Saturday, April 20, 2013

20TH ANNIVERSARY SANDLOT TOUR - 4.15.2013 - DAY 9

TRENTON, NJ. TO WINCHESTER, VA.


Dear Reader,

After the mandatory idiot-check in the hotel room, we bid farewell to the Element Hotel, with the Tour Truckster packed and tidy, we got on the road early and headed south for Greenville, SC and Flour Field home of the Greenville Drive baseball team - our next screening stop on the 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour.

But first we had the ritual morning running-of-the-pup.  Captain Maverick is a high -drive working German Shepherd Dog (and yes, he [they] are not correctly referred to as German Shepherds, they are, in fact called German Shepherd Dogs) and as such needs much much more exercise both mentally and physically than the run-of-the-mill canine.  So we talk to him as if a human (he's constantly expanding his vocabulary) and run him 4 to 5 times a day - even if sometime those runs are on small patches of grass wherever we can find them on the road.


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We head a little west then south through Pennsylvania (my home state) and through a little bit of the Amish Country.  Tidy farms and men with beards and women in bonnets riding in those picture perfect horse drawn buggies.  Except for one Amish guy with a big farm, a parking lot full of Ford Super Duty trucks and a whack of CAT farming equipment.  Apparently this guy was a "Jack Amish" - if there is such a thing.

Pennsylvania.  A farm.  That is all.

We see these in every state we've been through so far.



We swing into a gas station / food court place to refill the go-juice, and as I am walking toward the front doors, I swear this is the music that is playing over the outdoor speakers:


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"Finger Poppin' Time." From The Sandlot soundtrack.  Copy that.  I consider this a good omen, The Sandlot is everywhere on the Tour.

Pennsylvania go-juice pit stop.

Sidebar: Virginia drivers.  If you will recall from a previous post, I identified Tennessee drivers as the worst so far on the Tour - gettin' all Nascar out there on the interstate.  Virginia drivers, however, are in another class altogether.  Not only do they run up your bumper, at 80 mph, while you're trying to pass a convoy of big rigs to the right more than a mile long with no chance of ducking back into the slow lane until you pass them all, but they will do this, tailgating you while eating a donut, tuckin' in Skoal Bandits, spittin' into a red solo cup and texting all at the same time - and some of these people even use this boring time behind the wheel to complete their Bob Ross Joy of Painting projects on an easel in the passenger seat.

The Welcome to Virginia sign should add: "And prepare to die!"




What's the difference between Virginia and West Virginia?  The word "west."

Hey, Mom, remember these places? :)


Virginia is by far the most beautiful state we've been through.




Clearly there's some sort of endemic collapse of reason at the VDM (Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles).  The requirements to get your driver's license when you reach the requisite age (which in Virginia I am assuming is 12 years-old), might just be the most relaxed in the world.  That great moment in every young person's life goes something like this:

Your dad walks you into the VDM.
The Instructor walks over and asks:

"Can you see, boy?"
"Yes sir, I can see."
"Congratulations!  Here's your license, a John Deere cap, a can of Skoal, an 8 track of Lynyrd Skynyrd LIVE at Gettysburg, a Johnny-Reb bumper sticker and a blindfold!  Now get out there and raise some hell!"

Yeah.  It's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride out there on the Virginia interstates.



The Captain at a rest stop, waiting on a treat.


Of all the public doggie poopie bag dispensers we've seen, these are by far the best!  Love the name.

The Captain in his mobile command center with his favorite road snacks.  Tatanka Riblets.

Top quality road snacks, for a Top Quality Pup.
Since we have a few days to make the next screening in Greenville, SC, we decide to cut the 800 or so miles into bite sized chunks of 200 or 300 miles a day, and stop in Winchester, VA for the night.  We find a Wyngate, download the Tour Truckster and run The Captain to stretch his legs on a nice long strip of grass we find behind the hotel.

Rhonda The GPS Lady.  Right on the money again.

After that, Navigator Stacey finds a pub and we're off for the end of day beer.

Union Jacks.  In a word: awesome.  The entire downtown area of Winchester is being redone with strict attention to original detail.  The buildings are mostly from the 1800's and the renovations have for the most part kept all the charm.  And there is no finer example of this than Union Jacks itself.  I was told the owner is also the architect who did the reno.  He did a great job.


Old Town Winchester, VA, getting a facelift.



Union Jack's used to be a bank.


Best Bar in Winchester, VA.

As we're walking into the place I find two lucky pennies.  I always pick up lucky pennies.  If you see one and pass it by, you're an idiot.  There's a lot of mana in lucky pennies.

