Tour Company Stuff, New Podcast Recommendations, WM 31, Star Trek, Musings

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months now, which is hurting my mission of this blog being the first thing that comes up when you Google my very unique name. I’ve still got to chase Spokeo and Quirky off of the first page of results, but that will come. I will take this opportunity to update y’all on happenings with the tour business (why I’ve been so busy), My Wrestlemania 31 predictions, some cool new Podcasts that I’ve been getting into, and pretty much just muse about stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

DSC01521Big Things For the Tour Guys

Big things going on for me with the Richmond Tour Guys. First off, tour season has restarted! I finally get to give tours again. I’ve even brought on 2 guides so I can have some weekends off occasionally. One of them is a recent VCU Grad with a degree in History and the other is long time Church Hill (the oldest neighborhood in Richmond) resident who will be doing 2 tours of Church Hill per month.

That reminds me, I have added a tour of Church Hill which will take place on Saturdays at 3:30 PM and Thursday evenings at 5:00 PM. I’m very excited for these as Church Hill has so much rich history share and the tour ends around a pub, so I may be able to have a pint or two with some of the more interesting tour attendees.

I was also contacted by Taylor’s Classic Travels that has a trolley that they rent out for private events, wine tours, brewery tours, and weddings. They have been hired by The Brownstone and Butler’s Unique Catering to do a tour of Church Hill and are using me to guide the tours. I’m very excited to make this connection and work with Terra and Joe.

If you want to buy tickets to this all-you-can-eat brunch, ride a trolley, and witness me blow your mind with my awesome tour guiding, the link is here.

After I get back from visiting family and friends on the West Coast in June, I’m going to start charging for tours and see if this has legs as a full-fledged business. So if you want to come on the free tour, get it while it lasts!

I’ve also had a ton of other opportunities come my way as well that I’m working on, but can’t mention yet on such a public forum…..

New Podcasts

Entrepreneur On Fire: Since the tour business has been going so well, I have decided that I need to update my business IQ. Since I have no formal business training and I am too busy to read any non-history related books since I’m writing and developing two new tours; I get it in during my morning cleansing ritual (shower, shave, getting dressed, etc.) and driving time (which I have much of) via Podcasts.

Entrepreneur On Fire has given me some, as the host John Lee Dumas would put it, “mind blowing insights” into my business. Basically, he spends a half-hour interviewing various entrepreneurs about their business, how they built it, and finding out their habits. I have gained more insight into how to run, market, and view my business than I could possibly have otherwise.

Ironically enough, the first one that I listened to was an interview with a guy who started Museum Hack which gives entertaining tours of museums in New York.

I was hooked.

Now I listen to the almost every podcast Lee puts out. If you are an entrepreneur, side-preneur (me!), or want-repreneur, this is a great Podcast to check out. It has quickly risen to the top of my podcast Queue.

What the Speak!: This Podcast is all about Public Speaking. Bryan Kelly interviews public speakers of all sorts and learns about their journey, which teaches me all sorts of tips and tricks.  Being a Tour Guide, a lot of what I do is performance based speaking. Since I have no formal education in public speaking (other than a one semester Speech class Freshman year of college where my final project was an epic speech on the word F***) I decided to look for a podcast on the topic.

One Google search later, lo and behold, What the Speak comes up. It really put what I do into perspective. Even without being able to see myself giving tours, I can already see things that I need to work on and improve.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour – Switching gears, this podcast is all about the most famous of Virginians… Thomas Jefferson. Clay Jenkins, award winning Humanities Scholar and Thomas Jefferson researcher, gives in-character interviews as Thomas Jefferson to give his view. It sounds really hokey, but it is one of the most incredible podcasts that I listen to. Jenkins has studied Thomas Jefferson so in depth, that he flawlessly answers questions off the cuff, citing primary sources for reference.

Actually, learning about Thomas Jefferson and all that he accomplished in field literally ranging from A to Z (he even knew how to tie arteries!) will really make one feel intellectually inferior.

Wrestlemania 31 Predictions

Wrestlemania 31 is coming up  and I’m not super thrilled about the card.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker. Now that the Undertaker has had his streak broken (last year by Brock Lesnar) it’s fair game as to whether he can win or lose. There’s no assumption that the streak will continue because it’s been broken. They could have Taker lose, and have that be the nail in his coffin as he passes the torch to the self-titled “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt, or he could win and redeem himself. I hope he loses and rides out into the sunset…. although by the looks of it he may have trouble getting on the horse. It’s a tossup, but I’ll say Wyatt wins which will fit into the narrative on next year’s Wrestlemania where Undertaker will hang up the boots if he loses and his opponent is some heel who just wants to “put him out of his misery.”

Triple H vs. Sting will be good. They are both incredible in-ring storytellers. Seeing Sting in action in front of 80,000 people again will be nuts. He’s been in small arena’s with TNA for the last 12 years. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, but my money is on Sting to fit with the Wrestlemania hero’s win narrative. The match will be very good.

