Ice Castles: The Worst $55 Mistake I’ve Ever Made as a Parent

If I could build a time machine, the first thing I would do after killing Baby Hitler would be to go to Ice Castles New Hampshire in mid-January 2016 instead of yesterday. This way I could have warned the world to stay far, far away from this ridiculously overhyped, money-sucking tourist trap.

Today is the last day Ice Castles is open this winter. If you already bought tickets, here’s some advice: Find your nearest Target or Wal-Mart and stare at the mounds of snow that the plows piled up in the parking lot. They are far more impressive.

Here’s what I thought I was bringing my family of four to see based on the Ice Castles website:

Bait-and-Switch: The glorious advertised image of the New Hampshire Ice Castles (source: Icecastles.com/lincoln/)

Bait-and-Switch: The glorious advertised image of the New Hampshire Ice Castles (source: Icecastles.com/lincoln/)

And here’s what greeted us when we got there, a really wide but not-so-tall snow fort:

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Backing up, here is the view from the parking lot:

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This place was the ultimate letdown. Based on the admission fees ($15.95 online, $20 at the door), I was expecting a Disney-quality attraction – not something the guys at my local DPW could slap together with a bulldozer and a ski resort snow machine.

I was probably naive to begin with, but I was hoping to bring my family to a smaller version of the Ice Hotel in Sweden or a scaled-down Superman Fortress of Solitude.

The snow sculpture below is funky for sure, but charging $55 for my whole family to see it just felt criminal.

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Probably would have been better off going to Dartmouth College’s annual Winter Carnival, or to the local Sheraton’s Sunday brunch, which features some awesome ice sculptures by the salad bar.

What do you do when you feel ripped off and are surrounded by signs reminding you there are no refunds under any circumstances? Well, all you can do is laugh and go enjoy the surrounding White Mountains and gorgeous Kancamagus Highway scenic drive. At least we didn’t waste the gas to get there.

I’ll be updating this blog post with more pics and observations when I get a chance, but for now, I’ll leave you with this classic image from the Ice Castles ticket lobby. They rented out the classy Hobo Railroad for their seasonal attraction.

Making fun of homeless people just puts the icing — get it, ICING? — on the cake for the nauseous feeling I had leaving here. Needless to say, I won’t be back.

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Filed under Biggest Tourist Ripoff, Uncategorized

What Does a Bad News Bear Say to an Overweight Panda?

Engelberg-Sandoval-Cards

On the 40th anniversary of “The Bad News Bears,” I tracked down once-chubby catcher Mike Engelberg for his observations on the “Fat Panda” controversy with overweight Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval.

You can read my interview at The Hall of Very Good baseball blog.

In the classic movie, Engelberg got melted chocolate all over his uniform and the ball. 12-year-old actor Gary Cavagnaro wound up losing 70 pounds and gave up his movie career. The producers didn’t think a skinny catcher would be “funny” in the sequel.

Cavagnaro, now a 52-year-old sales manager for a multinational electronics company (we all have to grow up), is a fascinating guy!

P.S. I recently defended the besieged Sandoval in a WBUR column, “We Are All Fat Panda.”

P.P.S. The awesome 1977 Mike Engelberg baseball card at the top of this post was designed by the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.

 

 

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Filed under Bad News Bears, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports, Sports Psychology

Completing My Goofy Election Trilogy: ‘Dinosaur Primary’ Joins Prequels About Babies and Superheroes

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was one of many 2016 presidential candidates to participate in the "Dinosaur Primary," my ambitious quest to photograph the next President of the United States with my favorite childhood cartoon. Sadly, Sen. Rubio did not recognize Dino Flintstone.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was one of many 2016 presidential candidates to participate in the “Dinosaur Primary,” my ambitious quest to photograph the next President of the United States with my favorite childhood cartoon. Sadly, Sen. Rubio did not recognize Dino Flintstone.

After reading today’s “Dinosaur Primary” photo essay in The Atlantic, longtime friends will immediately recognize a pattern.

During the 2012 New Hampshire Primary, I chronicled my then 9-year-old son’s “Superhero Primary.” He asked all the candidates if they could be any superhero in the world, which one would they be and why.

During the 2012 Superhero Primary, Ari Garnick discussed the perils of kryptonite and the 9-9-9 economic plan with Republican Herman Cain.

During the 2012 Superhero Primary, Ari Garnick discussed the perils of kryptonite and the 9-9-9 economic plan with Republican Herman Cain.

During the 2008 New Hampshire Primary, I photographed my then 5-month-old daughter with candidates for the “Baby Primary.” Many people commented that they could tell a lot about each White House hopeful’s personality by how they held a baby.

Hillary Clinton participates in Dahlia Garnick's 2008 "Baby Primary."

Hillary Clinton participates in Dahlia Garnick’s 2008 “Baby Primary.”

So why have I abandoned my kids in favor of a lifeless stuffed animal this time around? Simple. I still try to broaden my kids’ horizons with new experiences – but Dino is far more patient when it comes to listening to speeches about social security reform.

And as you can see from the above mix of pics (remember Herman Cain?!), these photo projects are all bipartisan and apolitical.

 

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Filed under Election 2008, Election 2012, Election 2016, New Hampshire Primary, politics

Diner Replaces Plaque For Disgraced Politician John Edwards With… RuPaul

The Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH, is one of the most popular stops for presidential candidates.

The Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH, is one of the most popular stops for presidential candidates during the New Hampshire Primary.

My fascination with the New Hampshire Primary began 24 years ago after chasing Vice President Dan Quayle around the Food Court at the Pheasant Lane Mall.

Six primaries later, I’ve been trailing presidential candidates around more upscale restaurants and diners (classier than the Food Court) for New Hampshire Magazine.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit that didn’t make the final edit.

