Category Archives: The Gentlemanly Arts

Music, shaving, calling cards, and all things it takes to be a Gent.

A Gentlemanly Shave

Truefitt & Hill

By Brian K. Brecht

 

It was time, the beard had to go.

Having finally arrived in London since that obscure thought of “I think I’ll not shave until London”, it had been four or five months since the off-handed comment between Rick and I, and I was ready to have the beard gone.

We were a day into our trip, and now, day 2, adding to the fact that my luggage had not arrived with me, I convince Rick a side trip through London’s St. James Place was exactly what we needed to do today.

In my planning the trip I had toyed with the idea of getting a traditional shave at a barber shop called Truefitt & Hill. Half the reason to grow the beard was so it could be shaved off once we arrived in London.

Truefitt & Hill is listed as being the oldest barbershop in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records in April 2000. Established in 1805, the year of Nelson’s battle at Trafalgar and while George the III was on the throne, it’s 212 years of service has seen monarchs, statesman and celebrities come through its doors and is one of the few barbers who continues to hold a Royal Warrant from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Royal Family, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra were all patrons of this iconic establishment. It continues its proud traditions and its high-end clientele to this day, so if you were going to grow a new beard, for the sole purpose of shaving it off, then of course, why wouldn’t you go to Truefitt & Hill?

My suspicion was that I’d be lucky to gather some shave gear to replace my missing toiletries, however imagine my surprise when, upon walking in with no appointment, I asked if I could get a shave? With a very pleasant, “of course sir”, this was shaping up to be an exceptional morning.

I had become a fan of the traditional hot towel; straight razor shaves a number of years back. The ritual and process of the shave attracted me at first, but once I’d actually gone through the experience I found it to be not only incredibly enjoyable and relaxing, but the results of the shave, the smooth skin and manly indulgence was something I could quickly grow accustom. In this world of three blade, four blade, or five blade razors, all of which are meant to shave you “closer than ever before”, we seem to have lost the elegance and ritual that men used to allow themselves during their daily grooming. To say nothing of the fact that I believe it provides a much better shave. More on that in a later post.

This day of the trip (the 19th of October) was a bit of a flex day in our schedule as we weren’t sure how we’d handle the jetlag. Also we had a couple options for sight seeing and didn’t know which way things would go. As it turned out, on our way to Abbey Road, we had the morning to kill so the detour through St. James Place worked perfectly.

Rick and I were escorted to a small waiting area just past the lobby. While we waited we admired the signed pictures from Churchill, and Montgomery, the famed British General from WWII, and snapped photos of the plaques declaring the royal warrants and proclamations.

It was still early so it was as though Rick and I had the shop to ourselves. No one else had come in and soon my lovely barber Ola, collected me and settled me into the waiting barber chair toward the back of the salon.

Truefitt & Hill – London / St. James Place

Her voice was quiet and demeanor relaxing and pleasing when she asked what I wanted done this morning.

I had asked Ola to shave the sides of my face but keep the goatee. Trim it up a bit but leave some of the length at the chin simply for some fun. She understood and immediately proceeded to tilt back the chair and prep me for my experience.

She applied a cotton band across my eyes, so she could begin trimming back the growth from the last six months. The detail here was interesting because she didn’t just delve in with a pair of loud electric trimmers. The sides of the beard were first removed with a pair of hand clippers before shaping around the chin and mustache with the electric.

Soon after a hot towel enveloped my face, warming my skin and whiskers just prior to her removing the towel and beginning the application of the hot lather.

From here most of the experience was lost in a haze of relaxation. I’d hear quiet instructions, “lift your chin, turn your head…” but most of what I was aware was the soft pleasant conversation Rick and Ola were having while I drifted in and out of semi-consciousness. With eyes closed I was only aware of the sounds and smells that lingered in the salon. The pleasant sent of shaving cream, steam radiating from the hot towels, and the sounds of clippers and shears doing their work.

As expected the entire experience was exceptional. What I enjoy about a straight razor shave is the relaxation. There is a numbness that comes knowing a highly trained hand is wielding an open razor blade across your face. You can sense the controlled hand paired with the delicate touch. It is both invigorating and relaxing.

 

The shave ended all too quickly but not before a final hot towel, followed by a cool towel to close the pours and tighten the skin.

Coming out of my haze I reached up to find smooth cheeks and a manicured beard and mustache. My skin was tight and had scent of lightly perfumed shaving products.

It was a fantastic shave and a wonderful experience. As I was checking out I took a lengthy view of the amazing selection of shave brushes, soap bowels, straight and double edge razors in the cases.

I couldn’t leave without a meaningful souvenir and with Ola’s help, selected a beautiful black-handled razor, and a thick tulip shaped brush. Ola threw in a selection of Truefitt & Hills shave balms and cologne, and I couldn’t resist putting on some of the “West Indian Lime” aftershave, Churchill’s prefer sent.

