The New Red Lion

I visit my father in Philadelphia once a year. He lives in the same house where I grew up, and I get to sleep in my old bedroom, in the same bed.

This is the same house where my family watched Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs on TV in 1973. As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room in the same spot watching the TV, which is in the same spot.

Whenever I visit, we go out to dinner at New England Pizza, on Bustleton Avenue. New England is one of my father’s favorite restaurants. We’ve been going to this particular New England since we moved into the Bustleton house in the early 70s. Before that, when we lived in Rhawnhurst, we went to a different New England, in the older Oxford Circle neighborhood, also on Bustleton Ave.

During my visit, which usually lasts about a week, we go to New England a few times. We might have pizza, a Philly cheese steak, or a delicious chicken parm grinder. (A grinder is a sandwich on a long roll, similar to a sub or a hoagie.)

We headed over to the Bustleton New England on Sunday night. The bad news is that they were closed, apparently for good. There was a sign on the window, posted in April, from the city saying it had to shut down the restaurant because it violated building codes. I felt sad. I felt like you can only go home for a limited time. Everything changes. Everything comes to an end.

The good news, that more than makes up for it, is that we went to the Red Lion Diner tonight. We used to go to the old Red Lion Diner, on Bustleton Ave and Red Lion Road, until they closed in the early 80s. I recently learned that there is a “new” Red Lion Diner on County Line Road and Easton Road in Horsham. Horsham is ten miles away, but it’s a 35 minute drive, because of traffic, red lights, and the fact that County Line Road is one lane in each direction for most of the way. We took a chance and went there, hoping it would have some relation to the old Red Lion Diner, and hoping that the food would be good.

When we went to the old Red Lion Diner, I would often get the veal parm and spaghetti platter. I had a fantasy that I would have the same dish tonight, and it would be the same as the one I had in 1980 at the old Red Lion Diner. (My apologies to the PETA people. I don’t eat veal often. This is the first time I’ve had it in almost forty years.)

We arrived and got the menus, and my favorite dish of the 1970s was on the menu. Yes, veal parm and spaghetti. But now I could substitute another pasta, and I got the pencil points. (Pencil points are what is known elsewhere as penne.)

The food was excellent, and this was the best diner I’d been to in years. After we ate, I talked with the owner, and he said that they “used to have one on Bustleton Avenue about thirty-five years ago”. He said the old one was run by his brother, and he worked there for four years. So yes, it was the same diner with the same owners, in a new location.

They say you can never go home again. But tonight, I was home. And back in 1980.


Do Not Noisily Unwrap Candy Wrappers

I went to the Costa Mesa Playhouse today for the first time, with a good friend. It is a nice place to see a play. Only six rows. Not a bad seat in the house.

I saw this sign in the lobby and had to take a photo of it. I have to say the part about not noisily unwrapping candy wrappers is very much appreciated!

Do Not Unwrap.JPG

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of movies, since I got my MoviePass. And what I’ve noticed is that I don’t especially like the movie theater experience. I much prefer to watch movies at home.

What is it that I don’t like? I have to say it’s the people. Either a giant decides to sit in front of me, or someone behind me decides to put her feet up. (I’m not being sexist. Thus far, it’s always been women who put their feet up behind me. When a man does it, I’ll be sure to give him credit.) Or someone decides to sit in the seat right next to me (the horror!), when there are perfectly good other seats down the row. I can usually avoid this by sitting in the aisle seat, as opposed to a seat in the center. People like the center. At worst, I’ll have one person sitting next to me.

Another annoying thing about the movie theater experience is the young couple sitting right in front of me and making out. Don’t they realize that they are right in my prime vomit range? I won’t even mention the couple that brings their crying baby. But it seems that the thing that really gets me is the noise. Popcorn is supposed to be quiet, but people can make a lot of noise reaching into the paper bag for each bite. This can go on for the first hour of the movie! And, finally getting to the subject of this post, I hate the noisy candy unwrappers! So annoying, and they usually have a bucketful of individually wrapped candies. Combine that with the fact that you can’t rewind the movie like you can at home, and often critical dialog is missed!

Funny thing. Everyone at the play today obeyed the sign. No cell phones, no flash photography, no noisy candy unwrapping. But the sign didn’t say “No Talking”, and sure enough, someone starting talking! He was immediately shushed by many people. He talked again, and he was shushed again. Well, too bad I have to go out to a playhouse to see a play. They won’t perform one just for me in my living room. Huh!

