Sunday, September 20, 2009

Boxing Hall of Fame

Having read about many of the former boxing champions, I knew that they often trained in upstate New York in order to escape the everyday distractions just before a fight. I never expected to see all these champions on my drive back from Vermont to Chicago. It was late afternoon while I was driving down Route 90, between Rome and Syracuse (N.Y.), when I spotted a sign for the Boxing Hall of Fame. At first I thought it was a mistake since the location seemed so remote. I decided to pull of the exit to see for myself.

I parked across the street from the building in Canastota, N.Y., and as I walked toward the building a man greeted me and told me that the hall of fame had just closed for the day. It was 5:05 p.m. He suggested I come back tomorrow. I told him I couldn't because I was driving across country to Chicago. He then told me to follow him.

He introduced me to Ed, the Boxing Hall of Fame director.
"Are you a big boxing fan?" Ed asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Who is your favorite fighter?"

His question caught me off guard (no pun intended). There are too many great fighters to name just one. I was tongued-tied for a few seconds. Ed started naming some great fighters and I chimed in and my mind fell back at ease and all the great fighters and writers I had read came back to me. Now that I had Ed's respect, he told me that the museum was closed, but that he would give me a private tour. I was ecstatic. Inside there was a collection of plaques, gloves, robes, and other vestiges from these great boxers' past. The fighters ranged from the 1800s pioneers to the modern pros, everyone from John L. Sullivan to Joe Walcott to Mike Tyson. I was really impressed with the two other workers at the hall of fame who knew about W.C. Heinz, whose plaque hung on the wall for decades of prose about fighters such as Rocky Graziano and Floyd Patterson.

We then walked into another room where the actual ring stood from the first Ali-Frazier fight in Madison Square Garden. At the time, it was deemed the Fight of the Century by promoters. There were lots of rare photos, many of them signed, displayed for visitors. Ed picked some of them up and showed me the price tags. I was surprised. It seemed like these items shouldn't be for sale, especially ones signed by dead boxers, such as Alexis Arg├╝ello. Nevertheless, the tour was a special treat, and I plan on returning in June for the annual induction weekend.

Carmen Basilio, left, jokes around with Mickey Mantle. Basilio was born in Canastota, N.Y., and autographed this photo.

Upstate New York

Driving back from Huntington, Vt., I crossed Lake Champlain on the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry. About 16 cars fit on a small ferry that looked like a big raft. Since it moves via an underwater cable, it feels like the world around you is moving while the ferry is sitting still.

Farther along, I stopped my car next to a beautiful lake in upstate New York and snapped these photos below. Scenery in Vermont and New York are breathtaking this time of the year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pete and Emily

Peter Land is one of the best people I know... and if he wasn't a Red Sox fan he would probably the best.

Pete's family and my family used to meet every summer in Nantucket just after the school year ended. Although it was only a week together, it was the most fun I had each year. We played wiffle ball, rode bikes to Downyflake, flew model rockets and kites, sang songs in the backseat about Madaket Beach, waited for the "mother of all waves," and plotted against our parents. These were some of my best childhood memories.

There have been countless other great memories we've had, from going to the Final Four to the America East title game to the Land Grant to RBI Baseball. Everything somehow becomes memorable hanging out with Pete. Unfortunately, he is accident prone and has been on the receiving end of my shenanigans many times. In fact, I thought I was going to injure Pete when he leapfrogged me on the dance floor at his wedding. With that aside, it was a fun outdoor ceremony and the entire weekend reflected the type of people Pete and Emily are. They are the type of people that this world needs more of and I am honored to be friends with them.

Pond Jumping

When I first saw the pond, yesterday, I knew I had to jump in it. I knew it was a matter of when and not if. Having had a great hike and lunch, I got down to my underwear and jumped in. Then Chad and Mike joined in. The water was cold and the bottom was slimy, but there is something satisfying about that. This was by far the best morning of a wedding.

Camel's Hump

After eating home-made blueberry pancakes this morning, a group of us staying at the Sleepy Hollow Inn in Huntington, Vt., headed for Camel's Hump. It was a great way to begin the day. We drove to the base of the mountain it took us about an hour and a half to hike to the highest of two humps. I cannot believe it has been just over 20 years since my first and only ascent of Vermont's third-highest mountain, which got its name from the distinctively shaped two peaks. The mountain can be seen from Burlington, and is an obvious favorite of many local hikers. On top, ice covered the pine-tree branches that grew in unison with alpine grass and rock. The wind blew the thick clouds right past us, making it impossible to see what normally is a great view. Being in the clouds felt refreshing, especially with a PBR in hand. My brother and I got a quick beer buzz and decided to take off our shirts. This was the start of our wedding day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fun Times in Huntington, Vermont

Growing up, I used to go to Nature Camp with my brother and our close family friends Jenny and Peter in Huntington, Vt. We added to those fond memories because tomorrow Peter is going to get married just down the road from Nature Camp. Some of us stayed at the Sleepy Hollow Inn after a fun night of Ben & Jerry's, drinking, and karaoke.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to visit B&H, the largest non-chain photo and video store in the United States. It has an Orthodox Jewish owner and many Orthodox Jews on staff, which is why it is closed on Jewish holidays. If you are a professional photographer or videographer, B&H is the place to go because of its immense selection and expert staff. Their prices are also comparable to However, they carry many accessories and specialty items that Amazon does not.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Midwest Sunrise

I left Chicago before sunrise this morning. I took the photos above while driving (not one of my most brilliant ideas) near the Illinois/Indiana border. I don't remember what state it was. Anyhow, the Midwest, while flat, is very scenic around sunrise with the morning fog hovering above the boundless acres of flat farmland. I was lucky, I made it to Connecticut in one day without any traffic. Getting up early does have its perks, especially for photographers and truck drivers.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Living in Edgewater

Every day I see new apartments and condos being built in downtown Chicago. While living close to work has its perks, I am glad I am living on the far north side in a neighborhood called Edgewater. I live within two blocks from the El and bus systems that can take me downtown in a half hour. I am a block away from Lake Michigan and the beach.

My neighborhood suits my personality. The residents are laidback and come from countries around the world, in particular Africa and the former Yugoslavia. One day I saw an African woman walking on the other side of the street, wearing her native clothing and balancing a large bundle of toilet paper on her head. I smiled and waved. She then removed the bundle from her head and carried it in her arms as she walked. Many of the Africans I work with live in my neighborhood, having escaped civil wars in their native countries. They are taxi drivers, housekeepers and dishwashers. With a diversity of people comes a diversity of food. One of my favorite places to eat is a Colombian restaurant called La Fonda (on Broadway and Berwyn). The owners are from Cali and have a great weekday lunch buffet.

The front entrance to my apartment, The Ambassador, in the Edgewater neighborhood.

The street outside my apartment.

A view from the rooftop porch of my apartment. Lake Michigan is just a block away.