Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Jam - "Going Underground" (1980)

The public gets what the public wants.

Mudhoney - "Pump It Up" (1994)

Just like a narcotic...

Goin' Underground: The Dig Dug Diary

My time spent hanging out with Mario and Donkey Kong has decreased considerably in the past couple years, but I still have kept a notebook of high scores handy. Among the tallies are a listing for the Plug 'N' Play version of Frogger (33,880), the just-missed-six-figures count for Galaga on PS2 (98,940), the block-building result for NES' Tetris (90,040) and an odometer reading for the Pac-Manesque Rally-X on the first PlayStation console (41,410). The entry that catches my eye the most? 106,600 points attached to the Dig Dug notation. From the first quarter drop in an upright inside a Portsmouth, VA, 7-Eleven circa 1983, Dig Dug instantly panned into one of the shiniest nuggets in a gold-filled river of arcade classics. Creating underground tunnels with each squeaky step (love the soundtrack!), your character (Dig Dug) is armed with a pump that's used to destroy red Pookas and fire-breathing dragons all sharing the first name of Fygar. You can also make kills by dropping positioned rocks on one or more pursuers. (It's quite a rush when four of them are crushed at once!) When two rocks are set free, a fruit/vegetable appears at the screen's center. Bonus lives are granted at 20,000 and 60,000 points. Over the next five contested days, I will attempt to achieve a new Dig Dug PR by surrendering ten "quarters" per session. Gather 'round the machine with your popcorn bag and favorite Pepsi product. It's time to frizzle some Fygars!

With a minuscule score of 15,810, the challenge kicked off inauspiciously. Factors to blame for the anemic total were a loose PS2 controller that had trouble centering, the inconsistencies in game volume and a humid room temperature. I was able to remedy the warmth by turning on a Patton Air Circulator to the highest setting and grabbing a towel from the hall closet. The faulty Toshiba television, however, still suffered from sound problems and began to show a flickering screen. Nonetheless, I nearly tripled my count with the follow-up credit (44,060) and took note of the once-familiar patterns employed by the Pookas and Fygars. After two pissers in the twenty-thousand range, I made the most of my fifth "quarter" by posting 44,940 points -- nearly 33,000 of them were amassed on the first life. Greediness in the seventh game (trying to drop four enemies with one rock) cost me a man early in Round 1, but conservative playing led to a nice recovery and a 36,620 final mark. Strong showings in the eighth (46,870) and tenth (51,210) tilts boosted my overall average for the session to 35,326. I'm not close to playoff-ready, but today was a decent training camp.

Last night, I inadvertently had the screen scroll function turned on. Flipping it off this evening made no immediate difference in my scores, as I continued to dig, pump and drop at a 40-thou clip. The fourteenth game, however, proved to be anything but routine. Shattering the challenge's top effort by almost 30,000 points, I tunneled all the way to Round 15 (bettering last night's peak by five) and tapped out at 80,330. Additional runs of 64,930 and 52,820 pushed tonight's average to 48,332. Still, the number could've been greater. Much like past Galaga behaviors, I found myself repeatedly trapped in the lower right corner. Once again, greed accounted for needlessly losing many lives. That said, I completed four 6,000-point rock drops and damn near had one for eight thousand. Lastly, the taste of a high-level vegetable was worth the deadly dragon breath. Come join me under a rock tomorrow, Fygar!

Right out of the chute, I dropped enough Pookas and Fygars to land on 56,000 points. A portend for great scores to come? Not exactly. Subsequent marks of 46,680 and 53,280 were in line with my current average, but a low count of 23,260 in the twenty-fourth game was the key representation of a mistake-filled night. Flattening three Pookas with one rock on the first board has increasingly become like clockwork, but I took a few cheap hits by digging an incorrect path adjacent to the powerful boulder. Missteps were also made on the fairly forgiving Round 6, as I thrice felt the flames of Fygar due to forming a tunnel a pixel or two too far. Positives included quickly pumping four clustered enemies with a speedy trigger thumb on several occasions and collecting a higher percentage of fruits/vegetables. The mean of 44,755 was a bit under last night's number, but what's a cucumber or four amongst friends? I'm guessing that's what the green reward is on an early screen. A plantain or pickle, perhaps?

