The Driver Suit Blog-FEW Spirits Tour, An Unexpectedly Fun Experience

[Editor’s Note: I’ve been working on a few things this week, so instead of a normal My Thoughts On, I’m gonna rerun something I did a few years ago…enjoy!-DGF]

By David G. Firestone

Growing up in Evanston Illinois, I spent most of my life in this area. I’ve had the chance to take opportunities outside of the Chicago-area, but this is home. I LOVE Evanston! I love everything about Evanston, especially the food. Heaven for me is a Mutt Special from Hecky’s,IMAG0053Chicago-style hot dogs, and Italian beef from Mustard’s Last Stand,37 5 IMAG0027 IMAG0028 IMAG0026and Chicago-style pizza from Carmen’s.19Evanston has been a home for me, and it has been a home for the temperance movement. Francis Willard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union have been headquartered in Evanston for many years, and up until 1984, Evanston was dry, something amazing for a college town. So it surprised me to learn that recently, a distillery opened in Evanston.100_3884FEW Spirits was founded in 2011 at 918 Chicago Avenue, in what was, according to the owner, a chop-house. They are a craft distillery, that actually distillers their own spirits. This sets them apart from many craft distillers, who buy alcohol from industrial alcohol producers, and add their own ingredients. Everything that FEW makes is made in a series of steps in their small building. I had the opportunity to take a tour of their facility, and it was enlightening and fun.100_3882 100_3881 100_3886 100_3883First, we went into the production facility, and saw the stills and equipment used to distill their line of spirits. While they produce only produce whiskey and gin, they various ways that they can adjust their ingredients and production methods can produce a number of variations. I wish I had a way of transmitting the scent of the production facility over the internet, because it was a unique and amazing scent that I will never forget.

Also there was a small bottling facility,100_3887and some barrel storage. 100_3880There is a second facility, again in Evanston, where long-term barrel storage is held. The facility is not large, but it does have a lot of character. This character is reflected in the tasting area, where we headed next. During the tasting, we tasted a number of gin variations, including American Gin-a white 93 proof gin, Barrel-Aged Gin which has a brownish color, and Standard Issue Gin-which has 114 proof, and is similar to the type issued to the British Navy. The whiskey variations we tried were White Whiskey-which is bottled before it is put in a barrel and maintains a clear appearance, and Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys. Each of these variations was very good, and the small glasses used for the tastings look really good.100_3888 100_3889One thing you will notice about FEW is that it has a vintage character to the spirits they brew. This is evident in their shop, and their labels. The labels pay homage to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the shop is lined with vintage items with the FEW logo on it. This is an extension of the FEW character.100_3890 100_3894 100_3895 100_3896Tours take place on Saturdays at 2 and 3 PM. Sign up at fewspirits.com, it only costs $10 and is an interesting, enlightening and fun way to spend your Saturday.

http://www.fewspirits.com

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The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On The Recent Pro Stock Changes For 2018

By David G. Firestone

We all know that when a tire fire starts, it’s next to impossible to put out, and the best way is to just let it burn. Well the NHRA hasn’t gotten the message with Pro Stock, which is a tire fire they ignited. Rather than let it burn, the NHRA has tried to extinguish it, with terrible results.

Earlier this week, the NHRA announced that in 2018, for nine events, Houston, Topeka, Epping, Englishtown, Bristol, Denver, Sonoma, Seattle, and Brainerd, the field will be reduced from 16 cars to 8 cars. For the other 15 events, the field will be a full 16 cars. According to NHRA.com:

“NHRA has been working closely with Pro Stock teams for several years on initiatives to improve fan engagement and interest. Changes have included switching to fuel injection; facing cars forward in the pits so fans can see the teams work on their engines; holding burnout contests and more.

“We hope this change in field size at selected events will help increase excitement and fan interest,” said NHRA president Peter Clifford.”

For some reason, promoting the category, and bringing in sponsors and manufactures doesn’t seem to be on the list of “initiatives to improve fan engagement and interest.” In Pro Stock right now there are two manufacturers, Dodge and Chevy. Dodge’s Pro Stock program is a disaster, whereas Chevy’s program is solid. Why not bring in Toyota? Dodge has one win in two years in Pro Stock, and their big driver, Allen Johnson is retiring at the end of the season.

