Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from the Tiki Bar!

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year from Sunny South Florida!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bloggin' sure is a lotta work, kids

I wish I'd gotten into blogging when it started to get big. I was a late bloomer, just started this April. Funny, I don't feel like a blogger, just a cat who has something to say. Maybe it's because I don't blog about celebrities or news. Maybe it's because I just write for me, and if other people dig it, that's in the groove.

Whatever...I've been doing this for 9 months, and I gotta's a lotta work! Holy cow! I maintain the "real" blog...Tiki Lounge Talk...and post at least three times a week. The content is 100% original...which means I have to research, write and design every post from scratch. I have to scan or take a lot of photos. It's fun as hell, but time consuming.

Then I have this site, where I just throw stuff on that doesn't fit the Tiki Bar theme, or where I rant and complain. Or pontificate.

Now I've started a third blog, are real blog, associated with the ad agency I work for. More work. But necessary...and fun.

On top of the blogs, there's the promoting on twitter, facebook, and myspace. I don't have nearly enough time to do it the way I really want to, but I'm keeping up with it. I've got almost 200 followers on Tiki lounge Talk's fan page...very proud of that, since I just started it last week.

Ok, well since I doubt anyone is reading this, I suppose I'll use my time for something more productive. Ciao!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Party in the Workplace: 10 Rules for using Social Media with Your Business

Written by Chris Pinto

If you’re reading this, you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy interacting with people on the internet in this ‘new’ phenomenon of Social Media. But SMN (Social Media Networking) is nothing new. It’s the same kind of networking we’ve done for decades, at cocktail parties and meet & greets, at seminars and workshops. It has simply become easier, more accessible, and a lot more informal.

Where yesterday’s networking events were strictly business (usually attended by people in business attire seriously looking to promote their products and services) online Social Media sites combine business life with personal life…and that, in many instances, can be bad.

There is a reason we have a “work face” and a “home face”. Most of us do things at home or with our friends that we would never think of doing at work. This is called “professionalism”, something too many people are lacking when it comes their online persona. For example, posting pix of last weekend’s hot date at the trendy club might be great for your friends, but your boss and clients might find your antics a little unsettling.

This is why it’s very important to be careful how you connect your personal social networks to anything that has to do with work. If you’re going to use social networking for work purposes, you’ve almost always got to keep it separate from your personal life.

How do you do that online? Not quite as easy as it sounds.

Because of the way everything is linked (the whole purpose of social networking), chances are your personal life and your professional life are going to cross paths. The only true way to protect yourself from having potentially damaging personal information broadcast to clients and co-workers is to not have any personal networking at all. Since this is nearly impossible for anyone who enjoys online social networks, the next best thing is to follow some simple rules that should keep you out of trouble, and keep you looking professional in the eyes of your clients and bosses.

Here are some basic guidelines to follow that will help you keep your online persona both fun and professional:

1. Limit your exposure.

2. Take control of your social networks.

3. Never post derogatory or inflammatory content.

4. Keep your political and religious views and opinions to yourself.

5. Keep your posts upbeat, well-written and professional.

6. Let your personality, not your personal business, shine through.

7. Don’t junk up your social network with ads and pitches.

8. Don’t let your social networking get in the way of real work.

9. Post relevant and interesting content.

10. K.I.S.S. -->Keep it simple, stupid.

Read on for explanations of each topic…

1. Limit your exposure. Depending on your job, there are a lot of things you might not want your co-workers or clients to be aware of. Partying with co-workers might be fun, but can result in some very embarrassing photos. Stay away from the camera. Have fun, but don’t do anything too foolish, and keep your drinking under control. If partying means more to you than your job, then by all means live it up. If you’re serious about your career, keep it cool.

2. Take control of your social networks. Every networking site has email and/or text alerts that let you know when someone has posted content that pertains to you, including tagging you in photos. Make sure you monitor these alerts constantly, and check each one for embarrassing or otherwise unwanted content. Remove as necessary. If the content is on someone else’s page, nicely ask them to remove any reference to you from their post.

3. Never post derogatory or inflammatory content. This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people think it’s ok to ‘talk trash’ about co-workers, clients, bosses, or even family members on social networking sites. “Venting” by posting how much you hate ‘Client A’ or think that ‘Boss B’ is working you too hard is an easy way to get canned. Unless you post to them directly, if you say something good about a client or co-worker, chances are they will never hear about it. Post something bad about someone and it will spread like wildfire. Use your head…never post anything you wouldn’t say directly to someone in person.

4. Keep your political and religious views and opinions to yourself. It’s very easy to get caught up in a discussion about God, guns, and government. Problem is, whatever stand you take, some of your clients and co-workers are going to be on the opposite side of the issue. This can be awkward with co-workers; it can be deadly with clients. Taking sides against a client on even the most inconsequential political or religious issue can cause them to drop you like a rock. Remember, if you’re using social networking for business, you want to build relationships, not destroy them.

5. Keep your posts upbeat, well-written and professional. This includes using correct grammar and punctuation. If language skills aren’t your strong point, get a co-worker to proof your tweets and posts before you make a fool of yourself. Don’t ever use street talk or slang, unless it fits your business. A bank branch manager posting “Yo, wat up yalls” is the equivalent of spitting on a customer. Also, never post anything negative. You may want to post how much you hate working overtime, and how tired and hungry you are, but it will probably come across as whiney and unproductive. Put a positive spin on everything.

6. Let your personality, not your personal business, shine through. The biggest mistake business people make on social networking sites is getting too personal about themselves with clients. Your clients want to know you; they’re interested in things you are doing and places you are going. What they don’t want to know is how depressing your life is. So posting about your trip to Disney World is great. Posting about your trip to the dentist to have an abscess removed is TMI.

7. Don’t junk up your social network with ads and pitches. This tip really falls under the heading of ‘how to market your business online’, but it can’t be stressed enough that social marketing is all about making relationships, not about pushing product. Your relationships will suffer and you’ll lose followers if you constantly barrage them with offers, commercials and products or services. Make friends. Be upbeat and positive. Let people know who you are and what you have to offer, the way you would in person. When they want a product you’re offering, they’ll remember you.

8. Don’t let your social networking get in the way of real work. So you’ve joined facebook™, you’re on twitter™, you’ve got a linkedin™ account and you’re digging™ everything you see. These networks take time to cultivate, and to maintain. Decide on a time limit each day, and stick to it. (Some businesses will decide this for you, and monitor your time on SMN sites). If you’re working on something important, turn off your SMN connections and software so you are not interrupted by incoming posts and messages. And keep your time on each site short…if your boss sees you on FB everytime he or she walks by, even if you’re sticking to your time limit, it’s not going to look good for you.

9. Post relevant and interesting content. It’s great to post videos of punk bands if you’re the manager of a Hot Topic. But if you’re a pre-owned Lexus sales manager in Boca Raton, that’s probably not a good idea. Make sure you understand the likes and dislikes of the people you are marketing to. Post content you think they will enjoy, and especially post things that are informational. The Hot Topic manager can post about where that band is playing, how to get tickets, and make suggestions on what to wear to the concert. The Lexus sales manager can post about the latest developments in hybrid cars, vehicle options, and when the new models will be out. It’s all relative to your customer base.

