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Thread: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

  1. #71
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Were the boardings friendly and business like? Or ball breaking? Or both? Do you have any memories about getting boarded that stand out? Any stories about law enforcement? I'm particularly curious about bay constables. Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge. This information may end up up in a novel I'm trying to get out the door by the summer.

    -Bob

  2. #72
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Great South Bay clam boat returns home

    Originally published: July 4, 2012 6:27 PM
    Updated: July 4, 2012 8:07 PM
    By NICHOLAS SPANGLER nicholas.spangler@newsday.com



    Photo credit: Heather Walsh | Jesse Eilbeck, age 38 of Babylon, in the cabin of his recently restored boat, Native Son, heading out to the Great South Bay. (June 10, 2012)



    Galleries
    Babylon photos The first-ever Huntington holiday boat parade
    The two men who might have known how the tired old clam boat made its way from the Great South Bay to Florida's Gulf Coast are dead.

    Clarkson "Ollie" Richter built it and about 50 more in Babylon Village between 1962 and 1991, first in his garage, then in a shipyard off Fire Island Avenue. Stephen Eilbeck, a onetime clammer who moved to Florida after the Great South Bay's industry collapsed, got it as a gift down there sometime in the late 1990s.

    Their survivors include Jesse Eilbeck, who inherited the boat from his uncle, hauled it north and finished refurbishing it this spring; and Doris and Sean Richter, the builder's widow and son.

    "He didn't have a lot," Eilbeck said of his uncle, who died in 2010. "This was one of the only material possessions he held close."

    Eilbeck, 38, of Babylon Village, teaches wood shop at Islip High School. He grew up clamming and working charters out of Captree.

    Both his dad and his Uncle Steve clammed during the boom years of the '60s and into the collapse of the early '80s, he said, and when his uncle could no longer make a living on the bay, he took a public works job in a small Florida town.

    Stephen Eilbeck took ownership of the clam boat there but never worked the water again. "He mostly just tooled around in it," Eilbeck said. "He missed the bay."

    It was a 32-foot garvey made of fiberglass laid over oak and Douglas fir; shallow-drafted and boxy above the waterline but sleek beneath, low-slung and without gunwales, to make it easier for a man tonging clams to haul them aboard.

    The younger Eilbeck recognized the make and knew the maker. "Everybody knew Ollie," he said. "He was like a local hero . . . He built real nice boats. None of us could afford them."

    When Eilbeck took possession of this one it was "rough," he said: no rails or windows, the cabin rotted out, the carburetor shot, a thick beard of barnacles on the hull, and fiberglass patchily exposed where the paint had chipped.

    He sanded and repainted the bottom, bent oak for new rails, laid new fiberglass, ripped out rot in the cabin and replaced it with milled hardwood.

    He and his wife had a son on the way and no extra money, so he did most of the work himself, enlisting a mechanic friend for some of the engine work. It took 10 months and more than 600 man-hours, he estimated.

    When it was done, he chose a name, Native Son, that reminds him of the work his uncle and father did. He plans on clamming, too, this year.

    "I want to always keep that part of my life," he said. "It's part of my family's heritage."

    The Richters share that heritage. Doris Richter still lives in the waterfront house where her husband started building boats. She cut the fiberglass on most of them. Richter boats can still be found at Blue Point and out East, she said, and farther afield in Rhode Island, Louisiana, the Bahamas, and, yes, even Florida.

    She and her son, Sean, a tug captain, have seen Native Son moored off Shore Road in the village, cleaned, painted, refreshed.

    The work that Eilbeck did makes Sean think of his dad's life's work. "It makes you proud that they should care and want to acknowledge that," he said.


    Life of the "Native Son"


    1977 Put to sea

    Late 1990s Given to Stephen Eilbeck

    2010 Given to Jesse Eilbeck

    2011 Rebuild complete

    2012 Finishing touches added

  3. #73
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Pretty cool.

