Top Gun Revisited

This week I re-watched Top Gun with my kids.  When released in 1986, it was a blockbuster earning $350 million. It cemented Tom Cruise as an ‘A’ list actor leading to other roles such as playing Ethan Hunt in:

  • Mission: Impossible
  • Mission: Impossible 2
  • Mission: Impossible III
  • Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
  • Mission: Impossible—Rogue Protocol
  • Mission: Impossible—Fallout
  • Mission: Impossible 7 (releasing post COVID)

Sidebar: Tim Robbins is also in the movie.  This was before Shawshank Redemption, but after his role of “Mother” in the underrated movie, Fraternity VacationFraternity Vacation, despite Roger Ebert’s one-star rating, is pure 80’s.  It is the reduction of Revenge of the Nerds, Porky’s, Johnny Be Good, Teen Wolf, and Back to School into one fantastic movie capturing the essence of the greatest decade in the last seventy years.  One day, when my kids ask me, “Dad, what were the 80’s like?”  I’m going to give them a Betamax copy of Fraternity Vacation, a handful of ‘ludes, and tell them to “live it up.”

Cue Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins as the opening credits role we see military planes launching and landing on an aircraft carrier.  We also see this guy.  You know he parties.

In 1986, this intro scene was beyond cool.  It was what inspired you to become a military pilot. Planes flying, loud noises, and afterburners.  Today it looks like disjointed stock footage for something played in junior high history Zoom class.

While chasing away some faceless bad guys from an unnamed country (cough, cough:  Russia, China, or Canada), Maverick gives a foreign fighter “the bird”.  This international relations move is later is the primer for Kelly McGillis to dump some old guy at a diner and lust after Tom Cruise.  Tom Cruise’s Kawasaki GPZ900R motorcycle adds to his image of an all-American bad ass. He drives at high rates of speeds and displays wild abandonment as he does not wear a helmet.  (California’s motorcycle helmet law was passed in 1992 so Cruise is not as much of a law breaking stud when you consider the much looser helmet laws in effect in 1986). 

After buzzing the tower, Strickland from Back to the Future I, II, and III offers Goose and Maverick a choice to fly rubber dog sh*t out of Hong Kong or go to Top Gun flight school.

Maverick and Goose bust out a sing-along/serenade in a military bar.  In the real world, everyone in this bar would be blackout drunk and any type of coordinated American Bandstand style karaoke would result in at least two fist fights.  Kelly McGillis, who would only be in this bar to ask for directions, would duck out the side door to avoid a babbling, drunk Tom Cruise slobbering a butchered version of a 1964 Righteous Brothers’ hit.  (This song was ~20 years old when this movie was in production.  If this movie was made today, it would be Liam Helmsworth and Taylor Lautner singing Sisqó’s Thong Song to Zoey Deutch).

In flight school, Goose and Maverick meet Iceman and Slider where there is some alpha-male, frat bro contest of who will be who’s wingman.  Goose has a 70’s porno mustache, so he decides they should all play a shirtless volleyball game.  This beach scene has no relevance to the plot or character development of the movie, but given the movie’s PG rating, a four shirtless dudes rolling around in the sand is all the skin you’re going to get out of this flick.

During a lot more indiscriminate airplane dog fighting scenes involving all the Top Gun candidates, Goose is too busy wondering if he could ever play a doctor on TV, doesn’t eject in a timely manner from his jet, and kicks the bucket. Tom Cruise doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he wanders around town on his motorcycle, learns Kelly McGillis took a job in DC which offered better health insurance than Top Gun school, and he discovers his dad was “the best pilot ever”, so Tom Cruise can only be the second best pilot ever.

Maverick, realizing he has nothing to lose, gets into his jet and wins the Top Gun award for best student. This is really a shocker, because every knows Goose was the true Top Gun much like Ed McMahon was the real star of the The Tonight Show.

