Mountain in Reality


Last week we went on a trip to the mountains of Shenandoah Valley. I had booked us a cabin on top of a mountain, which sounded at once both rugged and quaint. Still, somehow I didn’t expect it that was literally on top of a mountain. What did I expect? Perhaps I expected a mountain in theory.

Mountain in reality was an hour-long roundtrip to civilizaton each time, in our hopefully-trusty hatchback Elantra that puttered like a toy car as it climbed those mountain roads. The wife wanted to know why didn’t I just book us a stay at the Days Inn with the free wifi. Why? Why? This cabin had a hot tub, a pool table, a spec’ed-out boombox from 1993, and decorative ceramic duck statues. That’s why.


Cabin in Theory had wifi, too. Even though they had told me on the phone it did not. I couldn’t really picture not having it, so I didn’t accept it. However, they did not lie. Cabin in Theory at least had promiximity to a cell phone tower so we could get 4G?

Nope. Well how about 3G?

Nope? How about basic cell phone service where you make calls?

Mountain Cabin in reality had a landline. I was certain an axe murderer would cut the line. Speaking of which, Cabin in Theory had locks on the windows. Mountain Cabin in Reality did not.

Wait, what? What the hell? Dude, we lived in Baltimore. How can you not have locks on the windows. We’re gonna freaking die. This deeply unsettled both the wife and I. Laugh at me all you want. I’ve seen movies and been to bad places on the Internet. I foraged the surrounding woods for a stick I could jam the bedroom window shut with, and we slept with the bedroom window jammed, the bedroom door locked, and one eye open.

(Cue the wife’s WHY DIDN’T WE STAY AT THE DAY’S INN again.)

There was also the paradox of Dog In Theory/Dog In Reality. Dog In Theory is good at traveling, likes trips, and would become at one with her inner wild beast in the mountains. Dog in Reality is a weirdo nervous wreck poodle who spent the entire trip spooked by the woods surrounding us.

Dog in Theory would save us from bears if needed. Dog in Reality promptly peed on the floor upon arrival.

Dog in Reality looks fierce in a poncho though.


At least my mountain snack game was tight. Let me break it down for you:

– 7 Layer Dip Combos
– Mini-donuts
– Oatmeal Creme Pies
– Mountain fudge
– Hot Fries (the wife claims they taste like cat food. Grounds for divorce.)
– Milano cookies
– Weird out-of-state chips that you can’t get back home (favorite part of traveling, possibly.)

Meanwhile I grade my mountain souvenir game as just alright. I had daydreams of finding some leather-tassled rabbit foot embedded in an amber geode, or something else badass like that.

However, since no such amazing object exists, I got this dinosaur spirit animal instead:


I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with figural mini spirit animals, but I put mine on display in the bathroom.

The Surfing Pizza Seven Years On, Interpretative Baking, and the Return of…


I’ve been blogging for seven years. Mostly I’ve written essays, reviewed snack cakes, and done science experiments. These days I’m trying to lay off the snack cakes, and it seems I’m doing the ultimate experiment in raising a small human. Although the experiment isn’t on him. It’s on me. Self-experiment. Parenthood is the ultimate self-experiment.

I’ve written a lot about childhood on this blog in the last seven years. I’ve written a lot about nostalgia. I love the filter lens of nostalgia. I also like those little filter lens effects on my phone. I like the colors. They remind me of something but I don’t know what it is. Nostalgia is that — the fleeting idea of something you can’t fully remember.

Seeing childhood again through my kid is without the lens. It’s great. It’s exhilarating and hilarious. It’s real life, the real deal, not just memories. And it’s also as monotonous as real life. It’s draining and dull at times, mindless and boring, watching the clock, waiting for the kid’s bedtime to come.

Other times it’s intense. Something as simple as going to the grocery store can be intense, which can take extraordinary tangential and sudden leaps into SUPER INTENSE, and then months later it’s just weird and hazy and what were we even thinking, like some drunk fight you used have with an ex in college. Whatever was so important and righteous and worth arguing passionately for that evening, whatever it was, is about as insane as going to the grocery store with a grabby, not-napped toddler.

And later in life you’ll learn not to drink so much.
And later in life you’ll learn that person wasn’t right for you.
And later in life you’ll learn not to leave the house before naptime.
And later in life you’ll learn not to eat so many snack cakes.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson by now about baking experiments. I have not. In fact, I invited it upon myself. I asked for cake suggestions and now I’m baking them. Here is the first in a series of Interpret Baking Posts:

I Bake The Surfing Pizza Logo.


