. Not that everything in-between didn’t have a few gems on them- “The Latest” just sounds incredible all-around. Production, performance, and song quality is impeccable.

My personal favorite track from “The Latest” is number 12 of 13 on the disc-  “Closer- The Ballad Of Burt & Linda”. It evokes a sort of 60’s psychedelic-ambiance, with its mid-tempo rhythmic groove and razor-sharp vocals by none other than Robin Zander, but it’s the lyric content that puts this song over the edge.

It is based on the true story of  Burt and Linda Pugach, and also spawned an independent film. I’ll break it down for you with the abridged version. The story goes as such: Burt and Linda fell in love back in the late-50’s. Linda found out, right before their wedding, that Burt was married with child. Linda confronted Burt, who said he was getting divorced and will produce proof. After showing Linda the papers, she suspiciously checked them out to find they were bogus. She called off the relationship, starting dating other guys- which drove Burt into insane jealousy. So, determined to ruin her life, he hired some men who in turn threw lye in Linda’s eyes, causing her to become blind.  14 years later, when Burt was let of of jail, they married, and are still together to this day.

To read the full story, go here.

Cheap Trick has always had a certain twisted humor to their lyrical content, and it certainly qualifies here. Knowing what this song is now about adds that extra element that puts this song over the top- although if it were fictional, would still stand on its own musical merit.

Lyrics:

Every day is a darker day
It’s always gonna be that way
One step closer to mine
I know it’s not respectable
But it is the best of all
One step closer

Relax your mind
It really dosn’t matter if the Heaven’s
gonna rain or shine
You’re better off blind
The love you don’t find
Makes you one step closer to mine
Closer

One step closer
One step closer

Relax your mind
It really dosn’t matter if the Heaven’s
gonna rain or shine
You’re better off blind
The love you don’t find
Makes you one step closer to mine
Closer

Monday Music Pick- “Disappear” by Army Of Anyone

The DeLeo Brothers (Dean, guitars; and Robert, bass) second project, outside of Stone temple Pilots, came in 2006, when they teamed with Filter front-man Richard Patrick, and session drummer Ray Luzier (David Lee Roth Band, Korn) to form the band Army Of Anyone.

The band’s self-titled debut release is the only one they ever did, but it rocks from beginning to end- and yielded a modern-rock top 40 hit with the scorcher “Goodbye”.  My personal favorite tune from the album however, is track #6, “Disappear” (Patrick, R. DeLeo). From the opening acoustic guitar-hook, the song grabs you. D. DeLeo’s encompassing guitar work and solo is accented beautifully, and represents just why he is one of my favorite axemen. R Deleo’s driving bass throughout, keeps time with Luzier’s unique and complex time signatures, and Patrick’s vocals are emotionally belted out. It is truly a gem of a song, but as it happens too much in this day of vapid, manufactured pop music, sad that it never reached the populous on a grand scale. That’s why I’m here. *wink*

Lyrics provided below the video.

Lyrics:

“Disappear” (Patrick, R. DeLeo) by Army Of Anyone

Let’s not go outside
too much work’s in here
heaven can’t help us
Watch the walls knocked down
Jesus lost his crown
heaven
won’t help us

Don’t look
don’t look at me now
I watch how the world works in here
I love how the world works in here
Yeah

I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’
I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’

Hearts melt with lies
Feeling ostracized
they won’t just help us
Mourning makes us cry
Singing last goodbyes
no one can help us

Don’t look
don’t look at me now
I watch how the world works from here
I love how the world works from here
Yeah

I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’
I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’

I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’
I try to disappear
Can’t you see what I’m sayin’

Monday Music Pick- “ReaLife” by Lollipop Factory

Every Monday (in theory, at least), I’ll post here, a song that grooves me. Hopefully it’ll groove you too. If possible, I’ll provide the entire song, via You Tube. If not possible, a link to hear a snippet of the tune. I’ve always loved introducing people to new material- some of the more obscure stuff. Enjoy.

