Brohammas Invades Fort Niagara

In 1678 the French built a fort on the Niagara River, just a few miles from the falls, to protect their ‘interests’.  This means, “keep the Iroquois from kicking their tails.”  Since that time, the fort has been attacked by the British, and then the Americans, and then the British again.  

Everyone else has been able to capture the fort, so I thought I would give it a shot.  

Fort Niagara, est. 1678

Like most good battle plans, I started with surprise.  I planned to attack before dawn… but I slept through the alarm and settled for attacking 15 minutes before closing.  

Brohammas chose a frontal attack... the door was open.

While the cannons were unmanned, as were the gun ports, it looked as if someone had recently mowed the lawn.  

The parade grounds... and no back walls. I suppose a cliff and river are protection enough.

One drawback to invading just before closing, is bad service.  The French opened a trading post in the fort in hopes that they would win favor with the local Iroquois.  If they got the same service I did, they would have sided with the British.  

The service was horrible but the canoe and barrel full of tomahawks were cool.

 With the tomahawk I got from the trading post, I began ferreting out any remaining defenders from their strongholds.

Towers provide protection from invaders and a great view.

Having assumed complete control of the fort I settled in and started giving orders.

The first order of business is to find out who, and what, left that huge ring on the table.

Of course when you single handedly capture an undefended fort, there is no one to carry out your orders.  Now according to all the movies I have watched, the French arent much for fighting.  They more enjoy the finer things. I enjoyed their chair.  Of course I have also learned from movies that that is an English crest on the wall.

Faux de Fafa

I tired of giving orderes to no one, so decided to do what all armies do when they have nothing to do; march.  As I left my comfortable and protected command post I found the one remaining defender.  Unlike me, he had a gun.

a reenactor affectively demonstrating the origins of the term "flash in the pan".

Finding myself outgunned I changed tactics and tried a little diplomacy.  Turns out he wasn’t French at all.  He was Canadian.  His father is a fur trader, not a reenactor, a real fur trader.  We swapped stories about trapping, skinning, and tipis.  I am no stranger to mountain men, but I would chalk this up to my first encounter with an eastern woodsman.  Eastern woodsmen have cooler accents. I came to find we had very similar backgrounds and interests so, being the magnanimous man I am, I captured him, appointed him my second, and left him in control of the fort as I moved on to inspect the falls.

Headed upstate

In the minds of most, “New York” means Manhattan, everything else is the upstate.

I do not claim to be above this fallacy.  What I do claim is that I will soon know differently.  I know where I am heading but have no idea through what I will pass along the way.  Everything, which may be nothing, will be, and has been, a surprise.

Catching a train was once the best way to get inland or upstate. The rails created both Robber Barons and countless movie scenes. You know, the ones where one person rides away while another runs along the platform. Thank you trains.

Port Jervis was probably once somewhere.  This is evident in that there is a beautiful overlook gazebo built up on the hill, and a small graveyard of old train engines.  Who doesn’t like trains?

Not too much further upstate was Seneca Lake.

Welcome to the Seneca Lake Resort.

I have not heard of this obvious vacation destination but judging by the amount of docked sailboats and well groomed main street, I was the exception.

Enjoying a local brewed Ginger Ale while waiting for the ferry.

It was cold.  The ferry wasn’t running.  I had somewhere to be, so I saddled up and drove on.

West Point, NY

Some locations hosted historic events, some played a part, then there are places like West Point.  Places that just ooze history; places that created history. 

Looking out over the Hudson River Valley.

Early on, West Point, NY was a strategic location for armies in the French & Indian, then Revolutionary war.  Benedict Arnold once commanded troops there.  Not too long afterwards an academy for training officers in the United States Army was established.  Since then the institution has instructed and hosted men (and later women) who would forge history, mostly with cannon and rifle. 

What it did not host was me, as I arrived after the last tour of the day had already departed and while the academy is truly historic, it is not a relic.  It is still an academy forging tomorrow’s leaders and as such does not allow wanderers like myself to poke around and crash classes; which is exactly what I would have loved to do. 

