31 January 2013

Rain Falls Mainly on the Plain

"Grab all the Koratron you can find" 1967

"For the rich guys we make Gold Alligator - We suggested green to match their money, but they seem to like matching their tie tack, their cigarette lighter, their gilt edged securities better." 1967

"Not traditional but excellent nonetheless, the classic officer's trench coat updates these days with a button-out flannel lining."  1964

"Scotchgard sheds rain even after repeated cleanings." 1961

"First really smartly styled waterproof coat - it's Alligator 725.  Popular already in cities, towns and colleges..." 1961

Keith Darrow from 1961

Alligator 1961

Rainfair 1960

Alligator 1960

Rainfair 1956

It's the understatement of our elders.  Men who did not name drop, change their last name to suit their profession or take Instagram pictures of their first class plane tickets.  They did not tattoo barb wire on their arms nor did they ask a woman in public where her tattoo was located.  If they tried self promotion -- they usually failed at it.  They shaved.  And when they looked in the mirror each morning -- they didn't stare.

29 January 2013

Rugby's Sale Away

I would.  I'm not, but I would if I were 30 years younger. Old guys my age look pretty silly in stuff like this -- but if I were 25? I like to remember when I was 25 -- Hell, I'd  be a fool not to.  Order here.

28 January 2013

"If You Don't Think You Can Cut It -- Don't Even Try..."

"We love it here, we love it here, we finally found a home.
A home - a home - a home away from home."
 Airborne Running Cadence

I recently spent three hours on the phone with an Army buddy I haven't seen since 1977. It was good to catch up and he told me about an airborne recruiting film from the '70s and asked if I'd ever seen it. It didn't ring a bell and, having just watched it, I still don't recall the video, but it does help bring back ground, tower and jump week like they were yesterday. 

16 weeks of basic and infantry prepared me physically for jump school but I'm not so sure about my mental condition. There was amazing freedom in jump school compared to infantry. Once Friday at 5PM rolled around - we were free to go where we wanted - just as long as we were in formation, and conscious, by 5AM Monday morning.

In order to hide shaved heads, a buddy and I bought hippie wigs in downtown Columbus and wore them to a disco at a Sheraton. Mine was blonde and shoulder length while my buddy donned a red 'Fro. I'm pretty sure we were both in leisure suits, of which, one was denim with white stitching. Maybe mine. Maybe not.

We sat at table between the dance floor and the bar and ordered beers. Feigning stoned absentmindedness, I pushed the long synthetic hair behind my right ear with the flick of a hand and with a twist of the neck, saw people at a table behind ours laughing. With unease, I turned to my buddy and saw people behind him laughing.

Someone pointed and it was obvious everyone in the bar was laughing at us. We left before our beers arrived and took a cab back to the barracks. I had every intention of chucking my wig out of the cab window, but it cost $30, and I thought I might be able to salvage it by having the length shortened.

In the barracks, we grabbed a couple beers from an old converted Coke machine and went up to our floor where I threw my blonde wig on my bunk in disgust. My buddy told those who had not gone out yet our tale of woe. Cromer, at least six-three and covered in black chest hair, headed toward us from the showers with a towel around his waist and cheap shower shoes snapping at his heels. He would wash out during tower weeek thanks to a severe case of shin splints, but get his wings in the following class.

Cromer grabbed the blonde wig, threw it on his head while dropping the towel and shoved his balls and penis between his legs revealing what looked like a woman's triangle of thick black pubic hair. Pigeon toed, to keep his privates concealed, Cromer ran across the barracks screaming, "Fuck me! Fuck me! Somebody give me some diiiiiiii..."

The barracks erupted in screams as Cromer was attacked and Polaroids taken. Needless to say, his simple   comic originality was immediately copied and my $30 wig disappeared for good into the the bowels of the 44th Airborne Company where men donned long synthetic hair and took turns running with their genitals tucked between their legs screaming, "Fuck Me!"  Never in the history of the Airborne was so much owed by so many to a wig. 

25 January 2013

The Cold & the Soul: Emilio Ballato

Cab drivers love this weather. Bitter cold but bright without snow or ice. A wind comes around a corner and slaps me in my face and wallet. Easily walked blocks a couple weeks ago turn into, "Are you fucking kidding me?" I hail a cab, jump in and tell the driver, "It's just a few blocks but I'll make it worth your while."

