28 February 2011

A Man's Movie: Any Human Heart

I have a theory why the Academy Awards attract so many viewers from around the world. It's damned near impossible to win a Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize but it doesn't take a leap of faith watching the Oscars to think to myself, "You know, had my luck been just a little better...that could be me up there."

It's a fantasy anyone can believe will or could happen. We don't even to have to worry about our acceptance speech. Save for the British, the winners can rarely communicate an unscripted thought much less a brief and humble thanks.

I'm not sure if the Oscar's are getting worse or I'm getting older but, after 30 minutes, I could no longer watch the luckiest people in the world push luck even further. Maybe it's because 4,700 teachers in NYC lose their jobs today. Maybe it's because this country is flat broke. As my stomach turned so did the channel.

I caught the last episode of William Boyd's three part series on PBS, Any Human Heart. I missed the first two episodes but had read the book years ago. I remember two things about the book. One, I didn't want it to end. Two, I couldn't believe Logan Mountstuart wasn't real in what was a book of fiction.

I became a huge fan of Boyd's fiction (another here) but I am convinced Logan is out there somewhere. Probably because he's all of us. With his good luck and bad luck, we follow him from the beginning of his life to the end.

Any Human Heart was unlike any book I've ever read. It makes sense the film is unlike any I've ever seen. Understated and direct, it uses only what any of us have to tell our story. Memory. And as we grow older we look back at our mistakes and our luck and hope to be spared the cans of Bowser.

But if Bowsers is to be -- it's to be. There's a DVD here but all three episodes are available on line until 22 March here. And don't forget the book. It's not about fantasy. It's about a life and how one man becomes what I want to be.

27 February 2011

26 February 2011

25 February 2011

Friday Belts

It's been a while hasn't it? Well, when it rains it pours.

I stopped by to pass on good news to a designer when he started pulling books off his shelves and out of filing cabinets. I've seen a lot of historical ephemera on men's apparel but that book up there blew my mind, cleaned my clock and stole my girlfriend. Used as a trade catalog in 1926, nothing was better said by an employee, "If a guy couldn't sell with this book he was brain dead." Or something to that effect.

This is where I'm supposed to tell you the name of the book. Some of you are probably expecting a link to the book's listing on Alibris. And I would imagine there are a few of you who expect me to buy the book for you while I help you blow your nose. Let me get my handkerchief...

Welch-Margetson & Co. Ltd. Thumb indexed and hard covered with lots of color plates. Back in 2004 a lucky buyer picked up four hard cover and three paperback catalogs from Christies for $1,051. Keep a look out but until then check out more images from W-M on the blog, "The Age of Uncertainty." He won't help you blow your nose but he'll sell you a book.

Left to Right: De Ville D+, Montmartre B+, St Remy B-, Blansac B, Chatelle C-

I was reading about popular drinks in the 1920's and 30's and was surprised to learn scotch and bourbon were considered below the salt and not at all what the erudite and sophisticated New Yorker drank. That confirmed Toots Shor's tipple of choice, brandy and soda. I used 10 year Decaumont ($13) for the dangerous Side Car here but can't find it. Blansac (4th from left) makes for a good Side Car and runs about $20 a litre. It's a little gritty with soda but has the backbone you need for a Brandy Old Fashioned a la the Wisconsin Dinner Club in Door County on a Friday night. It pairs well with the all-you-can-eat perch fry for $9.50 but be sure to save some room for the cheery cobbler, doncha know.

The De Ville (1st from left) is very light and I found it lacking. But I like the label so it's on my bar but filled with the St. Remy (3rd from left) which is a little steep ($19) but is complex enough to stand on it's own in a snifter. No surprise it's made by Remy Martin. Chatelle (5th from left -$18) was disappointing given the sale job from the wine store. Then again, I may not have the discriminating palette of a brandy buff. The Montmartre (2nd from left) stood out as cheap ($15), complex and very smooth with a hint of sweetness. It's perfect alone in a snifter but is clean and bright with soda. It's also perfect with sweet vermouth and orange bitters for a poor man's Brandy Manhattan. I'll pour Montmarte into the Hine VSOP bottle when it's empty.

Brandy and cognac are derived from grapes rather than grain or corn. And like Manzanilla Sherry, there's not a lot of interest and that's why they're so cheap. Sadly, the trade catalog from Welch & Margetson is not but I thought you should know about it. OK, you can blow now.

24 February 2011

Sitting On My Hine

Instead of complaining about the weather why don't you do something about it. And since I'm not a cross country skier... Well, this works for me. I've tried the other cognacs and Hine VSOP is up there. No more than $50 a bottle, it's a lighter and more gentle cognac perfectly suited to an after dinner fire in winter. I gave up cigars a couple years ago but if you imbibe I'd suggest a 1926 Anniversario Maduro by Padron. Better than many Cubans and a lot easier to find. What's harder to find is a wife that allows this sort of behaviour.