What is this fear that the NHRA has in promoting Pro Stock? Yes, the nitro categories get more bang for the buck, but Pro Stock gets just as much television time, and the drivers are just as willing to promote sponsors. Sponsors will get everything that the nitro categories get, and the category will get more exposure, thus bringing in more sponsors, and more teams. I fail to see why the NHRA isn’t more involved in promoting the category.

I also don’t see the upside to cutting the field down to eight cars as opposed to sixteen. Granted, it won’t make the category seem empty, but all you are doing is screwing over part-time teams, and lower end full time teams. It doesn’t help anyone except the big teams. There is no upside to this setup, it doesn’t solve anything, and it shafts the smaller teams. Yet, rather than put effort and research into fixing the category, the NHRA has, in effect, placed a small bandage on a major wound. Furthermore, the NHRA seems aware that there is a major wound, but think that small bandages will fix this major wound. It doesn’t work that way.

Pro Stock fans and drivers should be very worried right now. It’s clear the category is in danger, and it’s also clear that the NHRA seems to think that it isn’t a problem, and isn’t willing to put the work needed to save the category. This can’t continue on the way it has for much longer. NHRA, please wake up, and do what is needed to fix these problems.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on Recent Events and Public Access Television

By David G. Firestone

When it comes to The Driver Suit Blog and DGF2099 I hated having to bring politics in, but the situation left me with little choice. I want to make this clear, I will try my best never to use either of my sites for personal political speech. The situation with the NFL owners and NASCAR owners forced a lot of people to have to make statements. Again, I hated doing it, but I had little choice. I will try to the best of my ability not to discuss politics on either of my websites.

With the heavy stuff out of the way, I can discuss something I’ve been wondering about for some time. Could someone explain to me how in 2017, public access television is still a thing? I get there are legal requirements for certain aspects, but I can’t believe in the era of YouTube, Dailymotion, and so many other video websites, that public access is still a feasible setup. Many local and even county systems are switching to internet based streaming services.

Why is public access beyond obsolete? Well let’s say I have a band in Chicago. We decide that we want to get some exposure. Our options are either go on YouTube, and, for free, let hundreds of millions of people all over the world whenever they want to see it, or, for $100, go on local access, which can reach 3,000,000 people at most, even though most people won’t be watching any of the public access channels. Anyone with any brains at all can see that YouTube is the better option.

Many city meetings and county meetings are streamed via YouTube, yet there are requirements that cable companies carry these same meetings. If you aren’t watching live, you can watch one of the reruns, provided that there isn’t anything else on television that anyone else in the household wants to watch. This outdated technology makes no sense in the era of On Demand systems which come with every cable system in 2017.

Who in the world is paying $100 to broadcast to a few hundred thousand people, when you can use a system that can bring millions of people on your product for free. I am amazed that there aren’t one, or two, but hundreds of public access television stations across the country. How do these stations stay in business?

Not all that long ago, there used to be many stores that sold the newest music, in the form of records and cassette tapes. How many of these stores are still around? Not many of the stores are, because a newer technology, that is superior in every way to the outdated technology has taken over. I think that public access is the same as a cassette tape, and is obsolete, and needs to go away. We are in the 21st Century, and we should start acting like it.

The Driver Suit Blog-The Camstang…An Odd Racing Mashup

By David G. Firestone.

Editor’s Note: I’ve discussed my opinions on the weekends events on my other page, so I don’t feel that I need to discuss them here.

Racing and improvisation have always gone hand in hand. Race cars have, for generations built by hand, and as a result, builders will improvise new technologies in these cars. Some of these are within the letter of the law, others are not.

Mashups in racing are somewhat less common, but they can be successful. One such example is the Mosler Consulier GTP, which was a mish-mash of auto parts, but was so successful, it was banned by IMSA. One other mashup that had some success more recently was the “Camstang.” “What is a “Camstang?” you may be asking, well, let’s discuss it.

