Conshohocken Freedom

Living next to Philly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Essence of Schwenk

My friend Kelsey whined at me during a Gmail chat the other day, complaining that I've been spending too much time writing for America in 100 Days, and not enough writing here at Conshohocken Freedom. Sorry, Kelsey. I hate to disappoint you.
If I had anything to write about, it would be about how stupid the Steelers are, and how stupid our friend Brent is for being from Pittsburgh and being a Steelers fan. Usually I'd be ripping on the next team on the Eagles' schedule, which in this case is the Cardinals - but the Steelers are so stupid that I can't even begin to think about Arizona.

But Brent knows how stupid he is, and I don't want to spend my time writing about it right now. Instead, I'll share with you an old video of a friend of mine from college, who decided to take a breather during a gave of 100-cup beirut. Sorry it's sideways, but it still gets the point across; my favorite part is when he waves to the people across the street.

But shhh... don't tell him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy new month

Frankly, I prefer to celebrate 12 times a year.

Anyway, I know it's been a while, and I don't have much energy to write, after savoring every bite of one of the most delicious meals of my life this evening, courtesy of Nectar in Berwyn. But here's a video I just stumbled upon in a moment of googleboxing, which isn't quite the old Orson Welles video but it's close.

Enjoy! And question reality every now and then.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I was never so privileged as many of the kids I knew growing up, with regard to various material goods. On second thought, maybe privileged isn't the right word - maybe spoiled is a better one. Regardless, my parents didn't waste a whole hell of a lot of their money buying useless crap for me. Sure, they spent enough to keep me entertained, but I was usually near the end of the train when it came to buying new stuff. The big new video game system would come out and everyone would be talking about it and making me feel generally left out but indignant at the same time. And eventually I'd get to play it at someone's house, or wait the necessary amount of time for a newer, more advanced system to come out so that I could buy the old one at a get-this-out-of-my-store discount price. It all worked out in the end.
Well, during high school, my friend Kyle was heavy into video games, for any system you could think of. At one point he had Playstation, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast AND its predecessor, the rarely-seen Sega CD, all hooked up to his TV at the same time. And with a little direction from my friend Kyle, I got my filthy mitts on a used N64 and a short stack of games.
Sure, I had played more than my share of Goldeneye. Weeks worth, in fact. I was even fairly adept with its spinoff game, Perfect Dark. I knew Slippy, Falco and the rest of the Star Fox gang. And I'd enjoyed long hours of Mario 64 and MarioKart 64 on more occasions than I could number.

But I'd never played the Ocarina before.

By the way, right around here is where I'd like to bitch for a second about, the site that hosts Conshohocken Freedom. They've got a great, free service that I figured out pretty quickly. But just recently, all of my posts have this really annoying behavior when I put images in. The one at the very top lets the text wrap around it, but none of the subsequent ones do. They used to, all the time. It's a goddamn disgrace.

Anyway, this was and continues to be the game to trounce all games, one that designed by marvelously clever Japanese programmers to incorporate content suitable for practically any age, confounding puzzles and challenges (for even a moderately intelligent high schooler), fierce battles with various creatures and an endless array of irritatingly catchy tunes.
The game is based upon the classic Zelda theme of elf-boy must save princess. On the way, I spent more than a month twisting and toiling through this seemingly endless game, eventually giving way to the extremely helpful video game guide. I don't know if I would have made it without that guide, frankly. There are so many portions of the game, so many accessible areas, and so much stuff to do that if you can get it started, you're not going to stop until you beat it.
I thought of this because I brought it over to my girlfriend Bernadette's house the other day so I could play it when she's doing homework. In my mind, there is no topping this game, no matter how much money it costs or how new it is.

And don't try to convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Flash

Today I was driving home from work at the P.R. company, along my typical route at typical speeds. One leg of this 20-or-so-minute drive involves a few miles on Barren Hill Rd., a winding, two-lane road passing by houses and few residential streets. It's hard to drive the speed limit on this road (35 mph), especially when there's on one in front of you, but going too fast (i.e. 50 mph or more) is not an option either, as the road is not a straight shot in any way.
So I'm cruising along at around 42 or 43 mph, about 2/3 of the way along Barren Hill Rd. when an approaching car flashes its high beams at me, five times in rapid succession. My first instinct was that either my lights weren't on, or that my high beams were on and the approaching driver didn't appreciate it.
But this didn't make any sense, as it was 4:30 in the afternoon (too early for headlights to be necessary and too early for high beams to blind anyone). My low beams were on.
Then I realized that this car was doing me a rare but invaluable favor. The flash can mean three things: fix your lights, go ahead (i.e. at a stop sign) or SLOW DOWN, there's a cop up ahead. In this instance it could only mean the last of the three, and I knew it.
It may not have been entirely necessary, as I wasn't going all that fast. But I heeded that car's warning and took it down to about 36 or 37 mph. And sure enough, about 500 feet later, there he was. A cop car sat at an angle in a driveway, ready to pounce at any moment.

So three cheers to that random stranger in the passing car. Despite the fact that this sort of maneuver is morally suspicious and clearly illegal, that driver stuck his or her neck out and saved me quite a bit of hassle, as well as possibly a speeding ticket and points on my license.
Thank you, sir or madam, for your thoughtfulness and courtesy. I hope I can return the favor someday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eating in Conshy: Sit-Down Breakfast

After living here in town for more than a year now, I've provided myself with plenty of opportunities to sample the local fare. There are plenty of places to get a bite on the go, and considerably fewer for sitting down to eat. Luckily, the former of the two of usually my preferred method, and I've indulged on many, many occasions.
And as near as I can tell, I've pretty much exhausted the options for sit-down breakfast. With two categories to consider, here is my judgement.

