Saturday, June 29, 2013


In order to keep things fresh on The Holidaze, I wanted to find things to do locally that I may not have been aware of.  While searching for arcades in New Jersey and New York, I was hoping to find one that housed classic arcade machines.  You know, the vintage games from the 80s and 90s.  The kinds that had me run back and forth to my parents, in less than 10 seconds, for my quarters to continue my quest for victory.  Unfortunately, Google wasn't helping me out.

I was, specifically, hoping to find the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game.  I didn't care if we had to travel a few hours, it's just been years since I've played it and figured it had to be somewhere!  So, back to Google I go and, little did I know, TMNT was right under my nose, only a few blocks away, in my hometown of Jersey City.  Who woulda thunk it?

Behold, Barcade!! Now, I've heard of Barcade before.  I knew there was one local, along with the other locations in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, but I hadn't checked in with their list of games since Barcade first opened.  Last I saw, the best game they had was Pac-Man and, really, I had no interest.  For whatever reason, Pac-Man seems to be the most common arcade game found in arcades.

But after discovering that they were home to my beloved Ninja Turtles, I also realized that they had The Simpsons Arcade game and WWF Superstars.  That was it.  That's more than what I needed to hear to give Barcade my very first visit.  I could. not. wait.!!

From both the outside and inside, it may not look like anything special.  But ya know what?  It doesn't have to be!  I wasn't expecting much in terms of decor.  I didn't think they'd have any marble tables or fancy chairs.  That's not the point of Barcade.  It's purpose is to combine craft beers with vintage gaming and it does so perfectly!  The fact that it looks like a warehouse, with wooden tables and elementary school lunch chairs, only enhanced the retro feel for me.  Nostalgia should always be a little dirty.  It's old.

As soon as we walked in, we took a 15 second look around and headed right for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game.  Ahh man, what memories!  In my life, I've probably spent over 300 hours playing this game.  Between the arcade cabinet, the Nintendo version, emulators, and the XBox Arcade version, that number might even be a bit low.  It's probably my favorite game of all time and is definitely my favorite arcade game ever.  Seeing it again was a blast from the past and, that alone, was worth the couple of blocks we traveled.

Ever notice how Michelangelo wears more of a yellow colored bandana than orange?  I never knew why, and I still don't get it, but I love it!!  I remember wondering why that was the case when I was a kid, but when I see it now it's just so perfect because of its nostalgic representation.  In a matter of seconds, I'm a kid again.

I haven't talked much about the Ninja Turtles on The Holidaze, but let it be known that I've always been obsessed with the franchise.  As a child, I had every single toy and piece of merchandise that was released.  My favorites were the Party Wagon and Sewer Playset.  I watched the cartoon for hours on end.  I dressed up like the turtles and, to this day, I own the series on DVD, have seen every movie and can't wait for the new release in 2014.  My love for the Ninja Turtles is deep and it's not so much about the characters as it is the memories they created.

My favorite villains were always Bebop and Rocksteady and, in levels one and two of the arcade game, they're the main bosses.  Besides beating the game once or twice as a kid, this was about as far as I usually got with a dollar or two.  But if you want to see any characters, these are them!  Artistically, they're amazing.  I'm a suck for 8-bit sprites and how they're designed.  But there's something special about beating the hell out of Shredder's henchmen and watching them increasingly flash a cool red orange color as you defeat them.  It's always been my favorite part of the game.

After a few games of TMNT with my lady, we sat at the bar to order food and a few drinks.  Now, Barcade is different than your traditional bar in that they don't offer familiar beers like Budweiser or Coors.  They feature about 20-25 different craft beers and transition varieties as time goes on.  I've never really branched out in terms of beer, I usually stick with what I know, but when the Brooklyn Barcade is voted "Best Bar in New York" by Fousquare, you don't question the Jersey City location.  You just pick something off the menu and go for it.

But what if you really have no idea what you're drinking.  Sure, every beer has a unique description on the drink menu, but who knows what they really want or like?  Well, I have good news for you.  My girlfriend didn't want to just wing it, so the very gracious bartender offered a free sample.  She tried it, she liked it, and he got an extra dollar tip.  That's apparently something Barcade does for its patrons and I think that's awesome.  Instead of treating people with disdain for not knowing the difference between a "Allagash Dubbe"l and a "Green Flash 1st Anniversary American Strong Ale," they offer a quick education through a shot of beer.  But me?  I winged it and got a glass of "Brooklyn Scorcher."  Not bad!