10. K.I.S.S. -->Keep it simple, stupid. Most people don’t have the time or the inclination to read long-winded articles (like this one) online. If it has to be long for informational purposes, bullet-point the major information at the beginning or the article (like this one) so that your readers can get a quick idea of what you are trying to communicate. If it’s something they’re interested in, they will read on. And remember to keep your writing interesting to keep your readers engaged. There’s nothing worse than reading through a post only to find you want to stop half-way through and grab a hamburger. Keep it light, keep it fun, keep it interesting, and your readers will thank you.

Comment always appreciated!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blogging and Bad Grammer: When the hell did writers stop learning how to write?

Did you notice it?

The computer age, started with the UniVac Computer back in 1947, has revolutionized the world in many ways...but possibly the most incredible revolution has taken place among the writers' community.

Gone are the days when a writer (probably an excellent one) would be turned away from a fantastic career because the publisher was in a bad mood that day. Want to get published? Do it on the web! Want to publish a book? Do it for free with CreateSpace. Want to be taken seriously? CHECK YOUR WORK.

By now, you have either noticed the glaring typo in the headline, or you're one of those people who A) either doesn't care or B) doesn't know the difference. If you're a reader and don't care, that's fine. If you're a writer and you didn't see the spelling error, shame on you.

Time after time I read articles and blogs posted on the web that have foolish typos, incorrect grammar, and even entire words missing out of the headlines. Ok, an occasional misuse of "you" in place of "your" or an unintentional "the" floating somewhere may be acceptable. But kids, your computer has a wonderful spell checker. Why not use it already??? (clue: if the word is underlined when you type it, you did it wrong)

I just read an article on a PROMINENT blog site, about Social Networking. It was written by an industry "expert" (that term gets thrown around a lot these days; Social Marketing Expert, Paranormal Expert, Alien Abduction Expert...) whose grammar was pretty awful for someone who is supposed to be college edgeecated, and he left a word out of a headline. The whole word!

Doesn't anyone proofread anymore? Come on!

Ya know, in the ’50s, if you wanted a job as a writer, you had to be an expert writer. That meant years of learning the ins and outs of the English language, grammar, punctuation, communication skills and proofreading.

Today, you are all lucky enough to be writers - published writers - without even going to college. If you can write fairly well, and people enjoy what you have to say, you will be successful, at least in the context of web publishing. But you won't have the luxury of an editor, proofreader or typesetter to cushion you against the world. What you type is what gets read. Dig? The world is looking at your posts, and forming an opinion about you through them. Do you want them to think you're a dumb ass? Hell no!

Proofread your work before you publish. At least make sure there are no glaring typos, like in my headline. Learn the difference between "it's" and "its", "your" and "you're". You'd be surprised how easy it is.

By the way, make sure you always double check your facts too. Just for fun, I threw a bad fact into this post. Can you spot it?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlie Brown Christmas at the Tiki Bar

I'm in a groovy mood, so no evil rants tonight.

Ok, for some fun stuff...I wrote a nice little post at Tiki Lounge Talk ( about the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and why it's so special, especially to me.

• Couple of kookie things to mention: The CB special is from 1965. So for kids like me who were kids when this was still new...well, it's 44 years old now. Krazy huh? Talk about Retro!

• I have a dog named Snoopy. He is not a beagle.

• One of the first songs I ever tried to play on the piano was "Linus and Lucy" aka the Peanuts song. I was terrible at it. 30+ years later, I am an accomplished jazz sax player, but I still can't play this on the keys.

• I have a big, shiny aluminum Christmas tree.

Don't forget to stop by the tiki bar for a Christmas Drink!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Going Digital in a world full of TV's & Newpapers

This is just my goofy place to rant, tell stories, and blow off steam. If you want some kookie, kool and fantabulous retro-tiki fun stuff, please visit my retro-matic site at!

For those of you who don't know, I'm the Creative Director of an ad agency in Hollywood, Florida. Not quite like Don Draper, but I do have a bottle of Johnny Walker at my desk.

As C.D., I am responsible for coming up with hip, new ideas to promote our clients' products. I also design a lot of the artwork, and occasionally do some good old fashioned copy writing. Fun job, pay is decent, and I get a corner office with a view of the South Florida skyline. We specialize in traditional forms of advertising, ie, we don't build websites.

Last month we got hit over the head with a request from a restaurant client, somewhat out of the blue. The client told us they wanted our agency to take over all of their online advertising responsibilities, including Pay-per-click, SEO, and all that other krazy new-fangled stuff that goes along with teh internets. Well, we said, no problem. After all, we don't do all of our TV production in-house, or radio, or direct mail. We farm it out. So we'll farm this out too, just managing the operation. Right?

Well, not quite.

Seems this particular client doesn't think we know anything about internet marketing. Even though we've showed them time and again what they should be doing on the net, even though we've given them proposal after proposal outlining online strategies. We even set them up with a Facebook and Twitter account (which they never use). Even though I've made it my mission to learn a lot about online marketing, which lead to the creation of my real blog, Tiki Chris Pinto's Tiki Lounge Conversations, and eventually to this blog, my dark-side vent.

It appears we have a lack of communication with some of our clients. We'll fix that, immediately. But to do so, we're going to have to change our entire system. We're no longer going to be known as a traditional ad house. The market dictates that we become a digital-heavy agency with the added value of traditional media in our mix. For me, this means an exciting adventure into new, mod territory. At the same time it's Goddamned terrifying. But that should make it exciting too, shouldn't it?

All my life, I've lived in the past. I sport fedoras, not because they are retro-cool, but because that's what I would have worn if I lived 60 years ago. I talk the way my grand father's and father's generations did, because that's just how I yap. I drive a 53 Chevy, and for every day use I have a PT Cruiser Convertible Hot Rod that's made up to look like something out of the 30's. I play jazz and swing sax and listen to Glen Miller, Duke Ellington and Elvis. To me, a computer is a glorified typewriter with a built-in filing cabinet and encyclopedia, and changing the ribbons is a krazy pain because I can't find them. Yet here I am, halfway through my kookie life, and I've got to totally switch gears in order to keep my little gig.

Totally? Well, no. Actually the way I look at it, the internet is just another opportunity to exploit, another place to paste up tons of ads, except it's powerful enough that I can show ads to the people who might actually want to see them, and leave everyone else alone. No matter what anyone says, there will always be newspapers and magazines (although they will change drastically), TV ads and radio commercials. (They too will change, to accommodate TiVo and XM). But as those mediums become less usable, the internet will rise to the call. And it looks like I'm going to be riding the top of that wave, or drown trying.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Working on the book, "Murder Behind the Closet Door"

I know that a lot of blog readers are also writers. If you're a writer reading this, you know how much fun, yet how difficult writing can be...especially if you take on a 600 page novel.

In 2002 I got laid off from a job as a graphic designer. I decided two things: one, I'd look for a much better job that suited my talents, and two, I wouldn't spend my idle time at home being idle. So, as I looked for a great job, I also did a few things around the house...built some bookshelves...worked on my 53 Chevy...and started writing a book.

