Tag Archive | Florida

Death To All Who Choose To Defile Mr. T’s Time

#OccupyParentsHouse enters its second week unabated. Local police are unsure what to do about the sudden proliferation of unwashed clothing and dishes strewn about the Greene family guest room. The house is too small to use tear gas, and while the mess is unsightly the lone occupier has made no moves to suggest any kind of drum circle or chanting is on the horizon.

I pulled out my high school yearbook from senior year the other day, thinking what people wrote to me in 1997 might make a good blog entry, but all my classmates more or less said the same thing: “Hey Jim, you’re a weird but cool guy, have a good life, K.I.T.” My friend Greg Rivera went on a semi-rant about Mr. T in his signature, but that should be no surprise to those familiar with Greggo and his well-documented obsession.

“The legacy of Mr. T will live on,” Greg wrote. “Death to all who choose to defile his time with statements like ‘Oh yeah, that black guy with the gold chains on “The A-Team.”‘ No, he’s more than that, you know that and that’s why you’re cool.”

Remind me later to tell you folks about Memorial Day Weekend 2005 when I helped Greg transport a minivan full of homemade Mr. T dolls from this neighborhood in Florida to the Lower East Side. We got the shipment to NYC on time without killing each other, but we also didn’t speak for two years after the fact. I like to consider that my “lost” weekend.

I think today’s the day I’m going to hit some of those world famous Central Florida thrift shops in search of unheralded treasure/cheap Christmas gifts. I don’t care if you didn’t ask for a Jeff Gordon shirt, Mom, you’re getting one, so just deal. It’s gonna be a very NASCAR t-shirt Christmas up in this bitch, so hold on to your butts!

In other news, I gotta stop eating chocolate-covered pretzels for breakfast. I can hear my heart whining like a horny Louie Anderson.

Jaws The Ride: 1990-2012

Jaws, the popular Universal Studios Orlando theme park attraction based on the 1975 film of the same name, will die on January 3, 2012, after over two decades of frightening tourists with a mechanical polyurethane shark. Universal announced the ride’s closure this morning, citing the need to “make room for an exciting, new attraction experience.”

“Jaws has been an amazing attraction and an important part of our history,” said the company in their public statement. “But we must always work to provide new, innovative, entertainment experiences for our guests.”

The Jaws ride and its surrounding Amityville area (modeled after the fictional town from the film) will last be open to curious theme park visitors on January 2, 2012. While there’s no word yet on what will replace Jaws, rumor has it Universal bosses plan on expanding their immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. Insiders claim the idea being bandied about would involve the construction of new Potter simulations in the current Jaws location and using a train system (the magical “Hogwart’s Express”) to connect it with the original Wizarding World in neighboring theme park Islands of Adventure.

Opened with Universal Studios Orlando itself on June 7, 1990, Jaws was an expansion of the brief Jaws segment added to Universal Hollywood’s famed Backlot Tour in 1976. Initially, Jaws was the most technically plagued ride at the park, so much so that it had to be evacuated nearly every day during its first summer. On September 30, 1990, Universal shut the ride down and sued the engineering company that built it for faulty design. Jaws limped along for the next two years as implemented corrections failed to bring the experience to life correctly. Universal eventually hired another contracter for a complete overhaul (removing complicated elements such as the robotic shark biting the tour boat) and reopened the ride in the Spring of 1993.

Jaws entertained Universal attendees after that without major incident until 2004. That year Florida was ravaged by several hurricanes in succession, inflating the price of petroleum and thereby making the gas-reliant seven acre shark attraction too expensive to operate on a daily basis. Universal closed Jaws that year but reopened it on a seasonal basis in late 2005 after a heavy cloud of fan protest. The complaints didn’t stop, though, and eventually the park relented by reopening Jaws full in February of 2007.

