27 November 2013


With sisters, Chapel Hill, 1966

"Great" is in grateful.  "Titled" is in, "entitled." It's all about contrast.  A chunky wool tweed against end on end shirting and a silk tie. A potato knish for breakfast and later lunch at the Four Seasons.   Then there's the contrast of words:  Grateful and entitled.

We're coming up on the day we're all supposed to be thankful.  I didn't want to spend that day in Chapel Hill with my family in 1966. Dad was in Vietnam and a friend of mine invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. He had a lot to be thankful for. His father owned a number of Esso stations and they were rich.

The ranch house was the length of a football field with a pond in the front and a go kart track around it. The go-kart had a blue and white surrey top and a white vinyl bench seat. And as  things go with boys -- his stuff was mine and my stuff was his.

We tore around the pond, lap after lap, stopping only once to refill with gas. I assumed it was free. Speaking of words, I just noticed how beautiful the word 'go kart' is. Anyway, the day had the faintest hint of chill and absolutely no humidity. Not an everyday occurrence in the humid swamp that was Chapel Hill most days.

Outside was better than inside.

A formal dining room with one window seemed dark as death and brown as a coffin. Brown was in the turkey, the iced tea, the Queen Anne dining set and death was in the grandmother who sat at the head of the table. No one talked except the grandmother and I never wanted to hear her again.

After dinner everyone wandered into the living room where the color TV was turned on with a remote the size of a Montecristo No. 4 box. I don't remember what they watched. I only remember it was time to go. The go kart wasn't worth it.

I walked into my tiny house where neighbors and their children were crammed in every corner. It was loud and bright with light. Color slides of French gardens from a neighbors recent holiday flashed on a bare white wall and wine bottles littered our Scandinavian dinner table.

I still see it and I still remember knowing it meant something special.  I wanted to be in the light and not the dark. I still do and for that I'm grateful.

Originally posted 23 November 2010

24 November 2013

Me & Orson

Peter Bogdanovich published a bio of Orson Welles in the early '90s. I was married and living in Lake Bluff when the Echo Xray gave me the book for Christmas in 1992 or '93. The bio came with four hours of recorded interviews at numerous locations to include the set of Catch 22 and a NYC taxi where Welles offers the driver a gold doubloon if he'll step on it.

Last year I unsuccessfully looked for the interviews on line since my own tapes have resided in a storage locker somewhere in Northeast Florida for the last seven years. But the internet finally caught up and here  they finally are with the first half hour above.

I remember hearing these the first time and being overwhelmed...Not just by the technical insight and gossip...but just hearing Orson fire up another Partagas, hearing ice being swirled in a drink and feeling like I was in the room with him.

Welles, who was from Kenosha, was all over the the north shore of Chicago. Acting as a 13 year old at Ravinia and attending the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, IL --  I'd drive around listening to these tapes and couldn't stop thinking what a great film they'd inspire. For me, they were so visual -- Maybe they'll be for you as well.

21 November 2013

Dead in Panama

Jungle Ops Training Center (JOTC) at Ft Sherman, Canal Zone

JOTC barracks reflected in crew chief's visor

Bravo Company, 1/325, 82nd Abn Div, on the Rio Chagres

Unloading LST

Rising Sun over Limon Bay

One of the strangest conversations I ever had with Dad, and there were some strange ones, concerned my being killed in Panama.  Dad was informed by my mother, who,  according to Dad, seemed to be on another planet.  She approached him in our backyard where he had set up a radial arm saw and spent as much time as he possibly could cutting wood and avoiding people.

"John's dead." she said.  "What?" he said, turning off the saw.  "John's dead.  It happened early this morning." He was stunned.  How could it have happened? And then he remembered I was in Panama.  He knew it could have happened any number of ways and plenty ran through his head.

He looked at her and said, "Our son's not supposed to die before us."  She cocked her head, "What are you talking about?"  "John," he said.  "You said he was dead."  "No," she said. "My uncle -- John -- he died this morning." "Oh," he said. She turned and walked back into the house.  He switched the saw on and grabbed another piece of plywood.

20 November 2013

Men of the Cloth Showing

A day late and a dollar short goes my story... Men of the Cloth (covered here) premieres tonight and I can't make it but I can't wait to see it.  I understand tickets were especially difficult to secure but if you're in town tomorrow night -- that's this Thursday -- You might well be in luck.  According to producer/director, Vicki Vasilopoulos, a Fairchild alum and an amazingly sweet person despite her tenure at Fairchild, there are openings for tomorrow night.  Are you impulsive?.. and in NYC tomorrow night?..Then by all means... jump on it.

November 21st, 2013 at 5:00 PM
IFC Center, 323 6th Ave at West 3rd St
Info and tickets here.

19 November 2013


By the time I arrived in NYC in '84, New Order's, 'Temptation' had been out but not for long. I wound up with a bunch of the French guys who were rebuilding the Statue of Liberty torch in the same repousse way the original was constructed.

We wound up in a bar in midtown and lady luck and, I think, Lady Liberty, were looking down on us -- Not that it doesn't hurt to have 13 Frenchmen who make a living banging copper against wood. Girls were everywhere and so were the French. Me? I was lucky to be along for the ride.

