30 September 2009

Paid in Sunsets - Living in a National Park

Johnson House - Ft Matanzas, Sumerhaven, FL

Huntington's Quarters, Valley Forge NHP
Lord Stirling's Quarters - Valley Forge NHP

In exchange for a low paying job, the NPS often, though not always, offered on site quaters for a small fee. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to live in each of the above as a park ranger. They have all been closed and are in serious disrepair as the Park Service focuses resources on the park's mission rather than living quarters.

The Johnson House in Summer Haven, FL faces the inland waterway at Ft Matanzas NM. Remote and gated, it was the most peaceful place I have ever lived. I entertained the retired news producer of The Today Show and his English wife on the flag stone terrace serving hor d'oeurves of Totino's frozen cheese pizza, a bucket of KFC chicken and Red, White and Blue beer. The producer's wife told me it was one of the most beautiful dinners she ever had.

Huntington's Quarters sits in the bottom of the valley across from the George Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge. Long closed, it was once host to frequent parties of the rangers who lived there. At one party, a NPS historian from Philadelphia offered up for sale a bayonet from the American Revolution. A ranger from Iowa inspected the bayonet for a couple of minutes and upon handing it back pointed to the barely legible stamp of the letters "a" and "n" just above the socket. A closer inspection with a loop revealed the word, "Japan." We never heard from the historian again.

Lord Stirling's Quarters sits on Yellow Springs Road just past the covered bridge on the far west side of Valley Forge. When I lived here, I always thought it would be the kind of house I would own one day. A Pennsylvania stone farm house from the 18th Century with fire places in every room. Sadly, the interior is gutted due to a termite infestation. It breaks my heart. Scenes from the television mini series, George Washington with Barry Bostwick, were filmed in my upstairs bedroom. Proof left by deep scratches to the wide plank floor from a careless camera crew.

Money and the making of it - will never come close to the memories I have of these unique homes. It's pleasing to know I can't spend memories.

28 September 2009

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos

The Ken Burn's documentary on the National Park Service runs this week. Last night's two hour opening was a treat. Before I left the NPS for civilian chores - - a supervisor warned me not to quit before I gave a real park out west a try. I had only worked in heavily visited urban sites. It was never a regret until last night.

26 September 2009

American Beauty

American Beauty by Henrich Kemerling

I was walking down 5th Avenue, something in NYC they have yet to charge you for, and was looking at retailer's windows and I kept thinking, "Who would ever buy that?" And then I remembered when I was 12 or so and Bridgette Bardot was hot, the Monkees were cool and my Campbell's Tomato soup shorts were keen. Pretty much because somebody said so. I still have no idea who - - but you were considered a bone head if you didn't agree.

We all do it in our youth. The trick is to grow out of it by 40. Watching the Emmys, I was amazed how all actresses blended into a sameness. I had a client once who extruded aluminum. I'm wondering...is there a Hollywood extrusion press? The faces and bodies remind me of a Marriott hotel room -- Void of any character less they offend.

Most of us simply do not trust our instincts. And we're terrified to say what we like unless it's backed up by a GQ article, a photo spread in Playboy or, the absolute worse, something on the Today Show. As you get older you'll trust your own instincts - - if only because you've been down that road so many times before.

This spells trouble for people who wanna sell us something. They need you to agree with them about a word I grew up with...cool. Is it cool? Is she cool? That's cool. I wanna be cool. Are you cool? Steve McQueen was cool. Wasn't he? I read a biography. Not so cool. And I don't believe McQueen wanted to be cool. All he wanted was a father...and that didn't work out.

A cultural self reliance is key to a well lived life. I see a lotta people in the wine store with a tear out card from the Wine Spectator asking, "It got a 92. It's gotta to be good. Right?" The WS is a good place to start - - it's not a good place to finish. All of this could be a bohemian outlook. The path less traveled. But I don't like paths or woods. I decided when I got out of the Army I was never gonna go camping again. I like the avenues. With lots of traffic. I walk down them and,

"so many things fill my head and then I let it go and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday."

25 September 2009

Friday Belt: Bourbon & UK

Maker's Mark and University of Kentucky Needlepoint Belt

I fell in love with this belt. A hand made needlepoint done in 1974. I'm not a Wildcats fan but I do like the unique. I don't know the original owner or the artist but... I know this for what it is...late 20th Century folk art. At least to me. I'm probably ahead of the curve. How much is any one's guess. But I will guarantee you this. At some point in the future - - belts like this are gonna be in auction houses and snobby antique dealer shops up and down Madison. For now, we all get to play.

$25 all in. I figure the design is not a pattern but was created by the artist. Add to that the time it took and the beautiful harness and I have something that not only keeps my trousers up...I have a little piece of art. And if someone asks, "Hey, did you go to UK?" I'll say proudly, "No, I'm a collector."

