Friday, December 31, 2010

Ferko String Band 2000- Swingin' Into Action

Ferko Sting Band's military/Service theme exhibits the wide range creative costumes and tributes one can see at The Mummers Parade

Fralinger String Band 2005 - Gypsy For-tunes

The action starts after about a minute 30 seconds is worth the wait. Fralinger is one of the top 3 every year and has won 1st prize several times in recent years. Watch these guys strut and remember these are average 'Joes" who tomorrow might be fixing your plumbing or re-connecting your cable TV.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Day

New Year's day....for some it is a day for Bowl games or dry-heaving into the Bowl....for others it is a day like any other with perhaps only a small hangover or none at all. Most view the New Year as a clean slate, a fresh start, a time to make resolutions for improving one's lot or casting off the odd vice.

In Philadelphia, New Year's day is a whole separate Party; removed and different than the hapless striving for a good time that happens on the Eve. This night many a pathetic soul parties with weiner-tots,plastic noise-makers, bad hats and worse sparkling wine.

New Year's day brings us in the Delaware Valley, and the lucky tourists who venture to the City of brotherly love, the Mummer's Parade. Officially it began as a City sponsored parade in 1901. However, the revelry of Mummers and New Year's "Shooters" has it's roots in German, English and Swedish settlers who roamed the Colonial streets ringing in the New Year with gunfire, booze and costumed antics. The parade now features Comics, String Bands and Fancies and generally takes about 6 to 7 hours to complete.

Wondering about the attraction of the Mummers is not unlike that old question about Jazz...if you have to ask you'll never know. It is a party on New Year's day and a great spectacle of costume and musical talent...and an excuse to drink and cavort . It is similar to Mardis Gras and Carnivale and makes the Rose Bowl Parade look like a crepe paper joke. Unfortunately many people lambast and criticize the parade and scoff at the tradition and it's participants. To those naysayers I simply reply that they do not know have to experience it live to appreciate the talent and get caught up in the fun. I have been going since I was a kid and now take my kids. They are all teenagers now and they love it even without access to the intoxicants consumed by the adults.

Who are these guys, the Mummers, who festoon themselves with expensive feathered and sequined costumes and pick up a sax and banjo or drum and march up Broad street? These guys ( and now women as well) are steamfitters and longshoreman, welders and bookkeepers and just everyday people who belong to a Club and practice and work hard all year to participate and compete in this special event.These New Year's clubs are tight knit social groups that include generations of families. They toil and practice year round to raise money for their instruments and costumes and choreographers and music teachers. The competition between the top String Bands is fierce and the bragging rights last the whole year.

On a chilly New Year's day there is nothing like hearing the distinctive sound of the String Bands marching up Broad street. The sound echoes in the office building confines of the streets and resonates to the core of each spectator. The bands sport numerous saxophones and banjos, bass and drum, Sousaphone and even Glockenspiel. The sound is unique in all the world. It is not a musical genre you would put in your CD player in the car, but in the afternoon of the first day of the year, amongst friends and family and thousands of Happy New Year wishing parade goers, it is a happy and uplifting music.The routines they present are creative and the Mummers suits are often just amazing.

The "Wench" Brigades ( The painted faced maniacs pictured above), are loosely based on old European costumes and in their contemporary incarnation are just crews of men and boys dressed as "Wenches" who parade in the morning. Later, they retire to Clubhouses for major bashes or haunt the parade route swilling beers and wishing all and sundry a Happy New Year.

So while many across the Country are glumly boxing up their Christmas decor, or plodding to the gym for their first of only a few resolution work outs, or administering to a hang-over with hair o' the dog or just aspirin and Coca-Cola, I will be at the Parade hugging my Wife and kids, taking a nip on a flask of Bourbon,and cheering on Fralinger, or Ferko or Quaker City String Band. Happy New Year everybody.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas

As described below...leaving for Vemont tomorrow at 0-dark-thirty. A final festive post before I go off-line for several days and enjoy some Winter Sports with my wife and kids. Is this Yuletide image too much once again...probably....but hunting on Christmas day was once not just a tradition but a necessity.Nothing like a dead Buck and blood on the snow to engender warm and happy memories of Christmas right? Frohe Weinacthen zum alle!

