11 September 2023


8:00 am Liberty Place, Philadelphia. Reading emails, oddly quiet.  Woman in cubicle says private plane flew into Trade Center. No one seems concerned. Me included. 2 minutes later private plane is airliner. Everything changes. Everyone is on computers watching news. Mostly Today Show.

We are told to leave building by the Fire stairs. Hit the street. Walk 16th St heading south. Not sure where to go. Home, 706 Washington Sq South is still unpacked from move. Head east on Sampson St. Huge bang. Truck lift drops onto street. Shaken but relieved I quicken pace. Instinct is to get inside a building. See the Union League Club. Doorman lets me in. Everyone in tv room. North Tower’s on fire. Matt Lauer talks. A friend, navy veteran wearing commendation lapel pin approaches me. We talk about Terrorists. Dad calls. Mom calls. Lots of Chicago calls from friends not aware my move to NYC was canceled and changed to Phila. My office was in WTC 2 south tower 99th floor.

2nd airliner hits south tower. Room shouts, groans, gasps. All different reactions. Only men. All suited. I Stay there all day. Leave 5 or 6 after turning down bar offers. Go Home to drink alone. Rye. Straight. No ice. Poured into glass. Stare out at Washington Square. Wonder why I left my wife. Asking myself why. I could be in Chicago in my home. Safe. With my friend. Who will help me understand this because i can’t alone.  

No music as i drink. Walking into kitchen to refill glass my shoulder strikes the Door jam. I’m drunk. One more. I stay up and drink. Rye runs out. Black box Chardonnay comes to rescue. All the unopened moving boxes remind me of growing up an army brat. 22 moves. 12 schools. Mayflower a good friend. 

The ships circle my living room. I’m on the manifest. Alone. Like all the moves to new schools. Knowing I’ll be leaving soon. I’ll be alone again. 


Aug 20th, 2001. I celebrate a birthday in London. Flew first class. Me and a group of Saudis, the only passengers in 1st Class. Five women traditionally dressed. Four men in suits, no ties. All but one of imposing height and physique. The one is mustached, short and fat. Everyone defers to him. 

After 9/11, photos of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Same guy on the plane. I’m sure. We landed at Heathrow and the Saudis ran for a flight to Hamburg. 

Could it have been?  Wouldn’t I have been contacted by my government? “What did they say?”  the FBI would ask. “Look like?” asks CIA.  “Wear?” “Go?” Nobody asked anything. I still don’t know….positively. I never will. Does it matter?  It haunts me to this day. It’ll never stop. 

22 July 2020

The Mindful Asshole on Donald Trump

“Please hold for Mr. Trump.” It was a soft woman’s voice that came out of the phone speaker three of us sat around. There were a number of other voices, all men, coming thru the speaker as well. I imagine what they must all look like. Dark navy suits. Polyester red ties from Macys with the bosses name and ‘Made in China’ on the back. A giant floor long suite somewhere in Trump Tower.  

Chicago winds flex the plastic glass of the Hancock building on the 20th floor as we wait to speak to Trump about his condo tower going where the Chicago Sun Times is standing.  It broke my journalist wanna be heart that the Sun Times was fleeing the city for cheap rent but that it was being replaced with a Trump Condom was salt on the wound.   

Trump comes on and his voice is pleasant and cheerful. I sit next to Matt in front of Dana’s desk. Dana seems impressed but Matt doesn’t. I don’t know what I look like but I’m not impressed. Trump gives us basic info on the the Builders Risk and tells us about the contractors. His voice drops a bit, like he’s sharing a secret, and complains that it’s tough to find competitive bids in Chicago for such a premier project.  Matt asks why and Trump complains they are too high.  “I just don’t get it,” Trump says. “I could do better in New York. I thought Chicago would be easier and a whole lot cheaper.”  

I get the sense Trump is feeling us out for referrals since our office writes a lot of contractors. Trump goes on, “I tell these guys their bids are too high and they tell me they can’t go lower and make a profit. So I tell them, like I do in New York, that they should be willing to do the job for a loss because the publicity they will get for doing a Trump deal will more than make up any loss.”  Matt and I turn to each other and smile. This isn’t how Chicago works.  But Dana is with Trump a hundred percent and I wonder if he’s just kissing Trump’s ass. “I think we can find contractors that would understand that strategy.” says Dana as Matt and I look at him in disbelief. 

What a show. It took Trump 10 yrs to tear down the Sun Times and replace it with what many in Chicago know as Trump’s, “Penile Implant.”  I think about that call a lot. Over the years, I heard about Trump’s reputation and that of his buildings. It was no secret.  But why, I wonder, if you have all that money do you ratchet the folks down who are doing the work and then stiff them on top of that.  But, that was before mindfulness came into my life. 