And if someone asks, "Are you a bourbon drinker?" I'll say proudly, "Not really. But I write about booze and belts and I'm running outta both." Back in the mid 90's, I scored seats in the private clubhouse of the Keeneland horse track in Lexington, KY. I don't know anything about horses or gambling but I did notice some jockey the day before was always in the top three. So, I bet on this guy, Pat Day. I did alright. The clubhouse has a dress code and ties and jackets were required for men. Southern Trad was everywhere. And so were men ordering, "Maykah's Mawk and Coke all while flicking ashes off Marlboro Lights. I hadn't seen that much smoking since the Army.

Maker's Mark is a light and amazingly smooth bourbon. Mix it in a Coke and you can barely tell it's there. I tried it with Gosling's Ginger Beer (because I still can't find Barritt's in NYC) and it was too hot. Anyway, I'll throw my UK belt on this weekend and have a Coke and Maker's Mark. Hell, I might even watch some football.

24 September 2009

Brooksgate 1985

Brooksgate Fall Catalog 1985

You can still get all of this. Even that hunting dog sweater. Just go to Polo.

23 September 2009

1981 Fall Fleece

Brooks Brother's Fall 1981 Catalog

22 September 2009

Autumn 1950

Flair Magazine July 1950

20 September 2009

Samba Brunch

Caetano Veloso's Little Lion

I apologise for the synch on this but it's Sunday. A time for the NY Times, French Press coffee, bacon and blueberry pancakes. This music mixes perfectly with the cool breeze from open windows on this beautiful New York City morning.

18 September 2009

Friday Brace: Puffin Cachaca

The Black Leopard & Puffin Nuffin Braces

A Great New Sound...

Back in the early 90's I discovered Brazil Row on West 46th. I settled on Via Brazil just off 6th Avenue. First off, and I'm sorry but it's true, it ain't what it used to be. The remodel took a lot of the charm outta the place as well as the close tables where you could get to know the folks around you. Crank up the Samba, throw down a couple Caipirinha's and you can get to know the folks around you pretty easily. What fuels the party is Cachaca. I don't know how to get an uncial under the third 'c' which changes to a 'z' so it's pronounced Cachaza but now you know. This stuff is Brazilian jet fuel. The Caipirinha is nothing but jet fuel, some muddled limes and a spoon of superfine sugar or azucaaarrrrr.

I wanted that wonderful sugar cane taste that Caipirinha brings but didn't want the hammer. So, I went with this cocktail, The Black Leopard. I never heard of it but it was in the little recipe book that came with the jet fuel. There are a number of Cachacas to choose from. I chose the cool looking bottle. Anyway, the drink is a shot of jet fuel, half a shot of coconut water and it's topped off with root beer. I didn't think it sounded very good and I was right. This just doesn't work. My advice? Stick to the Caipirinha but go easy and eat. A lot. Then it's time to dance. I look like an asshole but I feel like Sergio Mendes.

Those braces are a nice contrast to the Black Leopard. There is something about Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 that always made me feel like an adult...even when I was 10. Bossa Nova was heard a lot in my house growing up but I don't remember seeing braces. These are a limited edition by Thurston in the UK. Only 500 in the world so I don't expect to see them anywhere but on me.

The only way I could improve on Thurston is to have a pair custom made. And that may not be a bad idea. Unlike a suit or shirt - - You never outgrow braces. Hard to lose a pair when you're wearing them...although a client tried to give a pair I was wearing to a stripper once. And I like the idea of using silks based on 18th Century great coat trim. What really has me sold on the idea is their 'hip' days are long gone. Just a bunch of guys stuck in the 80's still wear them. Always fun to show 'em off on the dance floor. Geez, I wonder if S.O.B.s is open?

17 September 2009

Jet Packs & Umbrellas

Umbrella from Brooks Brothers circa 2000

That umbrella wasn't made in 1818 but it could have been. Who would have guessed - after 4,000 years - we would still be walking around with cloth on sticks to keep from getting wet. You'd think there be an iPhone app or something that would emit an electronic field around the body shedding off rain and snow. Don't get me wrong...I'd still carry an umbrella anyway but I wonder why some things advance and other things do not.

If we have the technology to send a piece of paper (usually an invoice) to the other side of the world...in a second...without postage...then why don't we have jet packs?

You know those Quaker Oat's commercials with guys flying jet packs to work? There's a big leap of faith in those things. I'm not talking the 'flying' part... I'm talking the, 'to work' part. I know for damned sure I'd spend every moment of every day flying and it sure as hell wouldn't be to work. I'd fly over forests, lakes, canyons, my mother's house...the list goes on. And if I could hover? Man...what's to keep me from outdoor concerts, drive in movies and hanging between the blimp and the Arthur Ashe stadium.

I'm sure there's a jet pack out there for the masses but the government...those guys that keep our nose to the grind stone every day...they know if we get so much as a taste of a jet pack--we're history. Better to keep us in the dark and under umbrellas.

16 September 2009

Otter's Sweater

It is, without doubt, a Trad masterpiece. Hands down...the coolest sweater in the world. I'm trying to find anything close. Jay Kos had a beautiful Otter Sweater last season but it's way out of my fraternity. Any leads would be most appreciated. TO-GAH, TO-GAH!

15 September 2009

Damn! Missed Another Sale...

