Act your age, not your shoe size.

I saw this sentiment flash across many faces as I told folks about my trip to Baltimore to see Arch Enemy last week.  I have much to tell, not the least of which concerns meeting the band, but I wanted to write this piece while I am still feeling the wrath of the mosh pit that formed in the very center of the crowd.

WP_000071

The next day, although I was running on less than four hours sleep, the adrenaline of the show kept me going and it wasn’t long till I was telling everyone I could about the meet and greet, the music and of course the pit.  My wife and teenage children just rolled their eyes as I recounted the amazing guitar work, vocals, hits and crowd surfing.  I imagine they were hardly alone in thinking that I’m nuts for insisting on playing in what is mostly a young man’s (and occasionally young woman’s) game.

With few exceptions I was twice the age of most of the other bodies flying around that night.  In fact my age garnered several comments as the evening wore on.  Thankfully all of them were complimentary.  A guy in his mid twenties who hit like a mack truck grabbed me around the neck and screamed in my ear, “Man, I think it’s great that an old guy is keeping this pit going!”  Another came from a man with scraggily gray hair hanging down around his shoulders who slapped me on the back and proclaimed, “Us geezers gotta stick together!”

“Old guy???”  “Geezer???”  I sure didn’t feel that way at the show.  For a few hours I wasn’t worried about budgets, worship attendance or my son’s grades.  I was free and reveling in the moment (which was probably a good thing since keeping your head on a swivel is a rather important survival strategy).  But just a few hours later as I creaked into bed my age started catching up with me.  The next morning I knew that those terms, “Old guy” and “Geezer”  were in fact all too true.  I felt every hit.  Getting up and down took a whole lot more effort than they should have.  Even now,  four days later, I am feeling painful reminders of all those hits.

So why do it?   It’s been said before “If it’s too loud then you’re too old”  Well I’m in no hurry to get old, or at least, old-er.   I love going to these shows.  I love the music. I love the energy.  And I confess I also feel a rather adolescent surge of  pride at the thought that I can hold my own in the pit.  But for the first time in my life I started to engage in the cost-benefit analysis.  Was three hours of fun worth four days of recovery?

It’s an individual calculus.  For me a few hours of playing Peter Pan is still worth the price of a few days of feeling every bit of my age.  But for the first time in my life I can imagine a time in the future when I may have to give it up.

But until that time comes (and I hope it never does) I have absolutely no intention of acting my age, at least, not in the mosh pit.

To Everything There’s a Season (Turn, Turn, Turntable)

“Don’t turn around cause I’m never coming back!”  So thundered Leslie West from my Nantucketsleighriderecord player.  That old, scratched up copy of Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleighride” was my introduction to rock and roll.  I wore it out on my one piece record player- you know- the kind that integrated the turntable and amp into a single cheesy machine.

That heavier than lead, early 70’s sound, forever influenced my taste and lead me to Sabbath, Dio and BOC.  Yet as a teen growing up in the era of New Wave and Hair Metal, I found few, if any, kindred souls.  Even as I branched out into Goth, Punk and Thrash, the love of that sound never left me.

Yet now, more than 30 years after I first put needle to that vinyl, it seems that things have come full circle.  Things that were once old and seemingly forgotten, are new once more.  This first occurred to me last year when my friend Marcus turned me on to the work of Purson.  Check out the video for “The Contract” here.

download

Apparently Jefferson Airplane is still alive and kicking and I love it!

Next, and again courtesy of Marcus was Opeth.  Ranging between Prog Rock and Death Metal their latest album leans heavily towards the former with none of the trademark growling vocals that helped define them.  Yet the emphasis on composition and mysticism story telling is more than enough to carry them. See for yourself with the video for Cusp of EternityOpeth

But the final piece of evidence for me came just this week.  I was getting psyched up to see Arch Enemy tomorrow in Baltimore.  In addition to putting them into heavy rotation  I checked into the opening acts.  In doing so I stumbled onto Huntress.  After one listen I can only conclude they must share the same musical roots.  Huntress3

They fit the mold perfectly- combining Maiden’s sound, the weight and occult narratives of Dio with BOC’s sci-fi smarts, the psychedelia of Mountain’s cover art and a little Crazy World of Authur Brown for good measure. If they just threw in a B3 I would think I was still listening to scratchy vinyl on that old cheesy record player. The result is Zenith.Zenith

Move over Bruce Dickinson.  Jill Janus may not be able to fly a 747 but she rocks!  I am very to see how their act translates to the stage.

So it seems old  Leslie West was wrong.   Thanks to a new generation of musical grandchildren he’s coming back in a big way.  And to that I can only say Amen!

