Saturday, September 19, 2009

Independence Day - Guys Weekend

I apologize for my long absence from the Blogging World. I don't really have a good excuse. Life has just been busy for the last bit. Lots of good things to blog about, but not much time to actually write it down. When you wait so long to put it down on paper, you forget a lot of the funny things that actually happen.

Each year on the Fourth of July Weekend, a group of my college friends gets together to create new life stories and pester each other endlessly. This year, Mark Clark, Bill Langston and Reed Stephenson visited Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and The City of Brotherly Love, for Independence Day.

Mark Clark arrived on Wednesday afternoon. After picking him up at the airport, we joined some of my Dow Chemical (heritage Rohm and Haas) buddies at La Scala's downtown for "Center City Sips". Pictured here (L-R) are Jeff Roberts, SMW (who actually reads this blog occasionally), Evan McCaskey and Lucas Kammerzell.

Thursday, I worked while Clark toured the city. Bill arrived Thursday afternoon. We picked him up from the airport and headed downtown for a while. We went to Eulogy, an old pub with a plethora of Belgian beers on tap. We then headed back to La Scala (outdoor seating and nice weather) to meet another group of heritage Rohm and Haas friends.

With time to kill, we stopped at a Bar-b-que restaurant slash Tequila bar on our way back to the car. Of course, Mark Clark, gourmet food expert, could not resist buying a bar-b-que sandwich, despite my protests (there is a reason that Philadelphia is known for its cheese steaks and not its bar-b-que). Mark choked down his sandwich and side items, and then we headed to the airport to pick up Reed.

For anyone who does not know Reed, I really don't have enough space to try to analyze him. All I can say is... he is an absolute riot to be around. You never know what is going to happen. A simple task, such as an airport pick-up, can take on exponential levels of complexity and hilarity when Reed is involved. The story begins with Reed calling us from Atlanta earlier in the afternoon to tell us that his flight is on time. He also informs us that there is a "hot blond chick" on his flight, and he has already introduced himself to her. She is flying to Philly to visit a friend, who works for Dow/Rohm and Haas.

Fast forward - Reed's plane lands in Philadelphia. By this time, he has applied the full court press on his new lady friend. Our group is now committed to attend the Independence Day Parade downtown because she is riding on one of the floats. Reed is convinced that with his new connection, he can get us onto that float. We have also been volunteered to provide taxi service for the young lady from the airport to downtown - No problem; we are all anxious to meet her. We inform Reed that we will pick him up outside in front of baggage claim in 10 minutes. Fast forward 20 minutes. We are now on our 3rd trip around the baggage claim area of the Philadelphia International Airport. No Reed. Bill pulls out his "Sweet Ass I-Phone" and places a call to find out where Reed is. Reed has no memory of the previous conversation where we told him we would pick him up outside of Baggage Claim. Trip 4, we finally pick up Reed at the predetermined location. As Reed enters our car, he informs us that our frequent phone calls ruined his chances with the blond girl. Apparently, we threw off his mo-jo.

Luckily, Mark Clark captured footage of this event on his VLOG. The link for this video is:

When we do manage to pick up Reed, he, of course, is waiting on the other side of the road for pick-up. It didn't occur to him that he should wait where the other 300 people are waiting.

From the airport, we headed to The Lucky Dog, where Clark ate his second full dinner of the evening.

Friday morning, we headed to Pottsville, PA, about an hour and 15 minutes from our house, to the Yuengling Brewery - the oldest brewery in America. Yuengling was founded in 1829 and is still run by the Yuengling family. Interestingly, each generation must purchase the company from the previous generation. The family's strong German roots insist that you will take better care of something if you pay for it. The four daughters of the current owner all work for the brewery and are making plans to purchase it from their father in several years.

One of the traditions of Guys Weekend is that we find a local brewery to tour. The first tour was packed, so we headed to a local pub for lunch. Here, we learned about the Pottsville Maroons, a professional football team, that should have won the 1925 NFL Championship. Originally from the independent "Anthracite League", the Maroons joined the NFL in the early 1920's. They had the best record in the NFL in 1925, but were not awarded the championship because they were suspended for playing an unsanctioned game against a Notre Dame All-Star Team, which included the Four Horsemen. Pottsville won that game, too, but the championship went to the Chicago Cardinals.