An incredibly abusive father, a missing mother, hidden family origins ( claiming to be Swedish when they were German), phony family legends, sibling rivalry and lots and lots of money. I think of that and Mary Trump’s book and I understand. I really do. What would any human being be like growing up in such a warped environment?  Pretty fucked up, say a lotta people who treat the mentally ill.  

Every human being has a story and we never know the whole one. So we judge and say they’re morons or worse. Today, its easier to do than ever with the anonymity of social media. I try to remember we are human beings and some of us are luckier than others. Being wealthy is no guarantee for anything other than paying your bills on time. With this amazing look at the Trumps, I don’t think paying your bills on time means anything...anymore. 

13 July 2020

Mondays are for The Mindful Asshole

“I haven’t always been mindful, but I’ve always been an asshole...and that’s okay.”

I’ve been practicing mindfulness now for about five years.  The more I practice, the easier it gets.  “Let it Go,” is a mindful expression for saving oneself from frustration and anger. However, ‘letting it go’ is not that easy.  This is usually where the experts tell you to, “keep at it, you mustn’t give up,” because the pay off is huge.  

About three years ago, maybe four, I discovered a short cut. All you need is a little imagination and a smattering of empathy for this hack and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you too will be able to, “Let it Go.”

For instance, at present, I’m in India going on five months. No idea when I’ll be able to leave. India is a loud country. There’s a lot of horn honking, loud talkers, loud arguments, morning mooing cows, and slamming doors. The door slamming started a couple days ago when a new tenant moved into the apartment next to me. Every morning he slams his door leaving and every night he slams his door coming. He also slams his door when he leaves and returns from an errand. Usually the liquor store. 

This door slamming can go on till very late and as hard as I tried to understand the annoying exits and entries, I was nowhere close to, “Letting it Go.”  Until I remembered my short cut. Here’s how it works:  

I asked myself, why does he slam his door?  I came up with two theories, 1- He’s deaf.  Or, 2- This is the first door he’s ever used.  1, was ruled out because I saw him in the parking garage ordering Take Away on his cell phone. Mindfully, I gave the second theory serious thought. This is where an imagination helps. 

Living in a tent in Jaipur is not unusual. And tents have doors but they’re made out of canvas and impossible to slam. It’s more of a ‘whiff’ or sometimes a zipper.  Both impossible to slam. Suddenly, my empathy kicked in and I thought how wonderful it must be for this man to finally have a real wooden door that opens and closes and yes, even slams. That has to be a wonderful sound after years of whiffing and zipping. And who am I to get upset about it?  I feel happy for my neighbor and suddenly, ‘I let it go...’ because I understand and feel like I know my neighbor a whole lot better. 

A little empathy and some imagination are all you need to avoid anger, resentment, frustration, and upsetting a neighbor who is 30 pounds lighter and 40 years younger. This compassion enables me to access the peace in my heart and I transform my world by transforming myself. Not completely... which should be obvious, but I’m working at it. 

Next Monday, The Mindful Asshole considers Donald Trump and a phone call I had with him about 25 yrs ago. 

07 April 2020

“I Think We Lost Him”

I wanted to say I was hiding behind the refrigerator but instead, I opened my eyes, looked at the EMT and said, “I’m meditating.”

“Oh, sorry. You go on ahead.”  I closed my eyes and breathed slowly. I wasn’t in pain anymore because of the fentanyl and the ambulance seemed to be taking it’s time as it cut through an early Saturday morning fog. “Sir, when we get you in the emergency room, things are gonna move very fast.”  The EMT was young, fair haired and reminded me of myself when I was about 25. We were backing into the entrance of the hospital and the fair haired EMT along with his partner, a unsmiling and stern looking woman about 30, stood up in a crouch from their seats and unlocked my stretcher.  

Ambulance doors opened and I saw what I’ve seen in the movies so many times it’s like a cliche. The POV of the patient’s view of the EMT faces, then blue sky and finally the long tracking shot down a hallway and into a small room with about 30 people.  I wasn’t worried until I saw all those people. Doctors, nurses, spectators... I never did find out who they all were. They took my clothes off, stuck a lot things on my body and I heard a man say, “Alright, people. I’m gonna elevate this.”  My partners face appeared and she said I was going to be alright. I was wheeled down another hallway tracking shot into the Cath Lab. Cath for catheter not Cathy. A nurse shaved my pubic hair and when she finished I announced that I could finally be in a porno film.  There was a laugh or two but mostly there was a loud groan and a nurse responded with, “Too much information.”  

As I was being picked up and moved from the ER stretcher to the Cath lab table, my heart stopped. For about three seconds. I didn’t see a bright shining light but I did see a warm white glow and I was falling into it. As I got closer, it looked like a white parachute and it felt wonderful as it enveloped me. It didn’t seem like three seconds. It felt like there was no time. I heard voices and was back in the Cath Lab looking at the cardiologist standing over my groin and pushing the stent in somewhere between my right testicle and leg when all the lights went off and the room went completely black. I said, “Aren’t I supposed to see a bright shining light?” The lights came back on and the cardiologist looked up, pointed a finger at me and said, “You don’t know how close you came so shut up!”  That’s how I got another year of life the morning of April 6, 2019...but it’s also how I died trying to do stand up or lay down comedy in a cath lab.  

