Mind Over Moon

Archive for the ‘Waxing Poetic’ Category

August 14th, 2014 by Moonie

My Winter in Atlantic City: as told by a Once and Future Shoobie

Photo courtesy of Monique Colon http://www.moonbeastpro.com/ Photo courtesy of Monique Colon http://www.moonbeastpro.com/

First there is a long stretch of dense, tree lined highway in which you pass sleepy rural towns with humble main streets peppered with long standing local businesses. Eventually the billboards begin to pop up. To the uninitiated the adverts seem out of place: big, flashy signs for alcohol brands. Further on they start showcasing dice, slot machines, and attractive people laughing over the blackjack table. Soon enough bright lights appear on the horizon, and the smell of salt water permeates through your closed car windows. The horizon of casino lights eventually encompasses the entire width of your windshield, and at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway there is one last billboard: In 1 Mile, You Will Be 1,000,000 Miles Away.

The reality of Atlantic City isn’t as lavish as the billboards suggest, but in many ways that makes it a better, more authentic experience. The real Atlantic City presents a head scratching dichotomy: a small town environment that masquerades as a big city. Even when inside a casino, with all of its feigned opulence and difficult to navigate corridors, the people found within have always had local flavor.

When I first came to Atlantic City I was a shoobie. My experience was limited to summer vacations in Ocean City and Sea Isle and occasional concerts at the casinos. I thought breakfasts down the shore were always done at Uncle Bill’s pancake houses and the best pizza was Mack & Manco’s. I had never even had tacos down the shore. I thought I truly understood the place; but the reality was my perception reeked of that of a weekender, a tourist, an outsider, or as the notorious colloquialism goes: shoobie.

Most disparaging of all, I have come to realize, is that I never took the time to ponder the year round livelihood of Jersey shore residents. What did they do when us summer squatters returned to Cherry Hill, to Moorestown, to the Main Line? We content ourselves on flooding the beaches and casinos for three months, then come Labor day the only thing flooded is the northbound side of the Garden State Parkway as we all escape back to suburbia. We had raided the boardwalks and loaded up on Salt Water taffy. We returned our rented umbrellas, vacuumed sand out of our cars, and stored away our beach tags in hopes of reusing them next summer to avoid paying again for access to the shoreline.

All the while no one gave one iota of thought to what these store owners, casino workers, and year round residents do for the remaining 9 months. It’s almost as if they don’t exist except to open their community to tourists: to feed us, to clean up our trash, to serve us. Don’t get me wrong: shoobies are invaluable to the local economy, and their patronage is essential to the continued preservation of the New Jersey coast line. But what shoobs need to remember is that they’re needed the rest of the year, too. And there is plenty for them to do.

I first came to Atlantic City on a cool Thursday in September. We were headed to The Boneyard: a small, local music bar on Virginia Ave a few hundred yards from the Taj Mahal. I had never been to a place in Atlantic City that wasn’t located within a casino, and I had no idea what to expect. People (re: shoobies) never had much to say about the rest of Atlantic City, and when they did say something, it wasn’t positive. My boyfriend was entering a DJ competition there and I didn’t know a soul. I was apprehensive. But, never one to shy away from new social gatherings, I tagged along.

It didn’t take more than an hour or two to feel comfortable. Turns out I did know some people there, and the ones I didn’t know I soon would. The vibe was easy and friendly. People were down to earth. The attire was Anything Goes: from blue mohawks and sleeve tattoos to high heels and fake lashes. There was even a group dressed gothic: complete with studded face masks and large, bulky pants littered with straps. I dare say the goth kids were actually some of the nicest: they were some of my first friends down there. The food was delicious and the drinks were cheap. After only one night I had decided that this dive bar in Atlantic City, of all locations, was my kind of place.

My boyfriend ended up winning that DJ competition, securing him a residency at Boneyard Bar & Grill every Thursday night. And so began a sacred ritual: each Thursday around 8 p.m. I would travel down the Expressway to Atlantic City. We would eat, drink, and dance like no where I could think of in quiet, suburban Medford. Once a week turned to twice, and sometimes three times a week I would venture down to AC to see what was going on. Sometimes it was to support music and comedy events put on by my friends, sometimes just because I wanted to get out and couldn’t think of a single place by me that I would rather go. I came to Atlantic City for the music, and I stayed for the people.

