One part Eastwood,
One part Astaire.
Add a dash of Bogart.
Shake, strain and enjoy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bearded Bliss

I wish I wasn't a TV guy. I wish I could be one of those people that are above it, snidely retorting that they haven't seen "that show" because they were finishing Dostoevsky, coding an iPad app, or distilling artisenal liquor from organic rye grown in their backyard (location: Brooklyn). But the current crop of television shows not only produce some wildly entertaining content but also characters that all at once make me aspire to their machismo and question my own masculinity. From Mad Men's Don Draper and HBO's Ari Gold to 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy, I can't help but feel like a boy compared to their commanding grip of the X chromosome. With the Fall season back underway, I again became envious of another hero of mine. Not because of his unwavering ego or disarming charm, but for another manly characteristic that endlessly eludes me: Parks and Rec's very own Ron Swanson and his magnificent beard.

Sure, they can rock a suit and some 5 o'clock shadow,
but I doubt they could own a chin pillow like Ron.

I'll admit that I was a late comer to its comedic genius, but I was quickly drawn to its stoic, scotch drinking, meat loving, libertarian alpha male, like a 50 year old to "The Who". Nick Offerman's Swanson is the rugged to Draper and Donaghy's refined. He may not be a style maven around the office, but he just as easily embodies the confidence and nonchalance that most men crave. Whether he is shooting fish, sanding wood, sabotaging government or just draped in flannel and leather, Ron Swanson is a man's man through and through. In the season 4 opener he was a sight to behold. Upon the arrival of his first ex-wife, Ron flees to the sanctity of his cabin where he tends to the most awe inspiring man mane to grace HD pixels. Ron is usually the bearer of a classic push broom 'stache, however, in his reclusive state he sports a crumb smuggler so bushy birds could nest in his luscious whiskers.

If Teddy Roosevelt had a three way with the Brawny Guy and the Unibomber, the outcome would be Ron Swanson:

At this point in my babyfaced existence, I can only dream of such bearded bliss.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Big Boss and Basie

I guess I never really took note of the genius behind Jerry Lewis and his wide-mouthed antics until I finished a recent article in GQ's August comedy issue. A well placed sidebar, in a perfect symbiosis of web and print, lead to to what the editor deemed 'The Best of Jerry' on Youtube. A collage of trademark Lewis faces rested in ink on paper next to me as I navigated through 5 iconic videos on my laptop. One, in particular, stood out for its comedic precision and musical mellifluousness. Its simple pantomime has been spooling through my mind ever since.

We've all sat at our desks mutterings and mimicking management's hubris and authority, no? Those of us in the business world have experienced corporate schmucks polluting the office air with their pompous, toxic and often uninformed rhetoric. All their limp words an attempt to justify their bloated salaries or command some scrap of power to fill the void in their otherwise menial existence. Lewis, in this clip from the 1961 film The Errand Boy, brings laughter and style to the frustrations of the office through imitating the animated flailing of his boss commanding a board meeting. And to top it off, his go-to-hell repertoire is backed by some boss Basie beats.

Perfectly pitched in black & white, Lewis bellows Basie… nailed in one take:

Cue the Count belting out Blues in Hoss Flat - a calculated, energetic riff from his own 1958 Chairman of the Board album (how fitting). The song is like a temper rising in its erratic ups and downs. The bass rolls in soft only to be stabbed by sharp blasts and staccato surges. Piano keys jingle softly in the background as horns lead an escalating charge. Lewis, always the dapper (cinder) fella, is the epitome of classic 60's style sporting an oxford button down, crested cardigan sweater vest, the high and tight haircut and his seemingly ubiquitous pinky ring. He channels a refined version of Charlie Brown's teacher as a crescendo of punctuated tones burst from his mute, hollow mouth. The cigar fumes as does he in mocking hilarity; his hands waging war on those he faux berates. He evokes intolerance and displeasure with every exaggerated expression only to laugh it off as the beats calm into a jolly send off. The hotblooded executive cools and becomes human again - corporate schizophrenia at its finest.

The juxtaposition of comedy and cool is entrancing. I can't help but watch it on repeat.

And just for kicks - another classic from his Colgate Comedy Hour days with my man Dean. If actions speak louder than words, Lewis's comedic expressions scream from the hilltops:

Videos courtesy of igvmyslf1000pts and TbirdsOf1965 youtube channels

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Good Or Be Gone

Image: McSorley's New York

The Sperry chukka boat shoe that embraced my foot slipped slightly as I entered the saloon style doors, forgetting that part of McSorley's allure is its sawdust strewn floor. A quick survey of the place and panic set in. Nearing 30 and my patience in serious decline, I tend to eschew crowded, loud bars for the refined hush of a classy cocktail lair. But I made an exception, in anticipation of Irene's wrath and inevitable solitude holed up indoors, to venture out on a Friday night to drink in the history of New York's oldest Irish bar.