PS.Obviously this image is courtesy of Getty.

Locking in the White Christmas

Here on the Main Line, the elusive "White Christmas" is generally a meteorological crap shoot. We have had only a few in several years. This year I am throwing a seven on the come out roll and locking in the White Christmas by taking my wife and kids to Stowe,Vermont.
This is a huge break in tradition for us.We have never been away for Christmas. The days leading up to Christmas have always been a blur of parties, shopping, wrapping,cooking and general Holiday frenzy. We have been hosting a formal Christmas dinner for up to 20 Family members and guests for the past 10 or so years. This means: Cocktail hour, Watercress salad with Blood oranges, Beef Wellington or roasted Filet with Bernaise,Potato gratin, flamed croissant bread pudding with currants...a serious culinary production. Not this year sports fans!
My Wife and I rented a house for 5 tub...fireplaces..the whole gig. We will ski, skate, sled, and enjoy time as a family without all the harried preparation and work required. We will soak in the Hot Tub, watch "A Christmas Story" several times, a compendium of Bing Crosby Christmas specials and Barbara Stanwyck in "Christmas in Connecticut." We will go to a Christmas Eve service at 11 p.m at Stowe Community Church, have Christmas dinner at The Green Mountain Inn...all amongst a major boatload of snow. The area has had plenty of the white stuff over the recent this translates to picturesque Vermont scenery and good skiing.
No posts from this Sportsman for the duration...hence, I extend Christmas salutations to my small and easily amused audience of readers and to the talented photographers and writers of the Blogs I read and follow.You Ladies and Gentlemen craft some truly enjoyable stuff and each post is indeed a gift which is appropriate to this Season.

P.S. There will be goose hunting and more duck hunting immediately upon my return from the Green Mountain state so stay tuned for pictures (hopefully) of dead waterfowl and grinning son included(hopefully) as he will be handling his own shotgun in the Goose Pit and Duck Blind next week.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hard Core Decor

Here are some Christmas decorations presented by some rabid hunter-sportsman. Creative presentations...certainly....taken a bit too far...perhaps. I think the pile of entrails under the hanging deer may be a bit much for the under 5 set in the neighborhood.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Amazing Game and Great Writing

I will not post on the astounding football game that we Eagles fans enjoyed yesterday. The Net and the papers are loaded with prose about this game that is far superior than anything I could offer.What I would like to underscore is the really wonderful writing that can sometimes be found on the Sports Page.
In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the writers was refering to this miraculous game and wrote that the miracle involved a "Santa-sized coach" and an "Elf-sized player" when discussing Andy Reid and Desean Jackson. I just loved this Christmas theme metaphor woven into the football story. Well done!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"A Christmas Story" Quote

" In our world, you were either a bully, a toady, or one of the nameless rabble of victims."
Does this pronouncement not ring true in real life?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Waterfowler's Catch 22

Duck season re-opened in Delaware yesterday. Some of the boys and I went to the Clubhouse Thursday night. We discovered that the river and marsh were largely frozen over. All this cold weather we have had really locked up the river and the boat ramps are all unusable. We did have some open water...just enough to get out some decoys...but not in front of our we had to conceal ourselves along the banks in the reeds. This is the Catch 22...we hope for cold weather to move the migratory birds down our way...and then the water in front of the Blinds is frozen solid.
We had ducks moving...nothing decoyed in....I think we were not well concealed in our spots on the bank.
We'll keep at it...and Goose season re-opens Thursday. We'll most likely have great success on the Geese as they are all over the place on the farm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Jazz Great Passes

