Tourist Trapped

Souvenir shops are for tourists and suckers ... and for people who find themselves with a lot of time to kill before a performance of "The Phantom of the Opera".

Disclaimer: I always feel awkward taking pictures in stores. I know for a fact that some proprietors don't like it (like the VERY un-cool grocery store in my neighborhood that hangs "NO PHOTOS" signs at the entrance), so every time I take out my phone to snap a quick pic, I think I'm going to get yelled at. Actually, I often think I'm going to get yelled at. There's a psychological reason for it but I don't know it, and that's not why you're here, anyway! Anyway, that's why this post is not jam-packed with photos, but I'll show you what I was able to get, without having a nervous break-down. I consider each photo a personal triumph.

Have I told you before about how I love seeing lots of the same thing, in one place? Like, piles of all the same thing make me weirdly happy. It's probably some kind of mental disorder (another one!) that a good psychiatrist could rid me of, but I'd rather keep it. So, this display, packed with Statues of Liberty really tickled my pleasure center. But not in a gross way, where the cops had to be called. I'm a weird-o, but I can make it in society.

Then: CAUGHT! A voice from a worker! "HEY!" (Jeff makes a cartoon GULP noise, turns toward employee) "There's a better picture on this side. Bigger statues. Very nice!" Relief.

Two quick things more about this interaction: First: Just to show you how strong my  aversion to photos-in-stores is, even AFTER getting this ersatz "blessing" from an employee, I was STILL cagey about it. SECOND: Stop trying to tell me how to run my blog, souvenir shop owner!

There was a time (my childhood) when it used to be hard to find my name on license plates. I credit the phenomenal celebrity successes of Jeff Daniels. But, seriously... does anyone remember being friends with / knowing a Jeff before going to college? Because that was my case. Not a single one until I matriculated, then it's nothing but "Jeff", "Jeffrey", and "Geoff"s.

Anyway, back to the license plates: Man, I would want one of these so bad if A) I were 7-15 years old or B) had a bike. (NOT mutually inclusive.) It's only now that I'm realizing these are the last-gen version of NYC license plates. What fool is going to buy last year's model?! Looks like I (Heart) NY Gifts is going to be stuck with a lot of unsellable stock for some time.

Speaking of the name: On Official Papers, is the store name spelled out, or is there a heart emoji in the middle? Since business licenses are a matter of public record, I could find out. I could ... MOVING ON!

I "get" most of the personalized license plates (and there were many, many different kinds / shapes / sizes around the store), except a few. Notably, this one for "NO SMOKING". Because ... it's a license plate. It says, "I love cars, New York, AND abstaining from nicotine!" This is a VERY niche product. If you know of someone who whom this gift would be perfect, please don't tell me. I like the mystery.

One thing I've noticed: These tourist-trap shops have gotten much more "adult" since I was a kid.
Pretty sure if any souvenir shop sold a license plate that simply said "BITCH" on it (not pictured), my parents would never have taken us kids into another gift shop, for as long as they could control which shops we went into.

Though, I DO clearly and distinctly remember a gift shop at a cave attraction we went to, once. It was the old school type that was filled with a lot of varnished wood plaques that either has sayings engraved on them ("Bless this mess!") or had an ashtray set into them. One of the items for sale was a lacquered piece of wood with a little round inset, where one could rest their drink. Overtop this was a rubber Pluto (the dog from children's Disney cartoons) with his leg lifted. When a tumbler - like the kind your 1950s dad would drink his Box Car out of - was placed on the indent, it would looks as if Pluto were whizzing into it. I did not point that out to my parents, for fear that I would never be allowed back into a gift shop ever again, but the memory stuck with me.

And here's another display that made my "lots of stuff" nerves tingle. Is there any other single item that screams "city souvenir" more than a snowglobe? And they all seemed to be the correct size to take back home on the plane (larger ones being banned by the TSA, for being "too dangerously nostalgic of your non-home town"). I wanted to stand there and shake every single one and pretend to be the kid at the end of the last episode of "St Elsewhere". (I know what I just said, and I don't care!) I only wound up shaking that hot pink monstrosity on the far right (or "stage left", since we were on our way to "Phantom"). It's pink because it's for girls, right?

And that's it! That's my tour of a tourist trap.
I leave you with this:

"The City That Never Sleeps", "The City So Nice, They Named It Twice", "The Big Apple" ... 

I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!

My Mom's Glasses

Get excited, everyone, because you're about to have a peek into my mom's glasses cabinet.

