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I came across this obituary completely by accident a few years ago and it had a profound effect on my life.   After reading it I got to thinking that if I’m lucky to die a really old geezer like this guy, I hope I’ve lived a life worth sharing like Capt. Tony.  And it’s what I’ve been doing ever since….

Anthony Tarracino, known to one and all as “Capt. Tony,” spent two years as mayor of Key West, Fla. — and 60 years as one of the most colorful characters in an island city full of them. During his 92 years, he was a bootlegger, gambler, gunrunner, saloonkeeper, fishing boat captain, ladies’ man and peerless raconteur. He died Nov. 1 of heart and lung ailments at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West.

Mr. Tarracino survived on his wits and cunning long before his arrival in raffish Key West in 1948 with $18 in his pocket. He spent more than three decades as a charter boat captain and for 28 years owned a dank, musty bar that once doubled as the city morgue.

Capt. Tony’s Saloon, an unprepossessing spot on Greene Street, still bears Mr. Tarracino’s name almost 20 years after he sold it. It was the original site of Sloppy Joe’s Saloon, which was the favorite watering hole of Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Key West in the 1930s.

A huge tree grows in the center of the tavern and disappears through the roof. License plates, business cards and countless women’s bras are stapled to the ceiling and walls. In the 1970s, tropical troubadour Jimmy Buffett performed at Capt. Tony’s for tips and beers. He later described his experience in the song “Last Mango in Paris.” Until a few months ago, Mr. Tarracino was a regular presence at Capt. Tony’s, where he greeted visitors, told stories, and signed T-shirts and posters displaying his grizzled likeness.

His most famous slogan, which became part of his successful run for mayor in 1989, was: “All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains don’t mean (a word we can’t print in the newspaper).”

Mr. Tarracino ran for mayor of Key West in 1985 but lost by 52 votes to a banker named Tom Sawyer. Locals joked that the race was between someone named for a fictional character and someone who was a fictional character.

Four years later, when Mr. Tarracino ran again, some people objected to his frequent use of a certain four-letter word.

He was unapologetic: “I just hope everybody in Key West who uses that word votes for me. If they do, I’ll win in a landslide.”

He won by 32 votes out of more than 6,000 cast.

His goal as mayor was to limit Key West’s growth and to keep its reputation as a refuge for eccentrics and renegades who had found their way to the southernmost point of the continental United States.

“Key West is an insane asylum,” he told the Chicago Tribune, sitting behind his new desk at City Hall.

“We’re just too lazy to put up the walls or fences. I want to retain that mystique.”

Anthony Tarracino was born Aug. 10, 1916, in Elizabeth, N.J., where his immigrant father was a bootlegger during Prohibition. According to Brad Manard’s “Life Lessons of a Legend” — a book about Mr. Tarracino published the week of his death — young Tony dropped out of ninth grade to make and sell illegal whiskey.

During World War II, he left a wife and three children behind in New Jersey and moved to Seattle, where he worked for the Boeing aircraft company.

After the war, he returned to New Jersey and made good money gambling on horse races. But he ran afoul of mobsters and, according to Manard’s book, was beaten and left for dead at the Newark city dump. Mr. Tarracino fled to Florida and hitchhiked to Key West on a milk truck.

For 35 years, he ran fishing boats — always called “Greyhound” — out of Key West. He said he was a gunrunner in the 1950s and ferried arms for the  CIA to Fidel Castro‘s Cuba for agents and mercenaries to Cuba and Haiti.

He ran Capt. Tony’s Saloon from 1961 to 1989, when he was elected mayor. His principal achievement was to preserve Key West’s daily sunset celebration, at which acrobats, buskers and performing animals appear in an impromptu street theater.

Survivors include his fourth wife — of 38 years — Marty Tarracino; 12 children; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

For years, Mr. Tarracino had a diet of pizza and chocolate bars, smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drank 12 cups of coffee a day, chased with the occasional beer or whiskey.