I think it was an Irish bar - A massive place and we were on a balcony over looking the bar. 'Temptation' came on and the French started dancing by themselves. In no time, and I mean, NO. TIME. They were joined by women from every direction. I joined the human car wash and I remember it as a pure miracle I was lucky enough to join. The song seemed to just go on an on...

The French slowly paired up and left the balcony with their new American friends but I didn't want the dance to stop.

11 November 2013

Happy Veteran's Day, USAA

I planned this going away party for RM on the infamous Hay Street in Fayettville. RM was on his way from being a clerk & jerk in JAG to OCS and eventually a 2nd LT in the Infantry. He was a good friend who made a messy situation with the Army and Dad's auto insurance company disappear when I loaned Dad's '68 Dodge Charger to a stoned Johnnie Walters for a McDonald's run and who instead ran into the back of a parked Army duece and a half. I have no idea where RM is but I wish them both a Happy Veteran's Day.

07 November 2013

Cutty Sark - Not Just for the Big Girl's Blouse

Cutty Sark by F.M. Tinseth, oil on canvas, 1976

Cutty Sark in Flagler College dorm room, 1983

Cutty Sark in September Esquire, 1961

Rare Cutty Sark tie on even rarer yellow university stripe oxford, 2013

Cutty Sark by A. J. Tinseth, 2013

My old man was very proud of his Cutty Sark.  His painting...not the Scotch. He was a gin martini  man through and through and Beefeater gin was his go to.  I don't ever remember him drinking anything else except beer, of which he gave no brand his loyalty, or the occasional glass of wine, which, if he knew anything, he learned from me.

His Cutty Sark painting was about an image - he knew - was instantly recognizable...at least by himself and his peers in the officer's clubs he frequented. My connection to Cutty Sark is through Berry Brothers and Rudd.  A wine merchant in the Pall Mall area of London, I was first introduced to the 300 year old merchant via their catalogs a London friend, Vodka Ronnie, kept by his toilet.  Not the most glorious of beginnings but Vodka Ronnie had very good taste in wine.

Barry & Rudd, as it's more commonly known, came up with the idea for a light blended Scotch as they were wine merchants and I assume didn't want to blow their customer's palettes outta the water with a double barrel Islay. Their target customer were Septics (Septic Tank- Yank) who were about to get back into Rub a Dubs (Rub a Dub- Pub) as Prohibition was coming to an end. With the Septic in mind, a 20 single malt blend was used with mostly Big Girl's Blouse Speyside (Glenrothes) being the predominant malt.

"Whis-KAY" as it's pronounced over there also sounds a lot like "Cut-TAY."  When I hear one, I think of the other.  I'm not sure why.  It's a Lemmon-NAY Whis-KAY.  Light and dry and being that it's not too dear, I think it's best to be mixed, which I did, with a $20 bottle. I  tried it with Polar Bitter Lemon (find it - far better than Canada Dry) and it wasn't bad. I mixed it with lemon flavored seltzer and thought it completely changed the Cutty with the soda giving it a rounder and fuller taste of a scotch double the price. Impressive for those like me who are mean when it comes to their Whis-KAY.

I used it to make a Side Car replacing the brandy with Cutty -- A favorite of the tasting and something I look forward to ordering in a Rub a Dub, "Make mine a Cut-TAY side car, To-NAY." If you're thinking a Manhattan -- I wouldn't -- Although I did.  There's just not enough backbone to the Cutty. Having said that, if you're a beginning Scotch drinker, this is the tricycle for you, in much the way Barry & Rudd always intended it to be, even if you are a big girl's blouse; I wear a 14.

05 November 2013

My Hunt Cup Runneth Over

Off a road and off another road...shopping strips, gas stations and drug stores disappear.

I stare out and see a horizon of blue and green and empty of what depresses me.

Having said that, I try to avoid looking at Andy's hat.

It's tailgating but this isn't parking at the Firecracker 500 where all come to watch a left hand turn.

There is such beauty in seeing a man or woman on a horse.  Unlike most of traditions that are forgotten, the elegance of the pairing, I'm positive, will last forever.

I'll be dead forever but today I'm alive and I will suck all this in like a Partagas Lusitania.

It's a small crowd - Is that possible?  Off the radar where crowds come only to  promenade their Lilly P and get drunk while they selfie.

Pretentious free, it's all amazingly simple.  Granted, the ethnic diversity is limited but it's so soulful.

A windswept soul. I once asked a tax attorney, what business could  a man deduct everything and keep outta jail.  "Horses," he said.

He added it went back to the early 19th century when business had a lot to do with horses.

And the laws just never changed.  But people do.

Our horses are bits of plastic and steel but we can still fly a flag.

Still, can you ever look this good in a Toyota? Personally, I don't think so.

I love watching rich old white people.

Mostly because it beats watching poor white people.  They like watching a 500 mile left turn.

When I bring a camera, I try to shoot what no one else is shooting. In this case -- the race.

For me, I love the sound I first heard at Keeneland almost 20 years ago.  Hoof on turf and I know it sounds like it did 200 years ago -- 500 years ago -- 1,000 years ago.  A forever soundtrack.

Sometimes I just want to close my eyes and listen to the horses, the wind, the cheering...It is traveling back in time when there was so much elegance despite poor plumbing and dentistry.

Special thanks to the Main Line Sportsman for the invitation & inspiration of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup