My friend Alex and I went to Hartford, CT for a concert. A concert by a really cool indie band that’s so cool you haven’t even heard of them yet.
Just kidding, it was a Miley Cyrus concert. Respect.
Anywho, while in Connecticut we stayed at a cozy little bed and breakfast in Old Saybrook, in the area that inspired Amy Sherman-Palladino’s amazing town of Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls.”
Yeah, I’m a nerd like that. I even have a Stars Hollow sweatshirt. (I know you’re jealous of that.) We were about equidistant from Hartford, where the concert was, and Mystic, Stonington, Essex, etc — all the cute seaside towns I wanted to check out. Might as well make a weekend of it, right? It became quite clear once we arrived that we were the only pair who’d ever stayed in our room that wasn’t on a honeymoon or romantic getaway. Awkwaaard. Well it wouldn’t have really been awkward, actually, had it not been for the fact that the shower/bathtub was right in the middle of the room. Not in the bathroom, or anything. No divider, no privacy other than the shower curtain. It was… interesting. We became pros at averting our eyes. I mean, this would only happen to us. All in all the B&B was very cute and cozy. Just not really made for pals who lust after Zac Efron (me) and Clay Aiken (Alex) and not each other. I’m just warning you. Although, if you need a good laugh you should read the guest book next to your bed. Some of the entries are hilarious. One of the ones I read was just, “my husband and I went for a drive and then had some good sex.” Really? Thanks for sharing. I hope they wash the sheets. Especially because the original writer misspelled half of the words and I really don’t want his or her essence anywhere near me. MOVING ON… we got to visit some of the cute little towns nearby that are very picturesque. The real Stars Hollow is on a Warner Brothers backlot but you can definitely see how this area inspired Ms. Sherman-Palladino to create Stars Hollow. (I really wish I lived in Stars Hollow. You don’t even know. Luke would have a restraining order against me by now.) Since it was fall, the leaves were changing colors and everything looked so pretty and New England-y and charming. All perfect little houses and cute inns and local stores and restaurants. I’d highly recommend spending a weekend there in October or November.
Aside from just taking in the natural loveliness, I wanted to swing by Mystic Pizza, the pizza joint that inspired the 1988 classic coming-of-age story starring a then barely known Julia Roberts. I knew that the real place was still standing – and really is famous for their amazing pizza – so, being the movie junkie that I am, it seemed like a logical stop to make on the trip. The day after venturing to the Mohegan Sun casino so Alex could get some Krispy Kreme and seeing Miley in concert (seriously – great show, I don’t care that I’m 24) we checked out of our B&B (sayonara, shower spectacle!) and headed to Mystic to experience a famous “slice of heaven.” Besides my natural zest for pizza (I mean really, it’s pretty hard to screw up pizza) I was excited to be in a pizza place where, not only was there a movie filmed, but they were falling all over themselves to prove that there was a movie filmed there. The walls were covered with movie memorabilia, and the film “Mystic Pizza” was playing on a loop on TV screens all over the dining room. There were newspaper clippings, signed photos, memorabilia, etc. all over the walls. I was like in movie tourist heaven. Here was one filming location where I did not feel like an ass for taking pictures and buying souvenirs — it’s specifically set up for you to do those things. Tourist shame be damned, put yourself out there! I myself got away with a full stomach, some dorky snapshots, and a bag full of souvenirs. Their takeout area has bumper stickers, magnets, buttons, keychains, pizza cutters, bottle openers, shot glasses, t-shirts, aprons; you name it, they’ve probably thought of it and slapped their name and slogan on it. They even have one of those souvenir penny machines that you can throw away 51 cents on. Touristy? Yes. Delightful? Also yes. A must-visit if you’re a movie buff, pizza fun, and in Connecticut.
How many times have you wanted to say something and didn’t? Like tell someone you love them? What if it was the last night you might ever see them? I Love You, Beth Cooper begins with its nerd protagonist Dennis (Paul Rust) declaring his love for popular cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) – to whom he’s never spoken before – in his valedictory speech at their high school graduation. In the process he also manages to call out her creepy, older, Army-guy boyfriend, who is apparently also something of a homicidal maniac. This sets off an evening-long chain of events in which Dennis and his best friend Rich, who may or may not be gay, are along for whirlwind ride with Beth and her two best friends as they flee from Beth’s boyfriend, score beer, jam out to Alice Cooper, nearly wreck Dennis’ parents’ car, crash a graduation party, sneak into their high school, and experiment with each other at a lakeside cabin.
