Game of Thrones

As much as I enjoy that show, I apologize for the misleading title of my first post in quite some time. Wrapped up in those child rearing years, I haven’t been afforded the time to sleep much, let alone formulate some [rational/cohesive/non-incriminating] thoughts, type them and inscribe them in the book of life that is the internet.

In returning to my long-neglected blog, I wanted to make a splash. And so I chose a subject that is near and dear to my heart…and one on which I am a bit of an expert, if you get right down to it. That subject is none other than bathrooms. These idyllic sanctuaries of thought, chambers of solitude in which I escape my yelling children and the stresses of life…blessed houses of the unholy; day and night spas, where we all cleanse ourselves in myriad ways, by purging ourselves of the wretched and putrescent filth within us as well as by rinsing away and sanitizing ourselves from the accumulation of unpleasantness and detritus that clings to our exteriors, and mats itself in our plumage…oddly, these havens have taken center stage in our national political scene, just in time to add another layer of excrement to what is already a giant compost pile of an election cycle.

Ok…I realize the lavatories that have the Bible Belt’s collective panties in a bunch are not the wonderful and relatively clean oases depicted above, but rather the terrifying, rancid, god-awful bowels of society better known as public restrooms, the necessary evils that demonstrate to all of us that we humans truly are still wild animals, barely removed from primates who fling feces at one another; and we continually remind one another of that fact by doing unspeakable things in public facilities, and just leaving it there, in all of its glory for those that follow…one after another until some poor, unfortunate soul paid what I can only imagine is minimum wage, summons their dignity and courage, dons some industrial gloves and heads on in with enough ammonia to kill all living things in a small country.

Not sure public bathrooms have received so much attention since George Michael was arrested…or perhaps that congressional game of footsie. That said, I have had some time to reflect on this hot button issue, and can say that while it is complex, and does not and will never have a clear-cut and satisfying solution for everyone on the planet, I believe I am close enough to an expert on private residence bathrooms (and half baths too) to effectively weigh in and provide my faithful readers some insight into the hysteria that is boiling over in North Carolina and many other areas of our nation where the average constituent believes the earth is younger than my grandmother, evolution is a myth, the second amendment is the single greatest edit to a document in the history of the world, even though said document governs a nation his or her great grandpappy and mee-maw tried to secede from (they still believe their family was right in doing so and that the South will rise again), and no, they are not so fond of Jews, Muslims, Immigrants, Blacks and most other minorities, including homosexuals…certainly not trans-gender people.

Most of the people clamoring for the status quo are the same homophobes and ignoramuses that willingly send their children to church related activities, the Boy Scouts, duck hunts and clan rallies…and even subject them to long and uncomfortable family dinners with their estranged, drunk uncle two-first-names.

But when I say most, I am afraid that is misleading, as I see far too many people who do not fit those redneck characteristics all over social media, and even on my own feeds…people in my network…who believe Caitlin Jenner and her ilk should continue to hike up their skirts at urinals in men’s rooms rather than use the ladies’ rooms where they would be most comfortable.

I GET IT. I understand and empathize with the argument that this law would potentially endanger women and children as it opens the [bathroom] door to perverts, pedophiles, sexual deviants and rapists, who are willing to throw on a skirt and some make-up to gain access to public ladies’ rooms, then thus use this new loophole to prey on their newly vulnerable targets. And frankly, I don’t put it past some sickos in our society to do just that – peeping toms will ogle, perverts will cop feels, pedophiles will endanger our children and perhaps take photos or videos and share them in their disgusting online circles, and rapists…well you get this sordid picture.

But we are not a society who limits or withholds rights from people, no matter the size of that group, because doing so would possibly endanger others. Sure, our history books are littered with examples of the opposite of what I just typed…but that is not the ideal America we seek. Freedom, liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness are FOR ALL in this country, despite what prejudices and fears and built-in hatred and ignorance many in our populace might have…and certainly despite our own history, which is despicable on so many levels.

Furthermore, it is not the trans community that we have to fear. The miscreants and dregs of society many fear will take advantage of this new legislation to perpetrate evil will unfortunately continue to exist, whether these laws are enacted or not. We, as a society, will have to fear them either way. We cannot withhold rights and freedom from some in order to make evil people less able to enact evil. We cannot let the minority who truly don’t matter in our society – the criminals and perpetrators of evil – limit and effect the rights of upstanding citizens in any way…no matter who those upstanding citizens may be and what they may believe.

I see and hear and read a lot of rationalizations by those opposed to this new legislation based on the comparatively small size and therefore insignificance of the trans community. People fail to realize that allowing minorities equal rights, no matter how small a minority may be and no matter how uncomfortable said minority may make you due to your own belief system and narrow mindedness, means that anything you are able to do, buy, experience and enjoy in your life should be available to all…even if it creates discomfort, and yes, even if it might put some in danger from time to time. The trans community has been teased, bullied and tortured since the dawn of man. What they endure within their own psyches is unfathomable. Their entire lives, they deal with not only their own struggles and demons, but the very worst society has to offer. Anything we can do to make things better, easier and more human for the persecuted in our nation and the entire world should always be done. It is up to the rest of us to deal with the ramifications the best we can…for the instances we all fear are few and far between. The persecution and societal exile minorities like the trans community are subjected to are constant…every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

Hypocrisy reigns supreme in our country. People believe only what is in their own personal best interest. We cannot be a nation where the company line includes sentiments like “we can’t stop living our lives and visiting popular places and traveling, etc. because if we do, the terrorists win,” and also deprive our own citizens of rights because it might endanger our wives and daughters. Seriously…how can we allow people to have guns in their homes for protection, when it is clear as day that doing so is extremely dangerous to children who live in that home? How can we allow people to swim or surf in our oceans when some will inevitably be attacked by sharks, or drown? And how can we allow white men to become police officers when we all know some will abuse their power and profile and even kill innocent minorities?

