Monday, May 28, 2012

The May Illustration and Baseball

The May Illustration for the Philadelphia Sketch Club
  May is always a busy month for me- our Senior Show at Moore is at the end of April, and I usually spend the first part of May trying to catch up with all the things I put off while getting that show up and running. I started this piece for the Philadelphia Sketch Club May edition of The Portfolio in early April as the major league baseball regular season was just getting  going. Along with it, the baseball season for Newtown, Pennsylvania, was just getting started as well. One of the town baseball fields is directly across the street from me, and I enjoy watching the game and hearing the sounds of kids playing baseball. I just have to be careful where I park my truck, as our yard and the street can be the landing zone for more than a few foul balls.  Baseball is my favorite sport to watch, because it means it is summer. 

   Some of my fondest memories from growing up in Utica include washing the cars with my Dad on a sunny summer afternoon and listening to a ball game on the radio. I rarely ever watch baseball on television, I almost always listen to it on the radio while I work in my studio or around the house, or while I am driving. Subsequently, I am often surprised when I see a photograph of a ball player I have only heard  described on the radio by  the play by play announcers. For instance,  unless a player has a last name that identifies them as being of Latino descent, I picture them in my head as just “a baseball player”; you never hear the announcer say "And here is  Daniel Murphy coming to bat; He is hitting .267 with three home runs, and he is a tall white man with facial hair”...
Mr. Ball Player, prior to his days playing for the NY Mets
  In my head, almost all professional  baseball players  I have not seen look like Art Shamsky from the 1960’s Cincinatti Reds, and are older than me. I guess that is one of the reasons I prefer listening to baseball on the radio; When I do, I always feel like a young guy helping his dad wash the station wagon on a sunny summer afternoon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Philadelphia Sports Weekly Cartoon

On May 6th, the first cartoon I have done for the Philadelphia Daily News weekend paper Philadelphia Sports Week will appear. It's not available on line, so I will post a copy of the weekly cartoon on this blog when it appears each Sunday. The editors help come up with the concept, and then I  (ahem..) take the ball and run with it.

I received a few ideas from the editors, and once the Editor In Chief, Becky Batcha, gave the green light to go with this sketch, I had a lot of fun drawing it. Becky and I go back all the way to our college days at the Daily Orange at Syracuse University, and I wanted to make as good an impression with this first cartoon for PSW as I did with the first cartoon I drew back in 1981 for her DO editorial about martial law in Poland. I hope that I (ahem..) hit a home run with this one, too...

I was worried that after I submitted the final illustration on Thursday at noon that the Phillies would go on an offensive tear for the next 3 games and cause the cartoon to look pretty lame; however, they  managed to hand the Washington Nationals the Friday night game and today rolled over in a 7-1 loss. I can only hope the Nationals get a three-game sweep of the Phils with a shutout on Sunday to keep this cartoon relevant. After that, Philadelphia can go back to being a powerhouse NL East contender again. It might make for good cartoon material this summer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some More New Work

In the previous post, I spoke of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the old time arts organization that I am the Vice President of. One of the nice things about being in the club is being able to take part in exhibitions. I say this because as a member you usually are alerted to and reminded of upcoming exhibitions months in advance by the members who are organizing them. Other exhibitions I usually find out about too late or miss the deadline for entry all together . Thank goodness for on-line entries that allow you to submit work up until midnight…
1957 Chevrolet 210 gouache on paper 8"x6" 

One of the shows at the Sketch Club I always try to enter is the Small Oils Exhibition. This year’s edition is the 149th Annual Small Oils Exhibition, but I’m not certain those 149 years happened consecutively, since the club is entering it’s 153rd year. I think they may have had a break in there for Sketch Club members to fight in the American Civil War.  In any regard, it’s a great show to be juried into it, and there have been years when I did not get in. One of the reasons for rejection probably is that I do not work in oils, and I always find myself entering work painted with something that approximates oil paint, like acrylics. 
1949 Buick gouache on paper 7" x 6"

Lately I have been finishing some work—all automotive subjects- in gouache. I always hesitated in working with it, because #1, it is expensive to buy gouache, and I knew the first few things I tried in it would be lousy; and #2, I can never really remember how to spell the word “gouache”. If it wasn’t for spell check on this computer, I doubt I would ever get it right.
1956 T Bird gouache on paper 7"x 6"
Gouache is similar to a thick watercolor, or like the tempera paint we used in grade school that came in glass jars with metal lids we hard time unscrewing when the paint dried around the top.  The gouache I use is a much higher quality than that paint, and also comes in tubes so the tops are easier to open. Expensive, yes; but it cleans up with water, dries quickly, and doesn’t smell, so it’s great for me to work with.

