Daily Archives: July 9, 2010

History & Honeymoon: Part One

On Sunday June 27th, my wife Victoria and I gave our last performance of “The Vic & Paul Show” in it’s three-week run at PUSH Lounge in Woodland Hills. It was a satisfying end to a wonderful run — made all the more special by so many great friends, Northwestern pals, and people we dearly love but haven’t seen in ages who showed up to share the experience with us. It had been more than twenty years since we’d done a comedy show together – and exactly twenty years since we’d said “I do” in a Greek Orthodox service on a blistering hot day in Chicago.

With our 20th wedding anniversary on June 30th, the show was essentially a celebration of our two decades of married bliss – and as we struck the stage at PUSH for the last time, our thoughts turned to our upcoming anniversary trip: a return to the great Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg.

We were we going to Gettysburg for our 20th anniversary because that’s where we spent our first honeymoon in 1990. Back then I was in the early throes of a mad crush on Civil War history that was inspired by the Oscar-winning 1989 movie Glory and had continued unabated since. As we planned our nuptials, I gave my darling bride a choice of honeymoon excursions

1. A tour of National League ballparks

2. A tour of Civil War battlefields

That I could even propose two such options to my bride-to-be was proof that I was already the luckiest man in the world – but when she chose the battlefield tour, I was certain that our union (just like the Union that Lincoln’s armies defended on that hallowed ground) would long endure.

Our first stop in 1990 was Gettysburg, and while we did not plan it that way, we arrived on July 1st – the 127th anniversary of the first day of that epic 3-day battle. It was kismet. We were where we were meant to be. Thus, it felt right that on such a momentous marital (and martial) anniversary, we should go back to the small Pennsylvania crossroads town where Robert E. Lee’s 1863 invasion of the North came to a bold and bloody end. Romantic, yes?

We flew into Philadelphia on June 30th, the eve of the battle, and drove west to Gettysburg. We wanted to make sure that we got to our Bed & Breakfast while these was still light on the battlefield. It was a 3-hour drive and we were hungry, so we stopped for a late lunch. But no service plaza grub would suit this history-loving couple – and with the help of her iPhone, Victoria located the perfect spot for a picturesque and historic nosh just a few miles off the turnpike. So, we turned off at the Morgantown exit, headed for the Inn at Saint Peters Village.

Saint Peters Village was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. It’s a small, late 19th century industrial “company village” on the banks of French Creek in Chester County, PA.

For about half a mile, vintage buildings line the main drag that winds up a steep, rocky ravine, with the creek running through giant boulders below. Artists and craftsmen have set up shop in the clapboard 19th century storefronts, and the biggest and most architecturally impressive of these is The Inn at Saint Peter’s Village, where we enjoyed lunch on a large wooden deck overlooking French Creek. It was beautiful. So far, so good.

Interestingly, National League baseball managed to re-enter our honeymoon thoughts when our waitress casually mentioned that Mike Piazza’s dad “owned the whole town.” It turns out that arguably the greatest hitting catcher in Major League history (427 Home runs, career .308 batting average) grew up in nearby Phoenixville with his parents, Vince and Veronica. It was nice slice of local history to go with my pizza.

Hey, pizza and Piazza!

It was nearing 6:00 PM as we drove into Gettysburg down PA Route 30 and onto the old Chambersburg Pike – the same road that General John Buford rode into town with his division of Union cavalry late in the day on June 30th, 1863. That evening long ago, a grimly determined Buford watched with concern as a brigade of Confederate infantry under General Pettigrew probed south from Cashtown along the Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg.

Pettigrew’s brigade had been sent by his division commander, General Henry Heth, of A.P. Hill’s Corps in search of much-needed supplies — including a cache of shoes they understood to be in the town.

But when Pettigrew saw Buford’s cavalry arriving south of town, he returned to Cashtown and told Heth and Hill what he had seen. Despite Pettigrew’s claim that Federal cavalry was on the Chambersburg Pike, neither of his superiors believed there was anything more than Pennsylvania militia in Gettysburg.

Fate – and the fighting – would wait until tomorrow. And so, as Victoria and I pulled into the parking lot of The Doubleday Inn, would our own adventures on the Gettysburg battlefield wait until the following day.