John Force is one of, if not the greatest drag racer of all time. To his name, John Force has16 Funny Car championships, 148 National Event wins, and over 100 different NHRA records, many of which will never be broken in my lifetime. His team has won almost 40% of all Funny Car races in the NHRA. He is one of the best owner-drivers in auto racing.

In 1996, Force made a switch from Pontiac Firebirds to Ford Mustangs. With Ford as a manufacturer, Force would win 13 championships,11 as a a driver, and two as an owner. He was very consistent, and knew he could count on Ford. Ford had more success in the NHRA than they did in NASCAR, yet in 2013, Ford made the announcement that after 2014, they would pull out of the NHRA. John was understandably upset, but he decided to press on. John didn’t seem to be concerned about time, and took his time working out a deal with a new manufacturer. His patience paid off, and after the 2014 season, announced that he had signed a deal with Chevrolet.

This lack of concern for time almost instantly came back to bite him. After signing the deal, he quickly realized that it would take a full year for Chevy to design a Funny Car body for the team. The deal was announced in January, with the season starting in the first week of February. This work was impossible to do in time, so John Force was in trouble, and he knew it. He couldn’t use Mustang bodies as he had a deal with Chevy. Chevy couldn’t build a new body in time, so what to do?

John’s solution would prove to be controversial, but effective. Somebody came up with the idea to take the old Mustang body, cut the nose off, and replace it with a Chevy Camaro nose, and re-decal the back to a Camaro design. Force asked both Ford and Chevy, who gave their blessing, and the NHRA approved it.

The new bodies were dubbed “Camstang” bodies, a portmanteau of Camaro and Mustang for these bodies, while fans of opposing teams stated that they felt that John Force had gotten special treatment. However, everything Force did was within the letter of the rules, and approved by all involved. John Force and Robert Hight had two wins each, and Courtney Force had some success, but didn’t win an event in 2015. By 2016, the new Camaro bodies had debuted, and the old ones were kept as backups, and eventually turned into show cars. The Camstang will forever remain as one of the best mashups in recent auto racing, and I can hope that lessons learned will help prevent this error in judgment from happening again.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin

By David G. Firestone

I am what is called a “casual” fan of boxing and mixed martial arts. If it’s on, I’ll watch it, but it’s not my favorite. I don’t buy pay per views, since for me, it isn’t worth the money. This is imporant to state, because of what went on in the Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight last night. This is the kind of thing that can and will turn casual fans off of boxing for good.

Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin has been praised by fans as a great match, but nobody is talking about that right now. Everybody is talking about the fact it was scored a draw, because of a questionable score by one of the judges. Judge Adalaide Byrd turned in a 118-110 in favor of Alvarez. There were audible gasps as this was announced, and now there are accusations of corruption.

Adalaide Byrd has an established history of questionable decisions and questionable scoring, yet she seems to judge a large number of title fights. How she manages to keep a job as a judge is beyond me! For someone who judges a lot of fights, you would think she would be better at it! Someone explain to me how a judge who has an established history of questionable scoring is allowed to judge high level fights! In any other occupation, she would have been fired for incompetence a long time ago!

This is proof that boxing should leave Las Vegas for good. I say this because the Nevada State Athletic Commission has proven itself to be unreliable and has abused its power at every turn. Apparently the NSAC was watching a different match, because they flat out defended her! This is a quote from Bob Bennett, the head of the NSAC:

“She’s done over 115 title fights and/or elimination bouts. She does a great deal of our training. Takes a lot of our judges under her wing. I think being a judge is a very challenging position. Unfortunately, Adalaide was a little wide. I’m not making any excuses. I think she’s an outstanding judge, and in any business, sometimes you have a bad day. She saw the fight differently. It happens.”

Yes she saw the fight differently, she seems to see a lot of fights differently, AND THAT’S THE WHOLE PROBLEM! Someone explain this to me! This has to be corruption. The casinos made a lot of money off this fight, so it doesn’t seem unlikely that there could have been a back door deal. The NSAC and Adalaide Byrd need to be federally investigated. Boxing has had a lot of issues with corruption over the years, and this is another example of why casual fans are turning away from boxing.

