I had been to New York City four or five times previously for work, and had done all the "touristy" stuff I wanted to do. Then one trip I decided to take my mom with me so she could see the big city, which meant I ended up doing all the touristy stuff all over again. Since I was not a Broadway fan, I had never seen a show and had no plans of doing so... but my mom thought a trip to New York would be incomplete without "The Broadway Experience" and so I relented. Problem was... good seats at a show were expensive, and I didn't have the money for good seats. I fretted a bit about my mom's first Broadway show being seen from the back of the theater, and mentioned it to a co-worker. She told me about TKTS, a place where you could get half-off same-day shows that had seats left. I was also told that the Times Square location could get a bit nuts and I should try the location at The World Trade Center. And so the next morning, off we went... where I got us third-row seats, center-stage for "Miss Saigon." Since we were already there, I suggested we visit "The Top of The World"... which I hadn't planned on doing since we had already been up The Empire State Building. It ended up being a pretty great day... got to see NYC from the top of the Twin Towers... went to a couple cool museums... ate lunch at the Stage Deli... visited Central Park and the world-famous FAO Schwartz toy store... all topped off by the lavish stage production of Miss Saigon.
Years later, 9/11 would happen and I'd be forever grateful that fate took us to The World Trade Center for theater tickets so my mom got to see The Top of The World. She wouldn't have another opportunity.
And this is why I can't think of The World Trade Center without hearing "Last Night of the World" from Miss Saigon in my head, and the irony of it all is not lost on me.
As I mentioned yesterday, I was a huge video game whore when I was a kid. I'm not going to lie... I still am, but only for Nintendo and LEGO. The difference being that when I was a kid I didn't do anything but play video games... whereas now I have things like "responsibilities" that keep getting in the way. Doesn't keep me from loving video games though. Here's a list of consoles that I love most of all...
The first "real" video game system of my generation, the Atari VCS was revolutionary in just about every way possible for the day. Yeah, the graphics were absolute crap, but the imagination and innovation behind the dozens of games released more than made up for it. The downfall of the system came when the games were churned out just to have them out... even if they weren't worth releasing. The original Pac-Man game was complete shit with only a passing nod to the original game. The E.T. disaster is legendary. The list goes on and on. But, still, before we got to that point there were a lot of great games trailblazing the way for everything that was to come.
It would be easy to drop a "modern" powerhouse system in this spot like Xbox One or PlayStation 4... perhaps even Wii U... but when it comes to the console that changed the way people play video games, it's the original Wii that turned the industry on it's head. Thanks to the way-cool controller, games became more interactive and collaborative than ever before. Get a group of friends together for Wii Bowling and good times can't help but ensue. Wii also brought forth the advent of the Mii, which gave gamers an identity they could carry through various games in a fun new way.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
This is probably the favorite gaming system of old, responsible for a slew of games that defined the industry. Taking the massive popularity of the NES one step further, the Super NES gave us gameplay that culminated in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and unleashed some of the best games ever made... including StarFox, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, Super Mario Kart, and Super Mario World.
The original PlayStation attempted to bring more power to the game of video games, but it was Playstation 2 that actually delivered on that ideal. Powerful enough to allow game designers to run wild with their imaginations, PS2 unleashed games that broke the mold and added new depth to the industry. A lot of terrific game franchises that had promising starts on earlier consoles blew up to new heights. So many fun games passed through here... it's no wonder it's the best-selling console of all time.
Three Nintendo systems on this list may seem like overkill (especially for Sega fans lamenting that none of their systems ended up here), but this was the console that gave us The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, arguably the greatest of the greatest in video games. We also got the first Paper Mario, which is one of my favorite game franchises. Updates to other franchises... Mario Kart 64, Donkey Kong 64, StarFox 64, Kirby 64, etc., also pushed gaming into new territory and solidified Nintendo's track record as having the game designers to beat.
This is a gaming system that rarely appears on people's lists of favorite game consoles. Yes it was underpowered. Yes it had one of the shittiest controllers ever. But it brought home a lot of great arcade games that Atari or Intellivision couldn't match... including the best home-port of Donkey Kong, my all-time favorite arcade title. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood playing ColecoVision, and am more than a little disappointed that it's forgotten by modern gamers.