The first is the 401 Diner, named for its address on Fayette St. This place has the look of an old school diner from the outside, and inside follows suit, with a jukebox that skips incessantly and waitresses whose voices are baritone or bass from decades of smoking. Food is reasonable in price, size and quality, but this so-called "diner" has one fundamental flaw. They are not open 24 hours a day. In my book, that's pretty much the definition of a diner, so this place loses some points for that reason alone.
The only other place in town for a sit-down meal is Boccella's, a small, quaint operation at 521 Fayette St. This place first caught my eye after the day of the Pennsylvania democratic primary, when Hillary Clinton came to town and got a chicken cheesesteak here. Myself being an ardent Barack Obama supporter, it made me avoid this place for a time.
But soon I caved, going here one morning with Bernadette and our co-worker Shar. They had a very good breakfast menu, inside a comfortable atmosphere (though somewhat small) with young servers. This is usually a warning sign for me of trouble to come, as none of them looked older than 16. But these kids were on.
While the 401 Diner wins with regard to hours (open for dinner every night with breakfast all day), they lost those points for not being a 24-7 operation. And Boccella's, while nowhere near to a 24-7 place (closing as early as 3 pm some days), beats the crap out of that stupid diner. Their food is superior by leaps and bounds, their service is friendly and expedient, and their prices are just as reasonable.

Thus, the best dine-in breakfast in town is at Boccella's.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama for President

Today's the day, dear readers, and this is my official endorsement.
After two consecutive elections in which the correct choice was undeniably clear, yet both times forsaken for the single worst president I think I'll ever have to live through, I have very little faith remaining in the common sense of my fellow Americans. Our own inability to see through the bullshit has left us in a dire state of need. We need another Republican driving this country into the ground just about as much as I need a fucking bullet in my head.
But I have not lost all faith. After all, just two years ago, Pennsylvanians came together to oust former senator Rick Santorum, the most vile, sinister piece of shit who has ever spoken in English. And we did so by a wide margin - a sign, perhaps, that we're coming to our senses.
Thousands of Americans and nearly 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed since we marched into war in Iraq, scorned, lied to and taken for idiots by a crafty, arrogant Bush administration. Billions upon billions of dollars have been squandered in this conflict, which was supposed to pay for itself in oil...which, by the way, has been the bane of our wallets and pocketbooks in these past years.
The gap between rich and poor in America is greater now than it has ever been. Our environment has been neglected to a dangerous point, both nationally and globally. And in the eyes of the rest of the world, we are not the America we used to be. We're a bunch of assholes with the shittiest president we've ever had, and we've lost any place of reverence in the global community.
Fuck you, George Bush. I wish I could take the whole country by the hand and chant it in unison. But to be frank, the notion of a black president is something that many would have thought impossible even a few years ago. If electing Barack Obama isn't a big, fat "fuck you" to George Bush, then I don't know what is.
So mark it down. Conshohocken Freedom gleefully endorses Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Now get out and vote!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


You're probably all really mad at me for not having written anything for so long. I'm sorry. In the meanwhile, it's not as if I've been lounging around watching cartoons and drinking soda. God knows I'd prefer nothing else in the world, but no - aside from my usual heavy workload, I've been out doing stuff. Let's talk about it with the help of a few photos.
This photo features the line, in which I was standing, outside The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This was way back on October 8th. I'd traveled up to enjoy this marvelous Comedy Central program from the studio audience, rather than the boring old "watch from home" scenario.
This is Dave, the cool-as-Tom-Jones fellow using his textular device on the left. To his sideis Ian, doing his best monkey impression on the right. These two gentlemen, along with Ian's dad (Papa J), were the impetus and accompaniment for this little journey.
...And here we have the all-too-appropriate sign over the door.

Now, here's where we hit a snag. We were informed on numerous occasions that we were obligated to turn off and put away any electronic devices that could record any of the performance in any way - cameras, cell phones, Ipods, anything. This was, of course, a huge disappointment for me, and I realized that I'd feel like a huge jackass if I didn't at least try.
So from my right pocket, I pulled my camera out just slightly, cleverly turning off the flash. And I managed to snap three photos, of quality ranging from poor to marginally visible due to the severity of the situation. I was, at this point, pretty satisfied with myself.
But of course, I had to push it. After Jon Stewart put on a very good show, with Michelle Obama as the clearly exhausted but very amicable and gracious guest, the crowd of close to 200 began to disperse. An usher/intern type person had thanked us for our attendance and directed us toward the exits. And in the fray, I thought I had a fantastic opportunity for a photo. I popped my camera up and snapped a killer shot of the stage, only to look back at the usher/intern girl as she pointed directly at me and sent a security guard my way, who promptly made me delete my photos. Huuuuge bummer.
This ended up being the most concrete proof of my visit. But things soon took a turn for the better; once the show was done, I parted company with my crew and galloped headlong into the depths of the city.
I was able to meet up with a handful of friends, including (from left to right) Kelsey, Bill, myself and Cheese. The bunch of us date back to college, to my fraternity days in Phi Mu Delta at Susquehanna University. Also included in the evening were my friends Tats (another fraternity brother of mine) and Noah, not pictured here.
We insulated our stomachs with delicious pizza from a place called Ultimate Pizza, at 401 E. 57th Street, just a few blocks from Cheese's and Tats's apartment. Buffalo chicken on the left, BBQ chicken on the right. Buffalo was better.
...Aaaaand here's the drinking establishment where we enjoyed a few beverages.
Now, as is usually the case, I had to be home in time to work at 4:30 the next afternoon, so I would have to make some moves the next morning in order to make it home in time. They began with this, an immaculate scribbling of directions on the front of this Chinese menu, courtesy of Tats and his flawless sense of direction.
Rode the subway with my new metro card, a brilliant invention that Philly's opposite-of-beloved SEPTA just cannot seem to wrap its mind around. I purchased this metro card from a machine, one that operated 24 hours a day, another concept that seems just slightly out of SEPTA's reach.