As I weaved my way past the throngs of inebriated guests to the oasis of tables in the rear, I couldn't help but soak up the antiquated atmosphere and allow it to penetrate my psyche. The likes of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Boss Tweed had all imbibed in this very space so who was I to be weary of its charm? The floor trembled beneath me, signaling its age, as we approach the warped, carved table that would be our domain. Puddles of lager were swiftly wiped away and a command, not a question, was put before us.

"Light or dark?" bellowed the bearded scalawag of a man that would be our waiter. One part Cro-Magnon, one part grizzled sailor, his hair was long and as gray as his beer soiled smock. His abruptness was matched only by his surly disposition; his attitude providing continuity to the experience whereas a fresh-faced young lass would have sullied the vibe. The skin on his face and hands was aged and callused and his fingernails resembled those of a coal-mining pirate. This wasn't so much a job as a calling - his carved out niche on this earth. God forbid this landmark shutter, as his skill set would not be applicable for, say, a Walmart greeter.

"Light" I replied, caught slightly off guard but confident in my choice. After a week of dealing with demanding clients and finicky co-workers, this was a welcome moment of clarity. Smee disappeared into the crowd to fetch our ale and we settled in to discuss the week in review. A gentleman in a straw boater and his lovely lady appeared, taking a seat at the other end of our table. An old fight song rang out across the bar, male voices chanting in unison, complete with interlocking arms and mugs clanking in communal cheer. Then out of no where, 6 mugs of suds were gruffly slammed down before us, the frothy heads careening out on to the notched table refilling the pools that were earlier wiped away. For every one beer ordered two mugs arrive so the night was now well underway!

With time our party grew larger, and the next round brought 24 mugs, carried 8 to a hand by our esteemed barman and his colleague - quite the impressive feat to witness. As mug after mug was passed over and around me, I quickly realized my pristine white shirt had no business in this establishment - nice clothes were not only unwelcome, but potentially at risk. Had I been more in tune (and less rushed), my pressed linens would have given way to crumbled chambray to better align with my environment... I was a show horse in a sea of Clydesdales. This is workwear's haven.

Conversations started to splinter and I began to veer off into a mental dissection of the untouched treasures providing the decor for the historic bar. It's reported that no artifact has been removed from the walls since 1910. Paintings, poems and political pomp, certificates, clippings, carvings and clocks all serve as reminders of McSorley's place in New York history. At the bar area, an original "WANTED" poster from the Lincoln assassination shouts a national tragedy and Houdini's handcuffs swing freely from the bar rail. A row of dusty wishbones looms eerily overhead marking the loss of human life - these harbingers of fortune left by departing doughboys during WWI. The soldiers that returned snapped their talismans, all the while knowing their wish had already been granted. Those bones that remain haunt this hallowed ground with dreams unrealized.

There is no cash register, no bar stools, no liquor and until 1970, no women. "Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies" was its claim and I doubt they heard any complaints. One gets the sense that political correctness has never been enforced here.

With the rest of the spoiled masses panicked over Irene's pending visit, our stint in Olde New York was a welcome reprieve from their unsubstantiated anxiety. A hurricane seemed like small potatoes compared to the trials this place had seen. From the gangs of New York and the atrocities of war to corrupt political machines and the depths of tenement life, McSorley's has offered solace from far worse than a little rain storm.

The last of my ale slid effortlessly down my throat and I placed my mug with authority back onto the nicked up boards of the table. We surrendered our territory to the next army that approached and headed for the swinging doors that led back out to 7th Street. Passing regulars and newcomers alike, I looked around and realized that the people I was surrounded by could have given a shit about what Irene was to bring. Not one of them had thoughts of food or batteries or survival. Their only concern was for the next round and if their ale house would be open for business.

You don't get more rugged than this.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

No Rest For The Weary

A week ago, the sun squeezed through the dusty wooden slats of my aged venetian blinds alerting me to the fact that Sunday had begun. My body felt like jelly and the thought of springing from my slate gray sheets was about as enticing as a moldy deviled egg. The sinus cavities sunk beneath my flesh were packed tighter than a rush hour 6 train and my eye lids were laboring to stand at attention. On the air mattress to my left sat my sister, staring, zombielike, at something on my floor, waiting patiently for her lazy, slightly infirmed brother to arouse from his slumber. She had a stomach to fill and a bus to catch.

The previous day had been spent at exhaustive lengths reliving the Prohibition era at the 2011 Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island and subsequently at the most fitting of cocktail dens - The Clover Club in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill. The artful crooning, playful dancing and cheerful drinking had left us weary, and me with a crescendoing sinus infection.

Ever wonder what "the cat's pajamas"
looks like?

With a firm squeeze, the goodbye hug ended and the younger of my parents offspring disappeared into the throngs of hyper visitors anxiously attacking a red bus like it was the last mode of transport on earth. As I walked back towards the subway, the sky belched out an ominous grumble - a foreshadowing of the storms that were to come. (Little did I know that the worst of it was still a week away - hello Irene, you dirty little whore).

