Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Weekend: New England Style

Jon and I are in Boston, Mass right now. In the past 24 hours we have also been inside of Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

You'll hear all about it once we fully regain consciousness.

But rest assured....we're doin' great, buddies!

Friday, August 29, 2008

New York City Has Many Faces

New York City is a wonderful, amazing, and terrifying place. Every time, I visit...I realize just how crazy awesome it is...and how much I could never ever live there for any extended period of time.

Now that doesn't mean that I don't have a good time when I'm there. It just means that I know deep down in my heart of hearts that if I lived there for more than three months...I would end up wandering through Central Park in nothing but camouflage shorts and a tiara, muttering to myself that Carrie Bradshaw was "full of caca."

However, this gayrageous over-exaggeration doesn't mean that I didn't have a great time in NYC for the past two days. Thanks to Aaron and Anne, this portion of East Infection 2008 was filled with plenty of NewYorkJoy.

We had Tapas and Sangria at "1492" on the Lower East Side...

...including Chorizo and Cheese Chupa Chups (a.k.a.: meat & cheese deep fried lollipops)!

We found a place that sold Tastykake Kandy Kakes at 1 in the morning!

And despite what this picture may indicate, we had a great time checking out the NYC nightlife! (Seriously. On more than one occasion, I said to Jeff: "Why don't I hate it here?")

However, things took a turn for the worse on Wednesday afternoon.

It had nothing to do with Anne, Aaron, or even New York City. It was the moment when I relinquished my navigation duties to Jeff.

Jeff wanted to surprise me with a mystery place for lunch. He explained that it was only a mile away from Aaron's place. He even Google Mapped it out to plan out our walking route.

Jeff insisted on keeping the actual location a secret, so I went along with the bit. All I knew was that the mystery location was located around 7th Avenue and Christopher.

We walked.

And walked.

And walked some more.

We kept looking for our turn onto Christopher Street off of 6th Avenue. But we just couldn't seem to find it.

About fifty minutes into the walk, I asked Jeff if he thought we missed it. He explained that the "numbers were going up" so we were on the right track.

As it turns out, we weren't.

I blame myself for not pointing out twenty minutes in that we clearly had gone more than a mile. But we were still somewhat out of it from the night before. We hadn't even taken a shower yet. And we hadn't eaten anything all day but a mini-breakfast at Au Bon Pain. Neither one of us were really in the best place to navigate anything.

Once we became certifiably lost (somewhere in the Tribeca neighborhood), we finally asked a cop for directions. He explained that we were a half hour walk away and we should probably take a cab. It was rush hour by this point, so a cab was useless. Instead, the two of us managed to hop on the proper subway train and twenty minutes later...we were there.

"There" turned out to the establishment know as the "world famous Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant and Bar of Greenwich Village."

For those that aren't "in the know," the world famous Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant and Bar of Greenwich Village is a themed established that is supposed to be like a haunted restaurant form. Instead, it's the place where one frustrated actor tortures tourists with the "hilarious" bits involving talking animatronic wall decorations (mummies, mad scientists, etc.).

When we arrived...sweaty, smelly, and ever so slightly cranky...the animatronic werewolf head was heckling a family from Atlantic City. They were heckling the werewolf right back.

Did I mention the Werewolf spoke with a heavy lisp?


I'm sure if the two of us hadn't gotten all turned around in the supposedly easy to get around city, we would have enjoyed the "show." Instead, it felt more painful than that time we sat through "Happy Days : the Musical," starring Joey McEntire as the Fonz...the night before Carjoy.

Things went from bad to worse when the mummy (and that stupid family from Atlantic City) started giving us shit for being from Los Angeles.

It was at that moment that the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant And Bar became Jeff's "Beck Motor Lodge"/"Someone Pooped In It" incident.

* * *

Despite the Jekyll and Hyde disaster of 2008 and my weird paranoid gay homeless nightmare, I really do enjoy all that NYC has to offer.

Especially, when it provides me with the inspiration and the requisite props to take the following photo at 7:45 in the morning...

Seriously. That place is magical.

Watch Your Privates!

We went to New York City on Wednesday after having breakfast in Cape May, NJ... the Rainbow Palace Diner.

Sundae, Monday, Happy Days!

