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Book Review: “Totch - - A Life in the Everglades”
 by William Moriaty

"Super Size Me"
 by Mike Smith

Spider-Man 2 Review
 by Andy Lalino

Bright House DVR vs. TIVO....The Grandfathers of Goth....TV Notes....Spider-Man 2 Review
 by Vinnie Blesi

Free Comic Day
 by Brandon Jones

It's A Bash Dude!....Bush Speak
 by Matt Drinnenberg

This Week's Issue....The Greatest Ever....Get Well....Now The Song Makes Sense....Movie Notes....Screen To Stage....Meet The Beatles, Part 24
 by Mike Smith

Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
    Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fifth calendar year!
    Number 224  (Vol. 5, No. 28). This edition is for the week of July 5--11, 2004.

FL Road Trip

Tampa to Jacksonville and all points in-between

OK, well, not really all points in-between, but a heck of a lot of them.

I never ever get away from home anymore because of a workload and correspondence that backs up mercilessly in my absence. Also, I really don't have a lot of money to travel, shocking as that may be to a lot of you. Not such a bad life, mind you, here is actually where I prefer to be most of the time, but it means I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to go just about anywhere. (Never mind I don't have a car, which amplifies that situation.)

At the behest of valued and frequent PCR contributor ED Tucker, I was persuaded to force myself to unshackle from the computer and travel up to Jacksonville to partake in his particular over-the-top brand of Independence Day weekend activities, and frankly, just get away for a couple days. The work would most certainly still be here when I got back. It would just have to run a little more behind just this once. (Apologies to all whom this affects.)

At my behest, William Moriaty was drafted (kicking and screaming) to be my driver/traveling companion. Will and I have never traveled far before, but it was a risk we had to take. To make the trip even more interesting, and divert attention from ringing each other's necks, we'd go through Old Canova country where some locations and I have some family ties; places I'd heard about, but never visited. Until now. Unfortunately, due to weak planning on my part, these were the least successful stages of the trip--I simply hadn't done enough howework. But more on that as our story unfolds.

After getting a late start (story of my life), we visited a local car wash and hit the road officially at 10:45am Sunday morning, July 4th. I-75 Northbound was the obvious choice from Tampa, but there was an important slight detour I was determined to make once we got near Gainesville. Somewhere south of there Will deftly changed over to Highway 301.

My father grew up in several small North Florida towns, all huddled close to Gainesville, such as Hawthorne, Starke, and Waldo. The one town's name that stuck the very most with my brother and myself are stories concerning Campville, FL, a pin-point on the map, hard to see even with a magnifying glass. Even today, the population couldn't be more than a few hundred to maybe a thousand. It is where he spent the majority of his formative years. It is, quite literally, less than a half-minute drive though "town".

Will alerted me when we were getting close (Will knows this whole state like the back of his hand, damn near), and to be on the lookout, because it would fly by real fast. I'd always heard from the family "oh there's only about 4 houses left, one of 'ems ours", so I was expecting 4 houses in a row, lined up on the same side of 301. In actuality, it was more like here's a house, wait a quarter-mile, here's another house, wait a quarter-mile, look way over on the other side of 301, there's a couple more.
Through Will's car window I see the likelier location of the house in question--on the other side of the southbound lane of 301! The arrows pick out two possibilities.
Woops, not part of the plan. I realized even if I got a group shot, I still wouldn't know exactly which house was his. But Will felt strongly, as did I, that the group of old homes on the other side of the railroad tracks (how appropriate) near 301 would have to be the settlement in question.
My hand braces the car window as I lean out to get a snap of the official marker for Campville on the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 301
Unfortunately, we didn't find a turn-off lane in time, and frankly I was disappointed in myself for not ever knowing the address. A close-up of strange old houses would have to be indentified in the future by relatives who are already hard to see. I contented myself with the idea I'd gotten even that close.

Camp Blanding
Somewhere around Starke we turned onto SR 16 which would take us eastward into some more colorful country. We passed Camp Blanding where (I believe I remember) my father reported for military service during WWII. Camp Blanding is a surprisingly big stretch of land, as ten minutes later Will informs me it's still passing by on our right!

Munchkin Land
Clear of the military installation we passed through Penny Farms where, as ED tells it, the midget who played the coroner in The Wizard of Oz lives!

What's ZAAT?
The rest of the trip put us through a series of small towns that decades ago played host to a small, low-budget film called "ZAAT" (rhymes with bat), sometimes known as The Bloodwaters of Dr. Z. Most notably, these were Greencove Springs (known in the movie as Cyprus Cove), Switzerland, Orangedale, Tivoli, and Fruit Cove. The significance of ZAAT will become more obvious in a bit.

