Saturday, October 25, 2014

Andrew K. Touchstone - The Mainline Sportsman

This week, Andy Touchstone died at 51.  I got the news from my friend at Maxminimus and it dug my heart out as it did to anyone who knew him.  If you were a regular reader of his blog, you got a good glimpse of the tip of the iceberg.

Andy was a man's man.  Broad-shouldered, boisterous, smiling in beams, and old-style cool.  We met a few years ago through the blogs of all things, but within the first two minutes, he made it clear that his friendship was there to stay.  Whenever I was near Philadelphia, Andy insisted that he pick me up for a thorough evening out.  Everytime.  Early trial in the morning?  No problem for Andy.  Pre-dawn flight to Utah for a ski weekend with his buddies?  He still stayed out late and tore the lid off of life.

He would pick me up at my hotel and we'd go up to the Germantown Cricket Club for a few games of squash.  He played like a gentleman, complimenting each point, rarely using the drop, and keeping the rally on as long as possible.

After, we'd go to the club bar for a few cocktails and then fly back into the city to hit a restaurant for a lavish meal.  Waitresses fell in love with him, and the barmen came directly to his table for his drinks order.

After dinner, we'd go to the cigar room at the Union League and sink into the leather chairs with a drink and a billowy Camacho before heading across the street to the club he once owned.  Inside the jazz club, he was a celebrity amongst the musicians, the staff, and the customers as well.

Sometimes, we would go to a gritty boxing gym where the Philly patois was thick and the lighting was poor.  Young hopefuls knew him and the high-mileage veterans all came to talk to him, asking him about who and what and where and why their training schedule had them on the right track.  Andy encouraged all of them, gave them hope, and for those short moments, gave many of them an older male role model.  They valued his advice, but it was clear that they cherished his attention.

Of all the times we spent ripping around Philadelphia, one subject stayed in the chat-rotation while we were together.  Family.  He was hopelessly in love with his wife and helplessly in love with his children.  He used to always say that he got married young by "cutting the best one from the herd early".  His wife would call while Andy and I drove together, and they sounded like they were still in the first years of their marriage.  When she hung up, he would say "Hellava woman!" followed by a few shots inward about not being worthy of her.

He spoke endlessly about his children as well.  He was as proud as a man could be about Joey; his lacrosse, his judgment, and his sensibilities.  His daughters were always spoken about in terms of their abilities to light up the room, to soothe his frustrations, and to keep him hungry professionally.  "I do this for them", he would say.  Horribly enough, after several drinks as the conversation turned philosophical and sentimental (as it tends to), we had the discussion about checking out early.  He hoped to be a grandfather and he looked forward to weddings in the future.  I did get the now-bittersweet confirmation from him (in February of this year) that "If I die today, I die happy".  He was speaking about his children.

Oddly, I never went hunting or shooting with him.  It was obviously a pivotal component to who he was, but it didn't define him the way many think it did.  Everything he did was at full speed, an engine that revved hot and ran long.  Everyone who met him was offered friendship.  If it did not develop, it wasn't from Andy's side.  He gave himself into every situation, interaction, and moment.  He could coax the affection out of the most cynical and instantly deflate the pompous.

He will be absent from the milestones in his family's future, from weddings, graduations, grandchildren, and decades of fowl passing by over a frozen blind, where his jokes and humor will be retold affectionately, and his memory will see drinks raised in his honor at meals.  His dog will still race to the door, hoping for the guns and the neoprene to be readied for a hunt, and I'll well up and send an email to him, pretending he'll still be able to answer it.

He was truly one in a billion.  God love you, Andy.