A weekend filled with live rock 'n' roll was the primary reason for an extended break from the challenge. When on solid ground, Mr. Dig Dug often spins the soundtrack from one of his favorite movies ("PCU"). His pick-to-click from the set: Mudhoney's take of Elvis Costello's oxygen-filled franchise ("Pump It Up"). Dig Dug, ahem, digs the grunge gods' version more than the angry young man's original, because it falls in line with Mark Arm and friends' predilection for offbeat covers (Roxy Music, Bette Midler, Spacemen 3, etc.). My arcade acumen suffered nary an ill effect from the prolonged siesta, as I entered initial figures of 77,080 and 59,740 into the ledger. Like David Klinger's eleven-touchdown day and Kobe's 81 versus a modern defense, the thirty-third "quarter" popped eyes and dropped jaws: I SCORED 143,850 POINTS!!! Bettering my previous high game by roughly 34%, I garnered over 70,000 of the total on the first life. The count was also fueled by several samples of 7,000-level fruits and vegetables. Rather than being rock-happy per usual, my strategy throughout the record-setting turn was to quickly create a board-width tunnel at the bottom. Luring the Pookas and Fygars into the trap, I inflated them to capacity from a safe distance and left two enemies on the screen. This gave me the freedom to release two boulders in speedy succession and gobble the central nourishment. Had it not been for palpitations and gaming sweats (Where was that gosh-darned towel?), I could've gone for 15,000-20,000 more without a hitch. Still, the quest was conquered with seventeen chances to spare. What should I do with these final ten coins?

Experimentation was why I only registered 3,160 points in the forty-first game. I tried to erase every dirt particle on the screen, but the two remaining Pookas chased me down with the velocity of Pac-Man's red ghost. Careful examination of the tutorial on YouTube should help form a black board on future attempts. More tomfoolery led to famished figures of 16,160 and 19,400, as I attempted to group five or more enemies under rocks for maximum mathematical madness. As for the other "quarters," #48 was the only token that redeemed an over-60,000 turn (83,980). 50,097 was the net of the leftover change, which would've been higher had it not contended with the persistence of annoying phone calls and the pablum of formatted classic rock. This challenge was a blast to undertake, for it reminded me why I love '80s coin-ops where the objective is to get the highest score. It's time to draw a line thru the 106,600 number in my notebook. What should I tackle next? Q*Bert? Bubble Bobble? Joust? Popeye? Root Beer Tapper? Check back in the game room soon. Happy button-mashing!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cramps - "Sunglasses After Dark" (1980)

Yeah, I've worn sunglasses in a bar.

Junkyard - "Hollywood" (1989)

They've got some parts worth pulling.

Junkyard Eyeglasses

Sitting at our table
At the Vee Bee B-and-N
A muffin and a coffee
I'm asking, "How you've been?"
You want a state of sunshine
Instead of common wealth
To kiss you in the Neon
Is a struggle of our stealth

Junkyard eyeglasses
The frames are always tight
Junkyard eyeglasses
Poor vision is my fight

Eleven thirty-eight
Our favorite time to talk
We are a perfect pair
Eraser to the chalk
You laugh loud at my stories
While busy on the couch
I'm dressed in shower pants
Four fingers in your pouch

Junkyard eyeglasses
Lenses deeply scratched
Junkyard eyeglasses
Who chose us to be matched?

Moving to Folk City
You want to keep in touch
Conversing every day
We do not do it much
You counter with a deli
At the nearby Farm Fresh store
Seeing meat you wanna wrap
Is slicing at our core

Junkyard eyeglasses
Missing a nose piece
Junkyard eyeglasses
A bridge for your release

Well, Twenty-Zero-Seven
The worst year of my life
Verbal jabs and Icehouse cans
Drunk-dialing with a knife
For my part, I'm sorry
Bad words on the line
We're a Grant Hart song
But I hope you're doing fine

Junkyard eyeglasses
Your face I still can see
Junkyard eyeglasses
Good memories to me

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Sea And Cake - "Up On The North Shore" (2011)

Much better than that lame group who covered that lame disco song.

Van Halen - "Poundcake" (1991)

The "Red Rocker" likes his slice with strawberries and tequila.

Rowena, This Cake Is Delicious!

Eleanor, Chrissy and Janet's ex-roommate, visits the girls en route to her new digs in San Diego. Recently divorced, Eleanor's predicament causes the pair to pay more attention to her concerns than those of their current cohabitant (Jack). Noticing the cold treatment, Larry, Jack's best friend, convinces his bud that the girls want Eleanor to move back into the apartment. In spite of his impending eviction, Jack volunteers to bake a cake for an upcoming party supposedly celebrating Eleanor's return. The conniving chef adds one special ingredient to the batter: sawdust. At the fiesta, the girls stunningly surprise Jack by revealing the true purpose of the get-together: his passing the chef's entrance exams. After the sharp 180-degree turn, Jack quickly dashes thru the apartment and knocks tainted cake out of the guests' hands. He fails to reach Mr. Roper, the tightwad of a landlord, in time, but the unknowing splinter swallower exclaims: "Jack, this cake is delicious!"

