For all of today’s photos, you can click to enlarge
We have a lot of content today, kids, so let’s get started. I want to begin by going off-uni and telling you about some of my November travels, beginning with the trip I took down to Virginia a few weeks ago with my friend Carrie (the Tugboat Captain recently started a new job and couldn’t take time off). That’s me and Carrie shown above, aboard the Cape May car ferry, which took us from New Jersey to Delaware.
Aside from the car ferry, the trip down was uneventful. Our destination was Parksley, a small town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which is that little spit of land that extends down from Maryland and isn’t connected to the rest of Virginia. I’d never been there before. Here’s a map with a yellow arrow to show the Eastern Shore and an orange dot to show Parksley:
We went to Parksley because that’s where Carrie’s dad, Victor, lives with his partner, Betty, and their very excellent dog, Tuck. Such nice people, and they have a beautiful house. Here they are:
We spent a couple of days mostly doing relaxing stuff: exploring various beaches, poking around in an abandoned motel, going out for seafood lunches, doing a bit of antiquing (I really liked these vintage cufflinks shaped like cameras but resisted the urge to buy them), and checking out local shops. I particularly liked Watson’s Hardware in the town of Cape Charles, which had a great sign and a shopping cart full of pecans out on the front sidewalk:
But all of that was a prologue for the real reason we went down to Virginny: the Ducks Unlimited Oyster Roast, which took place on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 18, at a local conservation club. (It’s one of many oyster festivals that take place each year in this part of Virginia.)
Let me digress for a second to say that I’ve been eating oysters my whole life. Not only that, but my hometown is the Long Island village of Blue Point, which is the namesake of the bluepoint oyster, so I have oyster brine in my blood, or something like that. I was both intrigued and somewhat wary about the oyster roast — intrigued because I’d never had roasted oysters before, and wary because (a) I’ve found that I usually prefer cold-water oysters from more northerly regions, and (b) I thought that the event might be somewhat hoity toity, with lots of wine pairings and stuff like that.
The day before the roast, we had lunch at a place that offered raw oysters — a local variety called seasides. I ordered some, along with some excellent hush puppies, and was pleasantly surprised. They were plenty briny, and not as mild as other warm-water oysters I’ve had. I figured if the oysters at the roast were anything like this, I’d be very happy indeed.
Spoiler alert: The oyster roast turned out to be one of the greatest, most epic eating events I’ve ever been part of, right up there with the best beefsteaks and firehouse barbecues I’ve attended. Here’s how it went down:
When we arrived, they were roasting the first batch of oysters. I’m pretty sure the oysters we’d had for lunch the day before were farmed (you can usually tell by how uniform the shell sizes are), but the ones at the roast were wild — big, craggy, variegated, and often clustered together in clumps of three or four oysters at a time:
The roasting crew had a portable fire pit loaded with oak and hickory logs, with a big metal tray across the top. A batch of oysters was piled on the tray and then covered with a burlap sack, which the crew members periodically hosed down. “That way,” one of them explained to me, “the burlap doesn’t burn and the oysters kinda steam as they roast.”
The crew periodically checked the oysters to see if they were done. It was a bit of a judgment call, because the oysters didn’t open up wide like cooked clams or mussels. Some of them cracked open a bit, though, and that’s apparently enough to know when they’re done. The crew said the total cooking time was about 15 minutes.
The crew then lifted the tray off of the fire pit and hauled it to one of several tables where people were waiting to eat. Then they just dumped a bunch of the oysters onto the table, which was a bit of a spectacle:
And then everyone just dug in. With their bare hands. Simple as that! No chairs, no utensils — just a bunch of people standing outside, shoulder to shoulder, reaching in for a few more oysters and devouring them. So much for hoity toity! It was an amazing scene — strangers yakking, everyone smiling and laughing. When we plowed through one batch of oysters, they’d bring us some more. Unlimited beer and wine, too. A very convivial event. Sorry I don’t have photos of people chowing down, but my hands were too dirty to handle my phone.
Some of the oysters had cracked open a bit and were fairly easy to pry apart. Others hadn’t cracked at all, so those had to be shucked (we brought along oyster knives for that), although they didn’t put up nearly as much resistance as a live oyster would. Pretty easy work.
As for the flavor, it was interesting. There was very little of the brininess that I’d experienced in the raw oysters we’d eaten the day before — the cooking process had removed most of that. They were a bit more like steamed clams, but bigger, heartier, and, well, more oyster-y, with a roasty undertone of char from the fire. Good stuff!
