Random Places I Have Been in 2016

What stories do these wild Colonial Spanish horses (clearly plotting something) and ghost crab (what are you running from?) have to tell?

Wild Horses Plotting Ghost Crab

It’s the last day of 2016, so it’s time for the Spin to look back on travel throughout the year for our annual “Random Places I Have Been” series. Apart from holidays in New Orleans and Montreal (featured in blog posts earlier in the year), 2016 brought me to some unique local events including a Chinese Lantern Festival and the opening of a new Mormon Temple in Philadelphia, as well as family vacations to Massachusetts (where we soaked up some history in Concord and on Walden Pond) and the Outer Banks of North Carolina (where we saw wild horses on the beach, the Wright Brothers’ Memorial and took in as many sunrises, sunsets and lighthouses as the waning summer week would allow).

Work also brought me to Jacksonville, Florida (my first time in Florida!); Auburn, ME (my first time in Maine!); and Greenville, South Carolina (a homecoming of sorts, as I had interviewed for a job there nearly 15 years ago, but this was my first time back, and both the town and I have changed soooo much…for the better).  However, the top-secret nature of those trips prevented me from taking any pictures (just kidding…about the top-secret stuff…not about the absence of pictures though).

The Outer Banks (and those wild horses and ghost crabs in particular) also brought about the genesis of a potential new novel, a grand over-the-top Southern gothic melodrama, one that will be a joint effort between my wife and I. If you ever do time in the Outer Banks, definitely sign up for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund guided tour…it was truly inspirational. I already wrote the first chapter shortly after our return home. Now it’s my wife’s turn…not that I’m putting any pressure on her or anything…

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My Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Are you a foodie? Do you believe that fine dining is an art form? Are some of your most treasured memories of being in a certain place at a certain time with your favorite people having that special meal? Well, I would answer a resounding yes to all three questions, and here I share with you some of my most memorable dining experiences eating my way through cities abroad and my own backyard of Philadelphia.

The Best Italian Restaurants…Where You Least Expect Them:

  • Il Piccolino – Paris, France (8th arrondissment). Ah, Paris, it truly is a movable feast. But who knew, on our last night in the city (in September of 2015) the month before our wedding (we honeymooned before, because that’s how we roll), desperate for something other than the overload of French food we had been eating, and upon the recommendation from the concierge at our hotel (who secured a last minute reservation), we would stumble into the best Italian restaurant we ever experienced? There were probably about ten tables inside (all reserved) and a kitchen in full view (that looked like a kitchen in somebody’s house). From the little old man who provided colorful service, to the fresh veggies they walked across the street to the market to procure as you ordered them, to the hand-made sage ravioli with truffle oil drizzle, to the cutesy-translated deserts “in their honey shirts” – this was quite possibly the best dining experience of our lives.

Il Piccolino Paris Food 04

  • Zeppoli’s – Collingswood, New Jersey, USA. Less than a mile from our new house is this gem of “a hole in the wall” we indulged in just last week after a multitude of rave reviews from friends and coworkers. There’s maybe a dozen tables inside. Reservations must be made weeks in advance. Upon entering it’s all a bit gentrified-rustic-hipster-is-this-a-dump-or-is-this-chic and unassuming. But WOW! The food (which is Sicilian and far removed from the typical Italian fare you find In NJ-PA-NY) was out of this world and full of flavors my taste buds didn’t know existed. The service was both casual and spot-on where the highly competent wait staff tag-teams the tables and walks around as if they are serving family at their house – never missing a beat or a half-filled water-glass. The chef offers up complimentary after dinner drinks (while the place is otherwise BYOB).

Zeppoli's 03  Zeppoli's 05

  • Trattoria Toto da Lucia – Amsterdam, Netherlands (near Vondel Park).  Was the food here really that good?  I don’t know.  It was my last night in the city (in October of 2013), this was right around the corner from my friend’s flat off the Overtoom. The atmosphere was comforting. The wine was flowing. The conversation was bountiful. The food was fresh and made from scratch. I think I had a risotto? It’s a place where I’ll never forget the feeling…of being happy where I was in life at that moment…wrapping up my first trip to Europe, sharing my experiences and my hopes for a travel-filled future with a good friend, and feeling like the world was now my oyster.

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I’m So Glad I Live in a World where there are Octobers

“Let’s get married here,” she said.

Valley Green Inn 9

“Here?” he said.

“Yes, right here!” she said.

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“Okay!” he said.

