Thursday, May 30, 2013

Motor Lodge

Pine paneled walls...plastic ice bucket....paper wrapped toliet seat...tiny soap....grainy sheets.....scent of moth balls and cigarettes....trace of mildew on the shower curtain....traffic noise from the two lane blacktop...TV flickers...guy in the office is wearing a Molly Hatchet t-shirt and gunk in the corner of his mouth...thin walls and worn carpet. But damn that neon is wonderful.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sporting Art by Ripley

Aiden Lassell Ripley(1896-1969) was a Boston native and a prolific painter of sporting scenes. He served in WW I and upon returning made his living doing New England pastoral scenes and paintings of urban Boston. The dawn of the Great Depression compelled him to move to a more marketable genre...and the subject of his personal passion: hunting and fishing.He frequently traveled to the plantations and estates of the wealthy to do commissioned works. Recently one of his originals sold at auction for $89,000.00.

In my parent's attic I came a cross a scrapbook made by my Uncle in the mid 40's. He was an accomplished hunter and had taken pages form Field & Stream that featured Ripley's work. Each page had an accompnaying essay by the prolific outdoor write Nash Buckingham. As to this painting, Nash commented:

        "Wherever fowlers debate the comestible or sporting values of favorite marsh or river ducks,confirmation is usually predominant that for all-round toothsomeness and thrill packed shooting glamour a corn fed,rice-heavy,cooked-just-right mallard brings home the bacon."

At nearly $100,000.00 a pop....I wish I had found an original up in the attic. I would have been banging on Southeby's door faster than a pointer after a downed quail.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Camp Chow

   In the morning when you and a couple hundred other drowsy boys entered after the hike up from your village, it smelled like  burnt toast and slightly sour milk as you came in through the big double doors from the chill fog. On unusually cold mornings there would be a fire in the huge hearth and woodsmoke mingled with the scent. All other times of the day, before lunch and dinner, the odor was of boiled hot dogs and a faint hint of bleach and floor wax. The soundtrack was the rumble of wooden chairs dragged across pine flooring followed by the slowly increasing cacophony of kids talking and  laughing and counselors barking directions like drill sergeants.
   This was the main lodge and dining hall of Camp Conrad Wesier in the mid 70's where I spent a glorious  month each Summer. It was all boys and run by the YMCA. We camped and shot .22's and hiked and canoed and rode horses and played softball. We were taught orienteering and fire building and life saving.We played ping pong and horseshoes and tether-ball and  engineered pranks on the other cabins. When you hit the upper villages as an older kid you slept in tents on cement platforms and then in open front lean-to's. Your clothes were damp but not your spirits.
   In the dining hall one kid at each table was assigned as "waiter." When your day came in the rotation you awaited the command from a slightly androgynous steward named "Skip." He would chirp into a microphone up front: "Waiters serve" and you would file through the kitchen and trays would be heaped with stainless steel vessels of steaming baked chicken and mashed potatoes or spaghetti or meat loaf, green beans and salad that was more white butt-end of iceberg than it was green. Ham on Thursdays with a vaguely Amish toned raisin sauce, Roast Beef on Sunday that ended up fatigue brown and over-cooked thanks to the Berks county ladies who staffed the range in the back. Fried chicken was a hit and grilled cheese at lunch was a kill or be killed affair. Breakfast offered spongy pancakes with a gelatinous syrup substance in a stainless pitcher over which someone had whispered the word "Maple." Bowls of dry-wall mud oatmeal barely palatable with fifteen scoops of brown sugar. The hamburgers were gristle pucks and the peanut butter was like cooled macadam that had faded to brown. We were 11 and 12 and 13 year old kids. We ate for fuel and little more. We had rules at the table and the counselors tried to sneak some manners into the routine. If you breached the loose rules of etiquette...and we had to stay behind and wipe down tables under Skip's relentless scrutiny.
   On the walls were college pennants and Indian paraphenalia.The ceilng had huge beams and every surface was spotless. One wall held green and white arrows with names burned into the wood. My name is on  a few of those arrows commemorating the days I was chosen as "Officer of the Day" during my later Summers.
   A few years ago we took our Cub Scout den to a weekend event at the Camp. I found my name on those arrows and the smell was still bleach and wax and boiled hot dogs.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Radnor Hunt Races

