Sunday, September 14, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (9/7/14-9/13/14)

    This past week I spent much of my time at Rehoboth, Delaware, a beach resort town right up against the Atlantic Ocean.  My goodness, it was swell.  We hit just after the end of the Summer season, as much of the community was winding down, so we had the place largely to ourselves.  This meant that some businesses and activities were closed (no mini-golf that we could find), but much of the vacation madness and crowding was over.  That’s more my cup of tea anyway, being somewhat averse to large crowds as a general thing.  Consequently, there’s not a lot in the way of movies for this week, but plenty of other cool stuff.

    On the journey up, I read the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this month’s graphic novel club book.  It was one of the first comics I read when I started getting into the medium about 12 years ago, and this was my first re-reading of it.  I enjoyed the heck out of Alan Moore’s referential smorgasbord of Victorian literature.

    We arrived in Ocean City, where we hailed the first cab to come along…the craziest, most 70s, adventure cab you could ever want.  Despite having a Huey Lewis and the News cassette (along with the Big Chill soundtrack!), it was not, as we were briefly worried, a murder van.  It did have a sweet surfboard on top and a rubber skeleton hanging out the back window.  Bam!  In that character filled van, with a character of a driver, we crossed the length of Ocean City to catch another bus, the Dart, which took us out to our lodgings.  Sadly, the public transit in the Ocean City-Rehoboth corridor is not the most user friendly, with very little helpful info on their website, and no ability to track bus progress.  And when you’re talking about bus routes that can be as much as an hour and a half, easier tracking would be very helpful.  Still, in Rehoboth itself, the buses seemed pretty frequent, even in this off season.  The buses were nice (and clean), but their website could use some work.

    When we hopped off the bus, we were greeted by a cute little farmer’s market, called Fifer’s.  The folks running it were very friendly, and the food we snagged was quite good.  I’d recommend the apple cider donuts, and their tubs of snacks (dried fruit, trail mix, etc.) were quite good.  The chocolate covered pretzels even used real chocolate, not that waxy crap you get in most grocery stores.  Oh, man….

    Though the weather was a bit drizzly, we took the short walk to the beach after getting settled in, and it was simply beautiful.  I’ve been to precious few beaches in my day, and most of them were on the frigid and rocky shores of Maine.  This was a classic resort town beach.  Stretching off into the misty fog  at the far end of either direction, the sand gently sloped down to the rolling waves, giving plenty of room for people to set up and enjoy.  However, due to the lateness of our visit and the wet weather, the beach was mostly deserted.  Perfect.

    After the peaceful view of the rolling ocean, we headed to Rehoboth proper, where there’s an awesome, old-timey boardwalk that looks like what Atlantic City would look like without the sleaze.  I was reminded of the Bangor State Fare mixed with the usual tourist trap shops.  But it was all pleasant and fun to walk around.  But first up was The Frogg Pond, which we had heard had the best wings in town.  I don’t know if there are better, but they were sure as heck delicious.  I was only disappointed that I wasn’t hungry enough to eat another round.  The general atmosphere was of a typical sports bar, but it was pleasant and clean, and the staff was friendly.  There was some live music of moderate quality and perhaps a touch too much volume, but nothing offensive or too off-putting.  After our meal, we stopped by a Candy Kitchen, a shop more common in the region than Starbucks in New York City to purchase some extra snacks and sweets.  Again, I was reminded of the difference real chocolate makes.  You know it’s good when it starts melting on contact with your skin.  Wowzer.  Good stuff.

    Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at The Sunrise Restaurant, a highly rated local favorite.  I have to admit, I found it a bit underwhelming.  The portions were enormous, but the food was sort of middling.  It had that awesome local diner type vibe, but I can’t really rave about it.

