Monday, June 30, 2008


I felt like the king of the castle for over a week !

Yes indeed, we had a smashing time on our Bermuda cruise. For eight days, we were lavished on the Norwegian Dawn...a virtual Las Vegas on the high seas.

If you've never been on a cruise...everything here will seem like an exaggeration but it isn't. Unlike the biggest and the best casinos around the world, anything you could imagine is available. Aboard ship, all the restaurants are open, different entertainers perform throughout the day and the party atmosphere never ends. Plus there's a movie theater, art auctions, organized children activities (for different age groups) a spa and world class-fitness center. I could babble on-and-on with more stuff but you'll have to take my word for it or pick up a brochure because there's something for granny--something for baby and something for everyone in between. And talk about being wow-ed continuously, I haven't even mentioned the world-class service !

Eight hundred nautical miles later, all this leads us to Bermuda. During our three days in this rich man's paradise...we basked in the most beautiful settings I ever experienced:

Horseshoe Bay Beach - Known for its pink sands and perfectly blue ocean, this arched-shaped beach is edged with a coral reef and mountainous rock formations. (Please pardon the tee-shirt, I got a weird sunburn on the ship that left me with a burnt left side, burnt belly button and an excruciating burn across half my left nipple). ALWAYS REMEMBER, WHERE EVER YOU MAY BE, YOU CAN NEVER TAKE ENOUGH TIME TO PROPERLY APPLY SUNSCREEN !


Church Bay Park - The cruise line tries to get the passengers to book excursions through them. A trip to a similar place would have cost us $70.00 each. Instead, we asked a local and were sent to this less commercialized snorkeling venue. We avoided being jammed on a chartered bus, took public transportation for twenty minutes and rented, for $15.00 each, our own equipment. Plus we stayed all day in this slice of heaven instead of being hustled away ninety minutes make room for the next bus load of suckers.


Hamilton - Complete with just the right touch of British charm, Hamilton is the capital city. We did some sightseeing and shopped in the lower echelon shops of Rodeo Drive-like Front Street. (Those were the most expensive refrigerator magnets I ever saw).


Andrew's history of motion problems are well-documented in this column. Plus, I'm no stranger to sea-sickness problems either. So it seemed natural that that subject is the number one question asked by you land-loving cruise virgins.

We used Bonine (a stronger version of Dramamine) as a precaution before boarding. YES, absolutely the boat sways but on such a huge vessel, you rarely feel it. Certain spots in the ship, like the extreme front and back, do rock and roll but you get used to it.

The next morning, we took another dose. Actually our stomachs were unaffected so on the third day, we didn't take the Bonine. On the way back after Bermuda, we went without it and were fine. To prove the point, the last day we were in a storm with choppy seas. The swimming pool water was lashed side-to-side like a wave pool but we never missed a meal.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has the reputation of being an A- level outfit. Veteran cruisers seem to agree that Royal Caribbean is slightly better and that Carnival is a distant C+. What I liked best about Norwegian is that it offers a free-style environment. This mainly means that Royal Caribbean has set times to eat and you are expected to "dress" for dinner.

In the end, my family survived all my bad vomit, Titanic and Bermuda Triangle jokes. Then our collective bubble was burst when we docked on West 48th Street and Twelfth Avenue in Manhattan. A chauffeur whisked us away from Pier 88 when I realized that we were near the statue of Jackie Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden. I was positive that it adorns the front of the transit authority office building on 48th Street near Tenth Avenue.

Being a big fan of the old "HONEYMOONERS" show, I always wanted to see it, take pictures etc. As Kramden might have said, "How sweet it is;" because my driver would have taken us anywhere I asked. But my family was anxious to get home, so I kept my BIG-MOUTH shut. Its a good thing, because later, I found out that the statue is actually on West 40th and 8th.

Yes, having my photo taken with Ralph may seem like a strange ambition to you...but like the replica Oscar and Maltese Falcon I hope to own some day, I fully expect to feel like the king of the castle again...when I go on another cruise next year.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Nobody we know got hurt, none of our possessions were lost and my family didn't waste any significant amount of money--yet our last trip to the Kings Dominion Amusement Park near Richmond Virginia, was probably the worst thing, we, as a group ever encountered.

Three years ago we were vacationing in Virginia and decided to make a side trip to Kings Dominion. It was a 90 minute drive...mostly south on interstate-95. I remember it was a marginal weather day and we were sweating it out that the rain would hold off. We must have wished to the right person because it indeed didn't rain BUT...