Whenever I say things like "my mom's [whatever]", I feel like I'm giving the impression that my parents are divorced. They're not. I just feel like the contents of the cupboard that holds the glasses is strictly under the direction and purview of my mother. My dad could give a fig what's in there, as long as it holds water when he needs it to hold water and tea when he needs it to hold tea. I'll test this by swapping out all of the glasses and mugs with those little ice cream helmets you get at baseball games. His life probably won't change ... except it'll be 100% more awesome, as he drinks water and tea from a Mets hat.

Also: We're all clear that I'm talking about drinking glasses and not "spectacles", right? Otherwise, this post is about to really confuse you.

Now tighten your seat-belt, because here we GO!

Right off the bat we're off-topic, because these first items aren't even glass, but plastic. When will my lies stop?! They are sundae cups so old there's no way they are not 100% BPA. I don't really remember these, from back when I was a kid, so they're probably actually my grandmother's, and are now living with my mom. I've never used them and thanks to a building lactose intolerance, I probably never will. I wouldn't be afraid of the BPAs, though. Pretty sure I've drank enough Bisphenol A - or (CH₃)₂C(C₆H₄OH)₂ - to give me cancer-of-the-something, already, so a little more won't hurt.

Straight outta 1994 is this Aladdin "glass" (yup, another plastic cup) that was sold at Burger King. It's part of a larger series of glasses that featured various Disney movies, so that explains why the glass was on sale two years after the film was in theaters. Nice to see my mom has kept it in it's original box and in such great condition. Does she know she's sitting on a gold mine that could fetch upwards of $100 on eBay? Wait. Typo. I meant to say "$10". Totally worth hanging onto the box and never using the glass for 20 years. We probably paid $5 for the thing in 1994. Guaranteed to appreciate in value.

I mock, but I'm pretty sure it was at my insistence that she never threw away the box, because of "collector's value" or something. I was big into "mint condition", back then.

Since taking this photo, I have seen how other people insert a rolled up piece of white paper into the glass, so you can see the graphic clearly. Too bad I already took all these pictures and I'm not doing it again, the "right" way.

So this is a Welch's jelly jar for 1991. Once filled with jelly, families were encouraged to eat all the pectin-packed grape-spread, then give the container a second life as a glass. A persnickety kid, I swore it always make whatever liquid was poured into it taste "grape-y", so I never used it for it's second purpose. Even though it was probably at my insistence that my mom bought this "glass" in first place.

One other memory: The TV commercial for these had a kid annoying quipping "Tom and JELLY!" It was so annoying, that I have never forgotten it, nor passed up an opportunity to make the same pun, myself.

Here we go! Now we're getting to the good stuff! One of my most cherished childhood memories ... that revolved around glassware (what, you don't have drink-wear-specific memories? You must've had a terrible childhood!) We'd use these as "float" glasses. Exclusively. Oh, what salad-days! It sounds so bourgeois to have glasses just for ice cream sodas, when there are children starving ... somewhere. Anyway, we also had these really looooong, plastic spoons that we'd use with them. With the spoon-y bit of the spoon bent at a 90-degree angle, it would get trapped under the ice cream, so one could pull up on the handle to raise the ice cream to edible height, then dunk it back down to create more foam. Ah, ice cream float foam. It was from these glasses that I first realized I loved the taste of that foam. *Wistful sigh*

There used to be a fourth in the set - a green zebra - but it broke many, many years ago. Probably NOT my fault, but possibly was. History does not record. Anyway, just recently, I saw the entire set in the window of an "antique" (junk) shop in Brooklyn and they were charging $45 for the complete set of four. It was a bit expensive, just to get back a little bit of childhood nostalgia. Plus, the store wasn't open yet. Plus, it was hot out. So, I wasn't going to wait around in the sun, just to overpay for a green zebra, sorry. Nostalgia will nly take me so far. Inconvenience and sun-stroke is too far.

Americanna. This one was also often used as an ice cream dish back in the days before "lactose intolerance" was a diagnoseable thing and kids were constantly fed iced cream, regardless of how many mysterious stomach aches they'd suffer immediately after. Such benighted times. Such great ice cream sundaes.

I never knew the story of this glass until I was taking these pictures. But first, "Why do you want to take pictures of my glasses?" said my mom. "I dunno. For posterity! To document! To remember!" "...eeeeeeeeehhhhhooooooohkaaaaaay" she said. "Where did you get this one?" "You father won that for me at a carnival."