Jersey City gets a bar wrap at times because, let's face it, there are parts of the city you wouldn't want to enter alone.  Some parts are unwalkable after dark, while others aren't much better at Noon.  But, at the end of the day, this isn't Wild West City.  There are plenty of spots, particularly downtown Jersey City, that are built up, modern, chic, and nicer than New York City.  Jersey City is certainly on the rise and Barcade sits right on the border, perfectly safe, between urban and yuppie.  That equals a whole lot of hipsters and, judging by my picture, pink hair!  I get the impression you'll find all types of people at Barcade that can lead to very interesting conversation.

Before we dived back into the vintage gaming pool, we had to see how the food was at Barcade.  We ordered "Diablo's Nachos," Chicken Quesadilla's, and, for me, Taylor Ham and Cheese on a Waffle with Grade A Syrup on the side!  The consensus?  1 outta 3 aint bad.  I didn't mind the quesadillas, but they were far from great.  There was nothing special about the Nacho's besides the name "Diablo."  But I personally loved the waffle sandwich.  I would have never thought I'd like cheese and syrup together, but I do love McGriddles so I guess it makes sense.  As I'm typing this, a story on the news just came on about Taco Bell potentially releasing a waffle taco stuffed with egg, cheese, sausage, and syrup.  Sounds very familiar!  So maybe Barcade is on to something, but I'm going to steer clear of any food the next time I visit Barcade.  Other reviews I've read agree that the food can be better.  But again, it's about beer and video games.  The food is just an extra, anyway.

It's no surprise that the bathroom would follow the food and beer, but can you say "whoa?"  For as clean as the bathroom was in terms of where you need cleanliness, the walls were torn up by graffiti.  Besides the fact that it felt like walking into a horror movie, specifically "Saw," it was actually really cool.  Some of the art was done well.  Other phrases, like "Great Job," made me laugh to myself.  A few others were scary, such as "Where's Your Jesus?"  Oh boy, what the hell was that guy's problem?  Go play a video game and relax like the guy who drew Bart Simpson.  He was obviously so pumped over the fact that The Simpson's Arcade Game was at Barcade that he drew his own version of Bart as he peed.  Very interesting bathroom, to say the least.  But the best aspect is the "No Smoking" sign.  Yeah, defile our walls but, please, don't smoke.

I figured "Bathroom Bart" was the perfect segue to The Simpson's Arcade Game.  This is another one of my favorites and, from start to finish, it might be the most fun you'll have playing an arcade game.  See, I'm a fan of the walk-through games.  I'm still a 2-D fan!  I know people love the new generation of video games and, believe me, so do I.  I can get lost in NBA 2K for hours, but I can't buy into the new Sonic The Hedgehog games that have him running and rolling from all different directions.  I appreciate the classics and find more fun in scrolling from left to right than having to figure out 12 different button combinations.  That's why The Simpson's remains one of the best games I've ever played.

 When it comes to choosing your character, I highly doubt most males chose Lisa or Marge.  Those were always the two you were forced to pick when you were 3rd or 4th to the machine and Bart and Homer were already selected.  That was always a tough break.  Who doesn't want to be Bart Simpson?  He was the coolest character in the game.  He rode around on his skateboard and said "Aye Carumba!"  Homer was an acceptable second option, but he's never been my first at, even at Barcade, things didn't change.  Bartman was my go to man and I had a great time.  Even my girlfriend didn't choose Marge or Lisa.  They're fillers, but it IS fun when you have all four on-screen in search of a kidnapped Maggie.

The Simpson's Arcade Game was recently released on XBox Live so I think I'm going to have to buy it.  After going back in time and seeing how fun it is, I think I need to have it in my life, again.  It's never been available before, besides a remastered mobile version, so It's a no-brainer.  Bart, you're coming home!

As we were eating, I asked Eileen if she had ever played arcade games when she was a child.  After 9-years together, it's something that's never come up because we haven't seen these games since well before then!  Her answer was no and I was pretty surprised.  What did little girls do when they went to an arcade in the 90s?  She said she played Skee Ball and won prizes in the cranes.  I guess defeating Shredder and saving the world wasn't good enough for her.  I guess she had no interest in saving Maggie from an Amber Alert.  That was all I ever did in those places!

But, looking at those pictures, I'd say she had a pretty fun time trying out so many different games.  The best part about Barcade isn't the fact that they have these games, but that they have them and only charge 25 cents to play.  That's what they cost when I was a kid, and that's how they should forever stay.  So we spent a lot of time moving from one machine to the next.  She played games that were completely new to her, and I relived so many memories.  Being together, it was priceless.