Public restrooms are already awful, scary places. Allowing all people to use the appropriate restroom really doesn’t change that fact. It just makes us a little less of a society of assholes and hypocrites. It makes America better. Girls and women already tend to use the loo in pairs. Men and women bring their small children into public restrooms with them, whether those children are boys or girls. So TEACH your children the importance of vigilance and safety should they ever need to use a public restroom when you or another adult is not with your child. Teach them to always go in at least pairs…especially the girls, but the boys too. (And while you’re at it, teach your children to be more tolerant…the fewer assholes we raise, the better our country will be in the long run). And now even adult women need to be more alert and sensible when using public restrooms. There is always a price for freedom. Not just our own freedom, but our neighbors’ as well. If you haven’t served our great nation in combat, then please ask someone who has (or someone who lost a son, daughter, husband, wife or other loved one on the battlefield) what the true cost of freedom really is…and then thank them.

Tywin DiesSPOILER ALERT for GoT fans late to the party – To come full circle, George R.R. Martin made a humorous nod to his own first book title (which became the HBO series title) by having one of its most competent, strategically gifted and sinister characters meet his untimely demise on the proverbial throne, the can. Because just as with the Iron Throne, the porcelain throne is a place where men and women are quite vulnerable (go ask Elvis, or Lenny Bruce, or Top Gun Producer Don Simpson, or the others on this list). And now, that will be even more true. But this legislation must pass.

Thanks as always for reading.

Two weeks till Memorial Day…

IDROS

 

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Gunning for Changes

Gun Sight

Let me begin by saying, and then reiterating, that I am not seeking legislation that would take everyone’s guns away, or render gun ownership unconstitutional…

I believe guns are here to stay and like it or not (I don’t), they are part of our society.

But I also believe guns play a role in far too many catastrophes in our nation, and that some changes would probably prevent some of the tragedies, the senseless loss of lives, wrought by the mind-numbing, head-scratching proliferation of mass shootings, Darwin Award nominations and unacceptable “accidents.” I write “probably” not because I don’t 100% believe the right changes would make a difference, but because I, for my part, am willing to concede that until my proposal is enacted and given a proper sample size of time to take hold of our society (which has pretty much devolved into the Wild West of Spaghetti Western fame), I honestly don’t know whether things will measurably improve. But if one life is saved per year, changes are warranted. I believe many more will be spared…I am not alone…we have done things “their” way for too long already and have plenty of “ammunition” (pun intended) to push for change…now let’s enact that change, give it some time, and then compare.

Because the gun lobby has become stronger than the BO of a longshoreman after a two day shift, stronger than the active ingredient in SNL’s Colon Blow (Phil Hartman RIP…another tragic victim of a senseless shooting), stronger than Obi Wan threatens Darth Vader he would become should old Ani strike him down, stronger than the Mountain, stronger than a tech stock circa 1999, stronger than death itself (and death, we all know, is undefeated since the dawn of time)…those of us who believe the 2nd Amendment as imagined by the NRA and staunch gun supporters today is a complete fraud, and is interpreted as loosely (and falsely) as that geography textbook that was recently found to have referred to slaves as “workers” need to get creative.

Here is my plan:

You know who gets totally screwed in today’s campus/school shooting every day hum-drum, Groundhog Day if it was directed by Eli Roth world we live in? I mean, besides all of us, especially those of us with children in school who fear every day and night that the horrible story interrupting the crawl on every television, the nightly news story du jour will feature our own children’s institution…because that’s a given, right? RIGHT?

No, I am referring to the teachers, principals, team coaches, school nurses, admins, professors, and other college campus employees who seem to be thrust onto the battlefield daily in the scariest war imaginable by virtue of their profession. I am guessing none of them, even the rent-a-cops and public safety officers at most schools, signed up for this new fine print inserted into their job descriptions. Sure, there is probably a Sergeant Tackleberry type at some schools…a wanna-be hero, an ex-military type trained to kill by our government’s finest, a gun nut or two and a few other vigilantes and loose cannons, but by and large, the majority of those who dedicate their lives to educating and bettering our children are not looking to be charged with protecting our children from mass murderers and terrorists, with performing daily and weekly drills hiding the kids from danger “just in case,” and with potentially being shot and even dying in one of the historically safest professions out there.

Because of this, I propose all of these school employees, public and private, from elementary school all the way up to graduate school, across the USA, go on simultaneous strike. And I propose they continue to do so until changes are made. And I guarantee changes will be made. (Just imagine…)

I am not trying to insert myself into other people’s livelihoods…to force people already grappling with awful fears and potential scenarios unimaginable to most of us…to take up a selfless cause that could have difficult, unacceptable side effects, economic ramifications and even outcomes. But I am trying to get some of the people closest to the current trends, who have everything to lose, who already must struggle with “what ifs” and nightmares regularly because of the increasing prevalence of these tragedies, to help put an end to the madness, or at least to mitigate it…to act…to do something that might…just might reduce the number of these awful crimes from occurring.