Long story shorter, I made it home with plenty of time before work. Interestingly enough, the wait was shorter for a Greyhound from the Port Authority to Center City Philadelphia (about 35 minutes in line) than the wait for a SETPA train from Market East to Conshohocken (about 50 minutes, even on a weekday).
The sightseeing continued three days later, on a Saturday that was also to include a day at work, only this time beginning at 2:30 or 3 or something. Again, let's go to the photos.
I didn't catch this girl's name. This girl was a volunteer for the Obama campaign, handing out stickers that acted as admission to a big Barack Obama for President campaign stop in Germantown, in Northwest Philadelphia. This was one of four local stops of which his campaign had notified me through email.
The email said that the doors would open at 9:00 for the 11:30 event. I didn't think it would be too big a deal if I showed up at 9:15, which I did. But after parking about eight blocks from the site of the speech, passing car after car checkered with Obama/Biden stickers, I encountered this, the line. This line stretched around for another five blocks or so, bringing my foot travel at this point to about thirteen blocks - several above my comfort level.
The line began to fill in behind me within minutes. We crawled slowly forward, one step at a time with long, frequent breaks between movements. I ended up standing in line for more than two hours, with an ever-growing line snaking through the streets of Germantown behind me.
As I approached Vernon Park, the site of the rally, a sizeable crowd had collected across the street. I assume these were the people who'd shown up far too late and didn't try to brave the line. Who's the wiser between me and them, I'm not 100% sure.
Finally in, a few minutes after the scheduled 11:30 start. The volunteers outside were nice enough to warn us that there would be an "airport-style security checkpoint" on the way in, which I'd anticipated, but still took as a friendly gesture. The park supposedly holds as many as 10,000 people, but I have no idea how many they managed to pile in before the rally finally began, around 11:45, considering how close I was to missing some or all of it.
There were some big names who came out to start things off, including Mayor Michael Nutter, Senator Bob Casey and Governor Ed Rendell, all good people who each took a brief turn at the microphone. 
Soon, Senator Barack Obama came out and delivered a fiery speech, frought with motions with his right hand. He talked about Wall Street tanking, John McCain being a dick and how stupid you'd have to be to not vote for him. In lighter terms than I've used, of course, but that's the jist of what he went over. A rousing speech that lasted about a half hour, it was well worthy of the afternoon I devoted to it.

After a weekend filled with work at the restaurant, I would usually be dilligently zipping off to my P.R. job in Mt. Airy on Monday morning. However, this weekend I'd arranged for the day off in order to make room for a third sightseeing adventure, and the last one I'll mention here.
Here's a sight from Monday, October 13, during my drive west to State College, Pa. for a concert billed as "Change Rocks". The show would feature the Allman Brothers Band (or the remnants thereof, plus Warren Haynes) opening for The Dead, or a rare reunion of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead - Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Billy Kreutzmann and Bob Weir, referenced above. Big fucking deal for me, as I happen to be a huge fan of the Grateful Dead and an avid collector of their music, in case I haven't already had that conversation with you before.
On the right we have Ryan Miller, a guy who I graduated from high school with and worked with at John Harvard's Brew House in Wayne, Pa. for several years before they closed in December. Nice guy. To the right of him stands Jami Salvucci, sister of Joey Salvucci, my good buddy and former (and future) roommate, pictured all the way to the right. At this point the sunglassed guy talking to him was asking us for a beer, if I remember correctly.
Here's Sarah, that brilliant maker of culinary miracles.
On the left, Coleen, a good friend and opener of minds as a philosophy professor. On the right, Dolla Bill, whose mind Coleen is in the process of opening further.
After some time in the parking lot, we made our way into the Bryce Jordan Center. At this point, I was getting a little tired of waiting in lines.
Though we were rewarded with a pleasant view.

And as a fitting end, upon entry to the venue, I was forced to remove the batteries from my camera. Naturally. Wouldn't want me taking any photos of the most terrific concerts I might ever be fortunate enough to see in my entire life.
The show was great, with the Allman Brothers Band opening, Barack Obama speaking during the break (not in person, just on a big screen), and The Dead (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann with Warren Haynes and a few others) played a setlist from out of a dream. A magical evening that I'm sorry to say I wasn't able to document for posterity.

On a side note, don't expect me to ever put this many photos into one post again, because it took fucking forever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Web Site, Bitches

Today saw the launch of America in 100 Days, a new home for my writing. Note, I didn't say THE new home, just A new home. This is the site where I will document my upcoming road trip across the country, as well as the planning leading up to it and the possible or likely destinations which lie in our paths. Sarah and Joey will be welcome to publish their own material therein as well, which I'm not sure that they will.
Bearing in mind that this will be mostly me writing, I'm trying to make a legitimate travel blog of it. So I might curb my language juuuuust a tad. For posterity's sake. Otherwise, this will take up some free time (of which I have very little), but I will continue to rant and rave about various nonsense here on Conshohocken Freedom as often as humanly possible.