  4. #74
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Wow, excellent thread. Thanks. My father was a clam digger in Long Island Sound, out of Milford, CT

  5. #75
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    A friend sent me these pictures. He just joined the forum and will no doubt be along presently to add some background. That's him with the his back to the camera in the first two pictures. Back in the early Seventies my friend Mickey brought me out on the bay, tonging off his bay boat, Traveller. These were two of the characters out there, and I spent plenty of days listening to the chatter between the boats.

    The guy on the far boat is Louis Duffy.



    You might notice that the water is quite shallow. The tongs are ten feet long and the pin is barely submerged. The bottom is most likely sand covered with eel grass, a tricky bottom to tong in without loading up the tongs with grass. The eel grass has all disappeared now, along with who knows what else.




    Louis' boat. A nineteenth Century sailing boat converted to a tong boat. A lot of diggers too great pride in their boats...Louis wasn't one of them.




    These shots are priceless

    Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-10-2012 at 02:45 PM.

  6. #76
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Just found this forum the other day, Has brought back some fond memories from a great time in my life. Started raking summer of 64, height of the boom time. Most of the northport crowd moved south, a few of the patchogue guys that were working northport came back south. Raked a few years, my back started giving me trouble, made the transition to tonging around 1970. Patchogue/Bluepoint being my home port, I made friends with the Duffy clan early. Louis Duffy was amazing, You could put a rake or tongs in Lou's hands, drop him in the middle of Sunrise Hwy, and he could catch clams.As Jim said Lou wasnt much on boat maintainance, Lacked a lot of self disclipine, but he loved life and told me before he died that" if He had to do it all over again, he wouldnt do a single thing different" These pictures were taken off my boat around 70-71, we were down around Bird Island across from Bellport. These were the clams the treaders found that summer. Lou and his sister Mary treaded 40 plus bushels the first day they found them. Good thing it was a flat calm that day as lou's 20 foot maryland sharpy had about 6 inches of freeboard all the way back home to Swan creek. Around this time I couldnt imagine my self doing anything else for a living, I thought this was my lifes career, little did I know! I have some more good pictures of the bay in the good old days. When we figure how to post them I will add to this great collection, Rich
    Last edited by Rich Scheffer; 07-11-2012 at 12:45 PM.

  7. #77
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Welcome to the Forum, Rich, a nice first post. The first of many, I hope.

    I had forgotten the raised-up copper sheathing on the bow of your boat but now it's all coming back...

  8. #78
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Well, figured it out with the help of a phone call from Jim Ledger. This was the other woman in my life for a number of years. Built by Capt. Henny Nagle in patchogue. !946. Capt Nagle originally ran a bunker steamer then worked as a carpenter at South Bay Boatworks. South Bay is where this picture was taken. I am rafting alongside Junior Bankstons "William Winters" Which was a beautiful Walter McGuinnes desighed dragger out of Shinnecock. Out on the end of the dock was Dave Krusa's "Joey" Dave was a north shore clammer who saw the handwriting on the wall and went off shore fishing. Dave was a montauk highliner for decades, Rode out the perfect storm offshore with Linda greenlaw, Retired a few years ago and sold his longliner.Had dinner with Capt Dave and his wife Stephanie summer before last. Guess what Dave is doing since retiring? You guessed it, clamming. Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Rich, what's the significance of the basket hanging in the rigging?