Click on image to enlarge

...by 297 years. The Spectator from 27 May 1712. Some great deals on Maderia. Some bad news for atheists.

13 September 2009


The Alden Restoration

I was thinking about these 23 year old Alden's... the number of job interviews and dates they've been on. They were witness to my divorce and have been to funerals of friends and family. I've been fired in them...more than once and no doubt they'll see me fired again. I just wish I had aged as well.

11 September 2009

Beltless Friday - Newk, Bastian & Orangina

A Rangefinder and a Newk Shirt

$695 Michael Bastian Cammies

A Beltless Alternative

That barracks shot was taken about the time John Newcombe had some beers with George Bush. Beltless short tennis shorts which saw a peek of boxer was popular in the day. That's a Yashica rangefinder. My first 35mm. A great camera until it was replaced with the Oly OM-1. That army wall locker looks a mess. Must'a been the weekend and based on what Michael Bastian is asking (getting?) for his cammie trousers - - There's probably over $10,000 in that locker. Been trying to find a Newcombe shirt for a couple of years. No luck.

I've also been trying to replicate the taste of Orangina. Starting with orange juice and seltzer with a little superfine sugar. Then the mandarin orange juice. Then a blend of mandarin and seville orange jelly. I don't know how they do it but I sure as hell can't. And that's too bad because Orangina is darned expensive. Bartons Gin is cheaper. I know there are some foodies out there who can do it. Anyone? These Orangina posters by Villemot are too rich for me. But unlike Orangina, you can get knock offs for about what two bottles of this stuff would set you back.

10 September 2009

The Press - Not That Press - The Other Press

"Alden Loafers from 1986"

"... and a striped yellow Oxford University rugby shirt."

I like 'The Press.' Always have. Ever since I was editor of my college newspaper. Ok, I was the photo editor but still. I wrote some stuff. Darned good stuff. Last week a reporter from The New York Observer interviewed me for this story they were doing on J. Press. Three things.

1. I never said 'Traddy' or 'Traddies.'

2. My Aldens from 1986 are Wingtips. Not loafers (see above).

3. I was wearing a yellow university stripe oxford by Rugby (see above).

I'm not sure where, 'striped yellow Oxford University rugby shirt' came from but I bet Mark McNairy could design one. Stuff like this happens when you interview someone. I understand. Hell, I'm flattered I was even asked. And I hope all the Traddies enjoyed it.

My Fat Ankles

Fat ankles?

Almost 4,000 hits in one day thanks to this guy. But there's no free lunch as evidenced here. I don't mind the snark. But the ankle comments hurt. Still, that was a lot of traffic. Thanks, Hamilton. I owe you a shirt. You could use a shirt. And a tie. And a suit.

08 September 2009

It's Business Time

Summer is over. It's business time.

04 September 2009

Friday Belts - Tin Cans & 10-Codes

My Sam Browne Belt

Dale's PaleAle

Speaking of getting it in the can...

That's a belt from a loooong time ago when I worked for a sheriff's department in a small southern county. Very southern. The green suede lined holster holds a Smith & Wesson Model 19 with target grips. I took this picture when it was all new...the leather so cardboard stiff it squeaked. Only the belt remains. The rest of it sold or given away to friends who stayed deputies.

There was a 10 - code that most civilians were unaware of. Don't know if it's still around. It went like this. Say you pulled someone over for a traffic violation and the driver gave you a hard time. Back then we didn't taser you. But, another cop driving by would always slow down to see if you needed help. Turning to give him the okay -- you would show what kind of 'asshole' you were dealing with by a show of fingers. One being the least offensive asshole with ten fingers representing the king of assholes. A story told many a time was when a local judge, dealing with an irate old lady, looked past her as she complained and saw a wall of cops waiting for their case. The judge looks at the little old lady and holds up ten fingers to the cops.

That's an IPA beer in a tin can. I know it's aluminum but I needed a head line. I've always been in awe of great head lines. When Donald dumped Ivanna, the NY Post ran with, "Donald bounces a Czech." Anyway, Dale's ain't cheap. $18 a 12 pack in NYC but then again a 12 pack of Ballantine is $13...in NYC. You can get it for a lot less outside the city. But Dale's is a perfect city beer. The cans keep it light and easy to carry. The taste? Huge and big with hops. It's like that .357 magnum up there coming out of a .22 Colt Woodsman. A perfect beer for cool autumn afternoons while you tell the '10 - Code for Assholes' story to your buddies. Always popular regardless of political affiliations.

02 September 2009

2009 US Open

The Trad is a Fan of Ray Bans

The Yuma at the Open

Great Seats...

But better than his

The Trad is a Fan of Summer Hats

The Foxtrot and I made it to the Open last night. What a difference a year makes. Last year's US Open was a private box with free booze and chow. This year the same company threw us a couple of nose bleed seats and said we were on our own for vittles. I'm not complaining. It's nice not having to talk to people in my business.

Another beautiful night with Fall like weather just like last year's Open. The tennis was fun. The crowd even more so. This is NYC after all.