When I was in High School I played a stupid amount of video games. Both at home and the arcade. And while they improved greatly from their humble beginnings, when I think of "arcade games" my mind always goes back to that era. Here are the games that make me feel that way...
When Donkey Kong first came out, it was certainly not the first platformer to hit the arcades. But it sure felt like it. Probably because it was clever enough both conceptually and visually to put other platformers a level below. I can't fathom how many quarters I pumped into my local Donkey Kong tabletop at the local pizza parlor.
Gauntlet II. RED WIZARD SHOT THE FOOD! The original Gauntlet was an arcade version of a fun dungeon-crawler that was made all the more special in that you could play it with three of your friends. Then came the sequel, and it was epic for its day.
Despite loving arcade games back in the day, I was never very good at them. With the exception of Q*Bert. For whatever reason, I could find my groove in the game and was able to get high score with alarming regularity. If I were to ever buy an arcade cabinet, it would be this one.
I always liked Pac-Man, but its repetitive nature was tough to get past. Then along comes Ms. Pac-Man and the repetitiveness somehow became tolerable. The game had a real "zen" about it that made for a great mindless diversion from life's troubles.
Even though the graphics were simplistic to a radical degree, the fact that they were constructed from gorgeous vectors and had a kinetic energy which put you in the game in a very real way made me play it over and over and over again.
Is there anything more magical than Kool-Aid? You dump a little bit of powder and a cup of sugar into a container... fill it with 2 quarts of water... and BOOM! Out pops a colorful explosion of delicious flavor in drinkable form! Here's my favorites...
Tropical Punch. One of the original flavors and still my favorite. It has good fruity taste, and the added bonus of having Kool-Aid's hallmark toxic sweetness nicely balanced out with some acidity. As if that all weren't enough, the red coloring is so intense that you can use it to dye fabrics, your intestines, or even your hair.
After having gone missing for a while, this classic flavor made a recent re-appearance. It's supposed to be a blend of grape an lemon... but it tastes like more than the sum of its parts. I can't really explain that, so you'll just have to try it for yourself... while you can.
Orange. Or perhaps Grape.
These are two basic flavors that divide my loyalty. Sometimes I get on an Orange kick where I can't think of drinking any other flavor... then I'll hop on the Grape bandwagon. They are not the best interpretation of "real fruit taste" but they are tasty.
A weird, but pleasing blend of Strawberry, Orange, and Banana. Has a somewhat artificial taste to it, but (oddly) not in a bad way. Another flavor that's been gone for a while.
Probably the most accurately-flavored Kool-Aid flavor I've tried. And it has good "body" to it, which makes it feel more like a juice than Kool-Aid.
If you're like me, once you were out on your own, you just grabbed whichever toothpaste was cheapest and damn the consequences. I continued doing that for years. Until I got a free sample of The Good Stuff and had my life turned around. Then I became a bit of a toothpaste connoisseur and started trying every brand I could find. Here's the results...
Arm & Hammer Advance White Baking Soda.
No toothpaste makes my mouth feel this fresh and clean. It's like a trip to the dentist every morning! Don't know that the whitening is as effective as others, but it does the job.
Colgate Optic White Sparkling Mint.
The second-best whitening toothpaste I've found, but the taste takes a little getting used to. Leaves behind a residue that's not so great, but apparently that's the price you pay for white teeth.
Tom's of Maine Botanically Bright Peppermint.
There was a point I was trying to "go natural" in my life, and Tom's had the best option for toothpaste I could find in my local supermarket. Overall it was "okay"... and if I ever become obsessed with "natural" again, I'll have no problem going back... but there are better options available if you want a whitening toothpaste.
I became an instant fan of Aquafresh when it first came out in the 70's and it was my brand of choice for decades. I've since grown past it, but end up using it from time to time when it's given away at hotels I stay at. If I went back to Aquafresh, I'd probably go with their "Extreme Clean" version.
Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White Vibrant Mint Flavor Whitening Toothpaste.
Does a miraculous great job of removing a yellow cast from your teeth, but once I found out it contains plastic microbeads which fuck up the environment in absolutely horrifying ways, I stopped using it. I'm adding it to the list because, apparently, Crest is taking the microbeads out of all their products this year. I might give it another try once that happens.