I was able to give a nurse who was taking her daughter for a weekend in NYC, a restaurant recommendation (Gramarcy Tavern). She was so grateful and I said it was a good thing I didn’t die and she laughed and with another nurse pushed me out into the hallway. We talked about New York as the tracking POV shot continued and my partners face appeared again. She looked at me and smiled and touched my head. “You’re glowing,” I saw her sister appear behind her and said hello.  The sister smiled and looked at me with some surprise. We all chatted for a while. About the stent in my heart. My 100% main blocked artery and another artery that was 55% blocked so it didn’t need a stint and about the wine list at Gramarcy and then down the hall again to an elevator and finally a room in ICU. 

It took all of 45 minutes I was told. No opening of the chest or pacemaker. Just a stent. It’s been a year and I am not ignorant of my luck. Many things could’ve happened and I wouldn’t be here. I told my doctor that if I had been alone, I would’ve taken three Tylenol and gone back to  bed. He said a lot of men do that with unhappy results.  It was my partner who insisted on calling an ambulance. Especially when I told her the intense pain in my left arm traveled to my left jaw. So many little things turning an event into a nonevent. Although, that white parachute has stayed with me. It provides me with comfort and a sense of peace. Because now I know... it’s okay. 

26 March 2020

India with Dad

Dad and friends 

Back when I was working in NYC, I dated a woman who was a numerologist. We met at the first and definitely the coolest party I was ever invited to. A small apartment building in Manhattan, all four apartments on one floor were open. One had the food, another the drinks, the third a jazz quartet complete with upright bass and the fourth was where I met the numerologist.  

It was the mid-eighties and consequently it was a fast romance. After the party, we were kissing on her couch when she pulled her head back and said stop. I was about to apologize when she took me by the hand and lead me to her bedroom. Since then, I’ve used the same tactic with surprising results. Not all good. 

The next morning, we had breakfast at JG Melon and began to introduce ourselves. I was a park ranger at the Statue of Liberty but had higher ambitions. Acting, screenwriter and if that all failed, at least I could work for an ad agency.  I wanted to be Don Draper long before there ever was one. 

She worked in an office as a secretary but numerology was her passion. I had no idea what she was talking about and being horrible at math, assumed she loved it. She explained and asked for my numbers. We were not finished with breakfast when it started to rain. She asked that I hurry because we had to get back to her place because nothing was better than doing it while it rained.  Every time I’ve walked by JG Melon’s I think about rain. 

On our next date, she explained the results of my numbers. She said I was prone to talk too much and that combined with a good hearted honesty, my career would be a failure if I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s just what she thinks of me.”  But she was right. So dead on right, I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of times I was fired for ‘speaking my mind’ over the past 35 yrs since her reading. 

My father had the same problem. A lot of people thought he could’ve made general were it not for his... correcting of superiors. Or, what he called, “The perfumed princes of the Pentagon.  Actually, he’d have been better off staying in Special Forces where that kind of contrary nature was popular. But he even pissed off the Green Berets by saying they were all show and no go in Vietnam. In fact, the gate over the entrance to his SF camp had a large sign over it that read in Vietnamese, “We are only what we say we are and not what we do.”

There’s a black cow that loiters about my Jaipur residence every night with four or five other cows. When I first saw her, she stared at me - - Watched my every move while the other cows ignored me. That was the first night I stepped in cow shit. There were two other times I misstepped, and that black cow was always there staring at me.  I’m not superstitious but I think that Black Cow is my Dad trying to tell me something. Or, maybe he isn’t and just likes roaming around Jaipur, completely safe as a sacred cow, and shiting all over the city. That would be my Dad and maybe me. I wonder what the numerologist would think? 

25 March 2020

India Lock Down

My napkin at the table

Rather than knock, many Indians turn the locked door knob back and forth as a way to let you know they want in.  It’s unsettling when it first happens. Especially when you open the door and three strange men are outside with the apartment manager who looks very uncomfortable. In fairness, he always looks uncomfortable. Whether he waves good morning or trying to tell me in his limited English the elevator ain’t working. 

The three men want to see my apartment.  One man points at his eye and says, “Look, look.”  It’s almost 8pm and I’m saying to myself, “this is not good.”  Well dressed terrorists comes to mind but I scratch that and looking at their height assume they’re cops. I let them in. They look around quickly, exchange a few words amongst themselves in Hindi and leave. 

