26 November 2008

My First Playboy Magazine

My first Playboy at 12. I've been a fan of blue and yellow ever since.

I didn't understand this at all. But I liked the Morning Coat.

My scotch is Canter's.

I thought the woman in the doorway was waiting for the two in the foreground to leave so she could smell some of those colognes. Actually, it's still confusing. I'm not sure if I'd ever take a cologne break...Maybe he just needs the bottle.

You can never forget your first Playboy. This was mine. Purchased in Montreal when I was 12. We were visiting friends of my parents. Eight people crammed into a tiny townhouse if I remember correctly. I was sent on a errand to get milk or something at a Canadian 7/11. Instead of Playboy being under the counter - - this issue was proudly displayed on the magazine rack.

With more courage than I knew I had, I stepped up to the register with the milk or whatever and plunked the magazine down like I had done it a million times. The clerk picks up the Playboy, looks at me and says something in French with "Pla-boyye" ending his sentence. "Yeah, it's a Playboy," I say. "Oh, you're American. Where are you from?" I know this is all about confidence. "Virgina, we're visiting some friends." He's ringing it up and says, "Va-geeenia. Thaz a looong way." "Uh-huh." I give him a twenty and I'm out the door with Miss July. That's when I first learned there's a huge pay off in taking risk.

A block or two from the townhouse, I crammed the magazine into the back of my pants and un-tucked my shirt over it. Once inside, I deliver the milk or whatever to an adult and make a bee-line for the bathroom. There, I conceal Miss July under a big pile of towels stacked under the sink. "So far so good," I thought as I wondered if everyone would go through all the towels before I came back for my prize. I also discovered, about this time, that when I concentrated--really focused--I could do anything. Even wake myself up in the middle of the night.

Like James Bond I snap awake at 0200 hours. In a Bruce Lee-like tip toe, I dart into the bathroom and quietly collect the magazine. With hardly a thought and acting on pure instinct, I head for the garage, open our station wagon door and proceed to stuff the magazine under the front seat. The intense rush at sneaking around like this cannot be described. I don't think jumping out of a plane ever came close.

On the way home I sat next to my father while my two sisters and mother sat in the back seat. I was always told I was the navigator but my old man never listened to my directions--which were always wrong-- and still are. No, I was up front so he could reach me. I don't remember how long we had been on the road when I first saw trouble. I do know my ballooning confidence at pulling off this amazing caper disappeared when I saw the US / Canadian Border. Police were everywhere motioning cars to pull over...other cars being searched...clothes hauled out of trunks. This was not good.

I looked at my father. A man who wore a crew cut and frowned throughout my childhood. He was two years out of Vietnam. Now a major with a real career in front of him... Unless his son put the whole family in a Canadian jail for the transportation of pornography. What would you do? I fessed up fast. "We gotta pull over now." He looks at me confused, "What?" I breathe deep. "I have something in the car. We have to pull over before we get up there." From the back seat I hear my mother, "What? What did he say?" My father is slowing down at this point and he looks at me like he's gonna throw up. He's more scared than I am. You have to remember...there were a lot of drugs back in 1971. I never went near them. Not with a Green Beret for a Dad. But he didn't know that.

My mother is leaning forward in her seat, "What's he saying?" My father tells her to sit back and he shoots me a look, "What's in the car?" We're too close now. If we pull over the cops are gonna know. "I have a Playboy magazine stuffed under my seat. If they search the car we're gonna be in big trouble." I looked at him expecting full furry and I remember seeing the relief. And then he laughed. "I think we're gonna be okay," he said. I'm sitting in a pool of sweat on cheap Plymouth vinyl and I can only look down at my hands clenched tight. I rub them on my tie dyed bell bottoms and look at him. He's smiling as he steers into an inspection lane.

After we pull away - -without being searched - - he asks me quietly, "Where did you get it?" I tell him about the clerk at the Canadian 7/11. He nods. A few more miles down the road my mother is talking to my sister and my father looks at me like he never looked at me before and says, "If you ever want one..you let me know." When we got home I was convinced I'd make a great spy (sans the confession back there at the border) and asked my father how I might go about it. "The only country you'd be good at spying on is this one," he snorted and went back to reading Evergreen or the LA Free Press. For a career Army officer, my father was a bit out of the box. Brilliant, but out of the box.

