29 March 2013

28 March 2013

Gin In My Jam

Rose's Lime Marmalade 

This is not your average jelly.  It's an addiction.  Morning coffee with Rose's Lime spread on toast or, I like it on Finn Crisp, is like a little slap to your face. Bright, sweet and with just a whiff of G&T about it. You know, that lovely lime aftertaste...It seems to go on forever.

A breakfast of strong coffee, eggs, bacon -- it's all so... protein.  Rose's Lime Marmalade cuts the animal fat with a beautiful sweetness that stops you chewing the moment it hits.  You're like, "What is this? Where's it coming from? Did someone put gin in my jam?"

Reasonably priced and God knows the stuff you can do with it outside of spreading it on Finn Crisp or toast.  A marinade seems logical.  Maybe even a dollop in a G&T.  Just under $6 at Myers of Keswick.   That's a no brainer for any New Yorker.  Amazon has it as well. Like most things British, this was stumbled upon.  No PR hack pitching it or marketing of any kind.  Just another 'particular' something in a world offering universal... bleh. 

27 March 2013

It looks topless to me...

Photo by DB, St Augustine, FL 1984

The college girl friend posing topless for my best friend.  Similar feelings resurfaced years later when a girlfriend, who had refused my intimate advances for months, returned from a week long business trip with her first full Brazilian claiming it was for hygienic purposes.

26 March 2013

Ciao, Tony!

Back in high school, the last of four, DB and I bonded over James Bond, Kodachrome, mail order camera stores and Italian movies.  Our friendship has survived cultural differences and distances not to mention a fit of jealousy on the occasion he photographed my girlfriend topless in his parent's pool. 30 years later I'll admit my jealousy was more about his talent --He took better pictures of my girlfriend than I ever could.

Instead of 'awesome,' DB and I used, "Ciao, Tony!" to express anything we thought was cool. This was from a long forgotten Italian heist movie where, for the duration of the film, beautiful Italian women shout, "Ciao, Tony" to the hero. I still use it but mostly keep it to myself nowadays -- It's too hard to explain.

DB's good about sending me clips from obscure foreign films.  I posted about Mina and Trad Italian way back in 2008 - Before some of you were born.  She's not singing in DB's clip but I love everything about it. The car, the hotel, the clothing...I've always thought God was Italian.  I don't think he's at the Vatican.  I believe he's hanging out in a hotel somewhere on the Amalfi Coast in a white linen suit and drinking a chilled Umbrian white while nibbling at a bruschetta. I believe if that sportscar in the clip pulled up, God might say, "Ciao, Tony!"

25 March 2013

A Return to Daytona Beach in 1982

I hate to post this again but it's a favorite and it is Spring Break.

In 1982, GM was a word. "Geeyem." Like someone from Georgia says, "Jim." This one was a Buick deuce and a quarter. A white hunk of fat Detroit steel that made a trip one Spring Break from St Augustine to Daytona Beach with four friends.

Troyer drove the chariot. Golden haired and Aryan, none of us in the car that night knew he was gay. Some of us still don't. A cold case of canned Schaffer shared the back seat with Fusco and Beaudoin. None of us knew Fusco would wind up a screenwriter and producer -- although none of us would've bet against him. Movie star looks but amazingly cheap...he was pre-ordained for Hollywood success.

Beaudoin sat next to Fusco chasing raisins from a generic one pound box with beer. Brillo headed and bearded, the war in El Salvador was excuse for six hours of his indignant Boston accented argument that the Monroe Doctrine was the ultimate evil.

I'm riding shotgun and have to take a leak. Troyer offers to pull over on a stretch of darker-than-the-inside-of-a-goat, I-95. "No need." I say. Wise old man of the car, I explain how I pissed in cans during Army convoys while, "you fuckers were starting ninth grade." I open a beer can with a P38 on my key chain and pull down the fly on 30/30 khakis. I stick my dick in the can careful to avoid the sharp edges.

