31 December 2010
January (after Ogden Nash)
If you think I'm cute
In my birthday suit,
Don't chide my indiscretion.
I feel my best
When I manifest
My compulsive tendencies toward psychosexual infantile regression.
Esquire Magazine - December 1961
30 December 2010
Check A la Broche for my dad's Artillery Punch recipe. I owe Stew for that beautiful Old Fashioned piece he did last week. Just in time for your New Year's Eve party, Dad's version has more kick than a 155, is cheap and keeps clowns from asking for a glass of chardonay with goldfish... or anything else.
29 December 2010
20 years ago, I asked a woman at an office Christmas party what 'type' of man she liked. I was new and she was in her mid 40s, single and manager of a division I worked with. She said, "I like any man who likes me."
33 years ago I threw a kit bag of clothes in a white '68 Dodge Charger and headed north on I-95 from Ft Bragg for a rendezvous in Reading, PA with a girl who 'liked' me. She was a singer with dreams of opera. Her brother, a voice and piano teacher, performed with the NY Met.
We shared New Year's Eve together in a tub drinking Cook's champagne out of plastic coupes. The next night her brother drove us around Manhattan as we lay in the back of his hatch back and looked up into apartment windows. We held hands and talked of living in the city. She would sing at the Met and I would...I would do whatever the world wanted me to do.
I liked any job that liked me.
I was asked how I celebrate the 31st. I don't like crowds. FPE's (Free Public Events) and rows of porta-toilets are the stuff of my nightmares. My plan with the Golf Foxtrot this year is take out Chinese, the last bottle of Billecart and a fire while we watch Casablanca. I don't expect either of us to make it past 11. But I'm in that apartment I dreamed of 33 years ago. I'll leave a window open so I can hear you drive by.
28 December 2010
24 December 2010
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Nobody but nobody can do Christmas like the British. I'm not sure if it's something in the water over there or if it just comes natural. Subtle charm is everywhere -- even in Mr Bean.
There are no words for my first plum pudding. Too moist. Too sweet. Too bitter. But eating history is like drinking history.
There are no words, or very few, in the Snowman and Mr. Bean's Christmas. Two favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I gotta go find a hard sauce.
23 December 2010
If you'd like to give the book as a gift - try shooting for Valentine's Day. It seems the book was sent out in a limited release according to my bookstore, Rizzoli. They only had two. Odd that. Actually, I'm not impressed by the book much less Assouline's competence when it comes to distribution. What did impress me was the book pictured above and purchased for $3 at a book stall on the upper west side. His & Hers by Stanley Marcus.
Marcus goes back to the beginning with in depth descriptions of product, covers and in 1960 the idea behind the unusual NM gift. Burt Tansky won't tell you which "over the top" gifts have sold but Stanley does in his book ... at least up to 1982.
Here's a 1972 catalog I found. Stanley explains the first cover, "...was so dull and unexciting that we were forced to reject it. We were caught at the last moment without a cover, and in desperation we utilized the Vasarely scarf that had been in the catalog a couple years previously."
The scarf was a His & Hers feature from the 1969 catalog and was sold as a pair for $750. Designed by Victor Vasarely and silkscreened by hand in Switzerland on 36" squares, it didn't do too well. Marcus explains, "...the coloration and design made it perfectly suitable for a Christmas cover. It also helped us finally to sell off the balance of our stock."
"There were two idea pages that year, neither was very successful from the point of view of sales but which did generate good publicity. The first gift was "His and Her" lifesize dummies made to reproduce the image of anyone the buyer chose... These dummies, operated by a remote control button that could be cued in to laugh at the most inane of jokes, could even be sent as proxies to sit in at a dull party. It proved not to be one of my best ideas." S.M. His and Hers
"The other big gift was one that Edward Marcus discovered. It was a jet-powered glider plane and it, too, flopped -- for entirely different reasons. The jet engine gave it greater mobility by allowing it to take off from almost any field and eliminating the necessity of a tow plane. But unfortunately the plane was never certified by the FAA, and while we had several responsible orders -- at $32,000 -- we were unable to fill them." S.M. His & Hers
Marcus does not mention this George Ciancimino designed wall unit with Sony components but it sings to me. I just need an Eame's chair. $2,000 for the wall unit alone and another $2,730 for the reel to reel, amp, turntable and VCR.