Pleasant weather is strife with guilt. With the command of a vixen's stare, the sun and breeze can lure one from their dwelling and deeds to simply bask in its ego. Productivity, rest or mindless entertainment run afoul in its midst, even when such things are all that's desired. It has a way of taunting with its glow but on this particular Sunday I was anxious for the storms to roll in and my recovery to begin.

I bounced lightly on the subway car home, the rumbling motion jostling my compacted head. I affixed my swollen eyes on the dermatological ad that promised clearer skin (no money down!) to avoid eye contact with the creepy European tourists and their inappropriate Ed Hardy tank tops. The longer I stared, I thought about the rest of my day; the excitement over my pending leisure was slowly overtaken by fear of boredom. A wasted Sunday was unacceptable, even if it was in the name of health. Leisure, in my opinion, should still produce some valuable personal advancement - writing, reading, good conversation, etc.

The jolt of the subway car knocked an idea to the front of my subconscious and I snapped to in a fit of excitement. Earlier in the day, my sister and I were discussing the cocktail list I was developing for a pending bridal shower she is hosting**. Today would be the perfect day to finalize the menu and experiment with a concoctions I was unsure of, a non-alcoholic soda - perfect for a gentleman dosed up on Advil Cold and Sinus. Productive, relaxing and delicious:

Perhaps the coolest part that can barely be seen:
Served in a highball from The Sands Las Vegas!

Strawberry/Basil/Lemon Soda (as seen in Bon Appetite):

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Raw Sugar
6 Basil Leaves 5 small (or 3 large) Stawberries, quartered
1 pinch Kosher Salt
6 oz Club Soda

-In a large mixing tin combine lemon juice, sugar, basil, strawberries and salt. Muddle ingredients. Add ice and soda water. Stir until well chilled and blended. Strain into highball glass with fresh ice. (Can also be adapted into a margarita)

Double double toil and trouble:
My potion.

The good kind of mess!

Contrary to popular opinion, I think that mixing drinks is less about the booze and more about tradition, technique and precision. The ritual and motions are not only therapeutic but create a connection to a time when quality and craft were at the forefront of society. Like any other creative professional, mixing a drink, regardless of alcoholic content, excites my artistic spirit as well as my burgeoning palette. The endless combinations, ingredients and flavor profiles keeps my interest constantly piqued about what possibilities lie ahead. Not only do I revel in trying new recipes but have become passionate about introducing others to my findings and derive much satisfaction out of serving drinks to those that appreciate and enjoy their purpose. This crisp, complex soda highlights how wonderful a drink can be, even devoid of intoxicating proofs. And it provided the perfect remedy for invigorating my soul when my body was rife with discomfort.

But why not take my culinary efforts to the next level and add a light lunch to the mix. One of my favorite restaurants in New York lies on Court Street in Brooklyn's Carroll Garden's neighborhood - Frankie's Sputino. Aside from their unabashedly fresh take on Italian entrees, they produce one of the simplest, yet inventive crostini I've had: fresh ricotta, local honey and cracked pepper on toasted housemade bread. Simple in design, profound in taste. Here's is my take using more readily available ingredients:

Modified crostini

• Toasted Sesame Bagel (if you're not in NY, I don't know what to tell you)*
• Goat Cheese
• Macadamia Honey
• Fresh Cracked Pepper

Straight from Australia via my chum Vinny

I sat to nosh as the sky opened up. Thick beads of rain beat down steadily on the fire escape just outside my window, creating a soft hush to muffle the passing traffic. I felt all the more refined having created my own lunch and nestled in with my victuals for a thorough exploration of the WSJ Weekend Edition. I don't know if it was the Advil, the nourishment, the cool rain-induced breeze, the excitement or a combination of the lot, but my head cleared by evenings rise and the remainder of the night was spent enjoying the leisure that only a rainy day can bring.

Yes, an actual printed newspaper… remember those?

Sickness led to boredom. Boredom led to creativity. Creativity lead to productivity. And productivity provided the cure.

*Sorry, Im a NY bagel snob
** Due to Irene's bitchy wrath I was unable to travel and my cocktail list was for naught. For those interested here is the menu for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, July 15, 2011

One Stylish Hound

Image: link

Bully, old boy, bully! Quite right.

...and this is just for his evening constitutional.  Imagine what the opera might bring?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hanky Panky

Ye without snot, sweat or grime
may cast the first stone. 

It's rare that I have to defend a classic accessory against the modern world. Most people, even those without sartorial flair, can recognize that the garments and embellishments from yesteryear are vastly superior to the stylings of today. However, on numerous occasion my cognizance of hygiene has been called into question over the simplest of linens to be found on my person: the handkerchief.