I found out the next morning they were prospective buyers of the the apartment building. Suddenly, memories of countless real estate agents knocking on my various apartment doors reminds me that people are all the same.  The good and the bad. 

There are pigeons outside my bathroom window who coo, purr and squak.  They drove me crazy for the first week. The window is frosted and I can only make out their shadows as they flap against the window. I take my four minute shower because that’s how long the hot water lasts and while using bottled water to brush my teeth, I hum The Beach Boys, Don’t Worry Baby.”  I spent a glorious summer with a girlfriend in Florida having sex everyday and listening to The Beach Boys afterwards, a cool breeze blowing thru her bedroom window and landing on our naked bodies. That was the Summer after I graduated high school. 

This is Spring in India. And the pigeons, still outside my window, don’t make a peep. Every morning I hum a Beach Boy’s song and they keep their mouths shut.  It’s my 23rd day in India and I’ve sung to pigeons, had my four minute shower, an orange, some honey and a malaria pill with bottled water for breakfast. 

I’m invited to the home of my host for lunch, as I have been almost every day.  His wife, parents, sister, two children and cook along with a caretaker are in serious discussion. While it’s Hindi, I can tell something is wrong. I kick off my shoes by the door and greet all with a poorly pronounced Namaste. Their reply is with smiles but they’re wooden and tight. I sit at the table and all discussion continues in Hindi. I want to ask, “what’s up?” But I don’t.  I assume my host will speak with me privately and so this lunch drags on while they speak quickly in a language that sounds Italian one minute and Japanese the next.  I hear ‘American’ buried in the rapid fire Hindi more than once. 

I push flat bread into a pile of potatoes that look just like hash browns. With thumb and index finger I clamp the bread around the potatoes, pick it up and stick it my mouth dropping a couple in my lap. I’m the only one at the table who uses a napkin because I’m not good at eating with my right hand. I also remember I forgot to wash my hands but figure pushing buttons on a elevator and opening two gates isn’t going to kill me. Or will it? I’ll find out in 14 days. 

These people are warm and generous and sitting at their table, I am aware they’re just like everybody else I’ve ever had a meal with. They have the same problems as everyone in the world right now and I feel the 7,599 mile difference for the first time.  I really am on the other side of the planet and it makes me feel lonely. And then I think of The Beach Boys and the pigeons and the lyrics of Don’t Worry, Baby.  And I feel better...just as slices of chilled mango are piled on my plate.  Who in the world doesn’t like mango. 

14 December 2019

For Charlie...

Written in FALL/WINTER 2012

I ask Julie Hertling about Charlie Davidson.   Julie's been making clothing under his own name in Brooklyn for over 60 years. Something of a secret to the consumer but well known to the trade for quality and value. Julie tells me an upper east side retailer sells his $65 corduroys for $400.  I mention something about paying rent and Julie laughs.  We cross the street from his Williamsburg factory to a parking lot -- Julie nods at his car and laughs, "Charlie's full of shit -- Don't get me wrong -- I love the man.  We've known each other forever.  But he's a retailer and all retailers are bullshitters." 

Julie pilots his car through rush hour traffic and at 87 you can't help but be impressed with his city-driving skills as much as his crew cut; High and Tight was the parlance of the army. We talk about our time in OD Green and I remember it's Veteran's Day. Julie asks what my father did.  I tell him career Army. He asks what my grandfather did. "Career Army," I repeat.  "No money in that." Julie laughs,  "If I were your age...and had a little money.  You got money?"  "No," I say.  "Well," Julie says, "If I had money and I was your age, I'd buy the Andover Shop from Charlie. Open 'em across the country... and Japan!  You'd make a fortune."

I take an Acela to Cambridge and in a couple hours Charlie and I are walking  arm-in-arm across Holyoke Street to a Harvard gift shop.  "They're flying in circles over me." Charlie's voice reverberates  through an artificial larynx from years of cigars. The longer you're with Charlie, the easier he is to understand, but you're always afraid you're gonna miss something. "Jesus, they act like I'm already dead.  Polo calls once a week.  I don't hate Ralph Lauren.  I'm more envious than anything.  I wonder, why didn't that happen to me?" We walk into a gift shop full of Harvard crested beer mugs, t shirts, decals and what we're looking for, a newborn infant's t-shirt.  Back in Charlie's shop, I explained I needed a gift for an Harvard alumnus’ newborn son. 