Andy and two lucky pennies.

We find a couple seat at the bar and meet Shane (yep, just like the Alan Ladd character of the eponymous movie), the bartender.  this guy does everything fast: talks fast, pours a beer fast, moves around the bar fast.  He knows EVERYTHING about EVERY beer on tap and keeps interjecting that it's because of his ADD.  I must respectfully disagree, Shane, if you're reading this, I did not witness a single moment of any deficit of attention my friend, I did however witness some serious productive OCD.  So you might wanna think about switching that self-diagnosis.

Navigator Stacey at Union Jack's.

And then, it happens again:

Shane, "So, where you guys from?  And what are you doing in Winchester?"

Flash forward five minutes:  Super-bartender, guy that does everything fast Shane, is now literally speechless.  I mean, like, he can't talk for real speechless.  When he does manage to get a few words out they are something like this:

"Uh, uh, uh... What?!  No!  What?!  That, that, that is my favorite movie of all time!  It's the greatest movie ever made!"  So I go to the Truckster and get a stack of Sandlot Tour mini's and end up signing them for a hour for almost everyone in the bar.  And we didn't have to pay for out beer either.  See, lucky pennies.  Copy that.







We also meet a nice young guy named, Shawn.  He owns a small art gallery just down main street, and, he asks, would I stop by tomorrow and meet some of his friends and clients.  I say I certainly will.

We finish up the end of day beers, and head back to the hotel to sack out.

End of Day Beer - IPA - at Union Jack's Winchester, VA.
Check back soon.  And sign up to follow the adventures of Team DME: DME, Navigator Stacey and Captain Maverick Vom Evans on the 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour!

Best,

DME


Thursday, April 18, 2013

20TH ANNIVERSARY SANDLOT TOUR - 4.14.2013 - DAY 8

TRENTON, NJ TO TRENTON, NJ??

Dear Reader,

So last night, late, after the screening (and the Firkin' Pub run with Matt Gagne), Navigator Stacey, Captain Maverick and me head over to the hotel my friends at FHE (Fox Home Entertainment) have booked us into.

Now, you have to understand that our small team is a down to earth and frugal bunch - we prefer middle of the road, pet-friendly hotels like Drury Inn, La Quinta, Marriott Residence Inn and the like.  Clean.  Inexpensive.  And everywhere you need them on the road.

So when my itinerary read "Element" Hotel (not Element"s", but the singular Element) I had no idea what the hell that was.  I was expecting something on the order of a place run by Wickens and wanna-be Druids in full-on Burning Man mode.  With a bunch of lighted up geodes ad crystals all over the place, "Welcome to Element, can we adjust your chakra, drain and energize your chi?"

But no.  It wasn't like that.  It was, to coin a phrase, Euro-Green.  Like Mr. Ikea and the dude that designed the Prius got into the hotel business.

However, pulling up to the front door, my expectations change instantly.  Clearly, I think, when I walk in this place there'll be two Thin White Duke types in body-hugging black wrist-to-ankle unitards behind the front desk, wearing My Boy Sherman glasses while Thomas Dolby and Devo blast through the lobby speakers.

Either that, or pursuant to the name Element, I'll be met with a boatload of attitude for not driving a smug-mobile (insert name of you favorite hybrid car here), and be forced to take a quick course in how to behave in a place so important it has its own square on the periodic table - right next to some incredibly rare element - myscatdontstinkium. 

Element street side sign at night, so bright you can't read it, but really, when you stay here, you know where you are.
Element entrance, obviously designed but a guy named Deider

Notice the slighted "dutched" "e's" - as in "I'm euro."

The tidy lobby - very nice

Front desk, with a monitor that plays Element hotel promos on a loop

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I'm kidding of course, because the place turned out to be really nice, and the staff very helpful.  The room was very large and the shower had one of those "rain from above" shower heads which manages the near impossible task of saving water AND rinsing you completely soap sud free quickly.

Full kitchen too.  Check.

Yeah, so, too much to do and too much work to catch up on the have left Trenton for Greenville, SC, the next stop on the Tour.  So Navigator Stacey, Captain Maverick and me have a little confab and decide to hang an extra day at Element.  There's a great green space outback for The Captain and he liked it just fine.

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So this day we repacked and revacced the t-shirt supply, caught up on the blog, did some laundry and got ready to leaving for Greenville, SC in the next morning.  But not before we got to visit with some friends we hadn't seen for a few years who live near the Trenton area.

