30 June 2009
GQ on Brooks Brothers - 24 Years Ago
29 June 2009
Saturday's Pop Up Flea Market
28 June 2009
A Quiet Death
He sat in front of the television. In his wheel chair. The size 14 corduroy slippers looked like the fins on an old Cadillac. We walked in. My wife and I. Afraid to say what we had come to say. Art turned from the TV and smiled when he saw us. A big smile full of his own teeth. They were yellow but they were all there. It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and Art was watching TNT's day long John Wayne movie marathon. As far as hospitals went... Art could do a lot worse than Lake Forest. Reproduction 18th Century furniture surrounded his futuristic hospital bed while the TV had a built in VCR.
My wife and I were his only family in town due to the holiday. And so we told Art his wife had just died. The light in his eyes went out like a switch had been thrown. His smile disappeared and his lips trembled as he brought his hands to his face and cried, "I just talked to her." My wife cried, "I know, Dad. I know." She did not hold him. She did not touch him. And he did not reach for her. I thought it odd my wife's legs were crossed. I was suddenly aware my legs were crossed. Uncrossing them I wondered what to do with them.
We went to the funeral home. The nice man in the rep tie and blue blazer showed us the caskets. I pushed Art around the show room in his wheel chair and slammed his foot into a casket named the Virginian. "Goddamn that hurts!" "Sorry, Art," I said as I thought of a parchment map of Virginia City burning on my television screen. The Virginian was a dark walnut with a cream quilted interior. It did look comfortable. It was nine thousand dollars. Not too bad when you figured the daily cost spread across an eternity.
Every ten minutes or so I would wheel Art into the bathroom. I would bend down in front of him and he would pull himself up on my shoulders and we would stand together as he peed. I looked at his penis and noticed how big it was. "What am I doing looking at my father in law's dick," I wondered. But not out loud. I realized my brother in law must have a big penis as well. That fucker is lucky in everything.
We looked at more caskets and discussed the advantages of more expensive vaults and after all was said and done -- close to thirty thousand dollars had been spent. All of it, tossed in a hole, so to speak. Nine months later my wife and I knelt in front of the Virginian Art was lying in. His hands were folded on his chest and covered in a thick pan makeup not unlike the stuff used on stage. His lips were sewn together and looked odd. There was some truth in my wife's observation, "Dead people always look Italian."
26 June 2009
Friday Belts - A Knotty Lemoncillo
Shortly after Mario Batali opened Babbo -- a client who knew Mario scored a reservation. I remember being blown away by the beef cheek ravioli, suckling pig and an obscure red wine from Umbria. We wound up closing the restaurant and on our way out we saw Mario at the bar having a Lemoncillo and a cigarette. I was in a hurry to light up a La Gloria Cubana Wavell (back when they were still made in Miami) and while the client and his wife chatted with Mario I headed outside, took a seat on a fire plug and fired up -- clueless as to who Mario was other than a guy who nailed my corporate Amex for $600. I do remember wishing I had something to drink with that cigar and a cold Lemoncillo would've hit the spot.
I've had all kinds of Lemoncillo (and Limoncello). Homemade and store bought. And like Danny DeVito - - I've had too many. This stuff will give you one of nastiest hangovers you'll ever experience due to the large amount of sugar in it. Alain Sitbon of the charming, Le Petit Paris in Chicago, was the first to serve me Lemoncillo over crushed ice. A wonderful after dinner drink for the Summer.
The D Ring belt is a cheap way to hold up your trousers. A nautical look that fits right in at the Vesper Boat Club on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. I don't wear it much anymore (I don't drink Lemoncillo much anymore). They seem to be everywhere or their poor imitation -- the Ribbon Belt which, like the word, "awesome" I detest. Which reminds me of my last visit to Babbo where the Golf Foxtrot and I had a mediocre dinner at the bar, were charged twice for a bottle of wine and had to endure Mario's Ipod -- a collection of some of the most God awful music I've ever heard. Not as good as it was -- Better than it will be.