Success as I fill the can but seconds later feel warm pee covering my khakis. "No problem unless you piss more than 12 ounces," I say and fling the can out the window not knowing the back window is down. Not remembering all the windows are down in the white Detroit slab-o-steel Troyer's mom should be driving.

"Fuck, Tinseth!" Fusco screams as my nephron unit (thanks, Dr. Lardner) formation strikes him head and chest. Beaudoin, slow to catch on, thinks its raining for at least five seconds before a handful of piss-misted raisins are digested. Troyer, of course, laughs.

I spend the rest of the trip holding khakis out the car window at 70mph in an attempt to dry the large stain on my crotch. My friends. And they have remained friends... are tolerant. Like friends who get pissed on always are.

22 March 2013

Keep Your Powder Dry

In the wintertime
Keep your feet warm,
Keep your clothes on
And don't forget me.
Keep the memory,
But keep your powder dry, too.

In the summer
By the pool side
While the fireflies
Are all around me,
I'll miss you when I'm lonely,
I'll miss the alimony, too.

Don't forget me, please don't forget me,
Make it easy on me just for a little while.
You know I'll think about you,
Let me know you think about me, too.

When we're older
And full of cancer
It doesn't matter now,
Come on, get happy,
'Cause nothing lasts forever,
And I will always love you.

Don't forget me, please don't forget me,
Make it easy on me just for a little while.
You know I'll think about you,
Let me know you think about me, too.

You know I'll think about you,
Let me know you think about me, too.

Harry Nilsson  1941 - 1994

"You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

Rugby, 2004

Rugby, 2012

21 March 2013

The Case of the Missing Rugby Training Manual

I was contacted this morning by one of the authors of the Rugby Habadasher Book.  He asked that I not post the book and explained why.  The reasons are valid but I'm not honoring the request for those reasons -- I'm honoring the request because he's the author and I sympathize with him.  I have seen my photos and my words slapped all over the internet without so much as a, "how do you do." I also want to avoid litigation.

The Rugby Training Manual, or RTM, as I call it, was one of four books prepared for the original four Rugby stores.  The author mentioned he has access to three of the books.  Mine appears to be a second, maybe even a third, generation 'bootleg.'  There are beautiful images, swatches, patterns and shirting to be sure.  But the guts of the book are on page 11, which was posted yesterday.  Read it.  It's what Rugby was...supposed to be.

The early days saw a pure form of apparel but with slight tweaks.  There were no visible logos on oxfords, unless you chose not to tuck your shirt, and the small skull and cross bones embroidered on the tail, in.  Suits were half canvassed, made in the US (South Carolina) and similar to J. Press in every way but price -- costing a third less.  Unlined ties, a personal obsession since buying a few in London, were not cheap in the retail shops, but plenty made it to outlets, along with a plethora of odd and not so odd bargains: My black wool cape  ($25)  and  a cherished, made in Italy, Black Watch sport coat ($50) just to name two.

Back in those early days you didn't have to be under 25 to get what the store was about.  Dusty Grainger dragged me to University Place  (I'm uncomfortable shopping with any man but especially Dusty)  in search of Skull & Cross black velvet slippers.  I found a pair of the Hunter-Duck slippers that I had been searching for everywhere.  That they were 50% off seemed like some sort of divine intervention. I had issues with an overpriced replica of an M-65 field jacket, made in China (the irony), and cheap surcingle belts but overall, I was a fan.

In 2010,  something changed.  The haberdasher was turning into a high street  boutique. Rugby advertising was not only youthful, it was insipid and shallow.  Boys were tricked out in 'outfits.' Rolled up critter khakis with too much madras. Too much Breton. Too much, 'too much.' Designer Burt Pulitzer told me, "For years I loved Rugby and then I'd go in the store and couldn't buy anything.  And I was trying!"