All in all, it’s a pretty fun ride. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s also not strictly a formulaic teen rom-com. It avoids some cliches and sticks pretty close to the book it’s based on. The real shining star is Jack Carpenter, who plays Dennis’ nerdy and possibly gay best friend Rich, who is the catalyst for many of the films laughs. (You may remember Carpenter’s geeky charms from the 2007 Amanda Bynes vehicle Sydney White, in which he played Lenny, the dork who was allergic to absolutely everything. That’s where I first got a crush on him!) Alan Ruck, who played Cameron in John Hughes’ seminal teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, also graces the film with his charms; he plays Dennis dad. And he’s still sexy!
I didn’t love the film, but I liked it enough to get past its flaws (some slow parts, some tryng-too-hard elements) and embrace the good things. Overall, if you can just take Beth Cooper for what it is, a cast of likeable characters in wacky situations makes this comedy-fluff movie worth a night at the theater with your friends.
You may think that being a 24-year-old who loves High School Musical is nothing to brag about. I agree with you. But at least I’ll admit it.
So you can imagine my joy at visiting the real East High School from the musical trilogy while passing through Salt Lake City, UT on a cross-country road trip. Craig and I were obviously going to creep by the school no matter what, but we really wanted to go inside, specifically into the cafeteria or the auditorium, where major scenes take place. I did some snooping online and found out that there was an art show at noon during our full day in SLC. Stoked! The plan was to “check out the art show” but really to get a peek at the cafeteria that housed some of HSM’s biggest musical numbers, like “Stick to the Status Quo”, “What Time Is It?”, and “I Want It All”.
The next day we decided to check out Hogle Zoo in the morning.
It was a cute little zoo, and after we tired of looking at animals (including two bears that kept fighting and an exceptionally flatulent camel) we got some food at the Beastro (I love puns!) and I called East High to see what the deal was about the art show. The woman in the main office told me it was open to the public and that we could just walk in go straight to the cafeteria to check it out. We were stoked – it was a perfect set-up for us.
We took a cab to East High and it looked exactly like it does in the movies. Not gonna lie, we got a few butterflies as we approached it. It even had a banner that said “East High: Where Amazing Happens.” True story.
As planned, we walked right into the building and were directed to the cafeteria. In a stroke of luck, we arrived right at the end of the lunch period so not only did we blend in with all the students walking around, but once they cleared we had the cafeteria almost all to ourselves. It was kind of surreal being in there, and especially seeing it used as an actual cafeteria. (It’s still got that HSM magic, though.) Have you ever seen or heard about something so much that it’s emblazoned in your brain, as if it’s your own memory? That’s kind of how I felt in the cafeteria.
After we’d poked around enough, we went back out front and snapped a few more pictures of us in front of EHS as well as a few more scenic shots.
Today I spent seven hours at Wilmington International Airport and another four on a plane flying to Portland, ME. Why, you ask? Because I could.
Tessie got up and left around 4:00am, and I slept restlessly til 7, when I got up, showered, ate breakfast, did all my final packing business, and reluctantly checked out of the Country Inn around 9:00. I took a shuttle to the airport, and the driver talked my ear off about how much crazy stuff you see as a cab driver, and how he lives two doors down from Chad Michael Murray and Chad’s fiance Kenzie Dalton. Interesting guy. I gave him a big tip for being so friendly in the morning – and for not nearly killing me like our first cabbie, Bill. Good old – really old – Bill.
I made it through airport security fairly painlessly, because absolutely no one else was going through at the same time. (Although I did make them hand-inspect all of my Polaroid stuff – I’m paranoid!) I got to my gate about two hours before my flight, so I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. About half an hour before my plane was supposed to board, a clerk announced that the flight was overbooked and they were looking for someone to give up a seat in exchange for a free roundtrip ticket to/from anywhere US Airways flies. I jumped at the chance – I was flying by myself, and didn’t have to be home by any specific time. Pretty good deal – my new flight was to leave at 2:30pm and get me into Portland by 8:40, when my parents and brother would pick me up.
