Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pimp My Ride

My in-laws have a shore house in Delaware. In the garage is a Trek Navigator and a yard sale Rand cruiser bike, styled in primary blue with white and neon pink decals and a solid amount of rust. My stepson and I decided to give it a makeover.

We took it almost completely apart. Painted the blue parts army green and the shiny parts (including the spokes) a gritty hammered black steel. (gunmetal was unavailable). Once it was fairly dry, I put it back together, took it for a test drive down Rt. 1 from Lewes to Dewey and proclaimed it safe. Next move is crafting some stencils and adding a few insignia.

Sadly, while purchasing a basket kit at the bike shop, we saw a $520 custom Felt beauty that has outdone us in every way. Though you can't put a price on quality time and do-it-yourself pride.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Car Story

I'm not a car guy. It's not really in my blood. I have friends and relatives by marraige that are, but most of it is lost on me.

My unlce Johnny sold my dad his brown Mercury Capri when I was just old enough to notice what kind of car he was driving. I can remember the exact moment. He pulled out onto a highway pretty hard and the tires screeched and the engine growled. It served more as a second car. In fact, if I recall correctly, my old man was taking me from a family get-together to my baseball game that day. We wore it completely into the ground. I started to learn stick in that baby, and that may have been what ultimately killed it.

My mom's dad has a dark blue Crown Vic. He's had this car forever. Not a specific one, though. He's replaced an old dark blue Crown Victoria with a brand new one at least twice since I've been old enough to notice. I used to find it a little absurd. Lately, I kind of dig the idea. Some guys look forward to getting a new car every couple years. My father-in-law, for instance, is always lusting after some variety of hot rod or new look classic. That seems to be pretty common. A lot of guys view cars like toys. My relationship with cars is more like the kind you have with a hunting dog or a pair of shoes. When they wear out from over use, you know they worked for you, so you might as well replace them strait up.

As a kind of nod to the old Capri, my first and only car is a brown Mercury Sable. Same detailing, stripes and sunroof, as the old one. It's a 2000. It runs good, but it won't last forever. Probably just long enough to teach my 11 year old step son how to drive before giving out. You can bet that I'll replace it with a brown Mercury sedan of some sort. Mildly sporty, sunroof, pinstripes, etc. I figure, If it ain't broke...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wild West Gentleman Style

Perhaps this is a terrible idea. But perhaps this is pure inspired sartorial genius. I've been watching a lot of old westerns lately and I couldn't help but notice the prominence of the Western String Tie on men of class and sophistication. Not men with particular pretnese or rank. Just hard nosed cowboys who prefered looking sharp to looking dusty and grizzled.

Maybe it's time to try one out. See how it plays. It might be just the look I've been searching for. Or it could make me look like Colonel Sanders.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Root Canal

I’m scheduled to have a root canal today at 2:30 (tooth hurty) get it. I wish I was making that up. I wish I was making the whole thing up. Actually, I’m more concerned with the pain of paying for it that the physical pain I’m in for.

But if I’m looking for a silver lining, I suppose there’s one sliver. All this talk and experiment in the ways of dressing, smelling, drinking and equipping myself like a man is one thing. It’s probably a more noble pursuit to try and take it like a man.

Quick back story: I had a toothache years ago and my original dentist passed away the week of my appointment. I let it go for a while before finding a new dentist. He patched me up, but warned that somewhere down the road I might need a root canal. The time has come, but he lamented the fact that my tooth was unusually long (30mm) and he lacked the proper equipment to get it done right. He sent me to a specialist who I’ll be meeting and cowering from this afternoon. If it ends up being an interesting event, I’ll let you know about it.

My abnormally long and poorly maintained teeth

Friday, May 29, 2009

True Cool = Charlie Watts

The aim is to have no aim, but nail the center of the target anyway. Coolness is not giving a fuck without saying "I don't give a fuck". And nobody, in my estimation, is less affected and more spot on than the backbone of the goddamn Rolling Stones.

"When people talk about the '60s I never think that was me there. It was me and I was in it, but I was never enamoured with all that. It's supposed to be sex and drugs and rock and roll and I'm not really like that. I've never really seen the Rolling Stones as anything."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

XX Mascot

I can’t say that I endorse Dos Equis. But this fictional lothario does and he makes Bill Brasky look like Spuds MacKenzie. Or Spuds MacKenzie look like Bill Brasky. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. He’s awesomely awful and awfully awesome.

“He is the most interesting man in the world.”

“His reputation is expanding faster than the universe.”

“He once had an awkward moment just to see how it feels.”

“He lives vicariously through himself.”

