30 September 2008

Trad Sex, Dinty Moore and Timberlands

The Free & Easy cover for October 2008 (which features the Abercrombie & Fitch coat below) reminded me of something. But what? After dropping $14.50 for the magazine at Kinokuniya, a beautiful Japanese book store in NYC, I walked across the street to Bryant Park and consumed the images in about 10 minutes. Not much to read and even less if you can't read Japanese.

Heading up to midtown it hit me. My boot shot from Ellis Island. Yes, it would appear I've been taking pictures of my shoes for many years. The shot of my Timberland work boot was taken circa 1985 from a window high above the Main Registry building on Ellis looking at the Statue of Liberty. This image could also be titled, "Free & Easy."

As a National Park Ranger assigned to the Statue and Ellis, I made $12,500 a year in 1985. While the work wasn't "Free" - - it was "Easy" as the above pic testifies. The best and lowest paying job I ever had. I was able to stretch out a one and half pound can of Dinty Moore beefstew over a week thanks to a 10 pound bag of Basmati rice. I drank lots of tap water. I ate a can of tuna fish for lunch...every day. I was 150 pounds, a 30" waist and in the best shape of my life. Better than the Army. But I was poor. And NYC is no place to be poor. "Rich girls don't date poor boys, J. Gatsby." No shit.

I remember the occasional complaint to other Rangers about how hard it was to date (ie:get laid) in NYC as a poor park ranger. I am now told by an old Ranger Buddy my complaints were hourly. He's still with the Park Service and mentioned to me the upcoming Park Service documentary by Ken Burns. I suggested a major film star, Martin Sheen, could read my letters as voice over, describing my lonlieness and desire for female companionship (ie: get laid) while assigned to the Statue and Ellis. My Ranger buddy replied, "Don't you mean, Charlie Sheen?"

When the Statue was closed to the public, I was transferred to Ellis Island and worked as a Museum Technician on the artifact removal. That is, everything on Ellis was packed up and moved to a warehouse somewhere in Manhattan. This allowed me to purchase a pair of steel toed boots courtesy of the federal government. God forbid, I drop something on my foot and file a disability claim for that whopping $12,500 job.

I went to a number of shoe stores and was overwhelmed with just how ugly work boots were. Not that they've changed much. It was in one store I saw the Timberland boot. I fell in love with it. But it wasn't steel toed. So, I bought 'em anyway, submitted the receipt to the Park Service and was reimbursed. I suspect I could've bought a pair of wingtips without any questions.

I still have the same Timberlands 23 years later. They've survived 19 Chicago winters as the only boot I ever wore with a suit. Toasty warm with decent traction on the ice sidewalk in front of the Hancock. Great looking with jeans but something of a statement untied with shorts and a untucked button down somewhere on the North Shore. A wonderful boot with soul - - I can't wear them without a strange desire for some Dinty Moore.

26 September 2008

Abercrombie & Fitch 1960s

Holy Crud.

I'm not even going to discuss the A&F of today. Not when there's so much to say about this magnificent and unique coat. I don't know if there are any designers who read this blog but if there are...listen up...I would pay a small fortune for a coat like this. And I'm cheap.

There's an echo of the Hudson Bay blanket coat going on but this is so much its own style. A real statement to say the least. Perfect for fall and wide wale corduroys in a tan or corn or blue or red. Hell, this'll go with anything. We talk about Trad and Ivy and Preppy but it's so hard to describe beyond the simplicity of the sack coat, plain front chinos and Weejun mentalities. This coat speaks volumes to me. Rustic. Not American but North American. This is where Ruff Hewn was going in the 80's. It came close but never anything like this.

A note about who I stole this from...Heavy Tweed Jacket is a blogger from the North Shore of Chicago and who now resides in Japan. He's one of the best bloggers I've run across and has a tremendous archives of catalogs and magazines with an Ivy bent. I swiped this image from HTJ's blog and it's from a Japanese magazine. I must admit to being a big fan of Japanese clothing and shoe magazines. They present American classic attire like no one else. Better than anyone in this country could ever do... which isn't really saying much. Seems as if we're falling apart at the seams. Anyway, check out Heavy Tweed Jacket here. http://heavytweed.blogspot.com/ He ain't Heavy - - He's my brother.

19 September 2008

It's "POETS" Day

What a week.

The title of this post is a favorite utterance one will hear in London on any Friday. Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday. By now, some guys in London have already done it. Piss off that is. Usually kicked off by lunch at a Pub with office mates where a spilling out onto the street speaks to the crowd between 1PM and 5PM.