When I die, an era’s over,” he said in 1990. “But that won’t happen soon. Only the good die young.


Here’s to you Capt. Tony!

And he brought me climbing gear!  Since I’ve been getting more and more into outdoor climbing, I figured it would probably be good to start building my own collection of climbing gear.

Last month, I bought a 60m dynamic rope from REI and over the last few weeks I’ve been finding sales on small pieces parts like slings, some nuts, nylon webbing, carabiners and accessory cord.  Basically all the cheap stuff.

The of the expensive stuff remained.  So I asked the wife and the rest of my family to please consider the gift of climbing gear this Christmas.  I put together a list of the stuff I really wanted on REI’s website and my wife gave them the link. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning!

Well, Christmas came around and I set to opening my first gift, from my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.  A Pezel GriGri!!!  Score!

I went through a few packages of hiking socks and shirts till I got to the next big present from my in-laws which was….  another Pezel GriGri!   Everyone had a bit of a laugh and I went to opening the rest of my gifts.

A few more shirts, a book and and a Pezel pulley!   And….  ANOTHER GriGRi!!!  This one from my loving wife.   You can’t make this kind of stuff up!!

So after all the chuckling had subsided I got the receipts of two of them (I kept the one from my wife, naturally) and decided to head up to REI the day after Christmas to return them and pick up some other climbing gear.

With the credit I got, I was able to pick up 2 Black Diamond Camalots, some more nuts and some nylon webbing (in addition to a new Arcteryx running shirt).  So between all that stuff, and the sweet #3 cam my buddy Dave got for me, I’m starting to get a pretty decent looking rack going:

Now, hopefully we’ll get some nice weather in the next few weeks so I can actually get out and use some of it!

Happy trails!

You shouldn’t do it, at least according to an email I got from them today.    It was an interesting email and I would like the share the message with you:

 

 

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Today is Cyber Monday. It will likely be the biggest online shopping day ever. Cyber Monday was created by the National Retail Federation in 2005 to focus media and public attention on online shopping. But Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.

Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.

Environmental bankruptcy, as with corporate bankruptcy, can happen very slowly, then all of a sudden. This is what we face unless we slow down, then reverse the damage. We’re running short on fresh water, topsoil, fisheries, wetlands – all our planet’s natural systems and resources that support business, and life, including our own.

The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2® Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.

And this is a 60% recycled polyester jacket, knit and sewn to a high standard; it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often. And when it comes to the end of its useful life we’ll take it back to recycle into a product of equal value. But, as is true of all the things we can make and you can buy, this jacket comes with an environmental cost higher than its price.

There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to patagonia.com/CommonThreads, take the Common Threads Initiative pledge and join us in the fifth “R,” to reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

 

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Yet another reason why I love Patagonia (you can read my review of my down jacket here).  Not only do they make outstanding products which I love, they have a value system that directly impacts the way they handle their business.

And it’s a good reminder for me to reflect on purchases I make not only today, but everyday.   Because more and more, I’m finding myself wanting buy things that I’ll own not for a year or two, but for a decade or more.  Not only do I end up being more environmentally (and financially) responsible,  I end up owning things I cherish far more.  And, I have a lot less useless, unwanted junk  cluttering my house that eventually ends up in a landfill.

 

 

Oh man, this time tomorrow I’ll be in Maryland feasting on a giant turkey leg, shoveling down stuffing and mashed potatoes and fattening myself up on pumpkin pie.  Then, the following day we’ll be setting off for Ohio to spend the weekend eating and drinking with friends and family up there. It’s going to be a good, albeit calorie heavy, thanksgiving weekend.

As is tradition, we take this time to reflect on the things we’re thankful in our lives. So in between dreams of leftover turkey sandwiches and Great Lakes Christmas Ale, I’ve taken a few moments to think about all the things that I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving.  And the more I thought, the more I realized I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for, both big and small….