For my first pick, I’ll take a song that has been stuck in my head- literally, for two weeks straight now. It’s from a Power Pop band, out of Ohio, called Lollipop Factory (you can see my blog about the live show I saw, HERE.

A great blend of influences here- from Queen to Klaatu, with a sprinkling of 10cc (yes, i’m really testing your 70’s music knowledge here).

Great tempo-changes, thought-provoking lyrics, off-the-chart vocals, and overall great production, has made this my “Get-up-and-go-in-the-morning” song. More potent than 3 cups of Espresso, “ReaLife” is sure to please.

I made a “video” for the song, being there was no other way to hear the whole song online. So please, don’t judge the song by the video! I just needed a platform to bring the song to you, and hey, I think it’s a lot better than watching five minutes of an album cover!

The Nifty- Fifty’s Are Still Kickin’ At Weber’s

Growing up in South Florida until recently, I was well-aware that old roadside “joints” were all but dead in The Sunshine State. So imagine my excitement when I first drove by Weber’s Drive-in, located in Pennsauken, NJ, right off of Route 38. It was “American Graffiti” for real. The main attraction at Weber’s is their signature Root Beer.

Everything about it- the roadside sign, colors, architecture, and yes- even the food, just screams “1950’s”. I suddenly had an urge to go out and buy the complete “Happy Days” series on DVD. Weber’s is that authentic. A standing, living monument to days-too-long-gone-by.

Weber’s is a Drive-in. That’s Drive “in”, not Drive-“thru”- big difference. For those that never experienced it, a Drive-in is a restaurant where patrons pull up to a parking spot, a server comes to your car to take your order, and then delivers the food to you, so you can dine in your car. At Weber’s, the authenticity of 50’s drive-ins is cemented by fastening your food order tray to the driver’s side window. Daddy-O, this place is like crazy!

When first approaching your parking spot, turn your headlights off. The reason? Well, there’s a sign that explains it right in front of you- “Lights On For Service”. Simple- just like 50’s.

Weber’s menu is not extensive- your basic hamburger, hot dog, cheese-steak joint, with a few available tweaks to each. They also serve a Pork Roll® with Cheese sandwich- a staple here in Jersey and Philadelphia. Pork roll is very similar to Canadian Bacon, in my opinion. Locals here will fight you to the death denying it. That pretty much covers the food- drinks are shakes and sodas.

It shouldn’t take you more than a minute to decide what to eat, at which point you flick on your headlights. Within seconds, our server showed up to take the order.

As I said earlier, Weber’s signature item is Root Beer. Being a root beer fanatic, it was that fact that got me giddy like a five-year-old. I love a good homemade root beer- not out of a can, but in a frosted mug. Weber’s deliver’s.

Having never been there, we try a sampling of a few sandwiches- the burgers literally being a bit larger than a Slider and not too filling. We order a cheeseburger, cheesesteak, and a pork roll sandwich. Within five minutes we’re eating.

Now, this isn’t a five-star restaurant, folks- but the food is just what it sets out to be. Simple. All of the sandwiches were adequate- fresh buns, and served hot. The pork roll is your basic ham and cheese- very mild and quite delicious. The burger, although not huge, was juicy and flavorful. The cheesesteak was like the kind you make at home, but satisfying, nonetheless.

For drinks, of course we ordered a root beer, and we also wanted to sample the vanilla shake. The root beer was okay– it was definitely ice-cold in the mug, but the soda itself didn’t have that strong root-y, herb-y flavor that I like so much. It wasn’t as good as A&W serves up out of their kegs, but it was close. I would definitely bring a gallon home in the future, which are available in glass jugs, for just $4.99). The vanilla shake, on the other hand, was superb. A nice, thick,- but not-too-thick blend of real vanilla ice cream and milk. It was also served in a chilled mug, which adds that special touch. Perfect to wash the food down with.

