I’m here with 2 good things to tell you. It’s Friday, which you likely already know PLUS we’ve got a new Purple Stuff Podcast for you! This time around, we’re taking you back to when the USA Basketball Dream Team was in full effect, Right Said Fred scored a hit with “I’m Too Sexy,” and WWE Superstar Paige was born. I won’t waste too much time pitching it to you because it’s pretty simple: It’s all about stuff we liked in 1992. Much like our 1986 episode, we discuss movies, TV shows, video games, and all sorts of other random nostalgia from back then. Join us as Matt and I take another trip down memory lane and celebrate what we think is the coolest stuff from ’92. Check it out in the link above, or SUBSCRIBE on iTunes, Stitcher, and Podbean. Thanks for reading and listening! Let us know what your favorite stuff from ’92 was in the comments!
Chao Down With Me at The Menlo Park Mall Food Court
Once home, I rushed into the apartment and grabbed the message from Sludgey’s barrel. “You are selected to win a million dollars a year, FOREVER, sincerely, Publisher’s Clearing House” clearly it was the wrong piece of paper. I shuffled through the other messages and finally found the correct one.
TO: Sexy Armpit
We are enlisting you for a mission. Review Chinese food restaurant at your local Mall food court. Go. Now.
And that was all it said. In the case that you ever receive a cryptic message like this, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I hopped right back into the Corsica and sped off to the world renowned Menlo Park Mall. If you never get the chance to visit Epcot Center, you could do some mind altering drugs and just head to the food court at Menlo. There’s always something for everyone. All types of cuisine are offered, and most notably, Chick-Fil-A. But I couldn’t get distracted by spicy chicken sandwiches and sweet tea right now, I needed to stay focused.
The beauty part about Menlo Park being “My mall” is that I can often use one of my favorite lines from Mallrats, alter it a bit and sub out the Easter Bunny part, like so: “All I said was the Chinese food at the Menlo Park Mall was not appealing and she just threw her tray of chicken and toothpicks up in the air and knocked me down.”
Of course, I’m referring to the sample girl, standing in front of ASIAN CHAO. She was offering everyone meat, but she wasn’t at all enthusiastic about it. In fact, I don’t think this girl could’ve been angrier about the thought of brightening the day of passerby with free food samples. She reminded me of Nicole Bass. She was brutish and imposing. Her fiery visage seemed to harness the flames from that Bourbon Chicken sign behind her directly toward me. I wasn’t sure what I was in for by declining her free sample, but walking up to the counter probably gave me immunity from whatever sort of weirdly uncomfortable beat down that I would’ve received from Nicole.
At first I thought Asian Chao was a really bad ethnic sounding stereotypical name, but after some investigative bloggerism I discovered that the term Chao does indeed refer to a Chinese stir-frying technique.
As I leaned up against a pillar waiting on line to order, I momentarily zoned out. My mind took a trip back in time. Ever since Henry P. Mall (I’m sure that’s his name) came up with the idea to put a roof on the good old outdoor strip mall, malls have been these magnificent structures with endless opportunities to buy all kinds of crap, provide a place for teenagers to get each others phone numbers, or in my case lend its catacombs as a setting for a couple of films I made. I even worked at the movie theater at Menlo for about 6 years of my life. I have some great memories there, a place that feels like my backyard.
I remembered how years ago, on any given weekend, the mall food court was absolutely theeee place to be. It was usually mobbed with people. Although I’ve lived mere seconds from two of the most popular malls in New Jersey for my entire life, a mall outing used to be a pretty big deal. When I wasn’t working at the theater adjacent to the food court, I used to spend all day there sometimes with my friend Sgt. E. We’d get lunch at the food court and then some Icees. We’d pick up some comics and stop in the arcade to play a few games.