I never knew! He only won her the one, though. Still, it seems to have worked out for them, in the long run, as they're still together. Guess mom's overlooked that single-glass gift. I never could.

Another not-glass, but just thought you should all see this thing. You put cream or milk inside, then, when you want cream or milk, you grab this thing, pretend to make a horrible "vomiting" sound and pour it into your cereal. Then your mom asks you to please stop doing that. THEN you wrap your mouth around the cow's mouth and suck milk from it like a sports bottle. THEN you get another mysterious stomach ache - the doctors are baffled!

NOT pictured are the set of clear Nestle coffee mugs that look like mini globes. I'd totally forgotten about them until the other week when I was visiting an antique (junk) market and saw them being offered for a ridiculous amount. When did junk become something you overcharged for, rather than just something you wanted to just get rid of, and were glad to take a quarter for?! My mom has a set of 'em and she'd probably sell them for 25 cents each ... but I would never let her. They are worth so much more than that!!! THEY HAVE MEMORIES!!!

I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!

The First Movie I Saw ... With My Sister

I have a ridiculous amount of stuff "stored" at my parents' house. I say " "stored" " (in quotes), because it wasn't a conscious decision to move it all there, it's just what's leftover after a life lived in the same house for my entire childhood - and beyond. It's stuff that never made it's way out of that locale. It's stuff that's a prisoner of my lethargy, laziness, and ... um, another "L" word (but not the one that was on pay cable, a few years back. That'd be weird!)

One day I decided to make an attempt to throw some of it out, so I started going through the gigantic box that included every (and I mean every) note I ever took in college. I think I made the right decision by throwing away all of my notes from college, but one never knows when one is going to have to refer back to an old ECON 101 talk about guns and butter. What if there's a test?!

Among the paperwork was this:

Not part of the approved Syracuse curriculum.

It's a "My Little Pony" flier with creases so worn-in that it must've come as an insert with one of the figures. I never played with "My Little Pony" as a kid, let alone in college. This must've been my sister's, but I have no idea how it ended up in this box. As I threw handfuls of old college-ruled paper away, I set this aside, thinking, "I'll make a blog post out of this, somehow." So here we are.

I don't have much to say about the flyer itself, other than it has two sides....

Frolicking like you only READ about.

... and that there are WAY more non-pony characters than I feel should be in a show called "My Little PONY" (emphasis mine).

BUT! This insert is about "My Little Pony: The Movie" ... and I do have a story AND two sub-stories about that subject! [Should I be working more horse-puns into this piece?]

"My Little Pony: The Movie" was the first movie my sister took me to ... maybe.

A close-up of the text.
(But, really, this image is just to break up what promises to be a rather "text-y" post.)

But first, let's set the clock back a bit to about two months before I found this insert poster. I, all of a sudden, prompted by nothing, remembered that my sister and I had gone to see this film in the theater over by my grandparents' house. The venue was a small affair at Hylan and Ebbitts Street on Staten Island called the Rae Twin Cinema. (The "twin" of the title was a brag about the fact that it had two - yes TWO! - screens! This was the days before giant multiplexes). I remember it smelling vaguely of air conditioned mold and cigarettes. But then again, they all do, don't they? (Both memories and theaters.)

It was strange to think that we would have even been allowed to see a movie - any movie - alone, at that time, because in 1986 I would have been 9 and my sister would have been 12. I dunno about your parents, but my mom was certainly not the type to let her only two kids sit alone, in a dark theater, for almost two hours. Anything could happen to unaccompanied kids in the 80s! STRANGER DANGER!

And we certainly were not the kind of juveniles to be delinquent and sneak off to see a film on our own. (Again: Stranger Danger.) But, ha, just imagine that! Sneaking off to see "My Little Pony: The Movie"?! That's Bad. Ass.

The worst part of it all is that I'll never know how we came to be sitting in an almost-empty, weird-smelling theater, watching ponies run from a giant purple "Smooze", because my sister does not remember the occasion at all!

Which leads to my first sub-story about this story!

Smooze AND lava? These ponies are f&$%ed.

As I told you, this memory struck me from no where. I'm guessing it's similar to the way repressed memories hit people ... but without all the icky stuff that usually goes along with that. In fact, the only traumatizing part about my repressed pony memory was that there were a couple of rambunctious other kids in the theater with us and I was terrified that they were going to talk to us. NOT hit. NOT accost. JUST talk. Terrified little kid, was I! Still, not as icky as most repressed-memory stories, so I count myself lucky. (PS: "rambunctious" is how I would have refereed to them, even as a 9-year old. I was born an old man.)

