Sunday, September 30, 2007

BIOPICS. TCM is featuring biopics all through the month of October. Since I will not be devoting October to biopics here in this blog, I thought I'd list a handful of my favourites here and now. They may not be STRICTLY truthful (in fact, they almost NEVER are) but the typical Hollywood embellishments make the biopic one of the staples of the silver screen -- and here are some I find most enjoyable.
AMADEUS (1984) - Oscar winner for Best Picture with Tom Hulce at equal turns boorish and tormented while F. Murray Abraham seethes with envy.
BECKET (1964) - the story of Thomas a Becket (Richard Burton) who starts off as the carousing chum of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) only to find himself facing off against him as Archbishop of Canterbury
BRAVEHEART (1995) - Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning film about Scotland's freedom fighter William Wallace knocking heads with the superbly reptilian King Edward Longshanks (Patrick MacGoohan).
CLEOPATRA (1934) - Nothing beats Claudette Colbert as Queen of the Nile with direction by Cecil B. DeMille!
ED WOOD (1994) - Tim Burton's highly fictionalized but "heart-in-the-right-place" account of the "little engine that could" film director played whimsically by Johnny Depp with Martin Landau's Oscar-winning (if inaccurate) portrayal of Bela Lugosi.
EL CID (1961) - The crusading Spanish hero portrayed by Charlton Heston (who ends up in the final reel leading his army dead and strapped upright on his horse) and his bride Sophia Loren (who refused to wear "old age make-up" and doesn't age throughout the decades of the film's story). Pure epic bombast as only Hollywood could dish it up. ELIZABETH (1998) - Cate Blanchett owns Elizabeth I (sorry, Bette) but we'll see how she does in the upcoming sequel.
GANDHI (1982) - Another Oscar winner with Ben Kingsley as the saintly Indian revolutionary and an all-star cast pulling off an epic in the 80's
GOODFELLAS (1990) - some may not consider this a biopic but it is actually the true life story (from childhood on) of mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta).
THE MAN WHO SAW TOMORROW (1981) - One of a long line of "not really" documentaries which re-enacts the life of French prophet Nostradamus hosted/narrated with de riguer gravity by Orson Welles.
MARY OF SCOTLAND (1936) - Admittedly minor John Ford film with Katharine Hepburn as a preposterously saintly Mary, Queen of Scots. She looks great, though.
THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950) - the MGM musical life story of the songwriting partnership of Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Red Skelton) is one of my all-time favourite musicals. Packed with great songs (Who's Sorry Now, Nevertheless, Thinking Of You, I Wanna Be Loved By You) and also featuring the beloved Vera-Ellen (as well as one of the first screen appearances of Debbie Reynolds).
TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946) - light and fluffy Hollywood version of the life of songwriter Jerome Kern; also PACKED with great songs and musical numbers as only MGM could do them.
TOWER OF LONDON (1939) - actually the life of Richard III (Basil Rathbone) with a little help from Shakespeare and the Universal studios monster factory. Also features Boris Karloff as Morg the executioner and an early role for Vincent Price (who is drowned in a butt of malmsey).
WILSON (1944) - Great biopic of cold fish President Woodrow Wilson starring cold fish Alexander Knox and an all-star cast. The unlikeliest President to base an epic film upon but it works tremendously well for me. Darryl F. Zanuck's labour of love.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

WARM BRANDY just arrived in the mail. Now I'm not talking alcohol naughtiness; I'm talking. . .well, auditory naughtiness, I suppose. "Warm Brandy" is a cd of Dolores Gray's only 1957 LP of sultry SULTRY standards. A nice description of it can be found if you click here -- you can also listen to a snippet of the songs as well. With such songs as "Shangri-La", "Don't Blame Me" and "You Go To My Head", "Warm Brandy" goes down just like the real thing -- smooth, smooth smooooooooooooooth with a nice smoldering sensation at the finish. Dolores Gray was in a lot of musical films in the 40's and 50's and will probably be familiar to those of you who frequent classic films. (Fink, you should have ALREADY stopped reading this.) Gray has an OK voice (nothing spectacular) but she's perfectly suited for these songs. We're talking a yearning, torch singer accompanied by a softly-strummed electric guitar on nearly every track!