Even without sawdust as a key component, Rowena's has been crafting gourmet treats since May of 1983. Founded by Rowena Fullinwider in Norfolk, VA, her business grew from a word-of-mouth concern to coverage in national magazines like Southern Living and on television programs such as "Today," "QVC," "The 700 Club," etc. Though Fullinwider eventually sold the company, her deft and decorative touch still colors the acclaimed cakes, curds, jams and sauces. Among Rowena's salivating sweets: Lemon Pound Cake, Chocolate Pound Cake, Tea Cake, Chocolate Mint Cake, Chocolate Turtle Cake, Raspberry Curd and Carrot Jam. Fullinwider's original creation, however, has remained the top seller since the nascent days of backyard fruit trees and a singular kitchen.

On Halloween Eve 2011, a nine-months-old Rowena's Almond Pound Cake was retrieved from the bottom of a garage freezer. Undoubtedly, the beautiful presentation of black polka dots on the label and a red ribbon had drawn a few whistles from the hamburgers and mixed vegetables. Fine lines and a bundt shape also added to the attractiveness. After transferring to the minimum security of a kitchen fridge, the cake was released onto an adjacent table and cut into several slices. The Jolly Green Giant might've been enamored with Rowena's physical attributes, but one bite into the Almond Pound Cake caused me to break an unwritten Eleventh Commandment by straying on Sara Lee. Of course, I had spent many a moonlight lip-locking SL's pound cakes and dessert cups in the form of strawberry shortcakes, but my first rendezvous with Rowena's was like performing cunnilingus on a confection. Several testimonials stated that freezing the cake increased its moisture. After greedily lapping at my portion, I was very inclined to agree with the chilled M.O. Sara Lee had never been so rich and flavorful to the tongue. Besides getting a window seat, my favorite thing about childhood trips to New Jersey via Piedmont's planes was the pack of almonds emblazoned with the airline's logo. Unlike the smokiness of Piedmont's nuts, the almond effect in Rowena's cake had a smoother take-off from the runway -- which was better suited for the craft in question. I combed the cabinets and closets for the highly recommended Lemon Curd topping, but the quest came up emptier than Geraldo Rivera's vault search. Here's what commenter Cynthia Waggonier had to say concerning the curd: "Who knew what Lemon Curd was, anyhow? OMG, it's like luscious lemon meringue pie filling that you can have anytime you want (and don't have to bake) – heavenly on that pound cake!" Crud, I've got no curd! I do have access to a toaster and vanilla ice cream, though. Perhaps there'll be a partnership with the final two pieces of Rowena's Almond Pound Cake. Most likely, they will be savored in stand-alone succulence and left with Lemon Curd longings.

If Helen Roper's first name had been Rowena, her husband Stanley's favorite pie would've been custard.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Gravy - "Memory" (1997)

Maybe the KFCs in Boston are cleaner than the one on Main Street in Suffolk, VA.

The Candy Snatchers - "Sauced Again" (1996)

If I were to cut myself, I'd bleed Arby's Sauce.

Pour It On: KFC Gravy Vs. Arby's Sauce

For a gallon of gasoline in Tidewater Virginia, you can expect to pay more than a few pennies over three dollars. Wouldn't it be great if restaurants charged a similar rate for their liquid offerings? I would love to walk into Outback Steakhouse with an empty milk carton, ask to have it filled with the "Roo Juice" that complements Bloomin' Onion orders, fork over four bills (tip included) and head back to the homestead. If Friendly's had a user-friendly (Ha!) container of the peanut butter sauce that's integrated into their delicious sundaes, I'd dispense quart after quart from it on a weekly basis. "Roo Juice" rhapsodies and Friendly's fantasies aside, there are two fast-food finishes that have deluged my dining dreams for many years. Even though I'll be choosing a side today, the "loser" won't be forced into a life of Applebee's-addled purgatory. (Hey, Chris! Hey, Jesse!) Let the drowning commence!

There was a lot to like about Kentucky Fried Chicken in the 1970s-early 1990s. The bucket had a bold, cursive font and made an uncredited star turn in "The Bad News Bears." The chicken itself was generously parceled with white meat and tasty skin. Desserts such as parfaits and puddings lined the serving area. Chicken Littles were the chain's answer to White Castle's slider sandwiches and splendidly satisfied after-2 AM munchies. Ah, those were the days. Mike and Gloria's trip to KFC is less familial in 2011. If you're in the mood to be taken for a ride at the register, order one of those two-piece boxes for $5.00. The legs are the size of wings, and the breasts are the size of legs. Skin is unattractive, slippery and lacking the crispness of an earlier era. The minimal amount of meat on the bones is very greasy, cheap tasting and an affront to the "We do chicken right!" slogan of happier times. When Stouffer's or the Sunoco up the street is the better bird option, the Colonel's guarded blend of herbs and spices is a secret not worth sharing. If you must partake in KFC's wares due to being employed by a franchise or having family ties with founder Harlan Sanders, go for the following: 1)Popcorn Chicken (I hereby recommend a name change to Kentucky Fried Popcorn Chicken), 2)mashed potatoes and 3)a large cup of gravy. The first two suggestions are fine enough, but KFC Gravy is the perennial All-Star on a consistently bad MLB ballclub.

