Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brickyard Babe

 I always thought Ms. Judd, who became Mrs. Franchitti, was talented and hot. Clearly a power couple when you have Golden Globe nominated talent and a Borg-Warner trophy between you. Sadly, it seems the driver and the diva have split.
 So guys, here we have a beautiful, sports loving, bi-lingual, charity minded hottie who has connection for good seats at Indy. She is now single.

(P.S., The UK photo is a tip of the hat to a favored blog writer JWM at "A Place to Dwell"...she is a a big fan and in her last post looks equally  cute in the Kentucky gear)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Release the Hounds

 Drake and Genna were geared up and ready for the 15 degree cold and the floating ice when we hunted Friday morning.
 They watched us putting out and picking up decoys. They swam for recreation in the frigid brackish water. We did not drop any ducks as it was a morning of high fast flying mallards and black ducks whizzing by our decoy spread with less than no interest. We drank hot tea and warmed our hands over sterno and kept our hopes up. We knew the goose hunting in the afternoon would prove to be better. The dogs really don't care. They are happy to be out in the marsh and are ready for anything...especially a small piece of sausage egg 'n' cheese torn from the blind breakfast and offered to a gentle mouth.
 Drake belongs to my hunting buddy. Drake has a problem of being a little stand-offish in the blind. When a duck is shot he is a machine...but he will also honor the retrieve of  another dog with grace.I have known Drake since he was a tiny pup and would dognap him in a heartbeat. He is aces.
I wear armor of a black and a yellow against the travails of an indifferent universe.Truly, being mauled with Lab affection by this pair beats Hell out of Prozac or Zoloft as an anti-depressant.
The season is over except for Snow geese....we will probably chase them a bit in February. The Canadas we shot are in town at the barbecue joint that smokes birds for us. A little smoked goose during the Superbowl is a waterfowler's reward.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Night Before

 Because a morning duck hunt requires an early rise, members of our Club like to get down to the Farm the night before. Before we hit the racks, we often sit at the bar and have a bracing shot of whiskey or three as well as a few beers. The trick is to drink just enough that it promotes a quick descent into sleep...but not enough that residual effects at 6:45 A.M. legal shooting time make you feel like dry heaving into your blind bag.
 The bar at the Club is a comfortable room. A fireplace, stuffed waterfowl and deer heads, a place for your faithful hunting dog to slumber, a poker table for nights after the hunting is done and the guns are in their cases, all combine for  a general old school feel. The bar seats 4 and the couch and chairs hold the overflow. Windows behind the bar afford a clear view of the HD TV in the living room so you can watch the game while you drink.
The waterfowl season ends this Saturday. Tonight will find this hunter and a few of the guys at the club preparing for tomorrow's hunt as well as a full day on Saturday. The weather is cold and we expect some snow tomorrow. We bagged some geese on Monday and hope for a few more, as well as some black ducks or mallards to be hanging at the picking house.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


 Often when we hunt we come home with an empty game bag. Shots are missed, ducks do not care for your decoy spread, the geese are not moving. There are  as many reasons for a day without birds as there are species of waterfowl. That is not to say the day was unsuccessful. Some mornings offer such a gorgeous sunrise that the trip is worth it. Yesterday was one of those days. As the sun came up we hunkered  in the duck blind waiting for the beat of wings. The sunrise itself was so breathtaking that I was compelled to put down my shotgun and grab the camera.The black outline of a stand of poplars across the marsh was made vivid by the purples and reds and oranges flaming behind.
Then there are other things one notices that are more subtle. My hunting dog Genna is coming along well. Yesterday her blind comportment was exemplary. She was happy to be wearing the neoprene vest due to the frigid temperatures. She was quiet and well behaved. She sat contentedly for long periods keeping an eye out of the blind,scanning the sky and the marsh and she did not make a sound. A waterfowl dog can be a great retriever, but if the behavior in the blind is annoying your fellow hunters will be aggravated. Some dogs whine and fidget, slapping wet tails and nearly knocking over loaded guns. This behavior is unwelcome in a duck blind and thus I was pleased with Genna's composure. We got blanked on the morning duck hunt but scored with the geese in the afternoon. A separate post on that successful hunt will follow.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Thrill of Victory...the Agony of No Coverage

 The black and white set at my parent's house on Wakefield road in Rosemont was in a spare  upstairs bedroom that acted as a "den" or as it was known: "The TV room." On Winter Saturdays my brothers and I would eagerly await the famous introduction to the Wide World of Sports. We watched these broadcasts to see the downhill and the ski jumping. Blurry images of ski racers from venues with exotic names like Kitzpuhl, Austria or the Hannenkam, Cortina or Lillehammer. These grainy grey TV images were essentially moving cave paintings when compared to today's 50 inch HD plasma cable sets.
 Still. we loved watching the skiing that Jim McKay narrated for us. We jostled for position on the couch as the program began. "Ouch, move over....your feet smell....stop jiggling your leg you're shaking the couch...gimme another Oreo before you finish 'em...shut up its starting...I said shut up....Ohhhh!!!" We always grimaced and yelled in unison when poor Vinko Bogataj was shown getting creamed at the bottom of the Ski Jump.
 I did not start skiing until I was 12, but even in the early 70's we loved to watch the sport on TV. Jean Claude Killy was cool as Hell and we wanted to be him...actually the first and only time any of us wanted to be a Frenchman. Redford was just as cool in "Downhill Racer" and this film likely fed our interest in watching the Saturday afternoon Downhill competition. McKay described it all to us like a worldly uncle. When the races were on...we quieted down until the commercials when I, being the youngest, would inevitably take a brotherly beating for some trumped up infraction that had allegedly taken place when one of the skiers was whizzing across the convex 19 inch screen. The tiny white digits in the corner...timing by Longines...were a primitive precursor to the "screen in screen" split time millionth of a second results we get today.
 These days, despite my 46 inch HD Samsung with 1080 P and 1,000,000 :1 KHZ and a picture that looks more defined than real life, I cannot watch the World Cup Downhill. The coverage is sparse at best and unless you have a dish network you are not getting to see Ted Ligety compete at Wengen this weekend or the beautiful Lindsey Vonn or the equally fetching  Julia Mancuso tackle slopes that would make most of us call for a ride from the Ski Patrol vehicle. You can see some coverage on-line. But it is not the same.
It seems we have to wait every 4 years to see the Olympic coverage. Where the Hell is Sochi, Russia anyway?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Death Knell