This album reminds me a lot of June Christy's LP "Something Cool" from around the same time period (and if you don't own THAT album, shame on ya!). Only, where June Christy has a large dose of melancholy loneliness in her LP as she sadly nurses her drink at the end of a bar, Dolores Gray has the fireplace lit, the bear rug spread in front of it and the martinis chilled. As soon as this album is finished playing, SOMETHING'S gonna happen. And I don't mean championship darts. Va-va-va-VOOM! So, if you're in a real loungy, mellow mood you need to spin THIS platter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'VE SAID IT BEFORE AND I'LL SAY IT AGAIN! Why did they discontinue the Marathon Bar?!? Back in the day (1973-1981), M&M/Mars made this incredibly long candy bar called Marathon which was chocolate and caramel. But it was braided as you can see in this old ad featuring Patrick Wayne (yes, he's John Wayne's son) hawking the candy bar. I personally don't remember it being around THAT long; I seem to only remember it in the late 70's but apparently it hung in there for almost a decade before it was discontinued.
This just joins the LONG list of great foods that (for some reason) they don't make any more. Things like KOOGLE (a spread that was LIKE peanut butter but NOT peanut butter--it came in chocolate, banana and strawberry flavours if I remember correctly.) And you'll notice that it says "peanut spread" on the label -- but that must be a later incarnation because the Koogle that I smeared between 2 slices of bread (sometimes with Marshmallow Fluff added) had no peanuts (butter or otherwise) in it; in fact it was of much the same consistency as Marshmallow Fluff -- only dark DARK brown (much darker than the stuff pictured here -- much the same color as dark chocolate) or flourescent yellow or pink. I'm sure the stuff was made outta chemicals, plastic and wax -- and THAT'S why it tasted so good!!! God bless the 70's when they let you eat food that would kill ya! Then there was Aspen soda (it was apple flavoured - and yes it was good). This photo also causes me some form of consternation since my recollection is of a can with a white background -- not green like this one here. Or Tuna Twist (a box of stuff that you added to tuna fish to both soup up the flavour with herbs and spices as well as stretch the tuna so it made a little bit more sandwich-wise). Bizarrely, I still remember the jingle for Tuna Twist and, if you're ever around I can sing it to you: "Tuna Twist makes tuna taste fresh as a garden!" Sorry, the lame internet doesn't have a photo of Tuna Twist! And speaking of souping up. . .remember Soup Starter: that canister of dried stuff that you added water and meat to make a pot of (sorta) homemade soup??? Nope, internet ain't got a photo of THAT either. Bitches.
Some formerly thought lost food items which I have recently discovered STILL are made include that wonderful "stuff" Gerber's Blueberry Buckle (thanks to Cheekies for finding that one still on the shelves -- yes, it's baby food and yes, I'm OK with that. I can only describe it as a sorta blueberry puddin'!) and the wonderful, delectable Blackjack Gum (which sadly is only made certain times of the year -- much like Count Chocula cereal -- but, when it IS made it can be found in that silly general store type area in Cracker Barrel restaurants!
So, what "no longer made" food items do YOU miss? C'mon, Finky, you KNOW you're almost suicidal over Ragu's decision to discontinue Mama's Rich 'N' Meaty spaghetti sauce!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TRAN BACH UPDATE. OK, so someone else with a funny name just died so we have a NEW Pitneyspeak word for you all to memorize and use in daily conversation.
DATTA DAUJEKER (pronounced Datta Dow Jeeker) - definition: "My computer's frozen! Control Alt Delete isn't working! I hate technology. Nertz to Bill Gates!"