I got a quick snack and a magazine, occupying myself for a while. At one point I looked up and noticed who was sitting behind me – Ashley Rickards, who plays Sam (the angsty teen Brooke takes in) on One Tree Hill. I said hi and everything, but just then she was paged to board her flight, which she clearly hadn’t realized was already boarding. She and her mother, who were traveling together, rushed to catch their flight to New York – therefore, no picture, but it was pretty cool to meet her.
A few minutes before my next flight was supposed to board, the clerks once again announced that the flight was overbooked, and would anyone mind giving up their seat in exchange for a free roundtrip ticket? I nearly tripped over myself in my rush to the counter. Once again I volunteered my seat, received another free roundtrip ticket voucher, and was guaranteed a seat on the 4:19 flight, which would still get me into Portland at 8:40. Perfect!
I continued to read and fiddle with my iPod until the plane boarded, and then we took a quick hop to Charlotte, where I popped out to grab a frozen yogurt at TCBY before re-boarding and flying back to Portland. On the plane I watched an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and couldn’t help but laugh out loud – it’s episode 309, the origin of “Night Man” and “Day Man” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about – find out, your life will be improved). I’m sure people thought I was crazy, but that episode is killer.
All in all, pretty decent day for me. I was exhausted when I landed, and not that excited to be in Maine instead of North Carolina, but I got off the plane with a tan and the promise of two free flights in the future. Who could complain?
Today I woke up refreshed and ready for another convertible tour of Wilmington. Tessie and I got up and got ready, ate breakfast, and were on the road by 7:30am. Pretty impressive. Top down, we cruised over to the arboretum on Oleander Drive, a popular filming location for the romantic scenes on Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. And it was easy to see why. We wandered freely around the arboretum snapping photos of flowers, palm trees, water features, and unique gazebos and bridges, among other artistic touches. There were also picnic tables and benches, so that locals can go have a cute lunch, read a book, or even get some studying done. I feel like I’d want to spend a lot of down time there if I lived in the area.
From there it was off to the beach – Wrightsville Beach, to be exact, which is right on the outskirts of Wilmington. I was stoked that it was actually warm enough for us to be at the beach at 8:30am, and we ran right down to the ocean to put our feet in the water. North Carolina’s ocean in March is warmer than Maine’s ocean in June. True story. After posing for a few shots under the Oceanic Pier and collecting some shells as souvenirs, we hopped back in the car and went off on a mission: to find Dawson Leery’s house.
After about half an hour of driving in circles on gravelly, unpaved side roads and – gulp – trespassing on private property, I did it: I arrived at the Leery family home. Granted, I was under no circumstances supposed to be at Dawson’s house in the eyes of the law, but I couldn’t go to Wilmington and not hunt it down. I snapped a few surreptitious pictures of Dawson’s place (and Jen & Grams’ next door) and then we peeled out – well, as much as you can when you have to do a 6-point turn and then bump along pebbled roads. We poked around a few other locations (and stumbled across Dawson Street near downtown) and then cruised over the bridge to Battleship Park, where we saw the Battleship NC and, more importantly, the river court from One Tree Hill, with a gorgeous view of the riverfront downtown area.
After I reminisced as if I’d gone to Tree Hill High, it was back to the car for an hour and a half trip down US 17 to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we ended up at Barefoot Landing. Along the way we noticed that there seemed to be a Baptist church every three miles down the highway, and once we reached the strip in Myrtle Beach, there was an adventure golf place every ten feet. Not to mention giant fake sharks everywhere – which would have scared me more had they not been so absurd and random.
At Barefoot Landing, we grabbed lunch at cute 50s-themed diner Johnny Rockets, and then shopped and got henna tattoos and took some pictures. We also watched a fudge-making demonstration at the Fudgery and got roped into buying like a pound and a half of fudge that we couldn’t even consider eating.
We got back to Wilmington around dinner time, but skipped dinner in favor of getting mani-pedis at a nail salon across from our hotel. I somehow managed to cut my big toe open on one of the pedicure jets – I am probably the only person who could manage to do that. My pedicurist felt awful and kept insisting she “didn’t use anything sharp!” I just laughed and told her it was my own clumsiness. I managed to survive the rest of the experience and end up with nice nails – dark purple on my fingers, and a reddish pink on my toes.
