Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Who the Hell is Isaac Dripps?

Damn fine question. The answer lies rooted in the place I currently call home; "the little city, with a lot of charm", Bordentown City, N.J. and a nutty little contraption called "The John Bull".


This, taken from the Smithsonian Institution's "History Wired: A Few Of Our Favorite Things":
"It may look pretty modest, but the John Bull locomotive is the world's oldest, still operable self-propelled vehicle. Much more than that, it is in the ancestral line of piston-driven wheeled vehicles that have been transforming our planet since the early 1800s. Furthermore, since the John Bull was steam powered, it was part of the steam revolution that thrust humankind into the industrial age.

Late in August 1831, after a six-week voyage from Liverpool, England, the Allegheny docked at a Philadelphia wharf. Lashed aboard were the parts for "one locomotive steam engine" that had been purchased by New Jersey entrepreneur and engineer Robert Stevens. Stevens was building a commercial railroad, one of the first in the United States. He had hired Isaac Dripps, a native of Belfast in the north of Ireland, as a skilled mechanic.

A sloop carried the parts upriver to Bordentown, NJ. There, on September 4, young Isaac and his assistants received the crates. None of the men had ever seen a locomotive before, and there were no instructions for its assembly. But Dripps had had some experience with steamboats. Eleven days later, Dripps and his crew had put the engine together on a short length of track. A fire was lit, and steam raised. To everyone's relief, the machine moved, although it would need considerable fine-tuning before it worked properly".

None of the men had ever seen a locomotive before, and there were no instructions for its assembly!

That, and the John Bull's status as "the world's oldest, still operable self-propelled vehicle"? I'd call that some pretty damn fine work on the part of Isaac and his crew, and an effort that certainly puts him into my personal Pantheon of Legendary Mechanics.

Fast forward to 2014, and this: The Downtown Bordentown Association's upcoming 25th Annual Cranberry Festival, to be held October 4th & 5th, 2014.

In keeping with the spirit of the Festival's 25th anniversary, the organizers are especially keen to make it the biggest and best festival ever. On the Saturday of the Festival, there will of course be the Quentin Hausser Memorial Car Show , now in its 21st year (!). But what to do on Sunday? A bike show!!

Thus I give you; what will hopefully become a new and valued tradition of the Cranberry Festival and respectfully named after MY favorite Bordentown homeboy mechanic....

The First Annual Isaac Dripps Invitational Motorcycle Show!



Obviously with October months and months away, this is a ways off. But what the hell, never too early to start working on a good idea. And just to be clear... "Invitational"? I just thought it added a bit of cache. But it is a misnomer, because everyone's invited!

So mark your calendar, and please continue to watch these pages as more details and additional info comes our way!

Cheers,
Leon


Sunday, February 16, 2014

50 People to Have a Beer With, # 38: Antonin Scalia

A few weeks ago, while visiting Washington D.C. to see my daughter and her boy-friend, my daughter, Sarah, mentioned how much she was enjoying the "50 People to Have a Beer With" series. She asked who I had on my working list of people. When she saw Antonin Scalia on the list, she said: "Oh wow, can I write that one?". Sure, Sarah, you can be a guest contributor. A Father / Daughter project. How fun.

For those not familiar with the rules, you can find them HERE.

So, without further a-do... We hand the keyboard over to my daughter, Sarah.

# 38: Antonin Scalia 

Legal genius, conservative icon, and the Supreme Court Justice I love to hate.

The Constitutional Law class I took in my junior year of college required that we attend a Supreme Court oral argument; a requirement my professor had deemed “the best free show in town.”  I don’t remember the arguments of the case in the slightest. I do remember the notoriously silent Justice Thomas leaning so far back in his chair he couldn’t be seen over the bench, and Justice Scalia, on the literal edge of his seat, waiting for the attorney in front of them to take a breath so he could jump in. And when he did, the room roared with laughter at his sarcastic remark. And I couldn’t wait until he spoke again.
I disagree with Scalia about a lot.  But damn it if the man, besides being a character, isn’t brilliant.  In law school, students (OK, maybe just me…) usually skipped the dissents of the assigned cases, if for nothing else than to save time. But I usually read his out of almost sheer curiosity as to how he got to a conclusion that, to me, seemed as irrational as calling the sky green (though if the framers wrote that in the constitution, he’d argue that too). And usually, with all self-awareness, he wrote a dissent that was so snarky you just knew the other Justices rolled their eyes when they read it too. And one that was also, to my 1L brain, rock solid. 