1959 Ford rear gouache on paper 7" x 6"
It is a fun medium to use, and one of the things I really like about it is the fast drying time and the finished look it has. I had used it sparingly on my water colors after seeing some of James Toogood’s ( work in person- I was impressed with how he combines the transparent and opaque effects watercolor provides. I also noticed that a lot of the automotive paintings I really admired from the 1950’s and 60’s were executed using gouache. Slowly, I got to the point where I was using the gouache exclusively to complete a painting more opaquely, and this year I was able to sneak two of them past three jurors into this year’s  149th Exhibition of Small Oils.   -Rich
1940 Ford Sedan gouache on paper 7" x 6"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Some New Work, After A Long While…

Illustration for April.. a caricature of illustrator Mike Manley

It has been a while since I was able to last post; a very busy year with a lot of free lance illustration and gallery work combined with teaching at Moore leaves little time to post on a blog. I have written many blog posts in my head, but the act of typing them out and checking for grammatical and spelling errors was something I simply did not have the time for…I usually have time to write on the train ride back and forth between Newtown and Philadelphia, but I found myself using that time trying to keep up with emails…the iPhone and iPad  I bought to help stream line things have just helped me to be too busy to work on my iBook…
Illustration for January 2012 Portfoilio
Each month I have an opportunity to create an illustration for the Philadelphia Sketch Club’s newsletter, The Portfolio. With a name like that for a monthly publication, you know it has been around for a long time. Indeed, the club itself has been around for quite a while, having been founded in 1860 by  six illustrators looking for opportunities not available at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The American Civil War put a damper on club activities until the surviving members returned home, but the club really took off after that, with Thomas Eakins eventually becoming the president of the place. The Philadelphia Sketch Club occupies an historic clubhouse on narrow little Camac Street  (“Camac- The Name is the Same, Forward and Back” an elderly gentleman who grew up on the street a few blocks  down from the Sketch Club related to me how he had memorized that when he was younger to remember his address) and the interior includes portraits of club members painted by Thomas Anschutz. They are umber and sienna hued works painted with brushy strokes of serious looking gentleman, nearly every one with a full beard and mustache. The Club was a men-only institution until the early 1990s. You can visit the Sketch Club web site at

February illustration is rather Philadelphia-centric...
Times change, and The Philadelphia Sketch Club has subsequently gone co-ed; this year, The Portfolio has gone on-line. Prior to this, we used the high speed copier and black ink and folded and mailed the issues by hand, restricting the illustration to gray scale and 65 dpi. Now, I can use glorious RGB color at 72 dpi! Given this new freedom, and the change from a short horizontal rectangle to a slightly square one,  I am working to create images that I hope the members will look forward to seeing each month. The theme always needs to have something to do with creating art work and the calendar month or an event taking place at the Sketch Club.  I am posting the illustrations from January through April; still working on May!
The illustration for March reflected our record setting warm weather...

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Big Race

A long post, but it's a long race...
Posted by Rich -
A few weeks ago I ran the 33rd Annual Boilermaker 15k road race in my hometown of Utica, NY. The race is always held on the second Sunday of July, and I now find myself planning my summer and other parts of the year around it. I train throughout the year keeping the race in mind, and other road races I participate in are usually planned around trying to maximize my performance at the Boilermaker. My high school cross country team mates and I ran in the first Boilermaker 15k in 1978, and a few of us remained able and willing to compete in this, the thirty-third edition.

Our group of participants has fluctuated in size over the years, but this year it included Me (50), Bob (51), Ken (47), and Ken’s older brother, Dan (53). It also included Ken’s son Ben (14), running his first Boilermaker, and Dan’s son Tim (18), running his third race. Bob, Ken, and Dan are all marvelously gifted athletes, with Kenny in particular seeming to excel at any sport he tried. Bob and Dan are both naturally talented distance runners, with Dan achieving All-American status in high school, and Bob earning varsity letters running Division One track and cross country in college. Both Dan and Ken’s sons show a proclivity for athletic achievement as well, with Tim a standout runner at Colgate during his freshman year. I fall more into the “success-through-hard-work” category of athletics. Fortunately, the track and cross-country teams didn’t cut anyone, and you had a chance to build up and develop into a varsity level runner over time. Also, distance running didn’t require any special equipment or playing area like a gymnasium or tennis court to practice on, and you could go out and run practically any time. We used to do that a lot.

I usually drive up from Pennsylvania and meet Bob at the Boilermaker Packet-Pickup and Health Expo the day before the race. Packet pickup has grown to be a large, festive event, with a large crowd of runners, their friends and family members going in and out of the area where the packets and Boilermaker goodie bags are distributed. Packet pick up day has since grown to include a health expo and race sponsors hawking their products. It takes a lot of volunteers to keep things in order. Although all these people make for a very congested crowd, it’s a lot of fun, and I always carefully choose which road race t-shirt I am going to wear when picking up my packet; Most of runners at the pickup wear a shirt from a race they have previously participated in, like the Boston or New York marathons. This is mostly to identify themselves as some one who is not going to walk most of the 9.3 miles tomorrow, at least judging by the shirt. Personally, I prefer to wear a race t-shirt from the Philadelphia area, especially from the Broad Street 10 Miler, which is sort of a Philadelphia version of the Boilermaker. This year I wore one from the Bucks County Half Marathon I ran last April. It’s a more obscure run to say the least, but it was an ordeal to complete it and I do not get many opportunities to show the accomplishment off via the t-shirt, especially in a crowd who will actually notice it.