John Cena vs. Rusev is a feud that I have really been enjoying. There’s just something so old school and nostalgic about a Russian talking smack about the US and the hero standing up and fighting for the country he loves. (Rusev’s actually Bulgarian, but WWE doesn’t have much regard for the geographic knowledge of their audience). They had a really good match at Fastlane and I think this one will be good as well. Cena goes over for the feel good moment.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar…. eh.. the build up to this has been atrocious. I mean it’s basically Paul Heyman giving awesome promos and Roman Reigns fighting off the Authority. I like Roman Reigns, but I don’t buy him as a Wrestlemania main eventer. Not yet at least. Lesnar has officially re-signed with WWE, so I think he wins since Reigns is proving to be a non-starter for much of the WWE Universe. I still think Rollins is going to cash in Money in the Bank at WM 31.

By the way, that crowd is going to be very ruthless to Roman Reigns.

The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to be a fun match, but there are better ways to use the guys who are going to be in it. Daniel Bryan was main-eventing Wrestlemania last year and now he’s been jammed into a match with 6 other guys who have nothing else to do on that Sunday night. The build up has been somewhat amusing, mostly thanks to R Truth’s antics, but overall it’s a real non-starter. I say Bryan captures the title in order to bring some prestige back to it.

The Bellas vs. AJ and Paige is also a real non-starter, mostly because I do not like the Bella Twins. Nikki is so sloppy and unbelievable as a credible threat. Paige and AJ can wrestle circles around them. Either way, it’ a Divas match, so the WWe will probably either give them 3 minutes or just bump them when Sting/Triple H goes too long. Because that’s what WWE does to Divas at Wrestlemanias. Paige and AJ for the victory.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Who knows? After Cesaro won last year and was summarily buried, it doesn’t feel like this Battle Royal matters as much as it did last year when it was new and could potentially be a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t rightly know who will win; or care for that matter. So…uh… let’s jut say that…uh…. Curtis Axel wins and gets pushed to the stars! Axelmania!

Star Trek

A few months ago, I decided to watch Star Trek, the original series on Netflix. I had never watched it before and had a much different idea of what it was in my mind prior to watching it…..

Zounds! What an incredible show! I mean the production value isn’t incredible, but the messages and morals are mind blowing. Spock’s insights into humanity from a purely logical perspective and his verbal exchanges with Captain Kirk are highly entertaining. The show really makes one think about humanity and society’s faults as well as our greater qualities such as a soul and free will. Things that we take for granted are put on display in different species that lack these things.

I’m almost ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance before. I’m smack dab in the middle of season 2 right now.

Other Thoughts

  • I was at Sweetfrog by the theater the other day waiting for my beautiful girlfriend to meet me and ventured over to see what was playing and realized I had never heard of any of the movies that were playing. You see, Melanie and I cut our cable cord a year or so ago and have not looked back since. Between the internet, Netflix, and Hulu, we don’t miss anything AND we get to save money and not watch all of the commercials. The commercials we see are not the same as they are on actual TV so we never see movie previews. I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be terrible anyway. Anything that’s grandiose enough to win awards is not worth paying to see in theaters anyway when it will be out on VOD and DVD in 2 months.
  • Light beer is disgusting. I use to drink it if it was present at a gathering. I liked it okay. I accidentally bought Yuengling Light the other day and was severely disappointed to taste that flavorless beer when I was expecting delicious Yuengling.
  • Yuengling, for my West Coast compatriots who haven’t heard of it, is a great East Coast beer. It’s like a step above Bud/Coors/Miller in terms of taste and maybe $1 more expensive for a 6-pack, but not quite as expensive or heavy as craft brews. I had never actually heard of Yuengling until I moved to the East Coast, because apparently it isn’t distributed West of the Mississippi. It is the oldest brewery in the country, by the way.
  • I want to have a Podcast in the worst way…. soon…..

Remember everybody, Matthew Maggy says “zip it up and zip it out!”

 

Who is the Best? Who is the Greatest? They Are Not One-In-The-Same

So many times, you may hear about the debate over “Who is the best _________ of all time?” or “Who is the greatest__________ of all time.” Some people might say that greatest and best are one-in-the-same; that the best is the greatest.

I disagree.

You can call it arguing petty semantics if you want, but there is a distinction between these two terms of distinction. So here’s how I define them.

The criteria for the best has to do with skill. If someone is more skilled at something than other people then they are the best. Plain and simple. This can be measured by stats, anecdotal evidence, or generally accepted agreement that someone is extremely skilled at something.

The  criteria for the greatest is much deeper than the best. The greatest takes into consideration impact, longevity, legacy, and success along with skill. The greatest, however, may not necessarily be the most skilled. In an effort to define more what I’m talking about, I’ll list some examples. (This post is basically a way for me to express my opinion on a few matters.)