My local malls are in a sad state of affairs now. What once existed as the only logical solution to everyone’s shopping dilemma, is now more of a place people go to do something when it’s shitty weather. If you needed to buy 27 gifts during the holidays, without hesitation you’d go to the mall, whereas now you can go to Target or WalMart. The financial crunch is sucking the life out of these malls. For instance, all the fountains have been removed from Woodbridge Center, fountains that I tossed thousands of pennies and nickels into during the course of my entire life, and all the trees have been removed from the food court in Menlo Park Mall. Those damn trees provided such ambiance. Now the food court has been castrated. Maybe too many birds were making homes in them? Maybe they were real trees and their roots were about to crack the floor open and suck everyone into the abyss? It’s sad, both my malls are decomposing.
Oh shit. I forgot that I needed to decide what I wanted to order. Now the pressure was on. I had the ultimate booking power for this plate and if I didn’t get my shit together it seemed like the aggravated woman was just going to start tossing random food onto it for me. I wasted all that time reminiscing about mall memories and now I was being harassed by the server behind the counter about what I wanted. I was on a Chipotle-like assembly line and I needed to be part of the flow or get kicked off the line.
There’s a specific part of your id that compels you to get Chinese food. You know how it is. Sometimes you just get that craving. When it happens to me, I go to Ling’s Kitchen in Fords. It’s a legend around these parts. I’m a bit spoiled in that respect, so I have a hard time settling for any Chinese food that’s too much of a departure from how Ling’s prepares their food. When it comes to Chinese cuisine, I’m a total creature of habit. I order the same thing every time: General Tso’s Chicken with brown rice and broccoli. Sometimes places are stingy with the broccoli though.
At Asian Chao I had the option for rice and two of the main items. I went with Sesame Chicken because I felt that was a safe bet. Then I added in Chicken and Broccoli. Some of the usual offerings weren’t available, or should I say they weren’t even cooked and/or put out in the serving trays. I’m not a fan of orange chicken or sweet and sour chicken, so those were off the table. I also never order beef or pork if I’m doing Chinese, so my choices were as limited as sample girls angry facial expressions.
First, the Sesame Chicken. The sauce was pretty weak, and to me, that’s a vital component. Aside from a spicy kick, there wasn’t much flavor otherwise. Completely absent was the bold flavor that its rich appearance conned me into believing it had. The chicken itself tasted like the turkey in Christmas Vacation, overcooked, dry, and tough to chew.
Next on the plate was many peoples old standby, Chicken and Broccoli. To best describe this one, imagine a beige rubber car mat from the floor of a 1986 Buick, cut up, soaked in soy sauce, and cooked with broccoli that had been steamed in elementary school water fountain water. Not so good.
I took the liberty of adding a side dish. I’m not a big fan of egg rolls and they’re so common, so I opted for something I never ordered from a Chinese food place before: Crab Rangoon. No idea why I bothered, but I wanted to sample something sort of offbeat and I remembered that I tried this once 10 years ago with Miss Sexy Armpit, which was the first time in my life I had ever actually heard of it. Even when she mentioned it, I thought she was referring to a prequel to 1995’s Beyond Rangoon. I don’t usually eat crab either, but I figured what the hell, I was on a special mission.
If you notice the pattern here, you’ll have an idea of just how underwhelming the Crab Rangoon was. I didn’t think it was possible for this to suck so bad, but the outer shell tasted like two damp, dustless Doritos fused together and stuffed with a tiny ball of cream cheese and crab meat. For some reason, I think the two specific rangoons they served me were the same ones that the manager laid out on the ledge of an open window in his apartment when it was drizzling. Then he realized he was late for his shift and he shoved them in his pocket and brought them to the serving area once he arrived at work.
Even the rice was average at best. How do you screw up RICE?
It probably seems like I’m exaggerating for effect, or being too picky, but it was all so laughably sub-par. Actually, maybe it is on par with what mall food court Chinese food is supposed to be like? Either way, Asian Chao isn’t doing the food court in Menlo any favors. If malls want to come back in a big way, they need a damn good Chinese place that makes mouths water. Everyone has their own concept of what their Chinese food needs taste like, and mine is definitely not at Asian Chao.
I didn’t even eat the majority of the meal and wound up going home unfulfilled. All wasn’t lost though, because this experience caused my mind to replay a line from one of my major all-time crushes, Marisa Tomei.
Make sure you stop by all my friends sites to read their reviews of Chinese food places at their local mall food courts:
Matt at Dinosaur Dracula
Brian at Review The World
Will at Veggie Macabre
Molly at Swaggermom Tales
New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol. 27: Anger Management
Real Housewives of New Jersey with Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Here’s a spoof on the abysmal show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” from www.FunnyorDie.com. The sketch stars Jamie-Lynn Sigler doing her best Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny impression. I despise The Real Housewives of New Jersey show and any of its geographical variations, but this is hysterical and I hope it never disappears from the Internet.
Top 10 Reasons to Watch The Wrestler on Blu-Ray
Cassidy: Fuckin’ 80’s man, best shit ever!
The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke filmed in New Jersey
In The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke, it seems that Marisa Tomei plays a stripper. I’m a big fan of her recent renaissance as an on screen sexpot. Anytime Marisa Tomei is nude or partially nude is a good thing (see Until The Devil Knows Your Dead). I’ve pondered how incredible she looked under those clothes since I was a kid watching A Different World and now I wonder no more. How does this work into The Sexy Armpit you say? Some scenes in The Wrestler were filmed in New Jersey and a new Bruce Springsteen track is featured in the closing credits.
“Yesterday”: An Unexplained Occurence
As I write this, it’s technically Sunday morning but the incidents I will describe happened in the afternoon of Saturday 12/9/06. Please keep in mind I’m not the type of person who thinks everything is freaky. Some people think everything that happens to them is freaky and only happened because of some greater or mystical power. This isn’t me. I do have to write that I am a person who believes in fate, as well as the unexplained. Ghosts and the paranormal have always fascinated me but not to the point where I tell people that I see ghosts and my condo is haunted by a spirit of an evil great, great grandfather.
When incidents that happen in everyday life seem coincidental some people really blow them out of proportion and think there was some magical reason for it happening. Scientifically, lots of things happen because there’s a good chance that they CAN happen that way. It becomes simply a numbers game. Sometimes, though there’s occurrences that can’t be explained by an equation much like what happened to me today.
My mother has a vintage doll that my father or uncle bought for my sister when she was a baby. This isn’t like a Cabbage Patch Doll or anything, it almost has a China doll type face and an ornate maroon dress. It’s on a stand and it’s eyelids open and close. On its back it has a key that you wind up to make it play music. The song it plays is the Beatles “Yesterday.” There’s a name of the line of dolls but I don’t recall what it is, all I know is that they go for a lot of money on eBay.
My mom keeps this doll on the top of her dresser and it’s immediately noticeable when you walk into the room. I stood in the hallway by her door to her bedroom and she was laying down on the couch in the living room. No one else was home and the television was on very low playing “Only You” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei. I called for my mom but she was in and out of sleep trying to relax from her head cold. I called for her but heard nothing. “Mom?…” At that very second I heard the chimes of a music box playing the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” I attempted for a moment to figure out what I was hearing and where it was coming from. To be honest, I didn’t even remember that my mother had this doll in her room let alone what song it even played.
Jay: “Mom, do you have a music box?” I asked.
Mom: “No, but the doll on my dresser plays music.” she admitted
Jay: “Did you just turn it on?”
Mom: “No, I haven’t moved off the couch.”
Jay: What song does that doll play?
Mom: The Beatles’ Yesterday
Jay: That doll was just playing the song, did you put it on?
Mom: No, I didn’t. Where’s your father, maybe he did.
Needless to say, my father wasn’t home and he didn’t get home for a few hours afterward. My mother reminded me that it was YESTERDAY 12/8 in 1980 that John Lennon was shot in New York City.
**People, this is 100% true, no exaggeration. I also went into NYC Saturday night to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday which was Friday 12/8.