Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mr. Power Mullet

In keeping with the local hunting theme, it was only appropriate that the below-described Extreme Pumpkin Farm would have at least one hunting-themed vignette, amidst the scads of Little Red Riding Hood and Sponge Bob pumpkin-people.

But the real reason I include these photos is because the second one captures the aggressively-mulleted guy who had just offended us. Here's what happened:

John and I are watching a kid do the Apple Fling (think "giant slingshot with rotten apples") when this family walks up to check it out. The perfectly nice young boy starts talking to us about what kind of fruit flinging he is able to do in his own neighborhood. Then he turns to the dad-like-figure with him and says,

BOY: "Chuck, how big is our back yard?"

"Chuck" caught my ear- this was not "Dad" and, upon closer inspection of "Mom" and her other kid, "Chuck" was probably a Jim, Bob, Jim Bob, Larry, Daryl, and Daryl away from the kid's "dad," sadly.

So how did Mr. Power Mullet respond to the innocent question?

CHUCK: "Who the Hell cares how big our back yard is, jackass."
CHUCK: [Muttering under his breath as he lights a cigarette] "Eleven years old and too chicken shit to go in a Haunted House . . ."

Poor kid. At least we can surmise that Chuck won't be around long.

Extreme Pumpkin Patch: Jackson's Farm in Campville

By October, we have transitioned out of my beloved "festival season" (i.e., the summer full of Irish, Greek, Ukrainian, Pierogi, Garlic and Lumberjack Festivals) and I'm jonesing for a good excuse to get out and DO something on a Saturday. We wanted to get in some leaf peeping, so I suggested we venture about 15 miles west of Binghamton (i.e., heading into very rural New York) to a place I'd heard of.

Well, not exactly a "place" - more of a mecca. A pumpkin mecca, that is. No, not even a pumpkin mecca. Jackson's Farm in Campville, New York looks like Autumn EXPLODED onto a big patch of hillside off of State Route 17C. If it has anything to do with Halloween, the harvest, apples, pumpkins or being a kid, you will find it there. I tried to document some of its kitschy, homemade wonders, but I think I this covers about 20% of the offerings. There was literally EVERYTHING you could think of.

Yes, you are seeing an entire zoo made of pumpkin animals, including a HUGE elephant-sized one (the photos don't do it justice), a pirate-themed bouncy castle, massive spiders (there were like 10 of these things) outside a Haunted House (I couldn't capture the vast graveyard in front of it), face painting, pumpkin house, . . .

What I could not capture were things like the fact that the entire place- which must be several acres, is enclosed by a wooden fence with a double-row of mini-pumpkins standing only a few inches apart (that is a LOT of mini pumpkins!), the tractor show, the hay wagon rides, the dozens of fairytale-themed vignettes with dressed-up characters made of . . . pumpkins, the bake shop, the hamburger stand, the massive bins of every kind of apple, the funnel cakes, the tree house, the rock climbing wall(!!), the huge gift shop, the crazy squash, the full-size tee pee made of corn husks, candy apples coated in every color of goo you can imagine (including bright purple and blue!)

No, this is not your run-of-the-mill Pumpkin Patch that gets thrown up in a hay-covered suburban parking lot, just before the Christmas tree lot takes over. This is an EXTREME PUMPKIN PATCH. Side note: Sometimes I feel like an internet missionary or something, because many of things we come across here have not yet made it onto the ol' Information Superhighway. Not only does Jackson's Farm not have a website, but I can find barely a yellow pages entry for it online. Well, now we have glorious online photos online- hooray!

I wanted to pay special tribute to the Apple Flinger station (cost: 2 tickets) that was so simple and so simply awesome: some rubber tubing as the slingshot and a huge bin of mealy apples as your ammunition. GENIUS. This teenage boy was pulling waaaaaaaay back with all his weight and flinging these gnarly apples fifty yards uphill toward a pumpkin-headed scarecrow of a target. So awesome.

Special commendation also goes to the Pumpkin Hall of Fame, with its topical and well-executed Obama and McCain likenesses. Editorial note: Both of these pumpkins are smarter than Sarah Palin.

Leaf Peeping

'Tis the season for that beloved phase of foliage when the leaves turn crazy colors just beautiful enough to keep people from quitting the god-forsaken East Coast weather (hot/humid/buggy summers, dark/icy/snowy winters). I learned that the act of going out and actively seeking out the spectacle is called "leaf peeping" which always makes me laugh and feel like a but of a nature perv, or something.

As beautiful as the hillsides are right now, like a big dotted bowl of Trix or a pointillist's canvas, I confess that I am not a nature girl, and was just as happy to see the leaves in the car mirror, telephone wires and all, than to have gone for a hike or something naturey (as Gov. Palin might say).

Photos really cannot begin to capture the quality of the light as it comes through these leaves in the afternoon. It can be shocking sometimes, with the odd tree so bright red and glowing with sunlight that it nearly looks ablaze. Definitely something that Los Angeles misses out on!

Red Lobster, anyone???

I am vehemently opposed to national chain restaurants, so it suits me just fine that we live in a region where franchises mostly dare not tread. That leaves us going to lots and lots of family-owned restaurants and diners. The kind with hand-made signs in the bathroom, inconsistent offerings, and smoke-smelling waitresses, but really, really good pizza.

So it was pretty darn random that I inexplicably got the urge to try out, of all places, a RED LOBSTER restaurant in the vast strip mall of a town known as Vestal, New York.

We walked in the newly-remodeled space and I hit the ladies room. Was that . . . GRANITE counter tops? SO FANCY! I haven't seen granite since . . . before I moved here? OK, maybe once. Literally. And what's this? PROPER facilities that are actually code-compliant? And not a handwritten sign in sight. Amazing.

A look around the joint and I continued to be impressed. FOUR flat screen TVs, brand new nice wooden bar with brass details and everything (do I sound like a hick yet???)
As always with the ultra-American places (Applebee's anyone?), I was horrified by the blatant ways in which they brainwash you into buying the greasiest stuff (see the photo where I am commanded to "Taste the Possibilities" followed by larger-than-life photos of shiny, greasy, cheesy (and therefore tasty) food.

Another case in point: these biscuits. They can't just give you normal bread, they have to give you Bisquicky biscuits. But not just any Bisquicky biscuits- these are actually infused with cheese so they slide right down the gullet . . . I won't hide the fact that I consumed an entire one ("research for my blog," I reasoned).

When I told people at work that I'd ventured to Red Lobster, I was told that it had the best fish in town. This is probably a true statement, since there is virtually NO fish in town. And at nearly $50 (including tip) for the two of us, it cost about double what we'd normally pay for dinner out.

What did we order? We ran with the program and started off with some Cheese/Spinach/Lobster dip that inexplicably came with tortilla chips and salsa. But not just any chips- these were so super-infused with oil that I literally started to dab them with my napkin to get at the grease. No use, of course, that would defeat the purpose.

p.s. Gov. Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation, similar to new legislation in the City of Los Angeles, that will require restaurants with more than 20 (? I think?) outlets to post calorie and nutrition information. Normally I'm against putting more layers of bureaucracy on business, but man, this obesity thing is out of control and with restaurants like this, that are so expert at shoveling greasy fried stuff down hungry throats . . . one can only help that an informed public will make better choices and not pop down all those fried shrimp with tartar sauce, like I did!