Conqueror of the Classical World:

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

I am containing the scope of this question to the Classical world because Genghis Kahn wins hands-down for the best and greatest conqueror in history. So the field is basically  3 guys: Alexander The Great of Macedonia, Julius Caesar of Rome, and Qin Shi Huang of China. The best is an easy one…..

Best: Alexander The Great

He conquered the known world. The…known….world; and a lot that wasn’t known. He stood largely on the shoulders of his father Phillip II who handed him Greece and an army capable of, well, conquering the known world. As a tactician, he was a genius. He displayed bravery in leading from the front. All of his troops admired him as he led them into God knows where (we know it today as the North of India). He is one of the few who have been able to conquer the tribes of Afghanistan. He carved out a large piece of the world for himself, but he died young and his empire was split  among his generals into various Hellenic kingdoms.

Greatest: Julius Caesar

He not only conquered the Germanic Tribes and the Celts of lower Britain, but he won a three way civil war between himself Pompei, and Marc Antony who were all fighting with highly trained and veteran Roman Legions. This is a massive feat worthy of all of the glory he receives unto itself. The difference between him, Alexander, and Qin Shi Huang is that Ceasar’s conquests endured for another 300-500 years (depending on when one officially defines the fall of the Western Roman Empire). The duration becomes 1,300 years after his death if you include the Byzantine Empire which carried the Roman flag. Qin Shi Huang and and Alexander’s empires crumbled as soon as the people who created them died. When Caesar died, not only did his kingdom survive, but it thrived and expanded. It ruled the West and near East for hundreds of years after Caesar breathed his last.

Some may bring up the legacy Alexander’s conquests. Though his empire was split between his generals and did not endure, his conquests spread Hellenitic values with Greek learning, art, culture, and traditions throughout the known world. One can also point to Qin Shi Huang’s legacy as evidence of his claim to the title of the greatest. By unifying China aand forcing a single language and culture throughout these once culturally diverse kingdoms, he is still impacting the world in the form of the current Chinese state. He does not receive this title though, because his dynasty fell as soon as he died.

When Caesar dies, his adopted son Augustus Caesar takes control of Rome to keep his dynasty going. Then 300 years after Caesar died, a little thing called Christianity was made the official religion of and spread through the Roman Empire. This shaped the modern Western world and the modern Western world has shaped the world today. That, arguably, is the most significant legacy that any Western Military Leader could leave.

Pro-Wrestler:

Best: Ric Flair

Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair

Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair

WHOO!!! Ric Flair, “a Limousine-ridin’, Jet-flyin’, Kiss-stealin’, Wheelin’-dealin’, Son-of-a-Gun,” is a wrestler who would only be known to people who have watched wrestling at one time or another and to people in the South. He could cut a mean promo. He could put on a great hour-long match. He oozed charisma and he embodied his character. He stuck around and put on great matches for 40 years. The reason that he wins out over other wrestlers such as Shawn Michaels, Macho Man Randy Savage, Chris Jericho, and The Undertaker is that 40 year longevity. Any wrestling purist will tell you that the best wrestler of all time is Ric Flair.

Just check out Ric Flair vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat from Wrestlewar 89.

Greatest: Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan, however, takes the crown as the greatest. As far as technical, in-ring work goes, he was not good at all. He didn’t sell when people hit him (selling= making it look like you actually got hit), he barely left his feet and went down to the mat, but when he hit the ring, you never heard a bigger reaction. He was charismatic, he could cut a promo, and he sold lots and lots of T-Shirts. He was the one to bring Pro-Wrestling into the mainstream. He was in movies (who doesn’t love Suburban Commando?). He had a TV show. He is a pop-culture icon. People who have never watched a single wrestling show know who Hulk Hogan is. He wrestled until his back could no longer take it. His debut was in the mid-1970’s and had his last match around 2011. So taking into consideration great matches, popularity, impact, longevity, and transcendence, Hulk Hogan is the Greatest.

Rapper:

I should preface this by saying, per a previous post, I was once hugely into Rap music, but I don’t really follow it much anymore. I think the only new guys I know are Kendrick Lamar and Drake. I know, it’s sad.

By ThaCreator [mm.art] from Chicago and NYC, USA (jay-z and bill gates) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By ThaCreator [mm.art] from Chicago and NYC, USA (jay-z and bill gates) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Best: 2Pac/BIG

So that nobody jumps down my throat, I’ll put 2Pac and BIG tied. Now, neither of these guys is my favorite rapper of all time (that goes to the Bay Area’s own, E-40); but I’m aware they are considered the best rapper’s all time by most people. Lyrically, they are both incredible. Biggie’s flow was insanely intricate and clever. He weaved words in ways to whet the appetites of the most wily of word-smiths. Sold millions of albums, but he only released 5 of them. Two of those were released after his death. 2Pac released like 6 albums while he was alive and was active for about 6 years before he was shot He had a big impact at his time, but he didn’t stick around. Had both these cats lived, it might be a different conversation.