24 June 2009
Seabago Tassel Loafers & Hay Street
Those Seabagos were made in the USA and found new on Ebay for $40. I'm sure there's something wrong with them but haven't discovered what yet. They look dusty because I poured baby powder in them...a requirement for wearing leather shoes without socks.
Stopped in Fayetteville, NC and swung by the local newspaper for some archival photographs of the old Hay Street circa my time as a young paratrooper there in late 1970's and early 1980's . I called a number of museums and libraries looking for photographs of the infamous street. No one had anything. I was told at the paper many locals would just as soon forget the old Hay Street of hookers, strip clubs and pawn shots. The 400 and 500 blocks were razed by the mid 1980's and not a pole was left. It would appear the slave market isn't an issue.
23 June 2009
On The Road...
19 June 2009
The Friday Belt - Cava & Crew
Here's the deal. I'm on the road. Who knows where I'll be by the time you read this -- but it is not gonna be around the Gulf Foxtrot-- which is a good thing. She'd knock the crap outta me if she could reach me. A week ago I heard about this Cava or sparkler that was getting some amazing word of mouth in the city. With the current economy, everyone's looking for a good deal. I've been looking for a good deal since I could walk.
So I'd like to push the people who've been living like drunken sailors aside and show 'em how a pro does it. The first thing you do when you find a sparkling rose for $16.00 that taste like a $80 Billecart Salmon Rose ...is to keep your mouth shut. But I can't help myself --Which is why, when the Gulf Foxtrot reads this, she's gonna go ballistic. We have a stock pile but I don't how long it's gonna last. And that's why I can't tell you what it is but I can give you some clues in that picture up there. Lets see how good and thirsty you are.
The belt is a J. Crew needlepoint with golf flags. I like to think it's nautical but the Crew description was golf flags. My cousin was a Hilton Head golf pro and I wanted to be just like him. I started golf lessons when I was 12. I used rentals until my dad came home with brand new Sam Snead junior clubs. 3,5,7 and 9 irons plus a putter and a wood. No bag. Dad said I didn't need one with so few clubs. I played golf carrying the clubs --three in each hand. This caused some conversation on the course which appears to have found its way back to Dad. A 36 club shaft saver bag in red and black was purchased the next day. I never had a lot of club when I was 12 but I did have a lot of bag.
17 June 2009
Basque Burger Paradise
Buried in a shopping strip way the hell over on Chelsea's west side on 9th Avenue between 24th and 25th is a Basque restaurant paneled in what looks like old shipping pallets. It also serves the best hamburger I've ever had in my entire life. A client, friend, foodie and New Yorker of almost 30 years took me to Txikito but he never told me the name. Just say 'Chiquita' like the banana and you're close enough.
A lot of critical nit picking has been written about the decor but I like it. It has a garage like front door that's opens the whole place to the street making it very casual. I ordered El Doble and asked for it rare. The waitress told me it was really up to the chef how it was cooked. Shades of the airport burger, "We can only cook them medium well" came to mind but I didn't make a scene. My client ordered the piperrak peppers as a starter and a bottle of Rioja or Priorat - - I can't remember but it was a nice Spanish red.
The peppers are salted and fried and go fast like anything fried with salt usually does. They're addictive and while I was yacking on about how good they were -- El Doble was put in front in front of me. Cheese oozzed out over two double patties tucked into a Tom Cat bakery bun. Very easy to handle... I took a big bite and came in my pants.
The details: The burgers are 20% fat. I actually have my hamburger ground 75/25 but the 80/20 works well. A big mistake with burgers is using very lean meat. You need the fat to cook the burger and fat, as well all know, tastes good. The cheese is Idiazabal. A beautiful sheep's milk cheese that's smokey goodness. The sauce is creme fraiche and a homemade mayo and the whole production is covered in cornichons and pickled onions.
It's familiar and it's unlike anything I've ever had before. The formula was so mind blowing I couldn't stop thinking about it and went back alone for a late lunch. Otra vez for the peppers and the burger but instead of red I had a glass of the chilled rose that I can't pronounce but that was so good I had two. The place gets some ribbing about being expensive but lunch is a square deal. $11 for the best burger I ever had. Perfection has never come so cheap.