I learned to take the good with the bad in this weather after 20 years in Chicago. It didn't matter how warm you dressed, it was gonna hurt. Brain freeze headaches. Frost bitten ears. Toes and fingers, despite the cashmere, feeling like they were falling off one by one --

But the city is beautiful in this bright Arctic light. Buildings look taller - harder - steadier. Unlike Summer's undulating heat mixing with hot dog water from a cart and a smell coming up from a subway vent that's so bad -- you don't wanna know what it is. You'll walk the five blocks because you can. Heat is annoying but it's not out to hunt you down and kill like Winter.

Soft living in southern places didn't prepare me for Chicago. Just before moving, a buddy looked at my gloves, "You'll have to get rid of those." "Why," I asked, spreading my fine black leather fingers of  lined Brooks Brothers cashmere. "Because," he said, "Those are not Chicago gloves - They're pussy East Coast gloves." He was right.

I walked east on Houston and just before Mott there was a black wrought iron sign looking like something from Europe circa 1780. Severe and purposeful, it's magic worked. Peaking my curiosity, I look at the building it's attached to and see a restaurant window with fat gold script spelling out, "Emilio Ballato."

There's a picture from the '60s over the menu with a recognizable Warhol in line behind an unrecognizable taller man with his back to the camera. A man stops next to me and tells me it's a wonderful place and that I have to try it. He smiles and moves on, like he did his good deed for the day. I shout 'thanks' to his back and frame the photo of Warhol in my camera. I snap the pic and another man stops and tells me what a great place it is and adds that the man's back belongs to Jimi Hendrix.

A minute later, as I peek between the letters and see a long room filled with picture frames and a thick air of years, a woman walks by and without stopping shouts, "It's great." New Yorkers are certainly food and restaurant proud, but this isn't Atlanta or Denver where unsolicited advice to strangers on the street is considered normal and, y'all, friendly.' "Purdy bad weather, huh? Well, you know what they say about Denver -- If you don't like the weather - just wait a few minutes...a ha ha ha..."

I get home and there's a message on the answering machine from The Nephew who's in town from Chicago and looking to buy the Golf Foxtrot (GF) and myself dinner. I get him on the horn and tell him my Ballato story. He tells me he's game... but not to shoot him. A ha ha ha...

Despite having to hang up our own coats, there's a warmness to Ballato I saw from outside. Narrow, but not too close. It's honest looking. Nothing 'Olive Tree' about it. In fact, just saying 'Olive Tree' in this place should be completely horrifying to every civilized guy on earth. We're given some decent tasting tap water and a basket filled with a prosciutto stuffed bread. The Nephew orders a Montepulciano that's earthy and strong while I bogart the bread basket.

We start with grilled octopus. Long sexy lengths of tentacled brilliance tasting more like July than January. Green hunks of Broccoli di Rape, all garlicky with squeezed lemon, join the fork with the octopus. Granted, an Umbrian white would have been my choice but at this point I really don't care, keep my mouth shut and happily drink my red.

Unrushed, the three of us polish off the appetizers and wine. It's here some mention of my discipline must be made. Had I any, I would happily have ended dinner at this point. However, I didn't and three entrees came out and were served so we could share. Two pastas, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and Tagliatelle alla Bolognese along with a pounded and breaded veal. All of it consumed with a lighter Primitivo from Puglia.

I have a friend from Chicago who told me, "The food's not very good at the Cheesecake Factory but there's lots of it." Just mentioning Cheesecake Factory here should be completely horrifying to every civilized guy reading this but... I do it to make a point. Ballato has that something indescribable and that's so damned hard to fake. Along with the perfect pasta... the veal... was average. Just okay. But who cares. Everything about Ballato was magical.

The three of us huddled in the back of a cab for the long ride up Broadway. The Nephew and GF chatted of work and rents and NYC challenges while I looked out the window and thought of how everything in this city comes at such a high price. The price of living, working and fighting for every scrap. It ain't easy, but I've never seen so much magic anywhere else. As far as values go -- Emilio Ballato's magic comes at a small price. Even more so if your nephew pays and... you can skip the pasta. I've said this many times before and I'll say it again, I may not be able to smoke, drink or screw much longer -- But you gotta eat and there's no city in the world I'd rather do it in.