Having finished our meal, we turned back on the headlights, and the server came over to take our empty tray and mugs. She also gave us the check, which sits on your windshield while you dine. At an average of 3 bucks and change an item, Weber’s is definitely budget-friendly. Oh yeah, it’s also cash-only. More Fifty’s authenticity .

All in all, a great place to go, to bring the kids, and for you people a generation older than me- a great place to wax nostalgic.

But wait- there’s more!!! Upon entering the parking lot of Weber’s, on the roadside and beckoning the traffic passersby- is Elvis. Yes, ladies and gentlemen- Elvis Presley. Well, kind of…. His real name is Mark (or Marc, maybe?), and he entertains from the side of the highway- microphone in hand and boombox on the ground. Mark– er, Elvis was kind enough to pose for some pictures for me, and also let me know that he is available for parties and private engagements. I still have your number, King.

Happy Days, indeed. I love this place.

Thank ya- thank ya veramuch.

Get Your Greek On, In Jersey

In Cherry Hill NJ, lies a very unassuming, little restaurant in a very unassuming, little plaza called Sawmill Village. Just the type of place you would find a phenomenal restaurant. Case in point, a fabulous place called Kuzina by Sofia- serving authentic “Traditional & Modern Greek Cuisine”.

Being new to the area approximately 10 months ago, I had a hankering for some good Greek food. So like anyone in this age of technology would do, I researched the internet and hoped for the best. Now four visits later, I’m posting this blog to share it with you.

Storefront

Yes, I always get the same thing at Kuzina- maybe someday I’ll expand my horizons, but until that day arrives, I’m a creature of habit- what can I say? With that being said, to say that I was thrilled with the anticipation of what awaited me, would be a major understatement.

We arrived a little early for dinner, and were the only ones there. By the time we were finished with our meal, the place was packed.

Inside Kuzina by Sofia

Once seated, the server brings water- and a basket of fresh, hot grilled pita bread, cut into wedges. To accompany the bread, is a bowl of olive oil, with spices and sesame seeds. You can taste the quality of the olive oil in its flavor, and the combination of the warm, lightly char-flavored bread doused with it, is wondrous.

Next, the two appetizers (aka “The Usual”, for me)- Saghanaki, and Spanakopita.

First, the Saghanaki- a salty, white Greek cheese, flambéed to a bubbly crust. Kuzina’s menu states that theirs is flambéed with Ouzo. All I have to say to that is, “OPA!” The crispy outside and chewy inside, with all of its salty goodness is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.

Saghanaki- say cheese.

Next, the staple and most people’s first taste of Greek food- Spanakopita, better known as Spinach Pie. Fresh spinach (not Byrd’s Eye frozen), and ample chunks of Feta (another salty) cheese are very visible, and marry together seamlessly. The filling of spinach and cheese is wrapped by multiple layers of Phyllo dough, which is paper-thin sheets of dough that is used widely in Mediterranean pastries. The Spanakopita is baked, and the dough turns airy-light and crispy, browned to perfection, also toasting the sesame seeds added on top. The fresh, spinach filling with the buttery, crispy crunch of the pastry is mind-blowing.

Popeye would kill Bluto for this.

Spinach, meet Feta.

Being completely satisfied thus far, I still have to go for the slam-dunk: The Gyro. My favorite Greek food, and my main coarse every time. It is served either as a pita sandwich, or as a platter, which comes with the gyro meat (beef and lamb, traditional-style); a greek salad; pita wedges; and Tzatziki sauce- which is a Greek yogurt, usually made with cucumbers and dill, plus various spices and lemon juice.

I always go for the Gyro in sandwich form, which comes also with tomato and onions. Always despising tomatoes from birth, and getting too old to handle raw onion, I opt- out on the veggies and go strictly meat- with the Tzatziki on the side (I like to govern the amount put on).

My favorite part of the meal- the arrival of the sandwich, served with French Fries. I’m not a huge fries person, but Kuzina even does them right, always tasting fresh- crispy on the outside, and nice and “potatoey” inside.

My perfect Gyro.