 "Who?" Charlie asks.  Larry, Charlie's assistant for 35 years says, "The congressman, Charlie.  He just had a son.” Larry names the baby.  I arch an eyebrow at Larry's knowledge of current events.  Charlie squints, "I'm confused."  "I need something from The Andover Shop." I tell Charlie.  "It doesn't have to fit --  A tie. Pocket square.  Something with the Andover label. You know? The next generation." Charlie frowns,  "A tie won't work.  Pocket squares don't have tags."  Charlie lights up, "Are you a good liar?"  "A good what?" I ask.  "A liar." Charlie says.  "A buuuulll-shiittter." he adds.  "Probably," I say.  Charlie shoots me an angry look.  "God damn it, I'm a bullshitter," I say.  Charlie smiles, "Good. " 

Still, arm in arm with Charlie, I plop down four bucks for a Harvard t-shirt, size 3 months.  Charlie sticks the shirt in his coat pocket and we walk to lunch. A week later the t shirt will arrive in the mail,  it's collar label removed and replaced with an Andover Shop label.  White gift box. Blue ribbon. It's perfect....all bullshit aside.  We order lunch. Charlie pulls some bills out of his pocket. "I don't have enough." he says.  I hand the the kid behind the register a couple twenties.  Charlie looks at me and frowns, "Why'd you do that? I have a fucking account here."  "Lunch is on me, Charlie." Charlie shakes his head, "But I said I was buying lunch."  We grab a table. Charlie's still bitching about lunch or, he just stuck me with the tab.  I really don't know which. 

Charlie leans over and puts his hand on mine.  Parchment thin skin and indigo veined with knuckles pointing like pyramids. He pats my hand a couple times.  Then shakes it.  We talk about Brooks Brothers and Charlie thinks it looks like an Italian department store.  I share some BB gossip.  Charlie smiles, "No shit?"  I shrug, "That's what they tell me." Charlie shakes his head. "Doesn't matter. Brooks is dead. And it's a shame." I notice streaks of silver through Charlie's black hair.  At 87, he looks 20 years younger. I think about asking him for a picture in his 20s or 30s.  When he crewed on the Kennedy sail boat, 'Ventura,' with Teddy and Iowa Senator, John Culver in the 1953 Nantucket Regatta.  I wonder, with Charlie's hand on mine, about all the hands Charlie has shaken. Charlie looks at me, "Today, no one really knows how the whole Ivy thing got started. Where it came from." I know better to ask. Charlie hates talking clothes. He smiles, "It started in New Haven." 

"Early in the 20th Century, Jewish tailors in New Haven were getting fat off the gentiles at Yale.  The pitch was to offer a suit at cost.  They'd approach a kid. Tell him they'd make him a suit for what it cost in fabric and they'd get business when his friends saw how good he looked.  They did this to every fucking kid in town." Charlie laughs. "All of New Haven was getting a suit -at cost- with those guys.Most were at J. Press before they left to strike out out on their own.  Chipp, Tripler or Finchley in NYC.  Kresge and Jacob Reed's Sons in Philadelphia.  Rapoport & Tucker and Arthur Rosenberg in New Haven. Joseph B. Hottell and Little & Golze in Princeton.  Competition was intense.  "If they heard you went to another tailor, they'd come knocking on your door.  'What? Did I do something wrong?  What are you doing seeing someone else?'"  Charlie places his hand on his cheek and sighs, "They were amazing. And they did pretty damned well."

We return to the shop.  A college professor is ordering three pair of flannel trousers from Larry. A lawyer buys a pre-tied bow and a German couple, long time customers, are besides themselves when they finally meet Charlie.  "From Germany, ve come once every two years to your store for 15 years, Mr Davidson, and we finally meet you!"  Charlie blushes and I remember his reluctance for an interview. "I don't want people to think I'm a pretentious asshole."  "That won't happen, Charlie. Besides, you could never come off like a pretentious asshole...Maybe a cranky asshole but never pretentious.  Charlie nods, "It could happen --  Like that JFK question you asked."

Charlie tells me it's the best question he's ever been asked. "He asked me for help.  He was a senator then and had a suite in a Boston hotel.  I walk in and he's standing in front of a mirror with some local Ivy haberdasher.  He throws a sack coat on and frowns at the mirror.  'I'm not wearing this shit." He takes the coat off and throws it on the bathroom floor.  JFK dressed himself. I made what he told me to make."  After the assassination, Jackie shared JFK's clothes with the family.  "They'd bring me a JFK suit or a tweed jacket and ask that I alter it to fit their size." Charlie nods to cardboard boxes filled with files under a rack of alterations. "It's in there. In those boxes.  The measurements. Weight. Height. Bumps. Sloped shoulders.  You name it. They had it."

I look at the boxes crammed with customer files.  I want to dig in but before I can ask Charlie steers me in another direction and asks,  "You're a fan of Anita O'Day?"  Charlie knows I am. I nod... looking at the cardboard boxes. "I knew her well," Charlie says, "Very well."  Charlie's 'very well' isn't so much to imply -- it's said as fact.  "She was at the Algonquin and begged me to come down.  I grabbed a flight from Logan to JFK, took a cab through a hurricane and made it a few minutes before her performance.  She was at the bar and I said, 'Baby, I made it. Lemme buy you a drink."  She looked at me and smiled, 'Charlie, don't you know. I don't drink anymore.' I was shocked until she said, 'Or less.'"