By this time we were hungry, so we decided to take an inaugural trip to Sonic – we don’t have em up north, so why not? I got a really good slush, and Tessie enjoyed some cheesy tots. It was an interesting experience, since you pull up and order at individual stations, and then the wait staff rollerskates outside and brings the food to your car. I’m starting to understand why we don’t have Sonic in the north – that whole rollerskating outside thing is not really practical for the winter months, eh?
At his point we were on a time crunch, so we raced to get gas on 23rd Street and return the car to the airport on time. I carefully backed the car into the same spot from which we’d picked it up two days earlier. But, as I’ve said, I am not the best parker. The guy working at the Thrifty counter said, “That convertible’s got some blind spots for backing up, huh?” I hadn’t really noticed the blind spots, but apparently I am a worse parker than even I’d thought. Oh well.
It was a short taxi ride back to the hotel, a little cheesy TV and time for sleep since it was going to be an early Saturday.
Today we woke up ready for a jam-packed day. The beds in our hotel were uber-comfortable, like sleeping on clouds, and it took a bit of effort to throw myself out of bed, but I made it happen. After a complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel, we took a shuttle to the airport to rent a car. The cabbie made sure to let me know that Wilmington has more car accidents than any other city in North Carolina. Again, good to know. I’m sensing that Wilmington cabbies are hell-bent on scaring the shit out of me.
March must be a slow travel time for the warmer climes, because at Thrifty car rental, we got upgraded to a convertible – a black Pontiac G6, to be exact. (The same thing happened when Alex and I went to California and were given a Chrysler Sebring convertible.) I was not about to complain. We got the keys, put the top down immediately, and hit the road to cruise the streets of Wilmington for obscure filming locations. It was on this initial drive that I tracked down the houses that were used for the exteriors of many One Tree Hill characters’ homes from the high school years – Peyton’s, Haley’s, Brooke’s, Felix & Anna’s, and Lucas’. We also found Keith’s Body Shop and the Greentree Inn where Nanny Carrie brought kidnapped Jamie and Dan Scott threatened her.
Then, we spotted a Cracker Barrell – our long-lost love from our Saint Anselm days. We had to stop there for lunch and enjoy our usual meal of chicken fingers, corn, and mashed potatoes. Yum. After that brief respite, we continued on the journey – tracking down the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park from “I Will Dare”, as well as the houses used for Nathan & Haley’s season 5 home, Brooke and Rachel’s season 5 place, and Bevin’s home.
At this point we realized we were on a time crunch – we were almost late for the Hollywood Location Walk tour I’d pre-purchased tickets to. We booked it downtown and arrived just in the knick of time. I jammed the car – badly – into a Market St. parking spot, fed the meter, and jogged down the street to where all the other tour group members were already gathered. The host of the tour singled us out for being late, of course, and draped plastic gold beads – “Hollywood bling” – around our necks. It was embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as the fact that when I looked over my shoulder I noticed that I was getting a parking ticket for the shoddy way I parked the car. I sighed and ran back up to the car, moments after the cop had left the ticket. I re-parked the car – still badly, but at least it wasn’t jutting out into the street anymore. (Hey, I’d never deny that I am not the best parker. Unless it’s parallel parking – I’m an ace at that.)
I managed to get back down the street before the tour took off. The tour guide – who called himself Spiel Stevenberg and who was wearing Corey Feldman’s red velvet jacket from Dream a Little Dream, took us on a 90-minute walk around downtown. Some of the spots he pointed out were one’s we’d already visited, but others were new – for instance, I didn’t know that Empire Records was located right on South Front Street next to some Dawson’s Creek locations. He also showed us the alley where Mandy Moore told Shane West she was dying in A Walk to Remember, the bar from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (shout out to Tasia!), a few locations from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, some Ninja Turtles locales, a few Creek and Tree Hill locations I’d missed, and the place where Steve Buscemi and Vince Vaughn got into an altercation with some locals, which ended with Buscemi getting slashed by a drunk Wilmingtonian.