In stead of campus, I toured the museum.  Not a bad consolation prize. 

West Point Museum

To the victor go the spoils, and in some cases you just collect spoils from people you never really fought.  In the collections of the museum I found a sword and pistols owned and carried by Napoleon, a pistol owned by Hitler, Hirohito’s samurai sword, and then, the best ever…

Sword and pistols once owned by Napoleon. I think they were thrown in as deal sweateners when Jefferson bought most of America from the Souix... I mean French.
Hitler had a gold gun to distract from his bad mustache.
While not the sword offered at the final surrender, it was the sword of the man who controlled the fighting.
The fruit of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Now while Japan’s surrender is cool and important, it pales in comparison to the importance of this:

Turn of the century football jersey.
An old football and the team that played with it.

It all began back at the rugby school in England when a young man, playing soccer, got tired of kicking that darn ball, so picked it up and ran with it.  Then this new sport travelled across the pond to American colleges where thanks to institutions like The West Point Military Academy, it morphed into the greatest sport to ever bless this planet, American Football!

Generals, politicians, and leaders are great, but I am thankful for tailbacks and the forward pass.

Around Town, First Fridays

On the first Friday of every month, Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood hosts street artists and open studios from 4-9pm.  If you are cool, it’s the place to be.  If you are not cool, do like we did; get a babysitter and pretend. 

The crowd on 3rd St.


Mrs. Brohammas being creeped out by the political art.


The Geekboy himself, from


Rah Crawford and his pop inspired artwork.


Camera? What camera?


Despite her perplexed look, Mrs. Brohammas loved the masks.


First Friday in Philly is a great mix of the groomed and the grungey.
looking at people is as entertaining as looking at art.
Most of the retail shops dec the walls with local art and stay open late.
A night on the town wouldn't be complete without a phone call from the 6 year old in which she tries to negotiate our early return and an extended bed time.
Clowning around is for children. I am an adult.

We capped the evening off with a visit to Mrs’ Brohammas’ favorite Mexican restaurant, Las Bugambilias.

Mexican food on South St.
If you look closely, past the mountain of food, you can see me in the mirror. It looks like I'm sporting a fantastic handlebar mustache. Maybe I should.

Good weather, good company, good food, great First Friday.

Happy after polishing off stuffed baked chicken wrapped in bacon.


Around Town, Cliveden Mansion

The mansion at Cliveden, part of Philadelphia’s Germantown, was built by Benjamin Chew, chief justice of colonial Pennsylvania’s supreme court, in 1763.  

The mansion visited by the Brohammas family in the spring of 2010, is the same building.  

the Cliveden mansion is open for tours Mon-Fri, 12-4pm

This home has been part of traditional American history less for who lived in it, but more because of what happened around it.  In late 1777 British troops occupied the home while Mr. Chew was in self-imposed exile in NJ.  George Washington, hoping to recapture Philadelphia before the winter, launched a direct attack on the Chew house.  Cannons, muskets, and a flaming wagon rammed into the side door, could not penetrate this summer home, and the Continental Army was forced to retreat to Valley Forge for the winter.  

If you look closely you will see the stucco is still pocked with bullet holes.

At the time of its building, the Chew’s summer home ws one of the ten largest homes in North America.  The Chew family continued to reside there till 1970.  At that time they deeded the building, along with the accompanying furnishings, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Not only was the building in amazing shape, but the extent of original furniture and artifacts was astonishing. 

The stroller is not a 1777 original, but the two flint-lock muskets leaning against the wall (left of the stroller) were collected from the battlefield after the battle of Germantown and kept by the Chew family.
This 1700's couch is said to be only one of three remaining and worth as much, if not more, than the house.

Now while the house, grounds, furniture, and artwork are remarkable, they are not considered the most valuable part of what was deeded to the trust in the 1970’s; this is: 

Only one other person in Philadelphia owned more books than Benjamin Chew.

Not only did Mr. Chew own books, but he kept detailed records of EVERYTHING.  His descendants preserved these records and his library remains intact.  Now while libraries are cool in and of themselves, Chew’s records also detailed his other possessions; people. 