22 January 2013

Hudson's Bay Timex - A Million Places

Men never grow up.  It started with kites. Well, it did with me.

Bright colored paper wrapped around wooden sticks. The 'barber pole' look of a kite...sending my color aesthetic to a million places.

This comes damned close.  Hell, it might surpass.  I don't have to fly it -- Just wear it. $150.  Cheap, like a kite. And waiting to go a million places with the 12 year old in me... smiling.  On line here for $95. But only if you're Canadian.

21 January 2013

Vive L' Ecosse

The Ambassador Magazine, 1957 -  Unmitigated Brilliance

St Andrew's Burns Night, 140 West 46th Street -  Unmitigated Bargain

18 January 2013


United Airlines uniform in 1968

BEA's classic uniforms from 1960

Japan Airlines uniforms by Mohei Ito from 1958

Alitalia crew uniforms in the 1990s by Giorgio Armani

Germany's budget airline LTU  uniforms - From L-R, 1968, 1969 and 1970

SAS uniforms designed by Mark McNairy in 1999

Braniff "Babes," as they were known, model Pucci uniforms in 1966

Olympic Airlines uniforms designed by Yannia Tseklenis in 1971

Southwestern Airlines boots and hot pants in 1973

BOAC stewardess in 'Suzy Wong' style dress - 1966

Janet Jackson of American Airlines tests public reaction to a miniskirted uniform in 1965

Back when I was married there were a number of my wife's friends from D.C. who couldn't make it to our wedding. A few, I had never met, so we'd get together for dinner, usually in Old Town Alexandria, where we had a favorite Chinese place on King Street.  One of my wife's friends was a stewardess for American Airlines.

Even though we were seated at a table, I couldn't help but notice how tall my wife's friend was, at least six feet.  Without any makeup she was utterly striking.  Light brown hair, high cheek bones... I don't think it's an exagerration to say she resembled Marisa Berenson in Barry Lyndon.  And like Berenson, she had an exceptional body. 

I was trying not to look at her, less I stare in front of my new bride, and found distraction by slathering plum sauce on a Moo Shoo pork pancake.  Head down and focused on my plate, she and my wife discussed her recent illness and inability, the stewardess thought, to shake a cold due to a confined L-1011  aircraft and the huge number of passengers who were sick with colds.

My wife asked if she had seen a doctor as I greedily brought the Moo Shoo filled pancake to my mouth, took a bite and chewed while focusing my attention on my Tsingtao label.  "I really don't like seeing my doctor," she said.  My wife asked why not.  She said every time she saw her doctor he would have her disrobe and run in place for about a minute, after which, he would take her pulse.

I stopped chewing, slowly looked up from my beer label and saw the stewardess shift uncomfortably in her chair.  My wife placed a hand on hers and asked, or confirmed, that the running was done naked.  The stewardess nodded and added it was part of the exam - according to her doctor.  I asked how old her doctor was.  She wasn't sure but thought he looked a lot like Ben Franklin.  I asked what the doctor did while she was running in place.  She said he did nothing -- He just sat in front of her and watched.

It seems everyone in NYC has a cold or the flu.  I'm not sure I can run in place for a minute.  These days, I get winded rolling over in bed.  Still, as old Ben would say, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

17 January 2013

Harry Winston Security

photo by J.R. Duran, NYC

Elite model 'Deedee' with Stanley Butkowski, Joseph Kestener and Al La Rocca of Harry Winston Security

16 January 2013

Big Jake Watch Review - How Big Is Yours?

As I pack away what's left of a 21 year insurance career, old pal, fellow infantryman and adult entertainment star, Jake Rhodes (his porn name)  volunteers to review the TSOVET SVT-AT76 --  Smoke 'em if you got 'em. 

Tinseth asked me to review a watch by a manufacturer that I'm not familiar with - "TSOVET." I google and discover a southern California watch brand (wait, sorry - it's a "Timing Gauges" brand) which smacks of in-your-face machismo. Words like "industrial" and "utilitarian" are heavily used in their marketing copy. Black and white images of vintage aircraft cockpits, combat watercraft equipped with .50cal machine guns fade in and out. Are you eyeballing me boy! Show me your War Face!