    This Saturday will feature the 83rd running of the Radnor Hunt Races. The Grade III National Hunt Cup is the 4th race on the card and sports a $50,000.00 purse. I am picking "Barnstorming" to win this year. This horse is owned and trained by hall-of-famer Jonathan Sheppard and has all the equipment necessary to best this field over 2 3/8 miles and 17 National Fences.
    The talented wordsmith from "The Trad" will be joining us this year. This sportsman will offer his humble opinions on Steeplechase wagering to Tin-Tin as we enjoy gin &; tonics, the races and the people watching. That is if I can get him to put down his camera for two seconds.
    Suffice it to say, this sportsman will NOT be attired in the manner of the two pink-swathed Lilly-boys noted above. It seems that the VA Gold Cup  has spread its "oh-look-at-me" asthetic north of the Mason-Dixon. This means we see more and more pastel and pink garbed tailgate flies buzzing around hoping to be photographed with no idea about or interest  in the serious racing that is taking place. We noticed legions of the same scurrying about drunkenly at the Winthertur Point-to Point races last week...just there for the party and eager to model the most recent knock-off Nantucket Reds or J.Crew greens they bought on-line.The only people permitted to wear gaudy colors at a steeplechase race are the jockeys...and maybe one or two REALLY hot wenches.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Close Enough to Steal

I purchased the $69.00 pay-per-view Showtime event featuring trhe Mayweather main event. However, it was the match up of J'Leon Love v. Gaberiel Rosado fight in which I was interested. Rosado is a Phialdelphia fighter. I have seen him fight live several times. I was interested to see how he snapped back after the bloody mess of a defeat he took at the hands of Golovkin. The outcome of the Mayweather fight was as predictible as the sunrise. The opener on the undercard proved to something more contreversial. Rather than provide my narrative, I will share the well written analysis of Rosado's Promoter: local legendary boxing promoter Russell Peltz.