   You walked down this dingy alley off Walnut street. There may be a ripe smelling homeless guy sleeping on cardboard. There were a few dumpsters and the street always seemed to glisten with moisture even on a 95 degree August day. This was Sydenham street; the location of the Vesper Club. When you walked in you were greeted in the foyer by a middle aged guy in an ill-fitting blazer. He worked the door for years. He knew your name, asked if you were meeting anyone,inquired about business and the weather and then ushered you through the inner door. His hand eagerly extended for the folded single or two.
   Once in the bar, your nose caught the smell of cigars and a whiff of scotch on the breath of a bar regular who turned to welcome you. There is a hint of wood polish and grilled meat whipped in with the smell of leather. From behind the bar Matty greets you by name. If it is happy hour you grab a stool at the long polished bar and Matty will make you an excellent Manhattan or pour you a Myers's and Tonic. There is horseradish cheddar and crackers on the bar, bowls of mixed nuts add a salty punctuation to your sip of the first drink. In Summer, the AC blasts and when coupled with a well shaken Mt. Gay Rum Daiquiri...provides a serene respite from a humid evening in the Quaker City.
   When you were a young lawyer, the partners took you to lunch here. You ate the Philadelphia lunch of Snapper Soup laced with Sherry followed by platters of chicken salad and fried oyster.  Cases and department business controlled the discussion at table during lunch.

    In contrast, the happy hour discourse could be the Flyers, horse racing, local politics or the State of the Union in general. The bartenders knew their craft and knew what you drank. George ruled the floor and knew your table preference. This was a club...not overly exclusive and a bit frayed at the edges...but a comfortable joint. I had drinks here with the Blog-stars The Trad,  Maxminimus and Yankee Whiskey Papa. When guys like that came to town, The Vesper Club was the perfect place to meet.

   I had my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary party n the private bar downstairs. We had  annual Black Tie dinners for the Poker Club upstairs. You got buzzed and reminisced at retirement dinners.You could drink a few icy beers and watch the Phillies with some fellow fans. The brunch before Eagles games was legendary.
   Now it seems to be history. The building was sold. The Vesper Club got booted. In September they moved across the street to a doomed and fleeting semi- merger with the Racquet Club. The Racquet Club quickly pulled the cord on that relationship on December 29th. It is lamentable. In salute, one can have the James Bond created cocktail "The Vesper" and recall the good times.This cocktail is a blend of Gordon's Gin, Russian Vodka and  Lillet with a twist. Shaken on ice until very cold, served up in a Martini glass this drink is like the Club...a unique mix and classic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Wheeler Cup

Art Wheeler was a legendary local sportsman and a wonderful father, friend and mentor. Each year, one of the shooting Clubs I belong to faces off against Gulph Mills Golf Club to shoot for the coveted Wheeler Cup, named for this well loved gentleman. The competition takes place at Gulph Mills Golf Club. The format is a wobble trap with 5 shooting stations configured in an inverted "V" away from the trap house. Each gun shoots 5 clay birds per station....3 singles and a double. The birds are thrown by  a live trapper rather than an automatic house. The birds can be extremely challenging...especially the double because you do not know when it is coming. Each Club has some damn fine shots on their roster. Perfect runs of 25 are not that rare. I have never shot a straight round but have my share of 24's and 23's.

 This year my Club beat Gulph Mills. It was a close shoot and we won by 3 birds. Gulph Mills has won several years in a row so it was particularly gratifying for the Cup to come back to us.
 One of the finest shots on our team is the fetching young lady pictured below. Jane is the daughter of my hunting buddy Ned. She has been featured here before and her high level of skill bears mentioning again. Jane shoots clay target competitively on a Regional/National level. When most Junior High girls are cavorting about a local Mall with their faces pinned to their smart phones, Jane has her cheek pressed to the burnished walnut stock of a fine Beretta over/under. She is not concerned about when to schedule a manicure...but rather which chokes to use for a Sporting Clay stand. That is not to say she is not look shows her stunning  outdoorsy good looks....matched by her good nature.We were fortunate to have her shoot for us this year and she may well have tipped the balance of the day.

An other fine addition to our team is the young man on the left in the last photo. That is Peter, the son of another waterfowl-mad friend of mine. Peter attends an Ivy League school but makes time during Winter Break to chase ducks and geese with us. He is another crack shot and helped tilt the balance. He is a fine pool player as well. Indeed, down at our duck hunting club over Christmas week he took me to school on the table despite his ungainly and unorthodox style with a pool cue.

It is great to shoot with these kids. Likewise, it is refreshing to see the traditions passed on to the next generation.