This is an experience I’d recommend every gentleman to try at least once. For myself, it’s something I’d easily go back for again and again. Unfortunately, Trueffit and Hill no longer has locations in the US. So I guess I’ll have to head back to St James Place as soon as I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trap and Sporting Clays

 

Drake Landing

By Brian K. Brecht

 

As outdoorsmen, we’ve often enjoyed activities surrounding shooting and hunting. In recent years, we’ve found ourselves digging heavily into wing hunts and clay shooting. For some time, Tom has been a part of a Northern California shooting range, and since moving to North Carolina; I’ve found a great range we’ll talk about later in this post.

Shooting birds has it’s own challenges like any other hunting sport, and sharpening those skills takes time and plenty of hours at the local range.

For those new to clay pigeon shooting, there are a number of variations to the sport. The basic idea, coming from claypigeonpro.com is:

“…a collection of sports that simulate many common bird hunting situations”.

You might here it described as “Skeet”, ”Trap”, or “5 Stand”, all of which present different challenges. For this trip however we focused on yet another variation to the sport known as Sporting Clays.

A couple quick descriptions and helpful graphics we found (again) on claypigeonpro.com are as follows:

“Trap shooting is considered to be the easiest of the three disciplines because of the number of clays used (typically one, although in some forms two are used), and because the clays are released in only one direction (although the trajectory and speed can be variable).”

In Trap, each shooter will rotate through the five stations, giving each person the chance to shoot from a different location.

Next, Skeet shooting adds an additional level of complexity with an additional trap house and extra stations.

“…more complex than trap shooting in both the number of clays released, the trajectory of the clays, and the position of the shooters. A skeet shooting range (see diagram below) consists of two trap houses, each set off to one side of the range. The shooter positions form a semi-circle from one trap house to the other, with an eighth position in the center of the field.”

Again, the shooters rotate through each station after each round.

 

Five Stand, our third variant, the direction the clays fly from alters with each round, instead of moving the shooters. There are five stations or stands, and six to eighteen strategically placed clay target throwers (traps). Shooters fire in turn at various combinations of clay birds such as, 6 & 10, or 1 & 3, or 13 & 8. At each throw, the shooter is presented with different combination of targets, each coming from a different location, with differences in speed and elevation. Obviously there are technics and subtleties for each style.

For Tom and I, it was a beautiful fall morning when we journeyed to Drake Landing just outside of Raleigh North Carolina. For this specific practice session, we’d practice our technique on yet a fourth variant to the sport, that of Sporting Clays.

Sporting Clays, changes up the environment and presentation of targets, this time offering two different throws (like 5 stand) but each at a different shooting environment as you move through the course.

Sporting Clays “…most closely resembling true hunting in that shooters move through a course and can expect to see clays from any angle just as if they were flushing game out of the brush.”

That being the formal description, I found the Wikipedia definition to be quite enjoyable:

Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as “golf with a shotgun” because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain. “

Tom and I looked at it as more, a predetermined hike, where we got to shoot things. But sure, “golf with a gun”, that works too.

According to the Wikipedia article, Bob Brister introduced Sporting Clays to American shooters in his feature article in the July 1980 Field & Stream magazine issue.  At our facility, we walked a mile and a half course that encompassed 13 stations. At each station the clays were launched from varying positions, each simulating possible scenarios of wild game.

Clays were launched from the left, from the right, launched high, and low, and even over water, or rolling along the ground.

Trap is very enjoyable but you’re limited to shooting in one of five standing positions, shooting in a very regimented order. In sporting clays, you’re still shooting one at a time, each shooter getting their chance at the flight, but you feel more in tune with what a real hunt might be like given the diversity of each station.

Drake’s Landing is a beautiful facility, with a focus on not only hunting and the outdoors, but also a love of the land and the importance of passing it on. A fifth generation working farm, that through the years has cultivated food, fiber, tobacco, forestry products, and fun for the owning Andrews family and their neighbors.

We checked in easily at the office, were able to rent not only the time and shells and had we needed them, the shotguns as well. We were instructed to take the leisurely path to “Course #1” and we’d find an attendant at the first station, all of which went exactly as described.

Our attendant at station “1” was a rough, grizzled, but approachable older gentleman who took the time to explain how each station would work and how to use the automated controller we were given.

Within a few short minutes we were up and running, taking our first shots at station one. Overall it took about an hour and a half to walk the entire 13-station course, taking a leisurely approach at each. The groups are paced at the start so though we did run into a few other groups, we didn’t fee rushed. And everyone we encountered was happy to just be out in the woods. We all laughed and joked, and allowed each other to shoot at our own pace.

The course at Drake Lading was surprisingly diverse, with simple wooded stations, followed by up-hill ranges, over water shots or downhill targets. Each station presented a specific challenge and we found them all to be very enjoyable. For Tom and I, it was a perfect precursor to our hunting trip we had planned at the George Hi plantation. That will be our next post, coming in a week or so.