Boxing does not need Nevada. MMA does not need Nevada. Nevada needs boxing and MMA. If Nevada wants to get boxing and MMA, there needs to be a regime change. The NSAC has proven to be a corrupt kangaroo court, and needs to go. I’m going to continue watching pro wrestling, at least pro wrestling is up front about their matches being fixed!

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On Pro Stock In 2017

By David G. Firestone

I hate to say I told you so, but based on some information I’ve been hearing, I may just have to. A couple years ago, the NHRA “upgraded” the design of Pro Stock cars from the traditional carburetor to low tech fuel injection. When I first heard the news, my immediate reaction was that this was going to harm the category, forcing drivers out, and leading to short fields.

Fast forward two years, and this is the case. Pro Stock has lost many part-time teams, and the fields are almost always short. V Gaines has retired, and Allen Johnson will be retiring at the end of 2017. What makes this even worse is the fact that while Dodge has languished in Pro Stock, Chevy has flourished, to the point it doesn’t make sense for teams to run Dodge in Pro Stock. Dodge has come up empty in 2017, and had minimal success in 2016.

In addition to the ill-advised change, the NHRA won’t promote the category…at all. The category is suffering, and sponsors won’t approach it. Yet something that could save the category is easy, and reasonable, but the NHRA won’t do it. Granted that sponsors prefer the nitro categories, but it’s not like they wouldn’t be getting less for sponsoring a Pro Stock. They would get the same national attention, and the drivers are happy to promote them. But the NHRA can’t or won’t put the effort into a category that has a fan base, and could make them a lot of money.

Is the NHRA giving up on Pro Stock? The recent rumors reporting that the category won’t run the full 2018 season, combined with the NHRA’s unwillingness to promote the category seem to say this. Add in that Dodge seems to have given up on the category, and you have a drifting ship with nobody at the helm. I’m a Pro Stock fan, I love the category, but it’s hard to ignore the signs that the ship is adrift.

Please don’t try to convince me that the Battle of the Burnouts isn’t a symptom of this. It’s plainly obvious that the NHRA saw that the fans loved the burnouts that Tanner Gray did, and decided that it would use that to promote the category. This is the NHRA’s attempt to promote the category, and while it is a good move, there needs to be more, maybe bringing in Toyota as a manufacturer, and promoting the sport to potential sponsors. It certainly wouldn’t hurt at this point.

Again, I hate to be the one who says I told you so, but based on all available information I have, I was right in 2015, and I’m right today. Sadly, I’m right at the expense of one of the better categories in the NHRA. I really wanted to be wrong, but I wasn’t.

The Driver Suit Blog-A Dedication To My Grandparents

By David G. Firestone

I came across this recently, and I decided it would be good for a Tuesday feature. I’m going to talk about my grandparents. First up, grandma.

Adaline Firestone came from France during WWII to New York to escape from Hitler. She married, and started a family. She worked hard her whole life.

The period of time I knew her, she was descending fast. She had recently been release from her job, and had to deal with her mother’s difficulties as well. She would visit her mother daily, and do what she could to help her. She had a lot of love for her family.

I would call her every Sunday and talk to her for a few minutes. She knew who it was, and loved talking to me. I enjoyed talking to her as well. Sometimes she was not completely coherent. She was proud of me no matter what. She had pictures of our whole family all over her apartment. She was nearly deaf, and that led to some unusual situations. She had some social problems, and that led to other problems.

Every once in a while, she would come from New York to Chicago to visit us. We would go bird watching, to art museums, and other such activities. I went just to be with her. I guess you could say that I knew her time on this planet was limited, but I didn’t want it to be. She had a way about her. One of her traits that she passed on to me is the ability not only to speak her min, but to complain about things that need to be complained about. Sometimes her odd stances on life were confusing. Her logic is almost untranslatable. She would like something, and dislike something else related to that, for no real reason. She supported Bill Clinton. She hated Rudi Giuliani. She was not quiet about these issues. She would always complain about Giuliani and the “bad stuff” he did. There was no real logic there, but she complained about him anyway.