Not Over-the-Top but more, Under-The-Table. A location shoot in Guadalajara (the Match Game's destination of choice). From Left- Mola handworked by San Blas Indians applied to cotton skirt- $110. Navy blazer with yellow, green and white embroidery by Sussex Clothes- $185. Festival of Flowers halter top by Malia of Hawaii - $34. I loved halter tops. I still do.
Major Frampton's wife. Ft Monroe Officer's Club. Enough said. Some skirt stripes ($28) are checked to match top ($16). Both by David Smith.
T.A. Davis wood racket not for sale. Winter white acrylic dress $35 and (be still my heart) matching bikini for $10. All by Hampton Court Knits.
Just because Boris Badenov can get away with wearing a leather trench doesn't mean you can.
And just because Jann Wenner wore this throughout the '70s doesn't mean you can. Then or now. V Neck wool Cricket sweater - $25 White wool flannel slacks- $55 Bow Tie $10. All by Ralph Lauren.
22 December 2010
If you're under 30 and hauling ass around blogs, scrolling through pictures at mach three while bouncing your knee wildly and chewing on your thumb nail -- I ask you -- No, damn it. I'm begging you. Slow down, focus and read this from my guest TRAWETS NILTGEOV author of, A La Broche. These are words but they create an image and most of them are not that long. For those of you over 40, I promise not only images but sounds and smells as well. It's about drinking, football and dying -- like a man. So pull your jeans up off your ass, turn your ball cap around straight and see if your attention span can last longer than my wire fox terrier on an extra shot Americano.
You see, what I do, what I’ve always done, is set a sugar cube in a glass and then introduce bitters. Set the thin orange slices in like this. Yes,you see, and the cherry, a maraschino, at its middle and wait until the sugar takes on this burnt brown stain. Then water it and muddle it until you’ve got this mixture you see and then well, yes, so ever slowly dribble whiskey down the glass. Then stir and stir and stir.
Time for ice. And it should be cubes, not crushed. But not too many though, you see. And it must be a good quality ice not like the goddamn garbage that comes out the old Kenmore, but a chiseled sort of ice, a densely frozen and crusty sort of ice, you see, and stir and stir and stir. Add lemon peel and a swizzle for swizzling yes, and then - ah yes - down the hatch. To your good health.
Hugh’s voice is still swarthy and deep and splattered with blueblood. But his health is not good. He’s a dying, wheezing, miserable mess, much like the Canyon Creek Trail home that keeps him. Air smells long dead of paper and liquor and traces of afternoon tea, bergamot, and hams boiled and suppered and lunched and snacked over for days endless and pain ridden. To the living room after one, two, maybe three more drinks. Modest color set fixed to Army Navy game. Flash of gold helmets and men uniformed and squeaky with pedigree misbehaving in ways tolerated two hours plus no excuses.
Papers, magazines, envelopes, must be six years of mail there stacked on the hearth. Christmas tree in right corner glistens with tinsel and balls silver and gold and crimson. I watch Navy score through a reflection sharp and unreal seen bottomless in big silver ball. The tree boughs sag with ornament. Grandmother walks through the room unkempt, eerie. Alzheimer’s has taken and turned her out a ghost. Hugh rattles the ice in his glass. He sighs. He turns the color set off. I watch him in the ball’s reflection and when he asks if I’ll read aloud from Kidnapped, where we last left off, his voice is broken and without breath.
We never finish Kidnapped. He lasts nearly a year. Few days before the Army Navy game, his sons carry a jug of cream sherry to his room and toast earnestly with Styrofoam cups. He dies hours later and is in the ground before kickoff. Dad returns from the Canyon Creek Trail home with briefcase and a silence that sits a strange fence-line stoic and existential. Dad’s brother loads dining room table with artifacts. Opera records and art books, gewgaws and bric-a-brac. A tired and weathered collection of random paperbacks: Fleming, Conrad, James, Stevenson, Twain. Bottles of gin and scotch and bourbon. An unopened half-gallon of Maker’s Mark. Dozen dusty bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, grapes gone black with richness of age.
Dad opens shop with briefcase, clears out space amongst booze and books, pops the briefcase’s lock, invites storm of paper into the house to last weeks, months. Financial records, health records, records of records. Will unfurls as stretch of buck brush thorn ridden and wound in blackberry bramble a mile as far as the crow flies. Calculators click. The two brothers talk and whisper. Folks visit. Folks cover up death with food, don’t they? Kitchen buckles with casserole, chafing dishes of fried chicken and roast beef, platters of cold cuts and cheese and pickled veg, pastries and éclairs and Danishes sleazy with custards and glossy candied fruits and dustings of sugar.
