31 May 2010

Memorial Day in the Park

Remembering Lt. Pellegrino

2nd Lt Joesph D. Pellegrino - Ft Bragg, NC 1966

2nd from left - 1st Tour of Vietnam

Father Judge High School, Philadelphia

I called him Lt. Alphabet because at the age of eight I couldn't pronounce his last name. My father, Joe and I raced slot cars at Hay Hobby Store in Fayetteville. Joe was X.O. of my father's A Team in Vietnam. My memories of him are of his soft face and warm friendliness. Couldn't say that about about many of the other team members.

Lt. Pellegrino drowned in the Son Toy River on 18 May 1966 during Operation Crazy Horse. He was 22. Without knowing, I enlisted on the 10 year anniversary of Joe's death. Without knowing, I flew directly over Joe's childhood home in Northeast Philadelphia when I took flying lessons in the 80s.

The photograph of Joe as a lieutenant comes from my father's group photo of his team. I grew up with this image and it has always helped me remember Joe. I've never seen the other photographs here but I instantly recognised the man. Without knowing.

I had a dream over and over when I was a teenager. I appeared in my father's Vietnam camp just as the enemy was preparing an assault. Badly outnumbered, my father was directing men and shouting orders when he saw me. I was a boy of eight with an M16 in baggy fatigues. He looked down at me and said, "What the Hell are you doing here?" I shrugged my shoulders. "Well, take a position over there." He pointed to what was a circle of men around him. As I got down into a prone position in the cirle Lt Pellegrino lay next to me smiling.

It's impossible to think about all the lives lost in war but Lt. Pellegrino and Lt. Walker - a man I barely knew - a woman I never knew - will always be a part of me. Whether I know it or not.

29 May 2010

General Warner & Lt Walker

General Volney F Warner (seated) being briefed by G-2 during Solid Shield - 1978

General Warner's granddaughter, Lt Laura M. Walker

I worked for General Warner when he commanded XVIII Airborne Corps at Ft Bragg, NC. I look at the picture of Warner being briefed by G-2 and memories come tumbling back of what it was like in that tent. I remember General Warner being very straight forward, direct and no nonsense in what he demanded of his officers and men.

At the Dragon Club (all ranks enlisted club), General Warner kicked a juke box playing, "Take this job and shove it" which ejected the record. The man had a point. All correspondence originating from Warner was signed by him in green ink. I still have two letters of commendation signed by Warner and that iconic green has yet to fade.

A few months ago I was reading about Warner and his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His criticism was straight forward, direct and intelligent. I was surprised to learn his granddaughter, Lt Laura Walker was killed in action when an IED exploded under her Humvee on 18 August 2005. She was 24. She was a remarkable woman who paid the ultimate price for following family tradition.

27 May 2010

Avery Lucas - A Southerner in NYC...

Newport News, VA to be exact. Wore a red velvet leisure suit to the Jackson 5 concert at the Hampton Coliseum in 1972. Caddy at the Williamsburg, VA Country Club. FIT graduate and a lover of the 30's drape. The only man I know who can speak texture and have any of it make sense. Stints running custom at Saint Laurie, Dunhill and a few he'd just as soon forget.

A new gig with the custom shop at J Lucas Clothiers. Showed me how he had a worn out pair of driving moccs refurbished with a leather sole. They look perfect. Duck canvas pant contrasts with an elegant spread collar shirt and a tie...I've never seen a tie drape like that. His writer is Boyer. Polo shirt is Fred Perry. Hermes...but only the leather goods.

"Taste is emotional. It has spirit and it needs years to marinate." Together we looked out the large window onto Madison Avenue and watched people walk by. Avery smiles, "The other day I was walking down the street and my feet didn't hit the ground because I'm wearing what I want to wear and just as I'm feeling so good a woman walked up to me and said, "You're too elegant to be smoking a cigarette. Put that out." And I did." he laughs. "Or, at least I wanted to."

Boiled Peanuts In NYC

Take the pitcher, Joo-yawn...

The mysterious Ta'er sent me this article 'bout how boiled peanuts and southerners are huge trendy in NYC nowadays.

There's a couple boiled peanuts on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in nineteen and eighty five. We were college sweethearts and she visited me in NYC a year after we graduated. We were holding on to the relationship but it was slippin' away fast what with the miles between her Georgia and my new love, Manhattan.

I don't think you can understand southerners without being one. Except for South Dakota, my birthplace and home for less than a year, I lived in the south or southwest until I was 26. In 5th grade I went to school with kids whose parents worked in textile mills and lived in houses with dirt floors and wax paper for windows. I grew up with Uncle Boots and Aunt Ona. Uncle P.E. and Aunt Beulah. They were my blood. But so was my father and his people from Duluth, MN. I didn't really belong to either.

