Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

The Holy Grail

My first (and only?) completed game

Photo © 2011 Stan Syckes

Holy living fuck – I found it!

Hold up, let’s first get some back story in here. While attending middle school in Texas, Steve and I discovered the wonderful world of ZZT – a computer program that allowed users to create their own, ASCII-graphic video games. Being huge gamers and creative people in general, we fell in love with the DOS-based program and had amassed close to 100 games between us just six years later.

However, mastering the programming language came with a huge learning curve and it took us many, many tries to finally get a handle on the code. I remember that my very first try at a game was about Spider-Man 2009 – a comic I was subscribing to at the time – but I didn’t get very far as I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. Then I went over to my friend, Jordan’s house for a birthday party and he showed us how he had cracked the ZZT code! It was a religious moment – I suddenly could do whatever I wanted in ZZT.

The next two games I made were quite possibly the only ones I ever completed from start to finish. One was called Jordan’s Quest (in honor of the man who taught me how ZZT worked) and the other was Batmonkey (some crappy Batman spoof that didn’t make any sense). Both were utterly forgettable games but since they were finished, I uploaded them to the ZZT community on AOL (yep, that’s how old this story is).

Anyway, skip to my junior year of high school. Steve, my dad and I were all sharing the same computer and space was a premium. At some point many of my old ZZT games were obliterated – lost to the ages of time – including both of these two, only-complete early ones. I was devastated but tried my hardest to find them – but all un-delete programs failed and then a decade-and-a-half long search went unfruitful. I had pretty much accepted that I was never going to ever play these games again.

… Until last week that is! For some reason, I decided to search for “batmonkey” again and actually found an old site from 1994 where someone had a ZIP file containing Jordan’s Quest, Batmonkey, and even an old game of Steve’s. And included was a BatmonkeyFAQ text document written by a 12-year old me that included my home address in Texas (thank god there weren’t many internet predators back then … geez)! I quickly downloaded the treasure along with a copy of ZZT and relived the summer of 1993!

Ugh, what a mess – they were godawful. In fact, there was even a game-ending bug in Batmonkey. But I was ecstatic for finally discovering them and getting another chance to play my childhood. Thank you internet for never deleting data!

    Site Updates:

  • Added Batman: Season 2 (1967) to Currently Enjoying
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  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 15:54 | #1

    YOU subscribed to Spider-Man 2099? I know I had a subscription at one time – are you sure you’re not remembering wrong and just read mine?

  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 16:05 | #2

    Shit … I think you’re right. I had X-Men 2099 which was worse! Though my first game was about Spider-Man 2099 and I remember one screen was where you were supposed to answer the phone but I didn’t know how to get it to work so the smiley-face character just traveled down a drawn arm and touched the phone.

  • Shelby
    Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 11:32 | #3

    Sorry for the late comment but WOW – what a great find. Back when we were living in Texas I was looking for ways to get you two involved in computer programming and all I could think of was Visual-Basic. It was pretty new (it came out in 1991)but expensive – yes you had to “buy” software back then – and I also had to find away to teach it to you and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to. Anyway, my plans went nowhere with the exception of sending you to “Computer Camp” in the summer of 1994 which I don’t think was much of a success either. But it didn’t matter because you guys found ZZT on AOL, learned it yourself, and the rest is history.

    Now – I want to see an online video of some smokin’ Bat Monkey action. Congratulations.

Surprise of the (Three) Decade(s)

Two thirty-year-olds getting the surprise of their lives

Photo © 2011 An Unnamed Air Force Officer

The first week in April, I traveled back down to Virginia to see some folks and catch a MLS game. Or so I thought!

I took off that Friday to avoid the weekend travel blues and split my time between Cassie’s parent’s house and Stever Manor. I got to see Cassie’s dad’s crazy, new movie room, ran on her 20-year old treadmill, played some acoustic guitars with Richard and Steve at a Guitar Center, ate a ton of shitty food, watched a handful of random 21 Jump Street episodes … basically, it was turning out to be a nice, lazy Northern Virginia weekend.

As usual, we also scrambled to put together a night where all of our friends would get together for a dinner and drinks in DC. By the start of Saturday night, the restaurant had been selected, the people had been primed, and Steve and I set off to Brandon’s for a ride into the city.

On our trip into DC, I got a call from Cassie who said she had arrived early to the restaurant to discover our reservations had been messed up. Basically, we now had an hour to kill so Brandon casually mentioned we could hang out and have a couple of drinks at his new, nearby office while biding our time. His passengers were Steve and I (are there two more laid back people when it comes to planning?) so of course we obliged.

Brandon “unlocked” the door, we stepped into the darkness and suddenly … surprise! The lights flipped on and high up on the balcony above us were all of our friends and family. It was such a shock that I feel like I just froze and had to wait several seconds to compute what was going on. It turns out Cassie went nuts and planned a secret, surprise birthday party for Steve and I … almost a full month after the real date (purposely, to throw of us off her trail). What followed was a lot of food (I had very little), a lot of booze (I had a lot), and ended up with a giant beer pong competition (I lost many, many times).