But the culinary star today, as always, is the Gyro. Bundled up in, again- a perfectly soft, warm Pita bread, is the gyro meat- a combination of lamb and beef and many different spices, traditionally cooked on a vertical skewer, with radiated heat. This produces a meat that is perfectly juicy with a peppery outer-crust. The meat is sliced as it browns and served immediately. I could literally eat pounds of just the meat- it is seriously that good. Crispy and seasoned on the outside, but ever so tender to the bite- and Kuzinas does it flawlessly. Their Tzatziki is the freshest I ever tasted, and is the perfect companion to the not-overly spicy meat.

Having other dessert plans for the evening, it was skipped this time. However, on one of my previous visits I tried the Baklava- traditional Greek dessert made up of chopped nuts and a Greek honey-based syrup, filled inside Phyllo dough and baked to a crisp, then drizzled more with the honey-syrup on top. Served with some great coffee- the perfect end to a perfect meal.

The service is always great, and the Mediterranean music softly playing overhead only adds to the ambiance and overall wonderful experience. I also had the pleasure at a previous dining, of meeting the woman behind the greatness- Sofia is as gracious a hostess as she is a fabulous chef.

Check out Kuzina by Sofia first chance you get- you will be extremely ευτυχισμένος that you did!

Lollipop Factory- The Sweet Taste Of Rock And Roll

Take the tight vocal- harmonizing of Queen, the lyrical intellect of Jellyfish, the frequent and complex tempo changes of Rush, the theatric sound of David Bowie and of course, a circus from an alternate universe. Now, throw them into the proverbial blender- and you’re only tapping the surface of experiencing the wonderfully multi- layered world of Lollipop Factory .

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio- this one time five-piece-band, turned duo, is now touring across America and coming to a town near you (hopefully- for your sake).

Band Founder David Tweed (guitar, vocals) and Bekah Manning (drums, vocals) have been touring non-stop since 2008- trekking from town to town in their RV, equipped with a recording studio (and three cats), and “gets about 9 miles to the gallon”,  according to Tweed-  plus a trailer that houses all of their gig hardware. Rock And Roll.

I “discovered” Lollipop Factory online (on my WebTV!) back in the late- 90’s, on cdnow.com, which was acquired by what you know today as Amazon.com. Being a Power Pop enthusiast, it was immediately music to my ears- both literally and figuratively. The song that made a lightning-fast impact is “Sunday Drive”, to this day the band’s “signature song”.

The song, with layered harmonies that evoke The Beatles and Yes (think “Ive Seen All Good People), a scorching guitar-lead at the crowning moments of the song, and a gripping hook that won’t let go throughout, had me convinced at first-listen. An auditory eargasm, if you will.

Fast forward about 12 years, to this past Saturday in Philadelphia’s The Fire Bar & Nightclub, where Lollipop Factory’s latest stop was- and the site of my first time seeing the band live. I’m a happy man.

Lollipop Factory was one of four bands playing that night, going on second-to-last at approximately 11:30. Because there were so many bands, it allotted each act just a 45-minute set, which in my opinion, wasn’t nearly enough. But Lollipop Factory didn’t waste a minute, getting in a blistering 9-song set:

  1. Sunday Drive
  2. Bouncing Ball
  3. The Worm
  4. Eat Cake
  5. Jump Jet
  6. Objective Man
  7. Rigor Mortis
  8. Silly Grave
  9. Tor My Heart In 2

The Set List- Thank you, Bekah!

The duo hit the stage, both decked out in black. Manning wearing a half-mesh top with black slacks, wearing her ever-present Fedora (no ballerina tutu this night), while the mutton-chopped Tweed had the classic black tee, suspenders and slacks, adorned with his signature top-hat and Cheap Trick-inspired, too-short checkerboard tie, and work boots that appeared to be covered with electrical tape. Rock and Roll.