After leaving Bookie to die in gross Jersey, Jon and I arrived in New York where a very excited Aaron...
...graciously let us stay at his place. Aaron's friend Jimmy joined us and the four of us went to dinner at and Italian place called Frank's:

The restaurant was pretty tiny--so tiny, in fact, that we had to share a table with three strangers who were already seated and eating. And by 'table' I mean 'ancient desk with wooden legs, a metal top, and some drawers.'

The guy at the end of the table was very tall and looked somewhat familiar. With him was a distinguished looking gray-haired gentleman and a red-headed woman who I could tell would be trouble the second I laid eyes on her.

We ordered some wine and Aaron, Jon, Jimmy and I were all catching up when Red interjects: "Excuse me, what do you guys do? You look like you work in computers.”

What? Why? Because one of us was wearing glasses? I'm not really sure what she was trying to do, but she certainly managed to capture our attention. We explained that none of us, in fact, work in computers. Once she heard that some of us might work in Reality TV, her ears perked up.

I asked what she did for a living and she explained that she is the tall man’s assistant, and mentioned that we likely didn't know who he was, since he was "before our time." She continued to talk at such a breakneck pace, we couldn’t actually ask any questions in order to figure out who the tall man was.

Soon, they paid their bill and headed on out. As her gray-haired companion stood up, trying to squeeze his way out from the table, Barbara shouted to him, "Watch your privates!” The man turned red, escaped with his privates largely unharmed (mostly because they shriveled at the sound of her voice, I'm sure) and all three exited.

As we discussed who the tall man might have been, the red-headed woman returned to ask us for some business cards. Sadly, I have none, but Jon was able to accommodate her. Through this interaction, we learn that her name is Barbara, and that the tall man is famed doo-wop artist Kenny Vance...

...whose name we did not recognize.

After Barbara left, we marveled at the fact that she returned to fill in the blanks for us, and at least give us a starting point to figure out exactly who he is.

We were even more shocked when, almost ten full minutes later, she came back again to hand us an article featured in the current issue of Elmore Magazine, which provides all the details you need to know about Kenny Vance. (His band, Jay & The Americans, opened for both the Beatles and The Rolling Stones in each bands' first performances in the US)

Sadly, even after learning about all of Kenny Vance's accomplishments during his fifty years in music... all I will ever be able to think of is his assistant screaming "Watch Your Privates!' This is why New York City is great. The people here are just amazing.

After dinner, Aaron took us on a walking tour of some of New York's gayest bars and clubs ever. I'll spare you most of the gory details. . .

. . .but we definitely saw some very interesting characters (though none quite as colorful as Private-Watcher Barbara.)

For instance, there was the guy who donned cammo shorts and this t-shirt:
He was alone.

Then there was the guy in his early 70's who was walking into the bar who was walking into the bar as we were leaving. The gentleman was using a cane and had on a smartly pressed button-down blue shirt... to which this button was affixed:
He, too, had no companion.

Then there was the run-in with the police, as Aaron and Jimmy tried to jump a fence...

Watch your privates, Jimmy! order to sit on this plastic cow:

Mooove Away from the Cow.

The cop sirened us, but didn't bother to get out of his cruiser as we scampered away.

Our final night in New York was spent with Aaron at Splash, where this pretty cute guy stopped me to chat. I thought "My lord, it is so easy to meet guys on the east coast!" Then, as he began to speak, I realized his breath smelled as though he had spent the better part of the day licking the railings in the subway. I had to ask him to reintroduce himself, because I was too busy gagging to hear his name the first time.

"My name is Doug," he replied. "It's like God, backwards. With a little bit of 'u' in it."

Needless to say, Doug would not be watching my privates.

We'll tell you later...

Nobody said being on a road trip was easy...

....some nights are rougher than others.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day Three : North Cape May, NJ to New York City, NY

Mile 109.4 - And we're off! Bye Precious Memories!

Mile 110.5 - Disaster as the NeverLost almost leads us astray. Again.

Mile 118.4 - We have to avoid a girl texting and driving on the NJ Parkway. At 65 mph. We may perish.

Mile 130.1 - We use the Hertz car's built in EZ Pass. It lives up to it's name.

Mile 135.3 - Jeff starts applying cream to his "east infection" (a.k.a.: his mosquito bites). Jon remains east infection free.