Two games that I had never played before, or at least don't remember, were "Double Dragon," and "Mario Bros."  Double Dragon reminded me a lot of "Streets of Rage."  I thought, once I Googled it, I'd find out that this was released on consoles and renamed Streets of Rage, but nope.  It stayed the same and, surprisingly, I've never played this beat-em-up.  It's a lot of fun!

I thought Mario Bros. was going to be the same as the Super Mario Bros. games that I played on Nintendo and Super Nintendo, growing up.  I thought it would be fun playing those games on a cabinet, but it wasn't even close.  I have no idea what the purpose of the game is and I died within 30 seconds.  Is it some type of Super Mario / Pac-Man mash-up?  He walked back and forth, came out of both sides, and wouldn't fit into the green pipes.  You can't jump on the turtles because you'll die and you can only hit the "POW" box once or twice.  I don't get it, at all.  I'd say this one was too before my time to be appreciated because I know it's a classic.

 Growing up, there was no bigger wrestling fan than me.  It's my longest-lasting passion and, to this day, I won't miss Monday Night Raw.

"WWF Superstars" is an arcade game that I had never played.  I grew up playing "WWF WrestleFest."  They're essentially the same, but feature different characters and, in my opinion, the latter was a bit easier and more fun.  Superstars is a good game, and I love the classic wrestling graphics, but it's not my favorite WWF game of all time.  In fact, that's a difficult decision to make.

My Dad once owned a Sports & Collectibles store in Bayonne, NJ called "C&C Cards."  At one point, he delved into arcade games and brought in various machines, along with air hockey and racing games, to increase business.  It worked well and, for me, it was my own little Heaven.  Imagine having your birthday party at your very own arcade!  Imagine having King Kong Bundy at that party taking pictures with all of your friends.  Imagine playing "WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game" against Bret the Hitman Hart!  I did all of that and it was because of my Dad's arcade.  Going on memories alone, I think WrestleMania might be my favorite WWF game of all time.  You couldn't ask for a cooler opponent than the Excellence of Execution.

There's a good 25-30 arcade games at Barcade and, I guarantee, there's something for everybody.  Whether you like shooting, racing, fighting, thinking, futuristic, or action games, you're going to find a winner.  I can't guarantee you'll be one, yourself, but for 25 cents, you can certainly give it multiple attempts to claim victory and get yourself on the record board of high scores.  They're all kept up high at Barcade so it's something to be proud of.  Only few men and women can call themselves the best and, perhaps, you will be one of them!

I know there are only a few Barcade's in the country and they're all on the east coast in NJ, NY, and PA, but there are different versions owned by other people throughout the United States.  Particularly, I hear that "The Emporium" in Chicago is awesome.  They have "Turtles in Time" and "NBA Jam."  That may just be enough to get me there, one day.  So check Google out and search for what you're looking for, specifically.  If you're as lucky as I was, It may very well be within walking distance.

Game Over.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jenkinson's Boardwalk - Pt. Pleasant, NJ - Part 2

As promised, I am back with part two of my Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Pt. Pleasant, NJ trip report!  When I last left off, we were discussing the crazy amounts of fun you can have in the Fun House, especially when you're a bit inebriated and want to act like a child.  Let's face it, that's what this site celebrates.  For as much as it's about the different seasons and holidays that accompany them, it's also about embracing your childhood and enjoying the little things.  There's plenty of time for stress and responsibility throughout this life, so when you find the time to let loose and be whoever you want to be, take the opportunity and treasure it.

Now, let's get into part two!

As we exited the Fun House, the clouds were still rolling in and the sky was becoming darker.  The scent of rain and salt water was growing strong and we knew we were minutes away from a downpour.  So, we looked around and decided to take cover in one of the arcades.  We were going to wind up there anyway, especially because I wanted to hunt down Slimer, so we entered the first one we saw and beat the crowd before it got nasty.

How many times will you see me shooting baskets on Pop-A-Shot, this Summer?  Every single time I see one, somewhere.  So far, I've found one at Monster Mini Golf, Seaside, and Pt. Pleasant.  It's a guarantee that I'll spend money on these games whenever they catch my eye.  Unfortunately, this machine was a bit busted and the balls had too much air.  Every time we hit the rim, the ball bounced right back at us in a fit or rage.  We'd have one ball coming at our head, another bouncing toward the glass, and the last falling to the ground.  It became a disaster and, really, there was no way I was breaking any high scores in Pt. Pleasant.  I tried, but I failed.  We'll see what the next machine holds for me.  We have another adventure planned for today (one that is similar to a previous trip) and I know they have Pop-A-Shot, so I'll be sure to take some shots.  You, of course, will surely get tired of seeing us in the same exact pose.