When the god of your choosing wants a hot turkey sandwich, he or she sends one of his or her underlings to KFC to retrieve a bucket-sized portion of gravy, dips said sandwich in the vat and calls it "Ah, juice!" I'm not a deity, but I've expressed similar rejoicements over "Ah, juice!" for almost 30 years. As a youngster, I dunked chicken meat, chicken skin, chicken beaks, chicken claws and maybe even chicken bones into the flavorful fountain of broth. Speaking of broth, that's one of the possible ingredients in the mixture. Among others: water, cornstarch, bouillon cubes, shortening, breading flour, salt, MSG (Yeah!), black pepper and ground sage. I've read about many attempts to make your own KFC Gravy at home, and most of the concoctions either had too much of one thing or not enough of another. "We do gravy right!" will be the catchphrase for the new Kentucky Fried Popcorn Chicken. No more breasts, legs and thighs on the menu. That might sound like taking a vow of celibacy, but the future focus will be on finger foods that can be easily dipped into the potent plasma. Popcorn Chicken. Potato wedges. Chicken strips. Biscuits. Besides, who wants to deal with a big pile of bones? Gravy will be sold by the quart, half gallon and gallon for discerning customers who wish to pair it with otherwise superior choices from Hardee's and Bojangles'. Heck, Chris Berman might be tempted to sneak a cup of KFC's finest into Applebee's and drench his Chicken Whatever in the good stuff. Pony up, Palmer! "Eatin' good in the neighborhood" is about to get even better.

Homer Simpson once bellowed: "I'M SO HUNGRY, I COULD EAT AT ARBY'S!" Perhaps the locations in Springfield are filthier than the mind of Homer's FOX compadre Peter Griffin, but Arby's has always ranked near the top on my list of favorite fast-food eateries. Give me the largest Jamocha Shake (a mix of coffee and chocolate) available, and I'll cut a two-years-unmowed lawn with a pair of child's safety scissors. Present a Big Montana on my tray, and I'll start rooting for said state's main representative in the Big Sky Conference and learn its nickname. Gift me with a Five Guys-sized bag of Curly Fries, and I'll still lament over the Homestyle variety's disappearing act whilst enjoying every last twisted potato. The original Roast Beef Sandwich, however, remains the go-to selection for the ultimate in Arby's gourmand goodness. My siblings and I first sampled the simple succulence inside the Airline Blvd. store in Portsmouth, VA, circa 1980. The roast beef was pleasing enough on its own, but one special condiment sent the sandwich into the stratosphere. That holy water is, of course, Arby's Sauce.

Make no mistake, I'm also a big backer of the Horsey Sauce, but there can only be two teams in the final round. Bet Horsey and "Roo Juice" would stage an epic battle in the consolation match. Whenever I frequent an Arby's, I never seem to get enough sauce to coat my sandwiches. Much like my practice of dipping every bite of a Hardee's cheeseburger in smooth Heinz Ketchup, I enjoy dropping both beef and bun in the blood. For years, I've told friends about endless wishes of finding Arby's Sauce in grocery stores or being able to purchase pints of it outright in restaurants. Regarding "friends," I currently have 151 of the things on my Facecrack page. Each one needs to send a half-ounce packet of Arby's Sauce to me via USPS. If I can collect nine AS pouches and locate an appropriately sized container, the goal of possessing five pints of Arby's Sauce for home use will be achieved. Have you tried the sauce with deli-bought roast beef on a Kaiser roll with Swiss? The five pints on hand would vacate the need to pocket packets from the restaurant and the chore of driving all over town and repeatedly claiming that the window attendant "forgot" to put some sauce in the bag. Because of Arby's "Our Signature Barbeque Sauce" tagline, the list of dishes it could possibly enhance is appealing. How about a plate of Arby's Pork Chops with a large spoonful of macaroni and cheese and a hunk of cornbread? Care for an Arby's Burger on a toasted bun with tater tots and a crunchy pickle? Would you like to try a piece of Arby's Chicken with mashed potatoes and a buttered loaf? Invite me to all of the dinner parties, please. I'll check my Homestyle Fries tears at the door.

Congratulations, Arby's Sauce! Say hello to Jamocha for me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gang Of Four - "Cheeseburger" (1981)

Make friends quick. Buy them beer.

T-Rex - "The Slider" (1972)

White Castle would've alleviated Mark Bolan's sadness.