At the graduation party, the pilots hear of an escalating international situation.  Maverick and the rest of the Top Gun crew of California jump to the Indian Ocean to the same aircraft carrier we saw at the beginning of the movie.  When I was eight years old and watching this movie, it seemed unfathomable to me the greatest military powerhouse, in the heart of a cold war, only had about ten pilots to canvas the entire world.  You would think the US Air Force would have some pilots stationed in Europe or Asia who they could dispatch to fight the mysterious enemy in the non-existent MiG 28 plane (Russia had a MiG 29, so I’m guessing the writers of Top Gun had a typo and it was easier to leave “28” instead of changing all the “28”s to “29”s).

Bring on more airplanes darting across the screen with no visible purpose or intent.  Maverick talks to Goose’s ghost, which shows Cruise is still emotionally unstable and is not capable of flying a military jet worth millions in a high-tension international conflict.  However, Maverick does not leave his wingman in this conflict even though he probably should given Iceman is pretty much a goner as Val Kilmer is taking fire from three enemy planes.  A couple bad guys’ planes blow up and everyone cheers for Tom Cruise.  Maverick does a fly by of the tower, but this time it’s OK, because he saved the free world from a nebulous, yet world ending, outcome.  Tom Cruise throws some dog tags in the water and decides to go back to Top Gun so he can teach up and coming hotshots how to buzz the tower and say phrases like “This is what I call a target-rich environment”, “I feel the need; the need for speed”, and “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

When I was seven, this movie was awesome.  Today, ehhh, not so much.

Cinnamon Roll Recipe

In the past week, I’ve had two people request my cinnamon roll recipe.

Blogging is a cut throat industry and I’m hard up for content and hits, so I’m posting the recipe here.

Regular readers, this is not an attempt to reposition to a “dad blog” where I publish common sense items disguised as “tips”. This blog will return to its irregular schedule and typical content whenever something bothers me enough to write again.

Total Time: ~3 hours (this includes 2 hours of rising time for the dough)

Makes: ~8

Dough:
1 1/2 teaspoons of active yeast (little less than a packet)
1/8 cup of warm water (~115 degrees)
½ teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup of milk (whole preferred, but any type works)
1/4 cup of room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of all spice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
2 to 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

Filling:
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tablespoon cinnamon-adjust to your desire for cinnamon

Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of milk or cream

Here’s How to Make it Happen:

Dough:

Combine warm water ½ teaspoon of sugar and yeast. Let it alone for five minutes.

Combine butter, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and all spice. Stir and cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast mixture and egg.

Slowly mix in flour.

Knead for 4-7 minutes with mixer.

Let rise for 45 mins-1 hour at 110-120 degrees if oven has proof setting or just leave dough covered in a bowl and leave on counter.

Filling:
Roll out dough on table to rectangle 18″ x 12″. Cover dough with melted butter. Spread the brown sugar on the dough. Freely sprinkle cinnamon on top of brown sugar.

Roll up dough (long side should be 18″). Cut dough into 1 1/2″ rolls. To avoid crushing the dough, use a thin piece of string, or dental floss, to cut through the dough-slide the string underneath the roll then pull the string in opposite directions so it cuts through the roll. I usually scrap the end pieces because they tend to be all dough and no filling.

Place rolls into two greased 8″ x 8″ pans or one 9″ x 13″ so that rolls do not touch.

*If you want to bake these the next day, cover the pans with plastic wrap and place in frig overnight. The next day remove pans from frig and let them rise at room temp for 60 mins prior to baking.

If baking same day, let rolls rise in pans for 60 mins.

Bake rolls at 300 in convection oven for 20-25 mins or just until brown. Or 325 in regular oven for 20-25 mins.

While rolls cool, make the frosting:

Frosting
Mix all ingredients together. You may need to add a little more milk (just do a teaspoon at a time) to get the consistency you want. For a good time, add food coloring to your frosting. For an even better time, skip making the rolls, and eat the frosting right out of the mixer.

Add frosting to cinnamon rolls after they have cooled a bit and serve them up.

How’s Your Quarantine Going? Learned Lessons Through Day 19 of the Lockdown

The routine of house of arrest is becoming normal. Wake up, look at how much the national case count is up, see how much the stock market is down, and check my temperature.

I felt guilty using Instacart

I paid someone else to absorb my risk of getting COVID-19. As an extra benefit to this risk transfer, I didn’t have to get off the couch for my groceries.