What can I say? It was was the perfect celebration. Turning 30 is a huge milestone and it was wonderful hitting that terribly, terribly high age amongst the people I love. A great night, thank you everyone!

    Site Updates:

  • Posted June 9 journal entry (complete with comments) to The Shack: 10th Anniversary: 2000-2010
  • Took down Bar East Battle of the Bands gig from Rusted Hero sidebar section
  • Put up Mexicali Live gig on Rusted Hero sidebar section
  • Removed Three Dog Night (1969) from Currently Enjoying
  • Removed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Long After Dark (1982) from Currently Enjoying
  • Added Ben Folds – Sunny 16 (2003) to Currently Enjoying
  • Added Awolnation – Megalithic Symphony (2011) to Currently Enjoying
  • Removed Batman: Season 1 (1966) from Currently Enjoying
  • (Re)added Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake [MSX] (1990) to Currently Enjoying

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Fuck 2009 [Part 1]

Finally getting some on New Year's Eve

Photo @ 2010 Jeff C[removed]

Good weekend!

Thursday night was the last night of 2009. A year that, save the acquisition of one Gatito, was one of the crappiest I’ve ever experienced. Sure, I had a lot of fun, started up my most serious attempt at a band, and got a dream apartment in New York City, but I never quite shook free of that thin layer of dread. Work was crazy: besides having to go through the uncertainty of the recession (we did let people go), I also suddenly found myself in charge of this giant project that was way out of my skill set. But, 2010 brings hope and a lot of opportunity! I’m finally feeling like I’m on top of things at work, the apartment is still awesome, I feel as though I’ve found some really good war buddies in my bandmates, and we’ve gone poo-free in the tub all year (thanks so far, Tito)!

Enough of my emotional purging! Here are the goods you wanted: Jeff C[removed] and his girlfriend, Megan, came up to New York for New Year’s Eve. They were staying with Jeff’s old friend, Naveen (who I’ve had the pleasure of Spring Break-ing with twice) but we all met up at Papillion to start off the celebrations. The place was a giant, French/beer restaurant (though strangely occupied by Italian opera karaoke upstairs) but I was impressed with neither the food nor the beer selection. The best line was as I first sat down, Jeff C[removed] ordered me to drink the beer in front of me saying “we’re all drinking their finest, 1664!” Amazingly, he wasn’t being faceitious so I had to burst his bubble and tell him it’s essentially the French Budweiser (thanks to my storied two weeks in France with Detective Richard Kimble). I know this paragraph sounds like I’m a food snob. I’m not. I’m a beer snob! With very little information. It’s makes for one terribly confused cocktail.

We finished up and went to Pravda – a Russian warehouse themed bar in the Lower East Side – which was a great idea of Naveen’s since Papillion was dying. Thanks to some quick cab wrangling, we arrived with just minutes to spare before the big countdown. Jeff C[removed] bought a bottle of champagne and poured us all a glass (a mistake, as he continued to remind me that I “owed him for the alcohol” for the rest of the night). Everyone was drunk, wearing New Year’s pointed hats or 2010 glasses, and the bartender jumped on the bar with a giant, cheerleader megaphone for the countdown (I filmed it with my iPhone but who knows how well it came out). It was my first time spending New Year’s Eve in a cool bar and it’s gotta rank up there as the best ways to welcome in a new year. Jeff’s three single buddies (Naveen and two other guys who we had dined with) tried to pick up some girls while Jeff, himself, decided to hump balloons and party hats. Did I mention he was out of his mind drunk? Oh, and there were several ladies who I practically violated just by looking at them since their skirts (more like long belts) were so short. All of this (ok, mainly him being ignored by the ladies they were hitting on) led to Naveen finally declaring we would move onto another bar.

The second bar was super small, super cramped and not as inviting an atmosphere as Pravda. Plus, you had to pay $3 a jacket for them to hold it for you. I snuck my second jacket in my larger one’s arm and no one was the wiser, though! We were there for quite a while but I started to get a little drunk. I danced a little, drank a little, talked a little, and remember even less. Cassie and I didn’t make it home until 5 AM … where I made the terrible decision to watch a 3 hour-long Mavericks basketball game that I recorded.

But that’s just the beginning, reader! As I lay my head down to sleep at 7 AM little did I realize what was in store for me: Syckes meets Syckes; Kramer meets Kramer; a deadly, cornered wild beast rears her fearsome head; a showdown with a serial killer commences; and my violent past finally catches up with me! Stay tuned!

Oh, and check out the Best/Worst of 2009 feature I’ve started! Enjoy and Happy Goddamn 2010!

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Senior Soup: Part 2 ????????

Photo Montage © 2009 Cassie Melnikow

In my previous cruise post I talked about my vacation experience aboard the Carnival Triumph. Now I’ll do a super-ultra-quick recap of how I spent my time ashore! Finally, I will reveal the meaning behind the mysterious blog names. Be afraid!

