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.

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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!

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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.

 

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.

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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.

X-Files Dream

I had a strange X-Files inspired dream last night. Mulder and Scully’s long lost son William was in my house. He was a toddler, not sixteen years old, as he should be, considering his birth in 2001. My daughter was watching him, because apparently someone asked her to do that. I wanted to verify that it was William, so I showed him a photo of Scully, and he pointed to it frightenedly and started crying, “Mama!”

I wanted to call or text Scully and let her know we had her child, but I was afraid that Cigarette Smoking Man was monitoring my phone. I thought it might be best to arrange an in-person meeting, but I didn’t know if the more secure way to contact her would be a phone call or a text. I kept pondering over what I should do, and this made me feel very anxious.

I briefly woke up and realized it was a dream. But, it was too early, still dark, so I went back to sleep, and the dream resumed.

Well, at least it was a change of pace from the usual “My teeth are falling out,” “It’s finals day and I haven’t opened the book,” or “I’m running and keep falling down, and where are my pants?”

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