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  1. #1
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    'Grapher Memories: When Snow Actually Helps

    'Grapher Memories: When Snow Actually Helps
    by Drew Pelto, AKA *censored*
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    This week has been a tough one in Texas. From around 5 am on Monday morning through 3 pm Tuesday afternoon, we were without power. Temperatures dropped to -1° F. Water pipes at my apartment complex froze and burst. Our indoor temperature hit 35° F. Even as I write this on Thursday afternoon, some parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are without power. Arlington is under a boil order for our water until at least Saturday.

    A friend of mine in Wichita Falls took this photo outside at 2:11 am early Wednesday morning. Snow glow. The power was out. No lights for miles, but you can still see the nearby houses clearly. And seeing it reminded me of a stretch when I lived in Boston that turned into one of the best 'graphing weekends I ever had.

    The phenomenon of snow glow, as seen in Wichita Falls, TX
    (photo by Charles Campbell)

    2003 was the worst year of my life for number of reasons. I spent the whole year in what I could only describe as a protracted nervous breakdown. For those of you who have read The Catcher In The Rye, I was in the fall that Mr. Antolini warned Holden Caulfield about: "The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling." My parents were divorcing, I was doing poorly in my classes. My then-best friend/love interest and I had a fight that resulted in us not talking for seven months. A girl at my school accused me of stalking her. My band couldn't get a show. The Yankees won the pennant. The Penguins were on their way to yet another last-place finish. My financial aid application didn't go through and we were never notified, forcing us to pay a semester completely out of pocket. Things were bad.

    'Graphing kept me going. I had something I enjoyed and was good at. This year was what got me really invested in the hobby and eventually become a well-respected semi-widely-known person in the hobby. But even with that, I had a bag and a few signed items stolen from me once by a passerby while outside a hotel during the season's opening week. When it rained, it poured.

    Friday, December 5, 2003. My bandmate James and our friend Nick went to the Loews Boston Common to see the brand-new Will Ferrell vehicle, Elf (yeah, the Christmas classic was freshly out in theatres: this story was THAT long ago, kids). At the time I was a sophomore at Emerson College and constantly getting autographs from visiting hockey teams. My dorm was on the opposite side of Boston Common from Loews, at Arlington and Marlborough Streets. We got out of the theatre at about 11 pm and it was like daylight outside. Students were warned not to ever walk through Boston Common at night-- and I knew at least four people who got mugged not heeding that advice. But on this night, I was able to walk straight through undisturbed, it was that bright and the snow was just beginning.

    Beacon Street along Boston Common in the December 2003 Nor'easter
    (photo from Don Sutherland's site)

    The Philadelphia Flyers were facing the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The Flyers had a home game on Friday night, so I wouldn't have a reason to be hanging out at their hotel since they wouldn't get in until 3 am-- and would likely be in no mood to sign. We had just come off a very bad 'graphing outing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town, so I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. At least the Flyers were decent signers. I got my cards ready and went to bed, hoping for the best come morning.

    Saturday, December 6, 2003. I awoke to a blanket of a foot of snow on the ground and still more flying through the air. If the Flyers had been staying at the Ritz-Carlton, where we'd be standing outside, I wouldn't have bothered going. Nothing ruins an outdoor 'graphing session quite like any form of precipitation. But at the time, the Flyers stayed at Copley Square, in a sprawling complex that saw the Marriott, Westin, and Sheraton hotels and several restaurants all connected to three malls of varying sizes, tethered together by indoor pedestrian bridges. So I trudged my way from my room a mile in snow up to my shins for no reason other than to get hockey cards signed. We 'graphers are an obsessive bunch.

    What was normally a 15-minute walk took me 30. But I arrived, and in the best news of the day, the worst dealers in our group didn't bother making the trip into the snowglobe of a city. Good-guy dealer Dom and several of the non-selling collectors all were there. In yet more good news, the Flyers cancelled their morning skate so we knew we were likely in for a bonanza. The players would likely all just stay inside and walk the mall.

    I looked back through my notes on this weekend and unfortunately I have pretty limited info. With everything going on I wasn't in the mood to update my autograph website very much, so I don't remember who all I got exactly; looking back now from 17 years after, I'm surprised I even remember this much. But if you run down the roster, coaches, and front office, it was a hell of a day.