Speaking of steamed clams, at some point they also tossed in some of those. Not sure where they’d been cooking them, but they went well with the oysters:
But wait, it gets better. Several of the oysters I opened had a little bonus treat waiting inside — a tiny crab:
Victor and Betty had told me to watch for these. They’re called pea crabs — little crabs that live inside the oysters. Technically speaking, they’re parasites, because they feed off of the oyster’s food intake and don’t give any benefit back, but they don’t harm the oysters. In a lifetime of oyster eating, I had never encountered them or even heard of them. They’re apparently much more common in warmer waters and in wild, non-farmed oysters, and restaurants routinely discard them when they turn up during shucking. Those three factors help explain why I haven’t seen them before.
The little crabs, it turns out, are delicious. They’d been cooked by the roasting process, so I just popped them in my mouth, where they tasted a little like shrimp, a little like popcorn. Fascinating! Further research reveals that they were among George Washington’s favorite foods (he liked to sprinkle them on his oyster stew — a forerunner of oysterette crackers, perhaps?), and that they were once considered a delicacy (although it’s hard to imagine how you’d amass enough of them to constitute even a single serving). I ended up with five or six of them during the evening. The guy next to me said, “When you’re shucking raw oysters, the crabs are still living! I pop ’em right in my mouth and let ’em scrabble around in there. That’s what we call a redneck toothpick!”
And there’s still more! For people who didn’t like oysters and/or didn’t want to stand around (or were just gluttonous, like me), there was a separate tent with tables and chairs and a big buffet line featuring chopped pork barbecue, grilled chicken, and lots of side dishes. Man-oh-boy, what a feast. Sorry, no photos of the ’cue.
The barbecue tent was also where they held an auction later in the evening. The items up for bid included some guns, some duck decoys, some artwork, and a taxidermed bear, none of which enticed me, but it was worth hanging around just to check out the auctioneer, who was a real pro. Here he is auctioning off the bear (sorry about the image quality — the lighting was poor):
And the price for all of this fun? Only $60. A total bargain, and you can bet I’ll be going back next year.
We high-tailed it back home the next day. Not really a road trip, because we didn’t make any fun stops, but it was still a swell getaway. And I’m now sightly obsessed with pea crabs, which I want to learn more about.
I was home for just a couple of days before it was time to hit the road again on the day before Thanksgiving. That’s when the Tugboat Captain and I drove up to Ithaca, N.Y., where we spent the holiday with her brother and sis-in-law. This was more of a road trip, as we made several fun stops along the way.
I was worried about pre-holiday traffic, but we had smooth sailing — a pleasant surprise. Our route took us through northeastern Pennsylvania, where I found what really ought to be Uni Watch’s official convenience store chain:
We eventually made our way to Wilkes-Barre, home of Abe’s Hot Dogs, which has an excellent sign:
Abe’s menu has a few puzzling aspects. For example, there’s a dog that comes with “Everything,” but then there are several additional toppings you can get. So “Everything” isn’t actually everything:
We ordered some hot dogs (disappointing) and pierogi (pretty good), but what really impressed me were the corn fritters, which had real corn niblets inside. Tasty!
We made a couple of other good stops (including one at the excellent Table Rock Hotel, a bar in Laceyville, Pa., which for some reason I didn’t photograph) before crossing back into New York State and making our way to Ithaca, where the Captain’s brother Peter and his wife, Caitlin, live. As we took off our coats, it became easy to see that the Captain and Peter are siblings:
Thanksgiving itself was fun, with lots of interesting cooking projects, but I’ll cover that in an upcoming segment of “Culinary Corner.” For now, let’s skip ahead to the day after Thanksgiving. And therein lies a Uni Watch tale: Two years ago I posted a travelogue about an upstate road trip, which prompted reader Chris S. to say, “Next time you come upstate, you should check out Hunter’s Dinerant in downtown Auburn. Classic diner overlooking a river.” I filed that away, and on Friday we drove up to Auburn for breakfast.
Hunter’s, as Chris promised, is a beauty. But it doesn’t just overlook a river; it overhangs a river. Check this out:
That’s some pretty bizarre architecture right there! Breakfast was fine (your basic eggs, French toast, etc.), and then we went across the street to a music shop that had a huge collection of beautiful vintage radios. They weren’t for sale — just for show. I’d say they had at least twice as many as what’s shown in these photos:
On Saturday the Captain and I drove back to Brooklyn. I’ve always been fascinated by state borders, and one of our stops on the way home was at a particularly evocative stone obelisk that was erected in 1884 to mark the New York/Pennsylvania state line. It’s located off to the side of a little-traveled backwoods one-lane road, and you’d never know it’s there unless someone told you to go look for it. I only know about it myself because I have a friend who grew up nearby and told me about it 20 years ago. I’ve visited it maybe half a dozen times since then, but this was the first time since about 2011, and it was good to see that it was still in good shape. Check it out:
I love that the road is called Penn York Road. Actually, I love everything about the obelisk. So different from the usual “Welcome to [wherever]!” signs that usually punctuate a state border crossing.