The Clay Theater
While passing through Greencove Springs, ED mentioned we'd see an "impressive old theater up the road a bit". Oh it was impressive alright! Will and I nearly fishtailed getting a shot of this place, The Clay Theater. It's not even on the main road, just off it a bit, like slighly hidden. Way cool.

Mandarin, FL
OK, so we near Ed's house, and turn into the wrong driveway for starters, but we find it. Altho we generically refer to his location as "Jacksonville", he actually lives in Mandarin, a quiet, tree-lined suburb on the southernmost tip of the county. It won't be quiet for long.

ED and Cindy Tucker stand in front of a Jungle Book poster in their living room. William and I were welcome and comfortable guests in their home for two days.
We're greeted royally by the Tuckers and met Ed's wife Cindy for the first time--what a great lady. A sweet-natured, unassuming, quiet, charming woman; a very good match for the boisterous Ed! LOL!

The Stuff
Fanboys that we are, down to business we go. We're led into THE DEN...every fanboy, married or not has one of these, even if it's not called that. In THE DEN I saw more 16mm film reels than I have ever seen in one place I think. Ed is a big collector of these, which works well for his occasional "Ed's Drive-In Weekend" shows where he exhibits these films on a giant screen in his back yard. What else did you expect?

We sit and trade war stories in the den and engage in the inevitable game of trivial pursuit--verbal style, we don't need no stinkin' cards. Ed brings out some more collectibles like Viewmaster reels and old Florida pamphlets (Will's gassed at these), while a large Batman model looks on. Posters of cheesy movies adorn the walls and impressive 16mm and Super-8 projectors are scattered everywhere.

The Jupiter 2 has landed on a small end table next to a larger display case. Note the figures inside the top deck!
Out in the living/dining room area I am attracted to a couple of knick-knack cases (according to Ed, Cindy is the one who ensures tasteful decor in the main house so the fanboy ambience doesn't get out of control--good work, Cindy!). I enjoy a small model of the Jupiter 2 from Lost In Space and an aqua-colored rubber head mask from the low-budget movie, Ted Mikels' "Mark of the Astro Zombies".

Click on this image of the larger display case and see how many collectibles you can identify. Major points for the movie prop head on the top shelf. Answer displayed here later in the week.

The Fireworks
Some snacks were put out and guests started arriving around 6:00pm. A mix of familiar faces (Byron, Pat, and Donovan), and unfamiliar ones (Ed's college buddy and his family, I think) filed into the food line. Out back, William played the room as only he can with stories of old Florida, easily trampling trivia tests on same. Around 7:00pm I had to take a nap--I'm an old man and I need my rest.

The fireworks display began in earnest around 9:00pm. I was roused from slumber and jostled out front for a very hands-on 4th of July celebration!

Ed and his neighbors sort of do this together out in the middle of the street. Either one would be a firey tour-de-force, but having joined forces it was almost comical in its excess (again, what else was I expecting?). I now regret the decision not to take any photographs (or movies) as I just didn't think they'd expose worth a damn--but now I think I should've at least tried. It was awesome. Only injuries to yours truly was a burnt thumb when a couple fuses bit me, and a bruised ego when a rocket-shaped doo-dad launched horizontally instead of vertically when I tipped it over accidentally. I sat out the rest of it, pretty much.

About an hour later, with our eardrums ringing, with the smoke so thick you couldn't see across the street, and the street itself covered in spent fireworks and paper debris, the show was over. But man, what a show. Vigorous conversation was sustained until nearly midnight when guests finally started leaving. Ed and Will sounded like they were game for more, but I called it a day. I went to sleep in the guest room so quickly I don't even remember the lights being turned out.

Monday, Dr. Paul Bearer, and ZAAT
The big movie screen in Ed's back yard.
Surprisingly, I was the first one up Monday morning around 8:30am. Ed roused 'round 8:50, followed by William about 9:00. After a brief discussion about breakfast, ED played some tapes from his impressive Dr. Paul Bearer/Creature Feature collection, including two very notables: The one with yours truly and the good Dr. conversing with Ed at the 1991 Necronomicon (Will's first exposure to this), and even more mind-numbingly: the actual videotape of the Lost Interview of Dr. Paul Bearer!! I keep forgetting that was transcribed from a video not an audio tape. Try to imagine how stupified William and I are sitting there watching Dick Bennick sitting in his easy chair (in shorts, no less), casually talking to Ed (who's offscreen) about his career. Yes, that's right, a locked-off camera, focused on Dick Bennick in 1991, using his "normal" voice (it's not like the Dr.'s but it's still pretty deep) for two hours! And it's crystal-clear, excellent video.