The Chew papers have proved to be one of the most detailed and in-depth resources for information about slavery in colonial America.  Some of the people once owned by Benjamin Chew became well known, like Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Others were not known at all till now.  One of the stories these papers uncovered was that of Charity Castle. 

Slaves and children slept on the third floor. They were only allowed to enter or exit the house through a side door that led directly to this otherwise concealed staircase.

Charity was at the center of a notably nasty divorce between Benjamin Chew’s daughter and her soon-to-be ex, Charles Caroll Jr. of Maryland.  In 1814 Mrs. Caroll fled her husband, taking only her children and one slave girl, Charity. They fled to Mrs. Caroll’s family home, Cliveden.

Pennsylvania had previously passed a bill to gradually abolish slavery in the Keystone State.  The law stated that any slave retained in Pennsylvania more than six months, qualified for freedom.  Mrs. Caroll wanted a clean divorce without any tiresome property disputes, so planned to return Charity to Maryland.

When Charity found she was to be returned to Mr. Caroll she went into uncontrollable hysterics.  She would not say why, only that she would rather die than go back to the master.  The papers do not share what Charity told under cross examination by Benjamin Jr. (family lawyer), but they do say that afterwards Mrs. Caroll wanted nothing to do with Charity, would not even look at her, and felt betrayed having thought Charity to be a Christian woman.  Interestingly enough, as consequence of whatever Charity said, Mr. Caroll did not want her back either.  Charity’s case dragged on, Mr. Caroll demanding $300 payment for her.

The papers do not tell the end of the story.

I inquired of the tour guide if there was any documentation of Charity’s children and he did not know.

Party guests at the house were handed a diamond ring and asked to sign the window in stead of a guestbook.

The Chew papers are still being studied and cataloged.  There are surely more stories buried deep within Benjamin’s ledgers and notes.  Most of us live in homes that will not outlast their builder, and I can’t recall most of last year, but The Chew estate at Cliveden has remained intact and original for over 200 years.  Maybe we can learn some lessons from his papers that will last even longer.

Original statues dot the property.

Around Town, Philly

A week at home is as much an adventure as anywhere else, except I don’t sleep in a van.

Di Bruno Bros. Cheese

Di Bruno Brothers gourmet shop in the Italian Market on 9th st.

The baskets hang from the ceiling and if your wife kicks you under the table, she begins to swing uncontrolably.
I promise I wasn't like this all day.

We had lunch at the Continental in Center City.

It was kinda hard not to throw things at the business people below... yes I am twelve.

Who needs NYC, we have hipsters too.

Sunny afternoon in Rittenhouse Square.
More Rittenhouse Square.

A walk through Rittenhouse Square promises a great mix of the tatted and the tailored.

The best part is that while driving the wind-up key in the back turns.

King’s Point, NY


“a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of a dock.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1    

Looking out over the bay at night, there is a green light. It helps guide ships to harbor. Home, where Daisy waits.

 At one time Long Island’s north coast was gold.  F. Scott Fitzgerald spent time there.  Sand Point, or East Egg, with its inherited money is across a small bay from King’s Point.  Those in King’s Point were “new money”, looked down upon by those to the East.  One of thoselooked down upon was Walter Chrysler, auto baron.  His home is now the administrative building of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, my older brother’s Alma Mater.    

USMMA serves the Merchant sailor as West Point serves the Army.

  I first visited the campus while my brother was a midshipman there.  We attended a black tie ball that had lights strung around the gardens and pool, overlooking the sound.  I danced with a petite blonde girl, me in a black tuxedo, while that green light flickered in the distance.  I danced quite awkwardly but the setting made me feel cool.   