Her social skills, or lack thereof, led to some interesting visits. The last time she came to Chicago was for my high school graduation. During that visit, we went to a restaurant in Evanston for lunch. I’m not in the best shape I could be, and she let me know it. During the time we were at the restaurant, I started to eat a piece of bread. She snaps at me and tells me “I’m watching you!” After that, I picked up my water glass, and asked her “Is water alright?”

On an earlier visit, we went to Illinois Beach for the day, and we went to lunch. She looks at the menu, notices an item that is “crab meat and fruit.” She orders it. When it is served to her, she says out loud “Crab meat and fruit, Egh! Who eats this crap? What do they eat in Illinois?” We were looking at her thinking “You ordered it!” That was a unique experience

There were a couple of incidents that took place at the synagogue that I used to belong to. One incident took place during my confirmation. She is sitting 15 rows back from the stage. It was a very hot day, and the air conditioning was on. As I’m sitting up on the stage, I hear her begin to complain about the AC. “Egh! It’s Cold! It’s Cold! Turn down the AC!” I’m sitting there, hearing this, and trying not to laugh. The second incident took place 3 years earlier at my Bar Mitzvah. This fun little event took place close to the end of the ceremony. I was accepting gifts from the religious school, and the sisterhood. The two people in question are not small people. As they are speaking I hear a voice go “Look at all the fattys!” I’m sitting there, trying not to laugh.

One of her most memorable traits was her phone etiquette. Apparently she got some obscene phone calls. She then assumed all phone calls not at times she was expecting them were obscene. As such, when she received such a call, she would pick up the phone, yell “You Schmuck!” into the receiver, and slam the phone down. This happened to everybody who made that mistake.

I did double-cross her a few times. As I mentioned above, she was upset about my weight. She would talk about it. On more than one occasion, we anticipated this, and planned a strategy. She lived in a Manhattan apartment. Withing walking distance of her building, were a pizza place, a Subway, and a KFC. When we went out to lunch, I got something small. When we went back to her place, I said that I would like to go for a walk. I did go for a walk…to the KFC. My brother Steve went with dad to see Grandma. Steve is tall but thin. He had a decent appetite. For years, Grandma would say “My David, he is so big yet he doesn’t eat a thing. And my Steven, he is so little, yet he eats everything in sight. The best one was one particular trip to New York in 1994. Mom and dad had tickets to “The Most Happy Fella.” Grandma and I went to dinner. For dinner, I ordered a salad, with oil and vinegar dressing. The result was Grandma praising me for years on end about how I’m such a healthy eater. The salad move was a calculated risk, which paid off. When they came back, I explained what I did, and we ordered pizza.

In the summer of 2001, she began to seriously deteriorate. By the fall, it was apparent that it wasn’t a question of if, but when. 9-11 happened, and I don’t think she understood what took place that day. Two and a half months later, I went on a service project to Arizona. I was at an art gallery in Tuscon, when I got the news. It wasn’t a complete shock, but it threw me. I said above that I knew her time on this earth was limited, but I didn’t want to believe it. When I got the news, it forced me to realize that life is ever changing.

When her funeral took place, it was delayed by several months. I was in Arizona at the time, and I did not want to leave the trip, and fly back home. We had several members of our family fly in. One of the things that I have always loved about our family is that a funeral is not a “sadness of death,” but it’s a celebration of life. Our family went out and had a good time and we had a good time in honor of her. We still talk about her often. We have more stories about her than I can mention here. I know where ever she is, she can see us, and is watching over us with pride. When I walk across the stage in June to get my diploma, I will dedicate that event to the memory of Adaline Firestone, a woman who meant more to me than anyone can ever know.

Next, I will discuss my grandfather.

Henry Firestone not only came over from Europe to avoid Hitler, he fought in the Army in Europe against Hitler. He was in the Normandy Invasion. After the war, he came back to the states, and set up business. He worked his whole life, and he supported his family. He had a stroke, and that forced him to retire, as well as forcing him into a wheel chair.

I have more vivid memories of him after the stroke. He was in a bad relationship, and he got out. I remember the night when that happened. Dad was on the phone for most of the night. The next day, he came over from New York, and he came to live with us. He slept in our family room for a number of weeks. After that, we got him an apartment in Evanston. After his first winter in Chicago, he started flying to Florida to live with my uncle for winter. When he came back in the spring, we would see him all the time. Every Sunday, after religious school, we would go to the Botanic Garden, or other local attraction.