*** Actual dialogue and “how this all went down” dramatized here for effect.

*** Bonus Points if you correctly guess the source of the literary quote used for the title of this post!  (Wedding Guests are Disqualified)

This October, I…we… got hitched…right there in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park amidst the autumnal splendor.  The weather, the company, the location, the colors…it couldn’t have gone better.

Knowing the fleeting nature of fall’s fickle resplendence, we returned to the scene of the crime the following week (on the last day of October) to enjoy the natural beauty sans the marital hubbub before all the leaves fell and winter set in (alas we live not in a world of Game of Thrones where winter’s coming takes…forever).

For those faithful readers who have keenly noted/questioned the decrease in frequency of film reviews in 2015 (note: I’ve been going to the movies just about the same amount as other years, it’s just too many of the films have failed to inspire me to write…I mean, The Martian? What a snore…next!) or have wondered when the next short story might be coming down the pike (who knows?)…I sincerely thank you…and now you know I’ve been busy writing another kind of story with a co-author, one of the best kind of stories – a living story that has evolved into a novel, that will now be serialized and open-ended.  Through these pictures I hope you enjoy the magnificence of Wissahickon Park as much as we have over the past year and a half and hope to continue to do so until we are old and gray.  Until I see you again, dear readers…at the movies. Continue reading

Random Places I Have Been in 2014

Yes, I know we’re already half way through 2015, and I’ve got enough photos from random places I have been this year to create the annual post…but that will have to wait.  This is a catch up post where I will share some photography of random places I was in 2014.  I don’t know how this post slipped my mind last year, but here it is now, better late than never

2014 was marked by part-time Canadian living in Mississauga in the first half of the year and then big trips to Dublin, Ireland in the spring; San Francisco in the fall; and finally Boston (where we rang in the New Year).  But in between all that, there was plenty of day-tripping in the greater tri-state area from where these shots were captured.  Most notable, perhaps from a WTF perspective, were the infamous person in a pickle costume in Lancaster, PA (insert your own story here) and the insane doll-parts strewn Gloria Vanderbilt Dream Box art installation at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

Photographs by David H. Schleicher

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones in Laurel Hill Cemetery

Laurel Hill 35

Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia’s East Falls’ section overlooking the Schuylkill River between Kelly and Ridge Drives is one of the oldest cemeteries in the nation.  It houses such pop culture artifacts as Veteran Stadium seats surrounding Harry Kalas’ microphone-shaped tombstone and Adriaaaaaane! Balboa’s fake grave.  It’s also the eternal resting place of numerous historical dignitaries from various wars and the Philadelphia area along with countless family plots dating back to the early 1800’s.  The gardens of the dead there are sprawling, monument-laden and fecund with stories told and untold.  It’s a perfect spot for an autumnal stroll as the towering trees sheading their brightly covered leaves under the waning sun cast a perfect light on the splendid environs.

Below are photos I captured on one such Sunday stroll.

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Philly, Football and Rooting for Silver Linings Playbook

Misfortune and a fake happy family bring Lawrence and Cooper together in Silver Linings Playbook

Misfortune and a fake happy family bring Lawrence and Cooper together in Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell’s Philly based adaptation of Matthew Quick’s witty and dramatic rom-com novel, Silver Linings Playbook, is exactly the type of misfit-misfortune-filled movie you want to root for.  It’s a film where, refreshingly, everyone is playing against type.

Bradley Cooper (a smug comedic performer I typically loathe) is in the lead role of Pat, a rage-fueled bipolar man who is freshly released from the loony bin after a violent incident with his wife’s lover.  Pat speaks in self-help platitudes, but there’s a sincerity in his desire to change as he dedicates himself to losing weight, keeping his anger in check, getting back his wife (delusionally so) and finding life’s silver lining.  Cooper, surprisingly, pulls it off, and one has to wonder if the Philly native saw this as his first opportunity to dig deep.  Cooper saw a moment in his career to make a change, and he took it.  It makes his character and performance extremely likable.

