Retropost: Brooklyn, Gulliver, and Bull Riding (Sept2017)

I slacked on blogging for the past few months even though I had some fine adventures. So here’s the first of a few retrospectives on the events that unfolded.

I read for the Brownstone Poets series in Brooklyn where I wore heels and walked on cobblestones and did not break anything. With the boys in tow, it made for a sweet afternoon of poetry and diner food and everyone knows I love both.

September also brought about my birthday. Big plans! Plans that did not happen because I went for a massage from which I got a dent in my head that lasted a few hours, got diner food (see? I like it), and then was sick for the next four days, not from the food but like a nose head watery eye cough kind of thing. Only four days–that’s not that bad–but it killed my birthday weekend.

The most fun in September was one day packed with seeing Gulliver’s Gate and then witnessing bull riding in person.

Gulliver’s Gate is all things wee. Since I am wee, I fit right in. The layout is massive and some of it is interactive. They give you a key and you can make some of the little statues move–like Don Qixote chasing a windmill– or you can step into a waterfall. You can also touch things that you aren’t supposed to touch without getting thrown out, but only if you’re slick. There are also some Easter eggs like at Stonehenge, there’s the Dr. Who booth (I know that’s not what it’s called but that’s what it looks like).

On Channel 15 as a kid, I watched bull riding. I don’t know how this happened. So when PBR came to town, we went. It was very patriotic, and we got free stuff, and there was fire.

In the miscellaneous category, I rode a whale.

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Edison, The Other Electric Guy

New Jersey signage is the worst signage. Every sign has a lot of information and icons and arrows and none of them are easy to understand. Also, exit 161 used to be 162 B and 201 used to be 203 P. Or something. See? Confusing. There, now that that’s out of the way, we can dive into the fabulous fun times to be had in NJ.

First stop on sibling summer fun part II: the Thomas Edison museum. We found the museum easily because (1) There’s a huge light bulb on the way up the street towards it, and (2) there’s an extremely tall tower next to it. The tower is reminiscent of Tesla’s tower, though this tower does not shoot off electricity. Still, since everyone stole ideas from Tesla, it’s very shady territory.

For $5, we gained access to the museum and a 35-minute tour. Here, 35 minutes means at least an hour, and the tour guide, a former engineer, told us he felt like he was rushing. The hour didn’t feel like an hour, though. There was so much to learn, like Edison worked on trains and did chemistry experiments in his compartment, and Edison was an entrepreneur, printing his own newspapers and selling them at each train stop. Also, Edison invented an electric pen that involves writing on wax paper, which he also invented, and that all seems like a really burdensome way to write except that it was the first way to make a mimeograph. So smart, that Edison. We saw some machinery from the original shop that was run on steam power. It was old.

Also, we saw the evolution of the phonograph. Since my brother is a vinyl guy, I felt this was of utmost importance for him. We learned that the phrase “Put a sock in it” comes from putting a literal sock into the horn of the phonograph to mute its sound. Who knew? Well, the tour guide knew. He knew everything.

Once we were finished with the museum itself, we went out to the tower. It’s a memorial tower, which means it’s mostly for show. There’s a light bulb in it that doesn’t actually work. It’s on a pedestal with a light that shines under it to light it up.  Fact: Edison did NOT invent the light bulb. He perfected it. It had something to do with cotton. There was a lot of information.

Second stop: Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a National Park, in one of Jersey’s Oranges. There are several of them, and I don’t remember which one we went to. Not important. What is important is that as soon as we walked in, we learned that Edison and the New York Yankees have a connection. My brother was wearing a Yankees cap, and the ranger immediately launched into trivia. Edison made the concrete that was used to build the original Yankee Stadium. Who knew? Well, this guy knew, and now we knew, too.

The grounds are the labs and workshops of Edison once he moved from the first location to this one. They remain untouched and original, which means all the bottles filled with teals and mauves, all the powders and corked concoctions, all the machinery and test tubes and rusting over sinks–all touched by Edison and his crew. Pretty neat, especially if you like old stuff. Now instead of seeing just one machine from the steam-powered factory, we were walking through the factory, stuck in time. We also walked through a storage room where Edison kept one of every kind of stuff. Example: I asked the ranger, Is that human hair? The ranger answered, Yes, we put the more curious stuff up front; next to it is an elephant ear.