Greatest: Jay-Z

Hands down. In my opinion there is no argument to be made against me here. Jay-Z has been making hit albums since 1996 and is still making them. 15 albums. Multi-Platinum. Grammy winning. Lyrically sharp, crisp, clever, and went toe-to-toe with Nas, one of the best wordsmiths of all time. He is a pop-culture icon and Successful entrepreneur. He is as mainstream as mainstream can be, yet still maintains the respect of most hardcore Hip-Hop heads. A lot of kids today won’t know who BIG is, but they sure as heck know who Jay-Z is.

Early Solo Rock & Roller:

Best: Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is without a doubt the most talented musician of that era. He invented an entire style of guitar playing. The Rock & Roll riff is basically his. He revolutionized music. He is charismatic and has influenced probably every band in every type of music that is an off-shoot of Rock & Roll. “Johnny B. Good” is probably the best song to come out of that era. He is still making good music.

Greatest: Elvis Presley

Was he a prolific song writer a’la Chuck Berry? No. Was Elvis a good singer? He was pretty good. Elvis is the greatest simply because of impact and longevity. Elvis brought what was a fringe branch of R&B music that was only played in African American music venues and made it mainstream. He didn’t invent Rock & Roll. I don’t know if he ever even wrote a song. He did, however, catapult Rock & Roll into people’s living rooms. He de-virginized the eyes of countless young women with his rhythmic hip gyrations to help loosen an uptight society. Not to mention, his songs are great. Most of them are covers that African-American musicians did, but he did great and entertaining renditions of them. I would say musically, a lot of them are also done better. He is, plain and simple, a cultural icon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Elvis’ “Jungle Room” in Graceland from my 2012 visit.

I understand Elvis’ greater success than Chuck Berry is owed to the fact that he was White. Chuck Berry was an African American guy and at the time that just wasn’t what mainstream audiences would find acceptable. Chuck Berry was also older and not nearly as good looking as Elvis, so I think that hurt him a bit too.

People don’t travel from all over the world to see Chuck Berry’s horribly decorated mansion, do they?

What other Best vs. Greatest comparisons can you make?

New Evidence of Ruins Outside of Atlanta, GA Point to English Colony Older Than Jamestown

french map

I found out something the other day that made me nerd out on an insane level: a 17th Century melting pot of Native Americans, English colonists, Sephardic Jews, and French Huguenots existed in the “Track Rock Terrace” ruins outside of Atlanta. This has long been cast off as preposterous by archaeological scholars for various reasons, has been corroborated by a letter in French archives found by regional planner and historian Michael Jacobs written on:

“…January 6, 1660 in perfect Renaissance French by Edward Graves (Graeves) a member of the board of directors of the colony, to the Rev. Charles de Rochefort, a French Protestant minister living in exile in Rotterdam, Holland. De Rochefort’s commentary on the letter said that Graves held a Doctor of Law and lived in Melilot within the Apalache Kingdom. The ruins of Melilot are probably located at Little Mulberry River Park in Gwinnett County, GA.”

Cool!?! Apparently a book written by De Rochefort in 1668 on the “Appalache Kingdom”:

“…stated that six survivors of the doomed French colony at Fort Caroline arrived in Apalache in 1566. They converted King Mahdo to Protestant Christianity. Mahdo then began welcoming Protestant and Jewish refugees to his kingdom. A handful of survivors from the Roanoke Colony arrived in 1591. In early 1621 a shipload of English colonists arrived, who permanently gave the colony an English character, complete with a Protestant church. These colonists had planned to settle in Virginia, but re-embarked because of smallpox and hostile Indians. The Dutch sea captain told them about the Melilot colony.”

Apparently some scholars who were presented with De Rochefort’s book concluded that this was phony because the Natives of the area were not capable of building such giant stone structures.

Richard Thorton, who wrote the article in which I discovered this bit of information, has been onto this for quite a while, and several governmental sources tried to slander and disrepute him. The whole ordeal is outlined here on his LinkedIn. It seems a bit conspiracy theory-like in some respects, but apparently several local officials were opposed to digging here because it interrupted drug routes.

Thornton also points to evidence that these folks are likely related to Incans in Peru who made their way North to find a new village, and thus have many mound or pyramid type structures that are similar to Incan temple structures. He has concluded this because of common language characteristics between the two peoples.

Now Thorton has the local governments doing LIDAR tests and GIS mappings to help him uncover these ruins. And hopefully we can get some more light shed on this Colonial mixing pot.