In its purest form, the handkerchief is no more than a square of fabric, rolled at its edges to prevent fraying and to give the look of a finished trimming. Nestled into the back pocket of a pair of trousers or peeking from the breast pocket of a jacket, it is possibly the single greatest display of form and function found on any gentleman. Unfortunately, society has scoffed at its use and stigmatized its patrons as nothing more than snot smugglers.

The handkerchief's main purpose is no longer as a "snot rag", as my unapologetically blunt grandfather would have stated, but as a utility piece in the gentleman's arsenal. In this day and age, kleenex, toilet tissue, paper towels and other disposable paper products are readily at hand for the discharge of whatever is stowed away in the caverns of our schnozes. I however, still like to carry a clean, pressed hanky on me at all times (as well as a pocket square, which should go without saying) as a measure of preparedness as well as a sign of class.

When one looks past its mucus stained reputation, a handkerchief becomes a multi-tool of personal polish. It is a safe guard against an occasional runny nose brought on by the elements of winter. Its cool cotton swipes away the beads of sweat on a muggy summer day. Its cleansing quality creates clarity on a pair of smudged sunglasses or rids hands of unwanted grime. And, perhaps most importantly, its soothing touch can comfort a sniffling lady or rid her of that trickling tear.

As a rule of thumb, just remember this: The one in your pant's pocket is for you, the one in your breast pocket is for her. Washed often and replaced yearly, the handkerchief can and should serve a purpose in modern life. With proper use, it can keep you clean and your footprint green, all while staying pearly white.

Put down your slings and arrows and judge me no more. Viva la hanky!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Paul Stuart's Phineas Cole Spring/Summer 2011

There is not much that renders me speechless but I can't find the words to do justice. So just stare... and appreciate... and rest easy knowing there IS a God.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flipped Off

There's a bit of Costanzian flair injected into my personality. Although I am tall, slender, well-coiffed, and a self-proclaimed style hound, I can wreak of that short, fat, bald cynic who yearns to be draped in velvet. I can't help it. Being confined to a tiny island highly populated with the ignorant, the arrogant and the blithely unaware begins to grate on a person after a while and can turn a man from Tom Hanks to Mel Gibson faster than a Porsche can reach 60. Modern civilization's general disregard for style standards or pride in one's personal appearance rivals (and in my opinion could be directly related to) the overall decline of manners and decorum. Both have left many parts of daily life as irritating as a calypso ringtone, but with the chill of winter firmly in the past, one seasonal pest in particular is starting to circle like the Jaws to my Orca. And George is getting ANGRY!



BA-nump, ba-nump-ba-nump-ba-nump-ba-nump-ba-nump-ba-nump…

Ohh how I loathe you crude beast! Although the wretched rubber thongs have been not so quietly flip flopping their way back into society over the past month, last week's near perfect temperatures made way for their permanent return on a daily basis. All over the city I must endure their flagrant trumpeting of casualness. They are the Blofeld to my Bond; as evil and disastrous a villain that ever was hell bent on world domination. Their thwacked chanting acting like a sorcerer's spell, entrancing the world into an unsightly display of feet.

My fear and paranoia have been escalating like a turkey's in November. Soon that annoying sound will be inescapable, The squishing of sweaty phalanges against soft neoprene and the reverberating pat of rubber against concrete will emanate from the streets. Rarely is there relief, for most think their flippers are welcome everywhere, like babies or cell phones. From the office ("but I'm wearing a skirt.") to the theater (with the most formal of cargo shorts) to the finest watering holes ("It's like so gnarly to be in this classy bar"), the nasal squawks of the Gilbert Godfried of footwear will resound. My own family and friends are among the worst offenders, flaunting their feet with reckless abandon. Even from inside my castle walls I must endure the clacking of sandal footed neighbors bouncing down the hall stairs. In the workplace, women are shedding their pumps for flops. Tourists are polluting our streets with Reefs and Tevas, some even (heavy sigh) paired with socks. And worst of all, grown men are forgoing their dignity for the chance to let their toe knuckles breath. I can grant exception to most women as their stylistic cues and daintier physique warrant overexposure, but how can a man take himself seriously with his feet flopping about in the open. No one wants to see a man's feet off of the beach. Period.

Perhaps the reason for my hatred is that I just don't understand. I fail to see the appeal of such a pedestrian article when boat shoes, loafers, driving mocs and even an espadrille exist as stylistic choices. Yet human's seem to be drawn to flip flops like groupies to a rock star. They remain a symbol of the casual counterculture (to which I hate to inform them, aren't so counter anymore) and rebellion against "the man" that made shoes a de facto societal norm. The excuses are numerous: "people were made to walk barefoot", "socks suffocate my feet", "my feet sweat and smell in shoes", "they are just, like, sooo comfortable". Blah blah blah. Regardless of the reason, they have become a idol of leisure to which people bow whether practicality or comfort is at issue. And their followers will defend them at all costs. True story: I saw a young fellow on the subway, strapping and well attired from head to ankle. Had I had to judge him solely on his feet, he looked like a hobo… his feet left black and dusty from the grimy streets, all but ruining his polished look.

