29 January 2010

The Friday Belt: A Foggy Day


I had the gin. I always have the gin. I needed lemons and Pernod. I never keep Pernod.

Last night I cracked open Wally Stroby's new novel, Gone 'Til November. I was surprised to see my name in the acknowledgments. Why'd he do that? He also has this annoying habit of putting people's thoughts in italicized font. I finished the book and was struck by how Wally captured Florida and it's people. And the fog.

Am I making any sense? I've never seen fog like the fog I've seen in Florida. Maybe it's the elevation, the humidity, the swamps. I dunno. But it's thick and damned near impossible to drive through. Wally has a scene in the fog that's absolutely terrifying. It's bad enough dealing with mother nature in Florida but throw into the mix some heavily armed thugs from Newark, NJ and a parcel of stoned Haitian drug dealers with Soviet AKs and things get interesting.

And this morning I thought of the Foggy Day. An ounce and half of gin. A quarter ounce of Pernod. An ounce of water and a quarter ounce of lemon juice. Stir and throw in a slice of lemon. It's foggy to look at and if you have more than one -- I suggest you stay far away from I-95 between Jacksonville and St Augustine on a foggy morning. You never know what you'll run into.

The Friday Belt: A Lighthouse

I'm sitting here...
Having one of these...

Thinking about how to do this...

and this...
for the Friday Belt.

But I had no idea what to do for a drink. A cocktail is needed. But what'll go with a lighthouse belt? I was stumped. Until this morning. But I'm out of the key ingredients. So, if you don't mind...I'll be back in about an hour.

27 January 2010

She Taught Me...

... how to tie a bow tie.

When I joined Brooks Brothers I worked for a woman in this picture which ran in the employee newsletter. Don't ask me why I have it. We were close in age and while her looks were far from striking - there was something about her. That word duende or perhaps a better word for a woman, grace. In everything. She also taught me how to tie a bow tie.

I remember her answering the phone. Standing at her counter in a long 80's drop waist dress --she'd raise the receiver to her ear and reach with her other hand to gently pull her ear ring off. That pull was done with an elegance that was slow, deliberate and sexy and no one else saw it but me. At least that's what I like to think.

She taught me how to tie a bow tie around my thigh. Odd, I know but it worked. We didn't sell that many bow ties but whenever it was slow I'd beg for a refresher. She was shy and whenever a group of us went out for drinks she always declined. For some strange reason I felt I could tell her anything. One afternoon I told her about a job interview I had. Half an hour later the store manager fired me.

I wound up getting the job I interviewed for and never saw her again. I think I tie a pretty decent bow thanks to her.

26 January 2010

Sweet Smell Of Success

Sidney Falco - More twists than a pretzel


Toots Shor Bar



Anyone know this issue?



Loads of NYC locations



JJ Hunsecker - I hope he doesn't look like your brother in law


21, Toots Shor, The Elysian Room...They're all here. Not to mention a New York City of 1957 that's long gone. Everytime I watch this I can't help but be stunned by the images, the words, the actors, the photography...It never lets up and I always want to take a shower afterwards.

I first saw Sweet Smell of Success on video in '89. The next day I had an interview with the head of PR at 20th Century Fox in Chicago. She never heard of it. So I say, "Tony Curtis is this press agent who'll do anything for this Walter Winchell like columnist played by Burt Lancaster. It's based on a short story by Ernest Lehman but the script is by Clifford Odets. You gotta see it." I remember she asked me who Burt Lancaster was.

At 30, I had sympathy for Sidney Falco, the press agent. I also saw nothing wrong in him peeking at JJ's column the day before it was printed and using it in a slightly devious but creative way to sign a new client.

At 40, I saw the connection between sleazy JJ Hunesucker played by Burt Lancaster and the radio show hosts of the 'patriotic' right. Fat white men who managed to avoid any military service but were thumping for war and if you disagreed you were a commie.