Once the tour wrapped up, we hit an adorable fondue place called The Little Dipper. We managed to get in without a reservation – good timing, I guess – and enjoyed a superb four-course meal. It started with a cheese fondue, a blend of gorgonzola and provolone cheese with garlic, cooked in white wine, with bread chunks, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, grapes, and apples to dip. Next came two oversize chef salads with balsamic vinaigrette. Finally, a plate of chicken, pork, and filet which we cooked in chicken broth and dipped in either mushroom, creamy dill, or drawn butter sauces. Completely delicious. Not to mention that for dessert we had turtle (chocolate and caramel) fondue in which we dipped marshmallows, pretzels, strawberries, pineapple, bananas, and eclairs. We were absolutely stuffed, but it was worth it. Aside from tasting amazing, it was also an experience – my first official fondue-ing!
After that meal, we lapsed into true food comas, so our only recourse was to head back to the Country Inn. It was dark by this time, so all the trees downtown were lit up with white lights – it was beautiful. Once you’re there for 5 minutes, you can totally understand why so many films and television shows want to shoot down there. It’s kind of perfection.
Back at the hotel, I took the opportunity for another jacuzzi soak before climbing into the heavenly bed, watching some TV, and passing out.
Today I woke up at the crack of dawn. Amendment: before the crack of dawn, at 3:30am. I’d been packed for days, so I hurriedly showered, got dressed, and punched my brother until he woke up to drive me to the airport. A half hour and one freezing car ride later, I stumbled into the Portland jetport, checked in, and survived security (after making them hand-check my video camera, Polaroid camera, and Polaroid film). I spent my first flight crunched in next to a cologne-drenched businessman, but had a seat to myself on the connecting flight.
Around 11:30 I touched down in Wilmington, one of my absolute favorite places, and met up with my college roommate Tessie. We used to live together and now see each other twice a year – so why not see each other someplace fun (and warm)? We gathered our belongings and waited for our hotel shuttle – which never arrived. (At least it was nice outside, a far cry from the arctic Maine temperatures I’d left behind a few hours ago.) Instead we snagged one of the many waiting taxis and asked to be taken to the Country Inn & Suites. Our elderly taxi driver, Bill, was an odd combination of cracked-out and asleep at the wheel – surviving the $12 ride to the hotel was a feat, let me tell you. But we did survive, and were greeted by a very cute hotel. It’s brand new, and is a nice mix of chain hotel familiarity and cozy homey feeling. There was a breakfast room, a sitting area with a fire place and a Read It and Return It library, and a check-in desk with gooey chocolate cookies and bright hard candies.
Our room was on the first floor, just a few steps from the pool, jacuzzi, fitness center, and business center – score. It was brand new and nice, with two queen beds, decent-sized bathroom, and flat-screen HDTV. This was definitely not a hotel you’d see popping up on Dateline’s bed bugs exposes – it felt like no one else had ever stayed there. But nice as it was, we weren’t going to spend our first day inside. We ditched our suitcases and called a cab – which, again, took forever to get there (we must have pissed off the transportation gods) – enjoying the sunshine while we waited. I mentioned to our cabbie that I was thinking about moving to Wilmington, so he helpfully/terrifyingly pointed out the bad areas, letting me know where I “would not want to end up after dark”. Good to know, dude.
The weather was even better downtown. Bright sunshine, cool breeze – perfection. We started by checking out Cape Fear Community College, where high school scenes from One Tree Hill are filmed, and from there cris-crossed our way across the downtown area, checking out filming locations, cute shops, and the gorgeous Riverfront Park. We got dinner at the Reel Cafe, which is Wilmington’s version of Hard Rock, boasting film and television memorabilia, including a lot of stuff that was filmed in Wilmington (like Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill). We got to sit under the Creek poster, which made me happy. Actually, I think it was the exact table Alex and I sat at three years ago, when we visited Wilmington.
Following dinner, we made our way back to Kilwin’s, an ice cream & candy store on Market St., where we bought treats to bring back to the hotel and ice cream that we devoured on a bench outside the store while waiting – once again – for our cab. Back at the hotel, it was time to take a dip in the indoor heated pool and soak for a while in the bubbly jacuzzi. A great end to the first day.