A few years ago, the wife wanted an expensive Kitchenaid Mixer for Christmas. I had no idea what purpose this served, since obviously you can mix anything with the brute force of your arm for about four-hundred dollars cheaper. Well, I used it for the first time to make my cake, and now I know. In fact, I have no baking crime-scene photos to show you because the mixer made it so easy.


I went with a “Blue Velvet” cake mix because all delicious things in life are made of the color blue.


Bam. Frosted. What What. In previous years of baking disasters, if I hadn’t already started losing it, the frosting stage was totally where I’d begin showing cracks. But maybe I’ve finally grown up and learned patience, because I frosted this like a baller.


Also, I’ve learned that decorating tips are important on those little tubes of frosting. In previous artistic baking disasters, I’ve attempted to just decorate straight from the tube. But clearly I’d brought my A-game.

Alright, let the decorating begin.




Nailed it. Well, okay not really, but I feel genuinely proud of it, and the wife thought it was so good, she acted like I’d painted a replica of the Sistine Chapel. She really supports me. At seven years, The Surfing Pizza done grown up, by which I mean, made a cake without making the kitchen a Chernobyl-zone.

Now. Let’s talk about The Shoney’s Bear. Yes, the Shoney’s Bear. A long long time ago, I used to post a lot about the Shoney’s Bear, which is a stuffed animal of the Shoney’s Restaurant mascot. I used to pose the bear around the house and take pictures. It was sort of an inside joke that even I didn’t understand.

I think in the Shoney’s Bear’s last appearance on the blog six years ago, he “pooped” on things, including in the neighbor’s yard and on a picture of Billy Joel. My roommate at the time was a little embarrassed and all like, “you didn’t really put that bear in the neighbor’s yard did you” — and I sheepishly said no, even if I really did. That’s when I thought maybe the inside joke had gotten too weird.

Oh, the Shoney’s Bear had big future plans on the blog. I had created a personal email address for him (; write him, I imagined it could be like PostSecret) and even had him ordained a minister.


This is sort of the “Lost Blog” where the Reverend Shoney’s Bear (ordained on Friday the 13th!) was going to perform marriage ceremonies. (He’s available for your wedding!)

But yeah, maybe the inside joke got too weird…

Anyway, here is a picture of the Shoney’s Bear jumping naked out of the Surfing Pizza logo cake.


You’re welcome.

Happy 7th Birthday Surfing Pizza. Help Me Bake a Cake, Yo.


It’s my seventh year writing the Surfing Pizza. I used to bake weird cakes to commemorate my blog’s birthday, but I haven’t in the last year or two because baby.

But I wanted to bring the tradition back this year, except I have no idea what to do. So I’m asking you. I need ideas. I need weird ideas. You guys know my level of competence in the kitchen (zero) and my level of artistic ingenuity (zero but tries very very hard.) Someone give me an idea for a cake and I will “artistically interpret” it and bake the results.

I will interpret and bake all the cakes commented. Not all at once though. Maybe like one or two a month.

We’ll call this series “Interpretive Baking.”

Edit: Whoa, wow, people still read my blog even after I disappear for weeks at time these days. Okay, so, I’ve got ten cakes lined up to make. I’m going to attempt to make them at a rate of 2 per months, which is like a five month backlog now. So feel free to comment, but I may not make your cake until next year.

Still, I’m feeling inspired. Here are the 10 cakes I’m going to “creatively interpret” over the next five months (or more, or less.)

(The wife is all like “WHO IS GOING TO EAT THESE CAKES” as she grimaces in pain or horror – I’m not sure which.)

1. Blog logo cake (Surfing Pizza, duh, it will rule.)
2. Pizza cake (made of Pizza or cake? We shall see?)
3. Tye dye cake (what could go wrong.) (everything.)
4. Zombie Barbie Dress cake (This will involve BLOOD or red food dye.)
5. “different chips” cake (this one scares me the most)
6. Boardwalk cake (might have collectible wood pieces embedded)
7. Yard Sale cake (god only knows)
8. Random recipe from a comic strip cake (dark horse)
9. Monster cake (might be made from real monster)
10. Dragons. (That’s it. Just dragons.)