This, from a recent interview (a highly entertaining and recommended read) he gave with New York magazine:
 “A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional.  I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says—Whack! [Pounds his fist.]—STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL.  Whack!  [Pounds again.]  STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL!  Whack! STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.]”
Touche Tony.

So, please, Justice Scalia, pull up a stool and let's talk about that D.C. v. Heller majority opinion you wrote, cause I'm not really following you on that one. And not for nothing, just what do you and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, your SCOTUS BFF and liberal lioness, talk about? And what does really scare you about the America we live in today? (Spoiler Alert: It's probably liberal, millennial, guest-bloggers like me).

Nonetheless, your Honor, I'm sure spending a few hours with you in a D.C. watering hole (your choice!) would be a fascinating, albeit at times startling, and altogether humbling hang. Oh! And hey, if Ruth is free, by all means, bring her along. I got the first round.

Cheers,
Sarah



Sunday, January 26, 2014

50 People to Have a Beer With, # 39: Luca di Montezemolo

Wow. Where did THAT month go? I mean, I know Christmas and New Year's was in there, so that explains a bit, but, gee is 2014 flying by already?

Anyway, way past due and time to get back to our 50 People to have a beer with list. There will be a slight change in format; single posts rather the running lists. I'm not going to re-hash the rules with each post, but for those not familiar, you can find them HERE. So without further ado...

# 39: Luca Cordero di Montezemolo
Born in Bologna, into an aristocratic family. With a name like that, go figure. Interestingly; educated, at least in part, in the U.S., receiving his Law degree from Columbia University. Upon returning to Italy in the early Seventies he found employment at Fiat, and quickly found himself at Ferrari. As Enzo's Personal Assistant, no less. By 1974 he was handed the keys to the Kingdom and was made Manager of the Scuderia. Obviously effective in the role, and with the arrival of Niki Lauda, he returned Ferrari to its winning ways, with F1 World Championships in 1975 and 1977. And damn near the nail-biter of a season that was 1976 as well, but that's another story....

With Niki, discussing a less then great day at the office.


Through out the 80's Luca held executive positions at Fiat and Cinzano, among others. He was involved in Italy's foray into the America's Cup yacht race. In the early 90's he returned to Ferrari as President with the goal of returning Ferrari to World Champion status. Enlisting Jean Todt as Team Manager and Michael Schumacher as pilot, Ferrari domination was, by the end of the decade, iron clad. He is so highly thought of in modern Italy, that if he were to run for Prime Minister, it would be a given. His if he wants it, which he continually denies.

Here he is with another A List guy to have a beer with, Eddie Jordan; discussing Ferrari's good, but less then top flight form of late.



Years on, with a lifetime largely dedicated to Ferrari, his long shadow is strongly cast in this launch video of Ferrari's 2014 F1 season contender.

 















And another of one of my favorite things about Luca di Montezemolo? He's a pretty damn snappy dresser. Something, most days, I could use a hand with.

Cheers,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

50 People to Have a Beer With, con't...

Well it's been an exciting and satisfying past few weeks or so; what with the airing of our Cafe Racer TV episode, our "Double Whammy" viewing party, a lovely Thanksgiving Holiday, and now getting ready for Christmas. But time to get back to work on our "50 People to Have a Beer With" list.

A quick review of the rules:
All must be living. None of this having 10 people from history over for dinner stuff that comes up over cocktails from time to time. Hanging out with Jesus, Gandi, or Elvis is a no-brainer. Besides, I'd like to think; hey, you never know....

This list will be entirely subjective, I'm sure sometimes selected on whim. Culled from whatever is rattling around in my nutty little head. Racers, musicians, news makers, missing a friend I haven't seen in a while. And as with any good game, the decision of the judges will be final.

Out of respect for the teetotalers who might make the list, I'm flexible. If you would rather meet for coffee, that's cool too.

This list is in no particular order, and is a work in process. The last post (#1 or #50, depending on how you look at it) is not to be construed as the winner. #27 could be the most inspired choice of all. Who knows? It will rather more be an ongoing; "Gee, I bet that would be fun."

Entry 12/22/2013, #40: Eddie Jordan



Former F1 team boss, entrepreneur, Rock 'n Roll drummer. Sadly, probably the last privateer that we will ever see break into F1. And F1's loss, for F1 will probably never see another one like him. And Lord knows F1 could use more of his ilk.