You’re probably wondering about the play. It was called “Next to Normal” and was about a family struggling with mental illness of the matriarch. It was highly acclaimed. When on Broadway, it won four Tony Awards and a Pulitzer prize. The acting was excellent. It was a musical, and the songs were good, and the singing was excellent. Nothing memorable, though. It wasn’t Grease. Was it entertaining? Well, not really. It was extremely serious and heavy, and a little depressing. I was expecting something light and humorous, like Silver Linings Playbook. This play made me feel bad for each character in the family, as it was supposed to.

I’m glad I went, because I usually like movies and plays about mental illness. And it wasn’t unwatchable. I did enjoy a lot of it, just not as much as I had hoped. It made me think of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and which was mentioned by one of the characters before she went for her shock treatment. And I know what you’re thinking! One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about as serious and heavy and depressing as they come! Why the inconsistency in my entertainment between this play and that movie? Don’t know. Cuckoo’s Nest had Jack. I always like Jack.


I Used To Be A Heart Beating For Someone

“I used to be a heart beating for someone.” In case you don’t recognize this line, it’s a lyric from Elton John’s song, Philadelphia Freedom. I must have listened to this song hundreds of times since Elton wrote it in 1975 for his friend Billie Jean King, in honor of her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. But today was the first time that I really noticed this line and what it might mean.

On the surface, this is a song about the city of Philadelphia. 1975 was the year before the nation’s bicentennial. So, freedom and Philadelphia were on people’s minds, and the song fit right in. But the song is also about relationships.

I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed

It’s pretty obvious this line is about lost love.

Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom

How many times have you felt like you were free after the end of a relationship? I know that I’ve been guilty of that multiple times.

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind

And if you’re not convinced that the freedom that he loves is the freedom derived from walking away from bad relationships, here are some more lyrics.

If you choose to you can live your life alone
I like living easy without family ties

But the freedom is an illusion. Or freedom doesn’t imply happiness, as Elton so eloquently states later in the song.

I like living easy without family ties (living easy)
Till the whippoorwill* of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes

Philadelphia Freedom
Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
Philadelphia Freedom lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

* A whippoorwill is a North American songbird. It is known for its singing and its camouflage.


The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel S1E8 (Spoilers)


I started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel a couple of weeks ago, after several friends gave it glowing reviews. I liked it from the first five minutes! I think it’s very well-written and well-acted. I like that it tells a story of a time shortly before I was born. I like that all the main characters are Jewish. I like that it brings in Jewish culture and sprinkles in the occasional Yiddish word. I really like that it brings up pop culture from the period, mentioning people like Ed Sullivan, Bob Newhart, and Lenny Bruce. (The actor who plays Lenny is funny!) I love that Midge was arrested and shared the police car with Lenny. I love love love that Abe is played by Tony Shalhoub! (I was a huge fan of Monk.)

I noticed in one episode that there was an anachronism. The emcee at the comedy place asked the crowd to “give it up” for Midge. Nobody said “give it up” in the 1950s. I think it was invented in the 1990s by Arsenio Hall. I wasn’t sure if this was done intentionally or was a slip up. It bothered me a little, not knowing. But overall, I really liked the show, and I’ve been watching one episode every few nights (rather than binge watching the whole thing), so I will have something to look forward to.

Last night, I watched S1E8, the final episode of the first season. Another anachronism. A character in the office used the term “yada, yada, yada”. I believe that was invented also in the 1990s by Jerry Seinfeld. I’m beginning to think that the anachronisms are thrown in intentionally. I’m OK with that. It is consistent with their use of contemporary music in the closing theme.

But then something happened in S1E8 that I did not like at all. They went there. “There” meaning Midge and Joel decided to sleep together. Terrible idea! I hated that they were doing that. I wanted to scream at the TV. Rule #1 in life: Don’t sleep with your ex. Sex with the ex: BAD idea. Why? Rule #2 in life: People do what people do, and they will do it again. They broke up because Joel slept with his secretary. He will do it again with someone else. Why? Rule #3: Once a cheater, always a cheater.

So Midge and Joel slept together, and I watched it, partially covering my eyes. And I knew what was going to happen next. One or both of them would want to get back together, to reconcile. Or they would think that they want to get back together. Ding ding ding! Jackpot. Both of them said they wanted to get back together.

Midge told her father that she wanted to get back together with Joel because she missed him. “I just missed him so much!” she said. Not a good reason! She was conveniently forgetting what he had done.