The changes we should enact:

All guns must be registered like cars, with VIN numbers. Those who have guns registered already, need to do nothing else for registration purposes.

All guns not currently registered need to become registered (there will be those who do not comply here…primarily criminals).

To buy and register guns, a licensing and testing period must be passed, just like becoming licensed for a car. All gun owners and gun USERS (even if you are just using your dad’s or brother’s gun at the range), must get licensed, and keep their licensure up to date.

Anyone with a registered gun (see above) must become licensed, or the registration is forfeited.

To qualify for a license, there must be age limits (I propose 18), eye sight minimums (like with driving), and mental health examinations. These last two must be re-affirmed every two years for mental health, and six years for eyes.

All guns must be insured, and all licensed people must also be insured.

Gun Shows will be outlawed.

A hefty tax will be placed on ammunition which will pay for all the services and labor required to enact these new requirements – which will be overseen by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

This will be Federal legislation, and apply to all states in the union (sorry Texas…and those who wish they were Texas).

New protocols will be implemented to allow for police and ATF personnel to make sure guns and their owners are in compliance with all of this – including but not limited to having random gun checks, not unlike sobriety checkpoints on the road.

Those caught with unregistered guns, uninsured guns, etc. will be jailed.

And the kicker: To qualify for a license, applicants must have already served two+ years in the US military in some capacity. Those who have not, must enroll. It’s part of the 2nd Amendment (trust me…it is…and all the friggin’ NRA supporters deserve to live the actual words of our Constitution, rather than the falsified Fantasy Land interpretation they forced upon us for the past thirty years). Plus, the training prospective gun owners will receive is vital.

And to all of you psychopaths who think we need to arm our teachers and school personnel:

I just keep getting images in my head of what it is, exactly, that you ignoramuses are calling for…schools filled with teachers and rent-a-cops and principals and sports team coaches, armed to the gills – and by the way…if these unfortunate, underpaid and underappreciated but generally noble people pack heat on their person, how many of them, when push comes to shove, would actually shoot one of their students? How many would/could get overrun by high school/college bullies and miscreants (I had a middle school teacher get beat up by a 7th grade student in front of an entire homeroom class…no joke…and fortunately, no guns). And if these teachers, et al, kept the arsenal locked away, as they should, for safe keeping, then what good would it really do anyway in the instant it was needed? And how many good teachers would be dissuaded from pursuing that career out of fear of having to pack heat and possibly use a gun one day…on one of his or her students? The idea of a veritable weapons bazaar at an institution of learning, at any level, is in fact, the most disturbing and preposterous idea of all I have heard.

I would love to hear some of your ideas…mine might not be the best, but it is something, and I believe it would work.

Thanks for reading.

IDROS

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Fare Thee Well – Seven From The Vault

It has been a full three weeks since I embarked on the emotional rollercoaster weekend of music, friends, community and fun that was Fare Thee Well: Three Shows in Chicago. I finally caught my breath, had time to reflect and find my voice (my external voice, which was spent from exuberance, singing and cheering; and my internal voice, which has been sorting through and processing the full spectrum of emotions and experiences GD50 provided). I have been combing through the attics of my own life since first discovering the band in 1985, reading reviews and articles, re-listening to the shows, juxtaposing those performances with some of my favorites from throughout the ages (thank you Archive.org and Sirius 23), and really trying to wrap my arms around not only last weekend, but my all-encompassing thirty year love affair with the band. (Find a link to my last GD related post here… this post received the honor of Freshly Pressed by Word Press)

I read a while back about the origins of the band name. Jerry sifting through a large tome (Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Legend) at Phil’s house one night, hanging out with the band in their formative years…presumably playing as the Warlocks. He comes across an entry where the two words jumped off the page at him…numbingly black, bordered by gold…just staring him in the face. Grateful Dead. And beside the words began a short parable, a folk story of a hero who came upon a throng of people who were mistreating a corpse…kicking and spitting at the dead body, speaking ill of the man it used to be and refusing to bury him. The hero inquires as to why the throng would desecrate a man’s honor in such a way, and was told the dead man had not paid his debts to the townspeople. Upon hearing this, the hero gives the townspeople every last cent he has as well as all his worldly possessions to ensure a proper burial for the corpse. The townspeople obliged, and the hero was on his way. Later, he comes across a wanderer in his travels who accompanies him on the next leg of his journey. His new traveling companion helps the hero amass a small fortune in short order, and also saves the hero’s life. Later, he reveals to the hero that he was the corpse that the hero had honored.

Or maybe the psychotropic drugs the band was using at the time helped Jerry embellish his memory, and he just really liked the name. Either way, I never let the facts ruin a good story.

But nonetheless, Fare Thee Well certainly honored the life and memory of one of rock music’s greats. And it also honored the entire band, its revolutionary contributions to the music world, its community of fans…and the incredible 50 year journey we all have helped make so memorable.

The number seven (7) played a key role in Fare Thee Well. The musicians on stage numbered seven…and July, the month of all three performances, is the seventh calendar month. The letter G, which begins both the band’s name and its founder’s surname, is the seventh letter in the alphabet. There are seven letters in Chicago, Soldier, Shapiro, Madison and in Bob Weir. Even our mail orders were sent to GDTSTOO. (It’s been hot for seven weeks now, Too hot to even speak now, Did you hear what I just heard?)