The Boilermaker packet includes our racing bib, or number, that we pin to our shirts or shorts; an electronic chip embedded plastic strip we attach to our shoes to record our times, and a sheet of instructions for race day. The goodie bag holds a terrific one pint glass tumbler with the race logo and date on it, plus an array of other products and sundries from sponsors. This year’s bag offered a card good for a $10 discount on my next $50 purchase from Dick’s Sporting Goods (I hear they have a nice selection of New York City Marathon shirts), a packet of SHOT energy gel (should I drink it or rub it all over me..?) a small tube of Aquaphor Healing Ointment ( hmmm.. now THAT I should’ve put on my nipples before and after the race…) and some powdered drink mixes measured to flavor a .5 liter bottle of water ( that’s pretty cool, but the mixes are sweetened with Splenda…) . We used to get a package of spaghetti with a generic brand name like “Store Pride” or “Kreft” on it, but they stopped giving it out a few years ago. Even though we made fun of it, I kind of miss not getting it anymore. Guess I can forget about it over a few Splenda sweetened bottles of water later…

After we pick up our packets and I am satisfied my t-shirt has been noticed, we go to Dan’s house. Dan lives in a comfortable suburban ranch house conveniently located just a few blocks from our old high school and the 3 mile cross-country course that winds through side streets around it . Our high school is no longer a high school , having been demoted to middle school status a number of years ago in a cost-cutting measure by the city. The run we do on the old course is always a relaxing 8 and half minute pace, easy enough to chat about old times and races and the people who lived in the neighborhoods we are running through. Bob mentioned a hamstring injury he’s been bothered by lately, and he wasn’t sure how well he could run the race tomorrow. Hearing this gave me a glimmer of hope I may actually be able to keep up with him this year.

After the run on the old course, Dan graciously lets us shower at his house and we all go meet Kenny at Charlie’s Restaurant for a pre-race pasta dinner . We have been going to this place the night before the Boilermaker for the past 4 years, and I superstitiously always order the same thing: Baked Ziti. I also order this because it is the least likely to bother my stomach a few hours later. As I have gotten older I find more and more dishes that do not agree with me anymore, and it seems Italian specialties lead that hit parade. Charlie’s has a very good menu, and under the pasta section it list “hats”, but only “when available”. The stars must have been aligned just right, because that night hats were available, and Bob got a big dish of them. I was tempted to try them, but I try to keep things the same before each race, so it was the Ziti for me.

One thing that has always remained the same before each race : whenever Bob, Dan, Ken and I get together, we act like we are 18 and it is the summer after high school graduation again. We spend so much time laughing over things that happened 30 years ago, making jokes and commenting on Bob’s pasta choice of hats (“they look more like ski masks…”) for a meal that I can barely eat. After a 2 hour dinner I go to my parents house and get my stuff ready for the race, always wearing the same thing: a grey racing top I bought at the 2004 Boilermaker, a Nike mesh base ball hat, black running shorts, ankle cut socks and a digital wristwatch. I carefully position my number onto my racing top and pin it in place, leaving the shirt laying flat until the next morning . Anything different might bring bad luck.

The race begins at 8 AM, and this year over 13,000 runners participated. We usually get there around 7 AM, start stretching, and silently assess the other participants in the race also stretching and jogging past. Given the number of runners and the narrowness of the starting area, the Boilermaker uses a color-coded corral system to try to keep the faster runners up front and avoid congestion at the start. Runners line up on a two lane street about 18 feet wide, and the 13,000 runners stretch back nearly a quarter of a mile to the on-ramp of the NY Route 5S bypass. The Boilermaker volunteers are pretty diligent about making sure that only the runners with the correct color coded bib get in the corresponding corral, ejecting those who try to sneak in and sending them back to where they belong. They take their appointed position as Corral Monitor quite seriously, and I get the feeling they have the authority to send a runner who commits a corral infraction all the way back to the 5S on-ramp for their start.

At the starting line, the fastest, elite runners wear bibs with black numbers on a white background. The next fastest group lines up directly behind them, and wear a bib with a blue background; then green, orange, yellow, umm.. grey..I think… or something similar...mauve, maybe? Way in the back, the colors for the last corral is a black background with white numbers, fittingly enough, the exact opposite of the elite runners bibs. There is zero chance a 10 minute miler will be sneaking up from the 5S on-ramp and elbowing a start with the champ from Kenya.

So we stretch and jog and watch the skinny college aged guys and girls with the blue numbers stride effortlessly by, gauge how old the guys with the green bibs are, and especially mentally size up the runners with the orange bibs. At least, I do that, being a runner wearing an orange bib. Sometimes some one will run by and I’ll say to myself “ THEY got an orange bib??” depending on how athletic or out of shape they appear to me during the warm ups. This year Bob and I needed to jog about a half a mile in between stretching and the start, so we got to see lots of the competition also jogging and stretching. I did not see anyone wearing a Bucks County Half Marathon tee shirt like I wore the day before.