Since that first trip we’ve returned to Drake Landing and shot the other courses on site. Both are well thought out, easily managed and a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

Drake Landing also offers hunting packages on the facilities, which we’ll be looking into and can report on that as the Upland season begins this October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Stories – Part 2


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“The Adventure Stories”

~Part Two~

By T. Dietz & Brian K. Brecht

Tom’s List:

There is a very direct correlation to the books I had access to as a kid and young adult , and how they fueled the vast majority of my adventure seeking behaviors, hobbies, and my career.

“Wild Life in South Africa”

securedownload2The very first book that I remember vividly, and still have today (it actually sits on my desk), is “Wild Life in South Africa” by J. Stevenson-Hamilton who at one time carried the title Late Warden, Kruger National Park. The book was first published in 1947 with a second edition in 1950. An illustrated edition followed in 1954, which is the one I possess. It’s worth a few words how I ended up with this book. My mother was an immigrant to the US from Switzerland in the late 1950’s. As a first job she worked for a wonderful family physician, Dr. L Berg. He was a staple in my life for my early years and new of my enthusiasm for collecting insects. I was a born naturalist, enthralled by all sorts of animals. But all I could talk about was Africa, that very mysterious place with incredible animal life. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 when he presented me with his own copy, a gift given to him by who I don’t know in, 1957. I have read this book dozens of times. It is not an adventure in some sense, but for me it was an example of an adventurous life.

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Stevenson-Hamilton had published his first version of the book in 1917 when he was the first Park Ranger of South Africa’s main wild life sanctuary, Kruger National Park. It is a factual book about the ecology of Kruger, the natural history of its animals, man’s influence over them, and man’s fortitude to protect them. The book has wonderful maps, photo plates, and descriptions. From when I first read this book to the many times since, I can see Stevenson-Hamilton out in the Park, noting his observations, making sure he is not in peril from predators, and camping in the open bush. The book fueled a lifetime desire to go to Kruger and that dream finally came true in 2009 – several of the stories from that trip will be forthcoming.

 

“The Silent World” & “The Living Sea”

securedownload4Then there are the two books by one of my favorite adventurers, Captain Jacques Cousteau, “The Silent World”, 1953 and “The Living Sea”, 1963.

The influence on me from these books can be seen in both an early career in Science, my tenure at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, SCUBA diving, and exploration. Cousteau’s undersea adventures are legendary and his respect for the sea extraordinary. I’ll look to write up some of my own underwater adventures as I’ve already touched on some on sea adventures with my GAC write up “Diablos Rojos”.

 

“Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”

securedownloadNow Brian has his Shackleton voyage book and I have mine, “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”, by Alfred Lansing, 1959. This is another book whose pages are well worn from its many years in my active library.

As Brian talks about, Shackleton’s ill-fated trip resulted in one of the greatest known feats of navigation and survival. Antarctic exploration has always fascinated me and like other adventurous places, it’s been on my list. I came close once.

While at the Scripps, a team of us made a request of the National Science Foundation to fund an Antarctic expedition to further my molecular research on animal adaptation to stressful and unusual environments. Unfortunately, Federal funding for this type of trip was waning and the wait seemed too long. In the end, we settled for a warm water collecting adventure in Baja California.

 

 

“The Right Stuff”

securedownload5There are many more books by the likes of Hemingway, Roosevelt, Carter, Hillary, Scott etc, that have kindled and kept the thirst for adventure and exploration alive for me, but I will mention one last one, “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe, 1979.

Now this book really came after having already gotten the space exploration bug, as many of my generation had watching the Apollo program, especially Apollo 11.

As like most kids, becoming an astronaut and space explorer was high on my list, and lasted considerably longer than most, as my last application to NASA’s astronaut program was when I turned 46 – a glutton for rejection.

Many of my passions like diving, flying, science etc, had the dual purpose of filling its own desire, but were also pursued to give me the skill sets necessary to become a space explorer. Although that long chapter has many interesting stories, its now closed, but the journey to achieve it has brought incredible adventures.

Adventure Stories

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“The Adventure Stories”

~Part one~

By Brian K. Brecht & T. Dietz

As we strive to expand on the goals of the Gentleman Adventurer’s Club, we continue to look back to find the origins of the concept. Where did the desire come from and why do we find ourselves hunting for more meaningful adventures in our lives?

We’re sure the footprint will continue to evolve as ideas, time and resources allow. But looking back, it’s not hard to see the movies, books and stories of our youth play a distinct role in the Club’s development.

Characters and adventures like those of Errol Flynn, Indiana Jones or Jacues Cousteau are hard to ignore but under closer scrutiny as we discussed it, Tom and I realized it’s been a collection of books that have been the spurs that moved us forward.

We both found common inspiration in certain stories like the motorcycle trips of Ewan Macgregor and Charlie Boorman, and we’ll talk about how some of Steingbeck’s works catalyzed our thinking. However, very quickly, as we would expect, we each have our own influences as much as we have ones in common.

