29 July 2011

Lots Of Friday Belts

Somewhere on the Upper West Side -- Near Broadway -- Maybe it's on Broadway -- I'm not telling you exactly -- In the 70s -- There are a number of outdoor book stalls. The guys who own them don't strike me as serious bibliophiles. Sometimes you can find a real bargain. It's a couple blocks south of Fairway. I'm not telling you exactly where.

The Golf Foxtrot does not allow me to stop at book stalls. And she ain't crazy when I bring books back from book stalls. Sometimes they smell like an ashtray. She's also afraid of bed bugs. Me? Not so much.

Walking north on Broadway a week or so ago -- 50 feet north of 73rd Street -- On the west side of the street -- Not telling you exactly where -- The sun reflects off a sheet of mylar and nearly blinds me. Stumbling up to a stall between Loehmann's and American Apparel -- That's your last clue -- I find this book. The yellowed '40s style cover is one I've seen before.

The introduction by Lucius Beebe is one I've read before. And I know, through my many bookstore travels, that this book is worth, depending on condition, about $100 smackeroos. Even more in New York. That should be a bumper sticker-- "Even More In New York" Anyway, I open the book and see it's a first printing. $3.00 is written in pencil at the top of the page.

The book is bright and clean with no smell and no bed bugs. I look at the stall owner and Presbyterian him down to $2 because, that's what you're supposed to do in New York. Another bumper sticker?

I get the book home and am amazed at the number of cocktail recipes, long lost to history, that I can steal and call my own. If I could find a source for cheap custom made belts then I'd have a book contract -- And a line. Look at the Portuguese Virgin. White Port!? Who in the hell even buys White Port anymore? Well, me but that's another story.

Most are straightforward sans blenders and infused syrups

"How about a Sink or Swim, Phil?" Now that's a cocktail

One of you will steal this


Beats a Slow Comfortable Screw

"Do you want me to call you in the morning or should I just nudge you?"

Two of you will steal this

Brandy, gin and vermouth - That's a wedding

The End

Pretty amazing story, huh? I just wish it were true. What is true is that I don't have the time or the bridge table to set up a stall on Broadway. And I have a lotta catalogs to sell. Brooks Brothers catalogs going back to 1980. The first batch went up Sunday night. I'll follow each week with different seasons: Fall, Christmas, Winter, Spring and Summer.

Brooksgate, Women, Footwear...You get the idea. These things are taking up too much room in an 805 sq foot apartment. Add that to the fact that Heavy Tweed Jacket is off the air again and you can blog your own Brooks Brothers posts. Catalogs can be found here and I suggest having a few of these cocktails while you're bidding. Cheers.

28 July 2011

Cowboy Steak "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way"

From The Wild Bunch

From Cooks Magazine 2005

About the right temp

Throw the corn on first

Let the marinated whatever get to room temp

After corn grills for 40 minutes

Add whatever

A nice option to a tannin red is Chateau Musar Hochar from Lebanon

When I lived out west as a kid I remember flank steak was sometimes called 'cowboy steak.' I liked cowboy stuff a lot but I fell into that late '60s early '70s cowboy antihero movie phase of which Sam Peckinpah's Wild Bunch pretty much wrote the book.

My dad took me to see it when I was 12. It's probably my favorite movie and I'm not sure why. There's something about going down a road and you know it's wrong. In every way. But you go down it anyway. I guess it's about the only 'noir' western I've ever seen.

I was lucky enough to live in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma. Places where you could find a cowboy steak. There's a place here in NYC that offers cowboy steak but I don't have the cojones to try it. Make my own instead. Pretty simple. Pretty cheap.

The cheaper the cut the better. Pick anything up there in that old Cook's Kitchen illustration and you can't go wrong. Why? Because your gonna marinade this for at least eight hours. I reckon you can get by with four but not any less. I use a half a cup of Tamari sauce, about 3 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil and a half tablespoon of wasabi power.

This is key. I used to chop up a clove or two of garlic and mix it with the liquid. I'd lose all the garlic when I turned the steak over on the grill. Instead, stick pieces of the garlic into the scored sections. The garlic usually burns and gives you that fantastic burnt taste. Throw some Summer corn on. Peel back the stalk and take the silk out. Fold the stalk back up and soak it in water for four hours.

The corn's gonna take most of the time on the grill. Especially with weak Webers. After the corn's been on for 40 minutes I toss the cowboy steak on. It's impossible to give a time since even my grill seems different each time I cook. Instead, I push down on the steak. Just about right reminds me of how my ass felt when I was 25.

Take the steak off and let it sit for four minutes. A cold beer or a Rose would be nice but I found this red from Lebanon that I've been in search of for a long time. The 2002 Chateau Musar Hochar is soft as Jello pudding. More Rhone than Cab and a big hit at $25.