We jogged back to the starting line area hoping to get a quick drink from the table offering water and Gatorade in small paper McDonald’s cups, but we after our jog we found ourselves on the opposite side of the road from the water table; the crush of 13,000 runners lining up and the diligent corral guards prevented us from crossing through the starting area ( “You have an ORANGE bib sir; this is the GREY bib area, please walk forward”). Not wanting to end up banished to the on-ramp starting area, we followed instructions and moved ahead to the safety of the orange corral.

Not that it matters, time wise. Technology has made starting back on the off ramp equitable with the white-bibbed Kenyans starting up front. When we pick up our number packets, each runner receives a disposable strip of plastic we attach to our shoes laces. The strip of plastic we picked up in our packets the day before has a computerized chip imbedded in it, and as we cross the starting line we run over a digital sensor that registers our race number and starts the clock for that particular person. Crossing the finish line, the chip in the strip activates another digital sensor and records precisely the amount of time each individual took to complete the distance. I was thirsty, though.
Back in 1978 at Boilermaker 1 , we were handed a popsicle stick with a number on it when we crossed the finish line. This number corresponded with a time written down by officials when you crossed the line, and when you handed in your popsicle stick they wrote your bib number and name next to the place and finish time. I suppose some one typed up the results later in the day. At Boilermaker 33 in 2010, with 13,000 runners crossing the finish line in the space of about 90 minutes, it would be rather confusing to use the popsicle stick method to keep track of them all.
About 2 minutes before the starting gun went off, Bob pointed out to me that my chip strip attached to my shoelaces seemed to be upside down, and there was a risk of my time not registering. Closer examination revealed that I had inadvertently put the wrong side of my chip strip on my shoe; it is distributed to runners as a strip with a perforation running down the center, with one side of the perforation the chip and the other instructions on how to properly attach it to your shoe. I stood at the starting line with about a minute to go with the instructions side of the strip securely attached to my right shoe, the chip side in the wastebasket of my old bedroom at my parent’s house in North Utica. I suddenly found myself yearning for the good old days of popsicle sticks. And I was still thirsty. Hmm…what change in routine or clothing may have brought this bad luck…? I folded my shirt the wrong way? Or was it the hats from last night?

Fortunately, I always wear a digital wrist stopwatch when I run, something that would have been prohibitively expensive 32 years ago. So I shrugged the chip strip debacle off, forgot about the hats, and started my watch as I crossed over the starting line, reaching it about 30 seconds after the starting gun had fired.

Trying to run around the 500 or so runners in front of you is not easy, so if I am fortunate enough to start next to Bob, I usually run directly behind him or to his right. Bob is very adept at picking his way through the crush of runners at the start of the race, and having run various races with him since 1974 I learned that a quick start can be had if you can keep up with him though the crowd during the first half mile or so of a road race.

The Boilermaker is something of a tough 15k, with the first 5k seemingly all a gradual incline. This gentle upward slope doesn’t seem like much though, compared to the portion that starts the next 5k of the race: a very long, uphill climb through the Valley View golf course. Around the 2 mile mark I was finding it difficult to keep up with Bob, and lost him when I took a drink at the next water station. I stayed within site of him until about the 5k mark, until he disappeared into the throng of runners ahead of me. I was feeling rather winded before I got to the 5k, perhaps the combined effects of a long drive the day before, the missed drink of water before the start, the fact that my time wasn’t going to register at the finish, and the fact that I am now 50 years old. Or, it could’ve been the hats…in any instance it was a virtual buffet table of excuses, and the way I was huffing and puffing at the 5k mark it looked like I would be going back for seconds.

I checked my wrist watch and saw that I hit exactly 22 minutes at the 5k mark. Last year I had run the Boilermaker in 63:18, and if I wanted to get close to that this year I had to make up some time someplace along the course. I then turned right and started the grind up the hill through Valley View Golf Course, the incline nearly a mile long in itself. The nice thing about this big mile long uphill section of the race is the nearly mile long downhill section on the other side. The other nice thing about the Boilermaker is the community participation. There are enthusiastic spectators and music and live bands on both sides of the road for what seems to be the entire length of the 15k course. The race is so well organized and attended, it makes the road races I run in Philadelphia seem like they were hastily organized by amateurs.
The downhill ends at the Memorial Parkway, but it still feels like you are descending to the 5 mile mark I guess that’s why I always feel like I’m laboring when I hit the flat section of the course that makes turns left on Genesee Street and makes a semi-rectangular dogleg around Murnane Field before returning to the original course on Burrstone Road. The dogleg was added in the 1990’s when the starting line was moved up to allow for the burgeoning numbers of races the event was attracting. It still feels like a pain in the butt when I get to this newer addition to the race course, like I’m running further than I have to… to assuage grumblers like myself, I think the organizers put some of the better live music along the race course at this part. This year there were close to 50 drummers with full drum kits assembled on the corner of Genesee street and the Memorial Parkway, all knocking out a jazzy rhythm with electric bass accompaniment. Pretty cool. I guess at this point the endorphins are starting to kick in. With 4 more miles to go, I’m going to need all I can get.