It makes me think: “What else don’t we know?” What other cool archaeological discoveries could we make to completely rewrite or add a chapter to history? Some myopic scholars cast off an entire book because it was “inconceivable” that that Native Americans built stone structures. It’s interesting how something that was once considered fringe comes to have some legs to stand on. This happened with the theory of evolution and the earth revolving around the sun. This might not be as earth shattering as those theories, but it’s still pretty novel and goes against what is considered accepted dogma. The history nerd and rebel in me loves this.

I can’t wait to visit these ruins at some point. Hopefully before too many people go and it costs and arm and a leg to gain access.

Dr. William Foushee – Remarkable Richmonders

One-to-two times per month, I write a blog post on Richmond history and/our tourism on my Richmond Tour Guys website. This month was one that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research done on him, and I don’t have the time to sift through primary sources in the Library of Virginia due to work obligations during the week. So my biggest, but not sole source for this post was “Richmond: The Story of a City” by Virginius Dabney (totally destined to be a Virginia historian, am I right?). A book that I highly recommend for the history buff. Anyway, here is Richmond’s first mayor.

Dr. William Foushee

Dr. William Foushee - The First Mayor of Richmond

Dr. William Foushee – The First Mayor of Richmond

Largely forgotten by history outside of Richmond history buffs, Dr. William Foushee was Richmond’s first Mayor, first citizen, and very much a contemporary of famous founders such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and was held in similar high regard.

Dr. Foushee was the descendant of French Huguenots (French Protestants who fled France during the Reformation and were given asylum by the Governor of Virginia in the early-17th Century). He grew up in Virginia, but was educated in the Medical Profession at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He came back to Richmond to practice.

On March 6, 1775, Foushee married Elizabeth Isabella Harmondson in Northampton County, Virginia. They would have 7 children: William Jr., John, Nancy, Margarette, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Isabella.

Which also pretty much covers all of the common names of that era.

Foushee was very highly regarded in the Medical profession. He became a renowned surgeon during the American Revolutionary War. He was at one time President of the Medical Society of Virginia. He was also a first mover in the newly discovered Smallpox inoculation. In 1788, Henrico County gave him permission to administer it. To prove he rolled with the Revolutionary elite, here is a letter that he wrote to Thomas Jefferson about the vaccine (which he CC’d a Dr. Currie on).

His medical expertise also came in handy in a way he may not have envisioned. At the time of the Revolution, the rougher sort of men in Richmond had the practice of growing one finger nail very long and sharpening it to a fine point. With this point they would try to gouge their opponents eyes out or their scrotum sack open.

Richmond was a… different place back then. A port city with many brigands and lots of rabble.

One day, Foushee was walking around with a paroled British Officer named Thomas Aubrey. Among the “Gentleman” it was not uncommon for theFoushee aristocracy to associate with British Officers in a cordial manner, but the commoners were not quite so open. One of these sharp-nailed ruffians decided Foushee was too friendly with the enemy and gouged the future Mayor’s his eye out of socket. With the good Doctor’s eye dangling out of the socket onto his cheek, the ruffian attempted to yank it out, but was tackled by Thomas Aubrey. Foushee quickly put the eye back in.

In 1782, Richmond was officially made a City and Foushee was elected as the  first Mayor of Richmond from among the 12 Council Members. He also, at one time or another, was a member of the General Assembly, Postmaster, and President of the James River Navigation Company (which built and managed the canal system in Richmond).

During the War of 1812 while Postmaster of Virginia, he commanded a company of troops that was raised to defend Norfolk from British attack. Norfolk was razed and the unit never saw action as Richmond was not attacked during the War of 1812.

On August 21, 1824, Foushee died in his home. You can see his grave at Shockoe Hill Cemetery on Shockoe Hill in Richmond.

In honor of all of his accomplishments… they named a street after him. In case you were curious where Foushee Street came from…

Historical Hobbies: Antique Bottle Collecting

Through my job at Restoration Builders of Virginia, I meet a lot of fellow history enthusiasts of all stripes. One day, a gentleman named Ty called the office to ask if we ever found old bottles and mentioned that he would to buy them.

My interest was piqued.

And while our lead carpenter wants to hold onto her treasures that she has found during our jobs, I decided to go check out the meeting of the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association. It also gave me a chance to flirt with my passing interest in journalism that has surfaced since learning more about my Dad’s life as a newspaper man.

This post originally appeared on my blog over at my tour company website: Richmond Tour Guys:

One man’s trash from 100 years ago, is another man’s treasure today. Today’s topic is antique bottle collecting as a hobby.

Richmond has a deep history. This history is preserved and bequeathed by official entities such as university historians, museums, historic sites, and preservation organizations. Also filling this role are several layperson historians, antiquarians, bloggers, and (of course) tour guides. One of the most important but often overlooked players in this endeavor are the amateur archaeologists and antique collectors who recover, store, and track old rubbish. Refuse from 100 years ago can reveal much about the history of the City of Richmond.