The Red Arrow Diner, a popular haunt of local celebs like Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman, honors its most famous customers with commemorative plaques screwed to the booths and countertops. You can plop your rear end on the same barstool as the Bare Naked Ladies or Rudy Giuliani!

But now, fans of former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards no longer have a shrine to worship. When the Red Arrow ripped up its countertops during its fall 2015 renovations, the Edwards plaque mysteriously disappeared.

Might it have something to do with Edwards cheating on his wife Elizabeth while she had cancer and then illegally using political donations to pay off his mistress?

I bet all the “Bill Cosby Sat Here” plaques around the country are also disappearing.

One of the new breakfast counter plaques is dedicated to RuPaul, the gender-bending singer and reality TV star, who ran for president in 2012 as a skit on his show. The entertainer showed up as his male persona and gleefully reminded diners that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wore wigs.

Red Arrow waitress Elaine Boule embraces entertainer RuPaul during the 2012 election. Boule, who's met several Presidents at the diner, says RuPaul has been her favorite visitor by far. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Boule)

Red Arrow waitress Elaine Boule embraces entertainer RuPaul during the 2012 election. Boule, who’s met several Presidents at the diner, says RuPaul has been her favorite visitor by far. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Boule)

Donald Trump recently had an unpleasant experience at the Red Arrow, where a heckler yelled “Enjoy your burger, racist!”

I wonder if he’ll get a plaque?

Can’t get enough diner talk? Listen in on this AMAZING diner conversation with me and NHPR’s Virginia Prescott, host of “Word of Mouth.”

 

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Filed under Election 2016, New Hampshire Magazine, New Hampshire Primary

Why Can’t I Be President?

In 1996, longshot presidential candidate Caroline Killeen mocked President Bill Clinton for saying he once tried marijuana, but didn't breathe in the smoke.

In 1996, longshot presidential candidate Caroline Killeen mocked President Bill Clinton for saying he once tried marijuana, but didn’t breathe in the smoke.

It’s been 20 years (!) since filmmaker Al Ward and I met Caroline Killeen, a.k.a. the “Hemp Lady,” at her presidential campaign headquarters – a homeless shelter in Manchester, NH. Following the lonely ex-nun through the slushy streets on the day before Christmas, we shot the first scenes of our first documentary, “Why Can’t I Be President?”

I celebrate Killeen’s legacy – and reveal what happened to her – in today’s Boston Globe, as part of their fantastic “Primary Memories” series.

Produced for PBS stations, “Why Can’t I Be President?” highlighted the quirkiest feature of the New Hampshire Primary – that ANY American (age 35 and up) who pays $1,000 can run for President.

In most other states, who gets on the ballot is determined by the political parties, the Secretary of State or by gathering tens of thousands of signatures of registered voters (which requires a huge organization and lots of money.) In New Hampshire, the dream is yours – a permanent place in history – for a thousand bucks.

Some “fringe” candidates, like the Hemp Lady, devote their candidacy (and resulting media attention) to a serious cause. Some use their candidacy as a resume line to sell books and get higher rates on the speaking circuit. And some are just simply crazy, like your local Town Meeting crank – but with a much bigger megaphone.

It’s fascinating to consider how the term “fringe” has evolved since then.

In 1996, it meant longshot single-issue candidates such as the Hemp Lady and Georgiana Doerschuck, a New York grandmother who railed against the “tyranny” of the Computer Age. In the oversaturated 2016 race, marginalized candidates desperate for attention now include current U.S. governors and senators.

Look at how many “mainstream” accomplished politicians are being delegated to the “Little Kids’ Table” debate whenever the Republicans join the ongoing Donald Trump Show on TV.

In the spirit of the New Hampshire Primary, we’re looking for partners to do a special 20th anniversary screening of “Why Can’t I Be President?” with a Q&A panel to follow. Stay tuned to this space for future announcements – and in the meantime, here are a few teaser clips.

Would any of these candidates get your vote?

Caroline Killeen, a.k.a. “The Hemp Lady”

An ex-nun from Arizona who fought for marijuana legalization 20 years before the cause became ho-hum.

 

Michael Levinson – The Poet Prophet

Self-declared prophet from Buffalo who claims to be a 20th Century Nostradamus. Levinson also pioneered the campaign technique of pumping gas for prospective voters at self-service stations. Whether they wanted help or not.

Georgiana Doerschuck – The Anti-Computer Candidate

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Filed under Election 1996, New Hampshire Primary, Why Can't I Be President?

Thanks for Giving the Troops Cavities :)

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Halloween candy donations from family, friends and co-workers.

Special thanks to everyone – especially my awesome and generous co-workers – for giving up their sugary treats to share with U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere this holiday season.

My office colleagues donated 42 pounds (!) of Halloween candy based on just one internal email – and the manager of my local CVS kindly sold me 30 pounds of M&Ms at a buck a pound, about 75 percent off their list price.

Here’s a scene from this past weekend of jamming hundreds of USPS boxes with goodies:

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Sorting holiday packages at the New Hampshire National Guard Armory.

According to Operation Care For Troops NH, we shipped out exactly 4,751 Christmas stockings stuffed with treats and cards.

Maybe this could become an annual post-Halloween tradition… If you’re interested in helping out with the Valentine’s Day packing event, follow the Operation Care Facebook page.

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Send a U.S. Soldier a Snickers!

Halloween Candy for the Troops

WANTED: YOUR SURPLUS HALLOWEEN CANDY! — If you’re in New Hampshire, I’m collecting “extra” candy this week for Operation Care For Troops, a group that sends care packages to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m headed to Target and CVS tomorrow to get bundles of half-price candy — if anyone wants to help, please message me.

Many times I hear that empty phrase “Thank you for your service,” said to U.S. soldiers. I think it’s better to send them Snickers.

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