I made real friends there, probably upwards of 100 of them. There were so many types of people: musicians, hair stylists, bartenders, news reporters, DJs, waiters, construction workers, chefs, comedians, college students, postal workers, nurses, people in lawncare maintenance, tech industry professionals, masseuses, promoters, artists. They all wove into this unique identity of Atlantic City. Many came from the small surrounding towns you pass on the Expressway, some were born and raised right on the island. And everyone had a story. I listened to two ex-enlisted guys compare their experiences in Afghanistan. I got hair styling advice, casino industry gossip, and restaurant discounts. I saw fire breather demonstrations and glow in the dark hula hoop dancers. I participated in trivia contests, and contributed to live, group paint sessions on canvases set up at music events. I strategized with friends trying to start their own endeavors: lifestyle brands, restaurant managers, and event organizers. Once I stayed late to the bar drinking water to sober up, and the bartender and another patron traded crazy stories about their alcoholic parents.

We used our insider discounts to stay at the casinos overnight. Soon I learned that breakfasts were actually done at Shea’s and Gilchrist. Pre-game tacos were at Panchos, and for late night fare we always went to Pizza King. We played beer pong at Mountain Bar at Bally’s until 3 a.m., and sometimes the guys would get DJ gigs at Dusk, a dress code enforced nightclub at Caesars.

We stopped at Boneyard unplanned once on a Saturday night because it was my boyfriend’s cousins birthday and she wanted to go out. Lo and behold there was an air guitar contest on stage. I entered on a whim, and after many grueling rounds I was crowned the winner. The organizers requested an encore performance at the end, and I invited all the contestants on stage to perform with me. It crescendoed with myself and at least a dozen other people in a raucous air strumming, lip syncing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Afterwards the entire bar sang happy birthday to our guest and the owner bought everyone there a shot of whiskey. It was one of the most hilarious nights of my life.

All of this goes on in Atlantic City under the shadowy nose of the crippling casino industry. The real and truly authentic people that comprise Atlantic City are crumbling beneath the gargantuan, bankrupt towers they were told were built to save them: their job, their livelihood, their city. In reality, these extravagant constructions merely contain them. The people found in Atlantic City truly sparkle far greater than the glittering chandeliers above them.

Every week lately seems to bring news of another casino closure. I shudder to think of the thousands of residents these failing casinos are rendering jobless. Politicians and city officials have failed this city, but I haven’t lost hope. The time I spent getting a true Atlantic City experience has taught me that a city can be defined not by its grandiose buildings, but rather by its people. And now more than ever Atlantic City is ripe for reinvention by the eclectic people that make it special.

April 8th, 2014 by Moonie

Somewhere between Cheesesteaks and Cat Bowties: Musings on Portland

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

I am from a New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia. That means that in some ways I both identify with and typify many of the stereotypes associated with this part of the world. For the uninitiated, the general sentiment is that we are somewhat crass people: bold, loud sports fans, fat Italians, too tan, too gaudy, edgy, blue collar. There is a little piece of me in all of those descriptions. I don’t think about it all that much, unless I’m traveling.

The differences in my upbringing and lifestyle choices were never more apparent than during my most recent visit to Portland, OR. The thing is, I’m pretty sure everyone that isn’t from Portland might come out of it feeling shell shocked, questioning every life choice they’ve ever made.

My boyfriend and I had settled into our hotel downtown and figured we would meander about the city to find a place to eat. Not long into our walk we spotted a man around his forties with long silver hair sitting on the street corner with a small fold up table, pecking away at an old fashioned typewriter. A handwritten sign taped to his table read, “Poems about Anyone or Anything”. I looked at my boyfriend like, there really was no choice in the matter.

We get to talking to our newest poet friend, Bill Keys. He likes to get to know his subjects a little before composing his prose. We start telling him about our travels, where we’re from, and how we are eventually headed to a wedding in Hood River.