16 June 2009
Cacafuego was mentioned in a comment by 'D' on the prior Duende / Cursi post. I don't know who 'D' is but they must have known me when I lived on a boat my senior year of college.
The runner posing with Cacafuego is a park ranger I worked with at the Castillo de San Marcos and a couple years later at Valley Forge. John was hittin' 12 on the koo-koo meter -- like most obsessed runners. One afternoon at Valley Forge we were both working in George Washington's headquarters when about 30 Daughter's of the American Revolution came calling. One woman asked John the origin of his name. "Hungarian." John replied proudly. The DAR lady, who must'a weighed in about what I weigh now, breathed in an air-of-superiority snort and asked John, "Any of your ancestors in the revolution?" "Sure." said John. "Hungary 1956. Where were you?"
That's an authentic bleeding madras shirt I'm wearing. Found in a men's clothing store on the main street of town just behind my college. It was old stock from the mid 1960's and the elderly Jewish lady who owned the shop put up with a lot from me. I would always dig around (looking for old stock) and she would complain, "Here comes Mr Hot Shot who's gonna tear up my store again. " There were instructions with the shirt about how to wash it in cold salt water to keep it from bleeding. I loved that shirt and the memories of her shop.
The story of the Cacafuego or literally translated, Shitfire, goes back to Sir Francis Drake. My story does not jive with a lot of what's out there but this is how the boat got its name. Right or wrong. Deunde or Cursi.
The Spanish disarmed galleons on the Pacific side so the ships could carry more cargo primarily because the British had not discovered the staight of Magellan yet. Or so the Spanish thought. Drake was the first English pirate to figure out the route and one afternoon, whilst on the Pacific side, he saw through his scope a big Spanish ship with no guns but loaded with gold and silver and named Cacafuego. As Drake approached the ship, he saw an uncial under the second c which changed it to 'z' and Cacafuego became Cazafuego which translates to "Huntfire" or "We're looking for the shit."
Since the Spanish assumed Drake was a Spanish ship, he being on the Pacific side and all, the Cazafuefo was pretty easy pickins for the English pirate and he memorialized the encounter in his diary. Which is where I got the idea to name the boat the guy on the right owned. Actually, his dad owned the boat and I paid rent to live on it.
It was a Danish boat built by Coronet. I think it was 33 feet long. Living on a boat, even a stink pot, in a city marina is a great experience. The neighbors were always generous with beer, dinner and offers of going out on their boats. One neighbor even offered me his wife, a Playboy Playmate from the 1960's - - About the year my madras shirt was made. Being from L.A., they were, what you might call, a pretty fast couple. I said I was flattered and politely declined but must admit to searching out her issue soon afterwards. Like many events passed on in my life when young -- I thought I'd have another shot with a Playmate. I like to think I was optimistic... and very dumb.
15 June 2009
Duende vs Cursi
I have a thing for Spanish words...
I worked as a park ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, FL. Spanish colonialism was a real eye opener. Did you know three generations of Spanish were living in St Augustine when the first pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock? Amazing. One day I met a middle aged man and his wife who were from Barcelona. He was fair, blond and blue eyed and told me he played bag pipes in high school. His point being northern Spain was very different from southern Spain and I picked up that he was darned proud of that distinction.
His wife walked over to the east wall of the fort and looked over the Matanzas Bay while her husband continued his history lesson. Just then a beautiful young woman walked by us in the tightest khaki shorts the 1980's ever saw. The fellow from Spain eyed her as she walked by, blew a low whistle and said, "Que langosta." I looked up at him from the tight shorts and said, "What does a lobster have to do with her?" He smiled and said, "Where's the sweetest meat in a lobster?"
