December 28, 2004

Ass-kicking Beer, Toys, Tunes, and Amazing Magic.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 4:50 pm

We’re back from a most enjoyable visit to the Casa Stardust Shrink. His huge, outrageously beautiful plain house near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, turned out to be a veritable treasure trove of art, antiques, and most decidedly offbeat decorative doodads.

For example, the dining room contains a magnificent marble bust of Michelangelo’s David that is sculpted from marble taken from the same quarry that was the source of the marble Michelangelo used to sculpt the original David. It must weigh 500-600 pounds. Hanging on the wall over the bust is a pair of old jeans, which, by the location of the large tear in the front, looked as if they might have been worn by a person who had the misfortune of having had an exploding sharona. I didn’t ask what the deal was with the jeans on the wall. Some things are better left shrouded in mystery.

We also got to meet the Stardust Daughter, a gracious, well-mannered, friendly, and attractive teen-ager, who served as the hostess, and who knew all the words to a bunch of Beatle songs and other songs of that vintage. I liked that.

Of course, we again assaulted hell out of our livers enjoyed a few drinks. The drink of choice for a few of us yesterday was beer, as yesterday The Usual Suspects’ signature Traveling Bar included a case of Anchor Steam Beer. If you are a Coors Lite drinker, you might not like Anchor Steam Beer, because you probably have become accustomed to drinking that watery stuff that is only good for a quick electrolyte replacement while mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. Anchor Steam is genuine beer.

Speaking of beer, one of Stardust’s friends, John the Beer Guy, was there, and while quaffing Anchor Steam together, he asked if I had ever tried Russian Imperial Stout, manufactured by the Stone Brewing Company in California. I confessed that I had not, so he promptly took a ride to his nearby house to fetch a bottle or two. The stuff is as black as dirty motor oil, and it is most excellent. We drank it at cellar temperature from large snifters. We definitely liked John the Beer Guy.

Knowing that the Usual Suspects are often easily amused, Stardust bestowed some Christmas gifties on us: an old-fashioned gyroscope, a 60th anniversary edition Slinky (a metal one), and a farookin’ ant farm! Of course, we immediately got to spinning hell out of the gyroscope and even managed to get it to spin on a piece of tautly held string. (An explanation of how gyroscopes work can be found here.) That was followed by a group trip to the stairs to watch the Slinky walk down the steps, something I haven’t seen in decades. (A brief history of the Slinky, a Pennsylvania product, can be found here.) As for the ant farm, it turns out that the company that sells the ant farm will mail you the ants as part of the purchase price of the ant farm. So far, we have not identified anyone who is anxious to have ants mailed to their home. However, we’ll continue to canvass the Usual Suspects to see if there might be a closet entomologist among us.

We transitioned from vintage toys to the modern variety when Stardust (definitely a toy guy himself) demonstrated a radio remote-controlled disc, with a propeller affixed to the bottom, that lights up, spins and zips around like a flying saucer. He and I ended up the evening outside in the freezing cold, without jackets, of course, for a bit of outdoor, night flying. (We were shitfaced fairly mellow by this time.) The damned thing soared to about a hundred feet, leading us to prematurely celebrate the joy of flight and thereby lose control of the widget, causing it to get stuck in a large pine tree, about fifty feet off the ground, where it currently remains. So much for celebrating the joy of flight.

Possibly the high point of the evening came when Stardust absolutely stupefied us with “close-up” magic. It turns out that he is a serious magician, who is a member of the Society of Magicians (I assume he knows the secret handshake), and who has read countless books on the subject and practices regularly. I sat eighteen inches from him as he did the following trick:

He placed a small wooden box (approximately the size of an ice cube) in front of him (we all verified that it was a small, empty box) and placed a piece of paper and a pen on top of the small box. He then asked Mrs. Parkway to sign her name to a playing card and give it to him. A bit of magician’s razzle-dazzle later he opened up the small box, and the card that she had signed was folded in quarters and was inside the box. Amazing!! I swore I never took my eyes off the box, but obviously I must have. Like all good magicians, he is a master at misdirection.

Of course, we did some tunes, which is always fun, and I even managed to remain vertical for the duration.

It was a great time.

Here’s the thing about the Stardust Shrink. He works hard, and he plays harder.

I like that.

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