A few nights ago I attended a meeting of the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association. I learned a lot about bottles, the hobby of bottle collecting, and what this refuse can tell us about the history of Richmond.

What Bottles Reveal About the Past

Bottles come in all different shapes and sizes: cathedral, slug plate, whiskey flask, bitter bottles, medicine flasks, ink bottles, and many, many more. Some hold miracle tonics, elixirs, and medicine. One such product on display at the Association meeting was “Celery and Caffeine,” a potent elixir to fill the imbiber with vim and vigor, no doubt! One of the more famous quack medicines from Richmond was “Valentine’s Meat Juice” a Beef Extract that claimed to treat a range of ailments and was prescribed by doctors into the 1950s.

Rooney’s Malt Whiskey by Straus, Gunst, & Co.

Of course, many of these bottles contained alcohol. In many instances, these bottles are the remnants of Richmond distilleries that have long since disappeared. Most of these are such unexceptional aspects of Richmond history that many people have never heard of them. If not for these bottles, their names might be lost to history. One such distillery was Strauss, Gunst, & Co., a Richmond distillery that operated from 1866 until 1919 (Prohibition) that produced multiple whiskeys; including the Rooney’s Malt Whiskey pictured here.  Another distillery was the Phil G Kelly Company that operated in Richmond from 1905 to 1915 and sold many variations of whiskey using the label “Straight Whiskey” and was sold largely through mail order. The “straight” label was there to differentiate themselves from watered-down fake whiskeys that were passed off as real whiskey by unscrupulous distilleries that sought to con consumers.

Phil G. Kelly, Co. Straight Whiskey

Phil G. Kelly, Co. Straight Whiskey

Fun fact: some whiskey bottles look like medicine. That’s because during Prohibition, distillers often sold their whiskeys as “for medical use” and you could still obtain whiskey via a doctor’s prescription.

The Hobby

The hobby itself is like any other hobby. You like something and think it is neat, so you collect it. This creates a demand and thus a market of buyers and sellers. Collectors range in age from teenagers on up to retirees.

Most collectors that I asked started collecting any old bottles and then at one point narrowed it down to specific types of bottles that they especially fancied, so that their collection didn’t get out of hand. One gentleman I met specializes in collecting local Coke bottles. Another collects Pepsi bottles.

They don’t seem to have any sort of feud going.

One gentleman specializes in early 20th Century bottles for German bitters. The president of the club, Bruce, specializes in bottles featuring Cowboys and Native Americans. There are some folks that collect bottles of certain shapes. Bruce’s wife, who showed me around and explained a bit to me about the hobby, collects cathedral bottles. These are ornately shaped bottles made to hold pickles. The gentleman I contacted about the club initially, Ed, collects ink bottles. Some collectors specialize in bottles from a certain geographic area such as Baltimore, San Francisco, and of course, Richmond.

Christo, another Richmond, Va manufacturer

Christo, another Richmond, Va manufacturer

A few of these collectors may be experts on their bottle type and have written books on the subject. Ed Faulkner, the gentleman that I originally contacted, had written a book on antique ink bottles with his wife. One of the other gentlemen mentioned that they wrote a book on Coke Bottles.

Amateur Archaeology

The most compelling part of this hobby is the “treasure hunting” or amateur archaeology aspect. One gentleman, Tom, invited me to a privy dig. It is exactly what it sounds like… you find an old toilet hole and dig in the area where the excrement would have gone. These often doubled as trash cans. Everything organic (ie: the poop) has decomposed and turned into dirt while everything inorganic, such as metal and glass, are artifacts waiting to be discovered by the adventurous digger. Said diggers may keep them, turn them over to a museum, or sell them for profit. Often the digger will strike a deal with a property owner to split the booty in exchange for the right to dig.

Treasure hunting does not take place only in toilets. One teenage bottle collector shared what he found when he went digging down by a creek bed. Not only did he find bottles, but he found an old pipe and some arrow heads. Another way that treasure-hunters score booty is digging through people’s barns and sheds in rural areas. People often have junk lying around that they are happy to let people pick through. Some of these everyday items to the history enthusiast are treasures.

As evidenced above, bottle collecting also tends to cross over with other antiquing. A gentleman named Craig brought a giant iron skillet that he found while cleaning out under a ladies house for her to display at the meeting. Another collector brought a 1923 Shockoe Creek Sewer System bond that he purchased at an estate auction. I also saw some old soda and beer signs.

Richmond Area Bottle Collector's Association Meeting - Show & Tell

Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association Meeting – Show & Tell

Clubs

Most Geographic areas have a Bottle Collector’s Association. The one that I visited was the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association which has been around since 1970.

People come from all over the region as far as Virginia Beach to come to this meeting every month. The meetings contain a show & tell where people show off recent finds, collectors put out bottles for sale, and of course: club business such as finances and newsletters and what not. At every meeting there is a different program. The particular night I was there, they were voting in a competition with categories such as “Best Find,” “Best Richmond Bottle,” “Best Dig Find,” and “Best Non-Bottle,” among others. It’s a place where like-minded treasure hunters can come together and share their findings.