Twenty-five miles north of the park, in Fredricksburg Virginia we got caught in a traffic tie-up. What was so unusual was--we were at a complete stop. Occasionally we'd move up a few feet but there were other times, that I could have put the car in park.

This went on for over an hour with no end in sight. My son was eleven and anxious for a big day of fun...I gave him a lot of credit because he understood our plight and managed to make light of it. Finally in the distance we saw a temporary sign. It took an eternity to get close enough to read, "ALL VEHICLES MUST EXIT."

We had gone about five miles in two hours when we finally exited. Still we forged south on Highway-1 which ran parallel to 95. Unfortunately, we were competing with everyone else getting off the interstate--including eighteen wheelers. The little one-lane road couldn't accommodate that volume of traffic--so our predicament hadn't changed. We went another five miles in an hour and gave up at 2:30PM.

We made a U-Turn. In a strip-mall, we found a crumby Italian restaurant. The waitress told us that there was an auto accident that caused a truck hauling HAZ-MAT chemicals to crash. Acid spilled onto the roadway and burnt-off huge chunks of pavement.

For us, it was a waste of a day. Maybe if they had posted signage further north, alternate routes could have spaced the traffic better or given us the opportunity to turn around earlier. The Virginia Roads Department certainly had plenty of time to get the word out--that accident happened at 1:AM...ten hours earlier.

In the big picture, the story gets worse because at the time of the crash, innocent passersby stopped to help out. They were unaware of the great danger and stepped into the acid. Some of them were injured when their shoes melted.

In all, we went 10 miles in three plus hours...and the food stunk in that restaurant.

For three years I've been wanting to make-up for that fiasco. My opportunity came a few days ago so Andrew and I went and everything went RIGHT! It was 80 degrees and sunny, we found a supermarket with two-for-one discount tickets and the park was virtually empty, (impact of the price of gas)?

Kings Dominion has both dry rides and a waterpark. We hit the wet rides first. After a four-flight walk up, the ride called The Tornado put us together in a giant tube. We plunged straight down, into a four-story funnel on it side. Zooming down you climb the wall of the funnel, come down, up the far wall etc...great rush. We went had one of the few lines (15 minutes).



Another water slide, we walked up a five story platform. You just lay on your back and speed through a blackened twisting tube like a human roller-coaster.

After a five other water rides, we had lunch. The pizza we got not only looked good but was tasty too. Unfortunately it laid in me and didn't agree with Andrew either.

We did a couple of roller-coasters and I knew I was done with them. Andrew seemed to be worse off. We concentrated on more mundane attractions and slower rides. We even had a blast in the Scooby-Doo Haunted House. While driving through the fun-house, it offered an inter-active target shooting game. 800 points was the beginning of the highest category, Andrew got a 1040, I got a 690. Then we went into the Action Theater and put on 3-D glasses to watch Sponge-Bob track down an escaped pickle. Don't laugh, this is the attraction where your seat gyrates and you seem to have a million near miss accidents plus, things like power saws buzz inches from your face.

Our day was winding down and Andrew was considering a last hurrah on the Volcano...a twisty upside roller-coaster.

I considered the 5-hour drive back to Jersey and said, "I don't want to take a chance on getting sick."

Andrew thought better of it and/or chickened-out.

Later, we saw what we thought was an exhibit called Paranormal Protection Agency. It had no line so off we went. In a warehouse-like building made to look like an Area-51 hangar you walk up to a flying saucer. We had no idea what we were in for as we continued up into the ship. Even inside, we had no idea. Up more steps into another room we finally heard the screams! We asked some guy on line and he said its a super fast indoor roller coaster. Andrew was spooked because the riders exit in another room and it gave the impression that they vanished.

The ride was FAST upside down, twisty etc. Andrew got off exhilarated, me...not so much. I really had to run to the bathroom and sit down. Afterwards, I still needed to sit still for another ten minutes. Like clockwork, when I said I was OK, it hit Andrew.

The park closed at 8. We were already in the car at 7:30. Andrew was still pukey so I suggested he close his eyes. Fifteen minutes later, he was asleep. My "wingman" woke-up about five times for a few seconds during the entire 5-hour trip.

The first time was a half hour in. Black clouds, NO very black clouds gathered in the distance. Soon extra large raindrops splattered the car. Within seconds the car plunged into a storm of biblical proportions. I had to turn on the hyper-speed wipers and they weren't getting the job done. Luckily there were few cars and everyone got down to about 20MPH. There was no thunder or lightning, no hale stones, just torrential rain. Every few seconds, a ping from a raindrop on steroids hit the roof and reverberated the whole car. That's what woke-up Andrew.