After months of succumbing to such travesties, I ache for the fall when heavy boots tromp the streets and leather yet again meets marble floors. But in the meantime there is an accessible oasis offering repose. A revered gentleman's spot where leather reigns and a full vamp is heralded as a work of art no matter the season: the cobbler.

Nothing polishes off an outfit 
like a freshly shined pair of shoes

Standing tall with the barber and (if you're lucky enough to have a good one) the tailor, a cobbler can provide safe harbor from the ugly modern world. Now more than ever, with my thonged nemesis looming about, I find it necessary to seek refuge atop the high chairs of my 38th Street shop to indulge in one of life's little pleasures - the shoe shine . I first started my shine addiction as morning relief from the rigors of the daily grind. After ducking out for breakfast, I would indulge in a session of shoe therapy at least once a week before returning to my desk. Walking through the door of the nondescript shinery, one is removed from the fast paced world of Midtown Manhattan and it's endless corporate poppycock. The Wayne's World basement boasts a homeyness, with accents including red vinyl seats, wood paneling and metal framed posters of hardline sports cars. It's unpretentious, unrefined, inexpensive and I love it.

It's but one high step to hoist myself up onto the elevated seat where I can lock my soles into the cast iron stirrups. Calm cascades over me and the weight of my worries is lifted, if only for a brief time. My breathing is eased, heartburn is settled and best of all there isn't a flip to be flopped in sight. As the process gets underway, some men reach for the paper but I prefer to remain in my disconnected haze and immerse myself in the technique. The motions, rhythms and movements are hypnotizing, only adding to the relaxation.

Shining so bright you need shades

Horsehair brush and shoehorn:
Each morning throughout the week
 I give a quick brush to revive the luster of shines past

First, a quick towel wipe frees any excess dirt or dust and in extreme cases a saddle soap is used to cleanse the leather. The Kiwi tin is then popped and a base coat of polish is circulated onto the leather with a round applicator brush followed quickly my a massaging hand application. A tight weave towel is then sprayed and vigorously rolled over the vamp garnering a base shine. A second spread of polish is placed on the vamp and swiped with two large horsehair brushes. Finally, a shaggy towel is spritzed and forcefully slung across the vamp again to produce the high finished shine. After the final pull the towel is snapped with authority to denote the process has finished.

As I pay at the register I can hear the aged Italian cobbler singing songs from the old country as he pounds away at his craft in the rear of the store. To my dismay (and no doubt his), the crude threshold acts as a portal back into the other dimension where the world so often overlooks the details of style. One in which leisure and comfort reign and the propriety of the old guard is constantly threatened. But I move forward, my foot armor exquisitely shined in an attempt to battle the sandal wearing hippies in my path.

The shine costs $3, but the moments of reprieve are worth so much more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Tie Bar


I like my ties like I like my cocktails: classic, well-made and with a twist.

Why has no one thought of this before? I spotted this tie by Mark McNairy over on this weekend while catching up on old GQ Eye blog posts and I dig the design. They say all art comes from other art and so McNairy throws a curve into the classic repp tie, reminding us that it doesn't take much to make something your own.

Instead of busy patterns and loud colors, make a statement by playing with fabric and texture. Look for ties in silk knit, wool, cashmere, or linen. With summer approaching, gingham, madras and seersucker provide classic alternatives to neckwear banality. When in doubt though, the standard solids and stripes will always leave you looking chic and timeless.

My classic repp by J. Crew

In the tie bar, don't be caught with an AppleMango-tini. Ordering up a classic provides the least regret and reduces your style hangover.

Monday, May 2, 2011

To Have And Have Not

New York constantly reminds me that no matter how much money you have, you can't buy style. You can buy fashion, you can buy trends and you can by jewels. But style - you either got it or you don't.

Or so say the boys below, and in my opinion they have some expertise in the subject:

Video courtesy of ErikMCMLVX

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Few, The Proud, The Pressed

The obsession started young. I remember the steam from the iron snorting like a dragon each time my mother would lift it from the freshly laundered linen. While the rest of the family sat entranced by 80s sitcoms, she stood tirelessly pressing my father's shirts with military precision. He was lucky to have worked before casual attire became the norm and was in constant need of an army of dress shirts at his disposal. His stylistic preference favored maximum starch, which produced shirts so stiff they stood at attention under their own control. As the nights drew closer to bedtime, the readied soldiers would hang from the door jam awaiting their call to duty and the dragon would return to its resting state.