It didn't hurt that Jordan Grand Prix made their F1 debut with one of the prettiest cars of the last 25 years. And upon their debut wasted no time setting about upsetting the F1 status quo. In the points by mid season, and 5th in the constructors Championship at season's end.


Eddie's eye for driver talent is legendary, with many future F1 stars getting their first breaks in Eddie's cars. Either in the Junior Formula, or F1, it's a hell of a list. Martin Brundle, Jean Alesi, Rubens Barichello, Johnny Herbet, Eddie Irvine, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Thierry Boutsen, Giancarlo Fisichella, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Roberto Moreno, Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, John Watson. All at one time or another have had their backsides in the cockpit of Eddie's cars.

The video quality is a little rough, but this is still great fun to watch. Grab a beverage, relax and enjoy. Eddie Jordan, This is Your Life!



Since retired as a team owner, Eddie is still a World Class wheeler dealer. And when he is not trotting  the Globe as a TV commentator, or looking after his other, varied business interests, proves he pretty handy behind the drum kit.


Cheers, Eddie! May the luck of the Irish always be with you!

 Entry 12/18/2013, #41: Keith Richards



Keef making this list, was, of course, inevitable. This seems as good a day as any to go ahead and get it out of the way. But what's left to say about a Rock 'n Roll and Cultural Icon? Happy Birthday, Keith! 70! Who the hell on God's green earth would have figured? The man must piss iron. The list of names that have gone to the grave trying to emulate his lifestyle reads like a Who's Who of wayward souls and wasted talents. But Keith has always warned; "Kids, don't try this at home." Yes, that's Bill Clinton and Keith discussing Keith's autobiography "Life"...



Bill and Keith leaving a NYC restaurant a few years ago. Now what do you suppose happens when these two chuckle-heads start partying? Nice doggie bag, by the way, Mr. President.


How do you pick from the catalog? Not even going to try. So randomly, just a couple of my faves....



So Happy Birthday Keith. Here's to many more....

Cheers, your pal, Leon

Entry 12/8/2013, # 42: Kevin Schwantz
Hard charging 1993 FIM 500cc World Champion. His do or die riding style on the high strung, knife edge 500cc 2 strokes of the time, resulted in his fair share of crashes. And the resulting injuries would interrupt his Championship campaigns. But his courage, commitment, and fierce will to win was bone deep and always on display. Arch rival to 3 time World Champion, Wayne Rainey. Their battles are the stuff of legend. Competed in that late 80's, early 90's Golden Era of Motorcycle Grand Prix racing; which besides Rainey, included other greats; Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Mick Hoohan, and Randy Mamola. This is pretty much all you need to know about Kevin Schwantz. The closing stages and incredible last lap of the 1991 German Grand at Hockenhein Ring. Schwantz, #34 vs. Rainey, #1. Pardon the expression, but the rear end of Schwantz's bike is more nervous then a whore in Church.


Here's a nice little, more in depth piece with both Schwantz and Rainey discussing their rivalry, their different styles, and the era in which they raced. Nice stuff.


A truly fantastic time in which to witness World Championship motorcycle racing. Thanks Kevin for all those thrills you delivered on all those Sunday afternoons.

Cheers,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cafe Racer TV Moment of Truth

Well, it's been a loooooong wait, but the Cafe Racer TV day of reckoning is at hand. Set to air Wednesday,  November 27th, 10PM on the Velocity Channel.




It must be true, cause I read it on the internet!

http://www.caferacertv.com/blog/preview-season-4-episode-4/

Wish us luck out in TV Land!

Cheers,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mugs!!!


Fresh from the workshops of Badger Corse. Large 15 oz. ceramic mugs colorfully illustrated with the 3 most popular versions of the Badger. Microwave and dishwasher safe. Put a little octane in your morning joe!

$15.00 each, plus shipping. Sorry, but N.J. residences will be charged 7% N.J. State sales tax.

The Badger, v1.0, the Road Racer



The Badger, v2.0, the Flat Tracker



The Badger, M/PG LSR bike





Friday, November 15, 2013

50 People to Have a Beer With...


We all love lists. Must be a guilty pleasure. Best / Worst Dressed. Rolling Stones' 100 Greatest Guitar Players. People's 50 Most Beautiful People. The list goes on and on....

I've had this rolling around in my head for a while now. The top 50 people I would like to have a beer with. I'm going to make a list.

The rules:
All must be living. None of this having 10 people from history over for dinner stuff that comes up over cocktails from time to time. Hanging out with Jesus, Gandi, or Elvis is a no-brainer. Besides, I'd like to think; hey, you never know....