Once the country house of the Chrysler's, neighbor to Fitzgerald.
 My brother was always the serious and responsible one.  He rowed crew while a student, sailed around the world afterward, and now he sits behind a desk moving ships around the world like a game of RISK.   
Small sailboats ala Mellville

We grew up in the mountains, surrounded by rocks, not waves.  I had no appreciation for the call of the sea; its hard to hear it at 10,000 feet.  I don’t know if he heard the call, but maybe more he simply marched ahead, and if you march long enough you are bound to hit the water.  It seems he was marching from birth.  

paddling out into the sound

 It’s a hard school.  Academically challenging with military discipline.  He never had problems with discipline, even before he was an Eagle Scout.  I remember watching him come home from school and go right to his homework.  I envied that in him, as I would lounge around in our room, or sneak out for a bike ride. 

When we visited him way back then, he was has half my size but I looked up to him.

weather vein atop the school's chapel

We don’t see each other much these days. He is a land locked sailor in Kansas and I split time between Philly and the back of a van.  I was on the Island so I had to stop by the campus.  I called him while I was there.  He picked up despite being in a meeting for work.  How fitting; he is at work while I’m out wandering around. 

Inside Wiley Hall, formerly the Chrysler estate.

Once, a few years back, I had drawn his name… no wait; his wife’s name, in our family’s Christmas gift exchange.  I bought something nice, then forgot to send it to them.  They got their Christmas gift not long before the following Christmas.  I picked him up something from the Academy’s gift shop.  He may get it before Christmas. 

I'm sure these stairs lead up to a library where a man sits in amazement that it is filled with real books.

 The academy’s graduation ceremony is held in the football stadium which is on the opposite side of campus from the docks.  It is a tradition that after the midshipmen have all been officially graduated, they sprint across campus and jump in the swimming pool; still wearing military dress whites. 

 I exited the ceremony early to go get a pool side view of the celebratory plunge.  It wasn’t long before a boisterous crowd came flowing past Wiley Hall, down the hill, and began cannonballing or diving into the water.  My brother was mid pack.  He pulled up a short, took off his shoes and pins, placed them in a neat pile, then dove into the pool… ever the responsible one.

Doing my best Gatsby pose on the back porch of Wiley Hall.

Momentum Surf & Skate


Golfers and surfers are a lot alike.  Both are passionate about their favored activity and have little patience for those who don’t take it as seriously as themselves.  

I’m sure I have angered many a golfer who found themselves near me as I hack away at that little ball, and to make matters worse, I chuckle rather than curse, when said ball makes a 90 degree right turn mid-air.  

I could only imagine how angry a surfer would be if he and I were trying to catch the same waves.  I would be Johnny Utah in “Point Break.”  

Maybe I watch too many movies.  Either that or Hunter Ford, the owner of Momentum Surf & Skate in Wilmington, NC, is just plain cooler than the rest.  

Hunter Ford, owner of Momentum Surf & Skate.


As I was browsing around Momentum Surf & Skate shop in downtown Wilmington, the guy behind the counter said, “Have you seen our new sweatshirts?”  He then displayed a shirt with the state of North Carolina front and center, with the store’s logo over the spot where Wilmington would be on the map.  I told him it was a nice design, he seemed genuinely flattered. 

The shop's logo was inspired by the marks left when Hunter burned his hand on his car's lighter.


Turns out the guy behind the counter was Hunter Ford, the owner/operator of the shop. 

As he was showing me his custom-made hats, shirts, and boards, it became evident that he was not just passionate about surfing, but passionate about his home-state as well.  “Wilmington has the second best surfing on the East Coast.”  Hunter told me matter of factly.  “Where is the first?” I asked, taking the bait.  “The outer banks, but it all NC all the way.  It’s a shame everyone just thinks about Florida.” 

Hunter showing off his work and his home state pride.


Hunter just laughed  after I asked him if he had just broken some surfer code by telling a non-local where the best surfing was. 

“Good things should be shared.  I opened the shop with the idea that there should be a place where the people who work there should actually talk to you, rather than some girl behind the counter acting too cool.” 

Mission accomplished Mr. Ford. 

Drop by on Wilmington’s Front St. or online at 

Tell ’em Brohammas sent you and maybe he will give you a deal on a pair of Toms.  More likely he will have no idea who I am, but still treat you like a friend.