Keeping busy with the Beef and Beer

Well I have to confess I have not had time to write a post for this week because my time has been taken up prepping for our parish Beef and Beer which is this Saturday.  Props to Jessica for the cool logo.  BnB_2014

This will be our fourth year with this fundraiser for the parish and we always take the time to brew a few special sixtels for the event.  This year we will be serving a Festbier and a wet-hopped IPA with Cascades and Centennials from my garden.   I wrote about picking them and brewing this particular brew in The Joy of the Harvest post last month.

If you are in Philly on Saturday I hope you can make it.  Advance tickets are $25 and $30 at the door.  All proceeds go to further our mission work in the local community, at our sister mission in Kentucky and around the world.  Hoping to see you.

 

 

What in the world are you doing here?

There is a certain serendipity when you unexpectedly bump into a friend.  You know what I mean- the chance encounter of pulling into the concert only you find you have parked next to someone you haven’t seen in months or looking across the restaurant to spot an old friend from high school.

Yet as cool as that coincidence or providence may be it become so much more amazing when it happens 4300 miles from home.  Not surprisingly it happened over a beer.

Last summer I was fortunate enough to go to Rome.  And while I fully expected to be Beer Week event 2013 (1)seeing some amazing sights, tasting awesome food and sampling all the Italian craft beer I could find I never expected to share some of those experiences with one of my favorite publicans, none other than Fergus Carey.  As you may remember, Fergie is the generous host of our A Priest, Minister and a Rabbi Walk into a Bar events.

While we didn’t randomly bump into one another on the street (it was actually through checking in on Facebook that we discovered that we were both in Rome) what are the odds of being there at the same time?  Needless to say we could not allow this opportunity pass so we arranged to meet for an afternoon beer.

20130709_184837We met at Piazza Navona  and then took the ten minute hike to Open Baladin.  We were later joined by my lovely wife who had been out for a walk around Trastevere.  Over several rounds we talked about our travels and families.

We had such a good time that we decided to meet up again later that night for an al fresco dinner.  This time we made sure everyone got in on the fun, including Fergie’s wonderful wife and all of our children.  Sitting together on a back street we watched the other diners and shoppers as we listened to an ever changing rota of street musicians.

While our conversation seldom turned back to our lives in Philadelphia (we were on Rome 2013_855vacation after all), there was still something reassuring and even grounding to find this tangible connection to home.  And maybe that is what lies at the heart of this kind of serendipitous encounter.  Not simply the chance to catch up with a friend, but the opportunity to rekindle that sense of connection to another time or place.

What chance encounters have you had?  Who have you run into at an unexpected time or place?  How far away have you been when you bumped into someone from home?  Please let us know.

Habaneros, Ghosts and Scorpions… Oh My!

I try to know my limits.  How much can I eat without feeling stuffed and immobile?  How much can I drink without getting schnocked and then waking up hung over? I have even allowed such better judgment to govern my hot pepper intake.  It used to be that I looked forward to eating food so hot that the sweat would be dripping off the end of my nose.  Although my mouth can still handle the heat, with each passing year the unfortunate truth is that my gut makes me pay dearly for the pleasure the next day.

***********

Knowing this I have stayed away from the recent additions to the nuclear arsenal now embraced by extreme fire eaters, namely the Ghost and now the Scorpion peppers. If I have to be judicious with Habaneros (which clock in at 350,000 scovilles) what possible interest could I have in peppers that tip the scales at 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 respectively?

***********

But on a beautiful September afternoon I threw all that caution to the wind and decided to make a hot pepper mash using all three members of the Holy (Shit That’s Hot) Trinity of hot peppers mentioned above.

***********

Based on much previous experience the first thing to do was to make sure I could work DSC_3290outside using the side burner of my grill.  I made the mistake of making a mash using only habaneros indoors once.  If you have ever been pepper sprayed then you have an idea of what it was like trying to breathe in my kitchen once those peppers hit the hot oil in the pan.

***********

DSC_3293With that object lesson firmly in mind I took my garlic, onion, peppers, salt and honey out into the garage.  From there I thought it would be simple.  Cook things down then puree.  I knew I did not want to lean too far over the pan because of the toxic fumes.  Little did I know what I was actually in for.

***********DSC_3296

After five minutes of cooking I found I was coughing anytime I approached the pan.  Meanwhile, one floor above and inside what I thought was the relative safety of the house my wife had run around and frantically closed all the windows because even the trace amounts that blew in were making her quite unhappy.