Long and the short of it, there's my excuse for a dry couple of weeks here on Conshohocken Freedom. I swear I have a very long post to put up very soon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things I Hate: Moshing

I'm sure you're all familiar with The Colbert Report, a show on Comedy Central that I'd gladly list among my favorite programs on TV. There are plenty of reasons I enjoy it as much as I do, but one in particular makes his show especially enjoyable. Stephen Colbert employs a variety of ongoing series within his show that are all so funny, that regardless of whether it's "Threatdown", "The Word" or "Better Know a District" (my personal favorite), I'm always excited to see the next part in any of them. So I figure, why not try to do that here, with a handful of series like "Drink This Beer" or "Raise Your Glass", or today's "Things I Hate"? So expect to see more of this kind of thing in the near future. And full credit to Stephen Colbert (and his writers) for the concept. Feel free to interview me anytime.

Now, on to my little riff here. Last Saturday, September 20th (a long time ago, I know), I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for a ridiculous concert at the Electric Factory, featuring none other than the Mars Volta. The last time this group played in Philly was at the TLA, a venue on South Street that sells out good shows immediately, without fail.
 Naturally, I was intensely excited to have a ticket to see this heavy, crazy, louder-than-I-usually-tolerate band, whose concerts had been talked up significantly to me by my roommate, Ian. He'd turned me on to their music, which I've been listening to religiously for almost the last year or so.
And their performance was everything I'd hoped it would be, featuring a handful of their best songs (all of which have impossible names to remember, like "Viscera Eyes" and "Meccamputecture"). I was enjoying the show extremely - I was in a very good place for about the first half of the show.

Then, all of a sudden, three fucking morons come smashing forward through the crowd, leaping and pushing and smashing and disturbing a whole section of concert-goers.
Moshers. Those motherfuckers. You can't yell at them to stop pushing you, because they're not going to do it. You can't push them back, because it just encourages them. But we were a full 100 feet from the stage, and these assholes had to stop directly next to me for their little piss-me-off fest. Well, it fucking worked, and I stormed outside in a fit of rage to inhale a cigarette.
Once I came back in and found my company, we watched from further to the rear, never getting back into the good spot we'd been in, both physically and mentally. A big fucking bummer it what it was.
To those people who ruined my Mars Volta experience, I say, grow the fuck up. Nobody pays $50 a ticket to have a bunch of lugheads push you all over the floor.

Off to work. Later.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Raise Your Glass: Richard Wright (1943-2008)

I have to take a moment now to make note of the passing of one Richard Wright, a British keyboardist and founding member of Pink Floyd. Wright played with this mind-blowing band through the years that saw them produce some of the most incredible music I've ever been a party to. Their most well-known album, Dark Side of the Moon, was released in 1973 and discovered by me around 2000. This album played an huge role in my musical upbringing, which from there spread through the entire Pink Floyd catalogue, up through Animals and down through The Wall. This eventually gave way to The Beatles, and The Doors, and Neil Young, and of course, the Grateful Dead. And the rest is history.
So raise your glass. This guy changed the world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reebok update

My good friends from college, George and Sarah, dropped by a few days ago as they were passing through Conshy. While they were here, Sarah remarked on the catfish swimming around the bottom, a catfish that you faithful readers may remember from a previous post. I told her about Reebok's history of savagery and cannibalism within the confines of these 65 gallons of water, of the scores of fish (well, maybe six or seven) that had been lain to rest within the fearless, gaping gullet of this vicious beast. And I pointed to a small red fish (and by small I mean about 2 1/2 inches long), noting that his size and slimness made him look like the perfect next victim. We all got a good laugh.

Well, not three days later, that poor little fucker was gone. And Ian discovered his absence at a relatively early stage of the digestion process, bringing my attention to it as I arrived home from work last night. In the photo shown here, you should note the large bulge, right around the belly area. As I snapped photos Reebok swam slowly and gleefully around the floor of the tank, at this point the largest fish of them all. He is the undisputed king of this little aquatic world and he continues to assert himself as such.

Just an update. I know you've all been wondering.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mondo's Wedding

"You know, sometimes in life, you gotta marry people, bury 'em and have babies too."
-Chuck Hemcher