In the following article(s), we’ll highlight some of the books and stories that laid our foundation, providing much of our inspiration. The first part will be my (Brian’s) list, most stemming from early road trips in my youth. Our second part will come from Tom and some of the volumes he’s read over the years that had a lasting impact.

Trolling through the Internet, you’ll find any number of lists claiming the “books every man should read”. Our list, not meaning to be exhaustive or definitive, is what we’ve found as our inspirations. There are other authors, other favorites that hopefully inspire you to find adventure of your own. But here we offer our suggestions on narratives you’ll find worthy to add to your own library.

So lets begin…

Brian —

“On The Road”

road1

On the Road

For me, it all started with “On The Road”. In my young adult years, the friendships that cemented who I was to become, came from a group of friends I hold dear to this day. Rick Cleveringa, who provided the GAC’s first member written content (*See his article “Pappa’s House”), introduced our little band to “On The Road”, all in the spirit of an annual road-trip. Rick, working construction at the time, always had winters off. So it was common that every February, the four of us, crammed ourselves into a vehicle, and headed south (usually) for sights obscure and unknown. Being a bit uptight in my youth (to put it mildly), following Rick’s “no plan, find what we find, stay off the beaten path” attitude was something that took a lot to come to grips with. And in this spirit, perhaps following in the footsteps of the Beat Generation, started delving into authors who could “expand our mind”.

Keeping with the road theme, Kerouac was at the top of the list. For me, I found Kerouac extremely hard to read. It was a broken, sporadic, back and forth (bebop) structure that took a lot for me to hold on to. But despite the difficulty, we all got sucked into the story. Following Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty became canon for all road trips to follow. The irreverence, and counter culture experienced within, the desire to “ball that jack”, provided the language we would all speak from then on.

“On The Road” was the linchpin that started it all. And it was the attitude and free spirit style of “On The Road”, that would begin my slow transformation to shed schedules, plans and carefully crafted itineraries. From here our early adventures took us to Memphis, St. Louis, Louisville, Huntsville, New Orleans and the like. We expanded on Kerouac with “Big Sur”, and “Dharma Bums”. But always, it was Sal and Dean that provided our foundation. For me, this was the beginning of my search for adventure.

 

“Blue Highways”

Highways

Blue Highways

“Blue Highways” is interesting, not for it’s inspiration to me, but to Rick. As you can see, Rick has been and continues to be, a huge influence in my life.

“Blue Highways” was written by William Least-Heat-Moon and published in 1982. Blue Highways refers to the color key on old highway maps of American, where the main routes where red and the back roads, printed as blue. But Least-Heat-Moon goes into further detail by saying;

“…in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk – time neither day nor night – the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”

It was “Blue Highways”, before we four dove into “On The Road”, where Rick found the catalyst for his wanderlust. It was this idea; those hidden back roads, which fed our journey into Kerouac and beyond.

Least-Heat-Moon followed “Blue Highways” with additional works, two of which I’ve enjoyed as much or perhaps even more. “Prairy Erth” & “River Horse”, have both pulled at that place in my mind of wanting to see and learn more.

My favorite line from “Blue Highways” is literally the first line of the book;

“Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.”

I continue to think, our inspiration for the GAC has come from thoughts such as these.

 

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

Fear and Loathing

Fear and Loathing

Though less of an adventure, and more of a twisted, alcohol fueled, exploration of the 1970’s drug culture, Hunter S. Thompson, quickly became one of our gospels in the bible of literary influences. Thompson, like Kerouac, is not always my cup of tea (or blotter of acid in his case), but there is no underestimating the power of this man’s writing and what he brought to American literature. And no denying how much this book played into our explorations of the country and ourselves. There’s always a copy of it with us.

Rico, one of the band of four, loved Thompson, and being a huge music fan, loved to read us articles written by Thompson in whatever issue of Rolling Stone that happened to be on the magazine rack. Listening to Rico quote Thompson as we burned down the blue highways was a favorite way to pass the miles.

Thompson to me is honest. Whether you agree with what he writes, or follow his lines of thinking, you always know it came first hand. He instigated what came to be known as “Gonzo Journalism”, where the reporter involves himself in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. It was this style that made us want to tell our own stories.

As I said, perhaps Thompson was less about an adventure and more about how we wanted to live our own adventures. Perhaps not as drunk or substance fueled, but honest, without compromise, and true to the world around us.

Recently Rico sent me a copy of “The Rum Diaries” and I found it to be another fitting inspiration if we ever find ourselves “on the road’ in San Juan, or the like.

 

“The Endurance”

Endurance

The Endurance

By 1996 my career brought me to Northern California and my yearly road trips took a serious hiatus. But even with that, my connection to the Chicago boys remained tight as ever. In 1998, it was the book “The Endurance” by Caroline Alexander, which would take the adventurous fascinations of Rick and I to a completely new level.