Someone asked me who I would have dinner with - dead or alive. I'd love to sit down with Sam Peckinpah, William Holden, Warren Oates and Ben Johnson somewhere down in Mexico. Watch the sun set and talk about washers - women - what you do when you side with a man and what's it like to walk down that road.

"It ain't like it used to be - - but it'll do."

27 July 2011

"If It's Not Harris Tweed It's CRAP!"

We all hope it's not disappearing

Post Macallan tasting

Lots of music and

hip folks.

Winner of the Shel Silverstein look alike contest

Not the film we saw on Harris Tweed but a nice one is here

More music

I'll say this for the Scots -- They throw one helluva party. Two open bars, sliders, a Macallan tasting and ... I'm not sure why we were there? That's right. Tweed. And not just any tweed...Harris Tweed. 'If it's not HARRIS tweed it's CRAP!' pretty much sums up the night.

Over the years I've learned three things about drinking with the Scots. 1- Never try to out drink them. 2- Never bet them money they can't do something in a bar. 3- Never try to understand what they're saying. Best just to smile and nod and let them buy the next round. In short, they're my kinda people.

Harris Tweed Hebrides did insist we sit through a short film on the history and traditions of tweed. And while tweed hasn't exactly been on my mind these last few days of 100 plus degree weather - - I can't help but wonder how a country has managed to maintain a home weaving culture in 2011. It hasn't been easy.

The story goes that in 1840, when famine hit the sparsely populated Outer Hebrides of western Scotland, Lady Dunmore bundled up the locals hand made cloth and took it to the mainland to sell. Today, Harris Tweed must be made of pure Scottish wool, dyed, spun, handwoven and finished in the Outer Hebrides or it cannot be stamped with the mark of the orb, the fabric trademark since 1909.

Demand for Harris Tweed has dropped from the good ol' days of the mid '60s. But efforts to climb back are being made. Not only through hip brands, whose representatives were in full force last night, but also through bold colors like bright pink and lavender as well as a softer hand. Not exactly daddy's plank of black and white tweed from 1965 or my plank of J. Press Harris Tweed from 1995.

Times change. Men seem happy to wear strands of dental floss on their wrist, studs in their nose and nativity scenes tattooed on their leg. But every man needs at least one Harris Tweed jacket. Here are a few to give you an idea of how they can be worn and what men used to look like. Professors (click on image to enlarge) courtesy of 'M' The Civilized Man.

My sartorial mentor, A.O.J. Cockshut, Hertford College, Oxford

26 July 2011

J. D. LaRue - My Kinda Hero

Real Characters

"...a fake Rolex, cheap Italian shoes and a Member's Only jacket"

Kiel Martin - July 26, 1944 - December 28, 1990

The Hand Joke

It takes courage for an actor to portray a fuck up week in and week out. Kiel Martin's J. D. LaRue was that fuck up writ large. Martin would have been 67 today had he not died of lung cancer in 1990. Chain smoking, heavy drinking and twice divorced, it was said he didn't so much act as he played himself.

Stephen Bocho's brilliant Hill Street Blues took the cop show and put it on its Sam Browne belt. Basket weaved into the boiler plate police procedural were long looks into character's personal lives. Many times these diversions were bizarre but almost always honest. The good guys could be bad and the bad guys could be good.

Shortly after graduating from the police academy, I was assigned to the midnight to eight shift with a sergeant who would park our patrol car outside his girlfriend's double wide trailer, instruct me to listen to the radio and if we were called, honk the horn.

Hill Street Blues captured truth and humor in police work rather than the fictional hand jobs given in films like Dirty Harry or Bullitt. It looked into the darkness of people's lives which is where the gold is. And nobody on the show had more gold than J.D. LaRue. Although it was surely plated.

A swaggering detective with a fake Rolex, cheap Italian shoes and a Member's Only jacket, LaRue could have easily been that sergeant I worked for. A huge ego hid a mountain of insecurity, infidelity and drink. Easily hated the first season, his character, like the others, became more complex, sympathetic and real.

So here's to John LaRue and to Kiel Martin. Cooler than fifty Steve McQueens and a hundred James Deans put together. Happy Birthday.

25 July 2011

Extinct Etamine Etymolgy

The Holy Grail

Etamine pullover

Etamine in yellow, white, blue, pink and melon

Etamine defined

I was talking to Tom Davis (MTM Shirts) at Brooks Brothers last week. We covered a lot of ground but everything stopped when he brought up etamine. An ultra light voile-like fabric used by Brooks Brothers for shirting years ago. I did some digging around and didn't find much. I'm still digging.

A weekend wander through textile and fashion books reveal the letter 'E' has the fewest entries and etamine ain't one of 'em. The internet will tell you it's a light porous cotton in an open mesh, susceptible to snagging, with a slight gloss finish. Dig a little deeper into the etymology and, by 1936, etamine is pretty much extinct.

