Monday, April 14, 2014

Hot Florida Action

Earlier this month I took a weeklong driving tour of the Sunshine State. As I’ve done each year over the last decade, this trip was again motivated by my desire to see major-league ballgames in as many different stadiums as possible. Florida's two -- the Rays’ Tropicana Field and the Marlins' Marlins Park -- are the only ones that remain (not counting a 2009 Wrigley rainout). And, with this new season’s opening weeks overlapping with the final weeks of the NHL’s regular season (along with Florida's not-yet-brutal spring weather), this was the ideal time to go.

Tuesday April 1

On April Fool’s afternoon I touched down in Orlando and picked up my rental car, embarking on my counter-clockwise spin around the state. I first poked around downtown Orlando a bit and then headed over to the Citrus Bowl, where I was surprised to find some serious remodeling underway -- the lower bowl is completely gone, while the upper decks are being preserved (see above -- has this ever been done before?). Afterwards I drove past the bananas-looking Holy Land Experience (I’m an unabashed TBN fan, but there wasn't time to go inside) to the Best Western. Following a constitutional through Downtown Disney, I called it a night.

Wednesday April 2

My first full day started with monorail rides around Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom, and through the Contemporary Resort hotel. As a kid I was fascinated by my 1973 edition of The Art of Walt Disney, particularly its photo of the monorail passing through the hotel's lobby -- above is my re-creation. Really, the monorail is the only thing I was particularly interested in seeing in Orlando -- I actually once did a monorail zine (scroll to the bottom of that link), so I was excited to finally experience it firsthand. And I was delighted that it was free, ‘cause I didn’t wanna pay the crazy admission fees to any of the Disney theme parks. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like a creepy weirdo -- a middle-aged man visiting Disney World alone, riding the monorail around in circles...

Anyway, I got my kids a Goofy doll, though their favorite toy at the moment we call Duck Duck. So it was an amusing coincidence that I came across Duck Duck Express as I arrived in Tampa that afternoon...

Lunch was a deep-fried alligator tail sandwich at Skipper's Smokehouse, a combination restaurant/caterer/music venue/talent agency. The little fried gator chunks satisfied my hunger for offbeat local cuisine, tho' it was nuthin' special... Next stop was Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees' spring training home, which I found bigger and nicer than most Triple-A minor-league parks I’ve seen. (I snapped a photo of some Ichiro jerseys for my other blog.) From there I drove past Raymond James Stadium (home of the NFL’s Buccaneers) and through historic Ybor City before crossing Tampa Bay into St. Petersburg. I’m not the gambling type, but I put $5 down on Flying Thor to win the 14th race at the Derby Lane dog track. Both of us lost.

After checking in at the Ponce de Leon, I met my old Portland pal Jay outside Tropicana Field, where we attended that evening’s Tampa Bay Rays/Toronto Blue Jays game. No, Jay didn't root for the Jays, as he's fairly indifferent about sports in general. He was far more impressed by the rays petting tank, which I enjoyed as well -- they’re slimy! As for the domed, fake-grass "field," well, it wasn’t that horrible, certainly better than the ghastly Kingdome I grew up with. For the record, the Jays won, 3-0.

Thursday April 3

After morning stroll around downtown St. Pete and along its pier, I drove across town to the church that looks like a chicken. I saw it on some blog somewhere like a year ago, and made a note to check it out. Sure enough...

I headed south across the beautiful Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Bradenton (where I was unable to finish a fantastic, big-ass pork sandwich at Jose's Real Cuban), then further south to Sarasota to meet up with Jay again, along with his gf Laura. They took me to their favorite local dive, then we carpooled back up to Tampa for a Lightning/Flames game. Jay dug the hockey more than the baseball, probably 'cause of the cool tesla coil that they fire up whenever the home team scores (it happened just once that night). For the record, the Flames won, 4-1.