KEN BURNS' THE WAR. So, the brand new much-hyped documentary series by Ken Burns debuted on PBS Sunday night. So far, I've seen 2 nights of it and plan to watch more. My reaction so far? It's OK. Yeah, it's pretty good. I'm not going to say that I'm underwhelmed by it because I'm not really a fan of Ken Burns' work. I didn't particularly like his famous "The Civil War" series way back in the day. This, of course, has something to do with the fact that the Civil War is the ONE period in American history which bores me to tears ANYWAY so the guy was admittedly facing an uphill battle with me to begin with. And let's see, what else. Oh, his big documentary series "Ken Burns' Jazz" several years ago left me cold as well. Which is some feat considering how much I love (and am interested in) music. I tend to agree with a customer I had when I worked at the Hellmouth back when the "Ken Burns' Jazz" DVD came out: the customer said to me: "Ken Burns don't know shit about jazz!"
And perhaps this is why I don't REALLY like Ken Burns' documentaries that much. Sure, they're competently made but there's something missing in them. Something that someone who has a degree in history (like me) has a problem with. And the new "The War" documentary (about World War II in case you weren't aware of the subject matter) suffers from the same thing as well. And that is: there's precious little ACTUAL HISTORY dealt with. Burns (who damn it all, HAS to be a hobbit. . .I mean, just look at him. That's not a slam against the guy cuz I like hobbits. I'm just sayin'.) is one of those "documentarians" (I hesitate to label him an "historian") who is convinced that history is not big events but ordinary people. His approach to World War II in this new documentary is to focus on four towns (like "Luverne" and "Mobile") and the impact the Second World War had on the real people. Which is fine. I'm not against that at all.
HOWEVER. . .one shouldn't focus almost TOTALLY on the average Joe when chronicling history. I'm sorry, no matter how much they want to elevate and glorify the common man, the actual history-making events are almost ALWAYS triggered by extraordinary people. It's sort of the difference between Ella Fitzgerald and William Hung. They BOTH sing songs. . .but it's HOW they sing songs that makes them great. Ella Fitzgerald was an extraordinary vocalist; William Hung is an average Joe who sings. One is more deserving of attention than the other. This goes for telling the story of history as well. While the common people ARE important, they usually don't have that great of an impact on such monumental subjects as World War II. Ken Burns manages to do almost the impossible; in two successive nights of his documentary on World War II he managed to ALMOST not even MENTION Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin or any of the other figures one would THINK would crop up now and again in a documentary concerning the second World War. Burns seems to be deliberately going out of his way NOT to mention these figures. . .and when he does it almost seems like he's doing it grudgingly. While he is still covering the story. . .there are certain times you just HAVE to mention these figures or else you're leaving something out. This strikes me as one of those rabidly populist "social historian" type of thing and that approach to history really gets up my nose.
So yes, Ken Burns is generally capturing the flow of the second World War's story and there are some well-done moments in the series thus far. But yes, Mr. Burns, while the ordinary soldier's story is worth telling, so is that of the huge figures of history. A more balanced 50/50 documentary between common soldier and world figure would've made a MUCH more compelling documentary experience. At least for this viewer. And no, the old saw about "Well, we've HEARD all about those world leaders before" doesn't hold water. Because, if that's true, then why would we tune in to a documentary about World War II in the first place. If we've heard it all before, then there's no reason to watch Ken Burns' "The War" in the first place. And I still plan to watch it despite my reservations. Because hey, with the state of television as it is, it's STILL probably the only thing worth watching all week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

DESPICABLE! Yes Oprah, there is something even MORE despicable than O.J.'s book -- and that is what I found when I watched the new 20th Century Fox Midnight Movies double DVD of Tales From the Crypt/The Vault of Horror.