The story of Ernest Shackelton and the ill-fate Endurance is well known, and for me it was this book that brought that harrowing experience to life. Never one to think that arctic exploration would be appealing, the stories of Shackelton and his crew became enthralling and soon Rick and I where discussing all aspects of the journey. Not just Shackelton, but the stalwart members of his crew as well.

Rick has always gravitated toward Tom Crean, second officer and stoic companion, I on the other hand; I’m fascinated with the work of Frank Hurley, the expedition photographer. The achievement to film and photograph the expedition was, by itself, spectacular, but when brought in line with the quality of the images he created, this becomes staggering. It continues to serve as inspiration to me personally, my career and my long-term film making goals, each time I revisit this story. Considering the breathtaking images he was able to save and return from The Endurance, it makes me wonder, what awe-inspiring images lay gone under the Weddell Sea.

It was this story that instilled in me the yearning for the age of discovery and the stories that came from that time.

Alexander’s book was, if you’ll pardon the expression, just the tip of the iceberg. Having sparked our interest, we soon branched off to Robert Scott’s diaries of his doomed Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole, Shackelton’s own telling of his Endurance story entitled “South”, Alfred Lansing’s book “Endurance”, and a collection of other arctic expeditions in Fergus Fleming’s book “Nintey Degrees North”. Those among other polar adventures have filled my bookshelves ever since.

 

“Travels with Charley”

Charlie

Travels with Charley

Years go by and my bookshelf continued to fill with the various offshoots from the foundational books being mentioned here. But there was a time when I found refuge in a numbers of stories that would transport me, at least for a moment, to another place. In some cases, following individuals who were looking for answers of their own.

We have mentioned, “Travels with Charley” before and if any book gave birth to the GAC, I think we could safely say this was it.

In early 1998 I met a new friend in Tom Dietz who, like only the boys from Chicago, would I one day feel was more brother than friend. It has been that friendship which solidified the GAC and what we both, Tom and I, have come to feel as our next step in life.

“Travels with Charley” was my first exposure to John Steinbeck, but certainly not my last. Following his drive around the country in the early 1960’s, the book reawakened in me, that desire to seek the back roads and the personal communication one only finds face to face. To step outside of your own circle and explore what is around you, whether a simple talk over coffee, sharing a meal, or resting beside a campfire.

Following Steinbeck’s effortless writing, you are transported into his story and could easily be riding with him in Rocinante. When Tom and I discovered that Rocinante existed and was in tact in the Steinbeck museum in Salinas, it stepped us off on a path neither was expecting, but now could never turn from.

Since “Travels with Charley”, I’ve set a goal to read “Cannery Row”, and Tom has branched off and read “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. In doing so, he found some local history in Monterey that I’ll will let him expand on in his list.

 

“Long Way Round”

Long Way Round

Long Way Round

One complaint Tom, Rick and I have all discussed was the seemingly lack of exploration and adventure going on in the modern day. Perhaps not completely accurate, the flood of “at the moment” access to information seems to minimize some of the adventures actually happening.

That was until I was turned on to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s story in “Long Way Round”.

The story was actually brought to my attention by a co-worker and motorcycle enthusiast, and it was the documentary that captivated Tom and I so much. But the book, published after the film series was complete, told the same story with added personal detail the TV series couldn’t fit in. The book was a back and forth telling from both Ewan and Charlie, each providing their own perspectives, sometimes in completely opposite ways.

It was this style that Tom and I feel into when we wrote our first article about our Steinbeck trip. So not only was the story itself inspirational, but the book offered us a kind of language we would lean on to tell our own stories going forward.

 

“Green Hills of Africa”

Green Hills of Africa

Green Hills of Africa

It’s interesting how one book or story will feed into another. Having read Kerouac, Thompson and now Steinbeck, my mind wandered and I thought, it’s time to read some of the other classic authors, if only to say I had. The name that easily came to mind was Hemingway. I had never read anything by Ernest Hemingway but little did I know, my delving into that author would incite a whole new passion for stories and adventure.

There can be no doubt the good and the bad that is Ernest Hemingway. But as men, he elicits an image and passion we all think we want (and to some degree, really crave). Even reading Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Sal Paradise a budding writer, talks about Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa” as being the pinnacle of it’s day. Something he too should strive for.

Whether it’s Cuba, Paris, Florida, or Africa, Hemingway’s efficiency of words drew me in and I have never been the same. He paints and easy picture your mind willingly follows, but also the conversations flow so simply that you can’t help be feel they’re real. You’re sitting in the hot savannah sun, waiting for your tea or whiskey, debating whether to take a bath or not, listening to he and P.O.M. discuss the day’s hunt.

This is a book that has transformed how I write and instilled in me a desire to tell the stories I want to tell from my own adventures. Perhaps some day I too can be under a canvas tent, in the African wilds.

Reading “Green Hills of Africa” launched me into other Hemingway books such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “A Farewell to Arms”, and “A Moveable Feast”, the later inspiring a dinner party Tom and I hosted that we’ll have to write about in a future post.