The amount of energy the duo expends during the set is almost inexplicable- Manning’s impeccable stand-up drumming , all the while belting-out her razor sharp vocal backings, are even more amazing when considering the constant tempo changes. This is not simple 4/4 – time signature music here, people! Meanwhile, Tweed is getting out his inner Pete Townshend (minus the guitar destruction)- jumping around while singing lead, and during the guitar parts, bouncing, jittering in circular fits like a  maniacal tin-soldier on Battery-powered overload. The Energizer Bunny’s got nothing on this guy. Somewhere towards the end of the set, Tweed hops up on the amp stack, then stands atop of it, top-hat skimming the ceiling, as he then puts one foot up on the wall, before hopping back down to the stage, not missing a note. Rock and Roll.

Lollipop Factory are consummate pros- they weren’t exactly playing to a packed house this night, but delivered a show with such high-octane energy, it was as if they were headlining Lincoln Financial Field.

I also had the pleasure of meeting and hanging Bekah and David, before and after their set- having exchanged pleasantries with them via their Facebook page. To say that they are some the kindest, coolest people I have ever encountered, would be an understatement. It was like meeting up with long-lost friends. Over a “few” cocktails (!), David regaled us with stories from the time he played with Jellyfish on some demos, to the time he met Slash from Guns N’ Roses, and everything in-between. A splendid time was had by all, and I can’t wait for the next time they roll back into town.

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Do yourself a favor- check out this band. If you’re a fan of music who’s fed up with the mainstream crap that’s being passed as talent these days; if you appreciate clever lyrics coupled with staunch musicianship; if you generally think that rock and roll is dying- see Lollipop Factory, and they’ll renew your faith.

Start out on their official website, then mosey on over to their MySpace page for some song samples and tour dates. They also sell CD’s and T-shirts at the shows, which is your best bet (Oh yeah- a big “Fuck You” to the person/people who swiped a couple shirts during the show. Assholes.) However you choose to do it- check out this band, and help them in their journey to the next town. Only nine miles to the gallon, remember?

To Bekah and David, thank you so much for such a memorable night- even with the Captain Morgan, it’s still as clear as day. My only request for next time is that you fit in “Planet Earth” somehow- my current favorite tune, one that would make Klaatu very proud. Also a big thanks for the tour of  the Lollipop Lair- bonus! Finally, wishing you good luck in Brooklyn, to find a water-source for your Woolite.

Rock and Roll.

Happy Cheap Trick Day……………. No Foolin’.

April 1st will no longer be known as just April Fools Day, at least in Illinois. Beginning in 2008, The Illinois Senate, in the midst of the battle to get a state budget approved, appointed April 1 of every year to be set as a date to regale the musical contributions of Cheap Trick.

Then: L- R Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, Bun E. Carlos

Finally, some respect for the Rockford, Illinois band that for some reason, respect always seemed to somehow elude. Currently in their fifth decade(!) as Rock and Roll’s Rodney Dangerfield, Cheap Trick is alive and well, and putting out some of their best music in decades. Robin Zander (vocals, guitar) Rick Nielsen (guitars, vocals) Tom Petersson (bass, vocals) and Bun E. Carlos (percussion- and still the studio drummer, but replaced recently for live shows with Rick’s son, Daxx Nielsen), have proven that some bands can endure the test of time- and then some.

Of course, I’m just a little biased. I write for my own blog, people- not a newspaper. With that being said, I can be just as biased as I want to be. Thank you.

With a handful of platinum and gold releases since their first release in 1977, constant, international touring (over 200 dates a year) and producing two of Rock and Roll’s most indelible anthems, “I Want You To Want Me”, and “Surrender”- Cheap Trick surges on. They released their 17th studio album. “The Latest”, in June of ’09- their best and most polished effort since, in my opinion, the mid- 80’s. Not that the other releases in-between weren’t rockin’, they just weren’t as consistent from beginning to end. It is also my opinion that for just that reason, “The Latest” didn’t receive the airplay or attention it so richly deserves.

Now: L- R Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, Bun E. Carlos

Along with supporting “The Latest” on the road, the past few years saw Cheap Trick honoring their heroes, and  the most obvious influence in their music- The Beatles, with a Sgt. Pepper tribute show, between their own show dates. The show consisted of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, in its entirety, played from start to finish in order- plus a Beatles medley at the end. A performance of the show at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City was captured, producing a CD and DVD. The show received rave reviews.

Most currently, the band is touring and recently completed doing a tribute to one of their own masterpiece’s, 1979’s “Dream Police”. The band played the album, just like the Sgt, Pepper tour-in its entirety, with a lot of other gems from their extensive catalog. Read more about it here.

I will be seeing the band in early May, and have seen them over 100 times, since my first in 1980. A lot of years, and a lot of shows- none of which failed to deliver. If you’ve never seen this band live, do yourself a favor. Even into their 50’s, this band still rocks and renews the faith that Rock and Roll is still kicking.

So, Happy Cheap Trick Day, everyone- it also happens to be April Fools Day. The Rodney Dangerfield’s of Rock and Roll, indeed.

The Old West In New Jersey

Just off of Route 38 in Mount Laurel, NJ is a great Western- themed restaurant, bar, and dance hall called Prospector’s Steakhouse & Saloon. The theme might instantly conjure up bad memories of dining at The Ponderosa Steakhouse but let me assure you, there’s no comparison.

Upon walking through the main entrance, the first thing you notice right in front of you, is the enormous salad bar- more on that later. My guest and I were taken to our table, in the middle of a vast dining area- filled with people chatting and enjoying their meals.

Almost immediately one of the staff brings a basket with two piping-hot sweet yeast rolls. Amazing. You could see the steam release when ripped apart, a little hint of sweet to the taste, and were so light and fluffy. Great beginning….

Crazy Train

Enjoying the roll and looking over the menu, I took in the scenery around us. Yes, it was a typical Western-theme, pictures paintings and sculptures of cowboys, with the obligatory mounted animal heads, and animal skins on the walls. I got the biggest kick, of course (being a big kid myself), out of the train on a track surrounding the whole room, circling above everyone’s head.

The menu itself is very extensive- and with nightly specials at Prospectors, you’ll never have a problem of finding something for everyone. Click here to view the menu.

The waitress arrived (she was awesome throughout the whole meal), then took our order. I was told that with your dinner you either get soup, a pre-made salad, or the salad bar. No brainer! Of course, we opted for the salad bar.

Salad Heaven

My mistake- The “Produce Wagon”, as it’s called at Prospectors. This thing is huge- about 20 feet from left to right, I’d estimate. Ice cold plates out of a refrigerated icebox makes all the difference in the world, as far as I’m concerned- and Prospectors has one. I can’t remember all of the offerings (most of your typical salad bar fare), but there was an abundance of it, and it all looked very fresh. I had the mixed greens with crushed hard- boiled egg, a little touch of bacon bits and some thousand island dressing. I’m a salad minimalist- and even more so since I was aware of the meal that was coming my way soon. I usually don’t do croutons either, but when I saw how fresh and obviously homemade they looked I had to try a couple. Crunchy, toasty,  garlicky and delicious. Things were going very well…..

About five minutes to digest the salads and our main course arrived. It’s Wednesday night at Prospectors- and BBQ Baby Back Ribs is the special. Hello. For those that know me personally, I’m a sucker for ribs- any kind, but especially baby backs.

All the clichés- smoky; tender; fall-off-the-bone; blah, blah,blah…….. are true here. Perfectly done, with a touch of caramelized char on the outer meat of the rib. What I most loved about the ribs was that the sauce had that baked-in quality. There’s nothing worse for me than ribs overly-slathered in sauce, so much that you’re eating more sauce than rib. Not the case here- they were perfect. In fact, a little dish of barbecue sauce was on the plate for dipping, if I chose to do so. From the sides that I had to choose from, I decided to do the “healthy” thing, being that I’m downing a rack of ribs- and opted for the sweet potato, sans butter and cinnamon. I just love sweet potatoes plain and simple. The sweet potato rocked- cooked to a perfect softness, and was literally the size of a softball. I’m happy.