Today, I hear the music in the words. "Your dead, son. Get yourself buried." "Hey Lump. I told you I wasn't selling no fish." "Sidney, conjugate me a verb. For instance, to promise." Dated a little but JJ echos Richard III, "I am not in the giving vein today."

It's a movie for the winter. Get far enough away from Christmas before you cue it up and get your shower ready. You'll need to wash these characters off but you're never going to forget them.

25 January 2010

MTM Shirts: Red Gingham, Studs and Morley



Sayat Nova is an Armenian restaurant in Chicago just east of Michigan Avenue on Ohio. Got that M. Lane? Armenian. I'm a fan of the raw Kibbie but have been known to eat anything put in front of me at this place. It was popular (and cheap) for lunch so my boss liked to take three or four of us for what he called, "a feed."

We'd get there at 11:30 on a Friday and nine times outta ten we'd see Studs Terkel there with his radio producer. And nine times outta ten Studs was in a red gingham shirt, a blue blazer and khakis. And nine times outta ten Studs ordered a martini before lunch. When I saw this gingham in the sample book I thought of Studs.

I also thought of Morley Safer who's a fan of gingham. I saw Mr Safer in a restaurant bar, I think it was the Copper Beech Inn, some 20 years ago. He was by himself sipping a martini and smoking a Marlboro. And he was in a red gingham shirt, blue blazer and khakis.

Hmmm, red gingham and martinis? Seems to be a connection.

It's a shirt best worn without a tie but with a blue blazer and khakis. I decided to skip the popover here and keep it simple. When I wear it this Friday I'll order a dry Beefeater Martini (up) at lunch and think of Morley and Studs as I take the first cold sip. And if someone wants to put a place setting on me that's OK too.

22 January 2010

Friday Belt: A Sucker for Color

Sure it's busy but so am I hence the MTM gingham (part 3)

The pattern matching is off on that belt loop


A 6 pack that belongs in MOMA

In Jungle Expert School we tried to lure spider monkeys from the trees with shiny c- ration can tops in the hope of fresh meat. If I were a spider monkey in Panama I would have been dead a long time ago. I like bright and shiny.

Friday's belt is a tartan from Leather Man. They're a surcingle belt and cheap as all get out. Less than 30 bucks and you're still getting something very original. You pick out the ribbon and the backing from plenty of options. That's a Dress Stewart ribbon on red cotton webbing.

We went into Colon and I was introduced to legalized prostitution and nasty Panamanian hooch. One outta two ain't bad. There was a local whiskey that tasted like tea and their beer was horrible. You could say the same for Schmidt but is that can a work of art or what?

It has a sour/tart after taste but it's crisp and drinks well when it's really cold. Take one out of the fridge and pop it into the freezer for five minutes. I would imagine pee tastes good that cold but I'd prefer to imagine. $14 a case. I hear you can find it for $11 a case in some places. And sitting among today's most boring packaging, beer bottles and cans, it really stands out with a nostalgia I like.

Cheap beer and cheap belts. You couldn't ask for more. Except maybe cheap prostitution which takes us back to Panama.

21 January 2010

MTM Duex - La Royale Sans Fromage




A Royal Oxford is a rich fabric in a nostalgic pattern. Speaking of which, the sleeve to yolk pattern matching didn't do so well here. That's a shame because they're almost invisible on the yellow university stripe but you can see this train wreck from a country mile.

The cotton has a wonderful heft to it - - So much so I wouldn't pack it. It's that heavy. A few washings and I think it'll starch up like a brick. Yeah, I know. People are gonna tell you to hand wash your shirts and iron 'em yourself or spend $10 a shirt for a hand iron (is a hand job the same price?) at the cleaners. I don't think so. Not when I can get two six packs of Schmidt for seven bucks.

It's going to the cleaners and it's going to be starched. I do like this shirt a lot despite the pattern issue. It'll be great in the summer untucked with a pair of white linen shorts...Did I just write that? We gotta get back to some Army stories ASAP.

Rugby Tartan Slippers

Hunter

Duck

I bet ADG wishes he had a pair...