I was fascinated about how everything seemed to be stuck in time. We even got to meet Edison.

We also saw his office and conference room. Every room had bottles of stuff. His desk was a mess of papers and mini drawers. There were many light bulb enthusiasts about.

Before leaving, we took a glimpse into Black Maria. I know, that sounds very not okay, but I assure you, it’s fine. There was a replica of Edison’s first sound stage, which was called the Black Maria, at the edge of the grounds. We missed the actual presentation of how he came to invent the motion picture camera, but we were able to peek inside the structure to get an idea of what it was all about.

On the way out, I found a board game called Tesla Versus Edison. If it did not cost $60, I would have bought it because Tesla needs to take a stand. Also, there were these:

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Third stop: the Yogi Berra Museum. The grounds of Montclair campus are beautiful, but also, they are confusing when you don’t know where you can park. In driving back and forth, at the top of a hill, a furry friend started making his way across the road. I stopped immediately and shouted at it to go back. My brother was like, wow it’s a possum! And I was like, that’s not a possum; it’s an otter!

Clearly, we aced zoology. FYI: It was a beaver, though I also thought it was a prairie dog. He kept making fun of me because otters live in the water. I kept pointing out that at least otters and beavers look similar. Possums look like giant balding rats. I’d call this one a draw.

Anyway, the not otter went back to the roadside so I moved on back again until we found a parking lot and decided we could park there because there was a game that night and we should be allowed to park near it even if we weren’t going. The museum is attached to the baseball field and overlooks the park from the inside.

Having already visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, I knew what to expect here. Timelines and memorabilia. Yogi Berra is known for his Yogi-isms, so reading those were the highlight for me. Also, I was fascinated by the fact that most players from that time had other jobs because baseball didn’t pay them enough to earn a living. He owned a bowling alley with Phil Rizzutto! And he was a bigwig over at the Yoo-Hoo company.

We didn’t get a ticket for parking where we parked. I’m assuming the not-possum is happily roaming through the woods of Jersey. And now my brother and I are experts in not only Yogi Berra but also all things electric.

Daytripping With Tesla

My brother and I are both teachers, so we have summers “off.” Those quotation marks mean we are not working in the normal sense; however, if writing syllabi and reading for the Fall are not working, then syllabi-writing is somehow a hobby that I can’t stop doing, not for the fun of it but for the mandatory necessity of it. (Full disclosure: the Virgo in me loves writing syllabi because I get to plan things. Planning!)

The “off” also refers to the ability to gallivant across the tri-state area to see things we live near yet have never seen before. On the list for the first jaunt (bum leg and all) were a memorial, a bull, and a tiny village of shops and artsy things within Stonybrook. Some of these things were demapped. My brother must have said this word maybe 52 times. Also, we found Tesla. Like, the guy, not the car. But also, the car.

First stop: an apparently demapped Vietnam memorial in Bald Hill. Or, if not demapped, then not easy to find on a map. The GPS took us to in and around the area of the memorial. We could see it rise above the trees along the road. However, we were on the opposite side of the road near the Pennysaver Amphitheatre, which was closed but had an open gate. We rolled in and rolled out. Then I suggested parking in the tiny park next to it and walking back over.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (3)

My brother taking pictures of the top of the memorial from all the way across the road and the trees.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (13)

And this is how much of it we could see.

As we walked uphill towards the open gate that said they were closed, a tiny car with a large cigar-smoking, 7-11 coffee-drinking man rolled up behind us and shout-asked: You lookin for somebody?

We were like, no, something–the memorial.

After starting to say it was way deep into beyond the gates, it dawned on him what we were talking about and he was like, Oh you guys gotta go back to how you came in and then take the next exit off ’cause this whole area is Bald Hill.

I was like, Yeah, the map said we should go here.

He was like, Yeah, it’s a good thing I found you because you woulda got lost back there and you have no water. He chuckled. We thanked him.

We made our way back to find the next exit and my brother was like, That guy needs a name. At the same time we automatically said, Vinnie. He was totally a Vinnie.