I’ve mourned various theme park attraction closures before, but this one really hits me where it hurts. Jaws has always been my absolute favorite non-science fiction film, and being afforded the opportunity to enter that world via Jaws the Ride—no matter how phony it kept looking to my ever-maturing eyes or how thick the malaise was through which all the teenage skippers read their lines—was something I truly relished in life. In 1994, when I was a mere lad of fourteen, my parents decided to move our family from New England to the greater Orlando area; part of the reason I didn’t throw a huge stupid sucky baby fit over this development was because I knew I’d be that much closer to Jaws. Forget oranges and the beach and goddamn Mickey Mouse. I needed that creepy shark recreation.

That Jaws the Ride will be murdered on my thirty-third birthday is just pouring salt on the wound. At least I’ll be down that way next month visiting my parents for Christmas, so I’ll ostensibly be able to putter around Amity Lagoon one last time before the Fake Shemp Bruces are carelessly tossed in Universal’s backyard to make room for Brand New More Popular Film Franchise Simulation. Not that I’m against progression. It just stings us old timers on occasion.

Paying my final respects to a robotic shark at Christmas. That sounds like a Beck lyric. I wish it weren’t real.

Let Me Tell You About My Scotty’s Hat

A dear friend bought me this hat a couple years ago at a vintage clothing store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I thought it was a tad overpriced at $9, but said friend told me to think of the price not. I was clearly enamored with this noggin accessory.

Verily: As a child, I spent many an afternoon accompanying my grandfather to Scotty’s, which was a chain hardware store in Florida that dated back to the 1920s. I remember very much liking the way Scotty’s smelled. All that fresh cut lumber, all those newly minted metal and rubber building accessories…I guess since I’m male it’s just in my DNA to like that stuff.

Scotty’s went out of business in 2005, never achieving any kind of regard outside of Florida despite their smiling, Little Casear-esque mascot. Just another small-time casualty of the Wal-Marting of America. Today, Scotty’s seems like the kind of place they’d invent for a movie, like S-Mart in Army of Darkness.

Part of the reason I was reluctant to buy this Scotty’s hat even though it brought back a such a rush of great memories was the fact the logo was peeling a bit in certain places. Ah, I can just glue it somehow when I get home, I thought, looking down at the errant pieces of the logo on the train ride home. Alas, my man DNA commanded that I use super glue and not fabric glue. The logo’s not peeling anymore, but it is super shiny in a couple spots. Oh well.

I’d rather have a shiny Scotty’s hat than no Scotty’s hat at all!

Escape From Bushwick Part One

I’m taking a “work vacation” for the next couple weeks to my former home of Central Florida. Personal problems have really overwhelmed me lately, but I’m not in any position to just take time off from writing. I figure working on record reviews by my parents’ pool might be a little more relaxing than remaining in the sweltering pot of garbage soup New York City has become (happens every summer; Mother Nature fries all that trash up, and we, the fine residents, pay the price).

Anywho, I thought it might be fun to document this, my most recent escape from Bushwick, here on the blog, mainly because I seem to have trouble coming up with consistent material lately (unless you really wanna read twenty-five more haiku reviews about movies I’ve seen recently).

So here I sit in the JetBlue terminal of JFK International, eating a plate of barbecue ribs that are surprisingly good for a generic buffet table at New York’s biggest clusterfuck of an airport. The overhead speakers have been blasting a who’s who of 1980s pop. I had to laugh when they threw on “Danger Zone” by K. Loggins. Who approved that one for airport use? Not the most reassuring song to hear as you’re walking through the security checkpoints.

“Shake It Up” by the Cars just came on. Now this is a good airport jam. Upbeat, positive. People seem happier hearing it, although no spontaneous dance parties have broken out just yet. I wonder what PaleGuy McLongFace from this band is doing right now. Is he at an airport? He’s probably just shuffling around Boston, looking like a goon.

I’m so proud of myself for expertly selecting exactly four dollars and twenty-five cents worth of barbecue ribs. I had a five dollar bill I really wanted to use for this meal. Alas, it seems I took one rib too many for my tiny bird stomach. One day, I’ll truly master portioning.