We would have cookouts every Sunday. We would all sit in the family room, and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. I still watch that show, because when I do, it reminds me of the memories we had, and the fun we had. That’s my way of keeping him alive. Then we would eat. He would give me extra beef, and dad would object. Grandpa’s response? “AH Shut Up!”

We would take trips together. His stroke had left him half paralyzed. We had to work with the airlines and the hotels to accommodate him. One of the first trips we took was to Starved Rock. He purchased a whole bunch of art, and he didn’t have it shipped. We had to ride in a Ford Thunderbird, with a number of large paintings all over the place. After that, we forced him to ship the art he purchased, and he purchased a lot. Some of it can still be seen in my dad’s office.

Another major trip was to Canada. We flew to Canada, and we went to a number of parks, and attractions. We went to Lake Louise. Grandpa purchased art, and he had it shipped home. We only had one car, so we had six of us in it. We had to push his wheelchair all over the place, and it got tiring after a while.

We went to Colorado one year, and we did not have a critical piece of information. This was a nature trip, and we drove up a mountain. As we are about to drive up, his caretaker tells us “You can’t take him there, he’s afraid of heights!” We went up anyway, and the rental car we had died. There was one point where I had to push his wheelchair to a lookout point. We are 7,000 feet up. I push him to the lookout point, and I damn near pass out. We go back down, and then we finish our trip. One funny story took place at the Air Force Academy. We were walking through the museum, and he said “where do we check in?’ He thought the museum was a hotel. It was that same trip where we got stuck with a horrible hotel. Hot water was a wish. Running water was a wish. At one point, we were at dinner, and mom had said that she was able to take a shower. Grandpa promptly shouted “You took a Shower?” You must understand that because of the stroke, his speech was garbled.

The trip to Virginia was a fun one. This was more of a history lesson than a vacation. We had to get him into Monticello. We went to various places within that area, and pushing him was difficult sometimes.

The Badlands trip was by far the most memorable. For some reason we drove from Evanston Illinois to the Badlands of South Dakota and back. Our 1993 Chevy Cavalier, equipped with a wheelchair storage rack on the roof was more than able to complete the trip. We stopped at several tourist traps along the way. Keep in mind, this was a two-week driving trip, with six people going at the same time. Dad and Grandpa were in the front. Mom, Steve, and Grandpa’s caretaker Roz were in the back seat. I was in the trunk, which had a rear facing seat. This is South Dakota, so besides billboards, there really wasn’t too much to look at. We ate a decent amount of buffalo. We went to the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, and Wall Drug, among other places. He bought art, and had it shipped.

He was at my Bar Mitzvah, and that event was termed “the last hurrah.” We called it that because it would be the last time many members of our family were at the same place at the same time. One of the last pictures of Grandpa, Uncle Milton, and Uncle Bernard were taken at that event. The next big event was my middle-school graduation. We had a party to celebrate that event.

The next winter, 1997, he began to deteriorate. He was in Florida, and it became evident that it was only a matter of time. He has been hospitalized for various issues. Uncle Jeffy was taking care of him. One cloudy winter morning I go to school. I went to my first period cooking class. I was handed a note midway through telling me to go to the attendance office after first period. I knew what had happened. I go home, and fly to Florida. We meet up with my uncle, and prepare. You must understand that in our family, a funeral is not a sadness over death, rather it is seen as a celebration of life. We went to the flea market he went to, and we went to places he had fun at. The funeral itself was a somber event. We did have many memories of grandpa to remember, and talk about. When I got back to Evanston, I had to adjust to life without him. I caught up on all the work I had missed. I was acting in a play at the time. I did not miss a rehearsal. What I did do was dedicate my role in the play to his memory.

I know where ever he is he is happy. I also know where ever he is he is watching us, and protecting us. I think about him often. I miss him. When he was alive, sometimes I found his wheelchair to be a hassle. You don’t know what I would give to push his wheelchair one more time, and be able to say goodbye.