A gutsy aesthetic was held up and mugged by some sockless, critter clad, Junior Mint. Some think it was the advertising people.  Others blame the merchandisers.  Still others insist Rugby was not allowed to tell their  Habadasher Shop story and so they lost customers like me and Bert.  What rarely gets mentioned was the anchor Rugby for Women had become.  Ex-employees complain of women's bloated design staff and payroll while the look, a bit out there, was just not selling.  Many grumble that had Rugby pulled the cork on the women's line... menswear would've been saved. 

In the end?  It actually mattered.  As one employee told me, "We established with the competition that it could be done successfully."  J. Crew knocked off Rugby via the Liquor Store. Brooks Brothers tried to knock off Rugby - knocking off Brook's original  University Shop. Sadly, Brooks Brothers can't even knock off itself. 

"Too many cooks in the kitchen." "Lost its way." One enthusiast thought it might be worth a couple hundred thousand to hire a big time consulting firm for a postmortem. That is, exactly why and when did Rugby fail.  There are a lot of opinions out there and, in the end, we all wear clothes which I guess qualifies all of us as critics.

20 March 2013

Rugby In-Store Training Manual

Click image to enlarge

I was told there were only seven or eight copies.  Check back tomorrow for a fascinating look at a brand with an unusual beginning and even stranger end. 

19 March 2013

Stout for Summer

Dry Irish Stout

The Light Stout
A fanatic of Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout -- I was pretty skeptical about their Dry Irish Stout.  As good as Chocolate Stout is, and it's amazingly good,  the alcohol clocks in at 10% a bottle while adding 300 calories.  Fat and drunk is no way to go through life... or dinner.

Dry Irish is a very dry stout.  Bone-like, and if you like dry white Burgundy, Manzanilla Sherry or dry Scotch, you'll connect to this in a big way. I've never been a dry beer guy but this stout manages to deliver some decent mouth feel with each sip.  Granted, it's not Chocolate Stout, but at 117 calories, that's seven more than Natty Light, it's a great compromise. At 4.2% alcohol it's considered a "session" beer.  That's where you sit around with a bunch of guys, drink beer and tell lies for hours while staying sober enough to remember what you lied about.

I've mentioned my friend in Florida who only buys beer on sale. It usually works out to porter and stout in Summer -- Pilsner and weiss during Winter.   For the same reason, I'm hoping Dry Irish will go on sale this Summer.  It's light enough for a basket of steamed Old Bay shrimp or a nice piece of grilled Salmon.  Stout enough for pulled pork BBQ or marinated flank steak.

Here's where I usually tell you that, by being a contrarian, you can score this stuff for spit. Sorry.  It's $12 a six pack.  I can get a 30 pack of Natty Light in New Jersey for $15.  Maybe someone's trying to tell me to drink less but better.  Or, if you're coming over to my place...now you know what to bring.  Beer enthusiast details found here.

Stripes for Summer

Summer Haven Popover

Working with a shirt maker.  Men's popover or women's beach cover up in linen.  Slit tails. Amazingly cool. 

18 March 2013

17 March 2013

Thousands Are Sailing

The Pogues

All photos taken on Ellis & Liberty Islands, 1984-1985

Happy St Patrick's Day

16 March 2013

"This Must Be Your Lucky Day"

Infantry AIT, Ft Benning, GA

It was a hot Summer in Georgia. Thanks to an excessive heat, humidity and wind index the Army called, "Wet Bulb," our time in the field was mostly spent sitting around drinking water from canvas lister bags . The water had a tangy canvas aftertaste and was cool due to condensation and ice the drills sometimes added.

Infantry school was a vast improvement over basic.  We were still denied weekends off but the drills were focused on building us up rather than tearing us down which was the case in Basic. With rare exceptions, the drills were on our side. Always helping with tips, stories, and the occasional reminder to let you know they were still in charge.