Soon after the dogleg, you get back on Burrstone Road, and back on an incline. This section of the course is partly on a four-lane bypass, and I have heard it gained the nickname “Heartbreak Hill”. I’m not sure if the previous big hill we went up after the 5k had a nickname, but this particular stretch is indeed a struggle to get up, and after the previous flat dogleg, I consider it the toughest section of the race. You cross the 10K mark about a quarter of a way up the hill, and make a right hand turn at just about the top of it at right before the 7 mile mark. I checked my wristwatch at the 10k and oddly enough I saw I hit exactly 44 minutes just as I crossed it. I really felt like I was running much slower than that, and it seemed at that point more runners were passing me than I was passing them. I calculated a finishing time in my head, not so much to see what I would actually finish with, but more to figure out how many more minutes of running I would have to endure before I would be able to stop. In any road race you are in, you can decide to just stop and walk at any point you feel like doing it; however, I know there are refreshments to be had at the finish line, and walking just means it will take longer to get to them, so I kept grinding it out up the hill past the Utica College campus and turn right onto Champlain Ave for the next to last leg of the race.

Fortunately, Champlain Ave is pretty much a long downhill mile, so you get a chance to recover a bit after the previous uphill climb. It’s sort of a “Rehab Mile” after “Heartbreak Hill”. One nice thing about not killing myself for a good finishing time this year was being able to notice some of the people along the course that are spectators. Right after I turned onto Champlain Ave I saw Dan’s wife Louise (actually, she saw me, but actually heard and recognized her , something that doesn’t always happen when I run races like these, and then my cousin David, who was handing out ice to the runners. I declined the ice, and stepping carefully over ice cubes discarded by runners onto the race course, yelled Hi to him. He didn’t recognize me. I yelled again and held up my arm, pointing to my head: “it’s your cousin, Richard!” but I still don’t think he recognized me…and, wanting to take advantage of this downhill portion of the race, I didn’t think it was a good time to stop and reacquaint myself with him.
Halfway down the hill on Champlain Ave the runners pass by Stilt Man; At least, that’s what I call him. There are several costumed characters both running the race and cheering the runners on from the sideline, and even in my endorphin fueled near stupor at this stage of the race, I notice the guy on stilts, Stilt Man. I think he is a pretty brave guy, standing close enough to the runners to reach down and slap their outstretched hands as the run by. All it would take is just one disoriented, delirious, endorphin crazed runner out of the 13,000 to misjudge a hand slap and crash into one of Stilt Man’s supports and send him crashing to the pavement on Champlain Ave. Not wanting to be that runner, I usually cut a wide path around Stilt Man and avoid any hand or other bodily contact with him. I’m usually concentrating on getting to the end of Champlain Ave at this point. Down the hill we go to the last leg, Whitesboro Street.

The corner of Champlain Ave and Whitesboro Street is always crowded with spectators during the Boilermaker, this vantage point on the course gives people a great view of the elite (aka known as Kenyan) runners really opening it up as they head for the finish line about a mile distant. As I ran through, a DJ had just started playing “Shout” (from the Animal House soundtrack, not the Isley Brothers version), and I couldn’t help entertaining those who might be watching with a few hand gestures and arm motions in time with the music as I ran around the corner. Guess it was the endorphins kicking in. My body still felt like I was running in a swamp, but reaching this last leg and knowing the finish is just about 10 minutes more of running makes you feel a little better mentally. Keep the endorphins coming, please!

I tried to pick it up on the slight incline you encounter on this section of Whitesboro street, and when I ever I do run this leg I usually concentrate on the traffic lights over distant intersections ahead and run to them. This strategy helps take my mind off the all the young runners blowing by me as they sprint the last mile in. I’ve made the mistake of kicking too early in races before, and it’s not a lot of fun to end up staggering with about 200 yards remaining before you actually cross the finish line. Experience has shown me the big difference between SEEING the finish line and physically CROSSING the finish line.

You hit the 9 mile mark just before you turn slightly right and the crowd suddenly grows huge; you can hear the PA announcer, and barriers appear along the roadside to contain the crowd. The course opens up wider now, and a small downhill sprint takes you through the finish line. At lease, I’m trying to sprint. Mentally, I’m doing the last 100 meters in ten seconds flat; photos taken by the Brightroom photography company of Boilermaker finishers (see them here: (me) and (Bob)) reveal that I look pretty much the same finishing the race as I do starting it. Over the years, I have noticed through these pictures that I do not get my feet very high off the ground while running anymore, and my heel-toe gait is something akin to a gliding power walk. It’s especially noticeable in photos where another runner doing a very good impression of Jim Ryun is flying by me.

As you approach the Finish Line, the crowd noise becomes louder and you can hear the announcer calling out names of finishers as they cross the line. You can also see a large clock over the finish line clicking off the official minutes and seconds since the starting gun was fired about 65 minutes ago. Keeping an eye on this large clock over the Finish line, I run as fast as I can, trying to get to the place where I can stop running as fast as I can.