Children are impressionable and I was no different. The hours I spent seeing my mom produce masterfully curated garments and idolizing my father's crisp appearance created a monster at quite a young age. As the story goes, around 5 years of age, my mother delivered a pair of pants to my room before I was to head off to another day in the salt mines of Catholic kindergarten. She returned back to her room only to be followed by her incensed offspring; the scathing little stomps indicating displeasure. Little did I know that the foundations of a New Yorker were forming in me already as I threw the pants to the floor at her feet and demanded that they be re-pressed… correctly. In my advanced pediatric mind, I felt her work subpar, inadequate and quite frankly unprofessional. She clearly did not understand the consequences of walking into class dressed so slovenly. How could I command respect overseeing the construction of a block fort? Who would want to sit at my kidney bean shaped table and discuss school politics and the latest Ninja Turtles episode?? What good would learning to tie my shoe be if the crease in my goddamn pants was incorrect??? It would affect the entire line of my trouser, not to mention meddling with the break! Although I don't remember much else, my guess is that her initial instinct to slap me was subdued only by the stupefaction that a wee creature could insist upon such strict protocol on his appearance.

To this day I have a love affair with laundry. It's been many years since my mother has had to iron my clothes, but every once in a while she'll jump at the chance to press a shirt while I'm home. It's an opportunity to iron in her personal touch to my love of sartorial flair and atone for her once shoddy performance. She will present her finished work for inspection like a proud peacock, and I, having grown (slightly) less demanding, now appreciate all her efforts. Those shirts feel different because they lack the normal faceless service. Instead they shine with the most paramount of care - a mother's loving touch.

Living in New York I have had to forgo the pleasures of laundering my own clothes in favor of drop-off service. From a monetary and time perspective it makes more sense to outsource the work and stimulate local business. But after 5 years it still saddens me to have to relinquish control over the maintenance of my most prized possessions. Just like my beloved Turkish tailor, my dry cleaner has become a trusted ally in the preservation of my closet and image. Although the drop off saddens me, I find picking up my freshly cleaned shirts to be one of life's little pleasures. For then my arsenal is replenished and stands ready to fight the casual world again.

Unlike my father, I adamantly request no starch on my shirts. I find that the chemicals and forced rigidity deteriorate the fabric quicker, in addition to making for an unpleasant wear. I desire the natural cotton against my skin and not the seared varnish of starch. But to each his own in the details of dress. Once the troops have returned to home base I immediately redress them with the standard issue barracks uniform. The cheap wire hangers are removed and the pressed shoulders are draped over sturdy wooden frames.

Recently though I have decided to spice things up and opt for pressed, folded shirts (Yes, I know, things get wild here in NYC). In the first episode of Mad Men, Don Draper arrives at the office one morning after a night of adulterous and debauched acts. While conversing with his superior, he reaches down into his desk drawer, which happens to be stocked with clean, folded white dress shirts. As he changes, the sins of his prior evening are wiped clean by the fresh linen and he is ready to demoralize another day. Similarly, at the start of the film, George Falconer in A Single Man retrieves a folded white shirt from the stacks in his bedroom's dresser as he delivers his internal narrative - "It takes time in the morning for me to become George. Time to adjust to what is to be expected and how he is to behave." His regimented drawer of folded shirts is part of the uniform that he adheres to each day to "become" himself.

Draper's desk drawer

Falconer's dresser drawer

There is something about the folded dress shirt that I find exciting. I feel that it strips away the commodity of the laundering process and returns your garment with a personal touch. The precision with which it's folded highlights the care that someone placed in looking after your possessions. As we all know, presentation accounts for much of a product's value. A laundered folded shirt takes us back to when it was new and the overwhelming anticipation of the first wear.

From a practicality standpoint, folded shirts are a must for travel. I myself have a wedding to attend next week and Easter with the family the following weekend. I try to think ahead and plan my outfits accordingly so that I may be adequately prepared for the packing process. I'll separate my shirts out for travel and regular wear when trips are imminent. Folded shirts stack nicely into a suitcase, or fit easily in an overnight duffle while maintaining their integrity and form. But more regularly I have been getting one or two folded each drop-off just for fun. A little change to the banality that the weeks can bring. I regularly say that what gets me out of bed each morning is the walk to my closet - the chance to define myself and shape my image before entering the world. But one or two days of the week, it's the drawer that draws me from the covers. It's knowing that there awaits a little gift for me to open.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Frank Roasted, Dean Toasted

Charisma, class and camaraderie captured on film.

Stuffed on stage amongst the wide lapels and flagrant disregard for political correctness is a deus of comedic talent that may never be topped. The likes of Milton Bearle, George Burns, Red Foxx, Jonathan Winters, Flip Wilson, Don Rickles and many others pay tribute to The Chairman himself, through jokes, insults and not so gentle ribbing.

Unlike the modern garbage presented on Comedy Central, Dean Martin hosts an evening of hysterics that will make you glad you just wasted the last hour on the internet. If I had a time machine, after I hit The Sands in '63, I might swing on by a Dean Martin Roast!