I'm getting pumped! My BDU camo boonie hat left over from days humping an M16A2 around Central America is around here somewhere. Ah, there we go, a little snug...Taking a look at the black box Tinseth handed over it says "Designed in America, Built in Switzerland". This is just getting better and better. Some of the great American design classics run through my mind - the 1940 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, the P-51 Mustang, the '69 Camaro. However, as I pull out the TSOVET model SVT-AT76 I'm sadly reminded that we're the same shmucks that came up with the Pontiac Aztek, the Snuggie, and Hair in a Can. The size of this watch is RIDICULOUS!

This is an enormous hunk of gunmetal brushed matte 316L stainless steel, the same steel type utilized by many of the finest swiss watches (although Rolex switched from 316L in the late 80's to more expensive 904L) but simply way too much of it. Tsovet states a case diameter of 48mm and a thickness of 14.55mm. Just to give you an idea for comparison purposes, my  Rolex Sea-Dweller has a case diameter of 40mm. Now, I can appreciate that watch designs through the last 75 years have been getting larger and "the youth" of America prefer a super-sized watch, but where does the insanity end? Right here with the SVT-AT76 - knock it off kids, this thing weighs an exhausting 5.8 ounces.

The design of this watch is an homage to the aviation models of the great Swiss Bell & Ross brand and presents the square-ish aircraft instrument-like shape B&R made famous. Given it's massive heft Tsovet wisely chose switch the knurled crown from the traditional right side of the case over to the left in an effort to eliminate it digging painfully into the back of your hand. The crown and case back are a screw down type providing ample protection and a 100 meter water resistance rating should you attempt a challenging one armed butterfly stroke. There are four exposed screw heads on the front and back of this model further providing an industrial look to this "timing instrument". Opposite the crown the 14.55mm thick sided case has a small plate containing a faint engraving of the model number set flush into the body of the watch held in place by two small screws, a neat feature.

The dial is clutter free  in matte dark gray  (which I like quite a bit) displaying bold luminescent 2-4-6-8-0-12 numbers. (Did you catch that? Where the number "10" is supposed to be there is a "0" instead, you would think that given the goliath proportions of the dial they could somehow slip in an extra number). There is a small date window near the 4 o'clock marker and large sword-shaped hands with a great deal of yellow/green lume providing excellent low light visibility. An interesting note, the Tsovet name written small under the 12 o'clock marker although written white instead of yellow/green also contains luminescent material and glows well in the dark (another cool nerdy feature I haven't seen before). All this is covered with a hardened mineral crystal without an anti-glare coating, both of which is most likely a cost savings measure when compared to a more expensive and more scratch resistant sapphire.

The movement is quartz... whatever. This particular model comes with a soft thick  22mm tan leather strap with contrasting white stitching and a large stainless steel tang buckle laser engraved with the brand name. The strap appears to be held in place within the case lugs by two very, very small screws. If they are actually functioning parts rather than simply cosmetic I strongly advise that you don't take this to the mall jeweler to change out the strap as their size and positioning no doubt invite deep scratches and hurt feelings. 

In review, the box itself gave me a hint as to the dichotomy of the Tsovet brand - a watch "Designed in (a bloated) America, Built (quite well) in Switzerland". Would I wear this watch, let's just say I'm not a member of its intended target market... real men.

15 January 2013

Chicago Shout by Loleatta Holloway

Start @ 00.25 secs.

"I was half in mind - I was half in need,
And as the rain came down - I dropped to my knees and prayed.
I said "Oh Heavenly one - please cleanse my soul,
I've seen all on offer and I'm not impressed at all..."
The Style Council 

They met at a job interview.
She questioned him.
He filled out the application.
They were married in two years
And moved to her home, Chicago.

It's all about finding happiness. Shit happens. Crappy days happen. You get divorced.  Nothing goes right -- But you never forget how Chicago can shout. . 