White Castle Microwaveable Cheeseburgers: The New Scud Missiles

Shawn Abnoxious, my fellow member in the B.A.G. (Blog Alliance Guild), lives within smelling distance of a White Castle from his home in Fairfield, OH. Accounting for other locations in the Greater Cincinnati area, he guesses there are at least five more of the slider-serving spots in a seven-mile radius from the B.A.G. outpost. One of the penalties for the South losing the Civil War must've been the illegality of White Castles beneath the Pennsylvania border, because I've never seen Robert E. Lee or his understudies munch on the little cheeseburgers. Many longtime residents of Tidewater Virginia would swear to dining at a Norfolk-based White Castle some 40 years ago, but that restaurant was actually a WC imitator (litigation as far back as the 1930s said as much) known as White Tower. I envy Shawn, Harold and Kumar, for I haven't tasted a proper White Castle burger since Herschel Walker was dominating the gridiron in the USFL. The New Jersey General scored touchdown after touchdown that summer, and I tried keeping pace by wolfing down just as many sliders in several forgotten En-Jay townships. Though it's been almost 30 years since my last White Castle visit, I still recall the experience like yesterday's lunch. The softness of the bun. The sizzle of the onions. The draping of the cheese. The steam of the patty. The tastiness of the whole damn thing. Taken together, it almost makes a man want to jack an Amtrak and ride the rail towards his WC-fortified friend in Fairfield.

What Shawn just told me would make a conductor double-back the crazy train to the Bad Newz terminal. Even though the man is smack-dab in the middle of a pool filled with the post-smoke sustenance of Cheech and Chong's bongwater dreams, he prefers the microwaveable White Castles -- the very ones I can easily obtain at Food Lion and Dollar Tree -- over the small, succulent sandwiches from the restaurant itself. Shawn's reasoning? Every time he gets a sack of sliders from WC, the burgers are cold by the time they arrive at B.A.G. headquarters. Because of their change in temperature, Shawn has to heat the fast-food purchases in the microwave. By buying the store-stocked counterparts at Kroger and from filled vending machines at work, he's able to skip a step. Shawn, have you ever heard of DWF? (Not Divorced White Female, though I'd like to take this opportunity to express an interest in meeting one. My mom's 60-year-old friend said "Yes"to a meal/movie invitation three weeks ago, but I haven't heard back from her. Interested and semi-interested ladies are encouraged to apply within.) I'm sure there are no laws on Ohio's books forbidding Driving While Feasting. Wasn't White Castle your grub of choice while planting pink flamingoes in friends' front yards? Shawn, I'll (finally) review the microwaveable cheeseburgers in a second, but I'm perplexed by your preference. Not long ago, the Rally's on Main Street in Suffolk closed its doors. Wanna know what it turned into? A freakin' car-title-loan operation! Those places are scummier than certain relatives' picks for male companionship. Why couldn't it have become a White Castle? For that, Shawn, I'd see your uphill objection and raise you four feet of snow, being shoeless, being sockless and being blindfolded. Next shopping trip, please consider what a Virginia gentleman would do to enjoy a slither of your spoils.

Bellyaching aside, White Castle Microwaveable Cheeseburgers are a more-than-adequate substitute for restaurant-deprived citizens the nation over. Packaged in pairs, the sliders heat from freezer to plate in 60 seconds. Sure, you can cook the burgers in a conventional oven, but it's best to avoid the kitchen calculus of broiler pans, steaming hot water, aluminum foil and Rachael Ray's plastic surgery. Opening the microwave door emits a rather pleasant beef 'n' onion aroma that faintly takes me back to a Piedmont jet seat en route to Newark. I've read several negative points regarding the moist bun, but I'm more forgiving due to a feigned understanding of evaporation and condensation laws. Three minutes and six sliders later (an outtake from the Gettysburg Address, perhaps?), the food is plated and the first bite is taken. You might not use the term "yummy," but I do. And often. It applies here. The 100% beef square rings true to my tongue. Even though I'm not a washed-out grit who listens to 98.7 WNOR, I would've gladly accepted said percentage number as the meat mixture. I'm a huge fan of onions (and onion rings!) on burgers, even ones of the dried variety like the kind I once prepared at McD's whilst listening to the Psych Furs' Mirror Moves on tape circa 1989. Take away the tear-inducing bulbs from WC's preparation station, and the sliders' juju would be forever flushed. There was a time where I wouldn't eat cheese on a burger. Fortunately, I turned 10 and realized that I'd made a huge mistake all along. Cheese is an extremely important component, and the slice presented in this slider melts well and tastes good. Rather than pouring ketchup (Heinz and only Heinz, brother!) on each patty, I use it as a dipping sauce for the burger in full. This is also helpful for the fries or tater tots you should have as side items. Price points for WCMC have ranged from $3.99 to $5.49 in Tidewater grocery stores. The high end probably isn't too far from what the burgers cost at the restaurant. If you're an epicure of microwaveable cuisine like myself, don't hesitate in launching an under-$4.49 box of WCMC ordinance in your cart's direction.