Navigator Stacey and I met on a kid's comedy I directed in 2007, Ace Ventura Jr. Pet Detective, and the star of the film was Josh Flitter.  Josh and I got along famously.  We had, I think (and I think Josh will agree) a rare simpatico between actor and director, and that, combined with the fact that Josh is literally one of the only actual geniuses I have ever met, made for a hysterically funny, and hysterically fun shoot.  We had missed him and his mom Carla.

So we met up at a local 50's sort of throw-back diner.  Which, judging by the revolving door is a very popular place.


24/7 just like they used to be

Very shiny

A cash cow

64 different types of omeletes

The menu, I swear, weighed 4 pounds

DME and Josh Flitter

It was great to see Josh and his mom and dad again.  We hugged it out in the parking lot after brunch, Josh and I exchanged info and Followed each other on Twitter.  So, ya know, now I follow Flitter on Twitter.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

After brunch the rest of the day was in preparation for tomorrow's exit from the Trenton area.

And, of course, the end of day beer:


This is the same glass as yesterday's end of day beer, because we were still at the Element Hotel in Trenton,  The stemless wine glasses (Of course the Element Hotel has "stemless" wine glasses) work really well with  tidy IPA
Check back soon!

Best,

DME

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

20TH ANNIVERSARY SANDLOT TOUR - 4.13.2013 - DAY 7

PHILADELPHIA, PA TO TRENTON, NJ

DAY OF THE FIRST SCREENING ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY SANDLOT TOUR AT ARM AND HAMMER PARK, HOME OF THE TRENTON THUNDER - OFF THE CHARTS!!!


Dear Reader,

I woke up at 5AM feeling like I slept in a state of total unconsciousness, no dreams, just full-on battery recharging mode.  I was in the sauna by 5:10AM and once again cranking the heat up to about 180.

I hit the treadmill and got back in the sauna for another heat-filled pressure session.  Bliss.  Here's what happen to plastic cups when you power-sauna like a Finn:


Plastic cups after a Krakatoa sauna session

We checked out of the hotel and packed the Tour Truckster for the short drive to Trenton, NJ.  Along the way I did a phone interview with CRAVE online.  I finished the call just as we pulled into the parking lot at Arm and Hammer Park.


Heading out of Philly on the way to Trenton
Sports Illustrated journalist extraordinaire Matt Gagne was there waiting for me.  Matt's a great guy and sharp as hell.  I liked him immediately.  He had contacted me a few weeks back and said he had just gotten the go-ahead for a feature article on me and The Sandlot intended for the July issue of SI.  I agreed instantly and checked that one off the bucket list.








But first we had to download the t-shirts and posters and Sandlot gak from the Truckster; no small feat, and the thought of having to hump that stuff up those stairs wasn't a happy one.  Luckily, what can only be described as a Phalanx of burly guys in Trenton thunder staff jerseys appear out of nowhere.  TJ Hahn, the Thunder's thoroughly capable man assigned to handle/shadow me for the event, was johnny-on-the-spot for the unloading.


The Sandlot on 68 feet of hi-def jumbotron awesomeness!!!
We overloaded a rolling cart and got the stuff up the elevator and delivered to the big sales area they had already set up for us.  Relief.  And get this, the gates had just opened and there was ALREADY a long line of fans waiting for autographs and t-shirts!


Arm and Hammer park filling up!

"If you screen it, they will come..."

Navigator Stacey took charge of the merch table and I sat down with Matt outside the park and told him Sandlot stories for about an hour and a half.  He intends to interview all the original cast members and even the key crew people who were on the film.  Should be probably the most in depth article/study of The Sandlot ever.  And Matt, if you're reading this, write me pretty.

After the interview I went back up to the merch table where, for the first time in about 19 years I met Tom Guiry again.  He was 12 years old and a little dude the last time I had seen him, now he's about 30ish with a wife and 3 kids.  We hugged it out for five minutes.  It was great to see him again.

DME signing a baseball for Tom Guiry

Me and Tom laughing it out

First time we'd seen each other in 19 years

Signing baseballs for each other




Laughing it up!

It's actually tough to sign a baseball!

Must've been a good joke!
Tom signing a baseball for DME
In no time it was very obvious this was going to be a BIG deal - attendance reached somewhere near 6,000 fans.  And most of them stood in line all through the opening ceremonies - I swear there was never any less than about 400 people in the autograph line, they just kept coming and coming...  incredibly gratifying, and a little scary. 