Now don't get me wrong; the idea of Fox finally releasing these two movies perfectly suited for a double feature dvd is to be applauded. And, upon viewing the first DVD of Tales From the Crypt (1972), I was pleasantly surprised to see not only an excellent print but several of the cut "gore" scenes (although extremely tame by today's standards) put back into the film for this release. All previous prints of Tales from the Crypt were missing these scenes and it's nice to see them restored.

So, imagine my horror when, upon viewing the second disc, I found The Vault of Horror (1973) to be a horribly mutilated and butchered print which not only cuts out several of the (again tame by modern standards) "gore" scenes but cuts them out apparently with an axe!!! For those of you not familiar with the film, it is an "omnibus" movie consisting of 5 separate stories with a wraparound sequence. The first time I noticed something was terribly wrong with this print was the scene pictured below in which Daniel Massey, after murdering his sister, stumbles into a restaurant full of vampires. Said bloodsuckers eventually discover Massey is human and, upending him, shove a spigot in his neck and serve his blood "on tap" as it were. And it were. Every version I've ever seen of this movie (including ANOTHER copy I already own) show this happening; no big deal. Really, I've seen worse on commercial television. But, in the new Fox DVD, when the camera SHOULD cut to the scene showing Massey hanging upside down with a bald vampire pouring blood into a glass from the tap in his neck, there is an INCREDIBLY JARRING AND INEPTLY INSERTED STILL PHOTOGRAPH accompanied by suddenly loud chopped-in music. A still photo, for Pete's sake -- as if this film was a slideshow and not a MOTION picture!!! This still photograph is on screen for AT LEAST 5 seconds (and here it is in a screen capture from the very DVD I took myself -- click on it to see it REAL BIG). Notice that the bald vampire appears to simply be pointing his finger into a black space -- which literally looks like someone either colored in the film frame with a black magic marker or else cut a piece of black paper and pasted it over top of the frame. Literally the still photograph appears to have been pasted in with Elmer's Glue. Daniel Massey's left ear is even covered by it, fer goshsakes!!! It boggles the mind how a MAJOR company like 20th Century Fox can release such a shoddy print to DVD like this. And that's not all; it happens AGAIN during the next story in which Glynis Johns bashes Terry-Thomas in the head. The actual shot of her doing this is cut out and ANOTHER STILL PHOTOGRAPH is scotch-taped into the film reel. Later on in the film, ANOTHER shock scene is cut (where a man has his hands cut off) but they apparently ran out of glue and scotch tape since no still photo is inserted in this one; just a horribly clumsy cut and splice where the scene SHOULD be. Ridiculously, the scene that is cut shows the man's bloody stumps. HOWEVER, right before that we clearly see his amputated bloody hands drop to the floor. Now, will someone please tell me how a shot of bloody amputated hands is OK to leave in the film while the shot of his bloody stumps is not?!?!?!? One seems to be JUST as horrific as the other and, like I said, I've seen worse on any half hour horror anthology TV show since the 80's.

Now seriously, I've seen this film many times and these scenes have NEVER been cut like this and CERTAINLY never had still photos inserted into them in such a slipshod way. Where Fox got THIS particular print, God only knows, but why would they even CONSIDER putting it out on DVD. It seems to me that 20th Century Fox would quite easily be able to find ANY print of this film that would be more appropriate to release to DVD than this incompetently butchered one. Thankfully, I still have my OTHER copy of the film which is thankfully unmutilated.

Beyond the Groovy Age of Horror

I really must apologize to The Groovy Age of Horror where I saw this Charles Bronson. . .um. . .what would you call it???. . .for the first time. But it was just too amazing NOT to post here. So, snivelling little rat bastard that I am, I posted it. So, in order to make it up to that superb blog, I'll also post this wonderful little trailer/advert for The Groovy Age of Horror above. You owe it to yourself to visit it every day; it's really a first rate blog. But now. . .Enjoy!