    I know for certain I got John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Simon Gagne, Kim Johnsson, Sami Kapanen, Joni Pitkanen, Marcus Ragnarsson, Chris Therien, Eric Weinrich, Jeremy Roenick, Robert Esche, Eric Desjardins, Bobby Clarke, Gary Dornhoefer, Brian Propp, Terry Murray, Craig Hartsburg, and plenty more. When all was said and done by the time the team bus rolled out to go to what would be a 1-1 tie game, the Flyers had signed 54 cards for me. At the time that was a personal record.

    A few of the cards that were signed that day (I think)

    Sunday, December 7, 2003. The snow continued falling. By the following morning, we would hit somewhere around 20 inches of snow on the ground before it began rapidly melting with sustained daytime temperatures in the mid-30s. I didn't have much downtime though: the Ottawa Senators were coming to town next. I knew I wasn't going to bother with the Sens on Sunday night because the snow was coming down pretty heavily. I also had a paper to write for an Ethics class on Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation, a book that PETA calls a "philosophical bombshell." As an avowed omnivore, as soon as I finished the paper I walked again a mile each way through blinding snow, this time to go to Wendy's and eat two Classic Triples. This was an era when I weighed only 160 and could get away with such gluttony.

    Monday, December 8, 2003. The snow had stopped. The streets were extremely wet, and I stepped in ankle-deep water at least four times. I fortunately was off from classes (I had a weird and awesome schedule this semester where I was off from 10 am Friday through 10 am Tuesday, essentially a 4 day weekend every weekend-- oh to be young again). We had missed the Senators' arrival the prior afternoon because of the snow, but when I got to the Ritz-Carlton, I was one of only about three collectors there for most of the day (Boston legend Eddie O'Keefe and well-known hockey collector Russ Crowell; back then he and I were just two kids brand new to the hobby). Yet again, the worst of Boston's dealers decided not to show up.

    But what a day! The weather was warm enough with no snow, and the Senators were already a good signing team. With only a small handful of us there, they were even more likely to sign. Like the Flyers, I got pretty much everyone: Brian Pothier, Jason Spezza (both of whom look VERY similar with a winter hat on), Daniel Alfredsson, Zdeno Chara, Patrick Lalime, Antoine Vermette, Todd White, Anton Volenchkov, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Radek Bonk, Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Smoke Smolinski, Chris Neil, Vaclav Varada, Phil Myre, John Muckler, Greg Millen... just a solid day across the board from morning skate, to the return from morning skate, and finally to the game-time bus.

    More sigs that were (probably) from that weekend

    We even were able to run over to the then-Fleet Center and get the Bruins leaving from their morning skate as well. Rookie Patrice Bergeron riding out with Martin Lapointe, Sandy McCarthy fresh off getting throttled two nights before by Donald Brashear (in the last decent fight of a career that ended not with a bang but with a whimper), Glen Murray, Sergei Samsonov, Nick Boynton, Felix Potvin...

    Remember that 54-sig record effort? Yeah, Monday shattered that: 56 total from the Senators and Bruins, and a grand total of 110 over three days.

    Days later I walked back across campus with a friend from the last of our three classes together that semester, talking about Christmas break plans and I told her about everything that had been going on and that I didn't know if I would even be back next semester (fortunately I was). Something I said made her smile, and seeing that made me realize that in some way everything would be alright. Sometimes the smallest gesture means more than you realize. Thanks Shevonne.

    Snow and rain can often work to the detriment of a 'grapher. But sometimes in collecting, much like in life, conditions change, you get a little luck, and things go your way.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Pelto is a long-time autograph and card collector. After bouncing from Cleveland to Boston to Wichita Falls, he now lives in Arlington, TX with his wife and two cats and loves trading experiences with other 'graphers, especially the hobby's veterans. His single-day record is now 131 with his wife's help, and 121 going solo.
    Last edited by *censored*; 02-18-2021 at 07:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    Thank you for this read
    Please bare with me sometimes my work schedule changes in a matter of minutes.Trade list is currently a work in progress if you don't see anything please ask.

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