"When I was growing up, Harold Johnson, the Hall-of-Fame light-heavyweight champ from Philadelphia, was my boyhood idol.  So much so that when I would get my hair cut, I had it cut so clip_image005short my head looked like a dirty tennis ball.  Friends at Lower Merion High School would call out:  “There goes Peltz with his Harold Johnson haircut.” 
     The 1963 night the Las Vegas judges robbed Johnson of his world title on a 15-round split decision against Willie Pastrano was one of my worst.  I remember storming out of my friend’s house, heading home and being in a funk for weeks.  When I ran into the one kid in school who thought Pastrano deserved the verdict, my only response was:  “Are you Italian?”  He was.
     Jack McKinney, as good a boxing writer who ever walked this planet, wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News a less-then-flattering story about the fight.  It seemed as if McKinney also thought Pastrano won.  At the time, McKinney had a nightly talk show on WCAU radio and I called in, arguing with him.  I never forgot what he told me:  “Russell, I never said Pastrano won the fight.  What I said was that because it was not one of Harold’s better nights, the fight was close enough to steal.
     Close enough to steal!  I never forgot that line because that’s how I felt Saturday night, back in Las Vegas, when middleweight Gabriel Rosado was judged a 10-round split-decision loser to unbeaten J’Leon Love.  Scores were 95-94 Rosado, 95-94 Love and 97-92 for Love, a scorecard from judge Herb Santos, who should be suspended for six months and required to pass the same ophthalmological exam Nevada requires of its boxers.
     Among the things I talked about in the dressing room prior to the fight was that Rosado should jump on Love from the first bell.  Love had been fed a steady diet of no-hope opposition and I thought the more battle-tested Rosado should put so much pressure on Love early that Love would start asking himself: “Why am I in here?”  The last thing I said before going to my seat was that if the fight goes the limit, we won’t get the decision.  This was Las Vegas, backyard of the “in crowd” and we were going against a fighter controlled by the “in crowd” and we were not going to get any favors.  Rosado told me not to worry because, he said, it wasn’t going 10 rounds.
     Then the fight started and my worst fears were realized.  Far from jumping on Love, Rosado was pawing at him with a range-finder left jab, spending precious minutes without any real offense.  When things got only slightly better in the next two rounds, I went over to Rosado’s corner and yelled at his trainer, Billy Briscoe, imploring him to get Rosado to be more aggressive and rough Love up on the inside.  Billy said that’s what he was doing but Rosado was not responding.  In the meantime, Love was probably thinking that this fight isn’t so tough after all. 
     Ironic, isn’t it, that nearly one year ago, when Mike Jones was fighting the same way in the same ring against Randall Bailey, Rosado had texted me during the fourth round,  wondering why Jones had not stepped up the pace.
     I thought Rosado won at least one of the first five rounds.  Actually, I thought he won two of them, but again, this was Las Vegas.  In many of those early rounds, nothing much happened and those were the rounds given to Love.  Things changed late in round six when Rosado dropped Love in the waning seconds, but took his foot off the pedal in the seventh and let Love back into the fight.
clip_image007     Rosado took over after that, hurting Love on several occasions, but failing to close the show.  Two judges, Glen Trowbridge and Dave Moretti, had it even after nine rounds.  Trowbridge gave the 10th to Rosado; Moretti gave it to Love, another strange call.  That was the deciding factor since judge Herb Santos was in another solar system.
     I had it 95-94 Rosado.  People say there were a lot of close rounds.  So what?  Professional judges are paid to decipher who wins close rounds.  If every round was one-sided, any fan in the audience could be a judge.  If the Phillies beat the Mets 2-1, they get as much credit as when they win 10-1. 
     As usual, Rosado showed class in his post-fight interview, but he was distraught in the dressing room, surrounded by his father and two cousins who worked the corner.  I sat there listening to their complaints—justified as they were—but couldn’t help but think about Jack McKinney’s “close enough to steal” line. 
     “What did I tell you before we left the dressing room?” I asked Rosado.  “I told you we weren’t going to get the decision.”
     “I know, Russell,” he said, “but I still deserved to win.”
      “You did,” I said, “but it was close enough to steal and they stole it,”
     Judging professional boxing is not rocket science.  Rosado landed the harder punches, scored the only knockdown of the fight and finished stronger.  The rounds he won were much more dominant than the rounds Love won. 
     Love says he will give Rosado a rematch.  Sure, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.  If boxing were a sport, that would happen.  But boxing is a business, not a sport.  It ceased being a sport in the 1980s when many promoters decided that forging relationships with TV executives who liked a particular fighter of theirs was more important than pleasing fans with competitive matches.  That’s why you often seen televised fights in 10,000-seat arenas where 9,000 fans show up disguised as empty seats (An old line, but an appropriate one).
     My fighter, Mike Jones, was judged the winner over Jesus Soto-Karass nearly three years ago in Cowboys Stadium in Texas.  Moments after Jones was given an unpopular decision, I went to Soto-Karass’ dressing room and asked trainer Joe Goossen for a rematch.  I may be one of the few promoters on the winning side to ask the loser for a second chance.  HBO liked the idea and bought the fight and Jones proved his superiority the second time around.  Let’s see if Love and Showtime are up for it!
     In the meantime, I had decided before the fight Saturday that if Rosado won, I would wear home his black souvenir T-shirt with his picture on it. 
     When I woke up Sunday morning and got dressed to go to the airport, I looked at that T-shirt and proudly put it on. "   
Re-published with consent of the author J. Russell Peltz and Peltz Boxing