For Tom D., Tom C., Rick and I, “Pappa” (Hemingway) has become a cornerstone in our literary journeys.

 

“The Last Gentleman Adventurer”

Last Gentleman Adventurer

Last Gentleman Adventurer

So we find ourselves at the end, with one last book to highlight, if for no other reason than the name.

I joked with coworkers one night, when asked what title I’d like on my business card, I responded quickly “Gentleman Adventurer”. That was it, the idea stuck in my head for all times.

Tom and I have beat this idea back and forth for years but finally something started to take shape when the Steinbeck plans came together. Tom’s first write up of our day’s events was the push we needed.

As we dug into all things “internet” we realized, though you always think you’ve had the idea first, there were plenty of “Gentleman Adventurers”. Even more so, the term Gentleman Adventurer was the moniker use to describe the company incorporated by Charles II in 1670 as the ‘Gentleman Adventurers trading into Hudson’s Bay’ and led by Prince Rupert, all later to be simply called, The Hudson’s Bay Company.

Recounting his experience starting in 1930, Edward Beauclerk Maurice, a young boy of seventeen, applies and is accepted into employment by The Hudson’s Bay Company, for a five-year term of employment in the Arctic trading posts. This is more from financial need and less about a desire for exploration, but his story quickly pulls you into his experience of living and interacting with the native Inuit people. The refreshing perspective he provides illustrates how Maurice intertwined himself not only in the activities of the population, but personally and deeply within the culture of “the people”.

But why this book? It was the name at the beginning for sure. But the comical event of Tom, saying to me, “Oh hey I have that book!” solidified for us that somehow we were on the right track.

The book appeared on my front porch one Sunday morning and I’m finally getting around to reading it. It’s wonderful. Well written and ironically another polar adventure, so right up my alley.

But more importantly, what it reminded me is where this idea of The Gentleman Adventurer has come from. Yes my friends and I all have some amount of wanderlust and the historical expeditions have always provided large amounts of fascination. But never forgetting the adventures with comrades who share your passion is what makes these adventures really worth living. Its what we hope the GAC is all about.

 

In Part Two of our article, Tom highlights the books from his collection, rounding out all of our “Adventure Stories”.

 

 

The Carmel Drug Store

“Shaving & The Carmel Drug Store”

Monterey Bay and California’s Highway 1.  In town for the wedding of dear friends, we had the chance to play tourist and do a little shopping, taking in the small town atmosphere and wonderful shops that line Ocean Avenue.

In addition to our varied expeditions, we at the GAC are always looking to expand on “the gentlemanly arts”.  One that I’ve adopted whole–heartedly is some of the more outdated shaving techniques of our recent forbearers. So much so, one Christmas I received from Tom an elaborate straight razor shaving kit, with all the needed equipment.

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The Carmel Drug Store

How this relates to Carmel, you ask? Well we found ourselves needing a drug store and happily on Ocean Avenue between San Carlos and Delores Streets, is located the Carmel Drug Store.

Originally opened 1907 as the Palace Drug Store, it’s name officially changed to the Carmel Drug Store in 1910, and today it’s marquee lighting, boasts the only neon sign in the quaint downtown of Carmel.

This was a drug store like I remember going in with my grand parents. Not the massive box store of today, The Carmel Drug store couldn’t be more than 1000 square feet and boasts the rich wooden shelving along it’s walls, highlighting days long past. Specialty items line glass cases where helpful attendants stand behind eager to help you.

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Old time shopping

One glass case in particular drew my attention.

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Shave gear!

In the back, along the right side of the store, I found a very respectable selection of traditional shaving paraphernalia. Mugs, brushes, safety and straight razors, I was thrilled to find such an amazing selection. It was a quick moment when you felt, “well of course this is here, its how men were meant to shave”.

It took a second trip back the next day to take the plunge, purchasing a beautiful butterfly style safety razor, and a simple but elegant brush and razor stand. They make great additions to my gear and are happily displayed on my bathroom counter.

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The Shave Kit

If you’re ever in Carmel, and looking for something other than art, t-shirts, or jewelry, I highly recommend you stop by the Carmel Drug Store for some true Gentlemanly gear.

The Lemon Kiss

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“The Lemon Kiss”

By Brian Brecht

Making limoncello has been a fun little Clubchair adventure. The impetus to make it came from my trip to Italy in November of 2003 (More on this adventure coming in future posts.).

For approximately 100 years, this popular Italian lemon liqueur has been lovingly produced in southern Italy around the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento lemons having always been one of the primary ingredients. As its popularity has grown to other exotic locales such as Sicily, Sardinia, Menton in France, and the Maltese island of Gozo, other lemon varieties are being used. The US has seen a rise in commercial producers using California lemons. The recipe I share below uses fresh organic lemons handpicked by me  from my wife’s cousin’s vineyard in Healdsburg, California.

            Making limoncello is surprisingly easy. It requires only four ingredients and time. There is no shortage of recipes on-line for making the delicious liqueur, so by all means, look around. Mine is not much different than most, but you will find there are minor variations between recipes. Below is what has worked for me for the last few years.