With several other runners finishing at just about the same time, I stagger over the finish line and click my wrist stop watch off- 65:51 on my watch, still about 30 seconds behind the starting gun time. Approximately 7 minutes per mile, really not that bad, considering the laundry list of excuses I was mulling over in my head as I ran. Knowing that my time and place wouldn’t register when I crossed the finish line was a bit of a downer as I competed, but this type of race is all about personal goal setting. And no matter how hot it is, how awful I may have done, how much I am staggering, I always feel elated and laugh and smile when I finish a race, partly the effect of the endorphins and dopamine, but mostly relief I actually finished.
As you walk away from the finish line, it is apparent exactly how well the Boilermaker is organized and staffed by volunteers. As you follow a path through streets in front of and around to the back of the West End Brewery, you pass a stop where a volunteer hands you an official finishers pin. I remarked to the lady handing it to me that this makes it all worthwhile, and actually, I meant it; after the chip mistake I made, it was the only proof I actually finished. You then walk and shuffle through the crowd of finishers to the Party Area in the parking lot behind the Brewery, where lots of food, drinks, and a band is set up. Only a fraction of the 13,000 15K finishers have crossed the finish line yet; Judging by the elapsed time on my wristwatch, I figured by I finished about 850th or so, and you can still walk around easily and get some water or other refreshments. In about 15 minutes this area will be jammed with finishers.

About 5 years ago, I was staggering through this part after the finish line looking for a drink when a young girl shouted almost directly in my ear “Squincher!!”. I was a bit surprised at this, having been called many things over my life, but never having been called a Squincher. “Skinflint,” yes… “Squealer”, once… but a “Squincher”? I turned and looked at her, and she shouted it at me again, but his time held up a can of sports drink with the brand name “Squincher” printed on it. I gladly accepted it, relieved that “Squincher’ was not a derogatory term for some one who finished over 800th place in a 15K road race.

I looked for Bob, who had finished ahead of me, but couldn’t find him. I usually run into him around where runners are grabbing orange slices and bananas from table tops set up along the street. I also stopped to grab a Vitamin Water-like beverage from table. A runner ahead of me asked the girl setting the bottles up “which one of these tastes the least bad?” The girl thought for a moment, looking at the various colors of labels set out, and pointed to a grayish- purplish one; we both took a bottle of that.

I saw Dan’s son Tim jogging back towards the finish line, looking none the worse for the wear, and he told me he finished in less than 55 minutes. So he had a full ten minutes ahead of me to freshen up and knock back a few cans of Squincher. I walked over to the spot we usually meet up at in the Party area to look for Bob and hopefully see other runners, The parking lot was filling up quickly as more runners finished and were joined by family and friends here in the post-race party area. Dan finished and came back to the spot, but still no Bob. His son Tim joined us, and then Ken hobbled over with his son Benjamin. Ken had been experiencing problems with his Achilles tendon, but somehow had completed all 9.3 miles with it hurting. It looked so swollen and bumpy, I wasn’t sure how he could put his shoe back on. He was having some difficulty walking. I guess the endorphins, dopamine, and the promise of a free can of Squincher is what keeps us persevering in cases like this.

We were enjoying the party atmosphere, chatting with other runners, enjoying the refreshments, and describing to each other how we felt at different sections of the race ( Me: “I thought the part around Utica College was the toughest today.” Ken: “Personally, I thought the part between the Starting line and the Finish was the toughest.”) When Bob finally appeared, he was sporting a bandage over his right inner elbow; he had finished dehydrated and went directly to the Emergency Services tent, where they immediately put an IV in his arm. Coincidentally, while he was in there, we stood around drinking Squincher and joked about the possibility that such a thing had happened to him. Bob always runs hard, gave it all he had during the race, and finished under 63 minutes. but part of the recovery from this effort included two bags of saline solution in his arm. I gave him the can of Squincher we saved for him.

We usually hang around during this time to see F-16 fighter jets from the Air National Guard wing in Syracuse do a low-level flyover, but last year they switched from F-16s to flying drones over Afghanistan. (see a past flyover of F-16s, and runners craning their necks trying to figure out which direction the jets were going to come from for the second pass here:
This also gives a good scope of the Boilermaker post-race party) The Air National Guard actually operate the drones from Syracuse, and pilot them remotely over targets in the Middle East; less spectacular than flying F-16’s for sure, but also much safer and cost effective, and still pretty cool and remarkable. There very well may have been a drone fly over of the Boilermaker this year by the Air National Guard, but being small, stealthy weapons I guess they can easily go unnoticed. Another less spectacular tradition at the Boilermaker post race party is fireworks... Not that they use cut-rate fireworks or just shoot a few of them off, it’s just that fireworks exploding at 11 o’clock on a sunny July morning look like a lot of flashes and smoke.

We didn’t hang around long enough to see the fireworks this year; Tim had to get back up to a Scout Camp in the Adirondacks that afternoon, Ken was limping on his swollen Achilles, and Bob was in need of a bathroom. Blame it on the hats. When we got an opportunity to get a lift back to the starting line in Dan’s car instead of waiting for a shuttle bus, we gladly took it. Bob was able to locate a bathroom in St John’s Catholic church, which of course led us to make all sorts of jokes about “squinching one out” and making sure he didn’t confuse the confessional with the men’s room in his haste. While we waited I noticed a bunch of college age runners taking off to run the 2 miles or so back to the starting line where our cars were parked, and felt a pang of envy at the casual athleticism I used to possess. But then we all piled into Dan’s Chevy, laughing and joking, and I remembered: Despite our injuries, stiffness, and slowness of foot, every Boilermaker weekend we are all 18 and it’s the Summer after our high school graduation again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some New Works...