My flight doesn’t board for an hour. Will this copy of Esquire keep me entertained until I cram my pudgy rear into seat 25D? Probably not. I only bought it for one article—something about “The Price Is Right” that looked interesting. I suppose I could always just stare lovingly at Bill Clinton on the cover there. He’s rocking a pretty self-satisfied look. He must be happy Al Gore finally has a sex scandal to call his own.

A custodial worker here just came up and asked me if I was finished with my ribs. He was dressed like a jazz musician: black slacks, black t-shirt, jaunty old man cap cocked to one side. I’m still working, chief. In the meantime, why don’t you whip out a clarinet and play me something public domain? It’s cool they let them dress that way here.

The time has come to change location. To the gate I journey. Until the next episode, pray I can infiltrate the minds of any screaming babies on my flight and rearrange their neutrons so their incoherent gibberish forms a melody akin to “Shake It Up.”

Michael Fay Operated My Tram

I’m not sure if you’d call this a “celebrity” encounter. It was probably more like a tabloid encounter, or normal-schmoe-who-rose-to-infamy-under-bizarre-circumstances encounter.

For those whose minds aren’t immediately tweaked by the name Michael Fay, let me give you a gentle nudge: in 1994, 18-year-old Fay became one of the few Americans ever sentenced to caning by a Singapore court for alleged acts of vandalism he committed while living with his mother in the strict Eastern country. After an international outcry, the president of Singapore lessened Fay’s punishment from six hard smacks across the naked buttocks with a long white stick to four. President Clinton actually made a plea on the troubled teen’s behalf, which is interesting because Michael Fay doesn’t have breasts.

On May 5, 1994, Fay got what was coming to him (he later said the caning caused only minimal bleeding on his fleshy rear). That June, Mike was released from prison and returned to the U.S. to live with his father. Just a sliver of history in terms of America on the whole, but the frenzy of media attention has kept the imprint of Michael Fay impossibly fresh in my mind. I don’t even have to consult Google image search to tell you he looked sorta like Joey from New Kids On The Block (except mongolodier).

The official Fay timeline post-caning is sketchy at best, but I can tell you in 1995 Mike was residing in the greater Orlando area. I know this because that summer I visited Universal Studios for maybe the second time in my life and Michael Fay was my tram operator on Kongfrontation, the King Kong ride. I think I had heard rumors to the effect he was livin’ in my hood, but I was still shocked into silence when I entered the ride, looked up, and saw Mr. Singapore Cane Victim with his short curly ‘do and semi-crazed eyes. His name tag said Michael, which was all the confirmation I needed.

I nudged my pal Jim Raymond and tried not to be too obvious pointing at the guy. Jim’s jaw dropped. This lead to a strange Mexican standoff. Everyone on that tram probably recognized Michael Fay in an instant, and Michael Fay had to know damn well what kind of potential abuse he would be subjecting himself to working at one of the country’s most popular theme parks. He could see the morbid curiosity in our eyes as plainly as we could see the grit and determination not to crack in his.

Mike did a passable job navigating our fake Roosevelt Island tram through the glorious monkey-based wreckage of 1970s Manhattan. Like most teenagers working theme park rides, I wouldn’t have nominated him for an Oscar. Still, you have to hand it to Michael Fay for taking such an unprotected position that shortly after haunting the pages of the National Enquirer. It must have been his life-long dream to operate Kongfrontation. Kudos to him for trying to leave his ass-beating on the other side of the world.

As Jim and I exited Kongfrontation!, we were definitely snickering, and Jim may have actually muttered something about caning under his breath, but I honestly can’t remember. What I can say with absolute certainty is that I never again encountered Michael Fay in or around the City Beautiful. He (expectedly) fell back into complete obscurity, right along with the Jeff Giloolys and John Wayne Bobbitts of the world. I can’t help but wonder what the poor guy is up to today.

IF YOU have any information as to the current whereabouts of Michael Fay, please contact Robert Stack’s family. Also, I’d love to hear from anyone who actually worked with MF at Universal. I can’t even imagine what that hiring process was like.