Center City Philly. Ground zero for whatever is Philly about Philly…I’m not there with free time often enough to really give the town much of a chance. And of course there’s other parts of Philly I’m sure, with great character and the proverbial lore and back story to accompany it. Of course I’ve seen the Liberty Bell before but I’ve not really experienced Philly and any of its people in a granular way. Shut up.
My recent meeting saw me at a Hyatt hotel on the riverfront in Philly and I was finally able to take our friend Main Line Sportsman up on his invitation to meet for a drink. Gloomy weather outside my window but I’m indoors all day spreading strategic juju so it’s irrelevant to me. One of the greatest things about telling stories in blog-land is my opportunity to meet some of you when I’m in your neck of the woods. I’ve yet to meet anyone that didn't impress me but trust me when I say that I screen the hell out of you before agreeing to hang out in situ. Shut the… And I’m sure that there are a few of you that wished you’d screened my country a_s a bit better before hosting me.
Main Liner…I’ll be calling him “Tone” from now on; is a man-in-full. You’d want to know him if you lived in Philly. He left a large law firm where his future was bright but wage-slaving for someone else ultimately washed out of his DNA. He runs his own shop now. I know the type…I can readily identify…I is one. Tone is every bit Tommy Killian from Bonfire of the Vanities. Or like Andy Warhol said about Gotham mouthpiece, the dedicatee of Tom Wolfe’s epic book, Eddie Hayes… “He can getcha outta anything” . Tone’s a local guy and Center City is his domain during the week. He was just wrapping up a trial in Federal court when I met up with him so he was ready to relax a bit.
So I meet him at the Vesper Club...a private watering hole that’s been around for fifty years and one that Tone admittedly warned me was a “bit frayed at the edges”.
Let me tell you; with all the pretense I see in restaurants and watering holes around the country, I’d welcome this characterization of frayed any day.
The Vesper is frayed at the edges, but in a well-worn kilim kind of way. Remember my cavalry twill bellows/poacher pocketed fuzzy Flusser suit? I figured it would suffice for a Center City boondoggle…sans tie.
So Tone’s a lawyer but he’s a father and husband and a passionate outdoorsman to boot. I didn't call him a man-in-full just due to lawyering. Oh, and he manages a fighter…a boxer. You know, the traditional kind…like Frazier and Ali and Foreman and Graziano and Marciano. Not that caged kick-boxing fight till the death savagery that’s debased the pugilistic legacy so beautifully captured by A.J. Liebling in his boxing classic Sweet Science. Tone’s a man’s man with a measured appetite for blood-sport and smoke and spirits. But his fathering trumps lawyering and sporting. Amidst our first snort at the bar, his phone rings and it’s one of his daughters. I get the importance of daughter phone calls. He walks to a quiet corner and say’s that he’s hanging out with some friends and “Uncle L.”
Which brings me to another characteristic of men-in-full—one that I’m green with envy about. Tone’s got friends. Unlike my neck of the woods…transient ass D.C. … where every blow-hard politico will drop names like napalm but couldn't get half the effing names dropped to return his phone call; Tone has real friends. How do I know? Because I met some of them. I don’t do Facebook…I’ve tried it and it ain't ever gonna work for me. I define “friend” in a different way than the Facebook crowd. They should call those Facebook hook-ups “connections” not “friends”.
Don’t tell me I’m getting nit-picky and hung up on friends semantics. Trust me—my business partners get tired of me editing everything from their documents to their presentations and even their thoughts. Words have meaning and for me, words are energetic. And I don’t like seeing that energy mis-deployed. I don’t mind word-play and even making up one’s own language…that’s half the fun of this blog stuff. I define a friend though, as one who will come and help you at 3a.m. when you need them. “Uncle L.” is one of Tone’s best buddies from childhood and I enjoyed meeting him almost as much as meeting Tone. And then another guy walks in…he marks the years of their acquaintance by telling me that Tone and maybe “Uncle L.” too, attended his Bar Mitzvah. It’s easy when these guys cross paths because they see each other with some regularity. So there’s not as much back slapping as when I see my few-very few buddies from childhood every two years. These guys are regulars. And the Bar Mitzvah guy gives me a cigar.
Clams Casino at the bar amidst cigar smoke and the sterile see-through unguent that I swill…with three olives. And just like I’d treat you if you came to my patch, I can’t pay for anything. I realize within three- and-a-half minutes that this visit is gonna be an easy and fun one. The litmus for this, at least with guys, is when you start giving each other shit within that time interval. Of course most of the shit that flew will have to remain at the Vesper and surrounding proxemics. Kids, hobbies, blogging, women, divorce, drinking, college antics, starting businesses and entrepreneurial endeavours…there ain’t no lacking for stories. Only thing lacking is my patience while I wait to tell even a better and more embellished story in return.
So the Vesper Club sees us out the door and over to a jazz club that Tone used to own with a buddy. The people who run it are still like family so when we roll in its old home week and I’m hungry. I’m a compact guy but my powerhouse needs fuel and the Clams Casino ain't gonna hold me. The three-olive see throughs aren’t for rookies and I’ve got an early start, again, the next morning. I don’t drink beer at all. Some people drink beer as a place holder for the hard stuff but I'm an all or nothing drinker...usually. But I’ve gotta have some grub if I’m gonna prevail. One sweet after dinner drink sees me back on my stronger swill—where I belong. But it’s accompanied by a hot roast beef sandwich at the bar…on a roll…just like me.
The sh_t gets thicker at the jazz joint but who would expect less? It’s getting later and that’s what happens. I’m a civilized guy for the most part but I’ve had some interesting things happen when meeting up with bloggers and it seems to happen as the evening concludes. The Tone encounter was no less dynamic. To say that it was a scorcher is an understatement. So here’s to Tone. Father to three with his high school sweetheart now wife. Sportsman and mouthpiece…who “can getcha outta anything”.