It has been a busy summer, but I was able to finish some new work for the Artists' Gallery in Lambertville NJ.

The two sepia-toned paintings are mixed media; I used graphite, colored ink, oil, and colored pencil on illustration board. Originally, they had started life as a demo for my Sophomore Illustration Practices class at Moore, and I had time to polish them up for display once school ended in May. The 1951 Ford is from a photo a buddy's daughter shot of one of his projects parked in his backyard. She was just a Junior in high school when she took the picture, and he e mailed me a copy asking if I thought his daughter had any talent as a photographer. I replied I wasn't an expert in judging photography,but I thought it was such a good photo I cropped it a little closer and based my painting on it.

The other, a 1958 Desoto, is from a another pic a friend sent me, again cropped in close. I always loved the big finned Chrysler monsters from the late Fifties, possibly because I rarely ever saw any of them growing up in Utica; the road salt seemed to take a heavy toll on Chrysler products in particular. By the time I was becoming aware what year and make certain model cars were, the "Forward Look" 1957-60 Dodges, Plymouths, DeSotos and Chryslers were already getting to be ten years old.
I added the 1959 New York State license plate, and used my artistic license; the plates didn't really look like that in 1959, but it was the year I was born so wanted the "59" to stand out a bit more.
The 1940 Ford Pickup is a watercolor on paper that I created for the Artists' Gallery Summer Show. You can read more about the exhibition here:
I liked the reflected light on this subject a lot. I'm also looking for more interesting, tighter cropped angles on my automotive subjects as well-Posted by Rich

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It’s Too Hot for Hockey

Posted by Rich - When I first moved to Philadelphia, I was excited to live in a city that had professional major league teams. The teams were, as a whole, not very good in the late 1990’s, but all have dramatically improved in the last ten or so years, with the Eagles reaching the Superbowl, the Sixers making it to the NBA Finals, and the Phillies ( much to my chagrin, being a Mets fan) winning the World Series. In 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers improbably ended up in the Stanley Cup Finals.

I think this last team I mentioned is the one I find hardest to follow. I like the game itself, but the season just drags out so darn long. The 2009-2010 season began on October 1st and ended on June 9th. Eight-plus months of hockey. I don’t have the stamina to be a hockey fan.

Hockey is a winter sport; it would be great if the hockey season ended and the Stanley Cup was presented on the last day of Spring Training for Major League Baseball. That would be a neat way to mark the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring: the last Sunday in March, Hockey crowns it’s champ and Winter is unofficially over. The next day, the First Pitch is thrown out in a Major League ballpark, and Summer is ready to start. When it is the beginning of June and you are only beginning the Stanley Cup finals, , I find it is as hard to maintain my enthusiasm for hockey as I do for wearing long sleeved flannel shirts.

I was driving down a neighborhood thoroughfare on warm afternoon last week, debating as to whether I should turn on the air conditioning in my truck or roll all the windows down, when I drove past a yard display of an ersatz Stanley Cup with three foot high cardboard numbers 2-0-1-0 propped up in front of it. The display was constructed from silver duct-tap covered circular containers stacked on top of each other and topped off with a shiny metal salad bowl; It wasn’t just the hastily constructed amateurishness of The Stanley Cup yard display that made it clash with the riding lawnmower cruising over the green lawn next door; it was the incongruity of the winter element in the lush greens and golden sunshine that is spring and summer. Like a plastic Santa figurine overgrown by dandelions, the Stanley Cup display seemed like a relic from the cold dark days of 3 months ago left outside too long.

I have to admire that fan’s dedication to his sport, though. When I am at a Memorial Day cookout or sweating through late Spring humidity while mowing my lawn, I’m not thinking about rushing in to catch the latest hockey playoff scores. It seems odd, actually, to drive by the local sports bar down the street where people are hanging out in the warm evening air of June watching hockey being played on the giant screens inside. At the other end of the street, a Little League baseball game is finishing up.