This weekend allowed me a rare day off from the restaurant, one on which I'd have no time whatsoever to relax.
This was the day of my co-worker, Monica (Mondo)'s wedding to her fiancee John, with myself and three co-workers - Bernadette, Erin and Shar Lee (pictured here) - on the guest list. The clouds were thick, and the ceremony was supposed to be outdoors, somewhere in Bucks County. So the four of us conglomerated together at work for a beer, and eventually got on the road.
The scenic side of Bucks County is a marvelous thing to behold. Thriving in foliage and rich in color, the drive up the turnpike and north on 611 made this 45-minute jaunt into the countryside seem a little more like a vacation. We checked in at the Plumsteadville Inn, which bore a charming exterior and a huge, completely vacant parking lot. We found our way inside, greeted by a vacant receptionist's desk, and wondered aloud (louder as the moments passed) if there was anyone home.
I tried calling the number on their business card, which made the phone sitting directly in front of me on the desk start ringing. After about 10 minutes of waiting, we found someone cleaning a room who came downstairs and took care of us. We walked up a staircase toward our room, and met with this eerily familiar (red rum...) hallway. All four of us caught the reference immediately - I wondered if they didn't leave it looking like that just as some kind of sick joke.
More on that crazy fucking place later. For now, we were running late, and these three girls got ready for this wedding at (relative) lightning speed. Once we were on the road, we were in line to arrive right on time for the 3:00 ceremony, which was apparently going to last only about ten minutes or so. But of course, our directions failed us, as did the signage, and we ended up driving in circles and calling people for directions. Eventually, finally, we found a sign for our destination - the Van Sant Airport in Erwinna, Pa. - and followed it through winding roads and into the depths of Bucks County. When we finally arrived, it was almost 3:30 but the ceremony hadn't quite started yet, according to the dude in the parking lot who directed us toward where we needed to go. We made it by about five minutes, and enjoyed a very brief ceremony (closer to five minutes) with no prolonging God talk. Better yet, my seat for the wedding itself and for the reception were one and the same. We had beers in front of us the whole ceremony. It was glorious.
So we spent the next five hours or so eating (briefly) and drinking (more than we ate) and even dancing. Bern (pictured center) got me on my feet for a couple of slow songs, and I got my extra kick of motivation when Otis Day's "Shout" came on.
Afterwards, we traveled deeper into the wild toward a place called the Indian Rock Inn, apparently another B&B, like the Shining place where we'd dropped our stuff earlier but decidedly less creepy. The bar was small, and there was one middle-aged woman behind the bar with no help, twisting off bottlecaps with her bare fucking hands and getting visibly more irritated with each person in wedding clothes who walked through the door. Once things settled down a little and everyone had their first round, I asked about food, which she said wasn't available at that hour (9:00 on a Saturday). But then food started coming out for people at cocktail tables, and Bern, sensing my growing rage within, asked the woman who brought their food out, who was happy to give us a menu, saying they'd kept the kitchen open late because they knew we were coming. Let this be a note to any large group of people going to a restaurant: call ahead. And do it because cool things like kitchens staying open late can happen with enough notice, and the staff isn't pissed off at being jumped by a huge group of people all wanting drinks at the same time.
I got wings (phenomenal) and quail, which I hadn't eaten in something like ten years. It wasn't what I remembered it to be, thanks mostly to an overpowering honey glaze and slightly tougher meat. Still, it goes down as one of the greatest late night (as in the last thing the kitchen will be doing all night) meals I've ever enjoyed.

Back to the Plumsteadville Inn. This place was really fucking weird, as I've already showed above with the photo of the hallway. Let's call that Exhibit A. Moving on from there...

Exhibit B: The television. As you can see in this picture, the grainy, jumpy picture on the screen of this awfully small (no more than 13") television is provided by none other than an old-fashioned, god-fearing antenna. If I'm not mistaken, these things won't even work about six months from now. We dug deeper into this mystery while we were drinking at the Indian Rock Inn, where the bartender (who, I should mention, did improve her demeanor considerably once everyone had a drink and she realized how much money she was making) informed us that Comcast cable is not available in these here parts. Verizon FIOS is available about three miles away, but that's three miles away. So satellite is the only way to go, and apparently the Plumsteadville Inn had not utilized this option.
I just had to mention this because I haven't used an antenna to get TV reception in probably ten years. And the only thing it picked up was Chris Wallace interviewing the "master" political strategist Karl Rove on FOX, which made me want to drink gasoline.

Exhibit C: The beds. We had originally planned to have three occupants - Bern, Shar and myself. So twin beds, rather than a larger bed and a cot, made more sense for fairness's sake. Then we talked Erin into staying, so we figured we could stash two of us on each of the "twin beds" we'd been promised.
This turned out to be just barely possible. These were comfortable beds but were hardly more than two feet wide. Granted, we probably shouldn't have expected for four people to be comfortable in one room, but jeez, those beds were small.

Exhibit D: The closet. This is easily the most convenient place to get murdered that I've ever seen. This closet, mere feet from Exhibit C, reached back a good five feet and enjoyed enough room to store an entire wardrobe. It stayed dark no matter how light the room was, because the light switch for this particular closet was, well, a dead end. And beyond this big, creepy closet, there was a second closet about half its size (much less creepy, though) in the bathroom, as well as a giant bureau with about ten drawers. Whoever thought all this was necessary is a complete lunatic.

Exhibit E: The sink. What the fuck. Look at this goddamn thing. I can understand that this place might be going for the "charming" or "antiquated" effect. Fine. But there was a point in time when people realized that they can make their water pour not just hot or cold, independent of each other (as was the case with this ridiculous device). The sinks we have today can make all kinds of water - warm, tepid, cool, you name it.
These devices make our lives much easier, and allow us to wash our hands comfortably, rather than alternating from uncomfortably cold to blisteringly hot.
There's a point at which we need to embrace change for its most basic reason - intelligence. But whoever had the great idea of leaving this stupid sink installed is probably not too big on the whole "intelligence" thing.
If the bar had been open at any point during our visit, I might have had better things to say, because the bar looked like a very cool place to throw some back. Alas...