Come for the floppy bow ties, stay for the laughs. But be warned, smoking is allowed:

See all 12 parts at shotinthedark20000's page (right side bar) on YouTube.

Highlights include:
Part 2: Ronald Regan and Dom Delouise
Part 3: Peter Faulk as Columbo*
Part 4: Jimmy Stewart and Flip Wilson
Part 5: Milton Berle (Skip to 5 minute mark)*
Part 6: Charlie Callus and Redd Foxx
Part 7: Telly Savalas
Part 8: Lawanda Page and Ernest Borgnign
Part 9: Orson Welles, Red Buttons and Jack Klugman
Part 10: Jonathan Winters*
Part 11: Rich Little, Jillie
Part 12: Don Rickles and The Man of the Hour

In full disclosure, I sat at my computer for three and a half hours watching bits of other roasts afterwards on the likes of Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Lucille Ball, Don Rickles and many others. It never felt so good to laugh so long...

Special thanks to my good friend Dan for finding such treasures and sharing the wealth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Man Behind the Lens, Exposed

"Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of every day life"
-Bill Cunningham

This phrase awakened goosebumps as I sat in the dark theater on W. Houston Street. The quaking voice of a journalistic legend delivered this candid metaphor to describe the attitude that I and many others take into the world each day. We all may harbor anxiety, fear or insecurity under the surface, but the clothes we wear, stitched with our personal style, is the thick skin we need to battle and thrive.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of an evening at the movies. Film has always been equal parts escape and inspiration and is generally my default choice for leisure. What I admire about the genre is its ability to entertain and educate through visual stimulation. While I can enjoy Hollywood's blockbusters I have come to love Indie projects more, especially in the form of documentaries - films that open the window on a person or subject that has been locked away or seen only through smudged glass.

The subject of the screening I attended was Bill Cunningham, the iconic and venerable style photographer for the New York Times. In an interview, the creator of the movie stated that the film was eleven years in the making, nine of which were trying to convince Bill to participate.

Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, has been quoted as saying "we all dress for Bill". In the era of fashion blogs and street style, Bill Cunningham is the original. He has been documenting street fashion for 40+ years and holds a vast archive of New York history in his filing cabinets of film. Though he has also become a staple of the runways in Paris, Bill is known for believing that the best fashion show takes place on the streets. He could care less about celebrity fame, designer's names or societal pomp and circumstance, for him it's all about the clothes.

What we as an audience were treated to was an intimate look into the life of a modest man with an unbridled passion for personal style and an eye for trends. From first glance he looks no different than a common octogenarian puttering along on his classic Schwin, but his influence and mark on the fashion world is indescribable.

From his humble beginnings as a milliner in New York to a godfather of the runways, Bill Cunningham has lived without ever abandoning his principles or compromising his dignity for money or notoriety. As a man, he is funny, focused, spiritual and spry. He holds a unique perspective on life and has eschewed such "trivial pleasures" as eating or romance for the pursuit of his passion of clothes. For years he has lived modestly in the artist studios above Carnegie Hall and has never capitalized on his abilities or influence for monetary or personal gain. He quipped that "if you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do". He is a man after Sinatra's heart and purposefully does it "his way".

The film exposed the man behind the camera as someone of strong will and integrity; his tireless energy compromised only by a sense of loneliness in his approach. He desires nothing from outsiders and prefers to blend into his surroundings and document style as it naturally happens, not for popularity or endorsement. He is said to be an egalitarian, with an awareness of society but an indifference to its class and restraints. Whether you are an heiress or an outer-borough youth, the clothes are what he sees above all else.

I had the great honor of being shot twice by Bill this past summer while attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island. At the time, I was blithely unaware of his existence and prominence in the fashion world. As he approached my girlfriend and I on both days of the event, I assumed that he was no more than a retiree entrenched in his hobby. When I tried to speak to him, he simply smiled and, without a word, scurried on to his next style muse. In my five years as a New Yorker, I can mark those occasions as hallmarks of my city life. Knowing that the grainy negatives of my humble attempts at style reside in his expansive sartorial catalog makes me proud to be a part of the larger scope of fashion in New York.

My experience with this film has come at a time when I find myself battling for a personal freedom. In what I can only guess is an attempt to commoditize their employees, my company recently instituted a uniform policy, depriving me of the great joy I take in dressing myself each day. In its essence they have stripped me of my armor, leaving me defeated and vulnerable to the elements of society. Although I have fought for my convictions, I can't help but think that Bill would have resigned out of a respect for himself and the preservation of his dignity (although, ironically, Bill wears a quasi-uniform each day - his signature blue jacket is part of the uniform of Parisian sanitation workers). New York is a place where individuality shines and where people like Bill take note. To be forced into daily stylistic monotony is as detrimental to a creative person as an arrow to the heart. I feel lucky to have seen this film during my current debacle, as it gives me added motivation to stand strong in my beliefs and fight for the freedom to embrace personal style. Bill's love of fashion and dedication to his principles is inspiration of the purest form.