A normal rain lingered for about forty minutes and an hour later there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Andrew stirred at tollbooths and then in Delaware, I woke himself for a final pit stop.

At home, Andrew woke-up feeling fine the next morning. So, with a slight rainy bump in road, we had righted the "Fredricksburg HAZ-MAT Wrong of 2005" in fine style. Hopefully, that'll be the worse thing that happens to us... EV-VER !!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008


My Andrew, and many of his friends,
graduated middle school this week. I congratulate them all as well as the faculty and administrators that made the Grizzly GTMS experience, less grisly.


This week also included Father's Day and my family was kind enough to bestow upon me a LeRoy Neiman lithograph; celebrating the existence of my former employer, the now defunct Stardust Casino (1958-2006).

I frequently make the point that in other generations, young men who didn't know what they wanted to be, enlisted in military. However, due to the fiasco in Vietnam, baby-boomers were less anxious to serve.

I had no direction coming out of college and the gaming industry became a nice fit. You could say that casino work made a man out of me. And my five-year Las Vegas career wouldn't have been complete without my Stardust time.

In my era 1979-1984, Las Vegas casinos were divided into three main categories: toilets where a 40/hour week would gross less than $175.00/week, better downtown jobs where you could gross around $375.00/week and strip casinos where you should make at least $700.00/week.
Although the Stardust was near the bottom of the strip casinos, it was a great job. I was fortunate to get hired there without "juice" and fifteen months experience. Back in my pre-burn-out days, I can say without sarcasm that my time there was a two-year joy ride.

To illustrate the Stardust's positive influence on me, I have said on millions of occasions that; I loved working there so much--that by my second day off, I couldn't wait to get back to the action. Okay, I was a crazy idealistic kid but its no exaggeration to say I had countless adventures and met an ever-spinning revolving door of much so that my stories are filled with them.

The lithograph will be prominently hung above my computer work station. In that position, I hope my writing will continue to be inspired by it.

Who knows, maybe next Father's Day I can get the replica Maltese Falcon statuette that I also covet.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Sometimes, the phrase; more of the same, implies negativity. But in reference to Indiana Jones movies and/or Steven Spielberg, more of the same simply means; complimentary.

My first taste of summer movie fun features Harrison Ford. He's back in the title role after a twenty year absence in...INDIANA JONES and the KINGDOM of the CRYSTAL SKULL.
Set during 1950's cold war paranoia, the movie opens in a Nevada military installation where atomic bomb testing is being done. It seems the Russians are after an object of fascination, superstition and fear, known as the crystal skulls of Akator, (Hitchcock called the item "they" are after; the McGuffin) . With these artifacts, the Rushkies feel they can dominate the world. And its up to world-famous archaeologist Indiana Jones to stop them.

The hunt then whisks us away to the most remote corner of Peru where the mythical golden city of El Dorado is intertwined into the story.

The movie is full of beautiful photographic images, visual effects, great stunts and signature chase scenes. If you watch carefully there are many references to other Indiana Jones movies plus other nostalgic eye-candy to capture the feeling of the fifties, like Marlon Brando from the "WILD ONE," HOWDY DOODY and James Dean.

The Crystal Skulls was a most anticipated sequel and because of that, its probably difficult to live-up to the hype. However, from a purely entertainment and escapism standpoint, the surviving three (count them) free-falls off waterfalls, giant ant attacks and a sword fight across two parallel vehicles, driving through a jungle, are fantasy at its finest. And even more importantly, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford made 65 year-old Indy a believable super-hero.

Its hard to believe that this was my son Andrew's first exposure to Indiana Jones and he loved it...even more than me. I think the difference between he and I was, even though the movie made no attempt to hide the aliens from outer space angle, their ultimate treatment of it was a little "over-the-top" for my taste.

3 - 3.5 stars (out of four) from me...3.5 from Andrew. I'm certain Andrew will now be looking for more of the same...from the original Indiana Jones movies.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I once said of my wife: I have so much faith in her that I would believe anything she told me--with one exception...if she told me that she was abducted by aliens...that would be something I would need to see for myself.

The issue of whether we are alone in the universe is open to a wide range of speculation. And because I am neither intensely ethereal nor scientific, I simply take this stance: Yes I believe we are not alone BUT I also feel that whatever IS out there, hasn't been seen by us, their "civilization" is not as advanced as ours... and therefore, they're not a threat to our planet.