I tell Charlie I'd read O'Day performed with her idol, Billie Holliday, and when she told Holliday what a fan she was, Holliday ignored her."  "They all hated each other, " Charlie laughs. "All of 'em!  Miles Davis hated Ahmad Jamal.  Brubeck couldn't stand Bill Evans...I mean, they were all each others competition."  I'm about to ask to ask for Miles' file when Charlie nudges me, "I wanna show you something."

I follow Charlie down the narrow flight of stairs from alterations to the selling floor.  We step into a small dressing room with a three way mirror and I think about who has been measured  here.  I want to ask but I think, he'll think, it would be pretentious. So I don't and the urge passes when Charlie points to a midnight blue tuxedo with peak lapel hanging on the mirror.  Charlie opens the jacket and the most elegant trousers hang off a wooden hanger -- Black silk knifes down the out seam and  I'm thinking it's perfect when Charlie, very business like says, "It's perfect."  "Jesus," I say. "Who made it?" "Samuelsohn," Charlie says. They're a pain the ass to deal with but then, that's my job. There's three makers out there doing today what they did 50 years ago -- Samuelsohn, Hickey and Southwick." "No difference?" I ask.  Charlie shakes his head, "None." 

Later that afternoon, Charlie will complain about a customer...while he's still in the store.  The customer will leave in a huff. Charlie leans against a counter stacked with grey flannels and sighs, "That's my only problem -- There's some customers I just can't stand."  There's a gloom that comes over Charlie. A sadness that's too painful to watch. "Charlie," I say.  Charlie, his chin on his fist, turns to me, "Yeah?" "Will you make me a pair of trousers?" Charlie smiles, stands erect and calls for Larry. 

06 April 2015

Easter 2007

Repost from April 12, 2009

Some years ago I moved from Chicago to Florida on Easter weekend. After living and working in my ex-wife's wonderful home for almost 21 years - -I was going back to one of my own homes.

It was in the 30's when I left Chicago early Friday morning. The CD player was loaded with discs and it was smooth sailing until the magazine jammed just outside Memphis. I later learned how to un-jam the player by striking the magazine with a cheap ball point pen a couple times. But outside Memphis I was forced to turn on the radio. Amazingly (or not), the powerful signals all belonged to Christian stations and NPR was no match. Like Air Traffic Control, I was passed from one station to another and their version of The Passion. At first I was frustrated but grew curious as the liberal in me marveled at the music and southern perspective.

I made Chattanooga my Rest Over Night point and figured I'd drive around downtown and look for a proper hotel with secured parking rather than park at Holiday Inn on the interstate and listen to 18 wheelers down shift throughout the night. A sound I grew up detesting as an Army Brat.

I exited the highway and was dumped in front of the perfect hotel. Nine or so stories, brick, mid to late 19th century. Perfect. A call from my cell to reservations as I drove around the hotel --a vacancy at $70 a night. Perfect. I pull in and my station wagon filled with art (worth little to anyone but me) is valeted into a secure garage. Perfect. I check in and inquire if there's a decent steak restaurant close by. Before I can qualify that by decent I don't mean Outback, the desk clerk tells me they have a steak restaurant in the lobby. Perfect. I throw a bag in my room and run down to the restaurant. A rib eye, half a bottle of Cabernet and truffle mac and cheese. Perfect. Upstairs my bed has a down pad on top of the mattress. I lie down on one of the five best beds of my life. Perfect. And I dream...

I'm in a nondescript office waiting room. A man walks in and tells me, "Jesus will see you now." I get up and follow the man into another nondescript room. Jesus sits on a metal folding chair in the middle of the room in a white robe with his legs crossed. His bare feet in sandals. A clip board on his lap. I sit down in the empty folding chair across from him and cross my legs. The man leaves us in the room alone.

Jesus raises the clip board and starts to read from it but before he does there's a glance at my feet as he lowers the clip board and smiles, "Before we begin, I just wanted to comment on your socks. They're always so colorful." I look at my socks and look up at Jesus, "You like my - - socks?" Jesus leans forward, "Absolutely, I can tell you really make an effort." I ask, "That pleases you, Jesus?" "Yes," He says. "If it pleases you - - It pleases me." And I woke up.

I lay in bed that night and thought about the dream and realized how calm I was. I easily fell back to sleep and the next morning I watched the sun rise and reflected on the dream. Still unsure of what it meant but smiling to myself as I turned the radio on and headed home.

27 March 2015

I Lost My Password

I found my password.

03 November 2014

Don't Forget

Colorado Springs, 1974


31 October 2014

Halloween - 1966

I'm Batman

After the haul in Chapel Hill.  The old man was in Vietnam and I'm guessing his six months was up with the A Team in the Central Highlands.  That means a lot of heat was off while he cooled his heels with a C Team in Nha Trang.  This Polaroid was mailed to him by my mother.  I look at this picture and wonder what it was like for him to see something like this.  