Bill Cunningham's New York is an endearing, funny, insightful film that gives a rare glimpse into the life of a modest visionary that has influenced fashion for decades. If it is playing in your area, I highly recommend an evening at the movies.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Single Man

Image: Jeff Burton for AnOther Magazine

Over a year ago, my first post was written featuring the work of Tom Ford. The film, A Single Man, was Mr. Ford's first foray into the genre and a triumphant showcase of his abilities as a creative visionary. A lot has happened since that initial post and recent events have reminded me of how I used to enjoy documenting my thoughts in writing.

March, being the fickle bitch that it is, has toyed with our hearts here in New York yet again. The bitter drop in temperatures since the previous Friday's stint in the 70's left me embracing the last few weekends of solitude that goes with a winter chill. A quick trip into my UES Best Buy left me the proud owner of A Single Man on DVD and the hopes of a quiet evening at home with my new friend the Negroni.

Frequently called "the bartender's drink",
a Negroni is an acquired taste with a
wonderfully complex flavor:
1oz. Sweet Vermouth
I oz. Campari
1 oz. Gin
Stir, strain, and garnish with orange twist

Mr. Ford and A Single Man have been on my mind again recently. At the time I started this blog I was in the midst of a budding romance with a wonderful woman with whom I share many fantastic memories. The return from my prolonged hiatus finds me at the opposite end of the relationship spectrum weathering an unfair end to a partnership that held much promise, sabotaged only by life's linear differences. While not as tragic as A Single Man's plot, it still stings with the pain of a lost compliment to my life - like a suit without a pocket square or shoes without a shine. Ironically, the joy of purchasing a favorite film brought with it the realization of my new bond with the title.

Having split, but being the thoughtful and classy lady that she is, I received an e-mail from her just hours before my planned DVD purchase. The catalyst of the correspondence was an alert to an upcoming article on Mr. Ford, knowing that I would appreciate and admire the content that she had found. Although the full article has not been published, the magazine AnOther has released a snippet of material in the form of "Tom Ford's five easy lessons in how to be a modern gentleman". After reading his eloquent thoughts I was left even more in awe of his integrity and character. Mr. Ford's views and values could not be in any greater harmony with what I strive to promote on a daily basis:

1. You should put on the best version of yourself when you go out in the world because that is a show of respect to the other people around you.

2. A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored. You have to be passionate, you have to be engaged and you have to be contributing to the world.

3. Manners are very important and actually knowing when things are appropriate. I always open doors for women, I carry their coat, I make sure that they’re walking on the inside of the street. Stand up when people arrive at and leave the dinner table.

4. Don’t be pretentious or racist or sexist or judge people by their background.

5. A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.

Credit: AnOther Magazine, Interview: Jefferson Hack

We all may falter now and again, but think of how much better the world would be if each man approached their day with these rules in mind (yes, especially the last one).

Image: Jeff Burton for AnOther Magazine

Since my last post I have experienced and embraced a great many new things. I traveled to the west coast for the first time, been in the presence of Clint Eastwood, moved into my very own bachelor pad, bought my first tuxedo, attended a Prohibition era New Year's Eve party at a magnificent old mansion, sampled many delicious cocktails, abandoned my youthful haircut for one of Draper-esque maturity, and indulged in the refined leisure that only proper pajamas and a robe can provide. But my excitement over such things seemed confined without the ability to share the joy that they bring me.

I enjoyed documenting my adventures, but as with any creative endeavor I eventually became a victim of my own success. In my pursuit for unattainable perfection, each post started to require more and more of my time and efforts - topic formulation, writing, editing, photo selections, credits, formatting, html manipulation. I quickly found out that producing web content could be as tedious and time-consuming as "picking fly shit out of pepper" (a favorite quote of my late grandfather). I started to garner a small following and the demand for output became laborious. Before long I was writing more than doing. I began treating each post as if it was the cover story in Vanity Fair instead of focusing on my initial goals - to chronicle my opinions on style, my experiences in the city and my thoughts on all things gentlemanly.

Having gone back to read some of my earlier posts I realized that writing is no different than the month of March - a fickle bitch that ebbs and flows between hot and cold. Writing, in many ways mirrors life - some days are better than others and in the midst of frozen perfection there always lies a thaw just around the corner. The important thing is to keep at it and trudge through. Here I sit excited and refocused. The past weeks may have left me fragile but I am again inspired to release my views back into the world. While I may work on longer narratives from time to time, I'd like to get back to my original idea and post smaller more frequent pieces that are easier to digest and hopefully enjoyable and informative.

As other aspects of my life have evolved over the past months, so to will my writing as I try to re-learn and hone my craft. Change is inevitable and persistence is key.

Bear with me, for I am but a single man.