Tom and DME signing and rolling posters,, while Navigator Stacey man's the Square cc swipey thingy


And the line keeps getting longer!

And loooonger...

Tom and I threw out the first pitch(es) as we were introduced to the crowd.  The fans were very gracious and gave us a huge round of applause.  After that it was up to the merch tables to meet fans and sign stuff.

DME throwing out the first pitch.  The guy was amazed that I can still bring it at 95 mph. ;)

DME & Tom with Boomer the Thunder mascot

Warming up because I didn't want to look like an idiot

Tom following through

DME gettin' his Lincecum on.

DME, Tom, Thunder pitcher and Boomer


Christine, Navigator Stacey, DME, Tom and Cassie
It was quickly clear that the line was going to move slowly because everyone needed to tell us not just how much they liked the movie, or what big fans of it they have always been (which is great!)... but something much more than that, they needed to tell us how much The Sandlot meant (means) to them.

There's a big difference there and I try to always be aware of it and sensitive to the fact that people consider The Sandlot a part of their lives, their childhoods, and their kids' childhoods.  A mom at a screening last year said it best I think, when she told me that, "Benny and Scotty and all the sandlot kids are a part of our family.  My kids grew up with them in our house.  Those characters are like my kids' brothers."  High praise indeed.   Got really lumpy-throated when she told me that.

So it progressed like that hour after wonderfully gratifying, laughing, funny, grateful hour.

















Team work, signing t-shirts takes four hands






I had a few friends on the comp list, including my cousin Tim Kohl whom I had not seen in 38 years.  He came with his wife and two sons, who are my second cousins who I'd never met!  It was a little overwhelming to see Tim again.  I did not have a happy childhood, and one of the best times I did have as a kid was a cross-country trip my mother took us on from Los Angeles to Wilkes Barre, PA to a family reunion at Harvey's Lake.  I think I was 12 at the time, and Tim and his brother Chris were the same age as me and my brother.  You know that one great summer everyone can point to in their childhood?  Yeah.  That one.  Well, for me, it was that summer.  We swam in Harvey's Lake and took turns diving off this wooden dock, where Chris and Tim taught me and my brother a particularly stylin' type of twisting dive called "The Hawaiian."

During the game the Trenton Thunder took me to the announcer's booth where I got to put on the headset and join the play-by-play for an interview as the announcer called the game.  the guy was amazing switching effortlessly between asking me a question and calling the game without missing a beat or a pitch.  I have no idea how he does that.






Then it was back for more autograph signing.  And the line kept getting longer.

A particularly memorable moment was when a young lady who had been waiting in line for over an hour finally got to the table.  She looked at me and took a moment to be sure what she was about to say came out just right.  She said, "Thank you for The Sandlot.  It "is" my childhood."

I rushed around the table and we hugged it out before I started balling my eyes.












Navigator Stacey was manning the Square cc swipey thingy in the iPhone and the cash box, and also dashing back and forth to the Tour Truckster to throw the ball for Captain Maverick every hour.  I wanted to bring him into the stadium, but the Thunder have two stadium mascot dogs, golden retrievers, and it's their house, their territory and The Captain politely declined to violate that unsaid sacred doggy line-in-the-sand.

After the game (the Thunder won BTW) Tom and myself went down on the infield and hosted a Sandlot trivia contest with cool sandlot swag give-aways courtesy of my friends at Fox Home Entertainment, the highlight of which was this question and answer session with a young fan:

DME: "What year does the Sandlot take place?
KID: "1993.:
DME: "Negative."
KID: Looking very disappointed
DME: "I'll give you a clue.  It's somewhere between the years 1961 and 1963."
KID: Concentrating really hard, "Um, 1962?"
DME: "YES!"

He got a gift certificate for a pair of PF Flyers.

After the trivia contest and a big thank you to the Trenton Thunder and the fans, it was back to the tables for more autograph signing.   I'll let the pictures do the talking here:



























After the event, with the stadium empty and the top-notch Thunder crew helping us re-load the Tour Truckster, I gave all the boys a t-shirt and bunch of posters.  I love it when big burley men grin like little kids.  They deserved it.

Then it was off to a local place called "Firkin Pub" for the end of day beer.  And God love him, Matt Gagne from SI had stayed through the entire event!  So he joined us and we yacked for a few more hours about life and Sandlot stuff.  It had been a long and heady day, and I was incredibly grateful...

... I went to sleep thinking I have the best job on planet earth.

The Sandlot in the bigs


DME and TG their name in lights


End of Day beer, well deserved.

Check back soon!

Best,

DME