In keeping with the number seven Gematria, here are my seven most pressing takeaways from Fare Thee Well:

1) Jerry – Let’s discuss the elephant in the stadium right up front. I like to think that the real reason Bobby and Phil couldn’t keep this thing going TOGETHER after Jerry’s passing is that it was just too hard. He meant so much to all of us as fans, and certainly to the music, but he meant so much more to his brothers…his band mates for thirty years. Hearing Phil’s words before his donor rap Friday night, you could tell what Jerry meant to him. And if you watched The Other One, Bobby’s recently released documentary, you get a clear picture of exactly what Jerry meant to him. Jerry was the straw that stirred the drink. He was the engine, the driving force and de facto leader of the band, who had a magical voice I have described to my wife as what I believe the fabric velvet would sound like if it were audible. The sadness we all felt when Jerry died must have been exponentially more intense for the core four, and for at least some of them, being together and playing the music and living that life together would just bring his memory back…magnify the fact that he was missing and reopen the wounds. It must hurt…and I get it.

BUT…there were moments each night, when the band was in synch and emotions ran high, when I could feel Jerry’s presence right there on stage. It brought tears to my eyes. And the well thought out two-song encore on Sunday…TOG and Attics…well that was almost unfair in its perfection. We will get by…we will survive. Because even when there are no strings to play, he played to all of us. Jerry is eternal through the beautiful musical legacy he left us.Jerry FTW

We, as fans, never had the chance to say a proper goodbye. Maybe the band didn’t have that chance as well. Fare Thee Well provided everyone with a perfect opportunity to bid Jerry farewell, and to celebrate all that his life and legacy have given to us.

Five themes (Music/Dreams/Children/Love/Gratitude) were constant throughout the weekend, within the lyrics of the songs the band played, within the Grateful Dead songbook as a whole (which provided a backdrop to our collective experience in our hotel rooms, in our cars, and all over Shakedown Street), and as abstract or overt messages in the event itself.

2) Music is the unifying force, and is central to why we made the trek to Chicago in the first place…and that is true for the band and the fans. The band’s lyrics are rich with musical references, allegories and imagery. We are all players in the Heart of Gold Band. Our weekend was, in fact, replete with fireworks, calliopes and clowns.

Coming full circle, and opening with BOR, the very song that would be the last played by the band with Jerry in the same venue, was ethereal. This simple but well thought out gesture signified to the throngs that the band understood, and was on our collective wavelength. It demonstrated the band’s commitment to its fans and the history of the Grateful Dead and to Jerry to, for the next three days, create a bridge back in time twenty years and deliver a proper farewell…one none of us ever truly experienced…and a true celebration of the band, the fans and especially the music.

And the music we heard was great. Frankly, it might have been, overall, the best three day run of music I have seen the band play since the early 1990s. It wasn’t perfect, but when has it ever been? There were moments of transcendence, and others that certainly wouldn’t warrant an ante in a game of Jacks or Better…but that is what makes this band so special. There is a 400+ song musical treasure trove from which they can choose from on any given night, and to only repeat two songs over the course of five shows was amazing. To put that in perspective: U2 just put on two shows in MSG over the weekend and there were 19 songs out of a 23-25 song show that were repeated both nights. And the Fare Thee Well set lists were chock full of fan favorites and rarities, and offered a nice representation of the evolution of the band’s full oeuvre across four decades.

Music is why we came…and the music delivered, on all levels.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine; And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung; Would you hear my voice come through the music; Would you hold it near as it were your own?

3) Dreams, like good music, take us places only our imagination will allow. There are no limits. Dreams and dreaming are a constant theme in the GD canon. We all dreamed the band would get together again one day…

All the years combine, they melt into a dream.

When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

4) Children: In the two decades since I last saw the Grateful Dead, a great deal has changed in my life. The greatest and most important change was/is the birth of my children. I know I am not alone. Children are found throughout the GD oeuvre. Playing the songs for my children, watching them dance and tap their feet to the music is priceless. Jerry lives on through his music…and also through his children. We all do.

God bless the child, who rings that bell.

And the kids, they dance and shake their bones.

5) Love: My wife and I shared our first dance together as husband and wife to They Love Each Other. Love is a ubiquitous theme throughout the Grateful Dead songbook. Even the songs the band covers tend to focus on the greatest of all of life’s forces. There was so much love in Chicago. I couldn’t make it to Santa Clara, unfortunately, but I am sure love ran ram shod at Levi as well.

A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.

You know our love will not fade away.

6) Gratitude: There was so much to be thankful for, the shows may have been better served being played the fourth Thursday in November. The band’s lyrics are littered with gratitude, as is the band name. But Fare Thee Well was really a giant forum for us, as fans, to thank the band we all love one last time, and for that band to thank us for an incredible ride. And for all of us to thank Jerome John Garcia.

Shapiro certainly deserves praise and thanks for his efforts. It was no small task to put that incredible three (five) day run together, and to basically tie-dye the city of Chicago. I frequented his first club, Wetlands, in NYC for years, listening to Dead cover bands and other Jam band offshoots, so I know firsthand where he came from, and booking the Phish cover band Stash to play for 150 people, mostly from the same Long Island town the band hailed from was a far cry from Fare Thee Well. Who knew?