Thanks to Vinnie, we found the memorial. It was a weird exit because the memorial is located in a park in the middle of a highway. It’s quite breath-taking, literally and figuratively. It’s on a hill [hence, Bald Hill], and it’s simply stark in its simplicity and tribute.

 

Side note: several times, my brother asked me if I could keep walking and if I’d be able to get up the hill. Boys sometimes notice things. I made it up the hill all right and back down, much more slowly than usual, of course.

Second stop: The bull statue in Smithtown is in the middle of a very busy road. At first, we couldn’t find it, so my brother kept asking, When do we give up? I was like, Never. So on we drove until he was like, There it is! It’s hard to miss. First we turned before it and realized we couldn’t pull over. Then we backtracked and I told him to turn into the bike path that also indicated parking. He was like, No because we can’t get out then. I was like, but the big gardening truck is there and it has to get out somehow, pointing at the gardening truck that we would be parking behind. We drove under the overpass and I was like, Pull into the urgent care. He was like, it’s private parking. I was like, there are enough spaces in there so other people can park so we won’t be blocking any urgency. He parked.

We walked over to the bull. It’s pretty large and anatomically correct.

 

The Bull (1)

He was like, I’m not sure I got its head in. Thanks, bro. Then again, I did accidentally photobomb his picture (see above).

Third stop: Stonybrook to see a bunch of things that are all in one spot. The neat thing about his wanting to see things is that they crossed over with a bunch of lists I have about the best tea and coffee and oddities across the land. We found a very fancy post office, Hercules, an old boat, pretty water, and the Grist Mill which was closed. I walked around it to see if we could get better photos of the water wheel but my brother was like, this is a private road, and I was like, It’s not like I have a car. Then we couldn’t get around the mill anyway so we headed back.

 

Hercules (1)

In honor of Hercules, we look Herculean here.

Two girls arrived behind us and were taking pictures so I offered to take one of them together. They declined just as me and one of them at the same time noticed that we both had Gatsby bags. They’d dropped off books at the little library near the tea shop and I was like, I wished I had books with me to leave. Apparently, it was their second time there, so they knew to bring the books. I know for next time, but I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon because it’s quite a drive and I’ve got other places to see. (Also, we didn’t ask them to take our picture and they didn’t offer, so the only one I have is the one I took by leaning my phone against a tiny tree stump).

Starved, we ate at Crazy Beans. They have a Crazy Ruben and a Crazy Cuban. We debated about which would win in a fight. The ambience and the deliciousness of the food make me forget the outcome.

 

The biggest part of our outing, however, was a very unplanned excursion into the world of one Nikolai Tesla, inventor of many electric things and patenter of very few. Also, fun fact, lover of pigeons. That fact didn’t actually appear in this exhibit, but it’s something I know because I once wrote a poem called “Tesla And Marconi Throw Down For Patent Rights, Royalties, And, Most Importantly, Fame” that was published in Spilt Milk, a now defunct British online poetry mag. It’s one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written because not only does it discuss science, patents, and what a douche Marconi was, but it also refers to the band Tesla, a very underrated band concerning nostalgia and the 90s (but who also played Jones Beach last year and seemed to be very happy and very much still underrated).

we found the educational and Cultural Center at the back of the large parking lot where all the other shops stand. There was a Tesla exhibit that cost $5 to see (marked down from $7 because of change issue–score!). The first thing I noticed was that everything was written in both English and Russian. Then I noticed it was not Russian. Tesla was not Russian. It was a different language. Now if you think I’m going to remember or look it up at this point, you don’t know me at all, do you. At least I know about his pigeon-love.

Anyway, the exhibit had trivia and lots of things to read and some things that we weren’t allowed to touch because they obviously generated electricity. There was a neon Tesla. There was also the Tesla car that Tesla did not make. We waited around for the presentation that we were told would happen in 15 minutes. It didn’t happen in 15 minutes even after we took a bathroom break, so we decided to bow out of the demonstration, knowing that there would be some sort of electricity happening. We did partake in the Look At How White The Paper Is Under The Tesla-Inspired Light Bulb, however, which was good enough for us.