Charles Bronson - Japanese Mandom Commercial 2

Thursday, September 13, 2007

TRAN BACH DANG: A GUIDE TO PITNEYSPEAK. OK, so a few month's ago I posted a posty that explained how Tran Bach Dang was a way to say: "Buy me a soda". For those of you not in the know, Tran Bach Dang was some Vietnam War figure who died this year. The soda connection comes from my trying to explain to Finky who Tran Bach Dang was. . .but at that point Finky wasn't paying any attention to me due to an overwhelming thirst. So he just blurted out: "So, does that translate to 'You're buying me a soda?!?" Thus an immortal term was born.
Of course, since then I've decided - - wouldn't it be a great thing to assign OTHER people who died this year (and had funny names) a new meaning as well. That way they will always be with us -- AND we can have more fun communicating around the ole workplace. And since we never do any actual WORK there, we might as well do something like this. Therefore, behold the NEW Pitneyspeak Dictionary of Terms. Keep in mind that more terms may be added to the lexicon as more and more silly-named people kick off. Also, please feel free to use these terms at your very OWN workplace. Don't worry, I won't charge you a royalty for using them . . . unless I hear about it from somebody.
A note: most of these names can be used as exclamations but, where applicable, I will provide a usage in a sentence. Also, when I want you to pronounce it a certain way (other than how one might assume it is pronounced), I will provide a pronunciation guide as well. But please, keep in mind that every single term is an actual person's name who died this year; check it out on imdb if you don't believe me.
So now on with the dictionary:
TRAN BACH DANG - means "Buy me a soda!"
BONG SOO HAN - means "I need some fucking ice cream!"
TAT-WAH CHO - means "Both of 'em?" as in "Are those your skis?" "Yes" (PAUSE) "Tat-wah cho?"
LALE ORALOGLU (pronounced Lolly Oral Oh Glue) - means "Lend me some licorice."
HRANT DINK - means "Gimme your eggroll! NOW!"
CLAUDE GAI - means "Shave your nipples!" as in "Fink! Claude Gai!"
DA-BIN JEONG - means "Your shoe's untied."
POMPIN IGLESIAS - means "Slacking" or "To Slack" as in "Will you do something?!? You've been sitting around all day pompin iglesias!"
PETER POCOCK - (pronounced Peter Poe Cock) - see Isabella Blow
ISABELLA BLOW - see Peter Pocock
HERBERT FUX (pronounced. . .Oh, YOU know how to pronounce it) - means "Aw! Who shit down the side of the toilet again?!? I mean, how can you go in there and not realize your crack's not lined up properly? I mean, really!!!" as in "Someone Herbert Fuxed!"
TERRY MAJOR-BALL - mean "Damn, I have a headache!"
DRISS CHRAIBI - means "You've got something hanging off your chin."
POORNACHANDRA TEJASWI - means "Gezundheit"
OSMO HARKIMO - means "Huh?"
WAHID-UD-DIN ZIA-UD-DIN AHMED - mean "Um . . . no."
SVATOPLUK BENES (pronounced Svatopluk Beans) - means "Excuse me, your balls are showing."
EEKI MANTERE (pronounced Eeki Man Teer) - means "Let's do lunch"
KNOCK YOKOYAMA - means "I'm gonna punch you right in the throat!"
BING DEVINE - means "I like it" or "That's good"
OUSMANE SEMBENE (pronounced Ooze Main Sem Beenie) - means "Don't sit in that! It's all oogey!" or any other variation of "Look out there's something disgusting there; don't get any on ya!"
DEBBI DATZ-PYLE - means "Look Out! I've got the runs!"
DRAGOLJUB LUKOV - means "I think I've got milkshake poisoning!"
HON LAM BAAU - means "What's that? You're buying me lunch?!?"
TSOU-CHOI TSANG (pronounced SUE CHOY SANG) - means "Shit!"
MIODRAG NIKOLIC - means "Um, Fink's Mom . . . you're leaking."
Study up and let Pitneyspeak enrich your language.