I saw these slippers last November on the very cool blog, Disaffected Prep. I went looking for them but there was nothing on the Rugby web site and the only place I could find them was via the post link to some wacky French web site where they were 495 Euros. The French always get the good stuff.

A good friend was in town yesterday and despite my objections he wanted to visit Rugby for some goofy skull and crossbone slippers and wouldn't you know it - Under the goofy slippers were these wheels. 50% off to boot. Or, to slipper.

20 January 2010

MTM- Yellow University Stripe Popover Oxford

How could I not?
Popover sans pocket

Yoke to sleeve pattern matching

It started with that fabric sample. Yellow university stripe oxford is a mother to find. Hell, Charvet in Paris didn't have it and they have everything or that's what the nice lady told me before I knocked over a bolt of fabric that knocked over another and another and another..."The Falling Bolt of Fabric Theory" was not appreciated and I was kindly asked it there was another color I was looking for and if there wasn't I could take the elevator downstairs. Which I took to mean, "Don't let the fabric bolt hit you where the good lord split you.

Go figure I find the fabric in the booming downtown hubbub of Wilmington, Delaware. Wright & Simon has been around since the 30's. Len, the owner, had a four shirt minimum so after picking this stripe I cruised through a decent size book of fabric samples. The most fun I've had with my clothes on.

Individualized Shirts in Perth Amboy does MTM for a number of retailers and some surprising names like Brooks Brothers, J Press, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's and, of course, my guys at Wright & Simon. The fitting is unique in that you try on different sized collars and shirt bodies with allowances for shrinking. We'll see how well this fits after three or fours washings.

The true sign of a custom shirt is pattern matching where the yoke meets the sleeve. Always ask for it when you're looking at custom. Made to Measure just can't do it but I got lucky with this shirt. The pattern matching on both sleeves is very close. By the way, that's how you recognise custom shirting. Not by monograms.

I went with a popover sans pocket because that's what the original Brooks Brothers shirt was. No one needed a shirt pocket because of vested suits. The placket will be hidden by a tie but I like the look of it. I've never been one for monograms. I've had my last name embroidered on the tail of custom shirts but the cleaners always write my last name on the other tail so what's the point. So no monograms for me.

I like the way this one turned out. We'll see how it does over time. That's the real test. As I wrote earlier, I still have three custom shirts from 1999. They were considerably more than this shirt's price of $130 but I figure in another ten years most people will be going to work in tee shirts, cargo shorts and flip flops. I'll post the Royal Oxford tomorrow. By the way, go buy Wally's book.

Wild East's New Book

Buy this book today.

Wally (Wild East) and I have been friends 25 years despite the fact he has never read a book on etiquette and hails from Freehold Long Branch (excuse me), New Jersey. But he's a damned fine writer. Clean and fast. His crime noir reads faster than shit through a goose. Elegant and yet bone dry. I give him grief for screwing up weapons and too many 'K' turns but I envy the SOB. His new one, 'Gone Til November' came out yesterday. If he has stolen any of my stories when I worked as a deputy sheriff in Florida I'll break both his knee caps.

19 January 2010

MTM Shirt Order

They're in. I'm on the road today. Details tomorrow.

18 January 2010

The Perfect Wife


M Magazine's Idea of the Perfect Wife - August 1986

My Idea of the Perfect Wife - A gal who'll keep the Bullshit to a minimum.

17 January 2010

For The Weekend - Aston Martin DBS 6 '67-'72

The Aston Martin DBS 6 was considered by the cognoscenti as - - Well, as a piece of crap. It was slow, heavy and not a DB. 15 years ago I found one in St Louis for $10,000. It was hunter green with a tan leather interior and had a 5 speed stick. It was the cheap ticket to an Aston. Hell, a JB Aston to boot.

A friend in London suggested I call a friend of his in the trade, Gregor Fisken before pulling the trigger. I talked to an employee who was painfully honest. Once he was aware I had the money to buy the car but little extra for upkeep he gave me a suggestion.