    After a trip to local outlet stores (I needed a new pair of sneakers) we walked back into Rehoboth and had a drink at The Summer House.  I drank The Painkiller, which did it’s job.  It was on these walks through town that we discovered the whole place seems to be ruled by a benevolent dictator, Jack Lingo.  His signs are everywhere, and he seems to be the name behind nearly ever real estate deal going.  His office complex is quite impressive, and looks like a historic monument.  We never met or saw the man, and that’s too bad.  I would love to have a face to put with the name.  I’m sure it’s handsome, well quaffed, and accompanied by a rich, smooth voice.  After passing the massive palace of the Mighty Lingo, it was on to the boardwalk where we ate some fries at Thrasher’s, which were quite good.  And we made our first stop at The Ice Cream Store with its dizzying array of flavors.  If we’d stayed another week, I would not have grown tired of trying ice creams and if there were more hours in the day, we’d have likely been hitting the place up a couple times each one we spent in town.  Another walk on the beach brought us home, where we quickly turned around and headed down to the water, putting our feet in for the first time.  While it was a bit cloudy and windy, the water was amazing.  And standing there with the surf breaking around us was pretty darned spectacular.  It was what I’d always wanted the beach to be, not the shiver inducing, dirty green harshness of Sand Beach.

    Later that evening we walked back into town to have dinner at Dogfish Head Brewpub.  My lady was very pleased with the selection of beers, being so near the actual brewery.  (Heck, even I enjoyed sips of a few of those beers, and I normally can’t stand the stuff).  Their burger special was excellent and easy on the wallet.  And the service was exceptional.  I think this may have been my favorite eating experience of the week (a week full of good eating).  It would appear that there is a Dogfish Head close to me, and I definitely plan on visiting sooner rather than later.

    Early Wednesday morning, we walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise.  While the clouds didn’t cooperate as much as we might have hoped, it was still quite lovely.  After that, we grabbed some breakfast sandwiches from Fifers and settled in for a relaxing day.  We were feeling kind of lazy, so we spent much of the early day lounging and watching a couple movies.  Each of us brought along a few the other hadn’t seen, just in case we were stuck inside.  So, I’ve now seen Dirty Dancing, and she’s now seen Buckaroo Banzai.  Ain’t love grand?!

Dirty Dancing:  Apparently set in the early 1960s, this extremely 80s film is filled with everything you expect.  Dancing (sometimes dirty), cheesy dialog (“Last month I was eating Jujubes just to keep alive!”), and hacksaw editing.  Oh, and surprise After School Special/“very special episode of Blossom” B storyline.  Jerry Orbach is particularly awesome as the greatest dad ever.  Plus, like all good 80s films it ends in a dance/concert/big game.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension:  One of the most madcap, off the wall, weirdly involved, sprawling, never explains who the deuce these people are movies you’ll ever see.  It hits the ground running and it runs all over the danged place.  A bunch of hard rocking scientists/crime-fighters/doctors led by Peter Weller face off against criminal aliens in the form of the best 80s movie villain actors, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, and Vincent Schiavelli (yes, not ONE, but all FOUR!).  The movie feels like what a good comic book movie should be.  There’s little in the way of origin story, and lots in the way of implied history between various characters.  It feels like you’ve been thrust into their world and you’ve got to figure out what’s happening and why.  Infinitely quotable, funny, weird, and often outright bugnuts.  It’s kind of amazing.

    Wednesday afternoon we had the best weather of the whole week, so we went down to the ocean again, enjoying the heck out of the surf, getting pretty well soaked, and even laying out for a while in the sun to dry off.  There were so many people with dogs, too, which were having a great time.  The vibe of the beach was really chill all week, and while never crowded, everyone seemed to be into the water.

    Wednesday night, we walked to Bramble & Brine, a classier place than I’m used to, but quite nice.  It had a slightly hoity-toity, very family-owned feel to it, while not being too stuffy.  The food was excellent.  Not cheap by any stretch.  But excellent.  Both of us were blown away by the lamb porterhouse, which was just an appetizer, but was darned good.  Darned good.  And they had a bunch of Prohibition era cocktails, which you know I’m into.  The service was exceptional, friendly and attentive, without hovering.  On the way back, we hit up The Ice Cream Store again, and Gidget's Gadgets, a kind of nicknack and kitsch shop.