Playboy was everything to me. Back then, I could spot one in a pile of magazines at a neighbor's house from 50 paces save for 'Southern Living' magazine that would occasionally throw me with its similar binding. I look back and realize Playboy is a lot like watching an episode of Rat Patrol. Much of it hokey and cheesy. But sometimes you just wanna watch 'em ride around the desert in jeeps.

25 November 2008

"Japanese magazines, Michael Bastian and LL Bean"

I'm reading this magazine over the summer ^ and I see this...

An article on Michael Bastian. There he is ^ on the fire place mantel. Nice tortoise shell in the fireplace. As an ex-National Park Ranger, I can only hope that was acquired pre-1973. I'm sure it was. I like Bastian's line. Good looking, normal clothes with Trad centered in the cross hairs. Cool shoes as well and they're L.L. Bean Camp Moccasins. Wow! A big time fashion designer wearing $69 shoes. Gotta love that.

I like 'em a lot so I finally get around to placing an order. They arrived last week and they were a good half size too big. Call up the 24/7 toll free number. Bing-Bang. 8.5 's are on the way. I will say that Bean is and always has been one of the best customer service companies I've ever done business with. They really do make it easy. I get the 8.5 moc today and they fit perfectly. So, I'm putting the 9's back in the box to return when I see it. Do you see it? Those 9's are only a week old. Compared to the 8.5's, they look like they were distressed.

There's a HUGE (like the magazine-get it?) difference between the color, grain, finish and shape of toe. The 8.5 is a much better looking shoe than the 9. I check out the box thinking maybe I ordered different colors - - Nope, same color, vendor, country of origin and stock number. Bean paid for the shipping on the new shoes although I will get dinged for $6 to return the old ones. Free shipping both ways if you sign on for their credit card but that's the last thing I need. I'd have more Bean stuff than a lesbian phys ed teacher in Wisconsin.

Lately, there's been a lot of quotes citing Bastian's love of the Bean Camp Moc along with Randolph sunglasses (wore them in the Army - American Optical is better) . He said, "There are things that are perfection in their generic-ness." Just like that line. Pure perfection, buddy. Now, where did you get that shell?

24 November 2008

Frugal Italian Style

What I would give to be a retired college professor. Kinda like an architect--you know ---a very cool job. This afternoon I was invited for a ride with my ex-college art professor. He had to go the court house. Something about a form he needed in order to get a speeding fine reduced from $250 to $80. I never did understand...But I do understand his car.

This is a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giula Sprint GT in text book BRG with a saddle tan interior complete with Italian tags. It is a thing of beauty just sitting but who wants to sit? Just before getting to the court house, my professor takes a detour into a housing development. I'm wondering what in the hell he's doing as we roar past the empty security gate and in front of us is a complete development sans houses but with lots of turns, corners and straight aways. What a vision of beauty. I still have an ear to ear grin that will not go away.

The 1600 cc engine has amazing torque and pulls from a dead stop like a hornet. A smell I haven't experienced in 20 years fills the car and combines with a slight whiff of gas. A unique Italian smell which is very different from an English sports car. I can't put my finger on it but I like to think it smells like Sophia Loren's armpits--unshaven of course. Earthy but very alluring. I had a friend who was Italian and in the middle of conversation he would take of his watch with a leather band and smell his wrist. The car might smell something like that but my watchband is stainless steel so I couldn't tell you.

Here again, we're talking tons of affordable style just waiting for you. Sure, it's an Alfa but it beats a Fiat. My professor tells me it breaks down as follows:
$2,000 for a 1966 Alfa Romeo Giula Sprint 2+2 (14 years ago)

$1,400 for a engine rebuild (14 years ago)

$1,600 for a paint job (12 years ago)

$1,000 for headliner, carpet and upholstery (10 years ago)

$6,000 Total

$6,000 for more erudite style than you'll ever get with anything banged out today. The bad news is these things are going up in price but they're still a relative bargain. As the masses ditch their Escalades and Suburbans only to go back into debt buying a piece of plastic resembling an egg--you can have real style with this. In the words of my childhood hero, Alexander Mundy, " Buena Fortuna, baby."

22 November 2008

The Trad scores "Take Ivy"

I should have my head examined. A week ago Michael Williams of the amazing, A Continuous Lean emailed me a link to an on line auction of Take Ivy in Japan. I expressed interest and gave him my high bid. Michael contacted a friend in Japan who bid for me and I found out this morning he was successful.

So here's what I'm gonna do. I will scan the entire book and post it here. That's right. There's a lot of talk on the forums and blogs about this book. Especially since it realized $1,490 on EBay. I want everyone (being the good Democrat I am) to see this book and I can't think of a better place than here. Besides, I need the traffic.