Back in 2003 when I still owned Chris' Jazz Cafe in Philly, I was fortunate to meet James Moody. Mr. Moody passed away this week. He was a Sax legend and could blow the Be Bop and Hard Bop with the best of 'em. He toured with Dizzy and played with some smoking hot groups. He even spent time in Vegas as a member of a house band backing up some of the great stage performers of the day. He could also play a mean flute and sing damn well. Between numbers he would tell off color jokes and regale the audience with hilarious anecdotes from his days on the road.
He was featured at my Club for a weekend and packed the joint for 2 nights. He was a true professional and gave every minute of every set.
The truly fond memory I have of this legendary Jazz figure came on his last night. It was time to pay Mr. Moody so I took him back in the office. We paid performers from the cover charge so I handed Moody a large wad of cash. He looked at the roll of bills and then at me. He proceded to grab me and hug me. He then leaned back and said: "Man getting paid like this, with a wad of bread, reminds me of the old days on 52nd street....and damn that's a good memory." He hugged me again and went off to pay his side men. I stood there stunned and smiling...knowing I had just been embraced by one of the greats.
I will miss Moody and his sax riffs and will always remember that hug.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Declining Numbers

Many people do not appreciate the fact that hunters are among the most ardent conservationists and as a demographic contribute vast sums to both Public and Private conservation efforts.
As reported today in both the New York Times and Phila. Daily News, via AP....the number of hunters nationwide is waning. The article reports that: "The falloff could have farreaching consequences beyond the beginning of the end for an American tradition....with fewer hunters there is less revenue for a multi-billion dollar industry and government conservation efforts"
The writer further tells us that the paradox is that if hunting disappears,a large amount of funding that goes to restore habitat would vanish.
Hunting generates billions in retail sales and hundreds of millions into government conservation efforts.
In my state, Pennsylvania, sales of hunting licenses are down 20% over the last 20 years. One of the quotes in the article was chilling: "50 years ago a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside. Now it is easier to sit in your playroom and play video games." ( Mark Duda of a natural resources research group in Virginia)
What can a Sportsman do about this problem? The answer is easy: take a kid hunting.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Film Selection

This Holiday season, treat yourself to a tremendous foreign film with a powerful Christmas theme. "Joyeux Noel" is the story of the brief spontaneous truce that took place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the trenches along the Western Front in 1914. This award winning film is based on true stories and offers a poignant message about the meaning of Christmas amid the horror and bloodshed of war. The copy I watched had subtitles...but I believe there is a version out dubbed into English. I am sure you can fit in time to watch this excellent film in between the 24 hours of "A Christmas Story."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Surf Fishing-Fellow Sportsman

Here we see my colleague Mike. Mike practices law with me. Like me, when he is not suited up wielding briefs and oral arguments, he likes to wield rods and guns.
This photo was taken November 27th this year when Mike caught this monster Striper off the beach on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. This big fish measured 44 inches and weighed in at 33 lbs. For those of you who have never gone surf fishing, believe me, this catch is a commendable accomplishment. Surf fishing is difficult and fickle. In order to be successful one has to carefully time the attack to correspond with a confluence of time, tide, and location. Bait is also a paramount concern. Mike was using cut-up Bunker. It is also very important to know the underwater topography and cast in holes and gullies beyond the wave break where big predatory Stripers hang out and pursue smaller fish. These fish also fight hard and it can take 1/2 an hour to bring a big fish like this to shore.
Most surf fishing Sportsman enjoy the whole asthetic of fishing off the beach. On a nice day it can be most enjoyable and relaxing. However, often the Stripers are running in Spring and late Fall when it can be fairly cold. I have caught my share of Stripers off the Beach from Island Beach to Cape May Point. I have never caught anything to rival the fish in this photo. Indeed, I have never caught a Stiper over 35 inches while surf fishing and so I tip my hat to Mike.
Another aspect of this triumph that warrants a mention is the eating. Eating Striped Bass that was line caught only a few short hours before it hits the grill is a superlative dining experience. "Fresh" is an inadequate adjective to describe how good Striper tastes when it was swimming wild the same day you eat it. No restaurant anywhere can rival the experience.
Now if he would just take down the 4 pictures of this fish from his office wall...they taunt and mock me!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Service Dogs