All in all, a fun way to spend the bulk of the weekend. Congratulations to Mon & John, and thanks to them for giving me something to write about.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

America in 100 Days

Pretty sweet, don't you think? Thanks to Joey's deep Phi Sigma Kappa roots, his good friend and fraternity brother Eric Perinotti (also my friend, as confirmed by Facebook) whipped up this pretty little icon for our trip. Hats off to him for being the man.
The plan for our trip west has evolved considerably since we conceived the idea (which you can read more about here). We've altered our trip route to include a few scenic Florida destinations, including Key West and Pensacola. We've purchased a domain name ( and two years of web hosting, to develop as a medium with which to document every step of this great adventure (and possibly a way to help finance it). And now we've got this logo.
Good start. Still eight and a half months to go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cable News

One thing I look forward to every Christmas (or Jimmy Buffett day, as I prefer to call it) is the 24-hr marathon of "A Christmas Story" on...I'm gonna say TBS. Whatever network it is, the movie plays from like 10 at night on Christmas Eve, for a full 24 hours. As soon as the movie ends, it plays it again. It's one of the most pleasant parts of the holiday, a holiday meant to bring families and loved ones together and so on. A very warm, enriching experience.

Today is not Christmas. Today is 9/11. And right on cue, I turned on the TV this morning to see the all-too-familiar spectacle of the two main towers of the World Trade Center, aflame, spewing billows of black smoke into the Manhattan skyline. Why, might you ask, would that be on TV?
Because MSNBC, the sensitive empathizers that they are, decides every year that just one day of 9/11/2001 wasn't enough. No, and they didn't get enough scared people to listen to them go on and on about it in the months after it happened, either. No sir.
In lieu of actual news coverage this morning, and every 9/11, they replay the tape of their live coverage from the morning of 9/11/2001. They match it up to real time, and press play, and let us all sit here and remember how fucked up that morning was.
Guess what? I'm pretty fucking sure I remember without you assholes making a morning of TV out of it again. Even stupid, shitty Fox News doesn't take it as far as MSNBC. All Fox News is doing is showing video of George W. Bush at memorials to mark the occasion.
What's probably going on is a little case of 9/11 envy. The advent of Fox News came on 9/11/2001, when they realized their purpose: to talk about 9/11 endlessly. Show footage of frightening Muslim radicals, tell people they've got antharax in their mailbox and, eventually, nestle the terror alert snugly next to the time of day and stock ticker.

MSNBC, Fox News and CNN - they're all full of shit, and they all want your attention so they can fill your head with their opinions, and they'll scare the shit out of you if that's what it takes to get you to watch them. Or, on the right day, they'll shamelessly turn a national tragedy into a push for ratings. Whoever came up with that idea deserves a firm kick to the groin.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Drink This Beer: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Going along with my theme of shorter, more frequent blog posts, it makes sense for me to bring to your attention any particular strokes of brilliance in, say, movie-making (such as in my last post) or other regular parts of my lifestyle - such as, in this case, beer.

This is Dogfish Head, a beer brewed out of Rehobeth Beach, Delaware - the least famous of all 50 states, including South Dakota. Dogfish Head is probably best known for their IPA - specifically, their 60-Minute and 90-Minute IPA's, both of which will set the wallet back a pretty penny but make up for it and more on the palate. And for those of you who don't know (including me, until just now when I looked it up on Wikipedia), the 60-Minute and 90-Minute monikers are based on the length of time during which the wort is boiled, and as the time is extended, the hops being added to the wort lend more flavor to the final product. Makes sense.
This batch is one I'd never seen before the other day, when I sauntered into A. Piermani & Sons (my friendly local beer distributor) and saw this delicious, unique box sitting unassumingly on the shelf. It had no price tag, but shit, this is September - and to my knowledge, just about as early as you can hope to find a case of Pumpkin or Octoberfest beer on the shelves. Granted, I had enjoyed a case of delicious Sam Adams Octoberfest the weekend prior. But Sam Adams and a small craft brewery like Dogfish Head are two very different things. After all, Sam Adams is the largest American-owned brewery in the country (with Yuengling a close second).
This was not a cheap case, as I should have guessed by the absence of a price tag on the side. That is not a point that I allow to play into my decision-making process, however, when I shop at Piermani's. I live a fairly frugal life, rarely tossing any money away on buying new electronics, expensive clothes, etc. I have more t-shirts than I'll ever need, most of which are relics from college. But I love beer. And thus far, I've never balked at a beer purchase unless it's unreasonably expensive - as in over $50 or so.
This case came to $46.75. That's almost two dollars a bottle. And handing over my debit card, I remembered the only other time I'd paid that much for beer: about two months ago, when I bought a case of Weyerbacher Merry Monk's, a 9% ABV belgian wheat beer that took me more than three weeks to finish.
This one won't take so long. It's 7% ABV, a deep amber color with a fresh, roasty malt flavor, a reminder of Autumn on the way. It's stronger (smarter) than your average beer, but very well balanced - unlike the far-too-overwhelming flavor of the Merry Monk. It bears a strong resemblance to the Sam Adams Octoberfest, but with a richer flavor and obviously more alcohol.
Only problem is, you're gonna have to be within spitting distance of this small Delaware brewery in order to get your hands on it. If you can, and you've got nearly fifty dollars to spare, don't hesitate for a second.

UPDATE: Just stumbled across a good mainstream guide to the Philly beer scene. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Movie Recommendation -
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Okay. It's been more than two weeks since my last real, solid hunk of time (and inspiration) that would bring me to write a good blog post. I like to get into detail, and I get carried away with writing when I can actually get started. So this will be the first of what should hopefully be many smaller posts in the future, to fill these long, unnecessary voids between thoughts and happenings in my life and Conshohocken.