People are still dating

I video chatted one of my single buddies and I caught him in the middle of a date.  It was a first date.  I’m sure magical things happened after I got off the call. 

Important dating safety tip:  Orgies with over ten people are not allowed at this time per the guidance of Dr. Fauci of the White House.

James Belushi movies are now appealing

It is more of an exhaustion of available choices leaving the only thing left to watch is K-9, Mr. Destiny, About Last Night, and Taking Care of Business.

Porky-pigging while working is happening

I haven’t done this, because I still have some dignity left.  You know pants are optional for many working from home people.

March is a write-off

I flipped the family calendar to April on March 20th. I’m guessing I’ll be turning to May sometime this week.

When did everyone discover the fun of being outdoors?

I think nothing of a cracking out a solid 5 mile run when it is snowing. Now everyone is walking around like it is summer time and clogging up my sidewalks.

Avoiding people has its advantages

No more idiots cutting you off in traffic, small stalk with acquaintances, or a need to dress to impress.

I tried isolating from isolating

The infighting in our house was so unmanageable, my youngest son and I pitched a tent in the backyard for a quiet night’s sleep in 28-degree weather.

My hair is getting long

I’m looking like a hippie. It hasn’t been this long since I decided to try out the grunge look in high school-which lasted all of six weeks.  Maybe this time I’ll go for shoulder length hair like Mark Wahlberg in the movie Rock Star. Plus, I’ll be saving gobs of money on haircuts.

I’m sleeping more

With no commute, I’m sleeping an extra 60-90 minutes a night leading me to believe I’ve been depriving myself of sleep for 20+ years.

How’s Your Quarantine Going? Learned Lessons Through Day 5 of the Lockdown

My wife and I have totally different versions of the ideal quarantine.

Me:  “This wouldn’t be so bad without kids.  The two of us with lots of wine and movies.”

My wife:  “Oh I was thinking:  Me, all alone, in silence, and lots of sleep.”

I would suck at Real World

I’m trapped in my home with my best friend and three people I fathered and we are ready to kill each other.  No way could I survive being confined in a house with fourteen strangers.

Before the virus I was a closet hoarder and didn’t know it.

As a guy who shops at Costco on a weekly basis, I was already warehousing food and supplies well before the virus hit, but I didn’t know I was a hoarder.  Once the quarantine started, I realized we have enough food to carry us for at least three weeks before we dip into my 150 cans of sardines (which I bought the limit when they were on sale about two months ago).

People have way too much free time.

I now realize most of my time spent during the weekends before the lock down was busy work, and not really adding much to the overall betterment of my life. It was really an elaborate time suck masked as productivity.  No one needs to go to Costco once a week.


Booze is a great crutch.

I went from drinking a bottle of wine a week before ’28 Days Later’ to two snifters of whisky a night.

We waste a lot of food. 

Nothing says America like arranging leftovers in a Tupperware container for the next night’s dinner then throwing it out the following day, because you don’t have a taste for day-old meatloaf.  Now we eat the leftovers, because martial law will be here any day and you need to conserve food like the rest of the world has done for years.

It takes a village (because your house is too small)

Our house is big enough for everyone in the family to have two rooms to themselves. Somehow we all end up in the same room yelling louder than the next person about who didn’t wash their hands.

There is a thing as too much news.

Two decades ago your only source of current events was the evening news. You only thought the world was ending once a day.  Now I’m getting neck cramps as I re-read some internet article after doing the same google search, “Will coronavirus kill me?” multiple times a day.

All those things I said I would do if I could ever got the chance to be locked in my home are still not getting done. 

Cleaning the garage, starting a book, and parting out a car for fun are going to have to wait for the next global shelter in place.

My kids really annoy me, but I probably annoy them more.

You know what I’m talking about.

To Get Away or Not to Get Away? That is the Question

Special thanks to M.A. for writing our first guest blog post. Lord knows we are hungry for content here at Skiinginjeans, so thanks for stepping up M.A.

It starts before school even gets out for summer.  You may be in the pick-up line for preschool, or waiting at the bus stop for your kids, but inevitably you will start to hear variations on the same theme.  Namely, “what are you doing this summer?”  While this may seem like an innocent enough question, just mom-to-mom small talk, the underlying gist, of course, is “where are you going (translation: how much are you spending) on vacation this summer?” and/or “what camps / enrichment activities are your kids enrolled in?”

