The trip from my house in Endicott to Newark Airport is roughly three and a half hours. What starts off as a pleasant drive through the western foothills of the Catskills morphs into a turbo speed slalom course through I-95 traffic with Stevie Ray blasting on the CD player as I race to pick up Steve and Martin. If anyone needs to be convinced that airline travel is safer than driving, just take them for a ride along the Jersey turnpike late on a Friday afternoon.
Walking into Terminal B at the airport, I see sure evidence that the world has changed - a pair of camo-outfitted National Guard troops, one with a very large automatic weapon slung over his shoulder and his hand at the ready. No kidding around with these guys - they looked pretty serious. I thought it best not to ask them for directions to the international gate, eh? However, the bubbly lady at the information desk was quite helpful.
I figured finding Martin in an airport slightly larger than my hometown would present a problem. "Meet me at the KLM desk", he instructed, as neither of us really knew what to expect. As luck would have it, there is only one exit from the international terminals (and customs), and the KLM flight crew was just coming through. I was assured that the passengers would be coming through at any minute, as they were still making their way through customs. I must say, as a casual observer, that the flight crew on Martin's plane was not hard on the senses. Lucky SOB.
Two times Chris and Bob
Sure enough, here comes Martin, dragging luggage and a big smile. Great to see him - it's been nearly two years.
Since Steve's flight wasn't scheduled to arrive for another couple hours, Martin and I had the pleasant task of trying to find somewhere to sit and relax in an airport under guard and under construction. The funny thing is, all the cool stores and lounges are beyond the security checkpoints and unavailable to people without an airline ticket. After a half an hour of shoving our way through one crowd after another, I was thinking that maybe it would be worth buying a ticket just so we could go sit down somewhere! Sheesh!! At least the weather was nice, so a walk outside between terminals was actually enjoyable.
Janice from Doubletree
We finally found a little watering hole with an empty table and there we sat for an hour or more, nursing a couple Coronas and catching up on life. Damn, it was good to see him again. It was actually hard to believe that we were actually sitting together having a talk. After the fourth or fifth "You guys all set?" from the waiter, we got the hint and headed off toward Terminal C where the Continental flights arrive.
Since we can't pass through the security checkpoint, we have to meet Steve at the baggage pickup, so downstairs we go. Of course, seating space is limited (cough cough) in such an area, so we sat along the luggage carrier for awhile until we started seeing bags coming through the conveyor system. Soon enough, here comes the bionic man, Steve Austin-er-Denver-er-Schweitzer. Hugs all around. Damn, it was good to see him, too. You think you keep in touch with people via emails, but there is something special about getting to talk fact to face. He and Martin double teamed his jumbo duffle (what is it with these guys and heavy luggage?), and off we were to the hotel, dinner, drinks, and the show.
Ok, so here is little ole me sitting at the table with Martin and Steve (not to be confused with Martin and Lewis), stomach grumbling as we wait for our dinner. Along comes Mike Hogue from Badger Creek Fly Tying. Mike's a good egg and always quick with a story, so he pulls up a chair and settles in. As we were enjoying our bar fair, AK Best stops by and chats with Martin before joining us briefly at our table. Seems AK stayed at Martin's house when visiting Denmark recently, so "the old guy in the garden" had a reason to visit with us and chew the fat. Now - I really am a small town guy - I don't get out much - so this was pretty cool. The room was filling with a who's who of fly tying personalities. I was like a kid in a candy store.
I'm not worthy!
Once we got the contest flies organized, took stock of our booth inside the show entrance, and socialized a bit, it was time to toss and turn all night waiting for the show to open.
The show itself - where to start? From my point of view, it was mostly a blur. Some highlights include
- Paul Schmookler's new magazine, The Art of Angling, looks delicious.
- Tying streamers and bucktails in line-of-sight of Mike Martinek is intimidating, but I really nailed my last fly and was brave enough to show it to him. Bless him for being complementary.
- The "Fly Tyer" guys didn't know us - or at least pretended not to know us. Me thinks they don't like it that we give away for free what they charge for, heh heh.
- How about that Chris French? It was cool to have one of the contest winners at the show. He was psyched.
- I never got tired of people telling us how much they like the site. It sure makes the work worthwhile.
- I didn't shop. Well - I didn't have any money to shop - so that didn't help - but I think I'm reaching critical mass of fly tying materials. I have no burning needs. That only can mean one thing - I need tie more flies.
- Kaufman's bonefish book is simply amazing. I gotta whisper in Santa's ear about that one, for sure.
- The Emmett Johnson Show - coming to a fly tying event near you.
- Walking around the room, I couldn't help but get hit with a feeling of inadequacy in the face of such vast amounts of knowledge and creativity. Everywhere you turned there was something to see and learn.
- Seeing all 110 contest flies lined up next to each other was inspiring - many hours of work went into that display and we were honored by everyone's participation.
- Blown glass fish - simply amazing.
- George Harvey - bless his soul.
- The staff at the Doubletree Hotel - top notch.
- Meeting Kenny Abrames and Jack Gartside - what a hoot.
- Rick Ross is one heck of a fine fly tyer, but don't ever follow him to New Brunswick to find a place to eat.
- Martin "Shutterbug" Joergensen and his detached flash - here, there, and everywhere.
- Steve - you did one heck of a fine job with the trophies and ribbons.
- The "Tie a Fly for Freedom" display was a heavy dose of reality - as was the lower Manhattan skyline.
- I got a knot in my throat saying goodbye to the guys. Who knows when we'll ever be together again.
Now I sit here, trophies getting boxed and ready to be mailed to the contest winners, and can't help but think back on the show with a smile. My ID badge was hanging from my rear view mirror for a couple weeks - a constant reminder. There's a little work left to clean up for the contest, but I'm already looking forward to the next iteration. I hope the tyers are, as well. We'll have some new and creative categories - you just wait and see.
As far as the guys - the sooner we get together again - the better. Next time, we fish.
That includes you, Mr. Skehan.
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