Today I'd like to tell you about a hilarious movie that I viewed recently, a documentary called "The King of Kong." It follows a long-standing rivalry between a couple of hilarious, and more importantly, real people regarding the all-time high score in arcade Donkey Kong. This movie contains absolutely no third-person narration, only interviews with all the ridiculous characters who take part in this ridiculous story. I call them "characters" and a "story" because they're literally right out of a comic book. Every single person in this movie, save the "challenger" Steve Wiebe, comes off as either a super-eccentric or just a straight-up lunatic. And they're all video game nerds, which makes them even funnier.
Watchable documentaries are few and far between, and even fewer of them are laugh-out-loud hilarious. This one manages a rare notch in both categories. And it's only 90 minutes long or so, which means you can watch it late at night and hopefully stay awake through the whole thing.

That's all for now. I am at work, after all. Look forward to a good post about visitors from New York, coming soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Great Conshohocken Fire of 2008

About 5:15 yesterday afternoon, I was home relaxing on the couch after a brainbusting day at my P.R. company. I had the evening off, and was planning on a drive up to Bensalem for the standard weekly visit to Joey & Sarah's house. My good friend Jon, who works just a stone's throw from my house, had dropped by for a post-workday beverage on his way home, and at 5:15, he was on his way out the door, with me right on his heels.
Jon walks out the door, and fifteen seconds later, pops his head back in saying, "Hey Tom, you see what's going on out back? You got a big fuckin' fire behind your house."

Sure enough, I run outside, and there's a big fuckin' fire behind my house (pictured right). From my vantage point, on 8th Avenue, it looked as though the fire was coming from Hector Street, about four blocks away...and what would be almost exactly the location of my friend Ryan's house, whose name has been mentioned in these pages before
Immediately, I was on the horn calling Ryan to make sure that he was okay, that he was aware of a big fuckin' fire in Conshohocken and whether he could verify whether or not it was emanating from his house.
He answered, said he was fine but was in his car on the way back to his house - was maybe two minutes away, and could see a big fuckin' cloud of smoke coming up from the ground in the general direction of his house, and didn't know if his house was safe or not. He'd call me as soon as he knew.
Immediately, my mind flashed back to senior year at college, when after a post-bar keg party at my friend Kelsey's house, the woodstove caught fire and burned the entire house beyond repair, destroying nearly every singular possession of kelsey, as well as those of his three roommates. It was a terrible situation, but one in which nobody got hurt, and kelsey and his roommates were flooded with donations, both from individuals and from random "fundraisers" (i.e. a keg party with a ten-dollar entry fee, with proceeds going to the four unlucky residents). Quite a situation, one that I'd prefer not to see happen to anyone whom I care about - or don't, for that matter.
Within a moment, Ryan had called me back and told me it wasn't his house, but this was indeed a fuckin' fire and a half. He was safe, everything was fine but the parking from his end. 
It seemed that a fire had broken out at a nearby construction site, where some new riverfront property was being built. The building collapsed, and in doing so it ignited a neighboring building, a condominium complex. This building, as I learned afterwards, was occupied and evacuated very quickly. Unfortunately, given the time of day when this incident occurred, a fair amount of homeowners were in transit from work and were unable to enter their condos upon arrival. And a very sad result of this was that many pets were lost in this fire - how many exactly, I have no idea. 
Beyond that, the fire - an eight-alarm fire - destroyed nearly 200 condos and displaced more than 370 people (according to, a number of whom were at my restaurant later that evening, "...trying to get their lives back together," according to my boss, Chuckie.
But thankfully, no humans were killed, and the last time I heard, the only injury was a minor smoke inhalation. But wow, what a spectacle to have seen in person - let alone on television, which showed a non-stop video feed from an encircling helicopter that looked like hell had spilt over. 

So count your blessings. Nothing I have is permanent, nothing I am is permanent. And in a world in transit, an ever-changing world full of wonder and mayhem, we should all feel fortunate to have all that we do.

I counted mine, over a flawless, home-cooked dinner with people I love.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vacation Weekend, pt. 2

Sorry, sorry. I'm a busy guy. What do you think I do, sit around writing blogs all day?
Anyway, part 2 of my super fun vacation weekend takes us to the 26th and 27th of July, Saturday and Sunday. Remember, this weekend was my summer break from work, in lieu of the otherwise standard trip to Ohio for Gratefulfest that I've ruled out for this year. Hence, I stayed around home and did fun stuff all weekend.

