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.

Monday, November 15, 2010

College Football's Most Played Rivalry

Played more times than Harvard v. Yale and more than Army v. Navy....this weekend features the longest uninterupted and most played rivalry in all of College Football: Lehigh v. Lafayette.
Saturday I will be attending the 146th meeting of these two teams in what is always a great game. Even when the teams are mis-matched or seasons are sunk or on the line...winning "The Rivalry" always salvages a season.
This year, Lehigh has already won the Patriot League Chanmpionship. Beating Lafayette would be the proverbial icing on the Cake.
When the Game is at Lehigh, it is like a reunion...we have a huge tailgate with tons of Alumni,friends and spouses and kids. When the Game is away it is generally just the boys. We meet for some tailgating and boozing and then invade the Lafayette home field to cheer for our Engineers. Yeah...I know,the school changed the Mascot to Mountain not get me started....I just sort of ignore that detail.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sportsman's Evening Wear Accessories

The Christmas season is fast approaching. Hence, there are several events on the calendar which require Evening Wear. There may even be two occassions requiring White Tie,but that depends on whether my Wife and I elect to attend the Academy ball in late January. This event usually falls on the final day of Waterfowl Season so it is a bit of a struggle to get up at four A.M., hunt all day, hustle home and don White Tie and Tails for a Concert and Ball. I have done it in the recent past, but was dragging my ass toward the end of the night and after downing my share of bourbon.

Nevertheless, there are two upcoming parties which will find me climbing into my Brooks Brothers Shawl Collared Dinner Jacket.When so attired,a Gentleman Sportsman must select cufflinks and studs. So what better set to sport with your formal rig than those fashioned from shotgun shells and bullets. I know this post is sounding suspiciously like one of the many men's clothing Blogs at this juncture. Certainly one can get sufficient discourse on the sartorial topics from Max-man-imus, Commander Trad, and a host of others. I merely thought some of my bretheren who prefer Shotguns and bird dogs over 3/2 rolls, Belgians and the "hand" of a sport coat's fabric, would appreciate a post on a topic where these subjects arguably converge. So, feautured are pictures of my Shotgun Shell cufflinks and bullet studs. They are great conversation pieces and much more interesting than some of the metal knots and other boring junk holding together the shirts and cuffs of the other party guests. At the same time, they are somewhat understated and not "blingish."

I have also included a shot of myself and my lovely wife (and obvious better-half) taken before the Holly Ball at our Club. Notice my Bird-Dog demanded to be in the picture and with his coloring seems to be similarly attired in Black Tie. Ideed, when we first got Archie, we almost named him "D.J."...short for "Dinner jacket" because of the configuration of his. black and white markings.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Game Feast and the Passing of a Sportsman

One of the great things about hanging around with a bunch of guys who take to the woods,fields and marshes shooting at stuff, is the bounty which ends up on the table.
Recently, our Duck Hunting Club lost an older member. Steve passed away this August. The Club's tribute to our old friend was a Memorial Game Feast. Steve was an avid hunter and bagged game in many states and on many continents. Steve also loved to eat. His closest friends agreed the best way to honor Steve was a dinner attended by his cadre of hunting budies at which good liquor was consumed, well prepared game was eaten, and stories of hunting with Steve were shared.
Last Thursday we all met at a restaurant owned by a fellow member. The Chef prepared a delicious menu which I shall not describe...I will simply recount:

Arugala salad with goat cheese,pecans and aromatic Apple and red wine dressing

Assorted Wild Boar Sausages, cheese and olives.

Rosemary scented Rail Birds with Porcini Mushroom Polenta

Grilled Rabbit Sausage with German Style Braised Red Cabbage

Cassarecce pasta with Venison Spezzatino

Striped Bass Calabrese

Seared sage-scented Pheasant Breast with Vegetable/Chukkar risotto

Slow Roasted haunch of Venison served with black pepper spaetzel,grilled scallions and pine nuts

Numerous bottles of Pinot Noir,and Burgundy were consumed. I opted for several good German lagers.