Suddenly I couldn’t help but notice a hipster looking fellow approaching us very intently on his bike. He had all the tell tale signs: he wore tight jean shorts that came down to his knees, Keds, and a look on his face that just screamed, “I listen to The Offspring ironically.” I had been told Portland is something of a Holy Land for hipsters.

Hipster guy is keen to talk to Bill. He tells Bill that he has heard of him, and he wanted to connect because his roommate also does an interpretation of street poetry. Hipster guy wanted to try and set up Bill and his roommate in order for them to do some sort of street poetry event together. Hipster guy bought one of the stapled paper poetry books Bill was selling, so he could give it to his roommate. It was just like attending a corporate networking event, except it was Portland so the industry was poetry and the event was on a street corner.

Bill then inquires if hipster guy is also a poet, to which he responds, “Me? Oh, no, man. I have started making and selling a bunch of cat bowties, though. I’m seeing a pretty large demand so I think I’m going to keep going with that.”

To which I interject, “Oh, like bowties with cats on them?” Thinking I knew a few avid Redditors that would appreciate such attire.

And that’s when he drops, “No. Like, bowties for cats.”

It was just very much one of those, “We’re not in Philly anymore, Toto” kind of moments.



For the curious, here is what Bill had to say about traveling:

“It’s funny like that.
New Yorkers who’ve never been to the Empire State Building.
My mom lives in Florida, and has not been to the beach in six years.
But you leave town
to another american city.
And they are a different breed.
Gourmet food for six bucks from a truck.
Very friendly death rockers
sitting in a coffee shop
the sunsets beautiful
over the river
the bridges
and its true
bridges and rivers are beautiful
its wonderfully fun
and we have this stuff at home
not far from the house
you find adventure
everywhere you find it.”

March 24th, 2014 by Moonie

5 Telling Signs That at 26 I Realize I’m Old

Forget the fluffy “my back hurts” woes, let’s get down to the nitty gritty big girl pity party: mid twenties style.

1. I actually read, save, and utilize my CVS coupons

During my hippie loving liberal arts college days, all I could think was how it was a monumental waste of paper. The receipts were 10 freakin’ feet long. I just assumed they were all coupons for useless shit I don’t need, like bunion cream. God forbid I took two seconds to read anything, it’s not like I was reading 100+ pages a day of assigned work. Nowadays I scour, scheme, and strategize based on what coupons I have hoarded into a special compartment in my car. They’re precious to me in a Gollum type of way.

2. I don’t enjoy Snapchat

Sure, I downloaded the shit. I downloaded it because that’s what the kids are doing, and in a moment of weakness I felt like I still identify with the kids. Meanwhile I am teetering on the edge of the target demographic range. Needless to say, I think it’s stupid. My friends send me pictures on it and they’re usually funny or cool and I want to save them, but I can’t. After 10 seconds they disappear into the abyss, for the NSA’s eyes only. Unless you’re 15 and sending nip slips to some douchebag, I really don’t see the point. Just text me a picture.

3. My wardrobe is all black

I could never figure out how people rocked all black without looking like a waiter. Turns out there are variations in texture and cut, so with just the right accent color (white, gray, dark gray, or beige) and a statement jewelry piece, one can achieve Morticia Addams chic in no time. Color me mature.

4. I’m bad at selfies

My arm is always in the most awkward position, the shot never looks as good as it does in the mirror, I can’t figure out how to get the lighting to not be weird, I’m so tall I have to stand really far back to get my entire outfit in the frame, and then I’ll get one I sort of like but oh, wait, shit! …there’s toothpaste residue on the mirror. God damnit. I don’t know how you kids do it, and with alarming regularity at that.

5. I’m vigilant about wearing sunscreen

Mind you, I’m not doing it to prevent skin cancer. I just do it to avoid wrinkles. Don’t get too carried away now… it’s not like I’m 30, jesus.

December 7th, 2012 by Moonie

It Does A Fool No Good to Spend Money on Education

“All I’m saying is that if there were a family tree, hard work and education would be related, but school would probably be a distant cousin.”

