Saturday, May 28, 2016

The It's a Toy Store Annual Toy Show - 2016 Edition!




This Toy Show gets bigger every year.  It has grown exponentially over time and if you happen to be seeking that one missing piece in your collection the It’s A Toy Store Toy Show is not a bad place to look.  It is a boon for buyers and sellers.  If you are selling toys it is completely free to set up a table.  Frank is the master of ceremonies and he does a GREAT job for the fans.  It’s not just about toys with Frank, it’s about passion and joy and sharing that with others.   


Frank holding court with the Good Souls from Level Up Entertainment standing by





If you missed today’s Toy Show, take heart, it will return again next year.  In the meantime, may I humbly suggest, stopping in at It’s a Toy Store in Richland, NJ (It's A Toy Store on Facebook).  You will not be disappointed.  Frank’s place is like a pop-culture museum and you will be hit by waves of nostalgia.  The conversation is top notch too.  Frank is the curator of this museum and has a wealth of geek knowledge to pull from.  Go, you will not be disappointed.




Thank you It's A Toy Store ~ this year's show was, truly, something to see! 







Monday, February 29, 2016

Things That Make March 2016 Magic

March 13th is Daylight Savings Time begins at 2:00 in the morning.  I like this concept since I have missed seeing the sun.  I kind of like seeing it.  Going to work when and coming home when it is dark takes its toll.  I’m hoping that everyone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder can catch a breather and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Sure it wasn’t a harsh winter for us this year but it was still winter and seeing these gray days come to an end does wonders for yours truly.  It will be good to see the sun again.  “Spring forward”… you know the rest.

                                 "Little darlin', its been a long, cold, lonely winter..."

March 15th.  Besides being the Ides of March where those in the know lord over the rest of the unwashed masses that they are aware that on March 15, 44 BC, Julius Ceasar gets assassinated and stabbed in the back; SONY is about to unveil Playstation VR.  “Cheap” Virtual Reality for us, the unwashed masses in the know.  How cheap remains to be seen but this could be big.  Oculus Rift and virtual reality are the logical step in immersive gaming.  If you get the chance to try out an Oculus take it – you will be amazed.  Having Playstation on board with this has truly groundbreaking potential.  There’s going to be a news conference on March 15th, 2016 to show it off and, hopefully, unveil the price tag.  Virtual Reality is ground breaking but being an early innovator does not always come cheaply.  I’m hoping to hear and see great things on the Ides of March.

                                                Oh, the things we'll see...

March 25th.  “Batman V Superman – Dawn of Justice” opens on this day.  Any Geek worth his or her salt grasps the iconic nature of finally having the trinity up on the silver screen – Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.  They are the stuff of legend.  Marvel has had their act together for quite some time now and this, as Warner Brothers & DC hope, will launch DC Comics pantheon from page to screen.  Zack Snyder is at the helm.  It was his vision that put the, “Man of Steel” onto the big screen and started to hint at a much larger world.  Having the genesis of the Justice League unfold on the big screen is an idea whose time has come.  For one reason or another it has been a long time coming.  The stories are there but Warner Brothers didn’t jump until now.  I, for one, can’t wait.  I think that Snyder has something wonderful up his sleeve.  I’m hoping that he gets out of the way and let these icons speak for themselves.  I betting the he does.  He has his collective act together too.  We will also get a peek at some of the other players too.  Expect to see the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg make their cameos too.  Can “Justice League” be far behind?  Who else do you get to take on the “Suicide Squad”?  Fans can be cruel.  I believe this is because they have been hurt in the past and that they have ideas as to how these stories that are so close to their hearts should be told.  There is baggage too, Superman did something in the last movie that he would be hard pressed to ever do in the comics.  I’m hoping that there are repercussions and I hope they are explained in this new film.  I believe in Zack and, Lord knows, I believe in these icons.  I can’t wait to see what happens.    

                                 The trinity.  The back bone of the Justice League.