Have you ever tried playing Skee Ball while taking pictures at the same time?  Up until Monday, neither have I.  But I gave I attempted to do so in order to get a cool photo of the ball going into the "100" slot.  Not only did I not get it in hole, I barely got any good pictures at all.  Then, after I got the high score and tried to pose like an idiot, the score flashed away and I wound up pointing at nothing.  So, needless to say, Skee Ball was not much of a success.  As my girlfriend said, "It's a fail."  Yep.

 The next competition was Cliff vs Eileen in a game of Air Hockey.  This is always fun and I started off strong.  I went up 5-0 early and was looking to shut her out completely.  But, little by little, she worked her way back into the game and my undefeated streak was in jeopardy.  Luckily, I was able to hold her off and end the game, but she's getting better!  I blame her comeback on the fact that I was, once again, taking pictures as we played, but I'll give her credit.  I'm looking forward to a rematch because she may just take the Championship.  But then again, she has me, so she's already the winner ;)

We looked everywhere for the stuffed Slimer that we found in Seaside, but he was nowhere to be found.  I'm sure I could Google it and order it online, but that's not the same.  There's something special about walking into an arcade, finding one of your favorite characters trapped inside a glass prison, and doing your best to wrap a crane around his body to assist in their escape!  That's what I was hoping to do for Slimer, but he's gone missing.  All I could find were these giant donuts and Monsters University characters.  I didn't have any interest in saving them, but those donuts did look cool.  Besides the fact that they look like they're from The Simpsons, I thought about trying to win one for our dog, Rocky, but I knew he'd just rip the stuffing out and there'd be a mess.  Better off without it.

Ahhh! Slimer!!  It's not the stuffed version, but there he is!  I got so pumped when I saw him, but knew he was unattainable.  This particular Slimer wasn't a crane game prize, but rather a ticket-based prize.  You know the idea; win and tally as many tickets as possible, turn them in to redeem points, and collect your prize once you have enough to do so.  The problem is, these prizes require wayyy too many points and you'd be better off just spending your money to purchase them in stores.  Try telling that to a little kid, though.  When they're spending hours inside an arcade, all they want is what they see, not what you claim you'll buy for them later.

I remember, when I was a kid, my family was spending the week down in Pt. Pleasant.  It was my Mother, Father, Aunt, two cousins, and I sharing the house.  At the time, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was at the peak of its popularity and I was one of the crazy fanatics that never missed an episode.  I used to draw the Power Rangers, collect the toys, play the video games, and pretend I was one.  I even dressed up as the Red Ranger for Halloween after my parents looked everywhere for the crappy costume.  My favorite, in this year, was the Green Ranger and my eye was drawn to a prize up on the top shelf.  It was the Green Ranger's "Dragon Dagger!."

I wanted this damn toy so bad!  I knew it was available in stores, I knew it wasn't THAT hard to find, but I didn't care; I had to have it.  Looking back, I was just being a spoiled brat, but my entire family played every game they could just to win enough tickets to pull this box down from the top shelf.  In the end, I couldn't tell you if they were just using it as an excuse to play more great games, or if my Dad just paid them more than it's worth to speed up the process, but I DID get my Green Ranger "Dragon Dagger."  

But, of course, the thrill of the chase was more fun than actually attaining my goal.  From what I remember, the dagger didn't play the actual sounds from the show and, after a few hours, I was tired of pretending like I had any real ninja talent or weaponry skill.  I should have just kept the box sealed because, today, this goes for $300-$400!  That's probably what my family wound up paying, anyway, but it's a story that just goes to show what type of affect these arcades can have on you.  You get caught up in the excitement and play for things you don't even really want.  Regardless, I'll never forget it and I appreciate my family for doing it.  It was worth the memory.

The Candy Stands are our favorite to play because you can win something that you'll actually use.  Sure, we don't necessarily need a box of Blow Pops, but who says now when you can potentially win it for 50 cents?  There are a few other stands where you can win electronics, but the chances are slim and, if I'm going to start wasting dollars, I'd rather drive to Atlantic City and gamble it away at the Big Money Wheel.  