“The police often question him just because they find him interesting.”

“His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body.”

“His blood smells like cologne.”

Friday, May 22, 2009


"There comes a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernal of nourshing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given him to till."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Courtesy: The Sporting Life Blog)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Monkey see...

"To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while."

- Josh Billings

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Not?

So the general idea of blogging has been significantly moved down the priority ladder. My apologies. I'm still moving forward, just talking about it less. Which acctually feels like a significant step forward. I've added a few choice items to my aresenal, but one thing I don't have, or need, but would love is a pair of red heel socks from Fox River Mills. I'm sure you'll recognize them from stuffed mokey fame. Wouldn't it be oh so quirky to put them on your feet? (Made in the USA to boot)

Carry on.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cutting Back = New Growth

Transition has been the name of the game lately. For starters my employer has cut me back to 4 days a week. Combine that with a few others not being so lucky, and I am suddenly quite busy.

This has turned several theoretical plans into a reality. For one, cable is gone. Well, once I relinquish the equipment on Saturday it’s gone. So is the accumulation of clothing and other accoutrements for that matter. A few additional budgetary considerations and the family boat is afloat.

As far as gains and benefits go...
I’m getting to spend a good amount of quality time with my son, and once summer arrives, the whole family. I’ll be able to begin and tend to a handful of household projects: painting, gardening, repair, etc. I’m determined to make good use of this whole thing. I’m planning on learning a few more tricks in the kitchen as I prepare dinner for the family on my days off. I plan to do a lot more reading as well. Call me overly optimistic, but a life without television and shopping, traded for more time at home with the kids has got to be good for the soul.

Perhaps the most positive development is learning that my loved ones are happy to trade a handful of luxuries for time together. In the face of what could be considered a crisis, it’s good to know.

On other semi-related topics:
I sampled some Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch at a going away get together. Good stuff. Unfortunately, it would be just the kind of thing I’ll have to start giving up.

I inherited a handful of ties from a departing coworker gentleman, including some choice Christmas themed ones. My main concern right now is having the chance to put them to good use.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Required Merit Badges

I was (am) an Eagle Scout. I don’t make a secret of it, but I don’t usually publicize it either. So much for that.

One of the tasks you needed to complete in order to attain the rank of Eagle Scout was earning a complete set of “Required Merit Badges”:

Citizenship in the Community
Citizenship in the Nation
Citizenship in the World
Emergency Preparedness / Lifesaving
Environmental Science
Family Life
First Aid
Hiking / Cycling / Swimming
Personal Fitness
Personal Management

An all around great set of skills to master and an ideal foundation for a budding man, I must say.

My favorite electives were:
Wilderness Survival
Rifle Shooting
Small Boat Sailing

I’d like to try and dig up my merit badge sash and post it. In the meantime, you can get the idea from this guys.

At the very least, I’d like to find some of the old merit badge books and put my kids through the paces. My stepson’s sports and dual family schedule makes boy scout membership a challenge. Though, he has expressed a strong interest in those kinds of activities. I guess it couldn’t hurt to give myself a refresher and bestow a sort of honorary scout rank on him. Kind of like an emergency baptism or teaching certificate.

I also think it would be fun to assemble a committee of sorts to create a set of requirements and guidebooks for post-scouting activites. We could create, earn and give out merit badges in things like: Whiskey Drinking, Steak Grilling, Motorcycle Ownership, Child Scolding, Poker, Home Improvement, Lawn Care, etc.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old People Candy

Since the last of the Easter Candy vanished from the community food table at work, it has been mostly empty. This morning someone piled a ton of spiced jelly beans. The classic flavors were refreshing. Instead of tasting like Starburts or Lifesavers, they were a medley of mint, licorice and cinnamon. A combination I like to call “old people” flavors.

Lately, I’ve been trying to shed adolescent habits and styles. Opting, whenever possible, to take the grow-up route. I’ve developed many new tastes: whiskey, loafers, pocket squares, grapefruit, etc. I’ve even refined my tastes in candy. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a Skittle or a gummy bear. For a while now it’s bee all spice drops, licorice, dark chocolate, Bit-O-Honey, caramel cremes, and all variety of old people flavored hard candy, like butterscotch and peppermint.

My dad used to keep a handful of butterscotch candies on his dresser drawer. I used to think it was because that was the only candy we wouldn’t completely devour the moment his back was turned. Now I’m starting to think that perhaps candy, like most indulgences, has a sophisticated side to explore and savor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Mini Summer Vacation

I set out with a somewhat ambitious goal of daily posts. But the gorgeous weather, baseball season and general business conspired against it.