Go Meat!

My dining partner, and girlfriend Kelly (The Jirish one- see my Doug Heffernan blog), ordered the Chicken Oscar- which is boneless chicken breast, topped with crabmeat, asparagus spears, and hollandaise sauce. I tried a bite, and while all of the ingredients were fresh and very well-prepared, and i like all of the ingredients separately, it just didn’t jive with me. What’s important here, however- is that my dining partner loved it. Along with her main coarse she ordered the macaroni and cheese. Um…… good choice. Wow! This side dish was a brick- sized portion of baked mac and cheese, with the perfect cheese-to-pasta ratio. Insanely good stuff, and huge- most of it is sitting in our fridge right now, waiting to be reheated.

Chicken Oscar was great quality, but just not my bag, baby. Look at the mac and cheese to the right!

Mousse, anyone?

For dessert, we decided to split a chocolate mousse- another weakness of mine (I have quite a few), with our coffee. A few spoonfuls into the airy, chocolaty, rich goodness and we gave up. I usually never leave a dessert unfinished, but I had more than enough by then. Kelly- she gave up after the second spoonful. I keep telling her to not try and keep up with me- it’s a futile thing by nature.

All in all, a great meal and fun time. Dinner ran about $60 after tax and tip- not bad for the belt-loosening feast we enjoyed so much. There’s also a sports bar area we never got to experience, with nightly specials- and offers all of the sports packages. Also, there’s a nightclub for line-dancing and the like, if that’s your thing.

If you’re ever in Mt. Laurel, NJ make sure you stop by for a spell- you won’t regret it.

Astro Pops- They’re Heeeeeeeere!

Baby Boomers, get your dental fillings ready- Astro Pops are back.

The rocket-shaped, tri-colored, translucent lollipops are hitting stores again.

Astro Pops, one of my favorite childhood confections, were discontinued in 2004 by The Spangler Candy Company.  They acquired the brand from Los Angeles-based Nellson Candy Company (the original inventor of the Astro Pop) in 1987.

According to the Official Astro Pop website, “Many cried. One guy did something about it.”

The original 1-oz. pop will debut during the first quarter of 2011. For now, you can order a giant- sized Astro Pop for the bargain price of $39.95 and features “the same shape with the original wax base! It also has the original flavors: Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Cherry! That’s 15 inches long by 3 inches wide at the base! Weighing in at two pounds, this will be the longest lasting lollipop in the world!”

Kid getting his Astro Pop on.

I remember when Astro Pops had their original shape, in all of its stoplight- colored glory, with the wider base of the lollipop at the bottom (resting on a wax- foundation), and the sharp-pointed apex at the top, where it belonged. But apparently, in the new found political correctness of the 80’s, Spangler inexplicably felt the need to invert the lollipop- possibly so some crazy kids wouldn’t hold up a liquor store with such a lethal weapon. Thus, giving the Astro Pop a backwards-ass look altogether, and pissing off those who knew it from its first go-round.

Right- The Good

Wrong- The Bad, And The Ugly

According to the Official Astro Pop Site, in addition to the original flavors of Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Cherry, there will be an abundance of new flavor combinations:

Astro Sour Pop: (sour grape, lemon and cherry)
Rappin Raspberry: (blue Raspberry, red raspberry, blueberry)
Banana Split Astro Pop: (banana, cherry and vanilla)
Carmel Apple: (caramel and green apple)
Astro Confetti Pop: (lemonade with confetti candy)
Halloween Astro Pop: (orange, vanilla and chocolate)
Citrus Sensation: (orange, cherry, lemon)
Easter Astro Pop: (grape, vanilla, lemon)
Astro Pop, Awesome Hot: (hot cinnamon flavor)
Astro Sundae Pop: (chocolate, vanilla and cherry)
Astro Patriot Pop: (cherry, vanilla and blueberry)

So keep an eye out for Astro Pops, coming to a store near you- just try not to poke it.