Friday April 4

We discussed a longish drive north to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids, but decided it was too far away. Instead, Jay and Laura took me to Siesta Key Beach. It claims to be the best beach in America because its cool white sand doesn’t scorch bare feet. (In fact, it was rated #1 by Dr. Beach in 2011!) Lunch follwed at Marina Jack, a waterfront restaurant where I had the grouper sandwich (good call, Jay!). After saying our goodbyes, I hit the road for the four-hour trek through Alligator Alley to Miami. I made my way to my hotel, situated in an industrial area on the Miami River between the airport and a jai-alai arena -- more on that later. For the record, there were no sports balls games tonight.

Saturday April 5

I wheeled through Little Havana to Marine Stadium (above), a rad-looking grandstand once used for viewing water sports. As it's now abandoned and crumbling, I had to sneak through a hole in a chain-link fence to get inside. The place smelled like piss and trash and decomposing flesh, partly due to a giant dead seabird rotting in the seats. Along with the garbage and broken glass, it was plastered with graffiti, some of which was being applied during my visit. Sadly, I couldn't see the entire amazing structure from a distance, ‘cause it’s surrounded by overgrown foliage and water. Still, the vandalism was unexpectedly impressive...

Then I hit Miami Beach, where all kinds of folks were hanging out, frolicking in the waves, getting tans/burns/cancer/etc. I’m not big on beaches, but I enjoyed wading through the surf.

Later I used Decobike (pretty much the same smart bike-rental system I’ve used in Minneapolis, Washington and Toronto) to pedal north to the historic Fontainebleau Hotel (as seen in Goldfinger and Scarface) and back down to the southern end of the beach, checking out the cool art-deco buildings all along. The best meal I had on the trip was at the iconic Joe's Stone Crab – their signature item was far too expensive, so I settled for a crab roll and key lime pie -- dee-lish.

That evening I visited Marlins Park for a game against the Padres. It's the newest MLB stadium, and the final one of 30 current ballparks that I’ve now visited. The venue is huge, ultra-modern, and frankly, a little sterile. The big tropical fish tank behind home plate looks cool, but unfortunately it's only accessible to that section's ticket holders. For the record, the Marlins won, 5-0.

Sunday April 6

I had a little extra time this morning before stuff opened, so I took an unscheduled trip on the Metromover. It’s a free shuttle, whose rubber-tired cars run on a short, narrow circuit a few stories above downtown Miami. Then I made it back to Casino Miami Jai Alai for the matinee program. What I imagine was once a classy gambling palace in the ‘60s now seemed kinda run-down and seedy. The actual sport is something I’d always been curious about, and it comes up on about every fifth crossword I do. So I read up on the sport on my phone while the action played in front of me -- it seems somewhat like raquetball, only with a far bigger court, helmets, and no fourth wall. If Seattle had jai-alai, I'd become a fan.

After an hour I headed north, past Sun Life Stadium (home of the NFL's Dolphins), to Sunrise, home of the NHL's Panthers. It seems insane to have a major-league hockey in subtropical suburbia, just a slap shot away from the vast Everglades swamp. But hockey is cool anywhere, and this game (vs. Dallas) brought my hockey-arena count to seven. (I have no immediate plans to hit all 30 NHL arenas, but it’s as good an excuse to travel as any.) For the record, the Panthers won, 3-2.

Monday April 7

First I drove into the Everglades to the Sawgrass Recreation Park, where noisy airboats zip tourists around to gawk at alligators. Sadly, none were spotted on my half-hour ride, but as a consolation prize, they have some gators in captivity in their little zoo. (That's where I photographed the totem pole detail at the top of this post.) They even let you hold baby gators, which I would’ve loved, but time was tight and I had to scoot...

Then I had a gyro lunch at Bigfoot outside Fort Lauderdale, though the only reason for this stop was getting a picture for my Bigfoot is Real page...

The gyro fortified me for the three-hour drive up to Kennedy Space Center, where I saw the Space Shuttle Atlantis, along with a bunch of cool-looking rockets in the "rocket garden." I tried my best to replicate the cover photo of Cats and Dogs, my favorite Royal Trux album. A few steps to my right (plus a fisheye lens) would've nailed it.