 

50 things I’m thankful for:

  1. Good friends who have such varied interests
  2. Being healthy
  3. My father calling me after every Browns game
  4. Comfy pillows
  5. Cheap beers
  6. My dog and his endlessly wagging tail
  7. Zombie wedding cakes!
  8. Mountain tops
  9. Adventure partners
  10. Football
  11. Being gainfully self-employed
  12. Weeknights on the couch watching TV with the wife
  13. Nalgene bottles
  14. Pho noodle soup
  15. Saturday afternoon naps
  16. New gadgets
  17. Leather goods
  18. Having a hammock in my back yard
  19. Cookouts
  20. Being old enough to know better (most of the time)
  21. Being young enough to try something foolish (sometimes)
  22. Strong black coffee
  23. Bacon…. glorious, glorious bacon
  24. iPhone (seriously how’d I live without this thing!?)
  25. Finding new music that I love
  26. Bourbon and BBQ nights at Rocklands
  27. B movies
  28. Calling in well
  29. 3 day weekends
  30. Goat cheese
  31. Having several people I can call my best friend(s)
  32. LED head lamps
  33. Weekend long runs
  34. Warm summer mornings
  35. Digital cameras
  36. Getting to visit and explore new places
  37. Good cigars
  38. Finding money in a jacket I haven’t worn in months
  39. Writing a good blog post (it happens from time to time)
  40. Going to REI
  41. Climbing a new route
  42. Bourbon
  43. Giving something to someone
  44. Being able to get to the Shenandoah National Park in about an hour
  45. Really good pizza
  46. Having a wonderful family (which got much bigger this year!)
  47. Down jackets
  48. Being tall
  49. Post it notes (they keep me from losing track of everything!)

 

and lastly, I’m grateful that I was able to find the girl of my dreams and marry her.

 

Happy trails!

 

I pack heavy.  Even when I travel on a plane, I tend to pack way too much stuff.  I just don’t like being somewhere away from home and not having options.  The same rings true with camping unfortunately.   This because quite apparent on my last 3 day backpacking trip in November when I lugged around a 68lb (!!!) pack up and down the mountains of the Shenandoah.   Getting ready for my Dolly Sods backpacking trip this weekend, I didn’t want to repeat that experience.

Now, I’m not an ultralight backpacker.  I’ll never be one of those guys who can go out for a week with a hammock, some granola bars and a headlamp.   But I tried to use some of the tenements of ultralight backpacking where I could to lighten my load a little bit.  Here’s five things I did make my pack a little less heavy:

  1. Eliminate extravagant creature comforts – Last time I went backpacking I took a campfire percolator for making coffee for me and the 5 other guys I went with.  The damn thing weighed over 2lbs!  Sure, the coffee was amazing, but add that to the 1lb of coffee, creamer and sugar I lugged around too, and it wasn’t really worth it.   So on this trip the coffee will be coming in the form of Starbucks Via packets which barely weigh ounce.  Weight saved: 48oz
  2. Swap out heavier stuff – I dropped a lot of weight by swapping out some my heavy, more comfortable gear for lighter weight stuff.  Over the winter, I kept my eye on the internet discount sites for opportunities to inexpensively upgrade to lighter stuff on the cheap.   I managed to pick up a few items that will help out immensely.  For instance, I’ll not be packing my self-inflating sleep pad, which is super comfy but weights in at a hefty 37oz, and will instead be using a foam roll (only $9 on REI’s deal of the day site) that isn’t quite as nice but tips the scales at only 16oz.   I’m also packing a lighter bowl (2.5oz saved), a smaller camp pillow (3oz lighter) and a lighter weight saw (4oz saved).  Weight saved: 29.5oz
  3. Pack less redundancies –  It sucks not having any of these, but I don’t need TWO Nalgene bottles, a bowl AND a plate, or 2 extra shirts.  I also probably don’t need to bring TWO EXTRA canisters of fuel for the JetBoil. Weight saved: 18oz
  4. Don’t bring a buffet of food – I love to eat.  I didn’t get to be my size by missing a lot of meals.  But then again, I don’t really need to haul the old country buffet with me in my backpack.  Last time I brought enough food for a week (including over 1lb of bacon, which was AMAZING), but I ending packing half of it back out with me.  This time I carefully planned out each meal and packed a few high calorie snacks, just in case I need a little something extra.  I also packed only lightweight, dried foods that weigh much less.   Variety is nice when it comes to food, but saving pounds off the pack weight is nice too.  Weight saved: 28oz
  5. Bring less – I know it seems intuitive, but I really focused on overall just packing less stuff.  I did this by bringing smaller amounts of things like bug spray (3oz saved), soap (2oz lighter) and sunscreen (5oz).  Not all of these are available in smaller bottles, so I just picked up a few empty travel bottles from REI and filled them up.  I also eliminated other stuff that I just plain don’t need like spices for food, deodorant (who’s going to be smelling me on this trip, besides bears?) and other toiletries.  I’ll still pack my toothbrush, toothpaste and some soap, but I’m not going out for a night on the town right?  Weight saved: 36oz

