But I’m looking forward to Bouchercon
While Portland Maine is soon following its othercoastly sister into hipster hell, it still has cool people and weirdness to enjoy. This Memorial Day weekend, the Firecracker and I hopped in the Honda and drove to Bernieland to hit Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and the beer mecca of Waterbury, where we sampled Heady Topper and Sip o’ Sunshine and many great beers by 14th Star, Hillstead Farms, and many others. Then we shot over to the FunSpot arcade in the wilds of New Hampshire (our adventure is regaled here) before entering America’s frostbitten toe of weirdness and meth, aka Maine.
We stopped at Sebago Brewing and Maine Beer Co., the latter an old fave and the former a new one. The WhistlePunk from Sebago is a great IPA, and MBC always brews interesting things. We skipped Allagash this time around because our local pub (the Cloverleaf Tavern of Caldwell NJ) just had a tap takeover. But we’ve been there before. It was raining and cold when we arrived, and all the clothing stores were tourist traps or yuppie scumpits ($200 for a vinyl raincoat?) so I my only choice was to stop in the Belgian beer bar Novares Res, where I knew they sold hoodies emblazoned with hooded monks and beer barrels. I nabbed a snazzy sweatshirt and was thus well clothed for the chill.
There’s much to do in Portland but we got food out of the way first, with a lobster roll for Firecracker and a roll stuffed with whole belly fried clams for me. That evening we met a lovely couple from … where we’d just left, Laconia NH, who gave us a bug-eyed stare, like we were following them. (“You went to the FunSpot?” It has a reputation…) A lovely evening was had, I had a great smoke beer from Germany, we regaled each other with tales. Antonio told us of growing up in the Philippines, and they laughed at our rutted road adventure when the GPS tried to kill us.
But hey, you’re saying, what about Bigfoot?
What about him?
I like Bigfoot.
I know he doesn’t exist, but I like him anyway. Part of me wants them to exist, and another part wants us to never know definitively if they exist or not. This is because I was around seven years old when I first heard the word sasquatch, and I want that mystery to always remain. (Probably saw Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot)
So I’m glad my visit to the International Museum of Cryptozoology in Portland Maine left me utterly sure in my belief that bigfoot will never be discovered, no matter how many okapis, coelocanths and giant squids we find.
A lot of tourists are disappointed by this museum, but it’s not a sideshow. Go to Ripley’s Believe it or Not if you want that stuff. This museum is about cryptozoology, the study of undiscovered critters, and ones that may be extinct, or not, like the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger. It’s a marsupial predator:
Much of the museum is pop culture memorabilia, and our love of these creatures. And that’s just fine. There’s a bunch about the Mothman and UFO sightings. (Though if you’re into the Mothman, you really should visit the Mothman Museum, which I did).
They have a few Fiji Mermaids, the product of creative taxidermy. It was interesting to see them up close. One of my favorites was my friend Kim Parkhurst‘s sculpture of a tatzelwurm, a two-legged lizard whose gaze caused death, if you believe the medieval hype.
When I was in sixth grade, the homeroom bookshelf had plenty of awful paperbacks full of ghost stories and what-ifs and old legends, which I absorbed like a sponge. A favorite was this story of cowboys gunning down a pterodactyl in the American desert:
And they give plenty of time to my home state’s favorite cryptid, the Jersey Devil (which if you dig deep enough, was a political prank by a young Ben Franklin about the Leeds family, and we’ve been “seeing” this horse-faced bat-winged cloven hoofed critter ever since).
I’m a skeptic at heart, but I have a lively imagination, and I like to hope we haven’t ravaged the Earth so terribly that there aren’t undiscovered charismatic megafauna like the hairy hominid we call sasquatch hiding from us in the depths of the forest and jungle. I’d love for a small population of thylacine to have survived. My friend Gerry’s daughter Alibeth would be delighted, she’s a thylacine fan. We took her to see the titanosaur at the Natural History Museum in NYC a while back, and we were both saddened to learn that their thylacine exhibit had moved on.
There are still wonders out there, even if there’s no sasquatch. We can preserve them and ourselves if we stop acting like science is a matter of opinion. But expecting people to believe scientists over political hucksters? I’d sooner believe in Bigfoot.
(P.S.: I totally stole the title from this Adrenaline O.D. album)
I love AC/DC. They now have a beer. I am sure it is terrible, despite being “German.” Heineken is German, and I side with Frank from Blue Velvet that it is inferior to Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is hipster urine.
If you have this beer available in your area, contact me via email form if you’d like to engineer a trade for a full or empty can. I am sure shipping beer across borders is some sort of thoughtcrime, but we’ll figure something out.
Today at The Big Eat, I introduce you to my favorite local pub and burger joint, The Cloverleaf Tavern, where they offer a new burger every week. Some of them are a little odd, many are phenomenal, but none of them are boring.
The Cloverleaf’s classic comes perfectly cooked with a good sear on a chewy Italian roll with some of the best fries in the area- the “Trail cut” steak fry/fried potato hybrid, which gives you crisp and pillowy in every bite.
Check them out.
Went to see Brad Parks, author of the Carter Ross mysteries, at my local public library last night. Brad is a very funny guy, has a mellifluous singing voice, and charmed the hell out of the room. Margot Sage-El from Watchung Booksellers was there as well, and I picked up a copy of Brad’s latest- THE GOOD COP.
Brad being altogether too self-effacing, he calls this his first “real” novel. It’s the fourth in the Carter Ross series, which began with the hilarious and heartfelt FACES OF THE GONE, a book I loved. Not only for its honest yet loving picture of Newark and the surrounding suburbs, including my hometown of Nutley, but for how he juggles comedy and tragedy in a manner that feels a lot like real life, only more vivid. Faces and the two that followed are based on news stories Brad either covered or was intrigued by, such as a grisly quadruple execution killing that was his first story as a crime reporter, or the subprime mortgage scam, and so on.
Brad didn’t think that was “real writing,” and like many writers, he is too hard on himself. While some stories do spring from the mind like Athena from Zeus’s skull, most are a gumbo of inspirations and experiences that we simmer until it makes a sort of sense. Unlike life, a story has to do that. So I’m eager to read The Good Cop, as I enjoyed the novel he considers “not made up.” The latest concerns illegal gun-running along I-95, the “Iron Pipeline,” so it is quite prescient as the nation argues over whether we can even talk about guns, and the policies of neighboring states that allow illegal firearms to flow to street gangs without a trace.
Brad gave a great talk and sang a little of “As Time Goes By,” which was written by Montclair native Herman Hupfeld. Then we strode to a local pub and enjoyed Founder’s Centennial IPAs. Brad’s got good taste in suds, as well. We met up with friends from his tenure at the Star-Ledger, including mutual pal and sportswriter Steve Politi, and I fled before I was cajoled into karaoke. Brad sang that old Billy Vera and the Beaters tune so well I felt like I was back in 1987.
Full of heart, like the man and his writing. If you don’t know Carter Ross, start with Faces of the Gone, or jump right into The Good Cop. You won’t regret it.