House had never been so heavy. Folks whisper and tip-toe and console and serve food and drinks. Folks I’ve never seen before. Folks from up north, you know, cousins and uncles and aunts so-and-so, he’s… she’s… well, you remember, right? You, well, you were young. You’ve grown up. Lookit you and your sister… BOOM. Cannon fire. Cadets celebrate six more. Christamighty, dad’s rolling over right now. Folks nod. Folks whisper. Navy down fourteen in the first. Camera pans. Middies spill out into stands. Topcoats, dress whites, breath rolls from mouths agape, faces ruddy and fixed tightly in subzero temp. Hear them in the kitchen. Away from the other folks and close at the sink and talking while the transistor plays Christmas music quietly.
It’s the sugar that starts the drink off, and, well, what dad always did was hit it with the bitters and bring the fruit to it before he muddled. Sometimes he poured a little of the maraschino syrup in there and muddled—it gave it this festive blush he said—and then the bourbon. Here, open that, okay, great, and then he poured it down the side of the glass like this, slow, and then the stirring—like one of those goddamn old fashioned egg beaters, banging the spoon around the glass.
He was real particular about his ice too; there was something he said, a phrase, something like densely frozen he’d call it, and he never finished off the drink with club soda like most bartenders now do. Here, cut me a little lemon peel, okay, great, and then he added the peel and, you see, look at this, it’s a very colorful cocktail, orange and red and brown and it smells, well, it smells Christmassy, like fruit cake almost and it tastes, well, ah. To your good health.
21 December 2010
20 December 2010
17 December 2010
"Reaching up, I took my PPK from its hiding place above the helm and then ran a thumbnail over the "loaded round" pin that protruded slightly just under the hammer. Satisfied that a live one was up the spout, I stuck the pistol in the left side of my waistband."
Soviet SKS - "The SKS has all the robust features of the AK but is semiautomatic... It has a smaller magazine capacity than the AK. It is easier to control and allows the shooter to conserve his ammunition, something that might well become critical before this job was over."
Skorpion Machine Pistol- "With it's pistol size and folding stock, the Skorpion makes for a compact weapon. Some folks say it's a bit low-powered, but for a close-in fight, I've found it to be more than adequate."
Soviet RPK Machine Gun- "...and with a flourish, he flung open the lids to two other boxes. I looked inside. Everything was there: RPK machine guns, a couple sniper rifles, the little Skorpion machine pistols, two grenade launchers, and other assorted items."
Rokon Trailbreaker - "Best cross-country motorbike in the world...Made by the Rokon company of New Hampshire, she has front and back wheel drive, fat tires and a long range at a rather slow speed. The wheels are hollow for use as additional fuel or water carriers or to act as floats when crossing a stream."
Soviet AN-2 "...nothing so much as a flying truck. It is the world's largest biplane. With a thousand-horsepower radial engine, a large payload, and a remarkable design that allows it to get in and off the ground in 450 feet or less, the AN-2 is in all probability the greatest rough-country airplane ever manufactured."
Eric Haney was one of the youngest Command Sergeant Majors in the US Army before retiring. One of the first members of the secret Delta Unit at Ft Bragg in the '70s, Eric wrote the fascinating, Inside Delta Force, which was read by David Mamet and which resulted in Haney producing and writing CBS's, The Unit. A guilty pleasure of C-ration cheese spread across B-1 unit crackers.
The Unit was below Haney. And I was happy to see the first in a series of novels with Master Sergeant (ret.) Kennesaw Tanner pop out of his home in Cave Spring, GA last spring. A year earlier I spent some time with Eric, his wife Dianna and a bunch of new born puppies. You don't think ex Delta operatives as being puppy men but Haney is as down to earth a man as you'd ever know. I grew up around Green Berets. I know the egos. Haney doesn't seem to have one.