I’m just going to say what this guy so eloquently avoided: I know a lot of stupid people with college degrees. Do you know why that is, though? It’s from being indoctrinated since birth with the higher education gospel. It’s from drinking the go-to-college-and-you’ll-definitely-be-successful koolaid. We’ve all heard it. Here’s a question, though: Do you recall an adult ever saying to you as a child, “Whether you go to college or not, make sure to be as smart as you can be.”

No one ever said that to me.

Don’t get me wrong, school is imperative. I have this theory that if the teaching profession was as competitive and highly compensated as medicine or law, students and consequently, the nation as a whole, would advance considerably. But when I say advance, I don’t mean everyone will be carrying around a $200,000 piece of paper. I mean they’ll be smarter. I mean they’ll be invested in their education, because they see it as an extension of themselves, rather than a means to an end.

Anyway, just watch the video. It’s important.

October 30th, 2012 by Moonie

My Friend, Michael Vick


Michael Vick and I are a lot alike.

Aside from the major differences, namely our age, gender, demographics, ethnicity, career, and physical stature, we’re pretty much the same person. You see, I was beginning to wonder why after all these mediocre outings by the Eagles, that I continue to insist that Michael Vick should be the starting quarterback.

When we signed Michael Vick in 2009, in my personal life I found myself at a disillusioned crossroads. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would spend the next three years fighting some of my toughest personal battles. I thought I was doing the right thing when I dropped out of college in 2009. I was sorely mistaken. So for the next two years I replaced a fancy college education at an expensive liberal arts school for slinging beers behind a bar, cleaning up after people’s dinner, and asking my customers to ponder important questions, such as “Would you like a side of fries, rice, or a baked potato?”

One person that was always there while I scrubbed beer off the bar, or balanced five plates of food in my arms, or when I took a second to massage my calves during a 12 hour shift, was Michael Vick. He brought constant excitement to my stagnant life. The Eagles had finally jettisoned Donovan McNabb after many years, and suddenly we had a new sheriff in town. But this wasn’t just any sheriff, this was one who was crawling his way back from a felony conviction, time served, and serious debt, just to name a few. For me, I needed this story. I needed a comeback like this one. In the back of my mind I always wanted to get back in the starting lineup again, I just didn’t know how. But Mike did. Mike had gotten back, and furthermore, Mike was on my team.

I finally did make a push for the starting lineup. I moved away, finished school, and immediately found a full time position after I graduated, all within one year. I quit smoking, took up running, and make time every week for hobbies I enjoy. My life has done an about face. I also never miss a Sunday with my old friend, Michael Vick. The same year I made my triumphant comeback, Vick signed a $100 million dollar contract, to my beaming delight. Turning my life around is the equivalent of a $100 million contract, and for him it meant he truly returned. He could settle his old debts, and he could move forward. Just as I am.

For three years, Michael Vick has been the penultimate example of losing yourself, making poor choices, suffering the consequences, and working extra hard to compensate. He was always there in the back of my mind, the shining beacon of success by way of experiential mistakes and valuable perspectives gained. He was never given a second chance, he worked hard and earned one. His efforts continue to resonate with me.

So while the rabble rousers and media vultures gather at the gates of Lincoln Financial Field with their pitchforks in hand and demand Vick’s head on a spike, I am reminded that despite coming so far, adversity will always persist in life. As proud as I am of all my accomplishments, I can’t be naive to think that more will not be on the horizon. In this life, we continue to be knocked back, and there are always new challenges that require weathering. I try not to worry too much though, because like my friend Michael Vick, this isn’t our first storm.

August 25th, 2012 by Moonie

One fan’s “Critical” is another fan’s “Passion”


I went to the Phillies game last night [left], an act which put me in deep contemplative thought.

The Phillies are seated close to the bottom of the rankings, while simultaneously leading the league in ballpark attendance. Granted, some of this attendance is residual support for a team that enjoyed the laurels of first place finishes for the last five seasons. The fact remains, though, that the fanbase has grown. People are enjoying their game experience, because they keep showing up despite the team’s losing record and playoff chances described as “nothing short of a miracle”.