Speaking of traffic, I'd like to mention that The Trad has been offered some advertising revenue as well as pre-written posts pitching products. Many, many years ago I started a PR firm in Washington DC. It didn't last long but it was a real eye opener. I had no idea so many reporters were lazy and assholes to boot. I won't even mention how they dress but I suspect more than a few are card holders at The Men's Wearhouse. Anyway, it's one thing to pitch a story idea. It's another to write the entire story. So, be careful what you read out there. Hard copy or on line. I think it's hard to be impartial with someone who is sending you a check each month. So, no advertising and no posts I didn't write. Except for Michael-- I owe that guy.

17 November 2008

Trad Furniture

Early 19th C bowfront chest. Estimate $446 to $744

Late 19C Chesterfield Sofa. Estimate $1,041 to $1,487

I think the best place to buy furniture is the auction house. Where else can you get deals like these two pieces and have a story to tell. Certainly not at Ethan Allen. Christie's (in London) is auctioning off the stock of two antique dealers this Thursday. I know some preppy girls who would kill for that sofa. Hell, I like that sofa. Click here for the on-line catalog. I've sorted by low estimate so hopefully you'll see the bargains straight away.

I 've had a lot of fun at auctions. The Gulf Foxtrot (girlfriend) and I bid on a late 18th C Satinwood Pembroke table a few years ago. The auctioneer was a friend. He's also certifiable but so many are in the auction business. My friend put the hammer down on my last bid and we stuffed the Pembroke Table in the back seat of a car. I placed the table in my living room and would just stare at it. I thought of it sitting in a library of a London townhouse or a country estate. I thought about made it over 200 years ago. What conversations and arguments it was witness to. I could just picture it like a scene out of Barry Lyndon with that warm candle lit glow.

Another friend of ours was a general appraiser and she was eager to see the table. She brought along an expert on English furniture and for a free lunch I secured a second opinion. He flipped the table over, unscrewed some screws, did some aha'ing and finally said, "This stood in water--for some time I suspect. Also, you have a mixture of hand made and machine made screws. Mostly it's George III but you don't want mostly. What did you pay for it?" I had that same feeling in my gut when I left my Rolex in a Hardee's bathroom. I told him what I paid. "It's worth about half that. Where are we going to lunch?"

I called my certifiable friend and told him about the appraisal. "Christ, what's a couple hundred years amongst friends?" In the end, the auction house returned my money and I returned the Pembroke table. I've bid on the cheap stuff ever since.

16 November 2008

Working for Brooks Brothers

I'm putting this book on EBay with a $200 minimum. My copy of the Employee Handbook. Circa 1985.

Back in the 80's I worked for Brooks Brothers. Without going into a lot of detail about why...I did score a remarkable wardrobe -- at a very low cost -- and I learned a lot from the associates I worked with. Both the men and women. To begin with, there was intense competition among the employees when it came to personal appearance. And why not...these people loved clothes (most of them). The trick to the competition was acquiring the Brooks Brothers look without buying it from Brooks Brothers. No small feat for a beginner. Those with experience had it down pat.

I was told more than once that anyone could buy the Brooks look. That was the easy part. To take the customer by the hand and sell him or her the look. Whether they were familiar with the look or not. I had one customer. An older woman whom I never met face to face. She had called looking for help with socks. Not the sort of call you're hoping for on a commission job.

We talk and I determine she lives on the Main Line. A inquiry for socks turns into a phone order for a dozen pair of cashmere socks for her husband. She also wants to know if we carry Kent combs. I tell her no but give her the name of a store that does. I place the order for her and send her a thank you note on some beautiful engraved letterhead not unlike the President's letter in the employee handbook. She always called and asked for me afterwards. That meant more to me (still does) than the sale.

I had another regular. She was in her mid to late 30's and would come in alone in the middle of a week day. At first I thought she was just a bored house wife whose thrill was shopping. It wasn't until I met her husband and two young sons that I discovered she had cancer. The husband told me how much she enjoyed shopping with me and how it was one of the few things she really looked forward to after she learned of the cancer. He was there that day to buy the boys navy blazers for her funeral.

I've always felt ashamed I didn't know. I had seen the weight loss and the silk scarf on her head but never put it together. I'm always moved when I remember her and what shopping at Brooks Brothers meant to her.