I really have a difficult time trying to be a hockey fan for a few reasons:
#1. It’s not fun to listen to. I usually listen to sports on the radio in my studio, and hockey is my least favorite thing to listen to. The players’ names are often hard to pronounce and/or remember, and the French Canadian and Russian accents are incomprehensible during post game interviews.
#2. Money, Money. Hockey was an expensive sport to play properly as a kid, with lots of pricey equipment, and transportation was needed to get back and forth from the rink. It also required a large time commitment from not only the players, but from the families that would be transporting you to games, practices, and trips to the sporting goods store to purchase the pricey equipment. We usually played hockey on open expanses of frozen water in vacant lots during the coldest parts of Winter, wearing heavy boots instead of skates, or on hard packed snow in suburban streets or backyards. As long as you had a puck, a hockey stick, and some heavy clothing to protect against errant pucks and hockey sticks, you could play. You just couldn’t do it on skates.
#3. Tough Guys, Sensitive Egos. Hockey players seem to be easily offended. I have followed both the Flyers and the Bruins, and since I receive New York City radio stations easily here in Pennsylvania, I also follow the Rangers and New Jersey Devils. Too many times, though, I would hear reports of a player or coach not talking to each other because they were unhappy with what one had said about something, or were miffed over lack of playing time, or felt slighted by being moved to the third line from the second. Big tough guys who could take a full body check or a slam against the ice head first seemed to have very fragile egos.
#4. The season is almost nine months long. By the time I’m putting the air conditioner in my studio window and ice in my drinks, I’m no longer interested in ice hockey, mostly because of the word "ICE" in the name... I’m thinking about baseball. We had fun playing hockey during the cold, dark days of winter, but when the days are getting longer and warmer, it’s time to put away the hockey stick and pucks and get out the bats and balls. Granted, the NBA is still in the finals of their postseason in the early summer, and it’s true that high school and college basketball is played in the winter, but I never considered basketball a winter sport. As kids and teenagers we usually played it when the weather was warm and the out door macadam courts or driveway basketball backboards could be used. In addition, basketball is a sport played in the Summer Olympics; Hockey is a centerpiece, of course, of the Winter Olympics.

It’s not that I dislike hockey as a game- of all the professional games I have seen in person, I will have to say the NHL was the most impressive. My wife Laurie happened to get Flyers tickets from her employer when we first moved to Philadelphia, and we ended up sitting in great seats just a few rows back from the rink at the goal end of the ice. The players moved with incredible speed and grace, and even the refs demonstrated remarkable agility and athleticism as they raced up and down the ice ready to assess penalties and break up fist fights after a hard check by one of the players. The game ended up being an exciting shut out win by the Philadelphia Flyers over the Edmonton Oilers and kept the Flyers in contention for a playoff spot.

Up to that point, the only hockey I had seen in person was the old Eastern Hockey League in Utica, NY. These games featured a lot of fights, and crowds that were eager to see them. Some scenes from the classic hockey film “Slapshot” featuring Paul Newman were shot at the Memorial Auditorium in Utica in the late 1970’s. The movie featured a scene of hockey players climbing into the stands to punch rowdy fans who were throwing debris at them on the ice, and the police subsequently showing up in the locker room after the game to arrest the players. This part of the movie was based on an actual event that took place in Utica in a game between the Johnstown Jets and the Mohawk Valley Comets in 1975.

We usually attended these hockey games as part of a Cub Scout night or some other freebee ticket arrangement, so the seats were almost always pretty far back from the ice and up towards the rafters. Just as well, as my arm wasn’t very good, and any debris I attempted to throw on the ice would’ve ended up in the less cheap seats ahead of me. I DID possess strong lungs and a loud voice, though, so instead of tossing empty popcorn containers we just hurled verbal insults at the players skating around and fighting below us. Except for fights, we rarely watched the entire game; most of the time was spent eating your popcorn as fast as you could and washing it down with a soda so you would have something to toss over the railing onto the opposing team when they skated off the ice and walked to the entrance of the Visitor’s locker room in between periods. Just before the end of the first and second periods, we demonstrated our own speed and agility as we would race around gathering up discarded cups, popcorn boxes, and game programs, toss them on the opposing team, and then jump back over the rows of seats to escape the security guards who would yell at us to knock it off or risk expulsion. Of course, in our Cub Scout uniforms or snorkel coats we all looked pretty much the same and they could never tell exactly which one of us was throwing a pop corn box, so verbal warnings were about all that was given.

I recall attending one game in particular where a player from New Haven wore a helmet. A helmet! We were incensed—what kind of hockey player wore a helmet? He was the only player on the ice wearing one, and in the late 1960’s EHL, possibly the only one in the league; Our taunts and cat calls were incessant, even as he sat on the bench. The helmet may have been worn as protection from head injuries on the ice, but was likely more effective as protection for that walk to the locker room entrance through a shower of trash and debris.

The Flyers lost in overtime of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. No Cup for Philadelphia this year. Yesterday, I drove by the house with the Stanley Salad Bowl display out front, and all the elements had been removed; just a faded area of grass where the circular containers were stacked was all that remained of the display. Given the tenuous position the Flyers played from all during the playoffs, seemingly only a game from elimination at every stage, it is no wonder the owner didn’t make a more elaborate declaration of team spirit. The whole thing could’ve been rendered pointless at any time over the span of three weeks, and the shiny steel salad bowl returned to it’s place in the kitchen cupboard once the team was eliminated from contention. And what can you do with leftover circular containers wrapped up in duct tape? Sadly,they probably ended up in the trash.

In retrospect, I guess Hockey has it right: after a long, dragged out, endless hockey season is finally over, you can sit outside in the warm sun and have a cool refreshing drink. For baseball fans, after a long season that begins in March and finally ends in November, we are left with making sure the storm windows are down and turning the clocks back an hour.

But at that point, including pre-season training camp, most National Hockey League teams will already have been playing for two months.