14 January 2013

Back to School

Flagler College, Lobby East, January 1981

11 January 2013

Paul Stuart Aquired by Mitsui

It worked for J. Press (click image to read)

09 January 2013

A Business Expense: Hair Grows on Company Time

Mayfair House Hotel (now condos)

A woman behind Mayfair's reception desk draws a map on the back of a post card and points me in the direction of a barber three blocks away.  Hair stylist really but she insists he cuts men too.  I like Mayfair House. Tucked away in Coconut Grove, each room has a balcony and every balcony a hot tub -- All of it hidden from the street by masses of flowers, vines and whatever else grows in Miami. It's 1993 and I had left three feet of snow in Chicago.

First night I'm neck deep in the tub plugged into a walkman with Alcione's, 'Sufoco,' sipping beer and puffing a La Gloria Cubana. Only problem... a headphone wire knocks my cigar out of the ashtray and into the tub. That's okay. I have a lot of cigars...

Alcione's Sufoco

Back then, Ernesto Carrillo was still making La Gloria's in Little Havana on Ocho street. After a piece ran in Cigar Afficianado his cigars, extremely affordable & Cuban like, became impossible to find.  Parking a couple blocks away from the source, the El Credito factory, I thought it best to wear a suit jacket since red suspenders with yellow felt teddy bears were holding my trousers up. 

The El Credito factory Photo by Tina Bucuvalas

In a dark grey Britches of Georgetown,  Kennedy-model suit, (designed by Mark Rykken) and Ray Ban Aviators, I stroll into Ernesto's tiny shop. To my right are three rows of cigar rollers. Dead ahead is Mrs Carrillo, who I think I recognize from the magazine. From her counter she looks up, stares at me, and excuses herself. Taking off my sunglasses, I look at the rollers and smile.  No one smiles back.  Mrs Carrillo returns, behind her Ernesto, trailed by several men, who all walk by and out the door.

Mrs Carrillo nervously asks how she can help.  Pulling out a list of orders from clients and friends back in Chicago, I start, " Three boxes of Wavells,  Two boxes of number one Torpedoes...  She looks at me dead pan and interrupts, "You just want cigars?" I tell her I do and that I'm from Chicago on a cigar run for some friends.

Everything changes. The room changes.  The rollers, up to now silent as a tomb, laugh and talk. Someone starts singing.  Mrs Carrillo smiles, pulls out a file folder and tells me Wavells and Torpedos are sold out.  I ask what she has. She runs a finger down her list and I remember what I look like.

La Gloria Glorias

'No one wears a suit jacket in Miami - Especially dark grey,' I think, while 10 boxes of Maduro Glorias, all Mrs Carrillo had, go to the back seat and the jacket gets thrown to the passenger seat. 'Unless they're cops.' I sit for a minute as the a/c cranks up and wonder who they thought I was. Immigration? Maybe. There's a pang of guilt and I remember walking in my barracks, Corcoran jump boots heavy on the floor and my friends, surprised the footsteps belonged to me, running outside to retrieve the bag of pot they threw out the window.

A block from the hair stylist in Coconut Grove I hear the screams of several men, "Put it down! Put it fucking down, now!" Then that unmistakable, 'Pop-Pop-Pop' movies never got right.  A terrifying sound far  from its home on the range. I look for anyone on the street to see a reaction, 'Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing,' but it's early and there's no one. Only cars passing by with tinted windows up against the heat.

I see the hair stylist and calmly run for his door.  Calmly run?   It's skipping - but faster.  A bell rings as I open the door and cold a/c freezes head and crotch sweat.  I tell the man what the hotel told me and he laughs.  I'll learn he's Honduran and in his 50s. I talk.  He cuts.

After half an hour, he tells me, "Have you ever seen a telephone wire with a bunch of birds sitting on it?" I nod. "Birds fly up and join the other birds..." He cuts. "But you my friend -- You're like the bird that flutters around the wire.  Not sure where or even if he wants to land."

He blow drys the hair off my shoulders and a woman walks in.  Did you hear the gun shots. "No," says my barber.  The police shot a nut case with a machete only a half hour ago right around the corner.  My barber looks at me, "Did you see it?" "No," I tell him. "I only heard it."

04 January 2013

Thinking of Camouflage

Sicily Drop Zone, Ft Bragg, 1976

Solid Shield, Ft Bragg, 1980

Green Ramp, Pope Air Force Base, 1978

What's fascinating about the current trend in camouflage is how the original intent -- has been completely reversed.

Greenwich Village, NYC, Summer 2011 - Photo by The Style Blogger