The companions were agreeable and the stories of hunting with Steve were legion...and some were hilarious. The food was tremendous. Wherever Steve's soul the Fields or Duck Blinds of the hereafter, I believe he was smiling.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sid Simmons-Rest in Peace

Late Saturday afternoon I received an e-mail from Bill Meeks. He conveyed the sad news that Jazz Piano player Sid Simmons had passed away a few hours before. Sid was a Philadelphia native and a very serious talent on piano. Of all the local and national players I heard when I owned the Jazz Club, Sid was my particular favorite. He had a light touch on the keys and a swinging Bop style that just hooked me from the first time I heard him play. He combined the class of Bill Evans with the soul and hard hitting style of Oscar Peterson. I knew Sid had been suffering from a variety of medical ailments. The last time I hung out with him in September he did not look well and his handshake seemed frail. If a guy who played thousands of hours of piano has a weak know there is trouble.
In addition to the many hours I heard Sid play, I also spent quite a bit of time in conversation with him. After a gig, he would sit at the Bar with me and sip a Remy and talk about eveything from Jazz to Eagle's Football. He was a soft spoken and polite gentleman who enjoyed a cigar and the company of his friends.He was one of those African American cats who looked ageless. When I met him I thought he was in his early 40's when in fact he was in his late 50's. Sid always appreciated it when I would go see him play at a different venue. A few of us would cab it over to Ortlieb's Jazz Haus when Sid was playing there and it meant a lot to him that we would make the effort to see him at another joint. The Jazz world has lost a great talent and I am truly saddened. Enjoy the video of Sid playing jazz piano.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Today's Philadelphia Daily News

Fri, Nov. 5, 2010

Philly welterweight Butler ready to seize his chance vs. Zewski
Philadelphia Daily News

Ardrick Butler focuses on the now.

He can ill afford to reflect on a past riddled with rejection, missed opportunities and mishaps that would find others looking at their life from a jail cell or beyond the grave.

The 26-year-old does not realize his life story could be turned into a best-seller.

For now, the up-and-coming Philadelphia welterweight listens to his iPod while he hits the heavy bag and works the speed bag, and watches the timer while he skips rope - all in preparation for the biggest fight of his career.

Butler (5-2-0, 2 KOs) will face Golden Boy Promotions newbie Mikael Zewski (4-0, 3 KOs) tomorrow in a four-round undercard bout on HBO's "Boxing after Dark." Top junior welterweight Zab Judah (39-6, 27KOs) is scheduled to face undefeated Argentine Lucas Matthysse (27-0, 25 KOs) for Judah's NABO title in the main event of the fight card, which will take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

"I sold drugs; I was in and out of [juvenile-placement centers] for, like, 4 years, man," Butler said before his final workout in Philadelphia before weigh-ins later today. "I was a victim in a hit-and-run that messed up my shoulders and forced me to cancel a [scheduled fight at the Blue Horizon in March].

"I overcame all that, and I am a better man for those experiences. Not to say I'd wish them on anyone, but I feel as though what doesn't kill you makes you a beast."

Of all the cons, the one constant pro is that Butler was gifted with raw athletic talent. He originally dreamed of a basketball career, and played at Glen Mills, a high school for court-adjudicated youths. Subsequently, his career peaked, according to Butler and current manager Andrew Touchstone, with a short stint as a professional in Australia. But after what Butler cited as "poor management" doomed that opportunity, boxing seemed the natural choice, given that he already was a fighter.

"I was always getting into fights. I was a straight-up problem child, man," Butler said. "Growing up, I used to pick fights, jump in fights. I was always getting myself in the middle of something. So when my basketball career didn't work out, I knew that would be the next step for me. It has humbled me, but at the same time, I love it so much, I feel as though this is something I should have been doing all along."

He proved that by going 10-2 overall as an amateur. A testament to Butler's resilience came in his first fight after a car struck him and left the scene during a prefight jog in February. After about 2 months of rigorous physical rehabilitation, Butler celebrated on April 30 with a technical knockout over Maryland's Norman Allen, only 26 seconds into the first round.

"He had to undergo a significant amount of rehab for the injuries he's sustained," Touchstone said. "But I think he actually benefited from that, because he learned so many additional training techniques. I think he got stronger, and it actually improved him. Plus, he's got a crazy work ethic, and that is to his advantage and to the detriment of whoever has to fight him."

Butler is reticent about where he will go in the fight game, because his immediate future lies in taking care of his family.

"Dreams are on the back burner when you have mouths to feed, man," Butler said. "My [5-year-old] son keeps me hungry in the fight game, plus I got one on the way. Listen, I hope one day I am one of the best to ever come out of Philly, but right now I take boxing one day at a time, because my life has shown me that I can't take anything for granted." *

Read more:
Watch sports videos you won't find anywhere else

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons for the Sportsman in training.