Ba-da-bum.

Doug Heffernan Stole My Mojo

“Why fart and waste it, when you can burp and taste it?”- Doug Heffernan

 

As I’ve done a few times prior, I didn’t watch a great T.V. show while it was in first-run. Instead I discovered it later, in syndication. We’re talking “King Of Queens” in this case. It quickly became one of my all-time favorite shows on the tube, duking it out with “Seinfeld” for a half- hour of my undivided attention.

Something else I’ve discovered- the character of Doug Heffernan stole my mojo.

Now, I’m not saying that the Kevin James-played character and I have parallel lives completely– but….

1) Doug is married to Carrie (played by Leah Remini)- a stereotypical New Yorker, and a fierce hot blooded Italian girl who is frequently deemed as scary by other characters on the show.

I am married, to my Rutgers-grad wife, who is part- Jewish, part- Irish (Jirish, as I coined it), and is as even-keeled and soft-spoken as they come.

2) Doug is total blue collar, and works as a courier for IPS (a fictional company, based on UPS)

I am a computer geek and sit behind a desk, although I am quite blue-collar too. I prefer beer to wine any day.

3) Doug is an avid New York Jets fan.

I am a die hard Miami Dolphins fan. I hate The Jets.

4) Doug has his father-in-law, Arthur, living in the basement of Doug & Carrie’s house.

No in-law here,  see “#1“.

But pretty much beyond that, Doug Heffernan is the alter-ego of me. It’s as if whoever developed this character, followed me around my entire adult life in “stealth-mode”, taking notes.

To wit: in no particular order, some Doug quotes:

Doug: “3 days at a wellness spa can’t put a dent in me. I use bacon as a condiment”

 

Carrie: “Hey I’m going to the gym, you sure you don’t wanna come?”
Doug: “Nah, but you’re adorable to keep asking.”

 

Doug (talking to his cousin, Danny and friend, Deacon): “What are you doing?”
Danny: “What?”
Deacon: “You’re taking all the cheese.”
Danny: “It came up with the chip.”
Doug: “Yeah, ’cause you grabbed the nucleus.”
Danny: “What?”
Doug: “Every pile of nachos has one main chip that holds the whole thing together… the nucleus. You don’t take the nucleus, you work around it. You honor it.”

 

Doug: “If bologna smelled any better I’d wear it.”

 

Doug: “For the love of god I need a sandwich.”

 

Doug: “Do you understand the concept behind a grilled-cheese sandwich? If the cheese cools this was all for nothing.”
Carrie: “What you eating?”
Doug: “A Clark Bar.”
Carrie: “I thought you were a Snickers guy.”
Doug: “I delivered to Ed Clark today, and one thing led to another.”
Carrie: “Any chance you might deliver to a Steve Celery sometime?”
Doug: “Any chance you could deliver to Shutty Town?

Carrie: “Hey whatcha doin babe?”
Doug: “Nothin, just putting two packets of icing on one Toaster Strudel…Happy Now, Sad Later”

 

Doug:”I know what will cheer you up! I think someone would like a little man-breast puppet theatre!”

 

Doug:”If eating hotdogs is wrong, I dont want to be right!”

 

Doug: “I would eat my own foot if it was wrapped in bacon and cooked in butter.”

 

Doug: “If you’re not scary, how come theres no horror movie called Doug?…………..CARRIE!”

 

Doug: “Try and keep it together here, and know that I’m not mad at you – I’m mad at the situation. We’re out of Cocoa Puffs.”

 

Carrie: “Explain to me what I am looking at.”
Doug: “Before you judge me, let me walk you through. I settled in, I started eating, and then I realized I didn’t have a place to put the bones. I didn’t want to put them on the sheets because you made it very clear that you don’t like that. Long story short, I invented the shirt plate.”

 

And finally…..

I rest my case- and I want my Mojo back.


 

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