The video is my effort to stop my bitching about the Army and enjoy what I loved so much about it. The exit of an airplane in flight...and fright. This version has a Van Halen score sure to move you into the weekend like the rotor wash of a Huey moves a infantryman across a landing zone.

We used to grab the outside of the door on a C130 jump but some things never change. Weak exits. Retainer bags. Combat Equipment. Sicily Drop Zone...I think that's Sicily. Anyway, watch your fourth point of contact and have a great weekend.

10 September 2008

The US Army, fashion and... Sears?

Above is the unit insignia for the 1st Infantry Division. Soon to be sold next to Kenmore washing machines, Craftsman tools and Die Hard batteries.

Below is Trad Dad as a young enlisted man drawing a sentiment popular among young enlisted men when they've been in the Army for more than a day.

Samuel Johnson wrote, "Every man thinks more meanly of himself for having never been a soldier."

The US Army and Sears's have taken Johnson to heart and are giving the customer what he wants. Say you're the kinda guy who likes war movies and snappy uniforms but you really don't want to get shot. Now you can run...No, make that, Airborne Shuffle to Sears and with the Army's blessing you can pretend you were in the 1st Infantry Division. That's right, The Big Red One. Shirts, backpacks, outerwear...all with 1st ID's insignia. I suspect very soon you'll be able to buy jump wings, marksmanship badges and a combat infantry badge if this product website is any indication. http://www.armybrand.com/

I have a sense the Army and Sears are dipping their toe in the water of branding. If we all roll over and allow this nonsense to continue without complaint I see some great ideas down the road. How about the Sears brand, "Die Hard" stenciled on tanks? Man, I feel like Don Draper here. Army issued boxers? Joe Boxer of course. Headquarters Intelligence divisions once known as "G-2" will be known as "Craftsmen." I'm actually getting nauseous.

Funny thing. The Army, thanks to me, sent a letter to Polo Ralph Lauren telling them to take product with Army insignia off their shelves immediately. You can get some major fines as well as up to six months in jail. I don't see Ralph in a orange jump suit eating bologna sandwiches but you never know. I'd give my right testicle to work for Polo but I thought, "Screw 'em. This is not right." So I dropped a dime on them.

Now, I feel like a schmuck. Little did I know the Army and DoD were cooking a deal with Sears. Here's an interesting angle... will the Army use its legal counsel to protect Sears products featuring Army insignia? Wow, Sears secures legal services at tax payer expense. Which begs the question...why Sears? Anyone who was ever in the Green Machine knows how incompetent the Army is. But Sears? As my Drill Sergeant might opine, "If you turned Sears brains into gasoline you wouldn't have enough to power a piss ant motorcycle half way 'round a fucking dime."

That gives me a great idea. The Army can include a booklet (tagged to a trouser belt loop with suspension cord) filled with earthy quotes and jargon so customers can complete the illusion of having served. Soon a 13 year old will complain about school being FUBAR and salesmen at B&H Photo will argue over some REMF in their A.O.

To add insult to this injury, Sears has said they are giving the Army the "proceeds" from the sale of product. So, no bitching people. This is for a gosh darn good cause. But some news stories are using the word "Royalty." Hmmm? Anytime you see "Royalty" you can be sure some asshole stands to make a fortune.

When I was in the Army there was a popular expression, "F.T.A." meaning, "Blank the Army." I haven't used it in years. But thanks to this Cluster Blank, I may have to blow the dust off it. Lastly, my apologies to Ralph Lauren for what I did. I feel like I was used by an organization that I used to admire. I guess some things never do change.

08 September 2008

Trad Dad's Solution - 1st of a Series

Mom on the Run at http://abnormallynormal2007.blogspot.com/2008/09/dear-neighbor.html had an issue with a rude and thoughtless neighbor. It got me to thinking how Trad Dad resolved a similar issue with a neighbor many years ago. That's me in the picture back in those Madras filled days of 1966. It was on this very spot at Ft Bragg... or was it Ft Bliss. Maybe Ft Sill. Anyway, it's not important. Suffice it to say, we were living on post during the height of the Vietnam War. It was crowded. Quarters were few and far between and even though Trad Dad was a captain we were quartered in senior enlisted housing. One can only hope they have since been torn down. But knowing the Army - - I doubt it.

Early one morning I watched as Trad Dad stuck the first of many little white flags into our front yard. Made from wire coat hangers and a bed sheet these flags, over a week's time, began to fill our postage stamp of a yard so much that it began to look like a putting green. After a couple of weeks Trad Dad invited the next door neighbor over for a late afternoon BBQ. Earlier in the day Trad Dad treated me to a top down drive in the Berkley (a chain driven British sports car that rarely ran) and slot car racing at a hobby track in Fayettville. I remember lusting for a Batmobile slot car but Trad Dad would have none of that. Instead, we raced a blue Ford GT 40 with a Cox hand control. It also rarely ran.