    Thursday morning began the clean-up and return trip prep work.  With another round of breakfast sandwiches from Fifers, we set about tidying up.  By around noon, we were out the door and heading for the bus pick-up.  Once back to Ocean City, with suggestions from a friend, Rebecca directed us toward Ocean City Taphouse.  Good burgers and good homemade chips (with Old Bay).  From there it was back on the bus with a few stops, transfers, etc. and back home.  On the return trip, I read the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which I enjoyed even more than the first.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading Black Dossier and Century in the coming weeks.

    This was, without a doubt, the best danged vacation I’ve ever taken.  And I’d recommend Rehoboth to anyone looking for a fun, relaxing time by the beach.  I’m sure it is crazy during the peak season, and maybe not as much fun for introverts like myself.  But generally, it was pretty amazing.  The people were wonderful and the food fantastic.  Getting home, I understandably fell into a post-vacation funk.  Still, it was a great week. And I sure as heck want to give a big thank you to the owners of the place we stayed at.  You can check out the listing here:  Excellent location, wonderful and friendly owner, and spacious enough for a larger group, if you're interested (one group that stayed there before us was a bachelorette party/week).  I can't say enough good things.

Muppets Most Wanted:  After hearing some pretty bad press about this film, I found myself enjoying the heck out of it.  Plenty of the usual Muppets antics, lots of blink and you’ll miss ‘em cameos, and some fun musical numbers.  While it’s not going to change the world, it’s a very fun movie, and lots of fun for the family.  If you like the Muppets, you should find plenty to like here.

    Saturday, Brad and I headed out to SPX.  I feel more and more each year that I’ve lost the thread (if I ever had it) of the whole SPX thing.  I enjoy going, but I’m usually done with the place relatively quickly, and a bit relieved when I leave.  As the years have gone by, I’ve found the Baltimore Comic Con has become more diverse, more interesting, both in content and in attendees, while SPX has become more homogenous.  Table after table of similar, often not especially impressive work.  And the crowd seems to have all gone to the same clothing shop and the same stylist.  Purple or blue or pink flannel shirts, skinny jeans, thick-rimmed glasses, Converse sneakers, and haircuts that looked a heck of a lot like Pete White’s from Venture Bros., all mixed into a kind of ugly, utilitarian androgyny.  And almost everyone in attendance was white.  Jim Rugg and Tom Scioli were there, and I was glad to get some stuff from them.  But overall, it didn’t get me too awful pumped, as it has in years past.

The Phantom:  This serial is a bit longer than I was expecting.  15 chapters, instead of the 12 I’m more used to.  It’s better than some, but not among my favorites.  It features the usual ‘Mysterious Lands’ that are some vague hodgepodge of Africa, South America, the American West, and tropical islands of the Hollywood cliché factory.  Tom Tyler, who I enjoyed so much as Captain Marvel in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, one of my favorite movie serials ever, is super dull in this.  His lifeless performance as the Phantom is one of the weaker elements, which is rough when he’s the main character.  Good but not great.

Blood Money (aka: The Stranger and the Gunfighter):  It’s not just East Meets West.  It’s East Meets West with spaghetti sauce.  Unfortunately, as with several of these attempts at genre mashing, the end result is a diluted, half-way version of both, not a good synthesis of both.  Lee Van Cleef is pretty much phoning it in, and Lieh Lo lacks the charm to make up for it.  It’s not terrible, and less dull than a good number of forgettable Spaghetti Westerns, but don’t go out of your way.

    And that was that.  A fine week, with plenty of good food, good fun, comics, movies, and more.  Who’d have thought an after season beach in Delaware would be so darned nice?

-Matthew J. Constantine

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