When Eileen and I first started dating 9 years ago, I was 16-years-old and she was 15.  Years prior, I had been addicted to a candy called "Crazy Hair."  It was like a push-pop that forced nothing but pure sugar through tiny pores to symbolize colored hair.  I remember telling her about it, but thought it was discontinued.  Then, we were dropped off in Seaside by her Aunt, and we found it at one of the candy stands!  I couldn't believe it!  We probably spent a good $20 trying to win that box and it wasn't until we said "okay, last try" that we finally won it.  I probably broke out for weeks, but it was worth it!  Just another throwback that represents the memories and emotions connected with the Jersey Shore and what the boardwalk means to me.  Even a candy stand can mean more than what they make in a Summer.

 We walked down to check out the rides, but the lightning was striking so often that they shut everything down.  It made for a few fancy photos, but it's unfortunate that we didn't get to ride the Himalaya or Tilt-A-Whirl.  Those are my favorites.  But it's nice to see that the rides weren't affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Unlike Seaside, the rides at Pt. Pleasant aren't on the pier and are placed far off the beach.  Still, I'm surprised there wasn't more damage done by the heavy winds and rain.  The storm was bad, and much more than flooding, so I'm very glad to know that the rides are up and running!

Soon, the Sun had reappeared, but the rain had done its damage.  The beaches, for the most part, began to clear and evening was upon us.  We weren't looking to stay too much later or into the night, so we had time for just a few more activities before heading for the exits.

 Always end your trip to Pt. Pleasant with Ice Cream!  If you're a traditionalist, you've gotta go to Kohr's and try one of their famous twists or, if you're thirsty, go with the Orangeade.  Oh man, that's so good!  I wish I had one, right now!

Eileen decided to stick with Kohr's and go classic with the vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.  Besides Mint Chocolate Chip, that's definitely her favorite.  I like it, but I'm more fond of the harder ice cream so I chose a different path and went with Dippin' Dots.  It's always a Jersey Shore stop for me and I always have a hard time deciding which flavor to choose.  My favorites used to be "Root Beer Float" and "Snickers," but they haven't had those in years.  "Banana Split" is also classic, but easy to find.  So I had to pick something new!

"Twix Dippin' Dots" for the win!  This was great!!  I'll admit, it's not my new favorite, but it's very good and I'll definitely be purchasing it again.  It's chocolate Dippin' Dots with little chunks of Twix' candy.  It's an obvious creation, but this is the first time I've seen it.

It still can't compete with "Root Beer Float."  That was the best!  It was vanilla dots mixed with root beer dots.  I guess they took root beer soda and froze them into dots because, as they melted, they returned to their liquid state.  Now you had vanilla Dippin' Dots mixed into actual soda.  It was amazing!  Bring it back, Double D!

So, after 3 alcoholic beverages, cheese fries, 2 zeppoles each, a walk through the Fun House, competitions in the Arcade, traveling the boardwalk, ice cream, and walking back through the parking lot, our trip to Jenkinson's in Pt. Pleasant, NJ came to an end.

This was one of the better times we've had at Pt. Pleasant and, in reality, we didn't do half of what is offered.  Jenkinson's has an aquarium, a variety of shore shops, and rides that are fun for the whole family and people of any age.  There's plenty of fun to be had in Pt. Pleasant, including a fireworks show after the sun sets.  Not to mention the concerts and events they have planned throughout the Summer.  There's always something going on, but they can't compare to the day we shared together.

To finish our night, we stopped at Walgreens on the way home and saw these beauties in the refreshment aisle.  We were looking to grab something quick, maybe a bottle of Pepsi or cans of coke, but how do you turn down vintage bottles of Coca-Cola?  I couldn't!  Even though they're more expensive and harder to open, the classic look and feel of both the box and bottles are worth every extra bit of hassle.  Just look at how much the picture pops because of the colors and style!

I had to Google why it says "Hecho En Mexico."  I knew that it translated to "Made In Mexico," but I didn't understand the significance on the label.  Apparently, these bottles of Coke were truly imported from Mexico and have a different flavor than those made in America.  I thought there was a difference in taste, but I blamed it on my own mind games due to the awesome bottle.  But it's true!  Coke imported from Mexico is made with Cane Sugar rather than High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I'm telling you that like I know what I'm talking about and capitalizing everything to emphasize my knowledge.  The truth is, I have no idea what makes them different, but I love the packaging and that's all that matters.

The funny part is that the employees at Walgreens, including the manager, had no idea these bottles were even in stock.  They asked me where I found them and agreed that they were cool.  I believe the word "classic" was used just as many times by them as it was in this entry.  The manager even agreed that "they taste much better."  He must be up to date on the whole cane sugar corn syrup confusion.  Good for him.  Now he just needs to know what items he has in stock!

To conclude this two-part trip report, here's a giant Budweiser from me to you!

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