Shawn, please pull up to the Crave Zone. The attack will commence at our convenience.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spread Eagle - "Switchblade Serenade" (1990)

My friend Shawn loves switchblades more than I *heart* Nutella.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Spread Your Love" (2000)

My friend Pete loves this band more than I *heart* Nutella.

A Toast To Nutella

Sliced bread is often the measuring stick for great inventions. Because a toaster can be used to heat it, the countertop appliance has to rank among our finest creations. I mean, when was the last time you ate a butter sandwich on two pieces of Wonder straight from the package? Skippy and Smucker's love the added crunch of their structural supports. Oscar Mayer and French's long for kisses from the Nature's Own twins on the "3" setting. Drowned in a pool of Hellmann's, one Star Kist jar extends no apologies to Charlie for choosing the well-to-do toasted rye over an expired, crumbly white loaf from the 39-cent store. A block of 30-year-old government cheese finally melts and reaches for the rays of Sunbeam instead of the lower crust from Bottom Dollar. Gwaltney Big 8's and Heinz on Mary Jane... Whoa, dawg! Gotta put the brakes on that bakery truck but fast! Three culinary dictums are in violation here: 1)Hot dogs not made with beef suck harder than a leech on Lady Gaga, 2)Hot dogs and ketchup go together like Curt Schilling at Barry Bonds' birthday party and 3)Hot dogs should only be served on buns.

Back in the bread line, Arnold 100% Whole Wheat is bored with the old stand-bys and craves a different sort of spreadable substance. Noxzema? OK, not THAT different. Fresh from a satisfying session with the heat lamps, the Arnie Sisters decide to moisturize their faces with rich 'n' creamy Nutella. Fortified by hazelnuts (over 50 per jar!), cocoa and skim milk, the nostrils get the first treats. Nuts and chocolate combine for an aroma that pleases like Toll Houses from Mom's oven or the Sara Lee plant in Suffolk during peak hours. If you're the kind of "just looking" irritant who sniffs Yankee Candles at Becky's Hallmark for almost an hour, add a wick to your roomie's Nutella jar and inhale away. Smearing the spread on the Arnie slices, you may wonder if the frosting-like texture blends well with bread. The concern isn't unfounded. After all, you wouldn't put mustard or mayonnaise on a cake. Doubt not, Duncan Hines, for Nutella is a near-perfect complement to wheat toast. Due to the hazelnuts' presence, what immediately comes to mind are those tasty candies from Ferrero Rocher. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I've been known to devour more than my fair share of the gold-wrapped chocolates. If the mallet-wielding wooden soldier from grade-school field trips to Chrysler Hall is responsible for smashing the FRs in order to make a delicious spread, my inner 12-year-old thanks him. Stanley Roper and the cuckoo bird employed by General Mills would strongly approve of the cocoa flavoring. When he wasn't busy with binoculars, perhaps the leering landlord enjoyed Nutella sandwiches prepared by his perpetually horny wife. There have been questions (and even a lawsuit) regarding the healthiness of the product. Maybe Nutella is "good for you" in the same way as Reagan's ketchup packets (It's a vegetable!) or Michael Evans' favorite health tonic (18% alcohol!).

Vita-Brite might be Dyn-O-Mite, but Nutella is the freakin' A-bomb! Pair your covered toast with sensible choices such as apples, pears, strawberries, peaches, orange juice and Minnie Driver.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Exploding Hearts - "Sleeping Aides And Razor Blades" (2003)

It's a little offbeat, and it ain't in tune.

Blitz - "Razors In The Night" (1982)

You better watch out.

Flex Your Face

Since first lifting a razor to my cheeks in the mid 1980s, I have never maintained a consistent shaving schedule. The average length of time between facial mowings has fallen in the range of 9-12 days. I am not a hippie. There are probably more Grateful Dead albums in Donald Trump's music collection than mine. I am not a hipster. For all I know, Sufjan Stevens' middle name is Suck. I am not Kenny Rogers. Eating unlimited servings of rotisserie chicken and corn muffins gratis for life makes me wish I were, though. What's my excuse? Aside from general laziness and apathy, the task of shaving has never been an enjoyable activity. Whenever I find my way to the sink, the usual plan of attack is to gather a straw basket of new and used disposable razors, grab a holey washcloth from the hall closet, drench my face in hot water to open the pores, coat the mug in creamy Barbasol and maneuver the cheap instrument in downward motions. Invariably, the one-bladers are quickly jammed with stubble, the ends of the cloth are used to remove it, my face is covered in more blood than an MMA octagon, the foam is fizzled and the razors are duller than my perception of "The English Patient."