"Research like mad during the winter and in the summer drive everything you can. Then it'll be winter again. Research like mad until the summer and then drive everything you can. Keep doing this for as long as you possibly can and you'll be fine."

15 January 2010

Friday Belts: Montsant & Coogan's Bluff

Don't ask for it by name...

Ask for it by region

Clint Eastood's Belt

Spain has always had a cowboy image for me. Maybe it started with Sergio Leone and the Clint Eastwood westerns which, while Italian, were shot in Spain. I also like that Spain is regional with blonde, blue eyed bag pipe players in the north and the more standard Spainard in the south. I've never been to Spain but when I go -- This is where I'm going...

Montsant. Remember that. It's an area of northern Spain that wraps around the Priorat region. Five years ago my NYC foodie buddy and client introduced me to Priorat wines. Big mothers that were unique and cheap and perfect for smoked meat tapas. Word got out about Priorat and prices have soared. You find a bargain. Word gets out. The old distributor gets fired. The wine disappears for a year and a new distributor brings it back at four times what you were paying for it.

Montsant is still a secret. Most people who work in wine don't know it but be assured they will. My NYC foodie buddy turned me onto these wines last Summer. Fantastic reds for $15 to $25. Big and earthy and easy to drink. I don't even decant. Like the Priorats, these are bang on with meat. Big steaks, winter stews, smoked meats, bean soups and anything else that lacks subtlety like BBQ ribs and rack of lamb. I recommend calling wine stores and asking for anything from Montsant. Anything! If they know it and have it --you're in luck and not in Ft Wayne.

Basket weave belts always remind me of the Sam Browne rig I had as a deputy sheriff. But basket weave in this tan reminds me of the American west, Justin boots, a gas station in Amarillo with nothing but pancake flat around it. Clint Eastwood's character wore this belt when he stepped off the helicopter on top of the Pan Am building in Coogan's Bluff. If he didn't he should have. $30 for a suede lined belt made by Triple K in San Diego. You can't beat that with a stick.

It's regional to be sure. At home out west or in the south east and just like Coogan it's refreshing to see it here in NYC. Something out of place but telling in it's simplicity and charm. Nothing Gucci 'G' or Hermes 'H' screaming from a man's crotch. Just a simple and quiet, "Yes, ma'am."

14 January 2010

Bemberg Part II

The other side of yesterday's purple lining. Worn with an old Airey & Wheeler shirt and a very old Feragamo tie. I don't think the suit has been pressed since I bought it and it certainly shows along with a couple lunches on the lapels.

13 January 2010

Show Us Your Bemberg


That's my first Made to Measure suit up there. A DB navy chalk stripe with side vents and hacking pockets. I went overboard on the hacking pockets but what did I know. I also wanted a yellow bemberg lining but the the salesman convinced me otherwise and I went with the purple you see.

It all worked out well with the fit for my first time. Beginners luck because it has never gone as well since. During an after work drinks party I wound up sitting across from a friend's very attractive assistant. I was bumming Marlboro Lights from her and she was drinking as many Miller Lights as I could order.

Five or six beers in to the night she arched an eyebrow (I wish I could do that) and said, "That's a very attractive suit. " I blushed visibly. "Do you like it?" I said. "Mmmm, very much," she said. I explained to her it was Made To Measure and not custom and explained the difference adding, "I picked the color of the lining myself." She smiled, "Show me your lining." I unbuttoned my jacket and parted the lapels. She shifted in her seat and whispered, "Oh, I think I'm getting wet."

I only remember thinking, "If this is what Made to Measure can do - - What in the hell happens with bespoke?"

09 January 2010

Something For The Weekend: '91 Saab Monte Carlo


A series of unique cars perfect for the weekend.


A limited edition of 300 in yellow and black. Sometimes called the Bumble Bee. I wanted one so bad but the Echo Xray refused me citing, "I'm not driving a yield sign." They're going for spit today but beware of repaints. The Monte Carlo has a plaque by the gear shift.