"There are the moments, just prior to setting out on an act that puts life at hazard, when I can taste the sweetness of life in a fullness that is almost overwhelming. Twenty-four hours from now, when the earth has made one full rotation on its axis, I may no longer be counted among the living." Eric Haney - No Man's Land
The book opens up with a grisly discovery of a woman's body in a salt marsh that may put you off jumbo lump crab forever. It moves to the brutal murder of a Saudi royal family on board their yacht, the kidnapping of a young boy and a job offer for Tanner from the US government communicated by a wonderful sleaze bag army colonel who deserved more pages.
The book culminates in an attack on a desert fort and there's a 'Dogs of War' feel to it -- But while Fredrick Forsythe backed a mercenary operation to lend his novel authenticity -- Haney's knowledge of tactics, weapons and the middle east comes from personal experience. Haney comes at you straight on and when you finish this novel you'll know why straight on works so well in a fire fight and in this case, a novel.
As an aside, the Haney's are looking to save some Cave Spring history. If you like preserving history and wanna help out please go here. Not asking for money. Just your vote. Thanks.
16 December 2010
George's Headquarters - Valley Forge NHP, PA
He appeared, it seemed by magic, in a madras button down, khakis and Timberland boat shoes. George McGovern had a tan and a son standing next to him. But I didn't know who they were. The son wore a beard, t-shirt, jeans and 20 extra pounds. He smiled warmly but not like his father. I'll never forget the smile of George McGovern in Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge.
His smile was white but not too bright. He asked me questions about General Washington. "Were there any other headquarter locations at VF?" No. "How were the colors of the bedroom walls researched?" Extensively. "How long had I worked there?" Two months. Not normal questions but you knew this guy was no normal visitor. Still, I had no idea.
It was hot on the second floor and my straw Stetson hung by the chin strap on top of a radio belted to my waist. I had no idea the radio was off. A man came up the stairs using the same banister we told visitors George Washington used. He saw McGovern and sang out, "Senator McGovern! What a surprise." McGovern turned from me, half smiled and almost whispered, " Jim...what's a lobbyist like you doing at Valley Forge."
McGovern and the lobbyist made some small talk while I wondered what to say as sweat trickled down the small of my back and into the crack of my butt. I was staring at McGovern now and forgetting everything. That I was born in South Dakota. That I hated Nixon. Wondering how things would have been different if only...if only...he had been elected president. This man who was not just some well heeled lawyer from the Main Line... but, George-fucking-McGovern.
George-fucking-McGovern turned from the lobbyist to me, held out his hand and said, "I'm George McGovern. " I shook a hand who had shaken so many others and said, "I'm John." He smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, John. " He introduced me to his son in the t-shirt and in less than a second the stairway was filled with 80 Girl Scouts.
McGovern looked at me with concern and as a good federal employee I showed him the escape. A 200 year old secret staircase by the fireplace. I showed the senator and his son the exit and closed the door behind them just as the Girl Scouts reached the landing.
Later at the Visitor Center, a ranger working behind the information desk asked, "Did you see him? We tried to call you." "Yes," I said. I had no idea how much he knew about history." The ranger laughed, "He has a doctorate in history you idiot." And I thought to myself, "Isn't it odd how we short change the most important people."
15 December 2010
14 December 2010
Turning the DB down with corduroy
A reader asked,
"On this note of tieless dressing - help me out. What the hell do I do with a blue blazer, double breasted one, brass buttons etc..I love it on the hanger, but everytime I put it on I seem...overdressed, too sea captain?? Any thoughts? Casual with jeans? - the great zamboni"
There is the natural aversion to a DB blazer with a turtleneck. Especially a white one. Bad memories are triggered of my days working for the Boss, having my ass chewed and being forced to eat cinnamon toast somewhere in Tampa.
But as 'M' Magazine so elegantly presents above, it can be done with understated taste. After all, I don't care how much money George had. He was from Cleveland. Anyway, 'M' answers the Zamboni question better than I ever could and with much fewer words.
The cords are a great touch and everything here is about texture rather than color. The ribbed turtleneck. The ribbed trouser. The ribbed thing in his wallet. All contrasting against the smooth surface of the blazer. Casual but not sea captain. Or, baseball team owner.
13 December 2010
Unique gift ideas
Field notebooks are everywhere which begs the question: Which came first? The notebooks or A Continuous Lean?
Bravo for BYOB but pulled pork bbq and duck confit were bland
Go when the 'ladies who lunch' have vacated - the sound level will drop like a flag stone terrace. Located at 914 Baltimore Pike at the intersection of Route 322 in Glen Mills, PA. Or, where God left his shoes.