Detroit Pistons power forward Charlie Villanueva has probably never received a Norelco for his birthday. Afflicted with an autoimmune skin disease known as alopecia universalis, he lacks the ability to grow hair anywhere on his body. Though the condition is otherwise harmless, Villanueva had to endure painful trash talk from the Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett. During a heated tussle between the two, KG called his opponent a "cancer patient." By comparison, Villanueva's worst moment in the NBA was posting to his Twitter account during a game.

Do I envy Villanueva's hairlessness? No, but I'll gladly take a portion of the $35 million contract he signed in 2009. Dough in hand, I'd fill a shopping cart with BiC Flex 4 razors. I tested one for the first time last week, and the experience was a rare treat on my skin. Why hadn't I previously reveled in the joys of a smooth shave? The Flex 4's multiple blades cut through stubborn hair with the force of a Dyson vacuum on a dishrag, yet the pivoting head and sturdy handle offered the control of Danny Sullivan during his 1985 Indianapolis 500 triumph. The aloe- and vitamin E-coated conditioning strip glided gently on my face. No shrapnel was trapped between the blades. Blood remained flowing internally, thus vacating the need to cover cuts with wet bathroom tissue. Forgoing the cloth, I ended the session with an extremely hot towel across the scalped areas. A satisfying end to a super shearing!

Should I adopt Mon/Wed/Fri or Mon/Thur/Sun as my new schedule? I'll get back to you in 9-12 days.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Dictators - "Weekend" (1975)

I do my homework in a bar.

Sea Hags - "Half The Way Valley" (1989)

Some lazy mother from the groovy '70s is the reason we're all here tonight.

The Skinny With Steve Athey

If I remember the story correctly, the first person who spent a dollar in Skinnie's Records was the M-80's voice box Eddie Pierce. Since that initial transaction in 1987, countless vinyl junkies have gotten their fixes via the store's stocked bins. Whether you're Yngwie Malmsteen or yours truly, owner Steve Athey will often greet the chosen stash with an interesting anecdote (i.e., "Mission Of Burma: Loudest band I've ever seen."). Beats idle chatter about some crappy membership program at fye's register, that's for damn sure. Nearing 25 years of existence, Skinnie's has survived a coup by a bloated drug store, downloads from dipshits who've never dropped a tone arm, competition from facial-haired fly-by-nighters and changing tastes of young folks who'd rather borrow Mom's jeans than her Joan Jett records. Below are recounts from conversations that've taken place between us in the past. Grab a bottle of Boylan Black Cherry Soda, eyeball the Down At Delilah's picture disc and join Steve and me at the counter for some salty spiel.

Gunther: This might be the obvious question to end all obvious questions, but what was the first album you bought with your own money? Is it still a favorite in 2011?

Steve: First album I recall purchasing with my own earned income was Deep Purple's Burn. Not as big a favorite as their previous albums, which I obtained shortly thereafter.

Gunther: If I'm not mistaken, you grew up in the Greater Baltimore area. The Orioles had some great seasons during that time period. Nonetheless, what made you want to emulate Ritchie Blackmore instead of Rick Dempsey? Did seeing Kix/The Generators over four dozen times also assist in your choice of weapon?

Steve: I grew up in western Maryland, not Baltimore. I'll go out on a limb and assume that Rick Dempsey is some sort of athlete. I have never had an interest in sports. The previous question sorta answers the emulation factor to the point of my 2nd guitar purchase (the one Yngwie wanted to buy from me). Kix/The Generators/The Shoes were the closest thing I had to a "hometown" band that I got to see at high school- type social settings and the 1st introduction of going to a "bar" to see a live band. So they did leave a lasting impression. At least I can say it wasn't somebody like Dave Matthews...

Gunther: Why did you decide on a relocation to Tidewater? I believe you were working at the GE plant in Portsmouth for a time. Was there always a plan to open a record store, or did some choice words with a supervisor expediate a change in careers?

Steve: Came to Tidewater in May 1984. I was looking for a job, and it seemed more socially redeeming (punk rock). Worked for the GE credit department, not the plant. I never really "conformed" in a job setting. Plus, I would eventually be let go due to my medical condition indirectly (the brain aneurism). The shop was already being run for 3-4 years by a previous person who was getting a divorce. So between me being "unemployable" in the real world and my passion for anything that rocks, it all fell into place.

Gunther: The first time I visited Skinnie's was at the original West 21st Street location in 1989 or thereabouts. Think my brother Brian purchased the Misfits' Walk Among Us, while his friend A.J. opted for the Ramones' Mania on tape. L.A.M.F. looked cool enough, but I didn't hear the album until several years later. When did you realize that starting the store was a good decision?

Steve: Not sure about a "good decision," but at the time, it seemed like my primary option.