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The main ingredients are as follows:

  • Lemons – 15-20
  • Grain Alcohol – (2) 750ml bottles (Everclear)
  • Water – 5 cups
  • Sugar – 3-4 cups

So this is where the variations begin. You will find some recipes say to use Vodka. By all means, go for it, if this sounds better to you. As with any recipe, booze or otherwise, do what works to your taste. For me, when I contemplated a beverage that has been around for approximately 100 years, vodka was not what they were serving in Southern Italy.  Also, from what I’ve read, traditional limoncello is made with grain alcohol that’s at least 151 proof. IMG_1274That’s more than any vodka you’ll find at the local grocery store. To be fair, I have made a version using vodka and found it lacked a certain “punch”. A close friend has called my limoncello the “Lemon Hammer” so clearly we both liked the added kick of the 151.

On to the process.

By far, the most labor-intensive part of limoncello is the zesting of the lemons. This is one step where all the recipes agree. What you’re doing here is ONLY gathering the yellow lemon peel, specifically the oils that reside inside. What you don’t want is any part of the white, or pith. The more white that comes along with the peel, the more bitterness will be added into your Limoncello. This is not a drink in which you want any bitterness.IMG_1988

That said, again, there are variations in methods. Zesting is easy enough if you have a zester. Truthfully, I did not even know what a zester was until I started making limoncello. I’ve used an apple peeler, a cheese grater and a micro-plane. All will work just fine. Using the standard apple peeler or potato peeler will get you large flat peels of the lemon. This, again, will work as long as again you are not getting any of the white pith. For my version I’ve found the micro-plane to be the best method. The shavings of the peel are very fine and expose a great deal of the oil, which is the primary objective.

As a side note, one benefit to making limoncello is that, after the zesting, you have a pile of fresh lemons that will go bad very quickly if you don’t do something with them. IMG_1994Although it is a bit more work, I took the time to juice all 40 of the lemons and froze the juice. I separated it into 2-cup zip-lock bags, and in the coming weeks, I will be able to take advantage of the fresh lemon juice by making one of my wife’s best recipes for lemon chicken. Also my daughter is asking for fresh lemonade. (When life gives you lemons…) It is definitely worth taking advantage of the by-product and not letting any of the lemon go to waste. Finally, if you are able, add the spent peels to the compost pile. It always feels good to go green if you can.

Back to the beverage. As I mentioned, there is not a lot of effort needed at each step. So for me, as long as I was making one batch, I might as well make a double. It also happens that the lemons we picked were so abundant, I couldn’t let them go to waste. So for many of my photos, just be aware that I’m making a double batch.

So we have zested, peeled or micro-planed our lemons and placed them in a good-sized glass jar. IMG_1992At this point you are adding the first bottle of Everclear (remember, I am adding two). Let this mixture sit so that the lemon oils (flavor and color) will infuse into the alcohol. Now we come to our next point of contention. I have seen versions that call for wait time as little as 4-5 days, others say wait as long as a month. I have always erred on the longer side, assuming the longer I can have the lemons sitting in the alcohol, the more lemon flavor I will infuse into the Everclear. The batch we’re doing here has been sitting for a solid 30 days.

Now that you have waited patiently for a month, this is your first chance to open your container and get a full whiff of the lemon infusion. It is wonderful! But let us not stop here. Next, we need to add a simple syrup and our second bottle of Everclear. But first we need to filter the lemon zest out of our initial bottle of alcohol.

Another side note: I have, in the past, left the lemons in the alcohol, and then added the next steps on top of that, assuming, that if 30 days of infusion was good, 60 days would be even better. In the research I have done, it seems most, if not all, the lemon oil has soaked out of the peels by now, so leaving it on the peels longer just adds cloudiness to the end product. I have to say I agree. We will filter the mixture at various points during the process but the amount of filtering I needed when leaving the peels past 30 days was much greater. I don’t feel that it added anything to the overall flavor.

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So, first, we need to get a large enough jar that we can filter our stage-one alcohol through a strainer, getting rid of 98% of the spent lemon peel.

Next, simple syrup is just that, simple. It is water and sugar slowly stirred over heat until the sugar dissolves; there is no need to bring the water to a boil.

IMG_0628       You’ll know when it is ready as the water will be cloudy at the beginning while the sugar sits in the water. At a certain point, you will start to see the mixture clarify, continuing to heat the water and sugar until the entire pot is a clear and somewhat thick. At this point, pull the water from the heat, and let it cool. I don’t know why, but every recipe I have found specifically says, “Don’t add the syrup until it has cooled”. So here is my warning: “Don’t add the syrup until it has cooled”.