001It wasn’t always pretty, but as Dave Chappelle so eloquently put it from the witness stand during his Michael Jackson trial bit…”He made ThrillerThriller.”

Trey also earned high praise and gratitude from most in attendance and those in the cheap seats on couch tour. He performed admirably in a role that featured a higher degree of difficulty than the Triple Lindy. In many ways, he was in a no-win situation…and yet, somehow managed to prevail, proving he was the right man for the job and delivering some memorable takes on a number of songs most feared could not be properly interpreted by anyone other than JG.

But you know who else deserves more thanks than he got in Chicago…and in general over the years? Robert friggin’ Hunter, that’s who. That cat can straight up write lyrics…maybe Bob Dylan was better….maybe. But he’s on a very short list at the tippity top of whatever Mount Rushmore of lyricists our world has ever seen. And I can’t tell you how many times his words have brought a smile to my face.

7) Chicago/Soldier Field – Chicago was, in typical fashion, the Second City yet again. But this paid off, as the band found their footing and began to really gel by the time they made it from Santa Clara to Chicago.

Soldier Field was not ideal in any way. Stadia in general don’t offer the best acoustics when it comes to music. And this particular stadium had the most god-awful ingress-egress issues that it made an all-cash toll booth during rush hour seem like an Easy Pass lane on a rural freeway. It seemed like some evil genius was watching through one-sided glass as he funneled the crowds slowly toward a torture chamber.

But…we all made it in to the shows…and back out into the Chicago nights with giant smiles on our faces.

Soldier Field, like Fare Thee Well, was built to honor and remember heroes. And on this Fourth of July weekend, it served both causes equally. Furthermore, Soldier Field in its present form mirrored the band, as it combined historic architecture, its original look and feel, with modern additions and amenities featuring walls of glass levels and luxury boxes. Soldier Field

As the twentieth set of Days Between approach, and still glowing from the exuberance of Fare Thee Well, we can now move forward with the closure we weren’t afforded back in 1995. Constant reminders of the popularity of this event continue to resonate, both within the Grateful Dead community as well as in the strangest of places if you look at it right…take this article as exhibit A.

I thank Peter Shapiro, Madison House and the band and crew for a real good time. Here’s hoping for another celebration of equal or greater quality sometime soon…and please let it be somewhere on the east coast.

All the best,

IDROS

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In Memoriam: These Places Were Not Such A Shore Thing

lucy-the-elephant1

This post was written in honor of Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off to summer and most importantly, the first major weekend of shore season. Going “down the shore” for those of us who grew up in and around Philadelphia, is and always has been a way to escape to a relaxing paradise, replete with sand, sea, good food, good friends, family and a host of landmarks, attractions, restaurants and watering holes that offer just enough nostalgia to elevate even the most average places to must-visit/see status, and to propel the very good to levels of unimpeachable perfection. We all have places we take visitors who have never been to our little island (Absecon Island, home to Margate, Longport, Ventnor and Atlantic City), without fail…our favorites…you know, the ones we are most proud of, the ones that bring extra special smiles to our faces just thinking about in the freezing cold depths of winter.

There are many places down the shore that have reached pantheon status…regulars in Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of the Shore” issues. The shore just wouldn’t be the same without them, they pre-date all of us (or at least seem to), everyone we know hits them regularly, or at least semi-regularly, and they define our summer experience…or help shape it. Even if we don’t go, or don’t go as often anymore, some of these places remain as important landmarks and just knowing they are there is comforting (and we definitely use them when giving others directions). Some of them aren’t even on Absecon Island, but they are close enough to become part of our shore world. In no particular order, these gems include the big three sub shops (Dino’s, Sack-o’s and The Whitehouse), Angelo’s Fairmont Tavern, Gillian’s Fun Deck, Smitty’s Clam Bar, Ventura’s Greenhouse, The Boardwalk (ours and the one in the OC), Robert’s Place, Frank S. Farley Rest Stop, The Dairy Bar, The Knife and Fork Inn, Downbeach Deli, Mentos, Chef Vola, Casel’s, Ozzie’s (despite a brief time in absentia), Storybook Land, Johnson’s Popcorn, Tony’s Baltimore Grill, Jo Jo’s, Little Saigon, Memories, The Point, The Tilton and Towne 16 Movie Theaters, Two Cents Plain, and of course Lucy.

But this is Memorial Day weekend, so this post is written to memorialize those old haunts down the shore that are no longer with us. Those forever emblazoned in our memories, sometimes even our hearts, but are no longer there. Seasonal places like beach towns make it difficult for some businesses to survive. For others, the skyrocketing real estate market created opportunities for developers to purchase our beloved places and explore new highest and best uses (in real estate speak). And some were destroyed by fire, changing tastes, greed, stupidity, hubris and bankruptcy. And a few on this list never deserved to line our shore landscape in the first place, but are notable nonetheless.

Without further ado, and in reverse order of significance, at least according to your humble author, a trip down the shore’s memory lane:

The Showboat: Look, it was all the way at the north end of AC…such a hike anyway. It was never the nicest casino, and architecturally was perhaps interesting in its own weird way, but losing it last year was nothing worth shedding a tear over. But the bowling alley was cool (remember that?), and provided some good times back in the day.