Jennifer Lawrence – who has made quite the name for herself playing tough teenage girls forced to grow up too fast to save their families in films like Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games – is for the first time given the chance to play an adult as Tiffany, the damaged young widow of a cop who fumbles through her conflicted feelings and need for affection and friendship and forms an instant bond with Pat when they share unfiltered and awkward barbs about their predicaments and commiserate on their litany of medication diets that have thus far been unsuccessful in curing them of their brand of “crazy.”  Lawrence shines in the role and shows us a side previously unknown…playful, vulnerable, sassy, witty and darkly comedic.  Continue reading

My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts

I took a half-hearted stab at a local dining guide years ago, and at some point many of the restaurants listed below received a shout out in one way or another from The Spin or on my Twitter…but I decided it would be fun to traverse the eastern part of North America and crown a best restaurant in each favorite stomping ground.  Our journey begins way down yonder in my former homeland of Nor’ Cackalacky.  We’ll revisit some of my local favorites in Philly and the Jersey Burbs.  We’ll travel far north through New York (and slighty west) all the way up into the land of expense accounts and Canucks.  Prepare your taste buds, your credit cards, your hybrid vehicles (only if you have a designated driver) and/or your frequent flier miles….here is The Spin on My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts.

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Raleigh, North CarolinaBabylon (309 N. Dawson St.) – I have no idea why a restaurant serving Moroccan food is called Babylon.  Would Casablanca have been somehow un-PC or Marrakesh too obvious?  But weird geographical naming faux-pas aside, this uber-trendy mecca of Raleigh’s liberal elite located fashionably downtown serves up organic, locally raised Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that rivals any of your bigger city Northeast rivals.  The ambiance is casual urban chic, the service impeccable, and the food fresh, hip and flavorful.  Really, Raleigh, whodathunk?  You go, with your emerging multicultural self!

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Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaAmada (217 Chestnut Street) – Old City. Chef Jose Garcas. Spanish Tapas.  Drinks named after Almodovar films. And a dish so epically simple and flavorful called Madre y Hijo (which consists of a fried egg atop a perfect slice of chicken breast atop a bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and all drizzled in truffle oil) that I would request if I were to ever find myself on death row waiting for a last meal.  This is a Philly Restaurant Week staple and one of the most popular (and hard to get into) restaurants in the city even after all of these years.  What more is there to say? (Reservations required!) Continue reading

In Search of the World’s Greatest Fried Chicken

Paula Deen! Paula Deen! Get me some fried bird - stat!

We always discuss films and books and television.  There’s the occasional politicking.  Oh, and let’s not forget drinking – as in drinking games for watching political theater or your favorite cult film/TV show.  So why the heck not put The Spin on one of my all-time favorite things? 

FRIED CHICKEN. 

I’ve been in love with it ever since that day when I was about ten years-old and I tasted the home-cooked fried chicken of Mrs. Cottingham in Willingboro, NJ. 

On reruns of Seinfeld I’m often reminded by Newman that “Kenny Rogers makes a pretty mean bird,” but roasting is for suckers.  My heart and cholesterol belong to fowl of the fried persuasion.

I covet it like Daniel Plainview covets oil. 

So ladies and gentlemen…if I say I’m a fried chicken man you will agree.

And I am a man on a mission – in search of the world’s greatest fried chicken.

A few years ago, I thought I may have found it.  Continue reading

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Night Catches Us

It’s time again for The Schleicher Spin to put a Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal of this recurring feature is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  The plan is to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

Our current entry will focus on the independent Philly-based film, Night Catches Us, currently available on DVD. 

Night Catches Us

Independent FilmNight Catches Us

The Lowdown:  A former Black Panther (Anthony Mackie) returns to his Philadelphia neighborhood in 1976 to reconnect with the widow (Kerry Washington) of his friend who was gunned down by police four years earlier.

The Direction:  Tanya Hamilton has a good photographer’s eye.  Her shots are nicely framed, and her camera movement either slow or static, allowing us to take in all that is in frame…her nicely appointed Philly neighborhoods, well dressed cast and period details.  There are a few flourishes (including an animated sequence) and one great scene shot from the eye view of a crouching man trying to evade police where every detail (including fresh lawn clippings and overhanging tree limbs) lingers in the shot. Continue reading

Robbie Gil Live at The Tin Angel

Straight from New York as part of his East Coast tour, Robbie Gil will be playing at The Tin Angel in Old City, Philadelphia (at 20 South 2nd Street).  He’s set to take the stage at 8:30pm on Thursday night, January 27th, 2011.  Be there or be square.

As any New York City independent music scene fan with true grit knows, a Robbie Gil show is not to be missed, and it’s a special treat to have him playing the streets of Philadelphia.

Check out past Spotlights on Robbie Gil’s live shows and his newest album, Save Yourself.

For more details and tour dates, check out Robbie Gil’s official site.  To purchase tickets for Thursday night’s Philly show, check out the website for The Tin Angel.

Robbie’s CD’s are available for purchase at his shows, through iTunes or on the web at cdbaby.com.

Written by David H. Schleicher