Total weight saved?  159.5oz (or about 10lbs)

There you go.  Now, it seems like there’s a lot of common sense stuff on this list, but believe me it can be hard to make decisions about all the things you’ll need or want to have when you are miles away from civilization in the middle of the woods.

Before

Seen here:

-75L Pack
-3L camelbak
-2 large stuff sacks
-1 medium stuff sack
-1 small stuff sack
-1 compression sack
Food
-2 freeze dried dinners
-1 indian heat and eat side
-3 packages spicey ramen
-1 package tuna
-4 packages oatmeal/grits
-various snacks
Cooking/Water
-Nalegene bottle
-MSR Mini waterfilter
-JetBoil Stove with extra fuel
-Plastic dish/bowl with spork
-Camp soap
Sleep/relax
-3 person REI Half Dome tent
-Lafuma 40 degree+ bag w/ liner
-Camp pillow
-Alite Monarch camp chair
-LED lantern
-Headlamp
-Flashlight
-Alps Mountaineering foam sleep pad
Misc
-Flask of whiskey (mandatory)
-Matches/lighter
-Firestarter (aka dryer lint and chapstick)
-First Aid kit with asprin, Moleskin (for blisters), bandaids, neosporin
-Chapstick
-Bug spray
-Toileries
-Toilet tissue
-Trash bag
-550 cord
-Misc carabiners
-Tick puller
-Sunscreen

After

This guy, Alex Honnold, literally must be the most fearless human being alive.   You want to know why?  Just watch…

Oh yeah, after watching this video, I noticed my palms were actually sweating.   That’s how terrifying the entire concept of free climbing is to me.  I guess it’s a good thing to have a good, healthy fear of height when you’re climbing, right?

As for Alex, well I’ve noticed that a lot of people on the Internet are trying to judge him saying he’s reckless, or advise him to start climbing with ropes.  To all those people I say this;  People like Alex Honnold are rare.  To have that unique combination of a gift for climbing and a complete lack of fear of the void below him, is truly special.    Guys like Alex, through no intention of their own, inspire, strike awe and thrill mere mortals like myself.

Alex was born to do what he’s doing. Though I’ve never met him, I gather that it’s what makes him complete, so who am I or anyone else to pass judgement on that?

If you like that video, you’ll love this one:

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/adventure/featured-videos-adventure/adv-beyond-the-edge-honnold.html

Why not?

 

I found this video on Yahoo last night.   I think everyone can agree that dogs are not only man’s best friend, they’re also man’s most loyal friend.   Dogs have been known to stay at their master’s side, even after death.    So I guess it shouldn’t surprising to find a video of a dog who refuses to leave another dog’s side.