I never intended to publish the book. I never even intended anyone to read was really for me, a collection of memories from my youth, dreams, nightmares, and ideas. I had no outline, no real plot...just a basic story idea, a style in which to write it, and a lot of little facts to stick in for fun.

After I wrote the first few pages, I showed it to my wife. To my surprise, she thought it was actually good...really good, worth developing. Now, my wife ain't the type to just say something like that to make me feel good. If it sucked, she would have said so. And since she reads two to three books a week, I took her word for it.

So I continued on, free-flow, just typing along anything that came to mind. And after about three weeks the first draft was completed (except for the end). But it needed a LOT of polishing. And an ending.

On and off over the next year I played around with it. I got the great job I was looking for after only three months, so the time I had to devote to it was getting slim, but I'd stay up late and work on it until two in the morning, sometimes three. This got me a lot of writing done, but also got me a hell of a lot of typos!

Over the next two years, I added entire new chapters to it, re-arranged it, edited it, cut things out, added things in, expanded characters, and eventually came up with an ending that I liked, that made sense. I insisted that all of my characters made choices that made sense, not ones that made it easy to propagate the story. This made things a little harder, but it made the story a lot better.

I wanted to write a book that I would enjoy reading myself. Now, seven years later, I've gone over it and over it, knocking out the goofs, tweaking things here and there, looking at it from an editor's view (ow) and finally getting it in the final stages of being production ready.

I've got a few more typo's to fix, and a couple of lines need to flow a little sweeter, but besides that the book is finished. I have no delusions of ever getting an agent or publisher to seriously look at it, since the publishing industry is so tight and so impenetrable. I wish I knew someone in the biz, because I think this book could really take off. It's got murder, sex, violence, ghosts, suspense, and mystery all wrapped up in a well-written, easy-read package.

The story takes place in Wildwood and Ocean City, New Jersey, primarily in the winter of 1978/1979, with flashbacks to the 30's and 50's. It gives the reader a real sense of what things were like at the time, and will bring back a lot of memories for those who lived through that era.

Tonight, I managed to get through final proofing of a dozen pages. I found an average of one typo per page, mostly small punctuation issues or things like "then" instead of "them". I have only about 300 pages left to proof, then it's off to CreateSpace for printing, so I can at least get a couple of books for myself and friends. Sure, it will go up for sale; I'll market it with what little budget I have, and maybe even sell a few copies. Maybe, if lady luck smiles on me, someone with clout will notice it, and if they think it's good enough I might even get a book deal. Well, I know there are a million+ people thinking the same thing about their books, so I won't hold my breath. But I can dream, can't I?

For more information on Murder Behind the Closet Door visit my official website at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow? What's snow?

I've heard it's snowing in parts of the US. I seriously can't remember the last time I saw snow.

I think it may have been the winter of 1999/2000. I dropped my car keys in three inches of snow, which sat on top two inches of pine needles and oak leaves in New Jersey. It took a rake, a shovel, and two hours to find them. That's when I decided to move to South Florida and never look back.

I do miss snow; I especially enjoyed watching snow fall during the night, when everything was very quiet and still. There's something magical about watching snowflakes fall from the night sky, shimmering in the light of a street lamp. It's trying to get around in it the next day I can do without.

I hope to see snow again someday, while on vacation. But mark my words, unless I get an incredible deal on a 20 acre vineyard, I'll never live where it snows again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just because you are a Republican doesn't mean you have to be a mindless, annoying prick.

Tiki Lounge Talk, my full-blown tiki-retro blog, is all about having fun...with a cocktail, a kool car and a hot chick. This little corner of the world is where I get to mouth off about the dark stuff...stuff that annoys me, or just makes me want to blow stuff up.

Today I saw a truck that had some little stickers plastered all over the back of it. It was a work truck, an electrician's. I'm pretty sure if I still had my big Caddy, I'd have driven this a-hole off the damned road and into a building.

The stickers were supposed to be 'clever', but what they were, were just plain stupid. They were, as follows:

Palin 2012
• I'll keep my gun, my freedom and my rights, you keep the 'change'
• No-bama
• Don't blame me
• Welcome to the Socialist States of America
• In God we trust

So, if you're a democrat you are now saying, "Yeah! What an stupid a-hole!" and if you're a republican your probably saying, "yeah! He's right!" Well, republican, dem or in between, a jack ass is a jack ass, and he certainly was a jack ass. He also neglected to use his turn signal.

Let me say at this point, that I am a capitalistic, gun-toting, crappy-fuel-economy-car-driving guy who really doesn't want the government to interfere with my life by passing laws that 'require' me to do things I don't really want to do. But at the same time, I believe in equal rights, logical gun control, electric cars and serious reform of the health care and banking industries. So what does that make me?

It makes me a good old fashioned, intelligent, free-thinking American. Someone with a brain who doesn't buy into all the extremes that both sides are slinging. I can look at both sides and ascertain the facts myself.

Does carbon monoxide from cars contribute to global climate change? yes. Is global climate change a cyclical process? yes. Are we headed for an ice age that we can't really do a damned thing about? yes. See how easy that was?

Did the last eight years of Republican rule break the world? yes. Is Obama any better than W? Yes, but then again so is mold.

Does Obama have all the answers, and will he make all the bad things go away? No. Would have McCain and Palin made all the bad things go away? Hell no. See? very easy.

I have a Florida State Concealed Weapons Permit (AKA License to kill) which under FL state law allows me to carry my cannon of a .45 Automatic nearly anywhere, and gives me the right to use deadly force if my or someone else's life is in danger. You know what I fear most? Not the guy who might mug me at the gas station at 1am. I fear the yahoo with the bumper stickers that say "Palin 2012" and "I'll keep my gun, you keep the change", because that guy is truly insane, AND he has a gun. That's the kind of whack job that ends up walking into a mall and shooting everyone he sees, for no reason other than the angels told him to do it.

So, I guess if anyone reads this, there will be some pissed-off dems and reps, but you know what? I don't give a rat's ass. Now go have a drink and calm down. No matter what your affiliation, you better damn-well believe in MY freedom of speech. If you don't, get lost. There's no room for you in my country.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mod Movie Mondays at the Tiki Bar

I've started a new feature at Tiki Lounge Talk (AKA Tiki Bar Talk) - Mod Movie Mondays, where each week I'll give my suggestions on movies (and the best booze to go with them) from the mod and atomic eras. I kicked it off with the top of the psychedelic flick list, Barbarella. If you haven't dug this reel than dig it soon. Jane Fonda is far-out and beautiful as hell, the sets are wild, the story is crazy and its got the perfect amount of camp and silliness to make it a primo pick. Check out Tiki Lounge Talk for more pix, info and fun stuff.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Damn, I miss old fashioned antique car shows

Today a my wife, a friend and I went to a huge antique & classic car show in Pompano.
It wasn't of the best I've been to in Florida...but there still wasn't the magic of car shows i went to with my old lady and old man when I was a kid.

This show was about 60% muscle cars and hot rods (and Covettes), 25% Pre 1965 non-muscle cars and 15% hoopdies (70's cars with 22" rims through new cars customized). You could pic your year, engine and color for 'Vettes and 'Stangs. You could count the pre-war antiques on two hands.