Anyway, I got the jolt of memory, so I decided to investigate. I asked my parents why they let two young kids see such a terrible movie, alone, but neither one had any recollection of this event, so they were a dead end. Parents always let you down, when it comes to cherished, super-specific, childhood memories, right?! So the next step would have been to contact my sister (who I did not yet know didn't remember this occasion). But, before I could contact her, my father called her and told her that I was asking questions about "the first movie she brought me to". [Please picture a scene like form a mob movie where, under cover of a darkened alley, one person whispers to the other, "Psst! Hey! Heads up, Jeff's been asking about you and "My Little Pony"!", because that's how I'm picturing it.]

That misrepresentation caused my sister to think about the first movie she DROVE me to  - which leads me to the second sub-story of this post:

The first movie she drove me to was "Christmas Vacation". Bad. Ass. My sister had just gotten her license, but that wasn't supposed to be here-nor-there, since I was going to be seeing it with my buddy from school and his brother AND driven there by my buddy's dad. They swung by to pick me up, I hopped in the car, and the dad immediately backed his car into a tree on our property, caving in the entire back of the car. The little brother was in the back-back and got glass all over him. He had curly hair, too, so it got all stuck in there. He was fine, though, so stop worrying.

To the dad's credit, the tree he hit WAS directly in the middle of our driveway, where no normal person would put a tree, so for him not to be on alert for a tree wasn't so off-base. Still, to this day, I double-check for trees, before backing up. you never know where someone has planted one.

With the car in no shape (and the dad in no state) to drive three kids to the flicks, my sister, with her freshly-minted license, was like, "I'LL DRIVE THEM!" And so she did. It was super nice of her to do and I probably never thanked her properly. Will she consider this post a thank you?

"Bushwoolies" sounds like something your grandma still says and it makes you uncomfortable and you mumble "Sorry, she's old".

It was THAT experience that my sister was thinking of when I finally got around to asking her about my new-found memory of "the first movie she took me to". She was kinda like, "But I wasn't old enough to drive, then!" And she was right. The conversation that followed was confusing and not worth repeating (suffice it to say that IMDB was employed, to check on release dates and movie times).

To put a happy ending on this sad tale of mistaken memories and ill-communicated remembrances, there's this:
The theater we saw the movie in (OR DID WE?!) would later be turned into an OTB and then into a Chevy's "restaurant". Later, it would be bulldozed and a CVS now stands there. Next time in the area, I'll make a point to stop in and find the most "My Little Pony"-y thing I can find ... for old time's sake.

Other facts I have learned about "My Little Pony: The Movie" from The Internet:
  1. The Smooze (the purple thing trying to eat the ponies) was voiced by Bowzer from Sha-Na-Na.
  2. Danny DeVito and wife Rhea Perlman both had roles ... AS TROLLS.
  3. Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Tony Randall ALSO had roles, making this an all-star cast ... for kids who couldn't give two damns about star-power, really, just show me ponies!!!
  4. It grossed $5,958,456 - which, in today's money, is ... still not impressive. ($12,933,546.37)
Oh, I also remember that neither of us liked the movie very much. Closure.

I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!

The Strange Collecting Habits Of A Young Me: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trading Cards Edition

I didn't play with toys like other kids. Take, for instance, my Transformers: A satisfying play experience, for me, was pulling the robot out of its original box, transforming it, transforming it back, then putting it all back into its box, neatly, and putting it away.

Why am I like this? I have no idea. I'm sure it's a mixture of respect for the toys, desire to keep things in as "mint" condition as I could, for later resale value, and the fact that I'm farther along the spectrum than the tests have so far revealed. (But don't worry for me, Argentina, I've gotten better! I actually play with my toys now. [I am about to turn 37. So this is not really that much better, I guess?])

ALL THAT just to say: I found my stash of Topps Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trading Cards the other day, at my parent's house. (All my old stuff is there. I swear, mom and dad, I plan on clearing it out of there soon. That means more blog posts. So it works out for everyone.) It's an assortment of Series 1 and Series 2 packs from 1989 and 1990, respectively.

After telling you about my Transformers "playtime", you will not be shocked to hear that the way I would enjoy trading cards would be to open the pack as carefully as I could, to not tear any of the packaging, remove the cards, look at the cards, then put them back into the packaging and store them away. 