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Rich, what's the significance of the basket hanging in the rigging?
    Nav rules. I cant quote chapter and verse, but basically a vessel involved in fishing should display a "day shape" of two cones or a basket shape in the rigging during daylight; at night there are special nav light rules ( white over red-the captiain's in bed; red over white-fishing tonight; etc)

    kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)




    Patchogue River back in the day. Thats Bob Nielsen, my pal tying up the bow lines. I usually worked by myself all summer, but winter was a good time to pair up with a friend. The company made the day go faster but above all the safety factor was most important. That's Steve Hoefer's boat next to mine. We built that boat in my back yard, afternoons and weekends. Ricky Madden told me Freddy Lucas brought it to florida back in the eighties, for the first florida boom. Probably finished its days down here. You can see John Conklins boat across the river, with the dark hull. John was amazing, he would work all winter with nothing more than a dark blue wind breaker, tan khaki pants, tennis shoes, and I cant ever remember him ever wearing gloves. I never saw him wear rain gear nor boots. John was one of those tongers who never got a drop of water on himself. He would step off his boat looking like he was dressed to go up town, not a spot on him! I guess you could say he had a lot of finesse. Lou duffy on the other hand sometimes looked like he was mud wrestling when he got back to the dock. You just had to know him. If you did. you had to love him at the same time. I could write a book about the hundreds of whacky Louie duffy stories I have in my mind. My pal Greg King who is still raking in raritan bay on the Jersey side, has a home down here in florida. Whenever we get together the wives allways expect the conversation to turn to Louie Duffy stories. Sorry for highjacking this thread but its new to me and have been looking for a venue like this for a long time and have to get a lot out! Regards Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    "Ya shake hands with a guy, and if his hands is sawft... ya better watch out."

    Lou Duffy giving a little advice.
    Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-12-2012 at 11:03 AM.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    "Your wife's going to college? Ya better watch out."

    Lou Duffy

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Jim, Im sure you remember a lot of winters when Lou worked with me on my boat. One day we were working near Dickie Hummel and stuey Ellis. Lou Yells over to stuey", Remember that cowboy that had the card that says" Have gun will travel," Well you should have a card that says "Have gun, shoots blanks" Stuey wasn't amused, Dickie was laughing Lou was kackling, and I didnt understand. I later asked Lou what that was about? He laughed and said "well he's been married to two women and still doesnt have any kids", a little Duffy humor! Sure made the day pass quick Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    "I'm following you tomorrow,"

    These are great photos, Rich, and I'm glad to see that they even exist. Patchogue in the early Seventies was such a backwater, a lot of abandoned industrial waterfront, small shops and boatyards, sunken derelict boats, rows of old wooden boats on blocks, people living on all kinds of boats. Like heaven. Everywhere you went you could just feel the connection with the past. Gil Smiths old boatshop was still standing, as were dozens of other old buildings. And all the while the constant bacgroung activity of the clammers. Cars and trucks arriving, boats heading out, docking, unloading, clams being sold.

    All gone now. A generation grown who have never seen a pair of tongs. Patchogue is now trying to re-invent itself as a "historic" town, mostly to attract a good bar and restaurant trade. This consists in a large part of putting in fake gaslamps, even along streets that never had them in the first place. There's more brick on Main street than ever there was, and gold leaf. South Bay Boatworks, along with its railway was recently bulldozed. Condos are sprouting where the oil tankers used to tie up. There was, near the station, a switching tower, a two story clapboard structure with a pronounced lean. You could see it in century-old photos. One day it just wasn't there anymore, a sodium vapor gaslamp in its place. You can no longer drive onto the Mascot Dock, because it's been fenced off and a guard shack installed, mostly because it used to be a popular place to park by the water.

    I miss those times and people, back before there were wooden boats, back when there were just...boats.
    Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-16-2012 at 03:08 PM.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Lou's favorite yell was "You Got Em". Pie face, Don Stucalo's favorite answer was, "I got em allright, now I got to get em operated on" Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Saw Kerry Coyle's name mentioned a few posts back. Lou once told me "Kerl, was the best digger he ever saw"