Pat’s Steaks: Notable only that the Philadelphia institution failed, and failed miserably, when opening an Atlantic City location.

Pantry Pride: There was another grocery store in Margate, for those who can remember that far back.

Lenny’s Hot Dog Stand: IDROS has faint memories of this place (it closed when IDROS was 5), but IDROS remembers sharing a dog with his dad here once upon a time. It would have been nice to have another option than pizza for late night grub, but with all the great junk food littering the shore, not too broken up over this loss.

Party Pak: Make way for the bigger and better Wawa. No real loss here.

Mojo: Not a lucky spot (more on this later), but a nice enough restaurant with pretty good food, and some decent live jazz on some weekend nights.

Captain Starn’s: Great restaurant overlooking the Absecon Inlet, and for those that rode their bikes or jogged or walked all the way to the northern end of the boardwalk back in the day, Starn’s was there…

Lou’s: A long-time Ventnor diner/kitchenette with killer milkshakes and a musty smell derived from both its hundred year old furnishings and an aging (read: aged) clientele.

Tivoli Pier: In the late 80s, the Trop, then called TropWorld, opened an amusement park which included a roller coaster (it was lame) and a Ferris Wheel (it resembled the big wheel in every casino that has the different denomination dollar bills on it) in an effort to mimic the Las Vegas trend of offering a “family friendly” experience. Alas, it closed in 1995, making way for the Trop’s new, and much better, entertainment area, The Quarter.

The Waterfront: There have been quite a few new brands to take over since it closed. Built with a shitload of wood and an expansive deck overlooking the bay, there was live music, boat drinks and pretty good food. Baia is the latest…Inlet before that.

Sailfish Café: Great beach town restaurant name. Lasted forever. Only ate there once.

Bubba Mac’s Shack – This short-lived BBQ and Blues joint in Somers Point wasn’t bad…but the real estate it sat on was worth more to developers.

Gilhooleys: Fun bar that had its day before your author’s time, but it did honor IDROS’ fake ID once upon a time. One of the updated bars along the famed Barbary Coast that foreshadowed a trend toward nicer establishments to please the well-heeled summer home owners that were slowly replacing the locals and college crowds, and the dive bars those crowds preferred. (Read this account of the Barbary Coast)

The Golden Nugget: Steve Wynn’s first foray into AC was the most easily accessible to us downbeachers. For a summer or two in the late 80s/early 90s, there was a summer stage on the beach in front of the Nugget, and every weekend we had the likes of Rod Stewart, Steve Miller, the Beach Boys and Don Henley setting the tone for those summer nights.

Land of Oz Amusement & Arcade Hall: Boarded up after a fire in 1981, this place was a little kid’s dream.

Omar’s: Late night at the pool tables at the first bar IDROS ever got into with fake ID. Let’s just say it wasn’t a very rigorous entry policy at the site that eventually gave way to Mojo.

The Taste: This ice cream, yogurt and dessert shop run by a crazy Aussie who seemed to be a character in an 80s movie, was ahead of its time and also up against some stiff competition in the Margate City ice cream scene.

Billy Ho’s: The pink Margate restaurant still stands, but unfortunately the name does not…and what a name. This is definitely your author’s brother-in-law’s favorite entry on this list.

The White Sands: Margate’s only hotel (motel?) that IDROS can remember…bought and converted to condo during the last real estate boom cycle.

The Islander: There have been quite a few restaurants to open and subsequently close in Seaview Harbor on the Longport Bridge…but this was the first, and IDROS worked there one crazy summer…

Ventnor Mini Golf/Ice Rink: Loved everything about that place…especially the open air architecture with a suspended roof. Bonus points to those who actually ice skated there. IDROS did.

The Crab Pot: Now Lamberti’s, Steve and Cookie’s first restaurant had better real estate and served breakfast. IDROS worked there as a bus boy a long time ago.

Jefferson Miniature Golf: IDROS still has two or three free game cards from this crappy but beloved course in Margate. A favorite hang-out for your author and his cousins.

Polo Bay: Tomatoes’ new spot (remember when Tomatoes was on Ventnor Avenue where Miyako sushi and hibachi restaurant is now?), the crowd was twenty years younger, on average, in its heyday.

Million Dollar Pier: A few of ACs amusement piers closed and re-opened over the years, but MDP was the one IDROS visited every summer as a child. When it burnt down, IDROS was very upset.

Michelli’s: Great pizza spot to soak up the booze when bar crawling along Amherst or Washington.

Ocean One: A mall built on a pier jutting into the Atlantic. A couple friends of mine worked there one summer. It was cool for a hot minute. The Pier repurposed it with some better, higher end shopping and a few of Philly’s finest restaurants. Now Blatstein will try to improve upon that.

Brigantine Castle: Scared the crap out of IDROS back in the day. But even scarier than the attraction itself is how many haunted houses have caught fire over the years and burnt down…many times injuring and even killing people inside them.

Fideli’s: Too many restaurants to count have opened and shut over the years (Fai’s, Cheeburger Cheeburger, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, Dune, and so many more), but this old Italian stalwart had a very nice run.