The charming house at 104 Doubleday Avenue, now The Doubleday Inn, was built in 1939 and it’s the only B & B or hotel located on the grounds of the Gettysburg National Military Park. It stands on the very ground that Buford and his cavalry would defend the next morning. There are 42 battlefield monuments within a quarter mile of the Inn honoring the regiments that took part in the fierce fighting that took place here on July 1, 1863.

Before we turned in for the night, we took a sunset stroll along Doubleday Avenue on Oak Ridge to check out the monuments lining the road in front of the Inn.

Our favorite was the monument dedicated to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. All of the monuments at Gettysburg are stirring, heartbreaking testaments to valor and sacrifice – but this one is unique because of a dog.

On the side of the monument that faced the enemy that bloody day is a cast iron representation of the regiment’s beloved mascot, a terrier named “Sallie,” who was said to have hated three things: Rebels, Democrats, and Women.

According to the well-documented story, after the first day’s battle was over, faithful Sallie refused to leave the field where her brave boys had fought and fell. She stayed with her dead soldiers until she was found, weakened and close to death, a day after the battle. Sallie’s regiment nursed her back to health and she fought with them until she was killed in battle in February 1865. Sallie’s boys never forgot their faithful canine comrade – immortalizing her on their regimental monument.

To this day, visitors paying their respects at the 11th Pennsylvania monument on Oak Ridge often leave dog biscuits and bones for the devoted Sallie – as they did on the evening that Victoria and I paused to remember the regiment’s service and sacrifice before going back to the Doubleday Inn to prepare for the next morning:

July 1st – the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

To be continued…

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LeBron: The King Moves On…

As a Cleveland native, I’m getting asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers — and many of my friends and co-workers expect me to be upset, indignant, jilted, etc. So, while the blogosphere hardly needs one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I’ll make this short and to the point.

LeBron doesn’t owe me anything.

He’s a professional basketball player  who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. That’s a tall order, and yet he’s one of the very few with the physical gifts, youth and talent to potentially eclipse the legendary legacies of Wilt, Russell, Oscar, Bird, Kareem, Magic, MJ and, yes, Kobe. So, as an unestricted free agent, having sized up his chances for multiple NBA championships with the Cavaliers in Cleveland, LeBron has chosen to move on. So be it.

After all, LeBron already did the Hometown Hero thing. Born in nearby Akron, LeBron went to Cleveland to start his career when he could have pulled some kind of “I won’t sign” stunt to avoid it. (Others certainly have.) And he brought a lot of excitement to Cleveland:  7 seasons with no behind-the-scenes demands to be traded, no belittling of his teammates, or any of that negative superstar prima donna crap. That’s why Cavs fans loved him. It wasn’t just his points, assists, rebounds, and come-from-behind shot-blocking — it was his behavior as a relatively-solid citizen.

I don’t know what happened against the Celtics in the playoffs. How can you go from blowing the Celtics out in Boston to being unable to win anther game? (I’ve heard ALL the rumors.) But, now that the NBA playoffs are over, it’s obvious the Celtics were better than any of us thought they were at the end of the regular season. That collection of veteran all-stars took The Lakers to Game 7. Maybe, just maybe — all the locker room rumors notwithstanding — the Celtics were still the better team.

A player the caliber of LeBron James deserves his shot at winning multiple titles. That wasn’t happening in Cleveland. Am I disappointed? Yes, of course, I am. Do I feel betrayed? Not at all. The bitter Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, says LeBron quit during the playoffs. He’s crying out loud in an open letter about LeBron’s lack of loyalty. Hey, Dan! You just fired a head coach and GM who won more games in the last two seasons than anybody else in the NBA. Stuff your indignation. Perhaps Gilbert’s fit of pissy pique is an inside glimpse at yet another factor in LeBron’s decision to exit the Cavs. Dan Gilbert owns the Cavs. He doesn’t own LeBron James.

As for “The Decision” and all the pomp, pageantry and ESPN schmaltz that attended it? If the media and fans dub somebody “King James”, don’t be shocked when he behaves like royalty. I, for one, will be rooting for my Cavs and for LeBron James and The Miami Heat. (I’ve always liked D. Wade.) But if the Cavs and Heat match up in the playoffs, I’ll be rooting for LeBron to remain ring-less. That would be a great story.

Not the King of Cleveland anymore. The Sultan of South Beach?

Oh yeah, now about those two wars we’re fighting and that oily problem in the Gulf…

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