Finally, it was back to the Orlando airport and a bumpy flight home, taking with me blistered feet and a sunburn as souvenirs.

Florida isn’t as fucked up as you’d think, but I was only there for one week – Jay thinks all that sun makes people there insane. Still, I saw some obnoxious truck accessories, like Ben-Hur chariot spikes and Confederate flags. On the other hand, I didn't see any flamingoes, manatees, or cocaine.

Whatever. It'll all be underwater in a few decades.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another Scenic Drive Sign!

It's been over seven years since my last post on Seattle's Scenic Drives, 'cause I thought I was done with the topic. But in the past week I happened to come across another sign that I somehow overlooked way back when. It's on the east side of California Ave SW, just north of SW Admiral Way, facing south.

Perhaps I'll do a 2014 update to see which Scenic Drive signs I know of are still out there.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

We Hardly Knew Ye: Scott Asheton

Dead at 64.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Hardly Knew Ye: Harold Ramis

The cowriter of Animal House (1978), the director and cowriter of Caddyshack (1980), and the director and uncredited cowriter of Vacation (1983) is dead at 69.

Those were three of my favorite movies growing up, and they still are.

Lesser faves he directed and/or (co)wrote and/or acted in include Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), Ghostbusters (1984), Back to School (1986), Groundhog Day (1993), and the underrated Stuart Saves His Family (1995).

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We Hardly Knew Ye: Bob Casale

Devo co-founder dead at 61.

That's him on the blue guitar.

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

I Can't Quit You, Quatchi! #5

Hard to believe it's been four years since Eliza and I began Quatchi Watch, our blog celebrating the cool Sasquatch mascot created by Meomi for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. (Quatchi's co-mascots Miga, Sumi and Mukmuk made guest appearances too.) And it's been well over two years since I've had any Quatchi news on my personal blog. So, with the 2014 Winter Olympics now in full swing, it's high time for another Quatchi update...

Our biggest Quatchi scoop came from poking around the Museum of Vancouver's searchable online database -- he was originally named Zooni (!?!), he had no feet, and his brown, ovoid nose was instead represented by a pair of tiny nostrils, as seen up above... Below, Zooni sports eyebrows as well, something Quatchi never had...

This next one shows how Mukmuk (not Miga) seemed to be Zooni's original partner in crime...

As for the Quatchi we've come to know and love, here's a blurry color guide...

Going back even earlier is this preliminary Zooni/Quatchi sketch...

Typing "Quatchi" into the Museum of Vancouver database search returns 211 results, a big chunk of which are collectible pins. Says the MOV: "We have become well versed in the surprisingly elaborate backstories of Quatchi, Miga, Sumi, and Mukmuk. This is in addition to charting their evolution from simple line drawings to 3D renderings to officially licensed Olympic merchandise and full-sized costumes." I found these two...

The detailed physical descriptions in those costume links are particularly interesting -- I'd love to see a Quatchi "Bound Costume Performance Manual"... The larger-than-life-sized mascots also wore this hockey jersey (follow the link to see the accompanying goalie stick and pads)...

One of the Quatchi costumes, as well as those of Miga and Sumi, were on loan to Vancouver's BC Sports Hall of Fame when I visited in February 2012. Here we all are...

Elsewhere in the Quatchi-verse, the handful of other Quatchi-related sites and blogs have mostly petered out, save for QuatchWatch, where Sammers and her fuzzy companions continue to travel everywhere, bake up a storm, and explore their Toronto home, like at this David Bowie art exhibit...

Quatchi also still appears in regular comic-strip form on the Homeless Quatchi Project, a site that raises awareness about Vancouver's homelessness problem. For whatever reason he's blue instead of brown, maybe because he's cold. Here's a sample...

And a cool .gif...

On TV, our favorite masquatch (to coin a portmanteau) was mentioned in an $800 answer on the November 9, 2011 episode of Jeopardy!... Spoiler alert! The contestant got the correct question -- see for yourself at the 6:37 mark in this video...