When I was a kid, '57 Chevys were only around 20 years old, and 60's muscle cars were 10-year-old junk that only greasy kids that hung out in shop class wanted. You could take your pick of 50's finned cars, because most people thought of them as old, gas-guzzling, out-of-style clunkers. I knew a guy who lived in a 40-foot trailer, and had three '67 Caddy convertibles. He tried to sell me one for $300, and I remember telling him it was too much because the seat was ripped. So car shows in the ’70s & '80s were filled with line after line of Model A Fords, '32 Chevys, '30s Cadillacs and LaSalles, and rare cars from the '50s and '60s like the '58 Caddy Eldorado Brougham and the '63 Lincoln Convertible. There were always big-fendered cars from the '30s, and even a few bullet holes from the Prohibition era. Novelty cars like the Amphicar and odd-balls like American Bantam of the '30s were usually featured. Hot rods were generally cars that had been hot-rodded in the '50s, and still looked the same. And almost everybody did a good amount of the restorations themselves.
I also used to love the shows that were held at old-style locations. In particular, there was a show held in the Historic Towne of Smithville in South Jersey. The whole town was made up of houses and shops from the 18th century. Somehow those Tin Lizzies and fat fendered Fords looked pefect next to those old houses. Another was held at a little place called Gravely Run, also in SJ. It was a group of buildings from the turn of the century, and had the same appeal. One of the best was held throughout the city of Wildwood, NJ, a town that grew up in the '50s and 60's and has a the largest collection of "Doo-Wop" style mid-century motels and diners in the world. THAT was fantastic (I drove to it in my '56 Buick Draggin Waggin)
This show we went to today was held at the Festival Flea Market, a temple of modern, cheap commercialism. Not that it's a bad thing, but there was just something off-kilter about seeing a '53 Cadillac next to a 2006 Custom Escalade, in front of a plastic & aluminum modern sign for the mall.
Don't get me wrong, I still had fun today. There were a lot of cool cars and even a couple of antique motorcycles. But I don't think I'll ever get to go to a car show like the ones I went to as a kid again.
To see the photos from this show, over 100 with great views of the best cars, go to

Sunday, November 1, 2009

REAL Ghosts of Halloween

A few encounters with the 'other side' I decided to print, even if no one reads it...
Halloween has always been a big deal for me. I decorate the whole house, drive my wife & friends insane, have a big Halloween party and cap it all off with scaring the living daylights out of trick-or-treaters. Halloween was always my mother's favorite holiday, and that made it my father's favorite too.
My mother passed away fairly young in 1996. She was very much into the occult, and always said that if there was a way to come back from the other side, she would. I truly expected her to do so, but besides a few dreams, she seemed at peace. Then, on Halloween 1996, two strange things happened...although I had no spice cookies (or anything like them) in the house, I smelled the aroma of these cookies several times throughout the night. Spice cookies were my mother's favorite Halloween treat. Also, she would play around by biting the tops off the candy corns and throwing them back in the bowl. Although I checked them all before putting them out, by Halloween day several candy corns were missing the tops. This happened several more Halloweens since.
In 2002, my father passed away. On the day he died, he told the nurses his wife was coming to get him later, to take him dancing. He insisted she had been there and was coming back.That was Halloween day, October 31, 2002.
About two weeks before, the lightbulb blew out in his room in our house. He was too week to change it himself, and got me to do it for him before I left for work. This was very traumatic for him; he was always a very strong, independent man, and went on about how he'd be sitting in the dark that night if I hadn't been able to help him. Since then, every year around the middle of September right up to Halloween, bulbs start blowing. Even the 7-year jobs. It's always in his room first, then a few more around the house. I've had the wires checked, they're fine. I use quality bulbs that should last for years. This year six bulbs blew out in three weeks, including one on Halloween morning, just after a loud crash made me jump out of my skin. The crash was cauldron decoration that broke loose from an 8lb test line (it weighed less than a pound). It fell in a very strange place...and broke a middle eastern drum that my father used to play for my mother, who was a belly dancer.
In 1996 I bought small bungalow in Northfield, NJ. Built in 1928, this cute little house featured glass doorknobs, 12-pane windows and a modernized basement which I turned into a rec room. I bought it from the great grand daughter of the home's original owners, who told me the house originally had a penny candy store in the front room. Her grandfather still lived next door, and came over a few times with stories of how he lived there as a young boy during the great depression...the candy store barely keeping the family afloat, he and his brothers and sisters sleeping in small sectioned rooms in the basement. He seemed sad the house was no longer in his family, but at the same time was happy he was so close. He passed away a few years after I moved in, and soon after that I started having strange feelings of not being alone, usually around 11pm and lasting until around 3am. One night while sleeping in my bedroom (which would have been his parents' room), I awoke to find a shadow of a figure, about 4 feet tall, blocking my bedroom door. It was a solid shadow, and as I always slept with a light on I could see it clearly. I don't know how I know this, but I knew it was the shadow of a young boy, standing in the doorway looking at me. I looked back right at it, at first thinking I was waking from a dream. But this was no dream. I stared at it for about five seconds, and then it simply faded away. A few nights later, I was lying in my bed trying to fall asleep, and could not. I decided to get up and get a little snack; when I opened my eyes, a cherub-like face was staring into mine from about two feet away, between me and the ceiling. I was startled, but not scared as the face was smiling. It disappeared in a blink, but after that I didn't have any more uninvited visitors to my room.
When I was a kid, my grandparents and aunt & uncle lived in two houses a block away from each other in South Philly. I hated both those houses. Strange noises, eerie feelings, visions, and a sense of dread hit me every time I went to visit, especially in my Uncle's back bedroom and basement. Once, while my wife and I were staying in that back bedroom during a visit, we both woke in the middle of the night to witness the far end of the room morphing, changing into something else, then back again. Another time I felt the room was collapsing in on me, and could see the walls moving. In the basement (which was a nicely done rec room with a bar), I'd suddenly fell as though the room were full of people...even behind me. Then it would go away. Years later I found out that in the mid to late 19th century, the Philadelphia Alms House had used most of South Philly as a grave yard for unclaimed bodies. When they began to build streets and homes at the turn of the century, they basically built right over the unmarked graves. With most basements only dug four feet into the ground (with two or three feet above ground) they didn't have to worry about hitting the bodies six feet under. In the late 90's or early 00's, some south Philly-ans found coffins and remains when they decided to deepen their basements. I feel strongly that there are bodies buried under that basement floor in my Uncle's would certainly explain a lot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creepy, Spooky Story for Halloween

Here's a short, 5-minute story that's a little creepy, a little spooky, and perfect to read under candlelight on Halloween night...

Followed Home
by Christopher Pinto

There were no lights on that stretch of Route 9, it was just a flat, dark, pine tree-flanked two-lane road running through Leeds Point in South Jersey. I drove it a lot though, especially since I started bartending at the Oyster Inn, set deep into the backwaters of the bay. Getting off work at two a.m. was a drag, but it paid the bills.