When I was a kid, my Grandfather used to spend several months at our home and in the Summer we would spend a few weeks at his place on the lake. We did a lot of fishing in those days and I learned much of what I know about the outdoors, hunting,fishing, and camping from this Old School gentleman Sportsman. My Grandfather spent the leisure time of his life chasing deep sea tuna, walking fields for pheasant and Hemlock groves for Grouse,training his dogs, fly-fishing, participating in the occassional Crap game and following Baseball and the horses.
When I was about 7 my Grandfather and I had a ritual. When he was putting me to bed, we would play a sort of game directed at preparing for a hunting or camping trip. He would ask: "What is the first thing we need to pack?" I would reply: "Our guns" or "A tent"...and the game would progress until we had each mentioned all the gear we needed to go fishing or hunting or camping...right down to the frying pan, matches, extra socks,tent stakes,shotgun shells and playing cards. He would always remark: "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it." This was his philosphy for gearing up for an outing. I realize now he was preparing me for my own adventures in the Field.
My son is 13 and when he was about 8 this set of lessons came back to me in crystaline memory and I was aware I needed to teach him similar lessons in my own way. One afternoon we were getting ready to go to the Hunting Club for a Dove shoot in mid-September. My boy was ready to carry his own gun in the Field under my supervision.I had been teaching him gun handling and shooting with a youth model hammer action .410 single barrel. He was quite handy and safe with this gun and was breaking tons of clay pigeons whenever he got the chance to shoot with me.
As we were loading my Jeep I told Joey, who was bouncing around with anticipatory excitment, to make sure he got his gun from the cabinet, put it in it's case, and grab a box of shells. That was the only time I mentioned it and we went about our packing. I was certain he was going to forget his gun amidst all his 8 year old excitement, clowning and lack of focus. When he was back in the house I quickly grabbed his gun and hid it under the back seat.
The next morning after feeding the dogs and eating breakfast, we began to get our things ready to head to the Sunflower patch where we would wait for the morning flight of Doves. I carefully removed my .20 ga. Beretta from its case and put 2 boxes of shells on the table. I then asked Joey to get his gun so I could load it onto the ATV we were going to ride to the Field. His young face was immediately gripped by an expression of horror and doom as he realized he had not paid attention to my instructions and forgot his gun. I asked him if he remembered his gun as I had told him. He uttered a faint and choked "No" and looked as if he may loose a few tears. I told him about how my Grandfather and I went over the things we needed and always had the right gear when we took to the Field. I also told him that he was going to have to sit with me in the Field without a gun since he had failed to listen to me and forgotten his. He was crestfallen and sullenly went outside with the screen door banging behind him.
I took this opportunity to go to the Bunkroom and get his gun from under the bed where I had secreted it the night before when we arrived at the Cluhouse. When I came outside Joey was sitting on the ATV with a frown petting our dog Archie. I pulled his .410 from behind my back and said: "I guess your glad I remembered your gun?" His face changed from a frown to a smile in an instant. As I handed him his gun I said: "Always remember how terrible you felt today when you realized you were here to hunt and forgot your gun. Next time you will not forget the important things. Someday I may not be around to remember for you." Joey replied: "Thanks Dad, I won't forget again."
In the photos above Joey is piloting a boat on Upper Saranac Lake after fishing and displaying his catch. He carefully organized his tackle box before each fishing excursion with the precision of a professional. He is also pictured sitting in the Dove field with me this year when he made a nice crossing shot with his new .20 ga Browning...the water skiing shot is random but one of my favorites. The shot with me and my dog Archie is last New Year's eve day when we had a successful Goose hunt on a cold snowy morning in the corn fields at the Hunting Club.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Butler vs. Zewski-11/6/2010

"21-year old Quebec native Mikael Zewski (4-0, 3 KO’s) has drawn rave reviews for his amateur exploits and for his poise and power as a professional. He will make his Golden Boy Promotions debut at Prudential Center against Philly battler Ardrick “The Hitman” Butler (5-2, 2 KO’s), who has won five of his last six bouts and looks to continue that streak against Zewski."

My fighter is on the under-card at the Prudential Center in Newark NJ this Saturday. It is a BIG night for Team Butler and we are all excited. His opponent carries an extensive Amateur record and will be tough....stay tuned and wish Ardrick luck!