  1. Boston, MA – I’d only been to Boston for about 6 hours while participating in a CMS (called Ektron) training session in nearby Nashua, NH. One night my coworker and I drove into Boston and watched a Red Sox playoff game in a bar near Faneuil Hall. We dared each other to loudly root for the other team but chickened out.

    Anyway, maybe Boston is really small but that exact same area was where Cassie and I ended up. We grabbed some beers with locals who were rooting for the Patriots this time and then decided to walk the Freedom Trail. We saw a lot of old, historical buildings but were surprised at how quiet the town was. It was Sunday night around 7pm and the entire area around Boston Common. Who knows if this was a result of blue laws or the football game but it was totally lame so we didn’t stick around too long.

  2. Portland, ME – Our second stop was in this quaint little port town (an accurate description for remainder of our stops) in Maine. There weren’t a whole lot of activities to do and we had elected to stay away from all the expensive excursions so we toured the nearby Victorian Mansion – a painstakingly recreated house from the 1860’s, complete with 90% authentic decoration and furniture. It actually was a whole lot more interesting than I thought even though our tour guide gave us the warp speed tour to get us the hell out of there. While we strolled around the downtown area we managed to find the two addicts in the whole town getting into a fight. It was almost cute coming from our New York experiences.

    Then, with a little help from my iPhone Maps App, we stumbled upon The Great Lost Bear. Cassie had discovered this out-of-the-way pub on one of her pre-cruise research studies and it really paid off. They had a huge selection of local and foreign brews plus great food. They’ve won some serious awards from some very prestigious magazines and there’s a definite reason why. The place was damn good! We stayed for 3 hours and you can see how drunk I was by the time we left (pictured above).

    They even had a Schlitz – some disgusting beer that my dad has a plaque of hanging in his mancave. I’m sure the thing removed the first layer of my stomach wall it was so foul (hell, they’re owned by the makers of the even worse Pabst Blue Ribbon swill). But I manned up and downed all 16 oz (the waitress refused to give me anything smaller). With our ship leaving in 10 minutes, we hurried our asses back and said goodbye to America’s Vactionland.

  3. St. John, NB, Canada – We got up super butt late for once and didn’t have as much time to discover our next town as we had afforded for both Boston and Portland, but it didn’t matter since this town sucked. All they had was something called a Reversing Falls (which took us an hour to walk to). By the time we got back we were exhausted and hungry so we casually sat down at a little place called Grannan’s Seafood Restaurant overlooking our port.

    … and had the best seafood of my life! Holy shit! We stayed for two hours drinking the local beer and eating anything they had that used to live in water. When the weather finally started to get nasty (as it had promised for our entire trip) we went inside and continued to eat amongst the interesting Canadian accents of the bartenders. By now we had done three cities in three days and were looking forward to a day at sea so we squeezed as much time as was Melnikowly possible and got back onboard with maybe 5 minutes before it left the port. Yes, I was freaking out the entire time but that is just the dangerous life I lead with the Lady Melnikow!

  4. Halifax, NS, Canada – Our final stop was the furthest East you can go in Canada – Halifax! And it’s a good thing you have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean because there sure wasn’t anything interesting to see in the city, itself. It was super windy when we got off the boat and it only got progressively worse the entire time. We stopped and ate at the Waterfront Warehouse where we had kind of mediocre seafood and then trekked up the San Francisco-steep roads to the Halifax Citadel.

    There we got to see a giant fortification, Canada-style! The guards wore plumed hats, kilts and exposed, hairy legs (sexy!) and they shot off an old cannon at noon. It was interesting going through the museum and seeing how they kept updating the fort for every war up through World War II but … maybe it’s just my jaded, violent American ways but I scoffed that it had never seen any battle at all. Yeah, we have a historical fort, too. It’s called the Alamo and everyone in it died! Bah!

    The gift shop left us with some Canadian money burning a hole in our pockets so we stopped by a mini brewery on the way back called Garrison where we got mini beers and I picked up a shirt (what else was I going to spend the money on?). Then we passed through Canadian customs (where Cassie was unceremoniously zinged about not being married at her age by the patrolman … ah, women’s problems!) and got back on the Triumph. We still had another day at sea but our next stop would be home sweet New York City home!

Alright, as perhaps I mentioned before, this trip was more relaxing than fun which wasn’t all that bad. I had been going pretty strong for the previous two weeks at work and needed some time away from computers in general. Plus, it was such a jarring sight to see small, quiet towns instead of crowded, bustling people all beeping their goddamn horns. And, sure we had to deal with a mostly geriatric passenger list, but everyone loves a good senior soup (when a bunch of overweight, elder people swish around in those deck hot tubs)! Thanks, Carnival … but I think I’ll hit up Vegas or Europe next vacation!

Current Mood: Procrastinating emoticon Procrastinating

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  • Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 22:34 | #1

    First off, I think it’s great the Stanus.butt comment section is working again. I for one, was deprived of 2 zingers because of this problem!