 

The misfortune of Tesla stems from his failure to patent his most precious inventions. He did patent some inventions, but not enough. Maybe he trusted people too much or maybe he thought gifting it all to the world was the way to go. However, he died poor. There’s a movie you can watch about it on Amazon, and the exhibit featured a suit and fancy hat worn in the movie.

Since then, Tesla has been following me. Popping up on the television, a documentary about Tesla. Driving down the city street, a street named after Tesla. Tesla cars everywhere I go. Pigeons. Lots of pigeons flying around. Tesla may be trying to tell me something.

Then we saw an old house. Demapped, we first found the address given near the house. Then we drove back and forth through the backroads of Stonybrook and Stonybrook-adjacent, trying to find another old house. Back and forth until, oh, there it is, next to the historical society. The houses were really old. My brother is a history teacher. It made sense to see old things up close. These houses look the same in these photos. They are different.

Tesla-ed out and in a food coma, we found our daytripping coming to a close. I arrived home with a half a sandwich and a bit of a limp, worth every moment.

 

 

 

Tea steeping in a mug

Name That Trivia

Back in 2015, music and movie trivia ended up going pretty okay. We didn’t win, of course, but we also didn’t come in last.  No, coming in last was reserved for October Trivia, which was easily researchable, but I am of a lazy people and didn’t even look up the reason we make Jack-o-lanterns.

Tea steeping in a mug

Tea in a Back To The Future Mug — it’s pretty amazing.

This time around, music trivia from the 1970s to today unfolded in May at Sip This with my brother as my main team member (vinyl genius) and Eddie as a team member who would probably show up if he could get there in time. My expertise? I mean, come on. We know by know: I put the team together. Things were looking up!

This trivia was a little different. The host Stephanie reminded us that we were there for FUN, and we’d start with a written portion. Then we’d do out loud answers. Then we’d do more writing. Oooh, interesting. The total number of points we could earn was 146. Even more interesting!

The first written portion was finish a lyric for one point and then name the artist for one point. The first one was about something Fahrenheit and I was like, We are totally losing. My brother didn’t know it either. BUT the second one, we totally  knew. And then the next and the next. For some of them, we simply filled in answers using the formula, If it says baby, it must be country, so Toby Keith! OR if it says gown, it must be rap, so Lil’ Wayne! (That particular answer was Lorde). There was one answer we wrote next to which I drew an arrow and indicated: This is incorrect. Here on Team 4, we’re realists.

Still, we knew a bunch, and most of them we answered by pointing at the paper, whisper-exclaiming, I know that song!, and then humming through a bunch of wrong tunes until finding the right one. There’s nothing like singing the lyrics to a U-2 song to the melody of a Katy Perry jam.

Fact: my brother, the walking record store, did NOT know that Ricky Martin had been in Menudo. I did. Suddenly, I had more of a hand in this thing that simply putting the team together. Yes, there was a Ricky Martin question.

Also, I impressed myself by remembering the lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Thank goodness for lyrics like “mom’s spaghetti.”

After a few very generous minutes more than we were supposed to have, they collected our papers. We  moved onto the out loud part, which consisted of Host Stephanie reading to us song lyrics, and us having to write down the song and artist.

Now its’ time for Stop What You’re Doing & Try This At Home. Find a friend, and have that friend read you a random song lyric with no inflection. Then figure out the song. You can ask your friend to repeat it.

Guaranteed, you will do one of the following:

  • Squint your eyes, scrunch up your face, and think really hard.
  • Cover your hands over your face and repeat, I know this.
  • Squeeze your head.
  • Hit the table or chair or couch or whatever furniture is near until your fingers go numb.
  • Sing the lyrics to as many different tunes as possible.

The best part is when you rack your brain so hard only to find out the answer is some song you’ve never even heard of. No, you don’t know every song. Plus, repeating rarely helps.

That’s how I got through each decade when I had to think of an answer. For the most part, though, my brother was grabbing the dry erase board and marker and scratching out the answers. The 70s went really well, and I knew some answers, but only after he’d begun writing them down. Except for “Brass In Pocket” by The Pretenders. That one was all me.

Fact: That song that a lot of people refer to as Teenage Wasteland is actually called “Baba O’Riley.” My brother wrote it down, and I was like, You put that on my mix tape when I first went to college. He was like, wasn’t it good for studying?