Sportsmen love their dogs. I have posted on this topic before. We love the Labs and the Setters, the Pointers and the Spaniels, we love them all. We have a special bond with the dogs that join us in our hunting pursuits.
This Sporting bond is probably exceeded by the bond between a K-9 officer and his partner. These dogs provide a variety of services and duties with their Law Enforcement masters. Today we mourn the loss of one of these fine dogs.
Just south of that toilet of a City across the Delaware from where I sit typing this (Camden,NJ), a Robbery suspect hurled one of these fine K-9 dogs into traffic...killing the dog instantly. It seems this K-9 Service dog, "Schultz", had clamped his ample jaws down on the "perps" forearm in the process of breaking up a robbery. The "perp" flung the dog into the street and as a result fell into the street himself. "Schultz" was run over and killed right in front of Officer Pickard, the Police Officer with whom the dog worked. One can only imagine the horror experienced by both dog and cop.
The "perp", Skyler Robinson was apprehended and charged.
What a tragedy for the valiant Police officer and his Family, and a tremendous loss to the K-9 department of the town. The scumbag Robinson....not sure I personally could have kept my gun holstered and unused if I was Officer Pickard, Schultz's Partner.

Photo courtesy of Phila. Daily News.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Opening Day

Today is the opening day of the two week Buck season in Pennsylvania. The Keystone state is second only to Texas in number of licensed hunters. Deer hunting in Penna. is tantamount to a religious observance. In many Counties schools are closed because the kids would not show up anyway. Deer hunting is a tradition and set of rituals deeply etched into the lives and hearts of many Sportsmen.The trip is a pilgrimage every year.
The pilgrimage typically begins on Friday after Thanksgiving. This journey starts with the long trip to the Hunting Camp,the slogging drive up the camp road,the unloading of gear, the sighting in of rifles, the scouting for scrapes and rubs and tracks, the card games and whiskey by the fire, the jokes and stories, insults and practical jokes, the woodstove meals of game stew and cornbread, the beer and homemade wine...the sleepless Sunday night before Monday's legal shooting hour, a breakfast of pancakes and homemade scrapple with maple syrup crafted by one of the guys from trees he tapped himself on his land,the hike in the dark to your stand near a cluster of Oak trees in Pike County. The cold quiet of dawn...waiting for the soft rustle of cloven hooves disturbing the dry leaves...and a view through the scope of antlers and ears.
Because of my work schedule, I was unable to make opening day this year.I hope to get out later in the week...but it is not the same. Instead, I offer this hilarious Calvin & Hobbes comic wherein Waterson executes a wonderful juxtaposition on this deer hunting theme.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Update and Cocktail Suggestion

Lehigh traveled to face Northern Iowa on Saturday. All the predictions were for a rout of the team from Bethlehem, PA. Despite the odds, Lehigh's team of tough scholar-athletes beat N.Iowa 14-7. They now advance to face a really tough foe:University of Delaware. U of D is not far from the Hunting Club, so if I can get tickets I hope to hunt ducks Saturday a.m. with a favorable tide and good waterfowl weather and then go cheer on the Engineers at Noon.
An unrelated development features Reeds making a Holiday appropriate soft drink: Spiced sparkling cider. My daughter has an after school/weekend job at a specialty market up the street. When I was in there this morning I spied this Reed's offering and thought it would make a smashing cocktail when mixed with some dark rum...just the thing for a Fall Sunday when watching the Eagles. I grabbed a 4-pack. Sure enough, the mix of Appleton's Rum and Reed's Sparkling Spiced Cider was tremendous. It has a crisp refreshing bite and a Christmasy taste that will provide a nice Holiday buzz.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fellow Sportsman-Part 3?