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Savannah, Georgia



I have a friend of mine, let’s call her Walker.  Walker and I love to compare notes on family vacations.  We both live vicariously off of each other’s adventures.  One of these days I will consult her on traveling out west where she and her family have had several unforgettable experiences.  Rattlesnakes and tarantulas may be traumatic at first but they ultimately make for great travel stories.  Walker has ‘em.  She asked me recently what to do with some spare time in Savannah, Georgia.  Mother Hen and I were there this past August and, as it turns out, we fell in love with the city.  Savannah will capture you and you will be happy in its embrace.  Here is, by and large, what I told Walker… 

                                       Character and atmosphere

Historic Savannah is a timeless city.  Oglethorpe knew what he was doing when he laid it out in pre-revolutionary times.  He may have patterned it after Roman encampments – whatever the case Old Savannah is absolutely beautiful – one of the most wonderful cities that I have ever had to pleasure of visiting.  Mother Hen feels the same way.  MH and I have traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard and at various destinations I would say, “You know, we could live here.”  She does not always agree.  In Savannah, the tables turned and she beat me to the punch.  “You know,” she said, “we could live here”.

                                                  Iron work and architecture

                                                    The Mercer House

Savannah is a city heavy with history, character, and charm.  The historic section is truly something to behold.  Take the Oglethorpe Trolley Tour (http://www.oglethorpetours.com/).  I’ve come to love these trolley tours.  You’ll learn a lot about the city and you will cover a LOT of ground, which is good since you will be able to scope out the sights that you want to revisit.  If you only have a limited time to visit, then I’d say find a good trolley tour – it will be to your benefit.   

                                           View from inside one of the Squares

                                           So much to explore.

                                               This was a 'mail ordered' fountain

                                                 The First African Baptist Church

The Squares are wonderful are a must to walk, the Mercer House (from ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’), the architecture, the oak trees, the fountains, the iron work, the weight of the palpable history that hangs in the city just as the Spanish moss does, the cobblestones at the waterfront, and the FOOD! – oh, you guys are going to LOVE it.  Speaking of food, if you want a meal that you will never forget skip Paula Dean’s place and go directly to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (http://mrswilkes.com/).  Trust me on this.  The locals will tell you the same.  Get there early (about 10:30 should do).  They open at 11:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM – yes, they are only open three hours a day.  That’s all they need to blow anything else out of the water.  Southern cooking that is off the charts, cranked to 11, and blowin’ out the speakers.  It’s $22.00 a head and worth every single cent.  Bring cash, they don’t take cards.     

                                   Yes, that is the line. It is time well spent.

After a meal like that it is time for a walk.  Go check out the things that you wanted to revisit from the trolley ride.  If you get the chance before hoping back onto the trolley to take you back to where your car is see about making a stop at Leopold’s Ice Cream (http://www.leopoldsicecream.com/).  This place is amazing – two fold.  First the Ice Cream Parlor itself is like stepping back in time.  Secondly, you will notice a lot of autographs & movie posters on the walls, as well as, film props all over the place.  It turns out that the owner was a film producer.  You guys would LOVE it.  J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins are all represented in the photo / autograph section.  The ice cream is the real deal too.  They’re Zagat rated for a reason.

                                             It gets to be a busy place.

There is so much more than this and we only scratched the surface of this wonderful city.  Next time we are bringing the girls and we’ll probably stay longer than a day.  I have no doubt that you and your family will have an adventurous time in the city of Savannah (http://visitsavannah.com/).  I can’t wait to hear of the stories.

                                                        Timeless.





Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Florida Keys



One of my best friends is planning a trip to Florida with his family.  He sent me a message asking me, apart from Disney, what I would recommend seeing in the state of Florida.  I wrote back saying that apart from our drop-dead amazing Disney experience the only part of Florida that we explored this go round was the Florida Keys.  My friend name is not “X”, although I think he will like this alias – we grew up with Speed Racer after all.  X has a wife and two daughters and they may be referenced from here out.  The following is, by and large, what I wrote back to him…

Mother Hen and I took a business and pleasure vacation in August of 2015.  We went to Disney and had the time of our lives.  After the performance at Disney we headed south. I have always wanted to drive A1A down the keys. Truth be told, I'd go back in an instant and I would gleefully live there but Mother Hen doesn’t like the sound of “Hurricane Season”.  I think we could adapt.

X, my friend, if you are considering heading down to the Keys I would pay a visit to Betsy the 30-foot-tall giant lobster at the Rain Barrel Artisan Village in Islamorada.  How often does one get such an opportunity?

                   Betsy's a big one - I figure 55 gallons of melted butter would do.

 It’s free but I wouldn’t get too stuck there at the Rain Barrel itself – for that I’d head southward of Islamorada to Robbie’s (http://www.robbies.com/).  Robbie’s has an artisan village vibe too but it is superior.  This is where you are going to want to lay down a five spot for a bucket of fish to feed the tarpon. The girls would LOVE this. Everyone needs to get a bucket to feed the fish. These tarpon are something to see up close and personal and these prehistoric fish will snap the bait right out of your hand. It was the best $5.00 I’ve ever spent.