Check out this faux horror-movie trailer for Quatchi and the Ghost, featuring a killer homemade costume...

And here's a very short computer animation of Quatchi moseying along...

The most expensive Quatchi item currently on eBay is this four-foot fiberglass figure, listed at $19,999 (plus $799.99 shipping)...

That's about it for now. For those catching up, here are my previous Quatchi updates, from February 12, 2011, February 28, 2011, June 6, 2011, and November 27, 2011, as well as everything on my blog with a Quatchi tag. As usual, there's always more Quatchi stuff to be found on flickr, Pinterest, Pingram, Tumblr, YouTube and so forth. Finally, there's this Facebook page called Long Live Quatchi, which pretty much says it all.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

Cool Seahawks Shit Update: Super Bowl Champs!



Sunday, February 02, 2014

Cool Seahawks Shit

In honor of the Seahawks playing in today's Super Bowl, here's an assortment of memorabilia, memories, and other stuff dating back to their inaugural season, 1976, when I was seven. In many of my childhood photos I'm wearing Seahawks-branded jackets, sweatshirts, a beanie and a polo shirt. I also had a brass Seahawks belt buckle and a Steve Largent jersey, and probably some other things that I don't recall. I do recall having some other non-clothing items, like Seahawks drinking glasses from McDonald's (they all eventually broke) and a Seahawks gumball helmet (whereabouts unknown), and I still have my original 1976 pennant, though it's yellowed with age. That's it in above photo, along with most of my other Seahawks collection. I took that picture in 2006, the only other time Seattle made the Super Bowl.

The origin of the Seahawks logo was recently explored in this cool Burke Museum blog post; it includes the above graphic, which I distinctly remember seeing in the newspaper way back when.
Below is what the maiden '76 Topps Seahawks football cards looked like...

In March 1977, I saw Ron Howard (not Richie Cunningham, but the guy above) and some other Seahawks play a charity basketball game against the varsity squad at Kent-Meridian, where ten years later I'd graduate high school. That's me in my Seahawks windbreaker, having just gotten Steve Largent's autograph and zeroing in on the next guy...

As if one Largent autograph wasn't enough, I also sent the future Hall-of-Famer some fan mail, and got this in return...

Largent used to be my favorite Seahawk, before he went into politics to push his doucheball agenda. I never really adopted a new favorite Seahawk.
Here's a Polaroid of me with an unnamed Seagal cheerleader at the Seatac Mall Jafco, circa 1978. It was some promotional thing...

Also leading cheers was the first (and best) Seahawks mascot, who disappeared not long after his 1979 debut...

All along I've collected these Seahawks pocket schedules, my favorite being the '79 sked featuring original quarterback Jim Zorn...

The southpaw once made a personal appearance at my elementary school, driving up in his silver, Seahawk logo-adorned Datsun 280Z. Alas, he visited some classroom other than mine.
I don't own any of these media guides; I just found the images online and posted 'em to Flickr...

Also on Flickr is my set of Seattle athletes on the cover of Sports Illustrated; the first Seahawk wasn't so featured until Shaun Alexander's appearance in 2005...

This is my favorite Seahawks souvenir of the '80s, a perfect-bound book with lots of color photos...

Back when the Hawks made it to the Super Bowl in 2006, I wrote a blog post about the then-current Seahawks novelty songs. (There's far more such tunes this time around, but I didn't feel inspired to compile them.) Around the same time, we named one of our goldfish after the QB who led the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL: Matt Hasselbeck, 2006-2006. RIP, buddy...

Another thing I wrote was the trollish The 12th Man is Stupid. Sorry, but I still think it's lame that the team retired number 12. Here's part of a 1984 Seattle Times article I dug up at the library explaining the origin of this nonsense...

On a similar note, this recent 12th Man article in The Onion cracked me up...

Every time I see these clowns I think of this.
In anticipation of this year's Super Bowl, I picked up a few impulse souvenirs: a cool Seahawks cap (I quickly took a seam ripper to the dumb New Era logo on its side), a Super Bowl XLVIII program (found yesterday at Costco), and from Bartell, a Russell Wilson Lego-type guy...

Over the last couple weeks I've been working on this sweet 1980 latch hook kit I scored on eBay -- here's how it turned out, alongside the original box art...

All this Hawk talk got me to thinking about the actual games I've attended. They've gone 8-1 with me in the stands, either at the Kingdome (the first seven games listed below) or at their current stadium (the last two). Here are the results...
November 7, 1976 – Beat Atlanta, 30-13
October 2, 1977 – Lost to Denver, 24-12
November 18, 1979 – Beat New Orleans, 38-24
November 16, 1981 – Beat San Diego, 44-23
November 27, 1983 – Beat Kansas City, 51-48
September 9, 1984 – Beat San Diego, 31-17
December 2, 1984 – Beat Detroit 38-17
October 31, 2004 – Beat Carolina, 23-17
September 24, 2012 – Beat Green Bay, 14-12
Alright, that's it. Hopefully by the end of today, the Seahawks will have secured Seattle's first major pro sports championship since the Sonics won the NBA title 35 years ago. I have nothing left to say, except "Go Hawks!"


We Hardly Knew Ye: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Dead at 46.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Favorite Pop Culture of 2013!

Of the 32 movies I watched this year, only six were 2013 releases: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Don Jon, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa, This Is the End, Sound City and Star Trek Into Darkness. The Big Star documentary was great; the others ranged from pretty good to meh... I still wanna see Anchorman 2, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, The Punk Singer and some others... As for older movies, I rediscovered Blade Runner, and watched its myriad versions multiple times.

Bob's Burgers became a new favorite. I plowed through all five seasons of Parks and Recreation in a few weeks, and kept current with the latest seasons of Louie and Mad Men. I watched Breaking Bad all the way up through its finale, and while I saw some of the final-season episodes of Eastbound & Down, I haven't yet caught the end. I still watch Saturday Night Live fairly religiously, as I have for the last 25-odd years, mostly out of habit. It's still topical and unpredictable, if not consistently funny.

Rock 'n' Roll
The only 2013 album I regularly played start to finish was David Bowie's The Next Day (unless you count Best Coast's seven-song EP/mini-album thing Fade Away). This led me to revisit all of Bowie's back catalog, which I listened to pretty extensively for much of the year (I played "Station to Station" dozens of times in the car)... Disappointing were new releases by the Pixies, the Strokes, the Replacements and Iggy & the Stooges... However, the 'Mats and the Stooges kicked ass at the Toronto Riot Fest; the only other show I went to this year was a Mudhoney in-store on April Fool's Day... As for older stuff, I sprang for Bob Dylan's 47-disc Complete Album Collection: Vol. One ($197 on Amazon -- that's $4.19 per disc!)... The one album I listened to far more than any other was 1980's Pleasure by Girls at Our Best!. Since I couldn't find the lyrics anyplace, I took a shot at transcribing them here... Other 2013 albums/songs I like:
Camera Obscura -- "Do It Again"
Neko Case -- "Madonna of the Wasps"
Dead Ghosts -- "B.A.D."
Grant Hart -- "Morningstar"
Melvins -- Everybody Loves Sausages, Tres Cabrones
Mudhoney -- Vanishing Point
Thee Oh Sees -- Floating Coffin
Those Darlins -- "Optimist"
Wooden Shjips -- "Ruins"
Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Mosquito

Jeez, did I only read two books this year? Yep. Those would be Bebe Day by Day by Pamela Druckerman and Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat. Both are related to parenting, which makes sense -- in January I became a first-time dad to twin girls (which also explains why I've been even further out of the pop-culture loop this year)... The Replacements: Waxed-Up Hair and Painted Shoes: The Photographic History looks terrific, though I haven't actually read the text yet. Same with Fan Interference, which is also gathering dust on my nightstand.

Didn't read many comics either, other than Peter Bagge's Reset, Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half, and A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown. All good.

For those keeping score, here are my favorites from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006 (movies and music).

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