I saw one in Chicago in 1996 or 97. The 9-3 was out and the old 900 body looked so much better. So did the woman driving it. Sunglasses on top of spikey short blonde hair and New Mexico tags. She didn't mind driving a yield sign. I'll never forget her or the car.

08 January 2010

Friday Belts I Can't Own or Make: The Blue Blazer & Alan Flusser







Gary can't get The Blue Blazer going until 7:37 in but it's worth the wait

Alan Flusser's Custom Shop sits off 5th Avenue on 48th Street next to the old Scribner's book store and it is a very dangerous place. When Thomas Wolfe was paid for 'Look Homeward, Angel' he stepped out of Scribner's with the check in hand and walked north in a daze. He wasn't aware of where he was until 125th Street. Had Flusser been in business then I suspect he would have only had to walk around the block into 3 E. 48th and take the elevator to four.

I adore this place. The richness of just about everything here is overwhelming. It's like a museum and ADG at Maxminimus got me in with a warm introduction before he knew I was Joe Shit the Ragman. Everywhere you look there's perfection. The socks are perfect. The shoes are perfect. Even the belts are perfect.

Alligator tab surcingles in three patterns of perfect Spring and Summer haberdashery. But the warning bells were ringing. I didn't want to know how much they were. I was that scared. I've learned in NYC to take a guess at what something costs and then multiply it by four. These are too rich for my blood and my self preservation kicked in and got me out of there alive. Although I never wanted to leave.

Michael Batterberry is someone who belongs in Flusser's shop. This erudite editor of Food Arts Magazine was last seen on The Trad dining at Le Veau d'Or with Anthony Bourdain. Batterberry and his wife Ariane co-authored this book on NYC restaurant history going back to the American Revolution. If you love history and restaurants this book will blow you outta the water - - bottled or tap.

The book really starts to move around the late 19th century but I found the slower 18th and early 19th centuries to be most enjoyable. Amazing characters, rich food and bizarre appetites for alcohol. Above is an 18th century recipe for a cocktail called the Blue Blazer. Sounds simple enough. Whiskey and hot water. Light it and pour it back and forth between two cups. I don't mind a little risk but I'll be honest...I'm a klutz. I was told in the army I could fuck up an anvil with a rotten banana. And as much as I wanted to give this a try...I know myself too well. But that doesn't mean you can't give it a go. Fire is good. And fire can kill. I feel the same way about Flusser.

07 January 2010

Swizz

On 53rd between 8th and 9th - Photos from Swizz website

What we had

It's cold, dark and windy. You round the corner at 8th and there on the south side of 53rd is a small red entrance that opens to a long narrow room in exposed brick. I thought a fondue sounded good last night. Sold it to the Golf Foxtrot and off we went. I can't remember the last time I had fondue but am pretty sure it was under Trad Dad's roof. Back then it was a pot of hot oil and pieces of steak.

Despite a take away menu I had picked up from Swizz when they were closed (dinner only), the Fondue for two is $35 and not $21 (that's for one). The wine list made up for that misunderstanding with every selection under $40 and a great selection for $30 or less. Still, you're not getting outta here for less than a hundred. That seems to be the law in Manhattan.

We did the TRADitional Gruyere and Emmenthal cheese with bread and a bottle of French Chardonnay. A couple things I should have thought of. Fondue places are notorious for parties. Brick walls are good for the reflection of sound. Parties and brick walled restaurants are not a good pairing. Lastly, I'm lactose intolerant. Neither was a welcome realization.

I liked the fondue. It has an earthy taste and seems to be one note until you get into it. And I got into it. The cold Chardonnay is perfect for the hot cheese although I think a dry Riesling might be better. The waiter was alone but moved like greased lightning and refused to let me play with the Sterno.

I can't help but think how these walls would look with a few Swiss posters rather than somebody's endless supply of macro shots of flowers with their prices stuck next them. It's a cheesey thing to do in any restaurant. Fondue or not.