OK, now here's the punchline with ZAAT. Ed's been in communication with the producer/director Don Barton for years, has actually acquired the rights to ZAAT and is, in fact, marketing restored copies (click here: http://www.zaat2000.com). ED first showed us how it looked on a Lightning Video version hosted by Elvira entitled "Attack of The Swamp Creature" (that is from Lightening Video's---a subsidiary of the defunct Vestron Video---Thriller Collection. In an earlier edition of PCR I confused this as being from her regular broadcast program, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, but this was not the case). Another oft-used title is "The Bloodwaters of Dr. Z". The opening "documentary" sequence and director's name is altered (to Arnold Stevens) in some versions. Ed relayed an amusing anecdote (well, amusing now) of how Mystery Science Theater 3000 did a send-up of ZAAT, but was unauthorized to use the movie. Ed had his first experience sending out a cease-and-desist; MST3K pulled the episode.

Yours truly on the left with the taller Ed Tucker for a sense of scale. The aspect ratio of the screen is 4:3 as God intended it.
Ed presented William and myself with some gifts (and to think we didn't bring him anything, my god we suck). We got posters of ZAAT and Dr. Paul Bearer and some cool original props from Creature Feature. Very nice.

It was time for lunch and the trip home. Ed has been talking about Clark's Fish Camp for nearly the whole time I've known him and we were finally going to visit!

Oh no.....we got there only to discover---closed for the holiday!! Horrified, Ed and Cindy scrambled for Plan B: The Outback Crab Shack of St. Augustine. This was a most equitable solution as the Shack had excellent seafood and put us more than halfway to our next destination: St. Augustine. We departed Ed, Cindy, and the Crab Shack just past 3:30pm, planning another go-'round for next year.

The last time I was in Jacksonville was nearly 30 years ago, when an uncle brought me up there in the hopes of finding employment. My memories of that week are not great. The trip to Ed Tucker's went a lot better and Jax feels much closer now.

St. Augustine
The closest I'd ever been to St. Augustine was the bus trip back 30 years ago, basically side-swiping it. Of the deep family ties I have to North Florida, arguably the deepest are to St. Augustine where the first members of the Canova family from Minorca literally "got off the boat" nearly 500 years ago. Currently our family reunions are held there, but I've never been able to make any of 'em. This was going to be a rare opportunity to quickly see a few landmarks, and more importantly, the much-ballyhooed "Canova house"---a house of great personal significance in the main Village section of historic St. Augustine. A house our family owned and rented to a family member of Napoleon Bonaparte(!) for some time in the 19th century.

UUUuuuuuunfortunately there are no signs as to exactly where the house is and the souvenir maps are not marked as such. If not for William doing a little research on Ed's computer we wouldn't have made it this far, so we pressed on. St. Augustine is certainly a beautiful sea-side town, the oldest town in America, living history, and it's pretty natural to be awed. It's too bad we were rushed for time and didn't know where to go for specific information. The only thing we knew for sure was that the Canova House was on Bridge St.... But where on Bridge St.? Were there no plaques? Is this a delusion of the family and it's really no big deal at all?

Yep! We were there! Pic from the internet: The Canova House looking eastward from Bridge Street in the historic village, St. Augustine
"Visitor Information" was not very informative at several places we tried, and every place else that might have had a clue were closed for the day or closed for the holiday. But to be within yards, feet...maybe inches?..of the landmark and not be sure is intensely frustrating. That no one we asked had the first clue as to what we were talking about was humbling in the least. About this time Will confessed that there was a picture of the house on the website he could've printed out but didn't (trying to save on Ed's ink, the directions seemed more important). Now, of course, he was kicking himself.

After more than an hour of fruitless hunting, we were forced to content ourselves that we saw something somewhere, pulled up stakes and headed for home. Note: after consulting later with my brother, it appears the Canova House goes by a few other names, likely currently The Marrat House after Prince Marrat (Napoleon's nephew?).

Taking a detour off I-95, Will decided to cut over to I-4 via SR 11 considerably north of Daytona Beach--the best decision he could've made as it is a beautiful and desolate stretch of road all the way to DeLand (main home of Stetson University). From DeLand we took I-4 all the way home. William narrated much of the trip to Jax and back with Florida history, tree indentifications, stories of plantings, and personal history. He will no doubt elaborate on that in La Floridiana. But let me tell you this: I know much of Florida is notorious for always being "under construction", particularly the roadways. But I have never....never...seen such a constant stream of dirt piles, half-built overpasses, and Bob's Barricades at so many locations in my life!!! I wonder when...or if...it will all end.

We pulled into my driveway at 9:20pm, Monday night. I made some necessary calls and passed out. I'm still a little woozy!

To readers and staff alike: This trip and this article was a major expenditure for me and it's a rare indulgence---please forgive everything else running behind for this week!! ---Nolan

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"Mike's Rant" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2004 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino    "Splash Page" is ©2004 by Brandon Jones    "Couch Potato Confessions" is © 2004 by Vinnie Blesi      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova    
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