Saturday brought me over to my friend and fraternity brother Mark Armstrong's house, who lives just over the bridge in West Conshohocken. I picked him up along with his younger brother Tom, and Tom's girlfriend, whose name eludes me at this stage in the game. And the four of us, accompanied by melodious tunes from Jerry Garcia's guitar, made the treacherous drive down 76 to Citizens Bank Park for a good ol' Phightin' Phils game. This was an afternoon game, starting at 4:05 against the Atlanta Braves, giving us enough time (but not too much time) to spend preparing ourselves in the K Lot. There, after buying some of the last standing room tickets available (at about 1:15) we met up with a handful of old friends, many from my fraternity at school, Phi Mu Delta, which we got closed down for three years thanks to our unquenchable thirst for sweet, sweet Mama Alcohol.
We drank, ate food courtesy of my big (frat) brother Erik's girlfriend Karen's very friendly parents, played buckets, and drank some more before oozing our way through the gates.
I was looking forward to this game particularly for the fact that Cole Hamels was starting. Hamels was, at the beginning of the year, considered to be the Phils' ace, though nowadays it's looking more and more like Jamie Moyer is...but anyhow, this was the first time I'd be seeing Hamels pitch in person. And unlike at the beginning of most games, my stomach was completely full of hot dogs and a hamburger from the parking lot. So I didn't waste my usual $15 or so on food that, inevitably, comes from the first vendor I see rather than walking all the way to Chickie's & Pete's or something. There are good places to get food in Citizens Bank, but I'm an impatient man, and usually I'll settle for whatever makes me walk the least.
Anyway, we were standing room only, so we got a spot out in left center field, pretty close to Harry the K's, which wasn't so bad thanks to the 'sauce'. The Phils broke out a 3-0 lead after a few innings, but without a whole lot of commotion. It wasn't really the most exhilarating game I'd ever seen, but at least we were winning.
All that changed in the top of the 4th, as Hamels began to fall apart. Baserunner after baserunner got on and came across, and after a gut-wrenchingly long inning, Cole had been pulled and the Phils were down 9-3. It was so bad that a few people we'd come with took off completely, before the game was even halfway through.
Not me, motherfucker. I stayed, and for what turned out to be a really good reason. Once the bottom of the 5th rolled around, the Phils' bats exploded for a 7-run inning capped by a 3-run home run by...shit, Greg Dobbs, maybe? I don't remember, to be honest. But it made for a great scoreboard shot.

Stupid Braves.
Anyway, the Phils won by that same score, and we piled into the car and drove back to Erik's house to continue drinking. And we did, and caught up with people we hadn't seen for a long time, and so on, and so forth. Granted, I'd been drinking all day, but with my health and safety in mind - always following the drink-per-hour rule. Once I started to feel like I might be approaching that .08 level, I hopped into the car and called it a night, bearing in mind that I had to be up relatively early the next day.

To go here. A handful of my coworkers and I showed up at our restaurant bright and early at 10 am, and took a leisurely drive up the Northeast Extension to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown. Only about an hour drive, during which I discussed politics and Socrates with our busboy, Kevin, while his girlfriend sat quietly in the backseat, no doubt bored out of her skull.

When we arrived there were about eight of us or something, and we slowly made our way into the park. This place, let me tell you, this place was a stark reminder of America as a melting pot of cultures and races. Never in recent memory have I seen such a mix of white people, black people, Indian people, Asian people, Hispanic people, everybody but albinos. I didn't see one albino, or for that matter, one Amish person the whole time I was there. Quite an eye-opener, on one level or another. 

Well, we sat down on a ride, and I got prepared to clench my insides and hope for the best. But alas, before the ride took off, the straps popped open and voice came over the loudspeaker saying, "Sorry, we have to shut down the ride for the weather." Sure enough, it had begun raining steadily, to the point that within minutes the clouds were really letting loose, and we retreated into a tacky joint that was trying to be a sports restaurant. The food was pretty terrible and equally overpriced, but very filling, and took long enough for us to wait out the storm and come outside to improving skies.

We hit a few rides, the ones that opened first - a sort of tilt-a-whirl thing, and then the Dominator, which brought us up about 300-400 feet and dropped us into a brief state of weightlessness. Pretty cool, as your stomach isn't full of nachos and cheeseburger. Mine was, which made the ride considerably less fun.

Then came the demon hellride, Voodoo. It's apparently one of their newer roller coasters, this abominable thing shaped kind of like a U with a really long bottom part. We started in the middle, with out legs dangling out beneath us, and after a "3...2...1" countdown over the speaker, we were violently shot backwards at, immediately, no less than 50 mph up one side of the ride. It bent us forward, while still travelling backward, and took us up a good 125 feet in the air so that we could stare helplessly at the ground beneath us before shooting us forward to do the same thing on the other end. Only on the other end, it fucking twisted us around in loops to further add to the nausea. It did this three times, but the last time we got held facing toward the ground, those motherfuckers made it pause for a split second at the top, so that our bodies slumped against our chest coverings and we all really felt like we were going to die. It was a goddamn nightmare. This ride was the kind of thing that someone who enjoys roller coasters would probably love. But fuck you if you're one of those people. I was not amused in any way, shape or form. It reminded me of why I never go to see horror movies: if I'm gonna be paying $10 for a ticket, and $12 for soda and popcorn, and not be able to drink alcohol, then I better be able to have a really good, amusing time, filled with laughs and enjoyment aplenty. I have a very stressful life and I don't see the appeal in paying money to enter into a private environment, only to get freaked out and come close to an anxiety attack. Fuck horror movies, and fuck roller coasters. It'd been a long time since my last visit to a theme park, and guess what? I don't enjoy roller coasters on any level, period, and I felt like a real asshole for paying 40 fucking dollars to ride them.

Thankfully, I was with a fun little group of people, all of whom were committed to having a good time. So we kinda seperated into three or four groups, and mine made our way into the water park. This was my kind of park, frought with leisurely attractions like a pool that people floated along underneath waterfalls and stuff. This part was doubtlessly more fun, but the lines were brutally long, and I couldn't escape the feeling that I was swimming in half super-chlorinated water, half child urine.

And at 5:00, I jumped into my car and drove home to call it a weekend. Definately a nice three days off, and since then I've been right back into the fray, working like a bee to save up money so that Joey and Sarah and I can make up for the fact that this year, I just don't get to have a vacation. Next year, however, will be very, very different.