After lunch, we walked back up the hill to the brewery for our tour. Our tour guide was a young lady, who was obviously ready to go home for the day. She knew all of her facts, which she was able to recite in a monotone, but she was less than enthusiastic in her presentation. She finally warmed up to us about half way through the tour, after Reed threw on the charm.

This is a good shot of Clark and Reed in the bottling operation. This is by far the most complex part of making and packaging beer. Lots of moving parts, so many points where something can go wrong.

Today, Yuengling also brews in Tampa Bay, FL, in addition to Pottsville. It is distributed in over 30 states.

We drove back from Pottsville to Valley Forge, PA and toured the old encampment that afternoon. This is where Washington quartered the Continental Army in the winter of 1777-1778. The site has the original houses, where the officers were quartered, as well as recreations of the barracks where the enlisted troops slept. Some of the barracks are pictured behind Bill. Each would house about 6 soldiers.

Here, Reed is posing in front of Washington's headquarters. Much of the house is still original, and they have it set up as it was during the Revolutionary War. Martha actually came up from Virginia to stay with George in these quarters during the winter of 1777. Although the house looks large, apparently there was not much room, as about 15-20 advisers, staffers and servants also stayed in the house.

After touring Valley Forge, we cleaned up and headed to dinner in Manyunk. We ate at the brewery, which is situated along the river. The weather was great, so we were able to sit outside and enjoy the evening.

Clark at the Brewery.

Reed chilling at the brewery.

After dinner, we walked around Manyunk, which is the Philadelphia equivalent of Chicago's Wrigleyville. It is a trendy part of town where recent college graduates live. It is surrounded by stores, bars and restaurants. Pretty cool little place. The video below is of Reed trying out a new toy at one of the antique stores in the area.

It is a brave new world, as the guys turned over a new leaf this year for Guys Weekend. Rachel and Mark Clark signed us up to run a mountainous 5K on Saturday morning. Part of the Pickle Series that Rachel has done for the past several months, the race was for those who enjoy a little humor in addition to running. Each of us won an award in the race. Our trophies are shown here.

We cleaned up after the race and headed into Philadelphia to observe some of the Fourth of July celebrations. We went to the Constitution Center and saw the presentation there. It was fantastic, as usual. There were a lot of outdoor exhibits, too, to celebrate our nation's birthday. It was a lot of fun.

We cooked out at the house for the evening (title picture shows us all out on the back deck at the house enjoying burgers, corn and lots of other great food). It was a great way to cap off another successful Guys's Weekend.

REFLECTIONS - Kenny Chesney Concert

Rachel and I went to see the Kenny Chesney Concert in Philadelphia on June 27 (thanks Mom). In my opinion, Kenny puts on the best concerts out there. If you go, I promise you that you will have a good time.

One of the best things about the Kenny Chesney Concert Series is that he always has great acts opening for him. This year was no different. Lady Antebellum was the first act. They are one of my favorite new, young groups. Miranda Lambert (pictured here) played second. While I am not normally a big fan of her music, she was very good live.

Next up was Montgomery Gentry. Eddie Montgomery (shown here) is a big-time entertainer on stage. He can spin a mic stand like a UT majorette spinning a baton. Montgomery Gentry is a great opening act because they have some fun songs that really get the crowd going.

My favorite band in country music is Sugarland. They played directly before Kenny took the stage. Christian Bush, brother of the lead singer of the rock band Bush, is the mandolin playing member of the duet. I also posted a video of Bush playing below.

Jennifer Nettles is the lead singer for Sugarland. She is AWESOME!!! I absolutely love her voice (video of her singing is also posted below). The crowd was really into Sugarland during the concert. You could hear the fans singing along with almost all of their songs. Having a band of Sugarland's caliber opening, speaks to how popular Kenny Chesney is.

Near the end of their concert set, Bush and Nettles were zipped into large plastic bubbles. They then rolled out over the crowd. Below is a video of Jennifer Nettles as she rolled over us.

Kenny was the final act. He never disappoints. Rachel and I are always amazed at how hard he performs. Any other concert that you go to, the artist will stop, introduce his/her band, walk around stage between songs, or do many other things to stall and catch his/her breath. Kenny Chesney rocks it out the entire time he is on stage. I have never seen a performer work that hard for 2 1/2 hours straight.