Each club will usually host a show once per year and bring in vendors from around the country to buy and sell bottles. It’s also a good chance to have a bit camaraderie between collectors, a chance to find that one bottle that you need to add to a collection, and maybe make a bit of coin.

Table With Good For Sale

Goods for sale at the meeting


The Bottle Market Place

Apparently, bottle collecting can be a pretty lucrative or at least self- sustaining hobby. In the antique bottles marketplace, one can buy and sell at one of several aforementioned bottle shows and expos that are held around the U.S., on-line, or at auctions. Some bottles sell for thousands of dollars. If one digs something up under an old house, it may be worth $100 or so.

That’s a pretty good profit margin.

In my conversation with Bruce, the club President of several years, he mentioned that the hobby is self-sustaining for him, as it is with many others. He doesn’t pay bills with the hobby, but on the whole doesn’t have to spend any of his income to keep the hobby going. A revenue neutral hobby is not always easy to come by.

The value of the bottles depends on a myriad of factors. One is location. Years ago there may have been towns right next to each other that had their own bottling plants. For example, Coke and Pepsi were bottled in Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, and several other cities that were within a relatively close distance to each other. The location was stamped very prominently on the bottle. A Richmond bottle from 1903 may be worth more than a Petersburg bottle from 1903 because Petersburg produced less of them.

Color is also a factor in the value of the bottles

Color is also a factor in the value of the bottles

Another factor in the value of the bottles is when it was made. My biggest question was: “Without dates on the bottles, how can you tell the age?” I was informed by Cliff that it is quite easy to tell. Pre-1845, bottles were often made hand before complicated machining processes came about and you can tell by the rough nature of the bottle. Certain methods of producing bottles would come in and then out of fashion as new processes were invented. One could also figure out the age of bottles by who produced it. If you know that our old friend, the “Phil G. Kelly Company” only produced whiskey from 1905 to 1913, the bottles would be from that time frame.

Color is also a factor. A green 1904 Richmond Coke bottle might be worth more than a clear 1904 Richmond Coke Bottle.

Bottles may be valued as low as $2. At the meeting that I attended, one Petersburg Pepsi Bottle purchased for $10 at a flea market was appraised at $500-$600.

I was told that some bottles go for as much as $15,000… that’s not a typo. This is potentially big business for something that was dug out an old toilet.

As valuable as some of these bottles may be monetarily, the true value lies in the preservation of Richmond’s history through these every day treasure-hunters.

Sayings That Guide My Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was writing in my journal today and noticed at the front where I write some timely quotes that apply to my current situation. I decided just to post them up. I have most of these quotes memorized because I’ve heard Leonard Nimoy say them a million times playing Civilization IV (and have been since 2005).

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Junior Year English teacher, Mr. Harris, hammered this quote into our heads. He made us write it verbatim in order to pass a test. And you know what? I’m glad he did. You shouldn’t do the same things over and over again simply because you always have, if you have forgotten the reason. It’s sheer madness! You can take two directions with this: either rediscover why you did it in the first place so that it has meaning again, or simply stop doing it.

This Emerson quote is one of my two life mottoes. It inspired me to travel around the world. It roused me to get out of the consumer sales profession which I hated. It made me realize that graduate school was not the way to go in life. In fact, it was even my quote at the bottom of my email for a long time! Until it was replaced by:

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

Confucious

Confucious

This is a Civilization IV quote. I always said this, but never really adopted it as a mantra until I got back from traveling. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, a career, notoriety, or politics; you have to be patient. This doesn’t mean simply waiting for it to happen. This means that once you know what you want, you have to move. Don’t be discouraged because you have not achieved the goal. Keep plugging away with a few steps toward the goal every day. Take some time to celebrate what you accomplish along the way, then keep making steps.

While the first listed quote guided my life for a long time, this Confucius quote has taken it’s place. I was very impatient with myself for a long time. I felt that I had accomplished nothing. It also didn’t help that I didn’t know what I wanted or what my passion was. I was impatient with myself, which led to frustration, which led to me simply standing still.

While traveling, I found my real passion: history. More specifically, sharing history with people via guided tours. I decided I wanted to do that, so I started The Richmond Tour Guys in March. First, I bought several books and mapped a route. I filed for an LLC, bought a web domain and name, got a logo, and started the blog. The process took 2.5 months. Each day, I did something to move me toward the goal of starting this tour. Finally, on May 31st, I ran my first tour with 5 people, including my girlfriend. The next Sunday I had no people. I kept showing up, giving tours, and building a reputation (check out Trip Advisor!) until one weekend in July, I had a group of 25 people on my tour. My original goal was 20.