Every time I'd buy more cards, I would open up the new packs and savor the new cards, then re-open all the old packs. I'd combine the cards from all of the packs, then sort them in number order. At this point, I would probably have created a list of cards that I was missing, just to pass the time. Then, one of two things would happen. I would either separate the cards into batches of five and re-insert them, in order back into the wax packs.

Here is a photo of how the cards came out of one of the packs, as arranged by a 25-year-younger me:

I, obviously, did not own card #144.

I have not doctored this image or re-arranged the cards!

The other way I would put the cards away is even more bonkers. I would actually randomize the cards and put them back into the wrappers, so that the next time I opened them, it would be like opening a new pack of random cards!

I know this is a lot of psychosis to wrap your mind around, all at once, so let's take a picture-break here, while you let my crazy childhood sink in.

Some had "25c" printed on, others did not.

Had I noticed this, as a kid, I probably would have gone out of my way to make sure I got one of each, for each Turtle.
These are the Jumbo Packs - actually a better deal to buy the smaller packs! You'd get twice as many stickers and each card would cost slightly less. I was cheated!

Oh, yes, I preserved these even better. No rips, no tears. You can actually get the cards out without fully opening the cellophane pack! Pro-level crazy!

It still bugs me that I didn't get every sticker from series 1.

Especially because I got so MANY of this one.

...and that means I'm missing Michelangelo. (Which I am mostly OK with, he was my least favorite. Even as a kid, i didn't like stoners.)

At least I had card #1. That's HUGE for any collector.

One of my favorite cards from Series 1 - The Foot Clan pick her up like she's an old book case

Not quite, but ALMOST as equally important is the LAST card in the series.
Right? Other crazy collectors, back me up on this!
Pizza Rewards are the best rewards.

And now on to Series 2. Note that I ONLY bought Donatello packs! I must have thought they were "lucky" since he was my favorite. I was SUPER insane as a child. How am I at liberty and not in a loony bin?

Also missing stickers from Series 2.
Splinter looks so sad and left out.

One of my favorite stickers from Series 2, because the thought process is: "What do young boys want on a sticker?" "How about pictures of April interviewing an old man?" "YESSS! Johnson, you're promoted!"

I don't even remember the shows these card series were based on, so I cannot tell you why the turtles are doing the can-can. They must have a very good reason, though.

Bobby FLAY.

No Pizza Rewards this time around. Just sit there, all of you, quietly.
No you can NOT turn on the TV!

Oddly, my preservation techniques only extended so far. For instance, I found these card packs in a silvery Spider-Man bag from a local comic book shop (Jim Hanley's Universe) that I'd tied closed at the top with a knot and shoved into a dusty cubby hole. The bag was tattered and covered in dust or, possibly, fiberglass shards, too, as squirrels had gotten into that cubby hole, shredding their way through the insulation. Honestly, I'm surprised I even touched that gross-looking old bag to find what was inside it. All that to say: For a kid so obsessed with preservation, I certainly let myself down at that last mile.... OR, maybe wasn't as crazy as I thought I was?!

Oh, did I tell you that I also saved the gum?

Yeah. In my kid-head, those of us who saved the gum would have a more complete collection of cards and, thus, command a higher price on the reselling market! This is, sadly, how my kid-brain worked.

See, when I started really collecting, it was in the 90s, right after all those amazing stories (and the amazing Amazing Stories episode with Luke Skywalker in it!) about people selling their old comics and junk for thousands of dollars and getting rich. I thought I was investing. Long story short, everything sold in the 90s is worthless garbage.

And the TMNT cards are not an exception. A quick scan online sees most people practically giving the cards away. So that's what I did, I gave them away to two Twitter buddies who are TMNT collectors. (@CrookedNinja and @TheSewerDen, if you want to follow them!) I felt they could give these things a better home than I could (or wanted to). The joke will be on me when, after the movie hits, these cards start demanding big bucks and they both make a fortune selling them on eBay and take Hawaiian vacations. Dammit. Just bring me back something nice, guys.

I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!

Hollywood Christmas Parade 2013!

For the second year in a row, my beautiful wife and I have watched the weird little pageant that is The Hollywood Christmas Parade. Last year, we stumbled upon it and were transfixed at it's ... awkward, low-rent feel. Isn't Hollywood where all the movie money is? Don't stars love a chance to "shine"? Why isn't Brad Pit in this? The HCP makes the b-string actors and musical acts that begrudgingly agree to appear in The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade look like superstars. 