I suppose it will make for a more interesting blog when I have something interesting enough to mention that I’m forced to cut through everything else and share it. But in the meantime, I hope I don’t drop off of your radar if you had been checking in.

Here are a few short form topics that I will temporarily leave to your imagination.

A Hamilton Watch

Ultra-bright patchwork madras shorts

J. Crew Sunglasses & Driving Cap

Colorful socks


Tie Clips

Vegetable Gardening

Vinyl Records


Summer Alcohol

Friday, April 24, 2009

...a Donkey in the Kentucky Derby...

Pretty sure I'm the only person who's nostalgic for this ad campain. But what the heck, it's suposed to be in the high 80s this weekend. Prime conditions for a little T&T.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saluting the Antihero

"All men are scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their upbringing" ~ Bertrand Russell

Nobody's perfect. And it might be better to be a bad guy with redeeming qualities than to be a good guy with flaws. At any rate it seems more fullfilling to be a bum stiving for elegance than to be a natural born dandy falling from grace.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earthly Possessions

My step son approached me this morning. He informed me that we were out of dog food. Then he asked me, “What are you doing today?”. “As far as what?” I replied. “For the Earth. It’s Earth Day.” he stated with the “obviously” implied.

That was a good question. I thought about it for most of the morning. There are probably more things I should not do as a gesture towards mother Earth. But I think it would be a good idea to do something, even if it’s mostly symbolic. I should have biked to work today or I should break ground on a vegetable garden. We are getting replacement windows. I guess we could call the contractor and give him the official go-ahead today. On a more creative line, we could spend the evening with all lights and appliances turned off, hanging out in candle light. Or I could go out and make a purchase or donation that might have an ripple effect on the greater economic landscape.

I’ve always held on the idea that the best thing one person can do to change the world is to simply take a stand and set an example. Did you notice how the price of gas fell from over $4 last summer down to under $2. That was because I started biking to work. That was my economic influence at work. When I spend money, I like to think about the big picture as much as possible. Money is a powerful force after all. Using it not only gets you stuff, but it exerts influence on the market. It let’s the beast know what people want, were they want it, and how to make it. Buying things that are organic, eco-friendly, or recycled can have a modest but real impact on the production of these things as the market counteracts to it.

So, here’s my plan for Earth Day. After baseball practice, we're going to Target to buy dog food. On top of that, we are each going to buy one item that will let the market know that we care about the environment, in hopes that it moves more in that direction. Perhaps a box of high efficiency light bulbs, an article of the new limited edition Loomstate organic cotton apparel, thermal lined roman shades, some organically branded food or drink, planting seeds, a rain collection contraption, but above all we are not going to accept a plastic bag to them home in.

Loomstate organic cotton pocket tee, made for Target

On top of that, I’m going to buy something from the thrift shop today, and further along the recycled items line, we’ll spend some time making a bird feeder or wind chime out of a plastic bottle and other would-be trash. (The kid has been bugging me about doing that for a few days. Going so far as to warm up to the idea of cancelling cable if it means more home made craft projects.) Regardless of the limited significance of these actions, they should prove to be a memorable and worthwhile gesture. Showing the kid and the Earth (and in some way, the dogs) that they are important to me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

(May)be Better Off

The wife and I are throwing around the idea of a May without cable. Life seems to be better when you can avoid turning on the television. You find yourself engaged in activities like reading, talking, playing, making, walking, listening, and just using your time in a productive way. Days without television seem longer. Life seems better in general. I think we’d be happier without it.

Convincing ourselves of this move can be done. Staving off a children’s mutiny is another story. But ultimately, they would reap the most benefits from the experiment. They might discover reading and imagination. They might be inclined to get more exercise, take up hobbies and develop skills. Hopefully we’d all discover that we don’t even miss it. All realizing that cable was an addiction, offering little pleasure in exchange for hours of devotion.

On the other hand, we could become freakishly droll or unbearably uptight as a result. Or worse, we could discover that TV has been casually guarding us from discovering the fact that we are not compatible enough to live without it.

As part of a broader strategy, the cable free month will be supplemented with replacement activities. Scheduled walks, reading time, family game nights and earlier bed times will be instituted. And we shall devote ourselves to cultivating a vegetable garden and we will make time to watch movies together (so as to prevent atrophy of the entertainment center and withdraw fueled nervous breakdowns). Maybe some of us will learn to knit or sew. Maybe some of us will become healthier. Maybe we will all bond on a new level and become all around better, happier and smarter people.