In this video from Japan, a dog who is cold, hungry and shivering, remaining loyal next to another dog who is obviously in poor shape.  At any time this dog could get up to run away and find food or shelter, but next to it’s friend it remains:

Thinking of my best friend Doug, who I haven’t seen in over a month, will soon depart for his next big adventure, defending the freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.   Return home quickly and safely Doug….

Me, Doug and the rest of the gang in Dublin, IRL for his bachelor party.

In Atlanta's airport on our way back from Dublin, we met R. Lee Emery! "Let me see your warface!"

Sunset in the Shenandoah National Park last October

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Once upon time, I felt pretty invincible.    No seriously.  There was a point in my life where I had to start wondering if  I could possibly be part Terminator.    Despite being hit by two cars, crashing several motorcycles, falling off of a two story roof, and almost drowning more times than I can count, I always managed to somehow walk away. Being part cyborg from the future to who’s only mission was to find Sarah Connor seemed to be the only logical explanation.

But, like most people, age started catching up with me.  That motorcycle accident left a permanent ache in my back that just never seemed to go away.  One of the encounters with an automobile has left me with some weird foot pain that seems to flare up every time the weather turns.   Any thoughts that I was superhuman started to fade.

Of all the follies of my youth that have come back to bite me, none has been so pronounced as the years I played semi-pro and arena football.  Some backstory is needed here:

I had the desire to go back and play football ever since I got out of high school.  But for one reason or another, I didn’t get serious about it until I was about 25 years old.  I decided to workout, get in football shape and try out for a local semi-pro team.  In the span of 18 months, I went from a 225lb skinnyfat weakling;

 

To a 285lb hulking monster:

Beefcake!!

 

 

 

Gaining 60lbs of mostly muscle took a lot of discipline, a LOT of eating and hours upon hours in the gym throwing up weight.  LOTS AND LOTS OF WEIGHT.    Weight that puts a tremendous amount of pressure and stress on your joints.  Couple that with the impact of slamming into other equally large (or bigger) guys, and you could understand why my elbows would be soaking in ice baths after every single game.

No matter, I got my bumps and bruises along the way, but playing football again was great and I really enjoyed 3 or so odd years that I did it again.  When I was finished playing,  I changed my diet (ie, not eating 8000 calories a day), did more cardio and most of the weight managed to come off pretty quickly.

But the scars of those year of abuse on my body still linger.  This came to light again last night when I was at SportRock getting some climbing in.

Earlier in the day, during my morning routine of doing pushups and situps, I wanted to see just how many pushups I could do in five minutes.  Well, did that just that and 5 minutes later I managed to squeeze out the 115th pushup and run off to take a shower.  I noticed in the shower that my elbows hurt a little bit, and that pain radiated down to my hands, but it went away after a few minutes so I shrugged it off.

Later, at the rock gym, I had just finished my second climb and when I came down my elbows and hands hurt so bad I could hardly get the rope off.  I rested for about 5 minutes and tried to do another climb only to fail half way up because I couldn’t hold onto the grips anymore.

It took me ten minutes to get the rope and harness off and I headed out to my truck to go home.  The ENTIRE way home my arms throbbed with pain.    It wasn’t until I got home and laid down for about 30 minutes that the pain subsided.

Looking back, it was painfully clear that happened.  I inflamed the hell out of my elbows in the morning by doing all those pushups, and then made the issue even worse when I started using my arms while climbing.  I’ve had this kind of elbow pain before when I was playing football and I should have known that I was creating a perfect storm for inflammation.

So it’s a good (and painful lesson) to me and everyone who reads this.  Take care of your body.  Listen to those aches and pains, especially when it’s in your joints.   The older you get, the less forgiving it will be when you decide to be an idiot and overdo it.

I only have this one body for the rest of my life, and it’s got to last me for a while more.  That is, unless they find a way to build me a cyborg body….

 

 

 

Welcome to California!

 

 

Stuff I’m doing this year:

July 3-7 - Climbing Grand Teton, Jackson WY

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