***********

By the time I transferred from pan to food processor my throat was tight and my cheeks were burning as if I had touched them after handling the peppers.  The sweat was dripping from my forehead and nose the way it does after eating a hot vindaloo curry.  If just being around this concoction has this effect I can only imagine what actually ingesting it will do. I tried the tiniest amount on a tortilla chip and it left my tongue happily burning for five minutes.

***********

DSC_3302Since you may be wondering the same thing let me tell you what I have done with past (albeit it milder) batches.   I tend to use a teaspoon to tablespoon amount of the mash as an ingredient in making the sauce for my Ultimate Wings.  You can also use it to spice up chili or if you are daring use a little as a relish on a cheese steak or other sandwich.  The good news is that you don’t have to use it quickly.  Just store it in some tupperware in your fridge and it will last for a year or more.  I can only assume that it is so toxic that no bacteria can grow in it.

***********

I look forward to testing my limits and trying my triple threat mash as part of some new daring dish.  I will post an update when I do.  If you make it for yourself  please let us know how you like it!  And whenever you do make sure you have a cold beer (or six) handy to quench the flames.

Pinewood Derby, Dark Tribe and Tigger

tigger_06176The guy in the Tigger suit walked up and down the street blowing a whistle.  As he went he  garnered high fives and was frequently stopped for selfies.   My own costume was not as elaborate and was mercifully much cooler than the plush fur the erstwhile Tigger had to endure.  However I received almost as many greetings.  Better yet I was offered more beers and with them invitations to stop and talk with the revelers.

***********

Such was my annual pilgrimage at the Manayunk Bike Race this past June.   Each year bike raceI head out in my clericals with no other purpose than to mingle with the crowd.  Over the years the event has become a little less rowdy and, I am thankful to say, it is becoming easier to find decent beer at the average house party.  Above and beyond this I have to say that 2014 yielded some rather unique encounters.

***********

The first started out in the usual way.  As I walked down Manayunk Avenue I was stopped by the perpetual question, “Are you really a priest?”  Yet my answer of, “Yes” generated an unusual reply.  On hearing that I was indeed clergy the young man grinned and said proudly, “Well I’m an atheist!”  His abashed friends scolded him, going so far as to smack him upside the head.  Yet I didn’t flinch or admonish as I am sure he hoped I would.  Instead I asked him what he believed in.  Enthusiastically he told me that he was, “Dark Tribe” which was a term I had never heard before.  So I asked him to explain.  I imagine the alcohol impacted his ability to explain this philosophy which seemed to be a combination of nihilism and anarchism (I am not sure how wide spread it actually is since there is no Wikipedia entry.  As best I can tell it has its origins in video games).  But his coherence, or lack of the same did not change the fact that this was an interesting and engaging start to my afternoon.  After chatting more with him and his friends I thanked them for the beer and went on my way.

***********

My next stop took me off the race course down to meet friends at the Old Eagle.  The day featured a special appearance from Yards.  But there was more than just beer specials because they brought along their pinewood derby racing set.   After a while people got bored racing just the cars and started to construct their own racers out of hotdogs and who knows what else.  But what made the event even more enjoyable was the guys from the brewery who included some of the members of their own Yeast Factory band which plays at the now annual Band of Brewers event here in Philly.  It was a pleasant change to sip a cask pour of their IPA and discuss metal all the while enjoying the childhood pleasures of pine wood derby.

***********

Bike Race 2Yet as much as I would have liked to while away my afternoon that was not strictly why I was out and about.  My job was to challenge, surprise and engage in the name of God.  As I hiked back up the race course, I chatted and waved until I had a conversation interrupted by a young woman who quizzed me about Hinduism.  She wanted to know what I knew about that religion.  When I confessed that I only knew a little she told me that she was Hindu and that I should go and learn more about it.  I asked her to explain to me what she thought I should know but she seemed to lose interest now that her confrontational mission had been accomplished.

***********

It is hard to have these kind of encounters at church.  Yet what I found was that almost everyone I talked to, including the “Dark Tribe” guy and the Hindu gal was in fact willing to, or even longing to connect with the kind of meaning and purpose that comes as part of organized religion.  What we in the Church need to realize is that they are not going to come to us.  If we are going to connect with them we have to go to where they are.  Thank goodness I don’t have to dress like Tigger to do it.

Big News! We’re featured in All About Beer!

This is a special post to share some special news.  Food and beer writer Danya Henninger has been following the story of my collaborations with Rabbi Eli Freeman for a while now.  I am really excited to announce that she has gotten a piece published in All About Beer (one of the two major national magazines on the subject of our favorite beverage).  The issue is not yet online but it is at newsstands.  Below is picture (sent to me by Danya) of the article itself.

10659384_10204218597481074_8296678575677470431_n

Check it out if you can and  let me know what you think.