While much could be said, and many a blog post have already sufficiently skewered, the myriad options for upper middleclass kids these days – from over -the-top sleepaway camps costing upwards of $10,000 per session, intensive sports training camps for kids (meaning, their parents) dreaming of being the next D1 recruit, or even local or town-subisdized day camps that offer impressive field trips, yoga sessions and sushi making classes, little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of what I call “vacationing en masse.”  In other words, spending your vacation with all of the same people that you spend your day-to-day life with, often in a locale that really isn’t all that different from where you live.  Up and down the East coast, from the suburbs of NY (including coastal CT), all the way to Boston, you can’t throw a stone without hitting someone who spends the majority of their summer in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.  In the city (a/k/a Manhattan), it’s the Hamptons or bust.  Sure, some will claim to be cooler or more lowkey by going to Block Island, Shelter Island, or Montauk (which is technically just the Hamptons, but further).   Don’t be fooled:  these are still just summer outposts of the same communities.   And it’s not just an East Coast phenomenon; Midwesterners flock to their Michigan or Lake Geneva “cottages” (often more akin to mansions), southerners to the mountains of North Carolina or the beaches of South Carolina, and Californians, to Malibu.  It’s getting away, without getting away.  Which begs the question, why go at all?

“Jeeves, please arrange a ferry back to deary old Manhattan”

Sure, all of these places are certainly vacation-worthy in a purely objective sense.  They boast beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, gourmet restaurants, a multitude of activities for both the young and the not-so-young.  However, when you consider paying an exorbitant premium for lodging (assuming you were fortuitous enough to book at least 9-12 months in advance), spending hours in gridlock traffic getting there (if, in the case of Nantucket or the Vineyard, you were smart enough to book your ferry well in advance; more on the particular travails of the ferry below), the horrific traffic once you are there, and getting shut out of the aforementioned gourmet restaurants due to the crowds, one starts to wonder what is the point of it all. 

For wardrobe assistance, head to….
https://castawayclothing.com/collections/mens-embroidered-pants

Meet New People?

More than any of this though, the idea of spending precious summer weeks with the same friends and acquaintances you see daily during the other three seasons of the year is mind-boggling.  Maybe it’s because the summer population of these East Coast locales consists largely of finance douches wearing Nantucket red shorts and their Lily Pulitzer clad wives and kids (most of whom are among the most obnoxious residents in my Fairfield County burb), but I cannot fathom the appeal of spending the summer, not to mention tons of money and aggravation, bumping into them left and right on a tiny, congested island or spit of land.  During the summer months, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with posts by local acquaintances vacationing on Nantucket, featuring pictures of fellow acquaintances eating dinner together, having cocktails together, hanging at the beach together, getting coffee together, and well, you get the point.  But I certainly don’t. 

Ferries are Fun

In addition to the bizarre reluctance to congregate with anyone outside of their usual  social and/or professional network or venture beyond the comfort zone of a preppy East Coast environment, Nantucket (and Martha’s Vineyard) summer residents also need to make sure they book their ferry reservation months in advance of their planned travel dates.  Horror stories abound in my town of families whose kids do not make it home for the first day of school in late August or early September, because the ferries are all booked.  They are literally stranded “on island” as they say.  Or, you have booked and paid for your overpriced yet still mildewed-smelling and miniscule rental cottage well in advance (as most rentals will require), but you forgot to book your ferry six months in advance, so your lodging sits empty for a few nights while you wake up at 4 am several days in a row hoping to get on a ferry stand-by. 

If this sounds like your dream vacation, you are not alone.  In fact, if you live anywhere along the I-95 corridor in the NY tristate area, you will be surrounded by hordes of your neighbors and others exactly like you.  Just be sure to pack your patience along with your Lily Pulitzer, crab-embroidered pants and Nantucket reds. 

For the finishing touch, definitely leave your $150 “Oversand Vehicle Permit” on your car (or, even better, multiple years’ worth stacked on top of each other), so everyone in town knows where you’ve been. 

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