Great Now I’m Obsessed With Star Wars Card Trader


Twenty-four hours ago, I was normal. At least in the sense that I had never heard of something called “digital collecting,” and upon learning of it, I immediately and rightfully and condescendingly scoffed. THAT is not collecting. Collecting is stuff. Real stuff that fills the very real spaces in our house and the holes in our hearts. Collecting is not some stupid phone app that shows you pictures. That was twenty-four hours ago.

Then I learned about Star Wars Card Trader, an app by card-maker Topps, where you “collect” digital versions of trading cards. Still in scoff mode.

Then I read this article. How the Hell Is This JPG of Han Solo Worth $225?

Yes, like the link title says, someone paid $225 on eBay to have a particularly rare digital card show up in their app.

People actually pay real life money for these cards. Like in the cartoons, my eyeballs changed over to dollar signs. A fantastic get-rich-quick scheme revealed itself to me. I’d collect up these digital cards and sell them to losers on ebay.

I downloaded the app. That was twenty-four hours ago.

At first, my plan was going swimmingly. Each day the app gives you credits with which to exchange for card packs. You can also pay real money to get more credits. You collect base sets and chase inserts. My heart leapt when I got my first insert, and later again when I got a dupe insert. You can trade with others to get cards you don’t have.

By the end of the day, I had wheeled and dealed and traded, and I had two inserts worth a buck each on eBay. I learned it wasn’t going to be a get rich quick plan, but more of a long con.

Only problem is, I no longer wanted to sell them to losers. I had myself become a loser. I wanted them. No, I mean, like I WANTED THEM. And I want more.

I think of it more of a game than “collecting” — a game that involves aspects of collecting. It also has aspects of gamimg in that your collection gets a score, you have to strategically plan how to spend your credits if you want inserts, and you also have to be thoughtful in trades. Throw in the fact that these digital cards have real life monetary value, and you can see how this thing is like crack.

Download this game. I need friends on it. My username is SurfingPizza. And tell me your username so I can add you back! Don’t try explaining it to your significant other. Except that you will have to, because you’ll be begging them to open an account just so they can trade their allotted card packs each day to you. Or just go ahead and make an account for them on a spare phone if you aleady have their Facebook password. (Thanks, honey. Love you.)

I’m Not Dead, I’m Just Collecting Amiibos


Dude. Amiibos. WTF. What is their all-consuming powerful allure over me that has been slowly sucking away at my brain since the day they were released?

Scene: Last Christmas. Best Buy. The wife is buying me a gift. We had a five-month-old at the time, so gifts were this unromantic, I-just-want-to-feel-normal emotional/consumption response. I had my gift choice down between the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles Blu-Ray or an Amiibo and collector case.

I’m a sucker for a spiffy collector case. I’m pretty sure I just wanted the collector case more than the figure. But the wife grimaced, knowing if I got that case, I’d have an uncontrollable urge to FILL IT WITH ALL FIGURES.

Then I looked at my sweet little son and knew innately that now was not the right time in life to obsessively buy and hoard yet another collection of small plastic figurines. I knew these toys were evil.

It looked like this. Just like this. In my mind:


I chose the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles movie. You know, Ninja Turtles. An old friend. A trusty standby.

That movie. I’m never, ever mentioning it again on this blog. The baby woke up fussing about 3/4 of the way through and we never finished watching it. I can only hope it ended with a livid fire that killed the bastardized Turtles and then somehow caused the Blu-ray itself to also explode into flames.

Still, the Amiibo thing haunted me. It slowly ate away at me. The little figures whispered in my ear “Buy me! Buy us! Want us!” in scary high-pitched voices from afar.

Skip ahead to scene: Last week, when Nintendo announced a pre-order for a pack of Amiibos I could absolutely not resist any longer:


The Retro 3-Pack. I NEED a mini-ROB the Robot in my life. I also need his Japanese Famicom counterpart version.


And while I’m at it, I also need Little Mac, Sonic, Silver Mario, Gold Mario, Bowser, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Diddy Kong, all of whom I bought in swift order in about 48 hours.

Aaaand I’m still going to need Wii Fit Trainer, Fox, Pit, Samus, Kirby, and Toon Link.

And like five more that are coming out next month. Then that will be it. Maybe. Except for a spiffy collector case, of course.

The wife? Let’s just say that she loves me.

The son? Let’s just say he’s happy as long as he can smear mannicotti all over the curtains.