I remember another customer who bought a hat. It came in beautiful round hat box in navy with the gold fleece embossed on the lid. I gave him the box and he was very impressed. We talked about the history of the Golden Fleece and I was able to go into a little (okay, a lot) more detail of the Fleece's history. Thank you National Park Service for giving me a primer in Spanish Colonial History at the Castillo de San Marcos. Anyway, I noticed the store manager close by. He smiled at us and came over. I introduced the customer and after a short conversation the manager pointed the customer to the register and stood next to me. Still smiling at the customer the manager whispered, "We don't have time for fucking history lessons here. Got that." He turned to me, smiled and walked off.

I'll never forget Brooks Brothers. Good and bad. A recent visit to the 346 Madison store turned into an hour session of shooting the bull with a couple long time salespeople who both remembered a lady in HR I had dated. Maybe that's why I get so upset when I see the quality of the product taking repeated nose dives. I still wear the cordovan wing tips I bought my first week with the company -- 23 years ago. And I'm still giving history lessons.

PS-Please click on the images to read the handbook excerpts. I don't think the girl I dated from HR had anything to do with this handbook. At least I hope not.

14 November 2008

Take Ivy Reprint $1,424.99 on Ebay

Go figure. The book, Take Ivy takes almost $1,500 outta some mojo's pocket on EBay. See it here and close your mouth.

It's nice to know there's still some money out there. It's even nicer to know there's some stupid money out there. What Steve Martin called, "Fur Sink" money. I'll admit my interest was peaked when I saw the book. I emailed a question to the seller about the publish date and he responded it was a reprint. I considered offering him $200 to save himself some time. I guess I'm the moron.

This silly ass book has generated more attention on blogs and forums than is sane. I can only guess it does so with images that many find hard to put into words. My favorite picture has always been the kid standing on the corner of Nassau Street. Almost an icon of a style and time I wish for but know is impossible to have. So, someone paid a healthy sum so they can read it while they're going to the bathroom. Actually, a book dealer bought it. I would imagine he'll try and double what he paid for it. Look for it. I imagine a few will be showing up very soon.

13 November 2008

Ethan Allen 1974

"Not as good as it was..."

Unless we're talking about 1974. When was it in the 70's that vulgar became such a popular choice? Nik Nik shirts, bozo the clown bow ties, leisure suits, harvest gold appliances, rust shag carpet, turquoise jewelry and the Pacer. I've often speculated the Soviets introduced an experimental drug via a popular U.S. soft drink. Instead of streets filled with our own citizens screaming, "Die capitalist war mongers!" we got Cheese. I assume the Soviets ran out of money and had to rush the drug into production and all of America fell in love with Ethan Allen and Kitsch.

I hear the company is in financial trouble. That's amazing. I'd have thought they went outta business 30 years ago.

I remember these living room suites growing up in the south. Wall to wall carpet with tiny, machine made Persian rugs scattered everywhere and a matching suite of furniture with art work bought from the same Ethan Allen store. A look sans any character or personality. As cold as the air conditioning in an Atlanta mall.

One thing concerns me...his suit. I swear those are hacking pockets on his suit jacket. A slanted pocket, it just happens to be a favorite detail of mine. I shudder at the thought but I drank a lot of Coca Cola in the 70's.

12 November 2008

Another Trad Magazine...

This magazine

came in this envelope

and later this letter came. I have no idea what it says...

But I did understand this article....I was alerted for Zaire when I was in the Army. These guys went instead of us. Good on them.

The Kepi Blanc in formation. I did consider a "contract" with the French Foreign Legion but the five year minimum enlistment turned me off. Still, a great place to learn French.

You can show off this watch at a bar...impress the girls...

Years ago I wound up having a conversation with an older veteran at the bar in Fraunces Tavern. He guessed I served based on my hair cut, watch and posture. I guessed he served based on his crew cut. He said he had been a Marine. But that wasn't quite true. I knew enough about the Marines to know he had never been one two drinks into our conversation. He knew he had been found out.
He was embarrassed and I can only think that was why he opened up four drinks into the conversation. He knew his stuff but he didn't know the US Armed Forces. I guessed he had been a mercenary and moved the conversation in that direction. No, he wasn't a mercenary. With great reluctance he admitted, six drinks into the conversation, that he had been in the French Foreign Legion. Blew. Me. Away.

The discussion level lowered while he expressed concern about losing his citizenship if the State Department ever found out and I wound up with an address for the magazine published by the Legion, "Kepi Blanc." It was a major pain getting the subscription but the first issue finally came. Leaving Kepi Blanc on the coffee table when company comes over is a helluva lot of fun. Adding that you just get the subscription, don't know who sends it and mumble something about the State Department is priceless. Ah, oui?