Playboy Hotel & Casino: A number of gambling halls have come and gone over the years in AC, with four more shutting down just last year. But Heff’s black glass tower was one of the least gaudy looking monstrosities erected to take its patrons hard-earned money, and because IDROS was just hitting puberty when it opened, IDROS was a huge fan of the scantily clad bunnies that ran rampant throughout the building from day one. And everyone has to admit…that bunny logo at the top of the tower gleaming amid the growing neon glitz of the city was so much better than anything TRUMP.

Reds: A personal favorite of your author, combining a decent pool room with a disco and lounge that played primarily new wave and alternative music. Hated when it closed to make way for condos.

The Margate and Ventnor Twins: With summer traffic it can take a half hour to get to Tilton and forty five minutes to get to the Towne 16. Having two theaters on the island was priceless. Over the years IDROS saw ET, Stand By Me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Bull Durham, Dirty Dancing, The Abyss, Beverly Hills Cop 2 and Terminator 2 and countless others at these theaters.

Maloney’s: A restaurant and four separate bars rolled into one. Many incredibly fun nights ended here…IDROS thinks.

Our Youth: How lucky were we all to have this place when we were young? How lucky are we to still have it now? While we can’t turn back the clock, our incredible memories remain…and new ones will be made with our own kiddos.

If you have other places you feel should be included in this list, please comment below.

As always, your author is grateful for all of his tens of loyal readers, and wishes you all a happy holiday and a terrific summer.

Hope to see you down the shore next month.

All the best,

IDROS

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Four Questions

In honor of Pesach, of the improbable parting of the Red Sea, the ten plagues, Moses, Pharaoh, the bitter herbs (especially the bitter herbs), and escapes from bondage anywhere and anytime…

  1. Better song revival in the past 15 years – Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” or Sir Elton’s “Tiny Dancer?”
  2. Remember Ellis from Die Hard? You know, “Sprechen ze Talk…Hans, Bubby,” i.e., the character once voted by Maxim Magazine as the second greatest movie sleazeball of all time (and it was quite a list). His name, by the way, is Hart Bochner (with a name like that, he was born to play a douchebag). Anyway, did you know Hart directed the cable movie extraordinaire PCU (his directorial debut, PCU was the classic that paved the way to stardom for Jeremy Piven and John Favreau)? (I know…this was two questions and a bunch of nonsense…but the first question was rhetorical…so just chill and roll with it. You’re supposed to relax on Pesach anyway.)
  3. If Netflix is releasing (allegedly) 13 episodes of Fuller House – and oh yes, I am dead serious (click here) – should we now prepare ourselves for Different Strokes With Different Folks (RIP Gary, Dana and Conrad), Fully Grown Pains, More Wonder Years, Better Times, Retired With Grandchildren, and Uber (I like that one too)?
  4. What is scarier: The tragedy on that Germanwings flight last week (and what it means in a broader sense) or the Iran deal Obama just forced down the world’s throat?

Mah Nishtana – Halaila Hazeh…

Sorry to end on a serious and somber note. Enjoy your time with your families.

Hope all of you find the Afikomen, whatever, metaphorically, that means to you.

Happy Passover and Easter. And save me some peeps.

All the best,

IDROS

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THREE FOR THOUGHT

1) Yet another horrific week in the Israeli-People who live on the outskirts of Israel saga. Deafening silence from the likes of Celebrity Asswipe Central (including Russell “I’m not an Anti-Semite…I just choose to bash Israel for defending itself over all the other causes in the world” Brand, Roger “I wrote The Wall so I am entitled to use my celebrity to comment on any situation in the world where an actual nation builds a wall as self-defense against a fictitious people” Waters, the Spanish Brainless triumvirate, Selena “If my taste in men is any indication, I am clueless” Gomez, Emma “you are so lucky you can act, honey” Thompson, Rihanna (she of the Twitter deletion contingent that apparently doesn’t realize the permanence of the internet), Danny “you apparently actually are too old for this shit” Glover, and even Jon “et tu Brute” Stewart). I guess they all hold civilized people to a different standard. Incredibly, I have more respect for Mel Gibson than these naïve cowards. They hide their anti-Semitism behind the idea that they are rallying around a “just cause” while Mel just hates Jews just like daddy did…loud and proud.

But enough on celebrities that aren’t worth my time or money (ironically, both songs penned by Roger Goebbels Waters). And don’t get me started on the media…I have no idea when CNN, the BBC, the AP and CBS became affiliates of al Jazeera, but the reporting on everything involving Israel and its neighbors has devolved into something out of George Orwell’s worst dystopian nightmare (click here and here for some examples).

3 for thought pic (Way to equate the innocent victims with the brutal terrorists CNN – I wish I was making this up)

I remember thinking to myself a few years ago, when Israel heroically decided to free a thousand terrorists in exchange for one of its own (Gilad Shalit), that unfortunately, many innocent people are going to die because of this decision. Of course every precious life in Israel is valuable, and I applauded the exchange at the time despite the uneasiness it made me feel. And it is, in my opinion, no coincidence that the aftermath of that bold, life-affirming move by Israel has led to a giant step backward in the stability of the region. It reminds me of the scene just after “dickless” turns off the power grid in Ghostbusters, releasing hundreds of ghosts the eponymous quartet had spent the better part of the movie capturing, back into New York City society…they wreaked such havoc.