That night I was heading home after my shift, a little groggy from knocking back a few beers with the customers, but not drunk, by any means. The old reliable Malibu was purring nicely along the lonely road, cruising at a cool 35. I had the AM radio on (since the 8-track stopped working years ago), and was listening to some Rock ’n’ Roll, playing low. I only looked down for a second to change the station. When I looked back up, two red eyes were staring into mine from the middle of the road, dead ahead. I slammed on the brakes but it was no use, whatever it was got creamed by the chrome of my bumper, and I could hear it…feel it…bounce around under the car, getting mangled on the driveshaft and tail pipe as the car skidded to a stop.

A million things ran through my mind. What did I hit? Was it dead? Did it damage the car? What was that thing?

That was the question that lingered longest, ‘just what was it in the middle of the road’…a head like a deer, yet too small and too…upright…to be a deer. And did I see wings? Like a giant bat? Couldn’t be, I thought, must be raccoon or maybe a fox. But with red eyes? Crazy.

I took a deep breath, made sure the car was in park, and grabbed my flashlight out of the glove compartment. After another deep breath, I got out to survey the damage.

The road was desolate. Not a car, creature or man-made light to be seen anywhere. The only light came from the cloud-shadowed moon and stars, casting a dull blue hue over the road and forest. I looked around and shined the flash behind the car, where the body should have been. Nothing. Not even blood. I shined it into the woods…shadows leapt from the pines and underbrush, but nothing living, and nothing dead. Then it occurred to me that the thing could be caught under the car, hanging from the tailpipe or something…I shuddered, and shined the light under the rear of the Malibu. Nothing.

Next I made my way around to the front of the car. The wind picked up a little, sending a late October chill through my bones. I braced myself for the worst…imagining blood and body parts dripping from my grill. But when I shined the light on the Chevy’s front end, again I found nothing. Oh, there was a huge dent in the bumper and grill where the thing had hit, but no blood, no fur, no hooves, nothing ­– as if the thing I hit were made of steel.

Another gust of wind and another chill ran through me. My mind was spinning with crazy thoughts. Red eyes, I couldn’t get the image of those red eyes out of my head. Wings like a bat. Face like a deer. No blood, no fur. Whatever it was should have been mangled and dead. Instead it seemed to have survived without a scratch.

A queasy feeling came over me, and I decided that hell, if the thing survived and there was no blood or guts all over the road, then good for him. I was only a mile from home and really just wanted to hit the sack. I climbed back into the old Chevy, started her up, punched the gas and headed home. Only now, I didn’t dare go over 25.

Looking back, I remember it really started about a half a mile from my place. The first major “Thump!” on my roof took me so off guard I almost threw the Malibu into a ditch. Good thing I was going slow, or I really would have. The thud was so loud, and right above my head, that I jerked the wheel and hit the brake at the same time, a bad combination. But I got my head together and straightened it out before I ran up a tree, and kept going. I wanted to stop, but something was telling me know way, Jack. So I kept motoring down that dark, lonely stretch of road, until I got to the cut-off at Leeds Creek Road. That’s where my room was, down the end of a one-lane dirt road cut out before the Revolutionary War, named after the landowner who settled the area 200+ years ago. Down the end of that dark, tricky dirt lane sat a little cluster of turn-of-the-century cabins, part of a fishing village that went belly up during WW2. Some guy got the bright idea to renovate them into rental units, and being tucked way back in the woods by the creek, they came cheap. So that’s where I lived, with my room mate Rick, in a little 20’ by 20’ cabin with two beds, a kitchenette and tiny shower/head. Hey, at $45 a month I couldn’t complain, even about the mosquitoes.

The second thud thundered through the car like a freight train. It left my ears ringing, and made a dent in the roof that pushed the headliner down to my hair. This time I slammed on the brakes and brought the 10 year old car to a dangerous stop; I could smell smoke and hear things clanging and knocking that never should have been. Dirt got kicked up all over, and the dust swirled in the yellowy headlights as I tried to see if anything was out there. Again, nothing. But I knew something was, I knew that thing…whatever it was that I ran over…had followed me, stuck with me, and was pretty damned pissed off.

My brains jumped. I didn’t know what to do now, should I stay in the safety of the car or get the flash and check outside? What if that animal was rabid? What if it was brain damaged from the accident, and nuts and just wanted to hurt anything near it? The last thing I needed was a trip the Emergency room with a raccoon bite. If it was a raccoon.

I decided the best thing to do was to stay in the car and get home. There were lights at the cabins, and they’d probably scare the thing away, I figured. So I eased the Chevy back onto the road and took off slowly. The dirt street was lumpy with potholes anyway, so I couldn’t go more than 15 even in bright daylight. So I took it easy, inching along…until I could see the lights of the cabins.

In three minutes I was parked in front of Cabin Number 9. I suddenly felt a lot better, under the glow of the antique porch light, surrounded by little cabins full of people, even if they were mostly sleeping. I knew Rick would be up, probably watching the Million Dollar Movie on the portable TV, and that made me feel better too. Yet I sat there in the car, motor off, lights on, doors locked, the flashlight in one hand and the keys in the other. What if that thing was still out there? What if it had latched onto the roof somehow? Why the hell did this animal follow me home?

I tried to shake it off. I told myself I was crazy, and that my paranoia was the result of too much beer (or not enough). I took a deep breath, and opened the car door…

To my own surprise, I leapt out of the door and did a rolling summersault so fast that I didn’t even have time to think about it. I landed on my feet and spun around with the flashlight aimed right at the roof of the old ’65, expecting to see some monster perched there, a gargoyle figure ready to pounce me like an owl on a mouse. But there was nothing there, no monster, no fox, no raccoon. Just the car. I took a quick swipe around with the flash, and thought I saw the faintest trace of a shadow jump behind the cabin, but figured it must have just been the shadow from the trash cans. Feeling relieved, I locked up the car and got into the cabin.

“Hey man, you took your time getting home, it’s almost three, dude,” Rick said as I slammed the door shut and locked it. “You get hung up with some chick or something?”

He was sitting on the couch, with his hand-woven Indian blanket over him to keep out the chill. He loved the blanket, dirty and full of holes as it was. There were empty beer bottles and a half-eaten bowl of BooBerry on the coffee table, and some black and white horror flick was playing on the TV. A typical Saturday night for Rick. “Nothing that interesting. I hit some animal on Route 9 on the way home. Banged up the car pretty bad, in front.”

“Jesus dude, are you ok?”

“Just a little rattled, that’s all.”

“Is the animal…dead?” Rick had a soft spot for animals, being a Marine Biologist-in-Training.

“I dunno. I don’t think so. I couldn’t find it after I hit it,” I said, and gave a nervous little laugh. “No body, no blood, no nothing.”

“Cool, so maybe it’s like, ok.”

“It put a dent about three inches deep in my bumper and grill. You don’t think it’s a little weird that there was no blood or nothing?” I asked, cracking open a beer for myself.

“Well, like, what kind of animal was it? Like a deer?”

“No, not a deer. Not anything…I dunno, it was dark, ya know?” I said, the image of those bright red eyes burning into my brain. “Maybe a fox or something. Smaller than a deer. And it was kind of standing up, you know, upright, like a dog on his hind legs.”

Rick now had his full attention on me. He pushed his floppy, ragged hair out of his eyes and looked at me like I was nuts. “What else do you remember about it?” he asked, cautiously.