Once the syrup has cooled to room temperature, add it to the stage-one mixture that you filtered earlier. IMG_0634Do not be alarmed if, when you add the syrup, the mixture turns a cloudy yellow. There are a number of variables that can affect the overall color of the batch. Some of the research I have done suggests opaque limoncellos can be the result of something called “spontaneous emulsification,” also known as the Ouzo effect, which is a rapid interaction of the syrup and extracted lemon oils.

Moving on,  to the syrup, you will now add the remaining bottle of Everclear. When added, it helps to thin out that opaque color and bring back some of the clarity I had before, but not completely.

From here you want the mixture to sit for another length of time. Again, there is some debate. I have, in the past, let this stage sit for another 30 days. Some recipes suggest bottling as soon as a week later. I am not 100% sure if there’s a difference other than letting the mixture truly blend together for as long as possible. For this batch, I decided to let it sit for two weeks, then moved the mixture into separate bottles. And before the bottling, I would suggest another round of filtering (or two) just to make sure you’ve pulled all the remaining lemon particulate out of the liquid. There are a variety of methods, cheesecloth, coffee filters, etc. I have, at times, used them all.

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      I think there is value in letting it sit for AT LEAST a couple of weeks, and then putting it into the bottle. But once it’s in the bottles, you can really begin to enjoy the accomplishment and the excitement that soon you’ll not only be enjoying this delicious liquor, but doing so with your friends.

      For me, I had almost as much fun coming up with my own label as I did in making the batch itself. Have some fun with it. You’ve crafted the limoncello to your own style and taste, so lets see if you can get your label to reflect the same flare. For me, it was something whimsical that highlighted the Italian adventure that inspired me. And with that, came my own creation, “The Lemon Kiss”

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      From here, my friends, the adventure really begins. Envision having that fancy dinner party, or perhaps it’s just a few friends over for pizza. You break out your own homegrown version of limoncello. It is a great way to end a perfect meal, and if you have done it right, it helps you remember that Italy adventure you took, or, even better, plan for the one you will be taking.

Just say “Kiss me!”

Salute!

The Detroit Nationals

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    Looking through my old journals, I happily came across a story my father shared about a particularly fun weekend he had as a young man in 1960. I re-read the short paragraph and realized that, yes, at one time, my father was seeking his own brand of adventure. I understood now, in my middle age, that my Dad wasn’t always the “all work and no play” father figure, and he wasn’t always the disciplinarian. At one time, my Dad was even a bit of a rule breaker. In that day and age, they would have never called themselves this, but perhaps even my Dad was a bit of a Gentleman Adventurer.

The following comes in my Father’s own words, with only minor notes added for clarity.

“Friday night after work, I stopped by Charlie’s Standard on Ardmore and St. Charles Ave (Villa Park, Illinois). Tom Wolf was putting a tri-power manifold on his ’58 Pontiac convertible. Went home and came back to help. Curt Plesenger and Flip Davidson were there when I got there. This was about 6:30 p.m.

We finished up about 9:30-10:00 p.m. After adjusting the throttle linkage and timing, (it was) time for a road test! I thought we would cruise, looking for a couple street races. Plesenger remembered that the Detroit Nationals were this weekend. The next thing I knew we were on our way to Detroit. This was about 11:00 p.m. on the Indiana toll road.

As we blew by a state cop, I looked at the speedometer; it read 125mph. Whoo! I think we were going so fast that he never saw us, or he figured he could never catch us. Keep in mind we had no clothes (with us) and little money. Plesenger was driving and wasn’t sure how to get there. The three of us dozed off and the next thing I remember is being in the Windsor Tunnel (on our way to Canada). Plesenger wanted Canadian bacon and eggs for breakfast. We wound up east of Windsor and finally found a restaurant open. Curt almost got us thrown out over the Canadian bacon. They didn’t know what he was talking about.

After breakfast, back to Detroit to find the drag strip. No clue. We were on a 6-lane street in Detroit when a ’59 Plymouth pulled along side. BIG ENGINE!!! The race was on! After winning two races in downtown Detroit at 115 mph we left the area quick. Finally to the strip.

Saturday night we found a motel that would rent us a room for four. Money is short. Watched races Sunday and Monday then went home. During this time I called home just to tell Mom and Dad where I was. That didn’t go over very well as you can imagine. During numerous street races the car developed a bad rear wheel bearing. Slow down? Not Wolf. He got popped for 75 in a 55 zone. Luckily the cop let us go. We got home late Sunday (Monday?) night, broke and tired and I still had to face Mom and Dad. Keep in mind that I was 22 at the time and they still got on my case. “

           This was as much detail as I got from my Dad. The interesting thing is the last line of his letter simply said, “More details available”.  To this day I have yet to ask him for more details. Why? I don’t know.

If our adventures are to help us grow, to learn, and experience life, then this adventure has taught me to cherish what your parents can teach you. You may be 47 before you realize the benefit, but just sitting and listening to your parents can bring adventures you might never have imagined.

**The above image comes from the National Hot Road Assoc via the website:    http://www.50thusnationals.com/apcm/APCMviewer_sp.asp?a=784&print=yes