I took what I loved from each and walked from what I didn't like. I adored grits heavily buttered and salted but left the kale cooked with ham hocks. I caught bass out of a man made pond on my great grandparent's N.C. farm one summer. They drank a lot of sweet iced tea. The next summer I lunched at Toots Shor in NYC and hung out in Greenwich, CT with the Duluth grandparents and an aunt and uncle who had worked for Joan Crawford. They liked to have high balls at 5PM. I still don't know what a high ball is.

I'm happy boiled peanuts are easy to find in NYC. But, like southerners, they've always been here - you just had to know where to look.

26 May 2010

Press Only: Tweaking @ The NY Times

With /S400

Without /S400

The NY Times Magazine blog ran a piece by Tyler Thoreson on bloggers and their camera of choice yesterday. The Trad was featured and I reckon I increased the average age over there considerably.

Anyhow, I mentioned tweaking the HTML code by deleting, "/S400" results in Cibachrome-like images. It's confusing but look for it close to the end of code. When you see it - delete it. A reader turned me onto this by suggesting I change it from '/S400' to '/S1200' A little better but delete the whole thing and you're cooking with gas. Bump the Height and the Width up by 100 in the code and you get this larger image as well. I'm not crazy about the larger size but you might be.

Pass The Charmin

Why this has never seemed all that crazy to me probably has a lot to do with my father and going to four high schools. What was normal one place was very much like this in another. Consequently, many New Yorkers, some of the most provincial people I've ever met, refuse to consider grits as food. Many Southerners I know, some of the most provincial people I've ever met, refuse to consider gefilte fish as food. I'm with the South this time.

25 May 2010

The South In New York

Castillo de San Marcos, FL 2008

Westminster Dog Show - 2007

Palatka, FL- 2008

The Met - 2008

Central Florida - 2008

West Village - 2008

World Golf Village, FL 2008

Ponte Vedra, FL - 2008

Little Italy, NYC - 2008

Murray Brothers, FL - 2007

Neary's, NYC- 2007

Jacksonville, FL- 2008

Little Italy 2007

Ponte Vedra, FL 2008

2nd Ave and 56th - 2008
Broadway Parade - 2008

Ponte Vedra, FL - 2007

Times Square- 2008

Barber Shop, FL - 2007

Barber Shop, NY - 2009

Bodega, NYC - 2008
Convenience Store, FL - 2008

For a little over a year I was back and forth between NYC and Florida. I was always amazed at the contrast between the two and how I felt about each. Arriving in NYC was like sticking my finger in a light socket. Going back to Florida was shifting from 5th to 2nd gear. Thomas Wolfe found it hard to go back. I do too.

23 May 2010

Out Of The Box

Stolen from those wacky guys with excellent taste at Put This On. They want to remind us where our clothes come from. I want to remember where out of the box comes from.

21 May 2010

Off My Back: Gin & Bitter Lemon Safari

Mr & Mrs Cagney - 1955 by Eve Arnold

The very generous Giuseppe, from An Affordable Wardrobe , gave me this tie during a recent visit to NYC. It seems made for an early '90s Willis & Geiger shirt that's been in the back of my closet some 14 years. And while I'm just about khaki'ed out, I thought it deserved mention for the end of twill and drill week.

Throw on the safari gear 'cause you're gonna have to do some exploring for this mixer. The Canada Dry is out there but it doesn't come close to Schweppes. One bottle like this one, just enough for a drink, is almost $2 at Myers of Kenswick but it's worth it. Not unlike a G&T, a G&BL is smoother and not as crisp but perfect for Summer nights up on the roof.

Chino Tasting- Best Overall

Trad Dad 1st Row Far Left

Dad's Khakis

Bills Khakis
The Bullard

We all bring baggage to everything we do and I certainly have a Mayflower truck following me. The desire to find anything today made with the quality of yesterday is what I strive for with The Trad. My taste and passions may not be yours and that doesn't make me right and you wrong. Until it comes to khakis.

I was surprised when my taste level in a simple cotton pant lined up with the judge's assesment of the Bullard by Bills Khakis. Easily taking the high score of 97.5, there has been a complaint from a contestant that they too could build a decent khaki for $165. Maybe.

When I pitched the chino tasting to a contestant I mentioned throwing some ringers in the mix. A 1970's US Army khaki and a 1950's French Army khaki. The maker emailed me asking for clarification. Did I want cotton or wool? Their khaki expert Googled my ringers and the description was for wool not cotton. I assured the maker I was looking for cotton.

I'm not a khaki expert. But Bill Thomas is. He didn't so much create the Bullard as much as he took an American traditon and improved it. Thomas didn't choke it to death with bogus details but by keeping it simple and pure he created a khaki better than any I've ever seen or worn. Better than what was issued to me at Ft Jackson, SC in 1976.

A Master Sergeant told me, "It's not what you do in life that makes you a man. It's what you don't let people take away from you." At the risk of sounding like a J. Peterman ad - I think that defines the Bullard.