Happy Halloween

Illustration by Arthur Frost for Lewis Carroll's 'Phantasmagoria.'

27 October 2014

Andrew "Touch" Touchstone

Andy "Touch" Touchstone (4.1.63 - 10.21.14) at the Vesper Club (1901-2012)

Andrew K. Touchstone of,  "The Main Line Sportsman" blog died at home suddenly on October 21st. I 'm not sure how but only want to know why… and how he put so much into a life?  Andy, "Touch" to his friends and wife, made a living as a worker's compensation lawyer but he was also a boxing promoter, sport's agent, radio show host,  hunter and fisherman, writer,  jazz club owner and, most recently, my partner, as we started a business together based on a common interest.

Catching up with Touch reminds me of how little the rest of the world gets done in a day.  Our conversation usually started with blogging but spiraled off into the evils of insurance companies, a new boxer, a hunting trip, Anita O'Day, my favorite, or Sinatra, his favorite "crooner" and which shopping center parking lot we'd met at for my ride to a steeple chase.

I'm not sure what his politics were but his heart was big and liberal.  He tired of busting his ass defending thankless insurance companies and represented  plaintiffs who Touch felt were a whole lot more grateful.  That was the joy of his day job and it was underlined by a printer's union "bug" on his business cards.

Touch was friends with my first roommate in Philadelphia 27 years ago.  He knew my boss and a co-worker at Aetna the same number of years ago.  There was an eerie Philadelphia "Six Degrees of Separation" that Touch knocked me over with time and time again.  I was terrified to bring up old girlfriends from those days for fear Touch would know them better than I ever did.

We huddled over cocktails.  Touch, a rum and bourbon aficionado, tried to educate me while poo-poohing my Islay single malts claiming they were,  "not unlike licking charcoal briquettes."  He'd fire up another Parliament, take a long drag and smile while asking me if I missed the habit I gave up six years ago.  Before the end of the night,  I'd bum one or two despite the head rush just to enjoy the camaraderie of sharing tobacco with him.

I always called him Andy because he had this perpetual smile.  To me,  he "looked" like an Andy, if that's possible.  Bubbly? Not so much.  More like "burbly."  Quick on the wit and faster with an opinion -- I loved his look on life as much as his take on assholes.  Which brings me to a selfish conclusion -- Why is it that assholes seem to live forever while the good ones…Well, if you knew Andy, you know the rest.

24 October 2014

More Than This

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they're blowing
As free as the wind
And hopefully learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning

More than this, there is nothing
More than this, tell me one thing
More than this, there is nothing

It was fun for a while
There was no way of knowing
Like dream in the night
Who can say where we're going
No care in the world
Maybe I'm learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning

More than this, there is nothing
More than this, tell me one thing
More than this, there is nothing

23 October 2014

My Favorite Main Line Sportsman Post

(click to read)

I can feel the madras - Andy (left), July 1989

RIP Andrew K. Touchstone of Main Line Sportsman

Andrew K. Touchstone
April 1st, 1963 to October 21st, 2014

Ben Bradlee on Style

"I liked the word 'style.'
I like people with style,
with flair, with
signature qualities,
provided they have
more than style
and flair and
signature qualities."

Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee on Flacks

click letter to read

The brilliance of this letter is only surpassed by knowing its subject.

19 October 2014

Halloween Soundtrack

A favorite for background music on Halloween night. Start at 14:00 to skip Redford's lovely narration. Guaranteed to scare the crap outta Trick or Treaters when you open the door. Also, mesmerizing and strangely addictive.

17 October 2014

Halloween Hit

I've felt like this since the demise of Wasp 101.

15 October 2014

Broccoli Holders & Cardholders

I had a client -- now a good friend -- who used the rubber band from Broccoli stalks to hold his credit cards.  He also traveled across the US on $2.00 and is the cheapest and smartest man I know.  Chuck would die laughing at a 44€  replacement for his rubber band but I like these sexy little cardholders from the little known French company of ideas, Striiiipes.  Designed and made in Paris, what's not to like...

I've discussed Striiiipes before here and there.  I've made a big deal of the owner, Arthur.  And one day soon, I suspect, Striiiipes and Arthur will make it big and the dump trucks of cash will pull up to their doors.  Until that day - however - they cannot be expected to go beyond a certain a point.  Which means they sell out of stuff fast.

This magnificent little alligator number at 95€ is history.

There's a lot more out there for bet. 44 & 62€  but who knows for how long.