    Second, I’m glad you did this part 2 and gave us readers piece of mind with a fully finished blog topic. Having said that, when are we getting such a closure for this unfinished blog????

Old School Music

Photo © 2009 No Doubt

Wednesday, June 18, 1997 – I saw No Doubt (with opening act, Weezer) at Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, VA.

Sunday, June 14, 2009 – almost 12 years to the day later – I saw No Doubt (with some terrible openers) at Nissan Pavilion.

It’s such a trip to realize that I have now seen the same band in the same venue with three high schools worth of years in between. I am an old man. But really, what a show it was. This tour isn’t supporting any new album, and the band hasn’t played live in about 6 years, so it’s just a huge buzz-building affair (probably for an upcoming release). This means they just destroyed the audience with all of their well-known songs, with very little banter or pauses in between. Everything was amazingly rehearsed and executed … it was as if they were a robot band from the future sent to the present to do nothing but rock. Definitely one of my top 5 concert experiences.

I hadn’t been to Nissan Pavilion in 10 years and I completely forgot what a great venue it is for both audience and band. It’s open, but covered and even though the sound is a little muddy, the big screens are easy to see from anywhere and don’t compete with the band. It’s gotta be such a thrilling scene to be performing in front of 23,000 people as the sun goes down behind them.

The concert was actually the culminating experience of the weekend back in Virginia. I got back late Friday (thanks to a deadly combination of Lincoln Tunnel traffic and choosing the wrong Metro line) and slept at casa del Stever. We got up the next day (after the only night I’d get at least 8 hours of sleep for the weekend), stopped by an Enterprise car rental place (sadly, not the one former roommate “Badabing” works at) so I could be mobile. Damn, it’s all about renting cars outside of New York. I looked at the smallest car for a couple days and it was $100 a day out of NY, but only $30 in VA.

Now street legal, the Brothers Syckes Caravan headed to the Man Cave – aka my dad’s place. He showed off his latest prizes: a new mini laptop, dog Roxie, and Tiger Woods 2010. Sadly, I was on a tight schedule so we grabbed some grub at Ruby Tuesdays – where pops is apparently a “regular.” As we said our goodbyes, Stever and I braced ourselves for the next episode in our adventure: Toine’s birthday party. We thought that buying a lot of alcohol would totally prepare us for what was to come.

We were wrong …

Stay tuned for part two!

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  • Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 11:04 | #1

    …part 2?

  • Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 11:07 | #2

    Patience, my dear Stever. I have not forgotten!

Murdock Returns

Photo © 2009 Stan Syckes

In case you forgot, reader, we were right in the middle of a deadly Rock Thrillogy! Take a peek back at the previous chapters if you dare, but the rest of us have got to get on to part three!

Rock: A Blog Thrillogy

Part 1: In Which Our Hero Describes The Detection of a Musical Compatriot of Equal Greatness
Part 2: In Which Our Hero Forms the Nucleus of a Musical Juggernaut
you are here » Part 3: In Which Our Hero is Reunited with his Mighty Excalibur
Part 4: In Which The Ship Be Sinking

As I mentioned over a year ago, my 1978 Gibson Les Paul (“Murdock”) fell on some hard times and needed to be fixed. My decision shouldn’t surprise anyone when I decided to, instead, just buy a new guitar – my Fender Stratocaster (“Parker”). I originally began all of my guitar madness by learning on a Stratocaster-wannabe around Christmas 1996 so even though I had been playing Les Pauls for a solid decade, suddenly playing Parker was like getting back on a bicycle.

Fast-forward to today where I’m three rehearsals and one writing session into a new band. I love playing Parker during the jams but I was longing for the return of my one true love, the Les Paul. So, I bit the bullet and started scouring craigslist for guitar repair jobs. One ad I came across talked about a $50 setup job – just tweaking the action of the strings, the bow of the neck, etc. The writer sounded like he knew what he was talking about and even said I could stay and watch him work his magic if I so chose.

I emailed him (a guy named Brandon) and decided to meet him on a Thursday afternoon at a place near Port Authority where he teaches bass lessons. He seemed like a very quiet guy, all dressed in black, but was dead serious about his work and instantly started to gush about my guitar. He said there were several things he’d like to do normally but since Murdock was a “collector’s item now” he wasn’t going to. I just wanted the damn thing to play! So … he started out on his business of tweaking when he suddenly stopped cold and shot me a confused look.

He was near the tuning pegs, and there was no surprise there. Problems in this area led me to directly put the guitar on hiatus and buy Parker. But now I was about to find out just how fucked up it all was. So, on my guitar there are six tuning posts which is what the 6 strings are wrapped around. These posts are connected to the tuning pegs which, when turned, also tun the posts, tightening or loosening the strings around them. Ok?

To make sure all of this tightening and loosening doesn’t damage any of the wood a grommet is placed around the base of each of these tuning posts. Guitar grommets are metal pieces that look like miniature top hats with the top cut out. These are placed upside down over the tuning post so the “brim” of the grommet covers up the hole the tuning post passes through.