Carl is originally from New Jersey but now resides near Granville,Ohio. It has become a tradition for Carl and I,that on Thanksgiving night, after the table is cleared and the cloth removed, we head to the Duck Hunting Club for whiskey by the fire, a few games of pool and a Friday hunt. He comes east to see his Father and Brother in Jersey and then we meet up, load the truck and dash.
We hit the corn fields for Goose this morning. Sadly, most of the birds flying were non-migratory Canadas and were not fooled by our decoy spread. They flew over with honks of mockery and disdain and pitched in a field across the road.
Carl professes to come from classic white-trash stock, but I maintain that this Sportsman is aces regardless of origin. He is always well armed and well informed( he is in the Newspaper business.) He loves to play poker,is fastidious about his gear,is a great Father and a great friend. He cannot hang with me in consumption of distilled beverages and I cannot hang with him on the pool table...despite some Mosconi-esque banks shots I executed last night. He also holds the distinction of being responsible for a verb in my family's lexicon: ie: "to carl" vomit....owing to an incident when we took our kids deep sea fishing and Carl felt it necessary to lean over the rail and jettison the contents of his stomach into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape May one fairly rough day several Augusts ago.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Pumpkin Pie Insult

All through my High School career I had an after school job pumping gas at an ARCO station on Lancaster avenue in Bryn Mawr,Pennsylvannia. The station was a few miles from my house so I could walk there before I had my driver's license. The pay was great for a High School kid and I learned many lessons both about auto mechanics and human nature in my tenure manning the Pumps. This was before Self-Serve was in vogue and when a customer came for gas we checked oil and tires and cleaned windows.

During the week before Thanksgiving of my Junior year, my Boss inquired if I would work Thanksgiving day as he intended to open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to cash in on the travel trade. My Family was never one for the mid-afternoon Thanksgiving feed. We generally had dinner at 7 p.m. after the Parents,Aunt's and Uncles had an hour or so of cocktails.So I was happy to work and make time-and-a-half and make it home well before the traditional feast was served.

Business was slow during the day and mainly me and the other guys on the crew cleaned up the bays and watched football on a T.V in the office.
One car came in at about 2 p.m.. I will never forget the car...and old Mercedes Turbo Diesel. The occupants were and older couple who informed me they had just dined at Merion Cricket Club for their Thanksgiving dinner. The woman at the wheel inquired how late I was working and whether I was upset to be working on the Holiday.I assured her it was not a big deal. I filled their tank, checked the oil and offf they went, the turbo diesel knocking and clanking down Lancaster avenue.

About 20 minutes later, the Mercedes pulled back into the lot. I was standing on the Island taking pump meter readings in preparation for the 3 p.m. Station closure. The kindly old woman with whom I had chatted now pulled up and motioned me to the driver's side of the car. I approached and saw her hold a cellophane wrapped paper plate out the window. As I came to the side of the car the woman offered me this plate which held a wedge of pumpkin pie. She explained that she felt bad that I was working on Thanksgiving and wanted me to have some pie for after dinner. I was speechless since I had never before been the object of someone's pity nor been offered any token of charity. I mumbled a thank you while staring down at the cracked brownish surface of the pie that a short time before had been a "doggie bag" item left over from their Club dinner. The Mercedes and it's crew of pie-bearers drove off again. To this day I recall that I felt insulted by this couple's assumption that I was a poor unfortunate kid who was doomed to eat a Swanson Turkey dinner alone on Thanksgiving. I had a nice home and family dinner waiting for me in a lovely neighborhood on a lovely street just around the corner. I did not need their charity pie. I know they were trying to be nice but I could not quell my feelings.