Now, before I malign it TOO much, I would like to point out that it's done to promote Toys For Tots and that, this year, they were heavily promoting DAV (Disabled American Veterans), too. So it must be said that it's heart is in the right place, it just doesn't pull off the presentation. It's like a 7-year-old's macaroni-mosaic, but in parade form. 

I'll try to keep my chatter down to a minimum, as there are a LOT of photos to get through. Here we go! I present a long-winded photo-play of....

With your hosts...

Eric frickin' Estrada! (And Laura Mckenzie who, according to the Hollywood Christmas Parade (HCP) website, is "the number one television travel expert in the country." Fact!) And, no, this screen-grab isn't catching Erik at a bad angle, he really spent the whole parade delivering his lines with his head tilted back like that.

I remember that Erik co-hosted last year, but I don't remember the other host. It was probably Laura Mckenzie. But when you're co-host is Erik "CHiPs" Estrada, sorry, no one is remembering you year-to-year. I do however, remember who the "alternate location host" was, and was delighted to see him back again this year:

Dean "you know, I was once Superman, too" Cain! His role at this parade is to introduce the musical guests ... who are not performing in the parade, but at another location ... and possibly another time. See, the "Parade" is split into 2 segments: The parade, which passes by Mann's Chinese Theater, and the stage, which showcases a cavalcade of musical acts. It's a bit split-personality, but it works just about as well as everything else in this parade does, so just roll with it.

One last thing I need to mention: This parade wastes NO TIME dallying. People and floats and bands WHISK by, barely stopping to interact with the hosts. One gets the feeling that they parade only had a permit for exactly two hours and that any overages would incur fines / arrests. So they keep it moving.

Let's introduce the Grand Marshal of the 82nd (!) annual HCP:

BUZZ ALDRIN! The car he was in paused for a moment and Buzz started to say something about space. I remember it being really awkward, though I cannot remember the exact words. Before he could finish he was whisked away because there's not time to stop this parade, even for a national hero who WALKED ON THE MOON.

Right behind him was:

A Buzz Aldrin balloon! No, it was not just an "astronaut", they specifically pointed out that this was Buzz Aldrin. That's a cool kind of immortality: Becoming a balloon. It's a goal not many have achieved.

After that, we got to see their other "on the ground" reporter:

Montel Williams! Instead of giving paternity tests, he was there to present a "Lifetime Achievement Award" to the cast of "The Young And The Restless"! They seemed super thrilled to get it, as they all had to put away their phones they were texting on to accept it. There are no small awards, just small actors!

I swear that Laura Mckensie said, "I just started playing this and it's hard!" Then Erik said something about "Normally, I run away from angry birds, but not THESE GUYS!"

These "jokes" reveal that either they didn't have the money to hire Bruce Villanche to write their jokes (last year he did AND he was even IN the parade!) OR, Bruce realized that no one would care if he phoned it in, for this one.  Wait, does he ever NOT?

And then along came these jerks:

No idea who they are, but they would pop up, ostensibly to be funny, but mostly just to do a commercial for something. Though, one shouldn't blame them, they were given awful things to say. But that's not to blame the writer, either, they were told to write awful things. Really, no one is blameless, and yet everyone is.

"John McCook and his Tweeting Assistant, Gary"

And then the best balloon happened:

It's bug-eyed and terrifying and presented by Buca di Beppo (which is, outside of a well-timed "Fudruckers", the funniest name in restaurants).

And this is Cri-Cri! Surely you ALL remember Cri-Cri! The most famous singing cricket in Mexico? I'm sure it's delightful!

Tiny planes! Bet these guys strafe the Shriners in their non-flying cars.

And now, a parade-within-a-parade, as we have a line of Star Cars!

They called this one "The Ghostbuster car". I rolled my eyes and said, "Uh. I think you mean ECTO-1?!" Then I felt silly and I apologized to my wife, for having to hear me be like that.

"And here's the Batman vehicle from nineteen ...." "Uh, nineteen sixty..." "LOOK, THE STARSKY AND HUTCH CAR!"  Firstly, it's the Batmobile! Secondly, it was from 1966. Jesus, it's like Erik and Laura just don't care!

"Two Bumblebees, both old and new!" said Laura. This angered me. Because, really, it's more like "both new and not-as-new", since neither of them is a VW bug. But, upon reflection, the VW version was never in a movie, just the cartoon. Why do I care so much about the accuracy of the co-host's statements in regards to Star Cars?!