Mile 147.9 - Last chance for Atlantic City!

We don't stop.

Mile 152.5 - First Rest Stop of the Trip. Nothing interesting happens here.

Mile 187.7 - We pass an exit for "Berkley."

Jon wants to know where Elizabeth is.

Mile 207.5 - East Infection 2008 cools off with a fall of rain. It can hardly hurt us now.

Mile 213.4 - Bradley Beach!

Where's Keith?

Mile 218.2 - Jeff declares that it finally smells like Jersey. Jon thinks it finally smells a little grody.

Mile 247.8 - We find Elizabeth!

Mile 253.6 - Confused at the Newark Airport. Ofcourseweare.

Mile 254.6 - We're saying goodbye to the Impala and the NeverLost at the Newark Airport!

I'm sure it's all verySad.

Mile "Who The Hell Knows" -- We're in NYC! At Aaron's!



I Went To Wildwood And All I Got Was This Awesome T-Shirt

Despite the fact that I grew up only a Ferry ride away, I have never actually set foot in New Jersey (beyond the occasional rest stop on the way to NYC and beyond).

OK, that's a b-lie. I'd been there once. It was in Camden. It was for Lollapalooza, the year of Pavement and Cyprus Hill. So I don't feel like that counts.

What I'm trying to say is that when Jeff, Bookie, and I made our way onto the Boardwalk in Wildwood, I had no idea what to expect...beyond what I'd read and seen on my favorite blog of all time, FourFour. Jeff and Bookie were hyping it up so much that I was expecting to see greatness. I wasn't disappointed.

On our way there, we passed by the following sign...

...clearly someone was trying to tell us something. And so, we attempted to call the number to find out who would pick up.

It only took us five minutes to realize that it wasn't a real number (Hi...P-R-A-Y-E-R only equals six digits).

After an extended moment in Jeff's former place of employment (the arcade/casino known as Gateway 26), we ventured out onto "America's Boardwalk" to enjoy the sights.

America's Boardwalk is apparently full of pregnant and scared women.

America's Boardwalk is also full of hidden political discourse.


America's Boardwalk doesn't care about the disabled.

Cheese Whiz on Pizza

America's Boardwalk is full of Cheese Whiz.

America's Boardwalk doesn't care for foreigners.


Girls love America's Boardwalk.

And last, but certainly not least...

...America's Boardwalk wants you to WATCH THE TRAM CAR PLEASE.

* * *

As we were wandering down America's Boardwalk, I was struck with a bit of inspiration. To memorialize this part of the road trip, we needed to get commemorative, custom air-brushed "East Infection 2008" t-shirts.

We wandered in and out of multiple T-Shirt shops, but all of the airbrushers appeared to have gone home for the night.

All except for Captain Airbrush.

On our way in

We walked into the store just as Captain Airbrush was airbrushing a giant wave on a giant T-shirt. I was sold on Captain Airbrush as soon as I saw his hair. It consisted of at least four to five bright pastel colors. All various shades of pink, purple, and yellow. Clearly, the Captain was our man.

Once he finished his work on the wave, Captain Airbrush approached us and then patiently waited as we figured out the perfect layout for the perfect T-shirt. We settled on a cartoon jalopy surrounded by the words - "East Infection 2008." We told Captain Airbrush our plan and he barely raised an eyebrow. He looked off into the distance for a moment, as if he was lost deep in thought. When he finally returned to earth, he informed us that the shirts would cost us forty dollars and that we could pick them up tomorrow anytime after 4 pm.

Jeff explained that we had to leave town by one pm and that we needed the T-shirts tonight. Captain Airbrush explained that if we wanted the shirts tonight, we had to simplify our design. So much to Jeff's chagrin, we cut out the cartoon jalopy. Suddenly the price was now 25 dollars a shirt. And more importantly, our shirts would be ready in an hour.

We left Captain Airbrush to work his magic, buttwenty minutes later...we found ourselves drawn back in...just so we could watch the master at work.


It was all quite mesmerizing.

Once he finalized the t-shirts in some sort of giant press, Captain Airbrush packed up his latest pieces of artwork and handed them over to us. He explained that as long as we followed his instructions (wash in cold water only, air dry only)...these shirts would last forever.