It’s a little hard to read in the photos, but the obelisk’s text says that the marker is located “600 feet west of the N.E. corner of Pennsylvania.” Wondering why they didn’t put the marker right at the corner? Because the corner, it turns out, is in the Delaware River:
After that we decided we wanted to go bowling, so we poked around and found the excellent Fox Bowling Center in Hancock, N.Y. The owner said the place was built in the 1930s with 10 lanes, and then automatic pinsetters and four additional lanes were added in the 1950s. Not much has changed since then. We loved it:
We had one more stop to make: the always-awesome Snyder’s Tavern, one of my favorite bars in all of America. Been stopping by since 1994, whenever I’ve driving through the Catskills. These next two photos aren’t mine, but they give a good sense of the place:
We parked our asses on a couple of stools, kibitzed with the barmaid and a few of the other customers, and ordered two Buds — a bottle of new/old Pre-Prohibition Amber for me (first time I’d actually seen it available at a bar) and a standard bottle for the Captain, which made for an interesting side-by-side comparison:
After that, we headed home.
I don’t have any December travels on the agenda, but these two November trips should hold me for a while. Thanks for listening.
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Tape-estry: Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of former Washington defensive back Sean Taylor’s death, so Ravens safety Tony Jefferson honored him by taping up his facemask, just like Taylor used to do, for last night’s game against the Texans. As you can see above, Jefferson also went with a striped waistband towel (or is that the end of his belt?) and striped socks (although his hosiery hijinks were paltry compared to what Taylor used to do). If you look closely, you can see that Jefferson was also wearing a gold necklace, which presumably had nothing to with Taylor, but I’m always amazed to see a football player wearing something like that. Seems like it would be easy for it to get yanked off or dislodged during a play.
As you can also see above, the Ravens went mono-black last night. It’s one of the few mono looks I can handle, because real ravens are, you know, black. (Cutting down on the purple doesn’t hurt either.)
Meanwhile, Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins suffered a torn jersey (cue the NBA jokes):
(My thanks to Twitter-ers @DaReal_Murary33 and @PatDStat for the Hopkins screen shots.)
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By Brinke Guthrie
Air Coryell is on full display in this 1980s Chargers promotional poster from your friends at Imperial Savings, “Where Tomorrow Begins Today.” There’s quarterback Dan Fouts, tight end Kellen Winslow, and of course coach Don Coryell, whose frown floating down from the lightning-charged skies invokes some type of all-powerful being.
Now for the rest of this week’s picks:
• Got a few more Chargers items for you: DeLong made this terrific-looking zip-front pullover. … This is a nice-looking Chargers sweater. … And we have a 1970s Chargers helmet bank here, in the usual design from WDW.
• Here’s a really nice-looking Packers varsity jacket from DeLong. It has a patch for Super Bowls I and II, so this one was sold prior to the 1997 win over the Patriots.
• And one more from DeLong: This Portland Trail Blazers jacket looks to be in great shape. “No rips (not even for Rip City), stains, tears or smells.”
• Swingster was the maker of this 1980s red satin Detroit Red Wings jacket. Logo on the front, plain block “Red Wings” on the back.
• Kansas City Chiefs fans, you’ll play a faultless game of golf with these 1970s Chiefs golf balls made by Faultless, of course.
• This brass belt buckle commemorated Major League Baseball’s 79th Annual Winter Meetings.
• Never seen these before: Could these 1980s-ish NFL helmet magnets be DIY?
• Ever seen one of these? A 1960s NFL game model kit from Aurora. Although the model was issued long before Joe Cool’s time, I’d swear the Bears quarterback looks like Montana. Curious how the teams have the right uniforms yet no helmet logos are shown.
• Cool box artwork for these 1970s NBA “Playmaker” shoes. These were “Official NBA Athletic Footwear” and sold for … 88 cents? I’m pretty sure no players wore these in games. Funny how there’s no maker’s mark anywhere — these were a direct rip-off of the famous Adidas “Samba” indoor soccer shoe. Funny how that could happen, given that Adidas had the official shoe of the ABA at the time.