And then ... The Expendables truck? I watched both movies and don't' remember a truck being a big deal in either of them. A plane, yes. A truck? No. However, in the parade, the truck is a big deal because, in the back...

ARMED CHILDREN! Look close, that's an assault rifle that 'tween is holding. FOR XMAS!

The Mystery Machine was bouncing up and down, as if it had the hydraulics of a low-rider. Maybe there was a bit of mystery happening in the back? When the van's a-rockin'... jinkies.

African America Pee-wee Herman riding the actual movie bike.

And then were off, to the secret other location for a song performed by ... McCain?

Nope. She was NOT happy to be there.

And then these fools were told to walk around Madame Tussaud's and talk to the wax statues ... for comedy. The above is Justin Bieber. Belieber it. Anyway ... when I first saw this segment, I pretended that he was wearing a shirt that said "LIAM NEESON", but now I realize it says "I'M AWESOME".

A really bad angle on this My Little Pony balloon, as it looks like its foot is some sort of growth or tumor.

The only thing I know about her is what I learned from "One Week": Hot like wasabe when I bust rhymes / Big like Leann Rimes / Because I'm all about value". Now here she is, big as wasabe on the HCP!

Will Claye holding up his Silver and Bronze medal. Facing the other way is DeeDee Trotter, who is holding up her Bronze medal. I almost made a comparison to this parade feeling a little more "bronze" than other parades, but I didn't want to discount these two athlete's achievements. Bronze in the Olympics is quite a feet. Who am I, a couch-sitting, pizza-eating blogger, to decry their physicality as anything less than stellar? Still, it's a crappy parade.

And then this guy comes out to perform some magic. What is it about magicians that they're all so creepy with their "assistants". (And I say " "assistants" " because, really, in most of the tricks, they're the ones doing the hard part of squeezing themselves into tight places while the "magician" just waves his hands about and then thrusts his hips some.)

Archibald Mouse, who is the main character in Archibald's Swiss Cheese Mountain. I have never heard of this. But the author wanted to share some words:

At this point our cable cut out for a few moments, but before that happened, she pronounced it "AWchibald", like a Long Islander. My wife and I have taken to saying "AWchibald on Swiss Cheese Mountain". A lot. We're super fun at parties.

It's a parade of soap stars, I guess? These jokers did NOT get an award from Montel.

The Minions were one of the bigger stars to appear.

The gang from "Leave It to Beaver"! Erik then asked, "Why has the show endured for so long?" knowing full well that Jerry Matthers would not have time to form a complete sentence, before the car sped off. NO TIME, JERRY!

Look past the glaring lights of the convertible and observe the My Little Pony balloon in the back. This image reveals two things: 1) All the balloons are so small because they have to be able to, in some way, get under the street lights along Hollywood Boulevard and 2) they re-edited this parade for TV so that things appeared on-screen in a different order than they walked by in real life! No one likes a parade that lies, HCP!

You know, these guys. From ... uh ...

Now, let's take a moment to see what kind of commercials they were running during this thing:

Real day-time, home-sick-from-school types of things. And this was Prime Time. Is Prime Time on the Hallmark Channel like Day Time everywhere else?

This is the first real-life Tonka Truck. I cannot believe this marketing opportunity sat on the shelf until 2013.

Not a single word was said about Dean Cain, while this balloon flew overhead. "You know, guys, I'd rather put that behind me and focus on my parade hosting ..."

Oh, did I mention the Superman balloon was being escorted by a ROLLER DERBY TEAM?!

And then it was back to Dean Cain, who introduced Kenny Loggins.

"Whatever happened to Messina?" My lovely wife asked. "Who?", said I, being throw from a loop because I know a guy named Chris Messina and thought the segue was a bit jarring. "Messina. Used to be a duet with Loggins?" "I only know Loggins from "Top Gun"..." Then I started singing "Danger Zone".

Frigo Cheese Head. Apparently this is a thing, too!

This whole parade just feels a bit ... off. Like stumbling into a parade in a foreign land and you have no idea who anyone or anything is, nor what anyone is saying, but you smile and wave anyway. Then you go home to America and tell everyone how foreign other countries are, and that makes you sound like an ethnocentric pleb who can't appreciate other cultures. Cultures. Cheese. Frigo Cheese Heads!

Super Grover's head kept dipping down and the people escorting it kept punching him in the nose.