Any casual sports fan in any other city will be quick to renounce Philly fans by the negative stigmas purported to them: rowdy, obnoxious, indignant, overly critical, mean spirited. I challenge that few, if any, of these detractors have ever actually experienced this sort of behavior from a Philly fan. In addition, it never ceases to astound me how inappropriate behavior by fans in other cities is simply explained away as the actions of a few sub par individuals, yet when it happens in Philly the entire fan base is reduced to a bunch of blood thirsty cravens sucking the life out of it’s athletes.

I digress. Anyway, have you ever watched a Tampa Bay Ray’s home game? The Rays have continuously sported a winning record, are always in the hunt for one of the top two spots in their division, are consistently in playoff contention, and even made it to the World Series in 2008. No one comes to their games. No one. Sorry in advance for singling out that team, because they’re not the only ones with this problem. (I’m looking at you, Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals fans.) So the Phillies are holding steady at the bottom of the heap this year, but thanks to the overwhelming support of the fan base, they have enough money to regroup and sign talented players for years to come.

All of this begs asking: what are the real intentions behind criticizing a loyal and passionate fan base? I heard once that attracting haters is the biggest indicator of success. But is an indicator even necessary when the stats speak for themselves?

The Phillies, as I see itThat’s just how I see it.

August 15th, 2012 by Moonie

Real Talk: W.C. Edition


Found on a bathroom wall at a bar in New Jersey.
It’s the Jersey equivalent of spotting a Banksy.

August 15th, 2012 by Moonie

6 Things I Learned From Someone Who Poops His Pants


I recently spent a week posing as a nanny to Moonbaby, who at 4 months is the newest addition to our family. As a single 25 year old female, I anticipated gaining some perspective on what it really means to be a parent. I figured I would either come out of it completely disinterested in ever procreating, or decide I’ve been wasting my childbearing years and immediately start researching sperm donors. Neither of those predictions came true.

1. If they can’t dress themselves, it doesn’t matter if the outfit is cute.

One of the first things I learned is that generally, poopy diapers are a breeze. They are basically moist farts. You get yourself into trouble when you’re changing their clothes. You want to pick a nice outfit, but when you’re dealing with someone that could start screaming in your ear at any second, the last thing you want to do is limb wrestle them into complicated pants and shirts. God forbid their arm gets caught, that’s a whole mess of trouble you just don’t have time for. Don’t even get me started on the 50 thousand snaps on their clothes, although they do come in handy when their poop is literally leaking on you and you need to tear their clothes off in superhero shirt ripping fashion. It happened… more than once.

2. Spontaneous dance parties are ALWAYS the answer.

Babies are so curious about everything that something as benign as a ceiling fan can entertain them for a solid 20 minutes. Thus, you find yourself doing absurd things that adults judge you for, but babies just adore. We often listened to music in the mornings. He sat in his little bouncy chair and I washed dishes. But mostly, we danced. He couldn’t talk, but he could screech and wobble, and I was glad to indulge him. We had a ball.

3. You don’t need Rosetta Stone to speak babynese.

Whether it was studying French, learning web scripting languages, or just being my general loud mouth self, I have always embraced the art of communication. Naturally, I didn’t find it difficult to understand someone who merely utters sounds. I often would talk to him in an elevated voice about whatever was going on that day. But the most interesting part was what happened when I shut up: he would respond! He always uttered sounds when I stopped speaking, a fact I found fascinating.

When we would watch the cars out front he would follow their movement to and fro. But every time there was a 5-10 second lull without any going by, he kicked and flailed his arms and started exasperatedly cooing. He literally was saying, “WHERE ARE THEY?” It was so profound to actually witness someone have a thought, know exactly what they were thinking, yet they didn’t utter a word of your language.

4. My newfound appreciation for being selfish…

I didn’t value the time I spent just sitting down perusing the internet, running some quick errands, or cooking dinner until I needed to constantly schedule these small conveniences. When you’re looking after someone who can’t walk, talk, eat or even sit up straight without your assistance, none of your own needs are important. So when his mommy asked me to come back full time when I was done school, I begrudgingly made the selfish decision to focus on my own professional goals. I knew if I was balancing my fledgling web design career and caring for a baby, I would need to make a choice. And I had a feeling my career would take a backseat.