And that's what's great about Striiiipes.  That what you buy isn't coming at you from every direction.  The uniqueness of some every day tool that makes reaching into your pocket for a card that much more exciting.  Well, exciting is probably the wrong word.  "Awesome." That's the word.  Overused hyperbole to define the understated and hushed quiet of gravitas.  Thats the contrarian ticket I love. Which would fit into this cardholder but not broccoli

13 October 2014

Columbus Day

From 'Dateline America' by Charles Kuralt, 1979   Photos by Mark Chester

It's been a journey of sorts. This year.  On the road.  Everyday it seems there's another fucking flat and the rubber on the tire is my soul.  I mean, I'm not grey haired yet, but the tires do need changing.   And so I put another set on;  Good for 100,000 miles.

"I don't know if I'm depressed or just surrounded by assholes," reads a T-shirt in Daytona Beach.    Understanding the past goes into every day of my future -  I wonder if I'll appreciate life more by hating myself less.  Or, is it the other way around?    And will it fit on a T-shirt?

11 October 2014

Mission Statements Suck

Who cares where I've been.  It's none of your business and I'm back as long as this is a pleasurable endeavor.  I missed it here but it was impossible to write about chinos and button downs.  I'm not really sure I still can.  So, this will be a different blog with emphasis on the undiscovered and that doesn't mean camouflage.

I can't stand Mission Statements so I'll be blunt.  I want to go down the roads less traveled.  Shit, I want to hang out in Ghost Towns.  I want to turn you onto the buried truffles of the world and I expect you to reciprocate in kind.  Bring me what turns you on  -- What no one knows about --  Even if it's your recipe for Fruit Cake.

10 October 2014

Plein Soleil

Miss Me?  It's okay if you didn't.

15 August 2014

The Beretta Gallery of New York City

Beretta employee, Moses Gutierrez with a 20 gauge Silver Pigeon 1 ( $2,240) 

I first bumped into the NYC Beretta Gallery about five years ago.  Town-housed among Manhattan's retail townhouses;  Hermès,  Etro,  Longchamp, Chanel, and so many others…I was actually just looking for a pair of khakis.  I pushed open the Beretta door, walked past security and was slapped in the face with racks and racks of obscenely beautiful apparel.

Wool and Waxed Cotton jacket in the Maremmana style ($1,295)

It was a London flashback, what with tweed, moleskin, chukka and waxed cotton.  Gravitas on the order of Jermyn Street,  Cuban cigars and 25 year old single malts drunk from engraved pheasant whiskey tumblers.

Moleskin suit with side vents (Jacket $535 Trousers $165)

Luckily I stumbled onto a sale -- Even better as I had a little money back then.  There was a lot I should've bought that day but didn't and learned a lesson.  Much of what you see in the NYC Gallery is unique to the store.  Once it's gone, you may never see it again.  Of course,  I was here for a pair of khakis.  

Second Floor

Looking back, it seems a shame  shopping for khakis in Beretta --  Sort of like visiting Umbria on the wagon.

Competition Shooting

It's hard to describe just how diverse the gallery is.  Roaming around on my last visit, I heard a man walk in and announce, "I've been invited to a shoot in Spain."  I looked down from the second floor balcony and watched as the salesman sprung into action while those words, "I've been invited to a shoot…" bounced jealously between my ears.

Main Floor

While outdoor retailer's, Kevin's and Cabela's offer over the top decor, Beretta manages to pull off the outdoors aesthetic with understated elegance.  Chalk it up to to Beretta's hometown of Brescia 'cause this ain't meatballs and gravy.

In store Italian made checks ($155)

Much of what is in the NYC Gallery is not on line and much of what is on line is not in the NYC Gallery.  Still, a past visit to the Beretta website found an olive moleskin maremmana hunting jacket, sadly long gone,  for a surprising  $99.

In store Suede chukka ($423)

A women's wool felt cap made by Pennsylvania's Bollman Hat Company is currently on sale for $37.50 marked down from $75...

Beretta Sole
And a men's quilted waxed cotton biker jacket has been reduced from $595 to $279.

Khakis ($75)

But I was looking for khakis.

And at $75, they're made in the US and something of a surprise.  I had mine cuffed and there was no extra charge.

That's the thing about Beretta.  You can find a $20 ball cap...

Or, there's a $140 number that looks like a Vietnam boonie hat I lusted after when I was in the Army.

Field watches are reasonable…

Field Watches (Quartz $229 Automatic $389)

Women's Quilted Shooting Jacket ($875)

Women's Scarves ($895)

Carafe Gift Set ($149)

The engraved carafe and glasses are available in store and on-line... 

Martini Pitcher $200

While the best looking cocktail pitcher I have ever seen is only in the store.  A steal and you're only seeing it because I gave up martinis.

Ice Bucket $2,200

I haven't given up ice but the elephant foot ice bucket is a good example of Beretta's price swing.

And like the 32" barrels on the $2,000 Silver Pigeon, there's value in Beretta.  It's under the radar for most NYC  residents.  Save those types who go shooting in Spain.