At this point, I was not sure I wanted to watch the show anymore. To me, it was transforming itself from a light-hearted comedy to soap opera drama, where the two characters were doing something stupid and I was forced to watch, and then later I’d have to watch the unpleasant consequences, WHICH I COULD HAVE WARNED THEM ABOUT!

Then something magic happened. A conversation between Midge and Abe.
Midge: Papa?
Abe: Yes?
Midge: What are you doing?
Abe: Alphabetizing my books.

Yes! A Monk crossover! I can’t want for Season 2 to start!

Day 3 of 3 Lyrical Challenge

Thanks again to Paula for nominating me for this challenge.

For day three, I’ve chosen Watching the Wheels, by John Lennon. John wrote this song as a response to the people who complained that he took five years off, between 1975-1980, to raise his son. To me, the meaning of the song is that we need to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Stop and smell the roses. Watch a sunset. Admire nature. Enjoy the company of family and friends.

In today’s hyper-busy multitasking world, people are too busy doing “stuff” to fully enjoy the simple things. I was at a concert last month at the Orange County Fair, where the man two seats over was holding up his phone for the entire two hours, recording the concert, and watching it on his tiny screen. When I was in Paris watching fireworks on Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower, there was a man seated in front of me doing the same thing as the man at the fair, recording the event and watching it on his tiny phone screen, effectively missing out on the live spectacular show. How insane is that?

Last night, I was at Irvine Spectrum Center, sitting on one of their nifty new color coded chairs, watching the wheels. I saw groups of friends not talking to each other, but holding up their phones in front of them as they walked zombilike from point A to point B. I’ll bet they didn’t even notice the nifty new color chairs!

People say I’m crazy
Doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
When I say that I’m okay, well they look at me kinda strange
“Surely, you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game”

People say I’m lazy
Dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
Designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall
“Don’t you miss the big time boy, you’re no longer on the ball?”

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people ask me questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there’s no problem
Only solutions
Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I’ve lost my mind
I tell them there’s no hurry, I’m just sitting here doing time

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

Songwriter: John Lennon
Watching The Wheels © 1980 Lenono Music (BMI)

Day 2 of 3 Lyrical Challenge

Thanks again to Paula for nominating me for this challenge.

For day two, I’ve chosen I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I think the lyrics to this song capture the “never again” feeling after the end of a failed relationship extraordinarily well. I love the metaphor of the burst bubble, the words about feeling pain and sorrow, the admonishment to friends offering consolation (“Don’t tell me what it’s all about, ’cause I’ve been there and I’m glad I’m out!”), and especially the imagery from this part:

What do you get when you give your heart?
You get it all broken up and battered
That’s what you get a heart that’s shattered

Most of all, I like the optimism at the end of the song, acknowledging that “never” doesn’t really mean “never”.

What do you get when you fall in love?
A girl with a pin to burst your bubble
That’s what you get for all your trouble
I’ll never fall in love again
I’ll never fall in love again

What do you get when you kiss a girl?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do she’ll never phone you
I’ll never fall in love again
I’ll never fall in love again

Don’t tell me what it’s all about
‘Cause I’ve been there and I’m glad I’m out
Out of those chains those chains that bind you
That is why I’m here to remind you

What do you get when you give your heart?
You get it all broken up and battered
That’s what you get a heart that’s shattered
I’ll never fall in love again
I’ll never fall in love again

What do you get when you fall in love?
You only get lies and pain and sorrow
So for at least until tomorrow
I’ll never fall in love again
I’ll never fall in love again

Songwriters: Hal David / Burt Bacharach
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Here’s my favorite version of the song.

Personal note:
I played this song on the piano as a young boy. Here is the sheet music from that time, which I still have.

Sheet Music3.jpeg

Day 1 of 3 Lyrical Challenge

Thanks to Paula for nominating me for this challenge.

For day one, I’ve chosen the first record I ever purchased as a child: Try a Little Kindness, by Glen Campbell. The lyrics are very simple, some might even say corny, but they are as meaningful now as when they were written. With all the things going on in the world today, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves to be kind.

I especially like this part:

And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

To me, this about acceptance. Kindness doesn’t just mean being nice to other people. It means accepting people for who they are.

Now here are the words.

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

And here is a video from 1969, of Glen singing the song on his TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. I watched that show, and possibly saw this episode when I was eight years old.

Extra bonus: Here is the 45 RPM record and the record player that I played it on.

Finally, I nominate Erika and Andi for the lyrical challenge.