Not a bad place but not worth a hundred bucks. I'd like to go back for the Raclette cheese served over boiled potatoes, gherkins and silver onions but I may have a tough time selling it to the Foxtrot. She was underwhelmed. Although we did a brisk walk home when the stomach reminded me of that problem with dairy. Brick walls and dairy... never forget.

06 January 2010

PKZ Posters




Swiss posters have a certain character to them that's hard to describe. I had a client who spoke fluent Swiss German and she would translate posters I found for sale on the internet. There was a poster for an insurance company of an umbrella leaning against a wall with the copy, " Ist das Ihr einziger Schutz?" She translated, "Is this the only protection you have?" and suggested I hang it over my bed.

PKZ, as I'm sure my client knows, is a clothing store with locations in Switzerland. I don't know beans about 'em but they started off in the late 19th Century and are still in business today. I've always had a thing for their posters but the early 20th Century stuff is north of $10,000 while the more approachable (see above) run between $1,000 to $2,000.

I snagged the middle poster. Not because I liked it but because the Golf Foxtrot did. The top poster was my first pick for the color alone. GF thought it too affected. I liked the bottom poster because there was movement in it. An old art professor told me to always look for movement. She thought it was too retail. And she was right. One like it is hanging in the Ralph Lauren department of Bloomingdales.

So the middle got the nod. Printed in 1956, the ticket pocket and bow tie give it an 'American in Europe' look I've always liked. Is that suit jacket even darted?

04 January 2010

Major Andre: Soldier, Lover, Spy

John Andre or possibly his brother
Andre sketched this self portrait the morning of his execution


The execution in Tappan, NY

12 years ago today I had an agent at William Morris.

When people talk about letting go of the prior year - - It will come as no to surprise to anyone that I have a problem letting go of 1986 much less last year. I was flipping through some old diaries when I came across notes of a phone call with a production executive at United Artists in early December of 1997. I can see how excited I was by the writing on the page. Clear, easy to read and very detailed. Unlike any notes I had taken before or since.

There was interest in a screenplay I had written about Major John Andre. A man who came very close to winning the American Revolution for the British. And had it not been for some very bizarre twists of fate and two bumbling yokels right out of a Laurel & Hardy comedy - - he would have pulled it off. And we would be a very different country today. Probably one with a national health care system.

John Andre (1750-1780) was always the British spy in American history who was snotty, rude and probably a homosexual sleeping with his boss, General Henry Clinton. While preparing a National Park Service presentation on the American Revolution from the British point of view...I found someone else.

A man of social graces to be sure but also a man who was well liked by almost everybody who met him. No small task when he was making a meteoric rise up the British Army's chain of command. By the age of 30, he was a major and head of Intelligence for Clinton in New York. The position carried the rank of colonel but he was held back due to lack of funds to pay for the commission.

To make a long story and a 155 page screenplay short - - That's poor Major Andre you see up there hanging from the gibbet. He made the unfortunate error of traveling behind American lines dressed as a civilian and hiding plans to West Point in his sock. These two mistakes were at the insistence of Benedict Arnold who was selling his services to the British for roughly $3,000,000 in today's currency and a general's commission.

I even have some sympathy for Arnold. A pushy loyalist wife, Peggy Shippen and a congress who refused to reimburse him for out of pocket expenses. That alone would piss me off to no end not to mention he was, hands down, Washington's best general on the field.

I started the story in 1988. I followed Andre and Arnold everywhere. I have boxes of tapes, photographs, music of the period, books on the culture and graces...It was my passion for years. Sadly my development executive was fired. I was told I'd hear from Lindsay Doran who was running UA. Sadly, she was fired. Soon afterwards, very sadly, William Morris fired me. They never did like it was 155 pages.

I had passion for the writing, the period, the music, the art. Passion for the people who were long gone but were in my heart everyday. And I remember that passion when I see those notes that were written 12 years ago. I reckon five...maybe six people read, "Major Andre: Soldier Lover Spy" Last month 45,000 of you read The Trad. I just wanted to say thank you for keeping the passion going.