After all that folderol about Rockport (and environs). . .for those of you who'd like to get a good gander up on the silver screen (or hi def plasma TV if you're so blessed) there's always the 1999 movie "THE LOVE LETTER". I like this movie a lot mainly because almost every scene is shot at a place I recognize in Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-sea. In fact, I was actually up there when they were filming some of it. While driving through Manchester-by-the-sea one day, a road was blocked off due to filming. Also there's a little breakfast bistro in Rockport down by the Peg Leg Inn which Tom Selleck favoured every day; they've got his picture hanging up in it. . .or at least they did the last time I was in it. I didn't go this trip.
And speaking of Tom Selleck (which is something I NORMALLY never do), "THE LOVE LETTER" actually features a nice little cast including Kate Capshaw as the "older" woman who has been celibate for much too long. Also running around the screen are Tom Everett Scott, Ellen DeGeneres, Blythe Danner, Gloria Stuart, Julianne Nicholson, and Geraldine McEwan.
The mysterious appearance of an old love letter sends almost the entire town into a tizzy. Luckily, the movie isn't soppy at all and has quite a nice sense of humour. The script, in fact, is quite witty at times. It's filled with quirky, oddball characters in a comedy of misunderstandings and complex relationships which hold one's interest throughout. Everyone in the town seems to have SOMETHING that provides a roadblock to their happiness and love life; and the anonymous love letter which is passed around from hand to hand seems to provide the battering ram to smash these obstacles down. And YES, we do actually find out the original writer of the love letter by the final reel. And the story behind the letter.
So, while the background location is a HUGE draw for those of us who have been to Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-sea, the film itself is still worthwhile viewing for everyone else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rockport Sunday dawned a lot cooler than the horrendously hot & humid temperatures of the day before. It was wonderful; overcast but no rain and nicely cool cool COOL! Naturally, we headed down to Bearskin Neck, cruised the shops and had a cuppa clam chowdah. We actually had more of a goal than just walking; a friend of the family was contemplating the renting of a little apartment above one of the shops on Bearskin Neck and we were meeting her there to take a look at the place. It's a little apartment but way cool with a metal spiral staircase leading up to a loft and a balcony which looks out on not one but TWO ocean views! That's right. Since the place is on the Neck, there is ocean to the left and ocean to the right. Pretty snazzy. She said she wants the place and, after her references are checked, she should have the place by October 1st.
We proceeded to have lunch at a place called The Greenery and let me tell you that it's the worst meal we've EVER had in all the years we've been coming to Massachusetts. All we got were clam chowders and onion rings; the chowder looked literally like someone opened a can of clams, added some (grey) diced potatoes and poured 2% milk over it, heated it and served it to us. As for the onion rings -- they appeared to be beer-battered (which I love) but didn't TASTE like it -- they tasted funky and the oil could LITERALLY be wrung out of them. We know. We did. 3 bowls of chowder, 2 orders of onion rings and one side of fries: over $33. Offensive! But at least they had a guy singing and playing guitar who was very good; acoustic versions of Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" and (believe it or not) "Midnight Train to Georgia". Maybe the establishment was having an off day food wise or maybe we should have stuck to the breakfasts (which everyone around us appeared to be having even though it was past 1pm). Who knows.
The lowering grey sky seemed appropriate for a trip to Gloucester; setting of "The Perfect Storm". Oddly enough, I has visited Massachusetts (and Gloucester) in September 1991 -- only a month or so before the huge hurricane or "perfect storm" hit Gloucester. When we enter Gloucester, we always drive right past The Crow's Nest bar which was featured so prominently in the film (of course, the interior was a set in the movie but. . .) and today's trip was no different. I've never been inside the bar but always drive by The Crow's Nest on every visit to Gloucester. That and the well-known statue facing out to sea which commemorates all those who go down to the sea in ships. This time, however, we didn't stop in Gloucester (even though I'm dying to pick up one of those Cape Pond Ice Company shirts which the crew of the Andrea Gale wore in the film). We had another Gloucester destination in mind: a medieval stone castle right on the shores of Gloucester Harbour.