Anyway, here’s where it’s all fucked up. I had a total of … 0 grommets. Yep, instead, someone had glued washers onto my guitar to appear like the “brim” of real grommets. So, they were merely decorations, providing no support that a grommet would and now the glue was deteriorating, causing the washers to hit against my strings and tuning pegs. It was an absolute mess, but the guitar did sit untouched in a closet for 13 years before I got my hands on it … and who knows when these washers were attached. This fact and the whole “pickle smell” that permeated the guitar for the first month have really solidified an air of mystery surrounding Murdock!

Anyway, Brandon said he’d have to do any work on these tuning pegs back at his house but that I could bring it over that weekend. Unfortunately for me, Brandon lives in Brighton Beach … about an hour and a half away from my Upper East Side apartment in the lower east hand corner of Brooklyn. Two days, and nearly two hours later, I dropped my baby off, crossed my fingers he could get it fixed, and left (although I did note how nice/unique Brighton Beach was before leaving. It’s right near Coney Island so it kinda smells like a beach town, it’s very sunny, and everyone is a really old Jewish or Russian immigrant).

Two weeks and one misunderstanding later, I got the call from Brandon to come pick up a compltely fixed Murdock. When I got there, I tried it out a little and instantly noticed the difference. The action was super low and even across all six strings, the headstock of my guitar (containing tuning pegs) now looked like a real headstock. He even had painted in a few of the small chips I had broken off through normal wear and tear. Everything looked and played great but tonight will be the big test as I shall plug it into my amp when I get home and do some serious work. Should be hot!

Current Mood: Relieved emoticon Relieved

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Philly Part III: Give Me Death or Give Me Doh!

Photos © 2009 Brandon Jones, Montage © 2009 Stan Syckes

NOTE: For some weird reason I can’t access [stanus.nut] from inside my apartment. I have no clue why my network is blocking it … so I’ve become a little backlogged in stanus activities that I’ve wanted to do here. However, I shall forge onward for you, dear reader! First, the end to our exciting Philladelphia mini-series!

Part 1: Death Aboard a Megabus
Part 2: Brandon Jones Travels Through Time

I don’t know what exactly it was – a horrifying nightmare, the cold Philly morning air rushing against my bare buttocks (!?), or the angst of finally having to meet and greet Toine in relationship mode – but something awoke me with such a start that cool Sunday morn; jumping straight out of bed and into a defensive position! It was my final day in Philladelphia and it was time for the final, ultimate challenge of the entire trip. For this day Toine and new girlfriend, Joy, were to arrive. The only preparations to such an anticipated event was a sternly whispered demand by El Toine, himself, to “be ready at 10 AM” for their entrance. No clear-headed rebuttals regarding hangovers and lack of sleep could penetrate the man’s brain. He had decided the day was beginning at 10 in the AM and that was final!

Well, I woke up with a bit of a tickle in my throat (I just wanted to finally use that silly phrase) so I went about trying to drink a lot of water and get my body healed enough for TOINE: THE ENTRANCE. Meanwhile, Cassie and the Joneses slowly rose from their slumber and began to make their own arrangements for the day. Katie showered. Cassie picked out her clothes. And Brandon sat, cross-legged (!!), near the window facing out into the streets the prized couple would be using. Like some hideous paparazzi-bird combination, he perched at his sniping spot with giant camera at the ready … ready and waiting for his prey to come into view! As soon as he got a Toine call saying they had arrived he began snapping furiously! As the two lovers approached the house in complete hand-holding bliss, they were completely unaware of the sheer savagery of scrutiny they were being bombarded with by Jones’ never-blinking eye.

Somehow escaping unscathed from this brutal photographic attack, The Stetses completed an even more herculean task by making it up all four (!!!) flights of stairs that led into Jones Manor; culminating with their grand entrance into all of our hearts. At first, I was stunned to see Anthony in full relationship mode – constantly holding Joy’s hand, caressing her, or using the word “we” when discussing future plans. This was a man I’ve known who would not let any type of setting, circumstance or social norm prevent him from making a loudly-spoken homosexual quip and now he was dressed nicely and comforting a female companion! But, to be honest, the weirdness of this change dissipated just as quickly as the newness off seeing Toine in a relationship did. The rest of us, not used to waking up on a Sunday morning before 10 AM, took turns getting ourselves decent for public viewing and meeting Joy, who turns out to be a really nice, funny and down-to-earth person. With everyone introduced and smelling nice, we were on our merry way!

Toine and Joy had a busy schedule that they wished to stick to. First we hit up the famous Liberty Bell … the historic monument that I’m convinced contains the highest bullshit:interesting information ratio surrounding it. My god, you had to walk down a super long hallway filled with plaques, videos, and other antiquities just to see the damn bell! Were you aware that President John F. Kennedy saw the Liberty Bell and stopped for a photo shoot? Here’s 500 words to describe that momentous occasion to you!!!!