23 February 2011

Eastland Shoe by Bob Guccione

In loving memory of Bob Guccione

The Yarmouth



More Rangeley



Heart breaking...

Little over a month ago I was walking west to the Capsule show in a sleet like rain that was as cold as it was annoying. I thought. Within three or four blocks of the venue I began to see them. Slowly at first and then it was like a Paul Bunyan convention. They were everywhere. Suddenly Manhattan looked like Minocqua, Wisconsin. Either that or there was a pancake house nearby.

I carelessly left my camera in an outside coat pocket and that's why the first picture looks like I shot it through a Bob Guccione stocking. The condensation finally lifted though the pictures don't do any justice to these shoes. Made in Maine by a third generation family owned company, Eastland Shoe is authentic enough to be the real deal.

The Made in Maine Collection is hip enough for Paul Bunyan wannabes and classic enough for old guys and gals. This kind of heritage does not come cheap. You knew that, right? Shoes start at $275 and that hurts. Like a lotta old guys, I live to run prices through the inflation calculator. Back in 19 and 83, when I was in college, that Camp Mocc was $32.75 or $73 bucks today. Even my beloved Ray Ban Aviators sold in the same Summer 1983 L.L. Bean catalog for $29 bucks or $64 today.

What are you gonna do? I search out the best I can find, look for good value and buy what connects to me. Like pornography, it's hard to describe but I always know it when I see it --especially when it's shot through a stocking.

22 February 2011

The Boys

There's a sneak preview of Making the Boys this Thursday at the Florsheim Pop Up Shop (109 Mercer) from 6 to 8PM. A documentary about the The Boys in the Band, it's not only a look at the play and film but it's impact (or lack thereof) today. When asked if he knew of, Boys in the the Band, Project Runway's Christian Siriano guessed it involved the Jonas Brothers.

This gay cowboy dressed in all white swishes into a saloon and says to the bartender, "Darling, I'd like a tall glass of cold milk." Bartender says sure. Cowboy looks around and asks, "Say, where is everybody?" Bartender says, "They're out back hanging fags." Cowboy says, "No fucking shit. Gimme a whiskey."

My first fag joke from 9th grade. In the early '90s, my ex-wife worked in a business known for employing gay men. Some were out but many were still in the closet. On our way home from a party I mentioned it was sad they couldn't all be out of the closet. My ex turned to me in surprise, "Really?" she said. Her astonishment short lived when I added, "That way I wouldn't embarrass myself by telling a fag joke."

After the divorce, a good friend who was gay told me he wished his sexuality was a choice. I must have looked confused. "Do you think I'd choose to have my parents disown me? Fear every day I'll lose my job? Fear everyday I could be killed by a mob or from having sex? Do you think I'd choose this life?" And for the first time it all made sense when I said, "As much as I love pussy - you love dick and there's nothing we can do about it." "Exactly!" he said. And then I wondered what my life would be like if I was hated for loving women.

21 February 2011

A. Lincoln's Shoes

(Photo courtesy of Johnston & Murphy)

Boots really. Made by J&M for Lincoln and recreated here. Size 14. Largest size of any US President. Lots more fascinating presidential foot lore can be found here where you can see they all tied their shoes just like...

19 February 2011

Nik Nik & Yum Yum - Off Post: 1979

(For full effect please play video and read)

Sgt. Nick Penis and I drive his Oldsmobile and a case of three-two beer over to see a couple gals from 4th Psyops who are living in one of those little framed two story apartments off post that come furnished and rents for $350 a month. My date is too tall, too southern, too skinny and too loud...real loud. But that's okay. No one is getting married here. All she talks about is getting stoned in West Germany which is where she was before she re-enlisted for six years and I'm mentally adding, "Too stupid" to my list but that's okay -- like I said -- "No one's getting..."

It's 1979 and Funk is losing a foot hold to Rap but the good stuff is hanging in there. The Fatback Band's Yum, Yum (Gimme Some) kicks off with thumping bass joined by a brittle electric guitar and a chorus with a 'Kool and the Gang' scream. I had no idea then, nor do I today, what the hell they're saying. I catch something about ice cream and cake and a chorus that sounds like, "I need some algorithms" but I'm pretty sure that ain't right.

I got my Nik Nik shirt stuffed into my 30" squared white bell bottoms and Yum Yum is spinning on the synchronised Marantz turntable while "Too Skinny" and I grind away on a white flokati rug and Sgt Nick and his date suck face on a Door Store sofa. I'm starting to sweat so I drink a little faster until "Too Tall" flips a lit joint in her mouth backwards and leans down to give me a shotgun. I was never a fan of pot but getting a shot gun from a stoned girl ranks way up there in my memory chest.

My date starts screaming, "LAGNAF" and Sgt Nick's date breaks away from sucking his tounge, laughs and starts screaming, "LAGNAF!" Sgt Nick and I both look at each other when his date looks at us and laughs even harder until she starts coughing and takes a drag off her Viceroy to make it stop. "Lets All Get Naked And Fuck." says my date. She's not looking "Too Anything" at this point and I say, "What?" just to make sure I heard right. And she says, "LAGNAF means Lets. All. Get. Naked. And. Fuck." She takes a long hit off the joint and crosses her eyes at me.