Later in the afternoon the neighbor and Trad Dad are drinking beers on the back yard (4x6) patio when the neighbor laughingly asks, "Hey, what's up with all those flags in your front yard?" Trad Dad slowly turns to him, takes a long drag off his cigarette and replies through exhaled smoke, "That's where your dog shits in my yard." Years later, when I tried to understand "Passive - Aggressive behaviour, I would think back to this story that had turned into a family legend. There you go, Mom on the Run. Sometimes a little Passive-Aggresive is just what a neighbor needs.

Hello Marlboro

Thanks to Le Smoking http://lesmokingimage.blogspot.com/ for this. A wild blog that's fun to sail through - - if you like pictures of people smoking that is. There's not a lot of Trad folks on the blog but above is the Tradest girl I could find. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with kissing an ash tray. Nothing wrong at all.

05 September 2008

Goodbye Dark & Stormy

A TRAD Dark & Stormy in a big gulp tumbler. Goslings Black Seal and Barritt's Ginger Beer are required. Do not attempt this libation with any other brand or you're just going to the bathroom up a rope.

Here's another Dark & Stormy at Le Colonial in NYC. This one is nowhere close to my hand made version. Le Colonial gets $14 for theirs. A bottle of Goslings is around $17 and the Barritts will set you back $6 for a six pack. Four limes for $1 plus labor...I figure my version, all in, runs about $2.
But the season for this taste of Bermuda is coming to a close. It really is a Summer drink. All the more reason to savor those last few as Fall approaches and with it my least favorite color combination --black and orange. Anyway, I'll remember you Dark and Stormy until next we meet in May. Until then, I can be proud of my contribution to the increased revenues of Bruce Barritt, the Gosling family and lime growers everywhere.

02 September 2008

It is what it is...

Talk about truth in advertising. Here's the Subway Inn Bar at 60th and Lexington. Domestic beer in a bottle is $4.00 and there's only chips and pretzels. I respect its honesty although I was hoping it would look as great on the inside as it does on the outside. In case you can't make out that interior photo - - It does not. It does look like something you'd see in a 1950's crime noir novel. I have been told Julia Roberts slummed here one night. Who knows. Who cares. The place does have soul.

This is what the inside looks like at 2:30PM. The fellow at the end of the bar was sound asleep with a rucksack hanging off one shoulder and with his head on the bar. It is what it is...a place to get hammered...cheaply. Isn't it great when people and things and events are...what they really are? Even if it's just a bar, it is what it is...

Unless it's Brooks Brothers

And then there are these guys...my old employer back in 1985. Sadly, Brooks Brothers has taken their marketing seriously while scrimping on the product. Anyone with a knowledge of this company for more than 15 years knows what it was like. Hefty oxford cloth button downs, rep ties with weight to them as opposed to the tissue paper construction of today. Made in the USA on all the labels versus Made in China or as this catalog proudly announces, "imported" when the product is not made in the US or Europe.

This massive catalog (Vol. 1 no less) sans models, echos the coffee table book published by Brooks some years ago. Covered in a grey, Loro Piana chalk stripe fabric it was crammed full of history with old store pictures and catalog pages. It made for fond memories of a time when Brooks Brothers really meant something. Now they've followed that "fond memory" with a ultra slick 258 page catalog of shameless gushing. Descriptions like, " providing merchandise of the highest quality" and "the mark of true luxury" all while confiding that a wash and wear shirt they've been working on for eight years is as much a tradition as their trademark; the Golden Fleece. The chapter headings started to remind me of a Men's Wearhouse commercial. "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."

I have news about that non-iron shirt...it does not breathe. "...finely woven exclusively for Brooks Brothers by one of the world's premier fabric mills." Uh, that mill is in Malaysia and you can bet your golden fleece that the cost to produce that shirt falls far below the original polo button down. Long story short and my personal experience with the non iron shirting is this: A shirt that does not breathe will make you sweat. A lot. Sweat, unable to escape, starts to smell. When you smell of B.O. no one will give a shit you're wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt. Except Brooks Brothers. And if I might make one Trad observation here. Wrinkles are a clue you're wearing a natural fabric. Cotton and linen wrinkle and that means character. Polyester does not wrinkle but traps human odor. There's character there as well but I associate it with a bowling alley.

I will say this for Brooks. If you don't like it, for whatever reason, they will take it back and refund your money. And that includes those non-iron shirts. I doubt the Subway Inn Bar would reimburse you if didn't like the beer they sold you. Something to keep in mind.