• Maybe those shoes were made by Kinney? If so, here’s the NBA-branded bag they came in.
Time machine: Former Uni Watch Ticker assistant Mike Chamernik has a website where he catalogs the archives of his favorite ESPN writers, including Zach Lowe, Sam Miller, and, now, me. So far he’s only gone back as far as my 2013 columns, but he says he plans to add the rest (another nine years’ worth) when he has time.
For those who’ve been frustrated by ESPN’s haphazard website archiving, Mike’s work is a godsend. Thanks, buddy!
After you receive your helmet from Rocker T Collectibles, send it to me (Paul Lukas, 671 DeGraw St., Brooklyn, NY 11217) or to Phil (Phil Hecken, 142 Main St., Unit 1E, Mineola, NY 11501). If you only want my autograph or Phil’s, please enclose $5 for return shipping; if you want both of us to sign your helmet, please enclose $10, so I can send the helmet to Phil and then he can send it back to you.
The mini-helmets are available here. Incidentally, Rocker T has told me that the ordering deadline to ensure Christmas delivery is Dec. 16. Obviously, you can move that up by at least a week if you want your helmet signed.
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Sign of the long-ago times: The Tugboat Captain and I were walking home from a movie the other day (Lady Bird, really good) when we passed a construction site in my neighborhood where an old ghost sign had been exposed. What a beauty — look at that lowercase “g”!
My friend Kevin Walsh, who runs the excellent Forgotten New York site, estimates that the sign is from the 1880s.
’Tis the season: With the winter holidays upon us, I’ve reactivated our Ugly Sweater T-shirt.
This shirt, designed by Bryan Molloy, was originally the December entry in our original Uni Watch T-Shirt Club series from 2015. I’m reviving it now for the holiday season (but without the sleeve patch graphic that it originally had).
It’s a great design concept, with a really satisfying level of detail in the “stitches.” Click on the image at right to see a larger version of the front and back designs — Bryan really nailed it with this one.
The shirt is available here.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Great story on how former Mets 1B Eric Campbell mistakenly ended up on Lucas Duda’s 2017 Topps Card. … The Reading Fightin’ Phils will wear a red, white, and blue pinwheel cap on Sundays this season (from Mike Wagner). … Jimmy Lonetti was doing some research and came across a photo of this glove. Was that spike used to inconspicuously doctor a baseball?
NFL News: A Bears fan brought a giant Mozilla Firefox logo to Sunday’s game to advocate for the firing of coach John Fox. Get it? (From James Gilbert.) … Here’s a good feature on XTech shoulder pads, which players are rapidly switching to thanks to their unique fit (from Tommy Turner). … The Houston Cowboys? Sean Robbins recently found this shirt while shopping in central Texas. … Riverside City College, a junior college in California, has uniforms that look almost identical to the Bengals’, but with the helmet stripes reversed (from Tris Wykes). … This has been mentioned before, but for those who weren’t aware: Former punter Reggie Roby used to wear a wrist watch on the field (from Justin). … Vote for the best uni matchup of week 12 here (from Uni Watch Fans).
CFL News: Sunday’s Grey Cup between Toronto and Calgary was a fun matchup to watch, thanks to nice contrasting uniforms and a giant snowstorm. But while most football teams would simply plow lines through the yard markers, the CFL also took time to plow the field ads that had been covered by snow (from Ragnar Danneskjöld).
College Football News: Navy will wear Blue Angels-inspired uniforms against Army on Dec. 9. More photos here. Phil will have a very thorough rundown on this uniform on the day of the game. … Ohio wore alternate white jerseys on Friday against Buffalo, including sleeve stripes instead of shoulder hoops (from Jonathon Dies). … Clemson LB Jamie Skalski’s helmet took quite a beating this weekend against South Carolina (from Brad Darby and Mark Johnson). … ICYMI from the NFL section: Riverside (Calif.) City College’s uniforms look an awful lot like the Cincinnati Bengals’ unis — down to the striped “B” logo (from Tris Wykes).
Grab Bag: The Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL will wear Christmas sweater uniforms on Dec. 2 (from Steven Schapansky). … NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney revealed the paint scheme he’ll use for his car next season (from David Firestone). … Also in racing, Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Joey Gladsone has a new advertiser (also from David Firestone). … New Yorkers are likely familiar with Chock Full o’Nuts coffee, a longtime NYC staple. But as the product expands its distribution into new regions, the company recently redesigned its can with a “No Nuts” disclaimer, just to make things clear for new customers who might have been confused by the product name.