So fifty years from now, when Jeff and I can barely remember the Cheese Whiz pizza, the political paintball setup, and the scared pregnant girls that populate America's Boardwalk...

...we'll still have Captain Airbrush.

A Shore Thing

First of all--Jon and I are in NYC right now: The City that Never Sleeps! Unless you're us, in which case you sleep till noon. We're a little bit behind on blogging, which I hope isn't as confusing to you as it is to us.

A sample conversation:

Jeff: "When was Wildwood? Was that yesterday?"

Jon: "No. That was on Day Two. This is Day Four."

Jeff: "When was Day Three?"

Jon: "I think it was Yesterday."

Jeff: "All day?"

The problem is, we're a day behind on the blog and suddenly it's more complicated than the LOST timeline.

To catch you up, I'll start with Cape May, NJ, where, as Jon mentioned in his post, my parents have a vacation home. Every weekend throughout my youth, my parents would take the two hour trip from Philly to The Shore to hang out in Cape May--and they would drag my bony ass with them since I was only eight or nine years old & my brothers and sister were all deviants who weren't to be trusted with their precious baby brother. (Hi, Donna poured Orange Juice into my cereal because we were out of milk. Not. Very. Maternal.)

Just before she tried to kill me.

Bookie joined us for this Shore Excursion. I think his favorite part was going to the supermarket. Ofcourseitwas:
It's Pronounced "Ack-A-Me"

Afterwards, we went to dinner at the Lobster House...
...which, as you can see, is very fancy with a very strict dress code:

We met up with my nephew Jimmy and his 18 year-old girlfriend Chelsea who is, as she puts it, "really robbing the cradle" by dating my 17 year-old nephew.

Of course, no matter how young they are, they are both still way more mature than any of us:


Afterwards, Bookie & I took Jon out for a genuine Wildwood Adventure.

You see, if you grew up in Philly, when your parents told you that you were going To The Shore, it was pretty much the best thing that could ever happen to anyone ever... and we went there every single summer for as long as I can remember. shirt says "Jeffrey Italian Stallion" on it.
And Yes, I'm also playing with my bubble-vac. OfcourseIam.

Wildwood is nestled along the Jersey Coastline, with a two-mile long boardwalk full of rides...

Closed Ferris Wheel!
Grab That Dough!

...and food you don't need, but desperately want to have in your mouth...
Technically not on the boardwalk...but still.
...well, maybe.

Because of the vacation house, I spent a lot of my youth (and a lot of my change) in and around Wildwood... in particular, at one of those arcades that gives you coupons when you play their games, enabling you to get cheap-ass merchandise that would cost you a tenth of what you paid to win it if you went to a store to get it. I spent so much time at this place, they eventually just gave me a job:

I worked at Gateway 26 on weekends throughout most of high school and all summer long while school was out, so it was weird to go in there and see that it tripled in size, yet still remained pretty much the same.

While I was in there, I approached the owner who, as it turns out, is in the process of selling the business to an old co-worker of mine--both of whom remembered me from when I worked there over fifteen years ago. (Although the owner did ask me if I ever became a chef, which means he confused me with this super-annoying guy who once hit his head on the fans above the Skee Ball machines. That ruled.)

As we caught up on old times, another co-worker who is still there came by and said hello. He mentioned that Weird Al was playing at the Wildwood Convention Center not too long ago, and they all wondered if I would be there, because, somehow, when they think of Weird Al, they think of me. None of them seemed surprised when I told them that I now occasionally work for Al... just like I wasn't really surprised to learn that these people were still around the arcade fifteen years later.

We played some games...
... and got some of the aforementioned lame prizes...

Pig Bandanna, anyone?

Jon with East Infection's Biggest Fan.

...and then ate some genuine Wildwood soft-serve at the Kohr Brothers ice cream stand located just outside of Gateway 26...

...complete with Rainbow Jimmies:

So, basically, that night encapsulated everything I did with my high school summers. Arcades, Ice Cream and Deviant Friends:

Is it weird that we're at our happiest when we have food and/or when we're mad?

And that's what Wildwood is all about. Oh no wait... Wildwood is actually about the rides. But they were closed. Oh well... There's always Road Trip 2009...