With the bell done, our caravan made its way to the next item on the Stets’ List: Independence Hall. Unfortunately, you had to have tickets to get in and the nearest open tour wasn’t for another 2 hours. So, we reluctantly retraced our steps passed the Liberty Bell to grab the tickets. With so much time to kill we also stopped and perused the gift shop for a while where fascinating objects such as “Fart Proudly” were discovered (and luckily left not purchased). Then my stomach sounded a rallying call: I was to eat soon or else!

Fortunately, another item on The Stets List was to eat a Philly cheese steak sandwich from “one of the top 5 in the city.” About a mile from the Liberty Bell area, we found a cool little street of interesting restaurants on either side. There was one dedicated to famous Philadelphian, Larry Fine, and several dedicated to women’s breasts (I’m not kidding), but we finally decided upon Steaks on South – a typical Philly fast food restaurant. I got the pizza cheesesteak (sans onions!) which was fantastic and they even threw in free fries after we showed our Phillies game ticket stubs. Most of the meal was spent getting to know Joy a little better – specifically by finding out what she knew about our Toine!

From lunch we moved back towards Independence Hall where we were allowed past the gates now that we possessed the tickets of freedom! Inside, I was immediately greeted with two unnerving facts. First, we brought down the average age of the other members of the 3:15 PM tour group a good 40 years. And secondly, I had to urinate so badly and knew there was no hope for blessed release until after the tour. I braced myself and entered the hallowed halls of freedom with Doh at my side!

I’m not sure who came up with the idea but so many tours begin with a pre-tour. Well, the one at Independence Hall was no different as we were “treated” with a 15 minute introduction and light joke fair from our 60-year old tour guide. There was absolutely nothing of note during this monologue – it was obviously just vamping to get the tour ahead of us out of the room – with one lone exception: oh yeah, that’s right. Anthony fell asleep within those 15 minutes!!!! Brandon snapped a few candid shots on Cassie’s camera for proof! I think the last time I’ve had to try to stop laughing so hard was back in high school band. It was glorious! Ladies and gents, the man just does not disappoint!

I was actually quite impressed and awed by the two rooms we saw during the tour, but I won’t bore you with any of those details. We’re here for Toine, people! Principal Photographer Jones took a few more candid Doh-shots of the new couple cuddling while learning about how our nation’s forefathers attempted to piece this war-battered country together into the great nation we all love. Then Toine pointed out how we shouldn’t be leaning on the railings that stopped us from physically entering the rooms as the nails were “probably really old.”

By this time I was pretty Phillied-out, to tell you the bitter truth, but Toine and Joy, still vigorous and full of energy in the honeymoon of their courtship wanted to go check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art – whose famed steps Rocky Balboa climbed to the top of and raised his fists in victory. It took us two taxis to get over there, but Toine and I recreated that famous jog step-by-step and ejaculated in a similar fashion atop the famed steps. Heh. Then, with one final ounce of energy, we all took pictures in front of the Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps. Toine did the Rocky pose while Cassie and I elected to give the Italian Stallion the ol’ rusty trombone.

Philly was done. And so am I with this blog. A super-quick recap of what else happened: we walked back to Brandon’s place, talked for a second or two, and then Cassie and I had another terrible experience with Megabus. But not even this final setback could prevent us from feeling privileged to have met and hung out with Toine’s new ladylove, Joy. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but a satisfying experience in the end.

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  • Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 17:18 | #1

    Great blog. But it begs the question: Who’s Toine?

  • Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 19:18 | #2

    I believe Toine said we shouldn’t lean on the railing because the paint was really old and probably had lead in it. I guess he thought the paint was original… not sure what he thought of the building’s central air conditioning that must have been quite advanced in the 1750s!

  • Richard
    Friday, May 15th, 2009 at 03:48 | #3

    Who’s Toine? Who’s You??

Philly Part II: Brandon Jones Travels Through Time

Photos © 2009 Brandon Jones

When our heroes woke up they found themselves to be … slightly hungover! It appeared that the adult concoctions brewed by Barkeep Jones were a little stronger than advertised. But, after a Katie bagel run and super-long showers in a Philly shower, we were all feeling well enough to go check out the area surrounding the Jones’ apartment.

Just a block away was Rittenhouse Square – a small park that reminded me of JMU’s quad as it was filled with people laying on blankets, people playing guitars, and people reading. Oh, and there were crazy people giving out “free hugs” to try and initiate some wacko religious conversation. Everyone out in the sun enjoying the nice weather. We continued to walk, stopping only to take the obligatory photo beneath the Philly version of the Love sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza.

As scenic as these stops were they were mere obstacles in the road towards a need that demanded to be satisfied: this gentleman required sustenance!! Squire Jones led us to Reading Terminal Market – essentailly a giant warehouse filled to capacity with mini restaurants and vendors. It’s a lot like Faneuil Hall except larger and way more of a swap meet feel. The place was super crowded both with people and restaurants, loud, and presented a real smorgasbord of different foods. It was the perfect place to find my much needed, hangover-curing food.