Gunther: Besides the tightly bunched racks of music and the camaraderie, what I miss most about the West 21st Street spot is the pool table that was briefly located near the store's entrance. Shooting stick with Rice, Jeff and others complemented the wild rock 'n' roll on the juke very well. What are your most memorable moments from the mothership? Also, have you ever blocked a sale, because someone attempted to buy the "wrong" album by an artist? For example, suggesting Motley Crue's Too Fast for Love over Generation Swine?

Steve: Every day, there's a memorable moment. Hopefully to someone who comes in here, gets told to set down Generation Swine and get Shout At The Devil (or TFFL).

Gunther: When Morrissey stopped into Skinnie's to do some shopping, how would you describe the encounter? Was he besieged by adoring fans/autograph hounds or left to browse? How did the in-store meetings with Thurston Moore, Danzig, Michelle Branch, etc. pan out?

Steve: The Morrissey encounter was very anticlimactic and has been told TOO many times. Thurston visited a few times. At that time, I believe he was funding an elite record store, so he was making purchases for it, I presume. I was very relieved with most of his purchases, as they were not the most "consumer-friendly" ones. He did pick up a copy of the No Room To Dance album. This was in the middle-90's, so the current nostalgia trend was certainly not present. Most any other "celebrity" encounter has been pretty routine. Like anyone else, there is something they're after, can't find and sometimes it's here.

Gunther: It wouldn't be a proper discussion among us without mentioning the Sea Hags. In spite of my qualms with the cover art, you told me to give the tape a fair listen. Of course, I now recognize the Sea Hags as sleaze incarnate. Sample lyrical lift: "You're only as good as your shittiest song/And a watered-down Shirley Temple lasts twice as long." Have you sold their disc in the long box? If so, was the buyer feted with a ticker-tape celebration?

Steve: That Sea Hags album got a lot of play at the time, but honestly, one of the many bands at the time that came and went.

Gunther: Is there a day in Skinnie's history that stands above all others? Regarding the store's impending silver anniversary, will there be a feast filled with balloons, beverages, bands and BBQ?

Steve: 25th will be a landmark from my accountant's prospective. Like every year, I'm sure there will be a fair amount of revelry.

Gunther: The Dictators or New York Dolls?

Steve: I'll go for the underdog like always: The Dictators. At least I got to see them fairly early on. Ross the Boss AND Adny both came by (separate occasions). Seeing the Dolls last time around was very anticlimactic. They're out with a new lineup opening for Motley this summer. Pass.

Skinnie's Records
431 W. 22nd St.
Norfolk, VA 23517
(757) 622-2241

Mon-Fri: 10 am - 8 pm
Sat: 11 am - 8 pm
Sun: By appointment

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AC/DC - "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)" [1976]

Real men eat haggis, wear kilts and play bagpipes.

Rainbow- "Street of Dreams" (1983)

You would've heard this song on FM-99 WNOR while waiting in line for a grinder at Zero's Subs in Churchland. Where have you gone, Joe Lynn Turner?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The First Step

It's a long way to the top...

With a few moral adjustments, televangelist sexpot Joyce Meyer could've been this generation's Blanche Devereaux. How come Edy's has never introduced an ice cream fortified with chunks of Whatchamacallit or Kit Kat? What songs would comprise the ultimate Husker Du mixed tape? My knock on Jehovah's Witnesses is their fascination with doors. With whom would I dine at a particular bistro in Downtown Norfolk? Amber Tamblyn or Jessica Biel? Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series is the greatest sports moment I've seen in my lifetime. Whose faces would be on a Mount Rushmore of Tidewater Virginia? Have I come close to ending my second stint of sobriety? I want to hold a beautiful baby again. What childhood game did I play with a pencil and marble? Did the Shadowlawn Bear cost Mary Kay Mallonee her position at WAVY-TV 10? My reasons for disliking The Dave Matthews Band are largely associative. What extinct McDonald's menu items do I miss the most? How would I defend Sammy Hagar's work with Van Halen? I should call my grandfather more often. When did I become a fan of the Baltimore Orioles? Remember when laundromats were makeshift arcades? Rainbow's "Street Of Dreams" is an example of a great "radio" song. Where can I find a rogue Walgreens that'll transfer album covers onto T-shirts? Which three ESPN personalities would I like to meet? I might have stopped talking to a female friend, because I wanted her to be the person she was in 1999. Why is "Crazy People" one of the best movies ever made? Remember when Taco Bell "thought inside the bun" and served "burgers" and fries? Lee Ving, Al Bundy and someone else would be on a list of Great Americans. Should cornhole become an Olympic sport? What would be stuffed inside the Hot Pockets of your dreams? It's amazing that WVEC anchorman LaSalle Banks can be called a "world champion." Why did I start ANOTHER blog? When did I discover my fear of heights?

I'm Gunther 8544, and I'll attempt to traverse these and other notches that make up the ladder of The Rung. May I never stop climbing.