But maybe we’ll hate the experience and resolve to watch more TV. Maybe we won’t make it a week before we mutually get to that point. Maybe we’ll bag the idea altogether. Maybe. Maybe not. But if it’s going to happen, it probably should be soon, the month of May being ideal. Because by the time June comes around and the rest of the family is stuck at home together full time, this kind of experiment might get ugly. Maybe I’ll have to rush home in the middle of the day to an episode of violent backlash. Or does that only happen on cable TV?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Take a Hike

Unbeknownst to us, our township owns a sizable chuck of mountainside just across the way from our house. There was a blurb in the newsletter about a guided tour this morning. We strapped the baby into the yard-sale-purchased backpack contraption and promised the 10 year old some ice cream if he rolled out of bed into pants and shoes and joined us.

The guide and his dog were a little shocked that over 20 folks showed up. He led us up and around a labyrinth of unrestricted (dog, dirt-bike & drinker friendly) trails to abandoned quarry sites, pumping stations and impressive views. In fact this is how cool this place is. The only permit archery hunting and it doesn't even have a name. I asked the guide what the territory was called and he shrugged his shoulder and said "the woods". I was only bothered that I hadn't discovered them early. Well, that and that I didn't think to bring a camera, but I'm sure I'll be up there soon and often.

The trails were no joke. At least not for beginners. Plenty of creeks to cross, loose rocks to negotiate and felled trees to climb. I've been getting tired of sidewalks and playgrounds anyway. This could be the discovery of the summer. I could see spending whole Saturdays up there.

We lasted about an hour and forty-five with the kid. Not bad. I learned that my Redwing's aren't as broken in as I thought. But I also learned that if you get far enough from civilization, you can literally taste the fresh air. I was a boy scout, and have been on plenty of hikes and camping trips. And I spend a lot of time running trails and in parks. But there's a difference when your 100 yards from a highway or when you drive to a trailhead and you're 13. This was way better. Mother nature, isolated and untouched, behind the house next door. Life just got a little better.

I have to go now, and decide between archery gear and a dirt-bike.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Here's Johnny!

I'm just finishing Steve Martin's Book, Born Standing Up. Towards the end of the second to last chapter he pays tribute to Johnny Carson. He describes him as reserved but gracious. Johnny treated all of his guests according to what they deserved and in such a way that would allow the audience to see their best qualities. He knew how to set someone up and how to bail them out. He was, no surprise, the ultimate host.

In any situation, be aware of when the focus is and isn't on you. And be on the ball when it comes to casting others in the best light. At the same time, be funny and keep things lively. A good host is someone people want to be around. He is likable and magnetic, but more important than that, he is gracious and puts everyone at ease.

At the table or the bar you can't go wrong giving a good lead in. Ask someone to tell that good story not everyone else has heard. Bend the conversation towards common interests. And above all, be composed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” -- Woody Allen

“The other twenty is being present.” -- me

Imagine a classroom full of fourth graders settling into their desks. The teacher begins to call roll. She plainly rattles off the names of each student, who reply in turn, “Here”, “Here!”, “What?” (giggles) “Present.”

In most aspects of life it pays to be more than just here. Being present, in this case meaning being an active participant in the events, aware of what’s going on, and fully concerned with right now is hugely important. And seemingly easier and easier to get away from these days. Televisions, computers, cell phones, blackberries, even printed pages, mirrors and windows have surfaces that are a portal to being elsewhere. The key is to engage yourself and maintain focus on your tangible surroundings.

Using your senses to hook into everything that’s going on and becoming a concerned observer can make the difference in almost any situation. In your social life, love life, work life, health, even citizen life. Being present is the key to getting what you want or at least understanding and accepting what you’re getting. Or more profoundly, what you are and aren’t giving.

Put life on a clearly defined schedule. Set time to get dressed and do it thoroughly in that time. Set time to read and be invested in it. Give yourself a bed time. Sit down and eat a meal. Start conversations and see them through, but don’t be afraid to excuse yourself, hang up, or walk away in due time. Turn off the TV when your show is over. Take off your hat and coat when you get inside. Watch the sunset, the kids playing and the waves crashing. Be a good host and a great visitor. Be a good boss and a great employee. Be a good father and a great son.

Take the time to...

Listen to someone’s story.

Observe nature.

Play the game.



Excuse yourself.

Stay until it’s over.

and know when it’s time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Good Doctor

I saw Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride last night. It’s a captivating documentary on the life and death of Hunter S. Thompson.

Despite a life of unbridled adventure an excess, the most fascinating segments dealt with his breakfast routine, sleeping habits and funeral arrangements. He would wake sometime in the afternoon and eat 5 or 6 grapefruits along with several glasses of Chivas. He would regularly stay up and work or talk on the phone till dawn. He lived life entirely on his own terms until the idea of himself outran the reality. The movie actually makes a disturbingly good case for committing suicide in your mid to late sixties. Or at least when there’s nothing more to be done.