Brandon, Katie and I selected rib sandwiches dished out by some Pennsylvania Dutch servers, while Cassandra – usually frozen at the sight of a mere menu – was completely overwhelmed at the sheer selection in this establishment. She wandered off by herself for a while, ultimately coming back with some type of fried clam dish. The food was good in a trashy kind of way and there was only one real story of note: Katie got up to hunt for a bottle of ketchup, finally finding one several restaurants over from where we were sitting. Right when she put it down on the table to use, a man who had followed her for her entire trip back to us said he had to make sure it ended up back at his restaurant. Katie used a little … only to find out it was hot sauce 🙁

We regrouped back at palatial Jones Manor and then set off for Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Baseball-phile, Brandon, had secured four tickets to a game versus the San Diego Padres. Or at least he thought he did! We took an uneventful ride on the Philadelphia subway (whose Subway maps looks way more complicated than New York’s) and walked along an open road decorated with giant sports sculptures. I avoided the blatant homo eroticism in the aforementioned artwork and headed towards the entrance of the stadium.

Legendary announcer Harry Kalas had just died the previous week and there was a fan-created memorial being held directly outside the entrance. It was a bizarre sight, but another interesting look at the Philadelphia culture (I love cities that have a personality … unlike, say, the Northern Virginia area). Brandon divvied up the tickets and we approached the crack team of stadium security guards.

I gave my ticket to an old man who was manning the ticket scanner. The machine was connected to a turnstile very much like the DC Metro system – where you push the ticket in, wait for a green light to appear, take the ticket out and walk through the turnstile. The first scan didn’t work. The second didn’t either. So the man started doing all these crazy origami folds to my ticket in an attempt to get it to scan. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Brandon – his chinflap at half mast.

“Uh … I accidentally got tickets to tomorrow’s game.”

One embarrassing second passed … and then Jones sprang into action! He located the ticket sales windows where we were informed there were still seats available for purchase. The tickets we all had could also be recycled into tickets for different games (I think Brandon eventually turned them into pairs to 2 games against the Nationals or something … blah who cares it’s baseball). Although the price for these new tickets was somewhat higher, the seats were amazing; we were just to the right of home plate and maybe 20 rows back. We all gorged on ballpark food, enjoyed the antics of a riled Philly crowd, and cringed at the pervasive layer of cuteness provided by it being a Kids Game special.

When the game was over (Phillies lost, by the by) we returned to Brandon’s photo pad and watched a Tivo-ed Game 1 between the Mavericks and the Spurs. I don’t know how I lucked out with that one … I guess Brandon’s Tivo just must have realized it was superior programming and decided to record it by itself. I certainly didn’t demand it be recorded. Nor did I then annoyingly create a situation where Brandon had to rewind to the very beginning without me experiencing any spoilers. But the Mavs amazingly won and I was in such a good mood that we introduced Brandon to “jowling.”

We were physically, mentally, emotionally and now, jowl-ingly exhausted and began the preparations for sleeping. However, just as I was about to finally slip into unconsciousness my heart began to pump with extreme anxiousness. I suddenly realized that in less than 12 hours I was to meet Toine and his new girlfriend, Joy. I had spent the entire day distracting myself from this very idea with food, games and jowls, but I knew I would have to face the truth in mere hours. I fell into a fitful sleep.

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Philly Part I: Death Aboard a Megabus

Philadelphia is land of the free, home of the brave; the bra strap where the awkward fumblings of a beginning nation began! However, there is also a seedy underbelly to this fabled city; a secret society of malcontents who have been festering with rage since way back in April of 2007 – the last time Brandon mentioned he was going to update the B-Log’s look (update: there has been no change to his site since his 2007 post). Ironically, it was to see this very man that Cassie and I braved exiting Manhattan last weekend. Our journey would be met with much resistance, imprisonment, and even a meeting with the new Dohwoman, but we would come out of it as richer, wiser people. Well, at least we’d escape with an amazing picture of Anthony falling asleep inside Independence Hall!

The weekend was such an eventful one that I’ve decided to break it up into three parts scattered into separate posts. Come along with me as I retell this tale … if you dare!!!

When we travel outside of the city, Cassie and I usually board the BoltBus … a nice, upscale ride with large seats, wi-fi internet and electrical outlets. I’ve never had a bad experience with the organization, even when it was 45 minutes late one time in the freezing winter (we got to stand in a warm, nearby pizza joint). For some reason, though, Cassie wanted to save some money and try Megabus – a competitor just one rung down in class than Bolt, but provides an awesome double-decker bus.

Well, we managed to locate the bus stop (an experience not unlike a scavenger hunt when it comes to New York City) just a few minutes later than we had planned to do so. But, we could’ve taken our ol’ sweet time as our bus decided to mosey on in an hour late. Luckily, that time spent waiting wasn’t wasted as we chomped on our Wendy’s (a decision which would turn out to be quite fortuitous) and I was asked to donate money to some charity or other by the very same guy who asked me to donate money to some other charity a year ago. Since it was obviously just a bullshit scam, I messed with him a bit. It was a nice stress reliever and I felt bad seeing some kids giving him money just to have him leave them alone. I’ve really started to learn to keep my bullshit radar operating at tip-top shape since moving here.