Hammond Castle was built by John Hays Hammond Jr. in 1926 as a wedding present for his wife. It is filled with medieval, Renaissance and other artifacts from Hammond's collection including a stone bishop's chair, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, suits of armour and Hammond's favourite of ALL his collection: a skull reputed to belong to one of Columbus' crew. It's magnificent and Hammond's wife didn't want to live there. Typical. Hammond is the holder of over 800 patents and worked on projects from radio-controlled torpedoes and boats to early television, radio and stereo equipment. You can tour the castle on your own (without a tour guide) which is nice but I must warn you that it's very tricky to actually get there when the castle is open. After Labor Day, the castle's hours are only Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4 pm. But it's definitely worth the effort. And don't forget to check out the drawbridge.
After Hammond Castle, we decided to give Salem another go now that the record heat and humidity were gone. So, we popped over on our broomsticks and toddled along the shops. In the Trolley Shop, I bought myself a nice little black Salem hoodie which you will probably see me wearing when the weather gets a little chillier around here. But it was getting late and time to think about dinner.
It was then off to Essex where we ate at Lewis'. In the past, Lewis' usually had a day's special of pasta with fresh mussels but not this time. So, I ordered a variation of what I had at The Village Inn Saturday night; only this time the shrimp, scallops and haddock was baked in the oven a la Athenian (a garlic butter with oregano and feta cheese crumbled on top). I took a gamble ordering this but was most pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was; particularly the shrimp which worked extremely well with the garlic butter, oregano and feta flavouring. I'm gonna have to whip up some shrimp this way at home sometime. But now it was well past dark and we headed back toward Rockport.
Sunday night in Rockport is when they roll up the sidewalks. All the weekend tourists have left and one can walk along the closed shops with only a few other people in sight. I went out once again and stood on the end of Bearskin Neck where the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks filled the darkness and the cool ocean breezes whipped past me. Well, tomorrow morning it'll be time to take my leave so it was off to bed.
Monday morning dawned cool and sunny. Before starting off on the long drive home, I walked down once again past all the shops and out onto the Neck. A few shops were open so I peeked in and managed to buy myself a blue Rockport jacket (which you will ALSO probably see me wearing in a month or two). But then it was finally time to say goodbye to Rockport with all it's idyllic memories and head for home. I can't think of anything I'd least like to do. But at least I can hold on to the promise of the next trip when, after the long long drive I will once again step out of the car onto the quiet Rockport roads and say, "I'm back, Rockport. And I sure missed you."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

PAHK THE CAH: RETURN TO ROCKPORT TRAVELOGUE. Well, I'm back. And I thought I'd do a little travelogue for those poor schmucks who didn't get to go to Massachusetts with me.
Well, got up bright and early Friday morning to take that 6 - 6 1/2 hour drive to Massachusetts. Luckily, this trip I had along my 80 gig ipod so the tunes were never-ending (and never-REPEATING). Counting the skipped songs, the ride took about 600 songs to get there. We stayed in a renovated carriage house in Rockport and had the top floor to ourselves. Of course, the very first thing we did upon arrival was to take a walk down the Neck and say hello to Rockport. Rockport, of course, is right on the sea and has multitudes of artists as well as shops. Following down the shop-lined main street takes one to the historic Bear Skin Neck; which goes all the way out to a land's end jetty of rocks surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. The many, many shops were open but we walked by because we were starving and it was time to drive to Ipswich for The Clam Box!
The Clam Box was featured several years ago on The Food Network and I gotta tell ya. . .the only time I'll eat fried clams is there. That's because, instead of the rubber bands they call fried clams around these parts, The Clam Box serves tender and delicious fried clams -- and a lot of them! And. . .well dammit. . .the building LOOKS like a clam box!!! We get the Mini Meal which is PLENTY for one person. You get a pile of fried clams and your choice of fries, onion rings or cole slaw. I went for the onion rings and I was in greasy heaven!