Who doesn't love cookies? My favorite cookies are freshly-baked oatmeal-raisin cookies. Which is a pity, because I so rarely have the time to bake and they don't make any oatmeal-raisin cookies you can buy in the store that I will eat. So what cookies that you can buy in the store do I like? Glad you asked...
Pepperidge Farms Sausalito.
The best cookies you can buy. Period. I am not a fan of coconut, but... the tiny shavings they add to these milk-chocolate chunk and macadamia miracles is amazing. As if the flavor profile wasn't sublimely delicious, they have a crisp, crumbly texture that somehow doesn't come off as dry. I could eat a bag of these a day for the rest of my life and never get tired of them. A pity they're so expensive.
Girl Scout Caramel deLites (Samoas).
I am not a fan of coconut, but... these have it all. A buttery vanilla cookie base topped with creamy caramel and coconut shreds... THEN they put chocolate on top of that. There's so much delicious going on in each bite that your brain doesn't quite know how to process it. Keebler has the same cookie they brand as "Caramel Dreams," so you can eat them outside of Girl Scout Cookie Season.
Keebler Pecan Sandies.
Shortbread is a highly subjective topic because everybody has an opinion as to what makes the best cookie. Some like a dense shortbread like Lorna Doone... others prefer a more traditional buttery shortbread like Walker's. I prefer a lighter shortbread (if you can call it that?) which is why I buy Sandies. My favorite version is the ones with pecans... though there never seems to be enough pecans in them.
Tim Tams Original.
"Australia's Favorite Cookie" has two chocolate biscuits with a layer of yummeh chocolate cream between them... all drenched in milk chocolate. Doesn't sound like much, but the textures of the three components work together to give you an unforgettable cookie experience.
Girl Scout Thin Mints.
The fact that these are vegan would usually make me run away screaming... but the Girl Scouts somehow make it work. A chocolate-mint wafer is coated in a chocolate compound to create a simple cookie treat which has enough mint flavor to satisfy... but not so much that it overwhelms. It's this flawless balance that makes it one of my favorites.
Lose not your faith in Blogography, fair human! Because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Broked. As if it weren't painfully apparent, my blog wasn't as fixed as I had thought it was. I honestly don't know what to do about it short of a complete re-install, and I ain't got time for that. But anyway...
• Book. As a massive fan of the original cartoon, I anticipated hating The Jungle Book live-action remake. Well, I watched in on the plane ride home and loved it. Just incredible stuff. Where did they find the kid who played Mowgli? Amazing young actor. The fact that they got Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo is just icing on the cake...
• Umbrella. Before I got on the plane, I wandered through the French Quarter yesterday and had to hide under some trees in Jackson Square when a downpour started. That's when I saw a group of ladies caught in the rain who were squealing. A guy passing by handed them his umbrella. After several rounds of thank you's, this happened... "Oh we gonna have to keep you now!" "Sorry ma'am... Im already taken." "Well I can see why. God bless you young man!"
And off he went into the rain without his umbrella. Then this... "He was just like Batman!"
If I wasn't in New Orleans, one of my favorite places on earth, that would have made my day.
• Wrong.Kim Davis Asks Court to Dismiss Marriage License Appeal. Looks like somebody doesn't want to go down on the wrong side of history as a hateful bigot that refused to do her job. Well, I have news for you... that's ALL you're going to be remembered for as long as people remember who you are you pathetic farce. You'd think that this would serve as warning for other bigots out there, but I think we all know that's not true.
• Sodium. A friend of a friend closed his restaurant last December. Recently when he was asked if he would share some of his favorite recipes and he did. Then somebody asked him how in the heck he made his burgers taste so good. His answer? Butter and salt. Saturate the buns in butter before grilling them. Just before flipping, salt and pepper the patty (his restaurant had a touch of garlic powder in the mix) then flip and add more salt. Sodium nightmare? Yes. But restaurants don't have to post Nutrition Facts, so that's how he made his burgers taste great. And so I gave it a try with my Boca Burger patties. *AMAZING* The abundance of butter and salt totally takes them to the next level. High blood pressure, here I come!
• Doloris. When you're watching every episode of The West Wing for the hundredth time and you've JUST gotten over the fact that Mrs. Landingham died... only to have her pop up in a flashback in the episode Bartlett for America. Gets me every time. Boy do I miss this show.