Most of the world is blaming the person for having the unmitigated temerity to swat at the mosquito, who has left welt after welt upon his or her body…and god forbid the swat connects, and the pesky parasite is hurt or even killed…

And every time these troglodytes cheer the death of innocent Israelis like their home-town just won the Super Bowl or World Cup – and I know this happens far more frequently and in greater numbers than the already far-too-abundant video we see in the West – I try to imagine Israelis, or Jews anywhere in the world, really, celebrating in the streets over the death of even Hitler himself…and alas, I can’t even picture it. That level of infantile hatred, of abject putrescence, is reserved for only the lowest of the low.

And yet we hear nothing from the throngs who condemned Israel just months ago…

2) Florida State: While there is much to say about the football team led by a shady character with a growing litany of crimes ranging from grand theft crustacean to rape and sexual assault (and if the rape allegations are true, he should burn in hell)…alas, I am referring to the shooting on campus. Perhaps the nation is so immersed in the deep freeze, digging out of yet another polar vortex, that the shock of yet another mass shooting seems muted in relation to past events…or perhaps it is because none of the innocent victims were killed…or maybe we are becoming numb as a society to all of this nonsense. Whatever the case, the mass-shooting epidemic in our nation is not going away. Feel free to revisit my two-part novella on senseless gun violence I wrote in the aftermath of Sandy Hook…in the words of the great Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same.

3) AP – Not the AP that blames Israel for every wrong in the world these days…but Adrian Peterson. Yesterday, the NFLPA appealed Roger Goodell’s ruling to suspend AP for the remainder of the season without pay. Just once, I would like to see that stupid union do the right thing and say “you know what, we agree with the NFL here. AP was wrong and if any of you other players think it’s ok to get medieval on your own or anyone else’s children, you will not have our support. We are donating the full amount of what AP was set to earn for the remainder of the 2014 season to charitable organizations that champion the causes of abused children and encourage the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL to match our donation dollar for dollar.” Wouldn’t that be great? Why doesn’t that kind of thing happen in our world – especially when it’s teed up like that?

And Rusty Hardin, AP’s defense attorney….are you friggin’ kidding me? This dirt bag had the audacity to ask “who in the hell does he [Roger Goodell] think he is?” Who do you think YOU are Rusty? You defend assholes, criminals and the occasionally wrongly accused for a living…Goodell runs the league in which your client plays. Look, I will be the first to admit Goodell handled the Ray Rice situation about as poorly as someone could, and has not been the best commissioner the NFL has ever seen on many levels, but he is the commissioner. And the real irony in the whole thing is that AP believes, as the father of the child, he should be allowed to mete out discipline any damn way he pleases (he shouldn’t)…and yet is somehow taken aback when the head of his league does the exact same thing, except, you know, without the unconscionable physical abuse.

Anyway…I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy turkey day.

Gobble Gobble,

IDROS

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Things

1) Pretty sure I saw the big DJ from Maloney’s circular bar a few weeks ago when I was at the shore…I did a double take and may have even stared a second or two too long…but that guy played Bon Jovi and Bruce and kept the party going until hours I only see when my baby cries in the middle of the night (because my two year old woke her up crying and I am useless).

2) Where in the world did Tia Carerre (her real name is Althea Rae Janairo, BTW) go? First off…her real name is Althea. I love the name Althea. But she was one the hottest actresses on the planet for a hot cup of coffee in the early to mid-90s…almost ubiquitous. Then she took a wrong turn with Pauly Shore and a second misstep with Eric Roberts and then found herself mired in B-Movie hell with a veritable who’s who in the netherworld of straight-to-video C-Listers from Stevie Baldwin to the pro’s pro, Steven Seagal…

3) A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. That’s right…look it up (or just click this link). Not only that, Venus is the only planet in our Solar System that spins counter-clockwise…so the sun rises in the West and sets in the East. Talk about an Axis that’s Bold as Love

4) These two guys:
Things 1 and 2

5) I just finished watching The Wire, which was tops on my list for shows to be snarfed down like a box of Bugles or Thin Mints or anything else that it is extremely difficult to stop eating/drinking/doing once you start…binge watching at its finest. As promised, the show now rests firmly in my own pantheon of top five dramas of all time (where, exactly, I am still not sure)…but I can say this unequivocally: Whereas The Sopranos and Lost had endings that irked and disturbed me because they were executed somewhere between questionably and poorly (for Lost, that might be kind)…David Simon’s opus (vastly different than Mr. Holland’s) disturbed me at its end because the subject matter is just incredibly frustrating and vexing and well, disturbing…from beginning to end and everywhere in between.

6) I recently learned that Quentin Tarantino has the exact same IQ as none other than Steven Hawking…yeah, I wasn’t sure what to do with that either, but on some level it just makes sense. You will all get a kick out of this link

7) And lastly, there is a time when you and your partner/spouse/significant other are pregnant, but you are mired in the delicate period of “loose lips sink ships,” unable to tell anyone but the closest of relatives for fear of jinxing everything. It’s a weird couple of months, and as the safe zone approaches, I find it more and more difficult to keep the secret. Recently, in our eleventh week, I ran into a couple while out with friends (wifey wasn’t with me)…the woman was probably eight months preggo…it was so obvious I felt comfortable breaking rule number one for men when speaking to women…assuming (or asking) if she is, in fact, knocked up. I was excited as a father-to-be and so I found myself blurting it out to these two complete strangers just because of the bond of pregnancy.

Anyway…that’s my show for today. Enjoy the day and fruits of your labors.

Love and peace,

IDROS

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