I walked across the lot from the Pumps toward the office holding the plate like it was piled with feces rather than a traditional Holiday dessert.I entered the office, opended a drawer in the desk and retrieved a plastic fork. I removed the cellophane and took a bite of the pie. It sucked. The pie was grainy with sugar and poorly spiced; the crust was dry and tasted commercial. I flung the good intentioned offering in a waste oil barrel in the corner, helped lock up and walked home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

F.C.S. Playoffs

Lehigh clinched the Patriot League Championship and then capped off the regular season by beating Arch-Rival Lafayette 20 - 13. That game was a lot of fun to watch and the Tailgating was top-flight.
This coming Saturday Lehigh will travel to Cedar Falls,Iowa to play Northern Iowa in the 1st Round of the F.C.S. playoffs. Unfortunately this game will not be televised and I cannot justify a trip to Iowa this weekend and I have plans to Goose hunt all day Friday so even if I wanted to attend it would be logistically impossible. I hope XM radio will carry the game.......

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fellow Sportsman

I have met a lot of guys from North Jersey. Many were self important Wall Street wanna be's or Bridge and Tunnel wankers. Some were "Jersey-What Exit" kinda guys. Others were the "flagged from a bar in Wildwood during their week vacation at a condo that used to be a cheap motel" types or could have been the fathers of the low-brow mutts who star in "Jersey Shore."
The Sportsman featured above is from North Jersey but is none of those types. Dave is a fellow member of our Waterfowl hunting Club and a true Sportsman. He is a gentleman and a good guy to spend time with in a duck blind. He enjoys a good cigar,a fine meal, and the heft of a good shotgun.
Dave is also a serious fisherman. He is pictured above with a huge Striped Bass he caught off Sandy Hook last weekend. We are hoping he will bring some of that fine catch to the Club this weekend so it can end up on our table.
About the only fault I can find with Dave is that he roots for the NY Giants.
I will see Dave Sunday night as the boys convene at The Club for the eve of the Goose Season opening day and the re-opening of Ducks. Cocktails at 6, dinner at 7 and Eagles v. Giants at 8:20.
In the meantime, I am prepping for tomorrow's trip to Easton,PA to Tailgate and watch Lehigh kick the snot out of lafayette...and hopefully secure a home field Play-off game in the F.C.S.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Lehigh v. Lafayette

One of our fellow Bloggers gives a great post on "The Rivalry" over at his Blog: Lehigh Football Nation. His post provides some great history of the games over the years and some interesting historical perspective on College Football in general and the early days of the gridiron meetings between these schools.

So, You Want To Marry a Prince?

I am still waiting for my invitation to shoot grouse with Charles, William and the boys at Balmoral. In the meantime, I cannot help but observe that the "Commoner" that William has cut from the herd looks quite smashing in her Field gear and holding a double gun. Clearly, if Kate wants to hang with the Royals, she has to be comfortable attending shoots in the Country and banging away at Grouse and Pheasant.
These photos show her doing just that and looking damn good while doing it. One could conclude that an affinity for Field shoots is a threshold qualification to marry a Windsor buck. The lovely Diana is also pictured with Charles in a sporting setting, but somehow she looks less at ease.
William could have selected any number of hot vixens from the line up of Peered and Titled hotties he met in the Clubs and on the Estates where the British Aristocracy cavort. Perhaps one of the criteria that Kate satisfied that others did not was her willingness and ability to pull on field boots, zip up her waxed canvas coat, and shoulder a shotgun?
So, the lesson here might be that you ladies looking to catch one of the titled Aristocracy or even a guy you consider a Prince, should cancel the mani-pedi and get to the Skeet field to practice. Instead of obsessing over Kate Spade and Lily, leaf through Orvis or Kevin's and pick up some flattering field gear. Instead of going to the Spa for a seaweed wrap, anoint your skin with the kisses and slobber of Gun dogs. Invest in a good Over and Under or Side by Side Shotgun and defer the purchase of a few pairs of Manolo's. It worked for Kate.