11 November 2008

Veterans Day

Going In.

The portrait from Basic Training with the fashionable, "Bus Driver Cap." One sexy piece of head wear. On the day this was taken we were issued a dizzying array of dress uniforms (in winter and summer weight) that were never worn. On this same day the Army decided to turn me into a boxer man. Thrown five pair of boxers; I protested, "I asked for briefs!" Only to be answered with, "Keep moving shit head." I'm pretty sure if you asked for boxers you were given briefs.

Getting Out

Been years since I've seen this. The old Army khakis. Wash and Wear as well. This was taken the day I got out (ETS'ed) and was on my way to my "Home of Record." I went in the Army because I felt I had to. Not out of any patriotic desire but more out of a destiny. My grandfather and father were both career Army. I knew I had to go. I hated it when I went in and by the time I left the Army four years later I had fallen in love with it. More for the friendships than anything else.

Never went back despite best intentions. I gave up ROTC in college to write. I wasn't the Army type anyway. But I did like hanging around those who were. Had I pursued a career I would have been discovered for the fraud I was. Instead of a career I have some great memories and some nifty bobbles. And I never had to shoot at anything other than a target. I was very lucky.

06 November 2008

Cashmere & Magazines

Last year I was buried in a stack of magazines at Gallagher's Bookstore. I'd give you the address and introduce you to the owners but they closed. Forced out by the capitalist, real estate pigs of Manhattan who jack up their rents a hundred fold because Starbucks will not blink at $30,000 a month rent for 1,200 square feet!

Sorry - carried away there.

Anyway, the owners are a lovely couple with two adorable children. A quick aside: I think most children are morons. I mean, they're supposed to be. I understand that. But the Gallagher boy is a pistol. He's about eight and knows more profanity than I do. What a great life - - growing up in a bookstore with an Irish mum and brilliant dad who has sold to every designer (including R.L. himself) in NYC who steals from these old magazines. What magazines? THE magazine. Apparel Arts.

Covered here and here in earlier posts, I have been scouring ebay, Gallagher's and out of the way bookstores in every one horse town I roll thru in hopes of, like finding that Porsche Speedster in a farmer's barn, finding an entire collection of Apparel Arts for, "Oh, there just collecting dust round here (spits) - - I'll let you have 'em for ten bucks a piece." Why, thank you farmer Brown. Have a pouch of Redman on me.

Instead, they're going for north of $400 an issue and that's on Ebay. One of the last times I was in Gallagher's I picked up Volume II of the Gruppo published reprint. Mike looked at me and knowing how cheap I am (my last visit I walked from, "M" The Civilized Man magazines that were $20 a piece) he asked, "You know this a hundred bucks?"

There's two other volumes that go with this and I can't find them anywhere - - at any price. Some wonderful illustrations in this "business" volume with hints to retailers for ad layout, displays, store design, how to sell quality in a depression...interesting stuff.

The suit you see was advertised in the back of the publication and it's a dead ringer for a Ralph Lauren Purple Label, three piece tweed made from 100% cashmere. Two maybe three seasons old. While booksellers in one horse towns know the value of their stock - - it would seem Polo outlets do not. I purchased the cashmere suit ("Ohhh, Georgie. Cashmeeeere...) for $350.00 from the Orlando Polo outlet. It retailed for $4,000.

Normally, I would have Mr Peppino (across from Bloomingdale's) handle the alterations but Bhambi Tailors (across from Barneys) came highly recommened from a salesman (Ira) at Herzfeld. Ira helped me with a tattersall shirt and the perfect tie. The last time I saw Ira he almost threw a rope around me and pulled me into the store (57th between Park and Lex) where he showed me a beautiful tattersall waistcoat. Only $450. Geez, Ira...I didn't pay that for my suit. The tailoring? It too was more than the suit. Almost double. Working sleeve buttons, lined cuff bottoms, lined seat and a vest. Four fittings. Nice people.

And that damned magazine I want is more than the suit. Still, if you looking for old fashion mags try Mike at incink@hotmail.com and they may be able to help. The store is gone but they still have an impressive inventory...as well as children. One last observation. Sans the Polo Outlet, everyone associated with this post: Mike at Gallagher's, Mr Bhambi at Bhambis, Ira at Herzfeld...all are passionate about what they do. They all know their stuff to be sure but they all really love what they do and it shows.