Repeatedly throughout the film, people close to him state that despite his reputation and larger than life persona, in the private company of family and friends he was a consummate Southern gentleman. That’s what stuck out to me the most, at least in relation to my current fascinations. He was a man with an insatiable appetite for everything in the realm of guns, booze, drugs, motors, sport, politics and anything where danger and excitement traveled along the same parabola. But when the show was over, he was a kind and giving host and friend, a road man for the lords of karma.

I was also intrigued by the fact that as a budding writer, he used to retype complete books by the likes of Hemmingway and Faulkner. I'd like to give that a try. I can't imagine having that kind of time though. I'll bet it would make me a much better writer, and typist.

“There was no time for scholarly details, and, besides, I have always believed that a man can fairly be judged by the standards and taste of his choices in matters of high-level plagiarism.”

“It’s a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.”

His Suicide Note
“Football seasons over. No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won’t hurt.”

I have only read essays and articles of his. After seeing this movie, though, I'm putting at least one novel on my library list.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The best games are the ones that have a healthy balance of luck and skill. At the same time, it should be something you do for recreation. Some might find Chess to be too great a challenge and Checkers to be too little of one. Nicely situated between those two pastimes is Backgammon. It’s easy to learn and lends itself to repeated playings. My old roommate and I would stay up late into the night, game after game, coming dangerously close to playing for money. That’s where the game goes from casual fare to high stakes wit matching. In fact, that might be the best feature of the game. Like baseball, 5 year old’s can take it up and enjoy it as a group while the big boys can play pretty much the same game with all aspects tuned to their extreme.

First of all, the game just oozes elegance and sophistication. Especially if your playing out of a leather case in a robe and slippers. Even if you seldom have occasion to get it out, the backgammon set is a must own. It’s the perfect companion to conversation and glasses of wine.

Here’s a brief layout of game play:
Set up the board as show. Each player rolls his set of dice and moves pieces according to the numbers rolled. If an opponent has more than one piece on a space, it is blocked. If you land on a space containing one of your opponent’s pieces, you send that one off the board, to start at the beginning. Once you gather all of your pieces in the “home” box, you begin to draw them off the board with your rolls. If you roll doubles, you move twice for each dice. The doubling cube is used at strategic points to raise the stakes of the game against the option of a forfeit.

There are several variations and wrinkles you can employ. But ideally, it’s just a fun way to pass the time and enjoy someone’s company that beats watching a movie.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Brand Extracurriculars

A man’s instinctive shopping habits are born out of his hunter roots. While his better half is prone to do the gathering, or combing stores and newspaper circulars for deals and ideas, a man leaves his cave with the intention of bringing home a bison / vacuum cleaner bag / work boots / box of light bulbs / etc. It is not in his nature to become distracted by nuts and berries he passes on the hunt. But wouldn’t he be better off keeping an eye open for useful things while tracking down game?

Lately, when I need or want something, I do a little research on what brand to invest in, go to the proper retailer and make a carefully considered purchase. And while in the purchasing process, I’m often intrigued, but seldom moved to impulse by the random items surrounding the check out counter. “What do you know?” I’ll think “J. Crew sells a watch.” (well documented example)

It got me thinking. I’ve assembled a good set of brand names that I trust and am proud to support. I wonder if they provide similar genre-crossing offerings. Maybe there are hidden treasures in their stores that exhibit the same qualities, but aren’t part of the product line that they are typically known for.

I found a couple of items along those lines. To me they exhibit a repurposed quality. Along the lines of soap boxes turned into race cars, vinyl albums turned into chip bowls, old doors turned into coffee tables, or ice cream trucks turned into A-Team style tanks. It’s a thing made from the core elements of another thing. Or just people who get one thing right, applying the same sensibilities to another product.

Victorinox (pocket knives and watches) makes a shirt with extra gadgets that would come in handy.

Rawlings (baseballs and mitts) makes a “striking” duffel bag that looks like a “safe” bet. (sorry)

Triumph (motorcycles) offers a seriously good looking belt.

Sperry (shoes) has a sail canvas tote bag that is as manly and stylish as they get.

Coleman (coolers and lamps) offers a handsome field watch that is ruggedly chic.

I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of brands with a solid reputation dabbling in related product categories. I came across nice looking messenger bags from Converse, braces from Carhartt, and flatware from Nautica. It seems as though it pays to do a little gathering next time you’re on the hunt.