I didn’t fret or whine when I had nobody show up for that second week. I didn’t get frustrated and stand still. I just kept moving those small stones and reached my goal. (Where to go after that is the real question!)

“Give a man fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” – Japanese Proverb

This is a Civ truism. I use this one all the time. Basically, I’d rather somebody show me how to do something rather than do it for me, so I can then do it for myself. I also would rather teach somebody how to do something, so I don’t keep having to do it for them!

Anybody who has an older relative with a computer knows what I’m talking about.

“There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.”- Ali ibn Abi-Talib

Ben Franklin had a similar saying “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Knowledge is something that you can always take with you. It is also important to realize that today we have a problem of too much information and too little knowledge. Don’t get ’em confused.

“The frog in the well knows not the ocean.” – Japanese proverb

I got this from my favorite Economics professor in college, Prof. Syler. This is the quote that inspired me to travel. It inspired me to get out of my comfort zone living in Reno and move to random town in rural Virginia with a population of 12,000 people. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Reno, but it’s very confining. If you are confined in the same box all of the time, your mind can never expand beyond that box.

“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” – Ancient Japanese Proverb

There seems to be a lot of Japanese proverbs here, but I guess they had some pretty smart dudes back in the day! This basically just means that you can’t change what you can’t change; you just have to adapt. The biggest example of this in my life is when my mother and then 3 months later my father passed away. It was very unexpected. I was caught off-guard and my world was rocked. But what could I do? I just had to suck it up deal with my new circumstances. It’s pretty similar to my post on Kurtis Blow’s immortal perspective on life.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun-Tzu

This is a saying that I need to meditate on a bit. It’s similar to my high school football coach’s oft-repeated piece of advice that “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” You got to have a plan to be successful, but don’t fall victim to….

“Paralyses by analyses”

A recent addition to my quote lexicon. The best laid plans go to waste. So just do your homework, have a rough outline, and fill in the rest as you go.

“The wisest men follow their own direction.” – Euripides

Another Civ quote. This basically says that you gotta be true to yourself and follow your gut; no matter what people are telling you. You should definitely seek advice and take it into consideration, but if your third mind tells you to go for it, do it. All you can do is make the best decision you can with the information that you have. Deal with the consequences later.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” – Native American saying

If you are chasing two things, then you never truly have your full focus on any one thing. In this case, rabbits. Ancient Native Americans didn’t need scientific studies to tell them that multitasking is not very efficient and sometimes you just have to prioritize.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Another Civ 4 adage that applies to me wanting to travel. Similar to the frog in the well mentioned above. I think it applies not just to travel though. It applies to expanding your mind in all sort of ways. For example, it would have been easy for me stick with sales. I was good at it and the money was good. It was also my first career and I had no basis for comparison. So how did I know that was what I should do with my life? It was scary moving away from what was comfortable, but I did, and am much happier for it.

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin

It’s a timely platitude, but I don’t get into politics on this blog.

I have some more that I use quite often. Many of them have similar meanings, but these are my most oft-used axioms.

The Breaks: Life Lessons from Kurtis Blow

There is a lesson to be learned in these lyrics from the 1980s break dancing hit “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow.

The man himself… Mr. Kurtis Blow

“If your woman steps out with another man
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)
And she runs off with him to Japan
And the IRS says they want to chat
And you can’t explain why you claimed your cat
And Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill
With eighteen phone calls to Brazil

And you borrowed money from the mob
And yesterday you lost your job
Well, these are the breaks
Break it up, break it up, break it up”

I was watching a break dance video that popped into my news feed on Facebook and the back beat to the song was the “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow.  This song was HUGE in the 1980s and, to this day, is used in some form or another at every Break Dancing Competition that is held. It has stood the test of time.

Anyway, after being reminded of this pioneer’s song, I looked up the video on Youtube to jam to it for a while this morning and while listening to the lyrics I had an epiphany.

Kurtis Blow is sending us all a message about putting life into perspective:

Some times in life… bad things happen, but those are the breaks.

Deal with it.

Simple, straight forward, and seemingly easy to simply gloss over, but by accepting what has happened and not dwelling on the past, you can do what you need to do now to make it better.

When I was in Cambodia, my debit card got stolen. I was in Sihanoukville, a random beach town hundreds of miles from any main city. I was stranded with no money, no access to cash, and an infection in my leg. Yes, I panicked at first, but then I realized: those are the breaks. Through a loan from the owners of the hostel that I worked at and a wire from my sister, I survived until my debit card reached Sihanoukville only 2 weeks later.

My parents passed away when I was 21. It was terrible. It shattered my world and completely changed the course that my life was going in. Nobody should have to go through that, but that’s life. And as such: that’s the breaks, that’s the breaks. I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to live my life.

So, when life knocks your ice cream cone into the dirt, remember what the immortal Kurtis Blow wants you to know:

These are the breaks.