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Hey, Rich, do you have any pictures of Traveller? How about Man 'O War, that was a nice looking boat. Or Donohues boat, Far F**kin' Out. I've got one taken in Staten Island after John sold it to Beano, I'll have to dig it out and scan it. That boat was a piece of work, the bow of one boat grafted onto the stern of another.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Jim, I dont have any pictures of Traveler, but I have the box compass from it on my desk. Frank M.Weeks, 1929. Chet Bedell's "ManO War" was extremely pretty. Harold Leach told me he had Jorgensen build her in 1939. She was a little high sided because Harold used her for some pound net fishing outside and a little dragging, Yes I have some pictures of "Far XXXXXXX OUt" I will try to post some monday. If you know some of the other posters on this thread try to email of call them to get this thing going again. Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)



    Here is one of my favorite pictures,taken a few month shy of a hundred years ago. I found some glass slides on ebay marked New York Educational system 1913. I know exactly where this boat is working have spent countless hours probably culling thru the same shells, just fifty years later. This is the shell flat just east of buoy 32. off patchogue. The big building on shore was the Clifton hotel, between Bay and Grove avenue. the white smaller building is the South Bay yacht club. The clifton burned in the 30's and the yacht club was moved by barge to Sayville.The mast is probably hiding the entrance to swan creek. Judging by the clear sky, the north wind and the size of the horsefoot on the hatch cover I would guess early october. I can smell the bottom, feel the sun on my back, dont you wish Doc Jones could transport us back with his time machine to work with these guys for a few days. Regards Rich

  21. #91
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Rich, that's a cool photograph. Glad you joined the forum and are adding to this thread.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  22. #92
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Cool picture.

    Are you sure that's not a South wind, Rich? I'm not saying that's not the 32 shell bed, but that coast looks more like the beach than the mainland. There used to be a number of good-sized hotels on the beach that looked like that one.

    It would be interesting to know how they handled the mosquitos and deer flies on the beach in the 1890's.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Jim, Google Clifton House Patchogue. I think I emailed these pics to you a while back. Scan the shore with a magnifying glass and you will see that this is the Clifton. I heard that there is also a picture of the Clifton in that restaurant that is in the old Shands Hardware building. I have a shot from another angle, kind of off the starboard stern quarter. You can see the whole shoreline from Patchogue river to Bayport/Sayville. Bluepoint cove looks much like it does today! Also look where the sun is coming from and where the shadows lie. Boat has to be facing north. Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I see what you mean about the shadow, Rich, but you'd think there would be more height to the shoreline, a few trees, some hills in the background. But it might be off Swan River.

    You know, catching oysters must have been so easy, them just laying on top like that.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Rich, it's always a pleasure being proven wrong by such as yourself. Here's the Clifton, scanned from one of my books. It looks remarkably like the building in the picture.

    A bit of background for those who care. Patchogue is located on the south shore of Long Island, about sixty miles east of New York City. The railroad arrived in 1869 making it less than a two hour ride. The reliable southwest breeze coming off the ocean in the Summer made the shoreline an ideal spot for hotels for those wishing to escape the heat of the city. Long verandahs faced the water where guests could sit and docks extended out into the bay where boats could be chartered.

    There are few clamdiggers without a box full of lovely green bottles dug from the sites of these old docks. Some handmade, some not, with embossed logos of long defunct local breweries and bottling plants.




  26. #96
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Hey guys, just called my clammer friend Greg King up in New Jersey. He was out on his boat working. He said it was a nice day but very hot! I told him about this forum, he told me to look up Sandy Hook Alliance of Real Clammers. Tons of modern day pictures, might even recognize a few old Long Island names. There is a picture of SuperStar Jason Rhodes with about 25 bushels of clams in his boat. I went to high school and clammed with his dad Tom Rhodes from Blue Point, I worked with Greg a couple of times there in the last few years, thickest natural clams I ever saw. These guys have been working these clams for years and they just get better and smaller [ more necks] Great stuff. Rich

  27. #97
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Here's the link...