The line of people that had been waiting for who knows how long slowly piled into the double-decker bus. Cassie and I made our way to the second level (it felt like it just had to be a more interesting trip up there). As we settled down in our seats we sighed … finally we were on our way to Philadelphia for the weekend. The stressful bus stop hunt and subsequent terrible, long wait were behind us. Now we just had two hours of relaxation (I brought along the Motley Crue biography, “The Dirt”) and we’d find ourselves in the arms of Brandon Jones.


Well, about 10 blocks into the trip (yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that right: 10 blocks) we ran into some heavy traffic. And I do literally mean “ran into” traffic. A Fed Ex truck came up on the right side of us and knocked off the passenger-side rearview mirror. The bus driver immediately pulled over to the side of the busy street … and then proceeded to do nothing for an hour! Rumors were flying around as to what was happening but finally our intrepid captain came up to the second level and announced three extremely annoying facts:

  1. She was unable to drive us anywhere until the mirror was put back on by a licensed mechanic.
  2. She was not allowed to let any of us leave the bus as the doors opened up into moving traffic.
  3. She had forgotten she had a second level on the bus and had told all of this information to the first level an hour ago!!!!

Naturally, people started to get annoyed and some even angry. Someone on the lower level engaged in a yelling match with the bus driver but received just as good as she gave (our driver was of the sassy sort). I felt like there really weren’t any options so why worry about it, but this reasoning seemed to be of the minority opinion.

Finally another bus pulled up beside us. We had heard that this one was going to be a regular sized bus (no second level) so not everyone would be able to get on it. Thus, with that challenge, Cassie and I primed ourselves to get our asses onto it as fast as is Melnikow-ly possible. Well, readers, we made it safely aboard and enjoyed a rather uneventful ride into Philly – finally arriving to our destination a full 3 hours later than scheduled.

An extremely quick cab ride later and we arrived at the Casa De Jones: an impressively large (for a city apartment) living space furnished in a style I’ll call: throw out anything ever owned by Brandon. Well, except for Brandon’s office/corner in the living room which looked more like a Bond villain’s TV-wall in which Bond’s progress through the death traps is monitored. We all gabbed like little girls for an hour or two thanks to Brandon’s mixed drinks (he tends a mean bar!!!) and then Katie retired for the night. Unfortunately, this left three ex-heavy drinkers to their own devices and we quickly devolved into a heated debate about the legalization of … everything, really.

When Brandon held a dollar bill in his chinflap I realized the night was over. Besides, I was drunk and I had barely made it out alive of the evil Megabus. Perhaps this baptism of fire was going to prepare me enough for the remainder of the week: traveling in time to get to a baseball game and the main event of meeting Toine’s new girlfriend, Joy. Or perhaps not, but hope remained even as I lost consciousness.

Stay tuned, dear readers, it’s a good’un!

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Hands Down

Photo © 2008 Stan Syckes

The Red Butt apartment is old and the floors ramp up slightly from the center to where the meet the walls. My computer desk is in one corner so the wheeled chair I sit in has a habit of slowly rolling away from the desk to the center of the living room. It’s not a big deal as I got a rug to go under it, gripping the wheels a bit. However, I have gotten used to putting all my jackets and coats on this chair’s back. Thus ends the set up of our little tale!

Well, Saturday I woke up and got in the chair. Cassie asked me to look at something and I spun in my chair to see what she was talking about. I don’t think I spun all that fast and I didn’t push back or anything in my seat. But the three jackets shifted in such a way that all of the weight was suddenly on the side of the chair near the center of the room. As the floor slants, this meant the chair tipped over and I landed with my full weight on my right hand. I immediately knew something was up … though I could still use every finger. About two hours later the outside of my hand had swollen up and was turning blue. Exactly like my foot did a year and a half ago.

Well … only having use of 1.5 hands is really eye-opening. I can get away with playing video games as I only need the right thumb but playing guitar is out of the question. Typing is an especially annoying pain as it’s my work and showering takes twice as long and is half as productive! I really can’t wait for this thing to heal as I’m climbing the walls from not being able to pick up with my music like I’d planned. Just when I got those great rock drum samples, suddenly I had a guest and vacation in Virginia. Now I’m handicapped! Patience, stanus … patience!

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  • Monday, January 5th, 2009 at 13:54 | #1

    Have you thought about going to the doctor to get it checked out? You could have a fracture or something. And considering your hands are your livelihood (currently as a programmer and in the future as rock star and/or hand model) you might want to make sure it’s healing properly.

    But I rarely go to the doctor for stuff I know I should, so pot meet kettle.

  • Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 at 09:56 | #2

    Yeah … I’ve considered it. Right now it feels like my foot did a year ago and that subsided in a week. So I’m giving it until Saturday … then I’ll make my decision/be forced to go by a female I know.