                                                          Hungry Tarpon

If you feel so inclined they rent kayaks there too. We didn’t do the kayaks this time. After that keep heading south on A1A. I love this highway. To your right is the Gulf of Mexico ~ to you left is the Atlantic Ocean and you are driving on a ribbon of asphalt in what feels like the middle of it all. I’d head to Deer Key & No Name Key to find some Key Deer. They are similar to ours but they are small and they are not afraid of people. This has been to their detriment in that these wonderful creatures are now on the endangered species list. The speed limit is 35 mph and the authorities are not kidding. They are pretty wonderful to find.

           I don't know who the people are but this gives you an idea of the deer's size.

Moving southward still you will eventually come to Bahia Honda State Park (http://bahiahondapark.com/). Make this a beach day; however, it will be a beach day unlike any spent here in New Jersey. You will notice that the water is crystal clear, it truly is like “bathwater”, sea turtles lay eggs here, and there is a railroad bridge that is missing a section that was lost in a hurricane years ago. Please bring your own masks and snorkels ~ everyone will need them because you are about to see a world that you have only seen in pictures or in documentaries. 

                             
                                           The railroad bridge at Bahia Honda

Play with your snorkel, dip your head into the water, and open your eyes.  X, I am not exaggerating, I could spend the rest of my days snorkeling in those waters. You will be only waist deep but you’ll see rock & corral formations, plant life, and tiny fish by the score. They are cautious but they are there. If you and the girls are decent swimmers and you want to do something that you and your family will remember forever, then hop on a snorkel trip right there at Bahia Honda. The boat will take you out to Looe Key – a living coral reef and bring you back again. We didn’t do this when we were down there and I’m sorry that we didn’t. It’s about $30.00 a head per adult and about $25.00 per child under 18. Money well spent.

                   LOOK at that water.  The flash of color is a fish of some sort.

Heading further southward you will end up in Key West. There is a lot going on in Key West and they have curiosities for each and every taste. Speaking of taste, have some Cuban coffee and some Conch Fritters.  We hit up B.O.’s Fish Wagon for our Conch.  It’s worth a quick stop.

                  Behind this truck is B.O.'s Fish Wagon. Try the Conch Fritters!

Do take the Conch Train or the Tour Trolley. Is it tourist-ish? Hell yeah! But it’s worth it.  While the blocks are small, Key West is larger than it seems and you’ll be able to get a good ‘lay of the land’ appreciation for the local on one of these tour conveyances. Also, you will be able to get on and off so if there is something that you want to see all you have to do is hop off and wait ‘till the next train or trolley.  We didn’t do either but I truly wish we did.  Be mindful of the time of year not for the weather (which is always pretty perfect) but for Fantasy Fest. You don’t want to be there with the family during Fantasy Fest. Do a search without the kids around, you’ll see what I mean. You and Mrs. X maybe – with the girls, not so much. I recommend seeing a sunset we were in the Keys for three days and circumstances on each night were beyond my control – we missed out each and every night. If you go, and I hope you do, X; do not miss this experience.

If you can’t tell already let it be known that I love the Florida Keys. There is a vibe – an energy there that is can’t really be duplicated off island.  Sure you are technically in the United States but you will not feel like it.  You will feel as if you are somewhere else altogether.  Half a world away.  These experiences were from a few days stay.  There is so much that we missed.  So much to see and do.  Included with all the things that we missed this time, next time we have to hit Key Largo and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – the home of the Christ of the Abyss.  Sure I’ll have to bone up on my swimming skills but it will be worth it.  And then there is Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas National Park (which is the true southernmost point of the United States).  This would be a drop dead wonderful place to snorkel, camp, and watch the stars.  You can only get there via boat or sea plane but what a trip, what an adventure.  …Next time.

The Florida Keys have been home to pirates and poets and people who are not the easiest to classify.  There are some legends that people still tell tales of.  Soak it all in.  Earnest Hemmingway, Tennessee Williams, and Harry Truman called the Keys home.  Carl Hiaasen, Travis McGee, Dave Berry, and Lee Child have set stories there too.  Perhaps this is what I like most about the Florida Keys – you have a chance to write your own story there too. 

I fell in love with the Keys.  I bet you and the girls would too.