This list will be entirely subjective, I'm sure sometimes selected on whim. Culled from whatever is rattling around in my nutty little head. Racers, musicians, news makers, missing a friend I haven't seen in a while. And as with any good game, the decision of the judges will be final.

Out of respect for the teetotalers who might make the list, I'm flexible. If you would rather meet for coffee, that's cool too.

This list is in no particular order, and is a work in process. The last post (#1 or #50, depending on how you look at it) is not to be construed as the winner. #27 could be the most inspired choice of all. Who knows? It will rather more be an ongoing; "Gee, I bet that would be fun."

And speaking of fun. If we're having a good time, I reserve the right to make the list "100 people to
have a beer with".

Entry 11/27/2013, #43: Sam Shepard
Playwright, actor, sometime musician. Speaking of Ms. P. Smith, her one time romantic liaison. Rugged individualist. Neo-classical personification of the American West.

Who could forget him as Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff"?



Discussing life, work, etc.


Sure,  I'd buy Sam a beer, and let him bend my ear a bit.

Cheers,

Entry 11/23/2013, # 44: Dick Cheney I'm sure an interesting guy. But actually, you know what? Never mind. Life is too short to spend your time with assholes. At least voluntarily.

Entry 11/23/2013, # 45: Patti Smith Punk Rock Poet Laureate. Jersey girl. Rock n Roll Hall of Famer. Godmother of the early-mid 70's NYC punk scene. Obviously a hopeless romantic. Warning: While dispensing advice to the young (and old) Patti delivers a couple F-bombs...


And speaking of this unique period in history and democratization....


"I awakened to the cry that the people / have the power to redeem / the work of fools"

Now, more then ever, one can only hope.

Cheers,

Entry 11/20/13, # 46: Ed Snowden
N.S.A. whistleblower of epic proportions. Traitor? Hero? Both? Got to give him one thing. Brass Balls. Can you imagine the full weight of the U.S. Government bearing down on your ass; with the C.I.A's poison darts and exploding cigars waiting for you at every turn?


Next time I find myself in Russia, maybe we could meet up; at a secret location, of course. I'm sure hoisting a couple would be absolutely fascinating, utterly hair raising, and unbearably depressing.

Cheers,

Entry 11/17/2013, #47: Tom Waits Iconoclast. Songwriter of Legendary proportions. Artistic visionary. In my opinion, a National treasure. And as an added bonus, funny as shit. Where do you begin with a career that spans 40 some odd years? I'm not even going to try. So grab a beverage, relax, and prepare to be entertained...


Cheers,

Entry 11/17/2013, #48: Gordon Murray
The maverick design genius behind some of the greatest race and road cars of the modern era. Early work at Brabham:


The unforgettable Brabham BT46b "Fan Car":


With ground effects gone, a complete re-think with 1983's Championship winning BT52:


From a simpler time. Design head does double duty as race engineer:


Now at McLaren as Technical Director, a prime force behind 1988's all conquering MP4/4:


Bored with the increasingly constraining design regs in F1, Murray is given free reign to create one of the greatest Supercars of all time, the McLaren F1.


Now out on his own, still pushing the boundaries of technology and design....


Gordon Murray? Yeah, I wouldn't mind sharing a couple hours with him in the pub.

Cheers,

Entry 11/16/2013, #49: Richard Branson
Mr. Virgin. Billionaire High School drop out. Entrepreneur. Adventurer.  From selling records out of a church basement to Outer Space, and just about everywhere in between.


Obviously a big idea guy. And part of his genius being; after hatching the Big Idea, get the hell out of the way. Let your team make it manifest. Great with people, but smart enough to know he's not a rocket scientist. That's Burt Rutan's job.


You've got to figure an interesting hang. And who knows; if I could get his ear, maybe we could snag some much needed financial backing.

Cheers,

Entry 11/15/2013, #50: Alain Prost
The Professor. One of the winningest drivers in Grand Prix history. Nemesis to one Ayrton Senna. Has the honor of being sacked by some of the best in the business, usually for speaking his mind. McLaren (1980), Renault, Ferrari. A big picture guy. Would sacrifice Saturday pole to seek Sunday's perfect race set-up. Brilliant tactician. Fast as hell, but most usually only when he needed to be. And like most geniuses, made it look easy. Obviously a very bright guy, yet like many drivers who have attempted the transition, failed as a team owner.


A Golden Era, in my opinion.

Cheers,