Eddie showed up. Team 4 was now complete! He sat and was like, You guys look like you’re doing pretty good. I was like, Don’t jinx it, man!

Then the 80s came, and we were like, this is where it all falls apart. It didn’t fall apart. We knew stuff. Then the 90s came, and we were like, this is where it all falls apart. It didn’t fall apart. We knew stuff. The stuff we didn’t know we answered with guesses like The Smashing Pumpkins 1979. There was also a Madonna song that I thought was that Heart song about walking into a car and planting a tree. Apparently, I’m the only person who remembers that song. Another song that not many people remember? “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” which I got from the lyric about getting a tattoo of the wrong number.

I couldn’t remember it was The Offspring who sang it, so my brother guessed Chumbawumba, which is the greatest wrong guess in the world in any situation. The next time you don’t know something, answer Chumbawumba.

Eddie knew The Red Hot Chili Peppers because he has “Under The Bridge” on his iPod, which is one of the songs I always ask him to skip. Ha! Every time we heard something that stumped us, I turned to Eddie and pushed him, saying, You know this one!

When the 2000s rolled around, things went a bit downhill for everyone with Host Stephanie reading us lyrics with a sing-song tone to give us hints and then asking, has anyone written down even a guess? Again, very generous. Twice, we wrote simply Adele because as Eddie and my brother indicated, she sings songs in the 2000s. Later on, one of the answers actually was Adele, “Rolling In The Deep,” so, truth. This portion got cut a bit short because it was getting somewhat painful, probably more-so for Host Stephanie who had to look at a sea of blank faces and hopeful wrong answers.

We switched to the final written portion: Name That Tune! Remember that show? I can name that tune in however many notes! This was a little different. Instead of bidding, we got to listen to 10 seconds.

Host Stephanie played the first bit. After two seconds, my brother grabbed the pen and paper. “Starman” by David Bowie. He was like, if the rest of them are like that, we’re going to do fine. One of the songs was “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, which is my least favorite song in the world. At this point, Eddie decided to sing each song in what he thinks is a whisper, which really is a normal talking voice that everyone could hear. I kept shushing him, and he kept not-whisper-singing. The three of us struggled mostly with one towards the end that I wound up writing Rihanna (Not Umbrella), Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and then Rihanna again at Eddie’s guarantee that it was her. We couldn’t come up with the song title (“Disturbia,” and I didn’t get a point for writing Not Umbrella). Also, I knew “Riptide” but couldn’t come up with the artist, Vance Joy.

Then it was time to calculate the points. It was  now out of around 120 points since the last out loud portion was cut a little short. There were six teams. We didn’t come in last.

The final two teams had a difference of about 20 points, the second place earning somewhere in the 60 point range and the first place earning 82.

Team 4 got 82 points. Hey, we were Team 4.

WE WON TRIVIA!!!!!

I didn’t over-react or anything. I simply jammed my hands in the air and raised them up and down a few times. After having clapped the whole time for every right answer we got, I think everyone kind of knew I would be thrilled about this. Host Stephanie pointed out that the day had finally come for me, and yes, yes it had. Whoo-hooooo!

She gave us a prize bag, indicating it was difficult to figure out exactly what the prize should be. Like, for Harry Potter Trivia, you can get a bunch of Harry Potter mugs and figurines. For music, she was like, I can’t get a Metallica t-shirt, right? Right! Instead, we got this: a gift certificate to Ticketmaster and a gift certificate to Sip This.

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This prize is perfect for music trivia. I told my brother that the Ticketmaster portion was his. I took the Sip This gift certificate for me and Eddie. Fair is fair. I put the team together, and Eddie and I both contributed, but my brother carried the team. Teamwork!

After taking our picture with all of our prizes and my newly designed winner dry erase board, Host Stephanie was like, You can still keep coming, though. It’s as if she was reading my mind. I was thinking, this is my final trivia because a gal’s gotta go out on top!

However, the goal has never actually been to win. The goal has always been to not come in last. After that happened, the goal was to not come in last again. We’ve surpassed that goal. But now, ooooh! New goal: maintain a winning streak! It’s settled. We’re going back.

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(Can we please do the exact same music trivia again?)