“Honestly? Well, it kind of had a face like a deer. Long snout. And it was black. But it had red eyes, reflecting in the high beams. And I think…I could be crazy, it was dark, but I think it had wings. Like a bat.”

To my surprise, Rick didn’t seem to think that was all that nuts. “Did it have hooves?” he asked seriously.

“I don’t know. It happened too fast. Why?”

“Jesus man, don’t you know? You’ve lived here like, what, three years now, and you don’t know?” He had a somewhat terrified look in his eyes now, and was visibly shaking.

“You’re freaking me the hell out, man. What gives?” I said, remembering the giant thumps on the roof of the Malibu. What did he know?

He was about to answer when three loud, deliberate slow knocks came at the front door, a full second apart each. We both jumped out of our skin.

“You expecting anyone?” Rick asked, staring at the door.

“No, you?”

“No, man.” An eternity went by as we remained frozen, both looking at the door as if we expected it to burst open. “You gonna see who it is, man?” Rick finally asked. I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so. It was probably just the wind blowing something against the front of the cabin anyway. It stopped.”

It was right then that all hell broke loose. First came the thunderous bangs on the cabin’s roof, as if a 747 had landed and skipped across it. Rick instinctively went for his baseball bat by the door, I just stood there incredulous, shaking with fear. What the hell was this thing? Why was it doing this? What kind of animal…monster…could have the sense to follow me home and terrorize me?

“What the hell, man! You led it right to us!” Rick screamed, peering out the side window.

“Led what to us? You know what this thing is?”

“It’s the damned Jersey Devil, man! You ran over the Jersey Devil! Don’t even tell me you never heard of it?”

“Aw hell,” I said, “That’s just a myth, some dumb fable to scare kids!”

“No man, it ain’t no story. It’s true, that thing’s been sighted plenty of times. The 13th son of the Leeds family, cursed at birth as a devil. The thing’s been living in these woods for 200 years man, and you went and pissed it off royally.”

“That’s a load of crap,” I said, but somehow knew I was wrong. The deer-like head, the bat wings, the body tough as iron…and now that he said it, the image of the red-eyed beast became clear in my mind. Hooves. Black fur. Almost human-like features on a deer’s head. This was no ordinary animal.

We heard the ominous sound of giant flapping wings outside the cabin. Things went from bad to worse real fast, as the devil came crashing through the side window, shattering glass all over Rick. It hit Rick full-on with it’s massive hooves as it rushed legs-first through the hole, and knocked him clear across the room. Blood started oozing from his chest as he lay there unconscious. Papers and junk swirled around the room as the beast beat its giant, leathery black wings, at least 10 feet in span, until it came to rest on the floor in front of me. Now I could see the thing clearly in the light of the cabin, larger than I first thought, at least six tall. It stood there boring its blood-red eyes into my soul, a scowl on its long, black snout, ugly fangs exposed. It heaved with heavy breaths, clenching claw-like hands in morbid fists, and came at me. Petrified with fear, I had no idea what to do, so I screamed, “I’m sorry I ran you over! It was an accident!”

The thing stopped dead in its tracks, inches from my face. Its hot breath steamed in the cold October air, and smelled of the grave as he leaned in within inches of my face. Then, incredibly, it spoke.

“Not me,” it scraped, with more of dog-like bark than human voice. “You killed my son.”

In its face, I could see its anger turned to sorrow, grief. I mirrored his emotion.

“I…I’m sorry…I couldn’t stop…I didn’t even see him, it was too dark.” I was afraid for my life, but my fear turned to pity as I saw tears…actual tears…streaming from the beast’s eyes. It let out a howl that pierced my eardrums and shook the cabin, and ended in sobs that wrenched my guts. “I wish I could undo what happened, honestly, I’m sorry.”

Then the thing’s sorrow turned to anger once again, and once again I feared for my life. I took a quick look around the room…Rick’s bat was laying next to him, too far away for me to grab. The kitchenette was to my left, with a couple of knives on the counter, but I was sure this thing was too fast for me. I stood there waiting, wondering what was to come next. Then again, it spoke with that guttural growl.

“I could kill you now, but it’s not in my nature, in spite of my appearance,” it said, much more eloquently than I’d expect an animal could speak. “I’ve lived for generations and have never harmed a human until tonight. And yet I’ve never known the sorrow of losing a loved one. And so, human, in place of killing you,” it continued with its horrid breath in my face, “I shall curse you as I once was cursed. You will father a child, and that offspring will not be born a human, but will be born a devil like me, and will come to me in the wood, to be my son. That shall be your punishment. And I shall be appeased.”

“And if I never father a child?” I asked nervously, knowing I was pushing my luck.

“You shall, and it shall be a Leeds,” the devil said, and without another word beat its gigantic wings and veered out the window.

I remained frozen with fear, shaking, crying. I looked down at Rick who was out cold. I wondered if the wounds in his chest were fatal, but couldn’t move to check. I wondered if this was all real, or if someone had slipped some LSD into my beer. I wondered if I was insane.

After a few minutes, I was able to move. The stench of death still hung in the air. The icy cold of night came through the broken window. Rick’s immobile body lay on the floor, bleeding. It was real. I moved over to Rick; he was still breathing, but faintly. Then I called the ambulance, and the police.

That was three years ago. Rick survived, but left South Jersey without telling me where he was heading. I stayed, but for months was terrified I’d run into the devil again on that dark stretch of road. I never did, and as time went by I started to feel more at ease. A year ago, I moved away from Leeds Point to Atlantic City, where I started bartending at one of the local hangouts. I met a woman there, and we started dating. And remembering the devil’s curse, I made damned sure we did everything we could to make sure she didn’t get pregnant. But you see, that’s the problem, Father. Even though we took every precaution possible, she told me this morning that she was pregnant. It seemed impossible. I almost died. I knew I should have ended it when I found out her mother’s maiden name was Leeds. Now it’s too late. I didn’t know who to turn to, and I’m not a very religious man, but I had to ask someone…so I ask you, Father, knowing what you now know…what am I going to do?

This story was inspired by tales of the Jersey Devil, a creature believed to haunt the pine barrens of southern New Jersey. Born the 13th child of the Leeds family in the early 18th century, the story goes that the father, already burdened by 12 children, cursed his 13th when he found out his wife was pregnant. When the child was born, it was born a devil-like creature with horns, hooves, and wings. It attacked the midwife, flew around the room and out a window, destined to live in the woods for eternity. There have been several 'sightings' even till this day, and anyone who lives within 20 miles of Leeds Point, New Jersey knows that the Jersey Devil is more than just a myth, it's a reality.

I set the story in 1975, mainly because I first became aware of the Devil at that time, and because I've always found that era, in that neck of the woods, to be the spookiest...before the internet and 24 TV, before cell phones and fax machines, when today's technology was still in the baby stages and living in a hundred year-old shack with no electricity in the middle of the woods was still considered to be in the norm.

For more information on this mystical creature and the intriguing story behind it, visit

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cool list of scary movies on tiki lounge talk has a new post with a list of kool old ghost movies for halloween. Stuff you may have heard of but not seen, stuff you may not of heard of but should see. Check it out.