Ho. Lee. Shit. Little Stevie Wonder! Is he doing community service for something?! As always, he was awesome. He sang, "This Christmas" which, many of you won't know, is my all-time favorite. And even though I prefer Donny Hathaway's version, Stevie's version was great, too. It only took 30 minutes for this "parade" to do something awesome and that wasn't cringe-worthy.

And then:

Hooo Boi. Let's all remind people of this racist failure of a movie! That is NOT Armie Hammer up there, but an Armie Hammer look-alike. (That is, they just put the first guy they could find into a Lone Ranger Mask and said, "Good enough!" Later, viewers would see evidence that Silver was, in fact, a real horse, with a fully-functional digestive tract.

No idea.

Beverly Hills High School Marching Band ... led by Caillou? Since I don't have kids, I have no idea who this kid is, but I now know that Google auto-suggests a search for "Caillou Cancer" when typing his name into the search engine.

And then a commercial for Caillou by that unfunny duo.

Oh-ho that WEEEEELLLLLS FARGO WAGON IS A-COMIN' DOWN THE STREET! "Cruickshank and Veal" is a great name for a law firm, investigative team, or meat market.


One of the segments of the parade was about the red carpet. (You may have noticed that the entire parade route is covered in "the biggest red carpet in Hollywood?) And that carpet is cleaned by ChemDry. After Silver took a steaming dump on it, I bet the newest ChemDry hire took a moment to evaluate his career choice. Then, from the van, the veteran says, "That ain't nothin! Back in 86, *I* had to clean up after ALF!"

I don't know much about the Lorax, but ... he seems to be gripped in a giant purple hand. And this teaches us about how we should treat nature.

I will take the parade's word that these are real actors in a real show.


Kazoo Band! This band is comprised of kids who attend school online through the Connections Academy. So, there is a real chance that this is the first time these kids have ever left their house or met another person in real life.

By this point, I realized that almost everything in this parade is a commercial. This elf, pirate, and kid from "Christmas In Hollywood" is the perfect example. It's an indie film that the pirate said, "We're hoping to get money to bring it to theaters in 2014!" So, this is a "float" for a movie that isn't even out yet. It's the Kickstarter of parader floats.

Now, just to be clear, there are NO floats in this parade. Everyone is riding in a really fancy car ... but since it's a parade, I will call them floats.

Wow. You know how we all make fun of Shatner for releasing terrible albums? Well, someone took that to mean that he should release another. Essentially, he just spoke some lines, while a band played something unconnected behind him. Hipsters will make it go platinum.

Their plasticy faces make the last part of their more accurate than ever.

This one was super awkward because, as her convertible drove by, Laura Mckensie blurted out something about Valerie being courageous and an inspiration. Nothing like bringing up terminal cancer, during a Christmas parade!

It's Santa's little informant, the elf on the shelf. If I were a child and I was told that this thing was going to narc on me, if I did something bad, that would just be bad news for the elf. I'm sent to my room because I "accidentally" hit my sister on the head with a paper bag full of dried beans and I see that elf ... well, that elf is not seeing another sunrise. I can't afford to have it rat me out. That elf is a problem that I'd have to solve. Permanently.

This is an L. Ron Hubbard float. I am not kidding!

It's a float paid for by their publishing are of Scientology! Avast, me hearties, there be thetans about!

Nope. Not ringing any bells.

I dunno ... some joke about "twerking"? God, this parade is super-long. I'm running out of material. They sure pack it in!

Step 1: You cut a hole in a box ... Put your smurf in that box! (This joke courtesy of my hilarious wife.)

The star of "The Neighbors" is texting. Can't be bothered. That about sums up the parade, too.

And then Richie Sambora (who performed earlier, I just didn't get a picture of it) comes back along with Stevie Wonder and Stevie plays this thing:

Space Harp!

And then:

Santa shows up and it's over. Street sweepers are right behind, and riot police turn the hoses on to the crowd. It's Xmas in LA.

 And to show you what kind of respect this parade gets, when they went back to Erik and Laura for their "Thanks for joining us" wrap-up, this happened:

Ooo. That's harsh. "GTFO, parade, we got "The Town Christmas Forgot" on deck!"

I'm not sure I have done this parade justice. It's something you just need to experience for yourself, as the still pictures don't convey the bone-deep awkwardness of the thing. And certainly not the conveyor-belt-like progression of it all, either.

So do yourself a favor and set your DVRs up NOW to tape it next year. You won't regret it.

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