5. My newfound appreciation for being selfless

The day I left Moonbaby’s house, relieved of my nanny duties, I was bound for Newport, Rhode Island for a weekend of swimming in the ocean and bar hopping with my friends. Regardless, I cried for an hour after driving away. Even now, I clamor over every picture his parents post, every text and email update they send. I truly miss him every day. The company of a child is so rewarding, and your ability to make them comfortable is a more fulfilling gift than any time you take for yourself. I can’t imagine the hovering basket case I’m going to be over my own children.

6. Sometimes, you just have to sit back and watch the cars pass by.

No matter how gassy or fussy he was, there was one failsafe solution to restoring the peace. My dad told me this before I left, he said, “When you used to cry, I would take you for a walk outside. You always shut right up.” Truth. Moonbaby immediately went silent as he watched me unhitch the front lock. There we would sit, looking out at a relatively busy road. The cars whizzing by, sometimes we sat there for an hour at a time. He would coo occasionally, but mostly he would watch in utter fascination at every moving object passing us by. It was a constant reminder that life is always much simpler than we make it out to be.

August 14th, 2012 by Moonie

A Few Words from a Grown Ass Woman

Gin Drink

Like every epiphany anyone ever had in life, it all started with a bottle of 1800 tequila.

There it sat: as large as it comes, placed strategically in the middle of the picnic table. There were about 10 of us seated around it, like kids at a park eating watermelon, taking a break from playing tag. Except, instead, we were in our early 20’s and playing a ridiculous drinking game that involved pounding the table and communicating with hand signals. The orchestrator of this game, my friend who shall be known simply as The Village Alcoholic Hell Bent on Bringing Everyone Else Down With Him In His Atrocious Drinking Habits, err.. well we’ll just shorten it to “The VA”, was, as usual, refereeing the events. It is a fast moving game that relies upon reading a hand signal cue from someone else, thus facilitating the propensity for error.

The VA, in his overzealous officiating, would prominently exclaim at someone’s error, the round would end, and he would go on to oversee that the loser take a shot of 1800 as punishment.

Now, it didn’t ALL start with that particular bottle of 1800. It started years before that, when I was 18 years old and discovered tequila shots. Boy, what a novel concept! Eating some salt, drinking some alcohol, and to top it all off, washing it down with a slice of lime as chaser! Boy, wasn’t that fun? So much fun, we took another one. And another. And then 4 more.
And you know what else was fun? Spending the subsequent 4 hours yakking.
After about 5 different instances of indulging in tequila, I realized there was a positive correlation between me drinking it and me spooning with a toilet. So I vowed not to drink it any more. By the time we were playing our picnic table game, it had been almost three and a half years of avoiding tequila, and believe me, taste aversion is real.

So, naturally, I was growing anxious at the thought of messing up the game. Never the most dexterous player, I knew it was only a matter of time. I considered just taking a shot, but the night was young and we had already made a delicious gin bucket drink, in addition to the inevitable beer pong tournament to be played until at least 4am. I was in no position to start taking shots.

As expected, I eventually fumbled a cue. “MOON!” The VA exclaimed, “It was YOU! It’s time!” he grabbed the 1800 and excitedly turned it upside down so the built in shot glass cap could fill itself. I stood up, “VA, I’m not doing this. I’m not.” He laughed, “MOON! Let’s go. Here.”

This was the moment. Half in the bag, and without thinking, I sputtered out one of the most profound thoughts I have conjured to date in my adult life.


And that was it. The picnic table was roaring, and VA and I start laughing hysterically. It was true, I didn’t have to take the stupid shot just because my drunk friend willed it. It became a constant running joke, why I did or didn’t do something:

“Oh, Moon, why didn’t you hang out with that guy?” “Because his way of initiating conversation was to text me saying, ‘Hey.’ …Seriously, I’m a grown ass woman.”
“Hey Moon, why did you start drinking martinis?” “Simply put… I’m a grown ass woman and I like the taste.”

I think it gets to a bigger point about having fun, growing up, and dictating our own “rules”.  I knew I would have a better time if I didn’t take the shot. I still got drunk, stayed up all night with old friends and carried on with silly games. I didn’t have to go to bed early or throw up like an amateur. I was Grown Ass Woman drunk.