Rap moves in and Funk moves out. Just like one of those apartments off post. Anything new at this point in 1979 was welcome. The whole Funk thing and Disco is getting tired but in the right place, the right time and the right occassion Funk had (has) its place. Not too hard to track Fatback down. There's Best of collections along with iTunes and you already know it's good. Real good.

Emilio Pucci: S/S 1968

(filched from flickr)

Friggin' Navy. I never saw Pucci on Hay Street.

17 February 2011

Fashion Week: Gant by Michael Bastian F/W 2011

Navy & Red Shaggy wool Shetland ($198), Prince of Wales Sport Coat ($895) and Moleskin DB overcoat with Shawl collar ($895)

Women's turtleneck ($125), Gingham gathered blouse ($178) and headband ($65)

Red quilted coat ($445)

Women's silk shirt dress ($469) with Boucle Blazer ($645)

Olive cargo pant ($275) & blue corduroy jean jacket ($395)

Women's shearling bomber jacket ($1,695)

Headband ($65) and Avenger's winter hat ($85)

Women's turtleneck ($125) and Men's Alpaca sweater ($598)

Price of sunglasses T.B.D.

Sport Jacket ($995), Button Down Popover ($185) and PPO stripe oxford ($175)

(Photos by Alice Olive for The Trad)

I've respected Michael Bastian's aesthetic since I first wrote about his LL Bean camp mocs and tortoise shell here back in November of 2008. That his stuff was so outrageously priced--he admitted he couldn't afford it -- Well, that was pretty damned honest. Even if I were rich, I'd be hard pressed to part with $850 for a pair of Italian (Brunello Cuccinelli) made fatigue pants. They were beautifully made but those fur-sink days are over. And so is the partnership with Bastian and Cuccinelli.

Gant and Michael Bastian teamed up and this is what you'll see come Fall. Make no mistake... it's expensive but it isn't fur-sink expensive. I'm reminded of what a very smart woman told me years ago. People buy two things. Solutions to problems and good feelings. Car tires are solutions. Clothes are about feelings and I've been known to spend a lot on clothes. A whole lot more than on tires.

When Alex Carleton came out with LL Bean Signature last year I was underwhelmed. It seemed all he did was root through old Bean catalogs, narrow the silhouette and crank it out of China. I wanted to ask him about it but requests for an interview were ignored. I was able to join a conference call where my question was ignored but I remember Carleton's strange reference (more than once) to, "LL Bean-like." I didn't understand. If you're not LL Bean then who is?

For me, Signature's lack of authenticity is a good bench mark for what doesn't ring true. Not because 99% of it is made in China but because it was so poorly designed and made. J. Press hopped on that same bandwagon with Urban Outfitters and appears to be duplicating that train wreck with another bizarre joint effort. This time with Dillard's, Cremieux . That's another story.

What do I know about fashion? Bupkis. But I know quality and while I'm not a fan of everything up there...I'd say there's humor, wit, color, unique fabric and that twist on traditional that LL Bean Signature was shooting for but missed. I know what it's like to miss. That's why I asked Alice Olive to shoot the presentation for me. She's one helluva good shot.

16 February 2011

The Maroon Blazer "Front!"

(Photo filched from Flickr)

A reader asked how I felt about the maroon blazer.

Early on in my sales career I had a manager who smoked, chewed gum and talked at 140 mph. All at the same time. Will was rail thin with coke bottle glasses and curly hair wound as tight as his disposition during a sales call. I didn't think he could sell a golf ball in a pro shop but success was built on his mantra, "If you don't ask for the order at least three times you'll never be successful." He didn't sell as much as he just wore you down.

One day he wore a full length fur coat and asked everyone, "This doesn't make me look gay does it?" And one day he wore a polyester maroon blazer. I assume it was polyester because I don't think a wool maroon blazer has ever been made. Will stood at my cubicle (which I was planning to line in a Pierre Deux toile) when another employee walked by and chimed, "Ding, ding...Front!"

Remember, you really don't need a name tag to look like you work behind a hotel desk. The maroon blazer can do it for you.

15 February 2011

Lunch With Michael Bastian

Lunch & Elmo, 210 11th Avenue

New Digs




Michael & Antonio

Eugenia & Michael

Antonio & Michael work on 2012


University Stripe

Trad Date Time Group 0802 - 2011 1355 Local

1x Large Pepperoni Pizza
2x Diet Cokes
1x Tea
1x Coke
1x Salad
1x Soup

Bastian's new digs are bathed in bright light that's MIA in midtown. Traditional and simple although I wouldn't want to dust. But, like a hard to wear hat for most of us, Bastian's 11th Avenue digs suit him down to the ground. It's spare without a lot of crap...which is a lot like Bastian.