George Frazier was fond of duende. The literal translation has something to do with ghosts or goblins but it's more. It's used to describe that quality that's indescribable about a person or a place. Frazier once wrote, "...style was Joe DiMaggio's drifting back after a fly ball, but duende was DiMaggio's barring Peter Lawford from Marilyn Monroe's funeral." So the next time a young girl walks by in really tight shorts - - No, wait. I meant to say, the next time you're trying to describe something with soul and that "x" factor that's so hard to define -- you now have the perfect word. Duende.
And then there's cursi. I don't think Frazier knew about cursi 'cause if he did -- he'd as sure as hell have used it. Cursi means bad taste but includes, "one who has pretensions of refinement and elegance without possessing them." Man, that says a whole lot for only five letters. Put that on your vanity tags or your Lands' End bag. When I discovered the word cursi...my mind did the equivalent of looking around to make sure no one saw my fly was down. "Am I cursi?" I thought. Why not. I like to think I have better taste than most. But what if I'm wrong? What if I'm...cursi?
Asking that question of myself was like throwing a bucket of cold humility on my head. Who am I to turn my nose up at anything? Duck shoes, cargo shorts, flip fucking flops, Jack-ass-ville, Florida... No, it was time to stop the snooty and cynical eye narrowing at the couple from Lake Forest in the Jeep Wagonner with the Golden Lab who I named, cliche. It's time to focus on duende. Unless, of course, you want to discuss how cursi Peter Lawford was.
12 June 2009
Friday Belts - The Fighting 69th
A cocktail recommended by a reader --- A bumper number found by me-- A National Guard Regiment with an Irish history and whose recent deployment to Iraq saw 19 KIA and 78 WIA during Operation Wolfhound, so named after the Irish Wolfhounds on the crest above. A beautiful armory down on Lexington and 25th. Back in the 1990's an attempt was made to convert the regiment to Air Defense Artillery. That did not go over well with the troops and it stayed infantry. As an 11 Bravo I can understand.
The belt is not all that important. A Black Watch strap from J Press mysteriously on sale for $9.99 at a discount store on 57th St. It's hard to get excited about a device that holds your trousers up next to the storied 69th. Around 17:00 hours (22:00 hours GMT) today I'll toast the regiment and tilt back a Fighting 69th. I hope you join me.
10 June 2009
Mr Frazier was born 98 years ago today. I just found him yesterday at the Strand bookstore.
While a columnist at the Boston Herald
"A nasty man, Clancy. Unprincipled and destructive. A road company Joe McCarthy. A man of no visible talent except for evil. A lousy newspaperman. A real five-star son-of-a-bitch...I'd have also liked to call him a prick, but why give that word a bad name."
Harold Clancy about George Frazier
"He constantly referred to George as a prissy writer and after George left his office after a rather unpleasant meeting about his disintegrating deadline discipline, reeking of Faberge or whatever cologne he was partial to at the time, Clancy turned to the others in the room and asked sardonically, 'Just what do we have to do to get that guy to smell like a man?'"
The Matter of Style
"It is my own conviction that there can be no style without a certain aloofness, a certain inaccessibility, an immense honesty and inviolability in the matter of one's craft, a relentless being-true-to-one's-own-image. George Frazier
More of Mr Frazier and his September 1960 Esquire article to come...
09 June 2009
There's a lot of men out there who think puttin' on some scent is not a manly thing. My father for one. I remember his smell like it was yesterday. The cigarette smoke hit you first followed by a ever so slight fragrance of B.O. filtered through a wash & wear khaki uniform. Shortly after 17:00 hours the juniper from the afternoon's libations mingled with the B.O. and stale smoke creating a multi-layered scent I'll never forget. "I can't seem to forget you...your Windsong stays on my mind."
In short, my Dad stunk. Plain and simple. Fortunately for me... he wasn't all that much of a hugger and fortunately for him... I didn't have the stones to complain. I only have them now because we're thousands of miles apart. I may wear tutti frutti suede shoes but I do smell nice. By the way, my father's father wore Christian Dior Eau Savage. Always. I know. I looked in his medicine cabinet all the time.