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sandy-...9718460709666#

    My brother-in-law lives over near Highlands and used to dig off Sandy Hook, pals with Greg King. He was kind of smug, always talking about how much he could catch, but the clams there are like cobblestones, it's not about raking them up so much as getting your rake in among them, like to want to just skip along on top you know. He's about three hundred pounds, so just leaning back a little the rake moves about a foot and if the winds blowing he's kind of a sail. According to him the tide there runs strong, not like Patchogue which has no pretty much tide to speak of. They drop weighted tarps off the boat to get a little push. Feel free to confirm or deny that one.

    Twenty five bushels is a lot of clams to carry up to your truck, so it's a probably a good thing they almost jump in the boat.

    I'll bet there's some good shell beds in that Raritan Bay that those rakers can't even touch. Keyport used to be a big oyster port, and no doubt the old oystermen used to make shell beds there same as off Patchogue.

    Rich, did you hear about Roland Stern?

  28. #98
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Yes Jim I think we saw that coming a while back, at least thats what I heard thru my coconut telegraph for the last couple of years. He was like a big brother to me when I first started, kept his rake boat behind my dads house on Tuttle creek. Just enough older than me to be my connection to the older more experienced guys. Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    hey guys,
    anyone have any pictures of the diggers and baymen in the freeport Baldwin bays?

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Luke, It was hard to get pictures of those guys in the dark! Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    haha, I ask because my grandfather built garveys and duck boats for local bayman, and worked the water his whole life as did his father and grandfather, and as I do now.

  32. #102
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Luke, Just messin with you. You Have to admit the west end had probably the thickest clams around, and mostly off limits. It was a great temptation for a lot of people. My un-named buddy was working next to Kennedy airport one winter night, when all of a sudden he thought the world was coming to an end. Deafening roar and blinding light overhead! It was the Concord taking off at full boogie. My buddy here in florida, John VanHouten grew up on the west end bay. He and his father and brothers all grew up clamming. crabbing, gill netting stripers, eeling etc. John worked for a time on Charlie Wertz' dragger. His dad eventually became a Nassau marine cop, but still considered the bay his main job. Capt. Jack is 75 or 76 now and and long since retired, spent last summer crabbing up in the west bay So when John and myself are stting in a duckblind we usually end up telling old great south bay stories. Rich

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Rich, help me out here. Was your un-named buddy the same one who ended up in Rikers Island on a charge of taking shellfish from uncertified waters? Jamaica Bay, to be more specific, under cover of darkness.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    thanks Rich, and my family knows Charlie and Freddy Wertz pretty good, My uncle lives across the canal from fred wertz. His familys been digging clams on long island for ever, some of you guys might know him his names Luke Ryder. Im actually 17yrs old and still working the water as is my family, I think im the only one of my generation around in the town of hempstead who is out there its a shame that no other guys my age are interested in it, for me its in my blood. but I only have my clam license, the DEC screwed me. when my grandfather passed away he never signed a form which allowed the transfer of his license to me, so i never got his crab license, bass tags, and food fish license. and currently the town of hempstead bay was closed up do to "testing the water" but if you ask me its a lot of political B.S so now im out of work as are many other diggers. i think that they are trying to kill whats left of our culture and traditions

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Luke, glad to see some of the younger generation are carrying on the tradition. I scan the south shore waterfront on Google earth from time to time. There are a lot more working garveys from seaford west than east. I grew up around the seaford waterfront. My dad worked on a charterboat weekends from the early fifties to mid fifties, around that time we bought an old Verity skiff. My earliest baymen memories were of big old planked garveys with those big four cylinder world war two surplus outboards flying around. We spend many a night striper fishing under the Wantaugh and Meadowbrook causeways. We would see these garveys running around with coleman lanterns in boxes up on the bows. My dad told me they were jacking stripers fluke and anything else they saw. Never saw any stick dredges back in those days. Moved east to Bluepoint when I was sixteen, 1962, Heart of the great south bay clam boom.Rest is history up until 1980 when I moved to florida. Ask any of my old friends, You can never get that bay out of your system! Jim, yeah, thats the guy. A week in Rikers changed his whole perspective on life! Rich

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