The next day we went BACK to The Clam Box again for lunch! Then it was off to Salem: The Witch City. Never-you-mind that the actual Salem Witch Trials happened in nearby Danvers and NOT in present day Salem (Danvers used to be called Salem Town); Salem, Massachusetts is Witchy Central with tons of Witch shops, the Salem Witch Museum, etc. etc. It's also filled with tons of shops as well as the historic Custom House (wherein Nathaniel Hawthorne worked and supposedly found The Scarlet Letter in a trunk in the attic) as well as The House of Seven Gables and Hawthorne's Birth House (which was moved from it's original spot to a place next to the Seven Gables). One can take a guided tour through the House of Seven Gables but, since we had done so several times before, we didn't this trip. It was to the shops for us; including Pyramid Books and the shop of Laurie Cabot: The Official Witch of Salem located on Pickering Wharf. Salem Harbour also boasts the restored clipper ship USS Friendship. However, I didn't buy anything this day because it was a record-breaking 95 degrees with 88% humidity; the baking sun and oppressive heat caused us to cut our Salem sojourn short. That evening, it was to Essex and The Village Inn for dinner where I had a delicious Atlantic Trio of Scallops, Shrimp and Haddock baked in the oven with a bread crumb topping and garlic butter sauce. Oh yeah! By that time, it had begun to rain and severe thunderstorm warnings were posting. Now, do you see that big atrium area in the middle? Well, while we were waiting in there to be seated, a bolt of lightning struck the church RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET! The loud crash was tremendous; it was the closest I've ever been to a lightning strike! I don't know whether the church had a lightning rod or not but it didn't burn down. But the fire engines passed the time until we were seated for dinner!
Of course, no night in Rockport would be complete without a stroll or two all along the main street out to Bear Skin Neck. While the shops are (mostly) closed, the night is still one of my favourite times in Rockport; the crowds are gone and only a few stragglers remain. That's when I can walk along the shopfronts and breathe in the sea air and atmosphere of Rockport. As I pass along the shop fronts, lights illuminating the darkness, I can actually relax. . .and that's something I'm usually unable to do. There's Sundays, my father's favourite Rockport ice cream emporium, where earlier that day I had a Butter Crunch cone. It's still open for those few of us ambling by. There's the Bean and Leaf Coffee Shop. And Helmut's Strudel: the best Strudel on the Neck. Of course, I think it's the ONLY strudel place in Rockport but why quibble. And in the middle of the fork in the road is the familiar red building containing The Pewter Shop. And maybe I'll turn right and talk a walk down to the pier past the Chowder House where the boats are tied up for the night -- and Motif #1, the most famous building in Rockport, can be seen across the way.
After the heat of the day, the wind off the sea is cool as I make my way to the end of Bearskin Neck to land's end. I stand right on the end where the rocks begin and listen to the waves in the darkness. It's the most calming place I've ever been. But enough communing with Rockport. . .tomorrow's Sunday. . .a Rockport Sunday. . .just like the Tom Rush song. . .and the heat is supposed to break tomorrow. So it's on back along Bear Skin Neck the way I came, up to Main Street past Tuck's Candy Factory and Toad Hall Books, left past the old church and back up to my room in the carriage house where I'll read about lighthouses and shipwrecks and legends of Cape Ann until I drift off to sleep.
Part two of the travelogue to follow. . .including another trip back to Salem, more seafood (!), a trip through Gloucester, the amazing Hammond Castle, the worst meal we've EVER had in New England, a friend who's actually renting a place on Bearskin Neck (!!) and a final farewell to Rockport coming up!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

WELL, I'M OFF. That's right, after eight years I'm finally hauling my ass back to Rockport. And for those of you who didn't know, Rockport is my favourite place on the planet and I wish I would never have to come back from it. But alas, I will. I suppose. But meanwhile, here are some views.