Hardly a surprise Brooks Brothers catalogs from the late '70s and early '80s show the shirt Tom remembered. Short sleeve pullover in basic blue, yellow and white with pink and melon added in 1981. Great colors, popular pullover style and a fabric that appears to breathe better than linen. Cheaper too according to a web site that sells etamine for three bucks a meter (beware minimum order).

Who knows if etamine today is the same as it was in 1981? That's a question not a statement. If you know, please let me know, since the hunt is on. Summers don't look like they're gonna get any cooler.

22 July 2011

More Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!

The New Yorker - July 25th, 2011

"What do you trad gentlemen wear when it's this f-ing hot? I assume you ain't sitting on lawn chairs in flip-flops, basketball shorts and t-shirts with the sleeves cut off like us clowns in the midwest.

That said, after the first drink or two, everyone's drinking warm beer when it's this hot." Comment from JW @2:53 PM today.

Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!

Ranger Log - Castillo de San Marcos, St Augustine, FL - 4 August 1984

Night 1964 by John Koch

My Fridge - 22 July 2011

It seems extreme heat has been a companion most of my life. Born in a record breaking August, the early wonder years were spent in the Southwest and Southeast. Basic, Infantry and Jump School were poorly timed and placed over a single cruel Summer at Ft Jackson and Ft Benning.

I saw heat index temps north of 107 as a Summer seasonal park ranger in Florida. Thermal inversions were commonplace with days of 100% humidity and no breeze. Adding to the misery was a paper mill north of town that cranked out a smell so ripe you could walk on it.

Still, truth be told, I'd rather deal with Summer than Winter. It's hard to lose an ear or finger because of the heat. Yesterday, I saw a young couple in their late teens French kissing on the sidewalk at the corner of 56th St and 8th Avenue. I was thinking it's too damned hot until I saw they were wearing jeans and black tee shirts -- Then they were just too damned stupid.

I'm old enough to remember sleeping without A/C and I can feel that John Koch painting like a trickle of sweat sliding down the crack of my ass. Rumors of a black out in NYC this weekend give me serious pause as I wonder if I have enough ice and talc. I'm pretty sure I have enough beer. I hope it ain't warm beer.

21 July 2011

Rome in Manhattan

Dinner at Bocca on a humid Rome-like night. This was parked outside...

If only this were going on inside.

20 July 2011

Double Breasted Rules

He's not nine but you get the idea... (from The Trad Library)

DB with unbuttoned button down

The highly evolved Mr Boyer

"It's over yonder -- by that Fry-toe Lay truck. " I looked 'over yonder' to see a Frito Lay truck in a shopping center parking lot somewhere in North Carolina. 'Frytoe Lay.' 'Over yonder.' Language I'm still unsure of but understand.

Beth Hyer gave me a small bag of Frito Lay chips in 4th grade at St Thomas More in Chapel Hill. She was stunning in her plaid jumper and crisply starched white shirt with Peter Pan collar. I wore a blue blazer, dark grey trousers, a white shirt and a navy clip on tie. There was one kid in my class who wore a double breasted blazer. I didn't like him. Not even a little.

It's hard to write about a double breasted blazer. Not because it's too damned hot to even think about it but, like a middle aged purchase of a Porsche Boxster, it comes with a whole lotta baggage. The rules are simple: Navy only. Peak lapel. Side vent. Six button. Never with a button down collar shirt. Good rules. Nothing is more vacuous than a notch lapel DB blazer -- unless it has a center vent and comes in maroon. One shudders at the thought.

A small detail overlooked by ready made retailers is the required button hole on each peak lapel. For some unknown reason, I'm guessing cost, ready made double breasted usually has only one button hole. This is as criminal as a notch lapel to the cognoscenti.

A simple fix is to have the retailer add a button hole to the other lapel. It's not easy and they'll try to talk to you out of it, but stand your ground or go someplace else. Chicago's Michigan Avenue Brooks Brothers did it for me and they did a good job. The head tailor also told me what a pain in the ass it was but he assured me he understood my desire for balance.

A friend lives in Los Angeles and he's mastered the not so balanced West Coast casual look. Sockless & Gucci-ed, open collared & waistcoated, he runs every day and looks 10 years younger than his age. He also has custom shirts made with double cuffs, button down collar and a monogram on the pocket. And while he likes to wear this shirt with a DB blazer, I blame this lapse in judgement on L.A. and not him.

There is an old rule about never wearing a button down collar with double breasted anything. Once aware of the rule, it's easy to see the clash between soaring peak lapels and a constricted collar anchored with buttons. It's just wrong. Spread collar is preferred even if it's open which the English like to do. But what about a unbuttoned-button down collar?

The highly evolved know they're breaking a rule so they leave the collar unbuttoned. This is language to those in the know that you know, you know, what's going on. The DB is complicated language.

Yanks prefer the blazer buttoned up to the Brits who prefer to wear it unbuttoned. Wearing it unbuttoned in the States or buttoned up in London leads to more language problems. It's another language I understand but am never sure of. This much I do know -- Never give a double breasted blazer to a nine year old.