Halloween Decorating: I'm an insane goofball when it comes tho Halloween. I started having Halloween parties in 1986, and have one every year in one form or another ever since. When I had my dinner theater and jazz band in Atlantic City in the 90's, I'd invite all the crazy musicians and actors I knew. Now that I'm in south Florida with my wife, we've lost contact with the entertainment crowd, but have befriended exotic dancers, models, and people engaged in various alternative lifestyles that come together to make the party a big hit.

This year the theme is "Disco of Death at Studio 13". The premise is that a Manhattan disco in the 70's has been taken over by punker zombies. Then the zombies all go to CBGB's and leave the disco for the dead disco dancers. I went bananas with the decor...Turned the TV console into a DJ booth with a skeleton DJ, turned the front entrance of the house into the entrance of the abandoned discotheque, and turned my guest bathroom into the men's room from CBGB's (if you don't know why, you just don't know why). Middle room is a butcher shop with body parts everywhere, kitchen (which already looks like a 50's diner) is the "Chock full of Guts" coffee house. Yes, I am nuts. But it's a gas, baby!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Going to see Zombieland tonight

Man, that Zombieland movie looks pretty good. I love a good (or bad) zombie movie. As long as it has a nice combo of guts and laughs, it's ok by me. I should devote at least one line to complain that the tickets are costing me $22 for two, and the popcorn will probably be another $15. What ever happened to cheap movie night? Oh, wait a minute, I know...those cheap old movies didn't cost $$$Millions to make...yeah, now I get it. Better quality movies, better special effects, higher price. So shouldn't movies that cost less to make be discounted? Yeah, sure.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kool Pix of Hollywood Florida at Mack's Tiki Lounge is my site dedicated to living the retro and tiki good life. This weekend I posted a bunch of swingin' pix of downtown Hollywood Blvd, Florida. Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco and Nouveao-Retro buildings meld together into a very groovy setting, giving you the sense you're in another time, even if you're not sure what the hell time that is. Check it out, no disappointments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another cool Vampire Killing Kit on ebay

Attention Vampire Slayers, Demon Hunters and VanHelsig fans...If you've ever wanted a real piece of Goth art, the kind that makes your pale, black-haired friends green with envy, an authentic VAMPIRE KILLING KIT by renowned gothic artist Crystobal is for you!
His latest is featured on ebay here: CRYSTOBAL'S VAMPIRE KILLING KIT. He's started the bidding low and set the reserve low on this one so some lucky vamp hunter can get it in time for Halloween. The last one (see older post below) went for $430. This one is a little larger and should command a slightly higher price.
I've know Crystobal for a long time. The cat's as crazy as a freakin' loon. He used to make Spoon Jewelry and Sand Candles back in the 70's. He made zip-guns in the old days. He used to create all kinds of spooky stuff for theme parties & haunted castles all over south jersey back in the day. These days he sits around his home in Florida, mostly complaining about how old he's getting, and that his hot rod never runs right. In between complaints he still builds some really intense stuff, like this kit. This one, named "Jezebelle" (he names all his kits after evil women of history and literature) contains the following:

• Incredible Antiqued Chest-Style Box with Coffin-Nail cross decorations, very Gothic in style and made to look 100+ years old.
• Vintage style 19th Century Dagger
for display purposes only. (Must be 18 years or older to purchase this kit due to the knife.) Knife has been antiqued to look used, with remnants of Vampire blood dried on the blade.)
• Four (4) Hand-Made Black Wooden Cross Stakes with Leather binding straps, sharpened to points and antiqued to look very ancient and well used. Dried Vampire blood appears to have stained the crosses!
• Handmade Wooden Vintage-Style Rosary Beads with Cross to match the stakes. • One Unique Leather-Bound Antiqued Mirror (for Testing Vampire's Reflection) • One Vintage Holy Bible (at least 60 years old) • Two Corked and Wax-Sealed Bottles to hold Holy Water (Look as if the water has evaporated and the bottles clouded with age. You can add your own Holy Water & re-seal with candle wax) • One Corked and Wax-Sealed Bottle of Rock Salt for destroying the Vampire's resting place • One Corked and Wax-Sealed Bottle of Consecrated Earth for destroying the Vampire's resting place
• One Antiqued Box for storing garlic cloves
• One Large Black Goth-style Candle • One Leather-Bound Box of Vintage Style Matches
• Six Vintage Coffin Nails in a Hand-Made Vintage-Style Leather Satchel
• One Pamphlet on the Destruction of the Beast by CRYSTOBAL
• One Very Old-Looking Paper Imprinted With The Exorcism Prayer, complete with blood stains
• One 36" Length of Sterling Silver Chain for Disabling the Vampire

Anyone interested in learning more about Crystobal and his art can check out my Stardust Mysteries site at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The September 2009 Issue of Playboy Magazine Gets the Vintage Look

If you’re into finding retro goodies and don’t subscribe to Playboy Magazine, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of the September issue right away. Maybe it’s because of this season’s premier of Mad Men, or maybe it’s because they’re featuring a graphic novel version of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds; whatever the reasons, the already hip (and hep) kats and kittens at Playboy Magazine have returned to their Rat-Packing roots and gone retro for the issue.

It starts with the cover…unusually old-style typefaces seem out of whack yet ultra-hip next to the photo of a very dirty Heidi Montag. The promise of a previously unpublished work by Kurt Vonnegut adds to the vintage flair. Inside, the 50’s/60’s cool continues with a pictorial on Mid-Century Modern furniture, complete with pricing for the originals (ie, through the roof) and well-made knock-offs (ie, cheaper than half the price), plus some beautiful dolls to accent the furniture’s curves.

Then there’s the men's fashion section. This section, usually occupied by trendy-looking male models in $5000 wardrobes, kicks off with a vintage photo of Cary Grant, dressed to kill. The section is full of vintage pix of celebrities, including Jack Kennedy in a pair of Ray-Bans, and features tips on buying like-style threads in the modern world. (Here's the online version).

pb-guide-classic-styleThere are subtle retro hints throughout the magazine, from the more-classic-than-usual party jokes to the cartoons. But just when you least expect it, you get slammed in the face with Quentin Tarantino’s graphic novel version of Inglorious Basterds. Set in WW2, the panels look like they were hand drawn in 1943 and sealed in a time capsule. The colors, style, typefaces all scream 1940’s…or at least the way they would have done it in the 40’s with better printing technology and no censors.

I’m sure the art director would have loved to have the entire issue go retro, keeping the theme throughout. Last month they magazine even featured a new twist on the old Playboy Bachelor Pad, and there've been numerous spreads showcasing the magazine's covers and models of the last 50+ years over the last few months. Unfortunately advertisers can’t always accommodate a theme, and pictorials of the models are shot way in advance. They might consider coordinating an all-retro issue in the future, as a special limited edition issue. I’m sure it would be at home on Tiki Bars bachelor pad coffee tables all over the world.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vampire Killing Kit by Crystobal

Vampire Killing Kit by Crystobal

A long time ago I discovered a very strange, yet very talented artist. He went only by the name of Crystobal. Crystobal did a lot of set pieces for my Dinner Theater Company (Stardust Productions) back in the 90's, and although he's basically a recluse, I still keep in contact with him.