 Drill Sergeant Nolan, far right
 "Private, what's the maximum effective range of the M-16?
 "500 meters Drill Sergeant Nolan." 
"Private, what's the cyclic rate of fire for the M-60?"
 Five to six hundred rounds per minute, Drill Sergeant Nolan." 
Private,what's my mother's name?" 
"I don't know, Drill Sergeant Nolan." 
"Her name is Mrs Nolan. Drop and give me 20."

Most drills went home at night but Nolan stayed in a private room on the second floor of our barracks. Occasionally, he would march my platoon to a trailer PX and instruct us to buy a 6 pack of beer. We'd march back and fall out into the woods where there was an abandoned concrete bunker we did our drinking in. We'd listen to Nolan tell stories of his year with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Pathfinder School and how much he loved the Army.  

On a Sunday march to the PX we were halted by a drill from another company.  He spoke to Nolan who laughed and  turned to me,  "Tinseth, fall out and report to Drill Sgt Ott."   Nolan marches away with the platoon as I stand at attention in front of Ott who asks, "Do you have a girlfriend, Tinseth?". I look at Ott and behind him I see a tan VW with my girlfriend in white shorts and a navy tank top. Her brown tan evidence of her Summer on a beach. She seems unreal standing next to her car parked in the POV lot. I watch my platoon and Nolan march by as they all stare at her gravity defying rear end and tube top.

Ott asks if I had anything to do with her driving up. It was understood no visitors were allowed until graduation.  I tell Ott 'no way.' Amazingly, he buys it and adds, "This must be your lucky day."  We're shown to a day room for visitors that I didn't know existed. I'm told we have an hour after which she will have to leave. Alone, we lock ourselves in a  latrine and make the most of our time. Over, with much of our hour to spare, I tuck my fatigue shirt into my fatigue pants, square my web belt with my gig line and ask my girlfriend  if she'll marry me.

We didn't get married but I don't remember being as happy as I was that Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling sorry for myself,  I think how unlucky I've been...but that picture of me, a few days after her visit, reminds me just how lucky I've been.   

10 March 2013

Merchant's House: It's the Period

From The Merchant's House Facebook Page 

First Floor Parlor

Ground Floor 'Family Room'

"Of the period." It's a common description used by historians, curators and tour guides of furniture, paintings and common household stuff that fills historic homes so that a look and feel of a certain period can be conveyed.  Merchant's House furnishings are not of the period.  Instead, it's a time capsule of just one family, from the day it was purchased in 1835,  to a day in 1933 when it was sealed and preserved after the youngest family member died in the room she was born in... 93 years earlier.

29 East 4th Street Entrance

Located at 29 East 4th Street, it is the only home left of what was once a row of townhouses.  You enter through a vestibule and the smell of the years, maybe even Seabury Tredwell's family, hangs in the long narrow hallway leading to the back of the house, and the ticket office-book store, run mostly by volunteers.  I recommend the guided tour which is offered several times a day but check the schedule on line.  Like a lot of things historical and locally run, it can change.


Call Bells

A kitchen and family room occupy the ground floor and we're told this was the main living area of the family.  Consequently, less stylish furniture would have been used here.  A call bell system to alert servants is still in place.  The upstairs parlor and dining room, taking up the entire first floor, were reserved for formal occasions.  I stare at a solid mahogany door with the deepest warm glow -- Like it was reflecting every party it had seen.  I touch it...with the hope I can feel at least one party.

Front Parlor

Seabury Treadwell

Solid Mahogany Door

Bedroom closets upstairs are filled with Tredwell linen, dresses, shoes, shawls, lace and a wedding dress.  A hat tub, the first I've seen, sits by a fire place.  Massive canopied beds fill the rooms. As the guide continues, I'm distracted by the simplicity of a closet.  Deep, but narrow, it stretches upward like a chimney.  I look up and for the first time feel like I'm intruding -- Poking my nose into the Tredwell's things and past. 