Look, I'm not saying you douse yourself in Polo like my old boss did. 200 employees in the Chicago office could smell that guy coming 10 minutes before he got to you. He reminded me of a 13 year old after gym class with a can of Right Guard.
If you're over 30 years old I'm gonna throw some advice your way. Doesn't matter if you listen or not. I used Old Spice in the Army. I'd get outta the shower, dry off, throw Old Spice talc all over me (sadly no longer made) and dab some Old Spice cologne here and there depending on if I was dating or not. Simple and cheap. I was also 20.
If you're over 30 and purchase your cologne at Walgreen's -- pay attention...dude. There's an old saying which goes like this, "Never...No, always buy the best you can afford." I know... I talk a lot about cheap stuff but cologne is something I don't wanna buy at some discount center. Who knows what that crap is. Suck it up and pay retail. And experiment. That's half the fun.
I've used, since I was 15: Canoe, Old Spice, Aramis, Devin, Royal Copenhagen, Eau Savage, Greenbriar, Eau D'Hermes, Vetivier, D.R. Harris Sandlewood, Knize 10, Trueffit & Hill Spanish Leather, Molton Brown something or other and most recently, concentrated Ylang Ylang. What I still use is in the medicine cabinet up there. There's nothing wrong with smelling good. Unless you're on patrol in which case the bad guys can smell you and will kill you. If you're not on patrol-- you may wanna give a grown up cologne some thought.
08 June 2009
Antique Road Show
05 June 2009
Friday Belts - Cheap Buckles & Beer
There are times when being cheap really pays off. Sterling buckles and cask beer are just two examples. Dinner at a Ft Bragg NCO club and living in a National Park are a couple of others but lets focus on beer and buckles today.
First, the beer. I had heard about Growlers years ago. Didn't pay much attention. Shame on me. I was the "buy a case" kind'a guy. Couple of weeks ago I pulled up a stool at The Pony Bar on 10th Avenue at 45th St. In the sticks but well worth the walk. They had cask beer made by the Chelsea Brewery called, Angel IPA. Not a draft but pulled up from the cask just like a London pub. The beer was not cold and far from warm. Not fizzy but certainly not flat.
It was a Bitter in the truest sense of a Bitter drawn up in Lamb's Tavern in Leadenhall Market next to Lloyd's of London. One of my favorite drinking places in the world. From the first sip I flashed back to the Lamb on a late Friday afternoon where Lloyd's brokers spilled out of the pub and onto the street holding pint glasses and Silk Cut cigarettes while this broker tried to convince an underwriter to insure a vacant factory in Cleveland. Those were the days. And then I looked up and saw the sign for Growlers.
A Growler is a take away bottle of 64 ounces or four pints. As I sip this amazing beer and figure I may stay here all night...the Growler begins to make sense. For a lousy $19.00 -- I can take four pints, me and a brown jug home. Makes sense. Give the Pony a try when next in NYC. The folks there are doing some amazing things with beer and ale and their passion can be your affordable joy.
I'm doing some amazing things with buckles. That's a sterling buckle with the initials, JDJ, in a beautiful diamond monogram. I found it in a consignment shop far from Manhattan. I paid $5.00 for it. Probably what it's worth but I like it. I already have two of my own but it's a kick in the butt to find something with so much soul for so little money. The back of the buckle reads, "Sterling Pat March 30, 1915" and there's the number '8' or is it '9'? Who knows. Who cares...as I pour another pint from the Growler and wonder who in the hell Sterling Pat was.
03 June 2009
Trooping the Summer Colour
And why not? Look, if you're reading men's style magazines with their advice about how to dress preppy - - get the hell on outta here. No, wait. Come back. I was just kidding. I need the traffic. Besides, Tater will tell you, "it don't cost nothin" to read this blog and I hope it will give you some sartorial courage this Summer.
Hang it out there and do it in an unbranded way. Do you know how much a Vineyard Vines tie screams ersatz? Trust me. Not a good idea. Try simple reps and bright club ties this season. J Press, Brooks Brothers, Kos, J McLauglin...just a few of my favorites. Social courage my friend...It's a beautiful thing.