Crystobal is a "Gothic Artist". That means he creates really wacked-out stuff, gorey, bloody Halloween body parts, dead things, slanted crosses, and Vampire Killing Kits.

He got the idea years ago when he was visiting a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum in St. Augustine, Florida. They had an original, turn-of-the-century Vampire Killing Kit on display, and being the morbid SOB he is, he wanted one. When he found out how rare they were, and that the price tags flew into the thousands, he decided to make one himself.

Now, years later, under the request of friends and collectors, Crystobal makes one or two kits a year and sells them for the Halloween season. He just finished his latest kit, "Drucilla", and will be posting it for sale on eBay soon. He sent me some photos which I'll post here.

It's very groovy. He makes the kits to look like they were made 100+ years ago, including antiquing all the items. This kit, he says, is one of his most elaborate ever, and includes

• A combination flintlock pistol/dagger, in the shape of a cross (replica, of course)
• Six black wooden stakes
• A large black wooden cross
• Black Rosary Beads
• A vintage-style Holy Bible
• Leather satchels of gunpowder and silver balls (bullets) for the pistol
• Six vintage coffin nails
• Leather-clad box of vintage matches
• Antqued mirror
• Large black candle
• One bottle of garlic cloves
• One bottle of rock salt
• Two bottles of Holy Water
• Custom designed case

It's a great item for anyone who appreciates vampires, horror films and novels, or the occult in general. He's decided on a starting bid of $500. His kits have sold in the past to private collectors for as much as $3000, and have sold on eBay for as low as $150 for simpler, smaller kits. Anyone who would like more information can visit his web page on my Theater Site at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Wow, i just took a crazy, wild ride through "Misty" on the tenor sax. Sort of Coltrane meets Sonny Rollins style, way out there but landed back where it belongs. I don't usually play like that. Not sure how I did it this time but it felt good. Sometimes I just gotta let loose, let whatever's in me flow out like liquid melody. This time I hit it right on, right in the groove, took that horn somewhere way out in space and brought it back in for a 3-point landing. I wonder if I could ever do it again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Sax in the Night

Rich in the night he slays,
Dreaming, weeping.
Echoing riffs through artificial valleys and alleys
While torturing the living and the dead
With his soul.

Long sounds, blue tones bobbing on the moist city air,
Yesterday’s raindrops dancing with each.
A run; 30 notes fly, brass demons taking their shot out of hell.
No one notices.

Lone, lonely he stands, back pressed rough against the cool brick,
Beaten hat slid to the side and a pocket full of emptiness.
His road is at its end, down to his last reed and last rites.
Another fifty cents could get him a last drink, but that luxury is denied.

Sorrowful lament in D minor, sixteen off-tempo bars ’til the last ghost note sways.
His breath shallow, his fingers weak.
One last wail into the darkness.
Crescendo…sweet, high and red on black, his best ever,
Desperately reaching out to a million ears.
None will hear.
With the final high G, the reed splits.
And so does he.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Murder Mystery at the Mai Kai Fort Lauderdale

You can't go wrong when you mix the world's greatest Tiki Bar, Tropical Drinks, Florida weather and an old-fashioned who-dunnit murder mystery. That's what they're doing at the Mai Kai, this Friday, July 24. They don't have any info up on their site, so if you want to know more I posted it on my Tiki Talk site

I used to own a traveling murder mystery theater company, StarDust Productions. I met my wife when she auditioned for one of our shows. We traveled all over south Jersey, from Cape May to Atlantic City, doing retro-themed mysteries with live music and audicence interaction. For more on that, see

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tiki Time Travel

(Ok, I'm cheating. I published this on Tiki Lounge Talk first, but thought it fit well here)

July in South Florida can be many things. It can be cool and breezy, wet and rainy with the sun shining through the clouds, or hot and muggy like an old Tennessee Williams scene.

Tonight has Williams all over it. Heavy, humid air, hanging wet, scented of the rain forest. Heat lightning shining up the Eastern sky. The sounds of night creatures…frogs, crickets, night birds, cutting a swath through the thick night air.

Perfect night for a cocktail at the Tiki Bar.

The vintage bar is outside on the lanai, next to the pool. It’s damned hot out there, but a Crown and Ginger Ale fixes that quick (Surprising how refreshing that combo can be). I sit at the bar, contemplating the 50’s style designs I’ve painted on the bamboo backdrops. Paintings of exotic cocktails. Cartoon faces smiling with intoxication. Tropical flowers. Everything is lit with blacklight, helping to pull me back to a time forgotten by most, but not by me.

As I sip the drink and look over the vintage bottles and Tiki trinkets, I start to get that feeling…that feel, the one that tells you time no longer exists, it’s only in our minds, and our reality is what we decide it is. My reality races away from the present, and lands me somewhere in the middle of the last century. Les Baxter music plays softly, not from the CD player but from a 45 on a hidden jukebox. The bottles of Crown and Captain turn into Canadian Club and Seagram’s Seven. Even the air feels different…still muggy, but with a distinct hint of kool.

I take a sip of the drink, built just right with plenty of ice to keep me from melting. My eyes roll over the black velvet paintings of tropical islands and hula girls, and I get that buzzing in my head that tells me I’m floating back to another era, another existence. The jungle drums fill my eardrums and I sway with the sounds and the heat and the booze. Maybe that’s it, maybe this feeling is just too many highballs (or not enough). Whatever it is, I’m there, for that moment, I’ve transgressed time and landed in the glory days of cool jazz and Polynesian Pop, that magical time when calling a woman a doll was a compliment and Frank Sinatra was king of the universe. When a flashy car meant plenty of chrome and big white wall tires. When a buck-fifty could get you a decent steak and a Manhattan, and the really good movies were still being made in black and white.

Then I hear something, a buzzing like a sick chainsaw…a car on the street…it sounds like a souped-up lawnmower, some kid in a Civic who thinks he’s cool but has no idea how dorky he really is. Suddenly I’m ripped ahead in time again, thrown back to now, back to July 2009.

The Crown is sitting on the bar again, the CC gone. The air shifts back to normal. I finish the last few sips of my highball and head inside to type this riff on my iMac computer, already a “vintage” model at four years old. In the library, I’m surrounded by memories of the past…a 1955 Marilyn Monroe calendar, Original Glenn Miller and Martin Denny albums, old books, antique toy cars…but the computer and the TV and the cell phone tell me no matter how many times I feel that feeling, almost get back in time, I will always return to the present.

But it’s nice to know those times are only a cocktail away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The First Post

Well, here we go. Not sure why I'm doing this to myself, I already have my Tiki Lounge Talk blog site that takes up a lot of my time (but what the hell, it's fun). But here I go, writing a new blog.

Why? I'm hoping to 'attract like-minded readers' of course, just like everyone else. People who like to read about retro stuff, Tiki stuff, jazz music, horror movies, mystery novels and ghost stories (plus a lot more).

I promise to keep the posts short, and try to include as much useful info and links as possible.

So for the first post, I'd like to direct your attention to a site for writers and readers, . I've been a contributing writer there for several weeks now, and have found it to be a lot of fun. There are some talented people writing on there, and dig have to say it in 10 sentences or less. Flash Fiction they call it. Pretty groovy. Check it out, and look me up on there, I've written a few things you might like.