Rear Bedroom

Hat Tub

Front Bedroom

You can only see the servant's floor on the guided tour.  It is the highest floor of the house and there's an area between four rooms where sheets were hung and dried. Today the room is filled with furniture but I can see the sheets hanging inches off the floor and creating narrow passageways like a white maze.  I tell myself I have to come back...Wise thinking because sadly -- it might all be gone very soon.

Servant's Room

A developer is looking to build a hotel next to the Merchant's House Museum. While it will certainly affect the aesthetic of the street -- a nasty anachronistic contrast --  Merchant's House, once supported by townhouses on either side, now stands alone and any construction next door could collapse the almost 200 year old home.

Proposed Hotel

This Tuesday, March 12th,  the Landmarks Preservation Commission may vote to approve or deny the developer's application.  Six months ago the commission backed down from a vote due to the large turnout of Merchant's House supporters.  The hearing is scheduled at 10:55AM at 1 Centre St. in the Municipal Building  at Chambers St on the ninth floor.  If you'd like to show your support for the Merchant House, be there at 10:25 AM.  No voting or speaking.  Just a show of force to protect this unique home. 

16 March 2013 Update from Merchant House Museum: 

We survived! LPC sent the developers back to the drawing board.
The Commissioners' (and our) concerns: the plan does not sufficiently ensure the safety of the Merchant’s House; the scale of the proposed building is too great, and 3) the design is not appropriate for the NoHo Historic District (“banal, generic 1960s modern” and “the Hong Kong look” were mentioned.)

Humongous thanks to all who braved the miserable weather to once-again fill the room.

08 March 2013

Shoot an Azimuth for Jay Kos

Photography by Alice Olive (click image to enlarge)

NYC is full of menswear designers cranking out safe affordable duds and selling them profitably.  Jay Kos, on so many levels, would not be that designer. Despite the common, "He dresses funny - he must be creative," observation, Kos owns an uncommonly cool shop that hits idiosyncratic right outta the bull fighting ring.

Pushing the envelope with humor, color, knowledge and worldliness...Jay's taste reminds me of the Bohemian girl in college who introduced me to obscure Samba, mole sauce and Bolivian marching powder, all in one night.  She wore a rusted chastity belt of Socialist feminism but I was crazy about her -- She heard my knocking -- No way was I getting in. Just as well. She smoked pot with her parents.

Jay will let me in but my budget won't let me do a whole lot.  There's a $10,000 cashmere Covert coat I've been lusting after but that's NYC fur sink money. Kos is Hermès expensive but unlike Hermès, there's some decent value here.  As in all things Kos, there's little of what you see.  Consequently, you won't see your modern duffle coat with throat latch coming at you on every street in Soho.

I don't own much Kos. The Otter sweater, a pair of black leather gloves and one tie.  But they are the best gloves I've ever owned (infantry blue lining) and the most hysterical Shetland I've ever worn.  I've only worn the tie once. Two outta three ain't bad. Downstairs there's a bespoke fitting room done up like a Moroccan Bedouin tent. Instead of hash, there's a humidor filled with Cubans. Cigars, not people.  Partagas, Cohiba, Montecristo and a favorite robusto, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2. That's how you take care of a customer.

Fashion has a short shelf life. The designers and the media work together to lure the trendy in.  Months of proud promenade - For a year if you're lucky and the designer duds, like a dumb wine, go into storage and wait 30 yrs before being palatable again. It's odd that Kos isn't covered more by the fashion media. But he doesn't advertise. Wonder who fashion media works for?  The people who pay them and we're not talking subscriptions. 

In all fairness, I do not write this blog to bring you news from J. Crew or Cole Haan. I figure you can find those folks on your own. Jay Kos is not so easy to find.  The shop is on Mott, just around the corner from the warm heart of Emilio Ballato on Houston St.  You don't need a compass to find the place but you'll feel like you discovered something the moment you step in.

Jay Kos
293 Mott Street

Thanks, Alice