Our course as stubborn as I seem...under the right circumstances, like seeing something other-worldly myself, I might change my stance.

A few years back, we here at Casa Edelblum experienced a period of economic uncertainty. In taking a pro-active approach (I did something before the crap hit the fan), I took on a secondary casino position. Unfortunately, the amount of hours I was getting at the extra job wasn't enough to cover our impending financial collapse.

The remedy became a third job, doing landscaping. The arrangement with this gardener, regarding the regularity of my schedule never "blossomed" into what we had agreed on (he lied to me) so while doing all three...I got a fourth job with a survey company.

Surveying allowed me to work at home. It was easy. I made follow-up calls...usually regarding customer courtesy/service from utility companies. The tedium was so mind-boggling...that as easy as it may have been...I resigned after a short time.

It was at this time that I mentioned my plight to my friend, Gary. He said that he needed a substitute to deliver his newspaper route (The Atlantic City Press) after swing-shift, 4:AM. I could work once a week for $30.00 CASH, plus a few extra days here and there and during his vaction.
Gary said once you get into the routine, the job only took an hour, its easy and you're in your own car. He said, "I like to pop in a couple of CD's and the next thing you know, you're done." It sounded do-able.

To see if I liked the operation, one time I rode "shotgun" while he did his route. He got out of work an hour earlier than me so he had already gone to the loading dock and put the papers into their little plastic bags.
When I got into his car, Gary and I laughed the whole time...that part was a lot of fun...BUT.

I never lost sight of the fact that, Gary wouldn't be there to clown around with me. Plus, even though it was August, riding around the boondocks of Galloway at 4:30AM, with the windows down (to throw the papers out), was freezing and I indeed caught a cold...I couldn't imagine doing this after the in the winter.

We were in the car an hour when Gary mentioned that sometimes, there's a long wait to pick-up the papers. That thought stung like a hornet. Then my enthusiasm for the job began losing its luster in the same proportion as my yawns became more frequent.

The back seat still had a ton more papers as Gary turned onto an unlit, unpaved rural road.
We were bumping and bucking up a long rocky driveway when he said, "It can be murder out here when the streets freeze-up." I was making a face when he added, "A bunch of times, I almost hit a deer."
I then asked, "How long does it take to put all those papers in the baggies?"
"Oh," he said, "I do it while I drive."
I did a double-take and he added, "In the beginning, I wouldn't recommend you doing that. So it might add an extra twenty minutes...of course the Sunday papers would take a lot longer because you have to put all the sections together yourself."

I was fried after 90 minutes and we still weren't done. This was a minimum of a two-hour ordeal after doing casino work and the money wasn't worth it. We were having so much fun that I didn't have the heart to tell him that I wasn't interested. Plus, I was feeling sick and struggling to keep my eyes open.

When we were done, I still had to get my car at Gary's house. We were on Jimmie Leeds Road and turned south onto Eighth Avenue. That's where the new Shop-Rite is...back then, it was the vacant wooded lot where the D'Lerio flea market was.
It was after dawn and the sunless sky had begun to brightened. Suddenly through the trees, I thought I was hallucinating...I saw as clear as could be...until the trees blocked my view...a UFO. Now trust me, I know how tired and disgusted I be certain I wasn't hallucinating, I wanted a second look before I proclaimed an advanced alien presence in the neighborhood.

But Gary beat me to it and said, "Its a bleeping UFO!"

And it was. As unearthly as any flying object I ever saw, it resembled a jack (the kids game jacks). A pronged craft with blinking iridescent lights on the ends of its spiky arms. It was gliding about as high as the banner planes that fly over the beach. And I'm telling you-- against the middle shade of blue sky, it was as clear as could be until the trees got in our way again.
This was the pre-cell phone-era so Gary slammed on the brakes, craned his head for a better look and said, "We're probably the only ones seeing it at this hour. We got to call someone and alert everyone."
Here I was with all the proof I needed that extra-terrestrials do exist and I said, "Gary, don't stop. Please, before you save the world from the invasion, drop me off..."

Two day's later in the A. C. Press, there was a little item on the sixth page that mentioned Russian space junk flying over Galloway. The government cover-up people around here screamed conspiracy...and for those of us who saw was a close call but...I wasn't beamed-up and Gary...who was more convinced than me, went straight to bed too. And because I knew my wife wouldn't believe me unless she saw it, I didn't tell her the story until I saw the article.