Sunday, October 18, 2009

Walter Reed-Windowpane Flusser-Edward Green and Afghanistan

Let me first say again how humbled and overwhelmed I am to get so many positive messages and blog comments from you. Thanks again.

I’ve lamented for years the advent of business casual dress in the corporate realm. Guys particularly-from a practical perspective don’t know how to do it and generally, this casual thing seems to have digressed often times into a hygiene holiday. Some might have heard my rant about this before when I just get crazy while in meetings at large-multibillion dollar company headquarters and the executives I’m interacting with are slobs. Intellect trumps style in high science-research based companies that I consult with but geez-some of these six figure guys look like they rolled out of bed and right to the office.
Julian Schnabel can wear pajamas and a robe to work-he’s an artist who walks down a flight of stairs to a studio. You-marketing executive are not. Put your big boy clothes on and command some level of respect commensurate with your whateverishness. I’ll never darken the door of any meeting without a sportcoat-unless my clients have invited me to some Outward Bound-Trust Building-Granolaesque thing where we are doing activities.One of my business partners does the same-one doesn’t.

Ok, ok, I’m losing you. I donned the ultimate big boy outfit on Thursday so that I could spend time with private practicing oncologists in DC as well as oncologists at Walter Reed Army Hospital. We aren’t an oncology sales and marketing consultancy per se but by happenstance a lot of our work this year has been with oncology product and service providers. It’s a mixed bag in that most oncologists are truly trying to do the right thing by prolonging life. Survival endpoints remain one of the holiest of Holy Grails in oncology-now nuanced with subsets of metrics that look at quality of life as well. What’s the use in having one more birthday if I’m prostrate and puking during this exalted extra year that’s been afforded me?

What’s fascinating about consulting in this healthcare market segment is that you can’t extricate any of the waltzing hat trick variables of clinical outcomes-ethics and economics from the dialogue. Remove one of the variables and the waltz becomes the Chicken Dance-and we’ve all seen someone do the Chicken Dance at a wedding reception and it ain’t pretty.
So it’s raining like crazy on Thursday. My stolen thirty year old Briggs umbrella has now been stolen from me-I’m going to be spending time with very serious clinicians so I’ve gotta kit out in a respectful and weather sensitive way. The solution-wear older stuff that you don’t mind getting soaked. My rig was somber enough-navy blue Flusser windowpane…three button single breasted peak rolled to number two as always…flap and ticket pockets…English split back trousers…no Thurstons to hold ‘em up because I’ve gained enough weight since this 14 year old suit was contrived that I don’t need ‘em. I was wearing this suit when I met my future in laws for the first time-we took them to church here in Old Town. White linen in the breast pocket-gotta keep this rig toned down a bit.
Old Flusser dress shirt that remains a standard…rounded collar…no pin…french cuffs and the cheap old cuff snaps that I bought at the Georgetown Flea market. 
Anybody remember that post? Puerto Rykken gave me the dress shirt 18 years ago.
Polo Ralph tie from the outlets-I haven’t bought a tie in ten years.

If it it’s raining why wear brown suede dress shoes? Two things-I only wear brown suede dress shoes with suits. Zero exceptions…even with seersucker in the summer. The Prince of Wales started it-go check with him. Tom Wolfe campaigned it in The Bonfire of Vanities-characterizing defense attorney-mouthpiece Tommy Killian as a man who routinely donned them. 
Here’s the scene…“Killian was standing under the marquee just outside the front door. He was wearing a chalk-striped gray suit, brown suede shoes, a brown fedora. (How dare he be so debonair on the day of my doom?)”
You realize this is yet another opportunity for me to pull out my letter from Tom Wolfe where he and I engaged in personal correspondence about such shoddings. Don’t bitch-if you read this blog you are prolly gonna see this letter several times a year.

Ok, that was Thing One. Thing Two is that these Edward Green shoes are so old and destroyed that they are my bad weather go to shoes. Suede Renew is a great product and it comes in colors. Kinda like Rit Dye meets Scotchguard. Spray the brown stuff on ‘em-let it dry and brush the nap back up. These shoes are 13 years old-that process don’t work no moe. LFG’s mother and I bought these shoes using my American Express points at Saks in Gotham. 

There’s another post worthy of these shoes and our trip back through the Lincoln Tunnel-Edward Green green shoe box in the back seat. The former Mrs. G. got nauseous while we were stuck in tunnel traffic and the box came in real handy. I just reached into the back seat and kinda slung the shoes out of the newly anointed receptacle-just in time. I’ll leave it there for now.

The last portion of my day saw me with oncologists at Walter Reed. It was sobering-not the part where you see oncology patients in recliners being infused with attenuated poison-some still healthy looking; complete with hair and some-more succumbed to the neoplastic reaper-wasting fast and losing hair faster than me.
These patients have the opposite of the WWII coined description of battle weary soldiers’ gaze-the “Thousand Mile Stare.” A lot of these patients have what I’d describe as a “Three Foot Stare.”  I’ve seen enough of that to not let it distract me from the reasons I’m visiting such places.
What hit me in the gut when rolling into Walter Reed was the sequelae of Improvised Explosive Devices courtesy of Afghanistan and Iraq. I can at a half century of existence, call these soldiers children. They are limbless and mangled kids and they are sitting in the lobby of Walter Reed-I can’t type this without the blur of tears clouding my vision. I saw one guy-maybe twenty two or three years old just staring down at the stump of his right leg. I saw another guy whose wound was deliberately unwrapped after debridement-I suppose the healing was deemed better that way and you could see what was left of a calf muscle and the repaired-rerouted tendons.

I watched the 60 Minutes segment on Afghanistan last Sunday. I listened while running errands yesterday, to two hours of C-span radio where South Asia and Afghanistan experts-retired Four Stars-Academics-Former CIA leaders testified regarding what we are up against in Afghanistan. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t gonna be fast. Sun Tzu posited a few thousand years ago that “Nobody wins in a prolonged battle”. Shit, Afghanistan ain’t ever been anything but a prolonged battle for the Russians, the British, and other na├»ve predecessors over the past two thousand years.

Battle deaths are tragic and finite and kinda like chemotherapy-there’s a defined endpoint albeit mostly an ugly one. But what’s the endpoint for these broken boys that I saw in the Walter Reed lobby? I want for them a happy and productive life. We owe them that regardless of how f_ _ ked up these wars are. My Marine sniper nephew after two Iraq tours remains the stunning intact physical specimen that he was after basic training…but for the grace of God and thank you God, for keeping him safe. The Walter Reed lobby boys should have thirty year-optimistic gazes and intact limbs. I saw none.

Onward. With gratitude. 

P.S. On a lighter note, I found a great "Separated at Birth" visual when looking at some old Vanity Fair caricatures. Here's our man Conor and his Victorian antecedent!
Conor from Young Man-Old Man
The Victorian Conor


tintin said...

I took a break to check in while watching 'Occupation' on BBC America. I'm glad to see you back at it. Nice to see you bouncing off the walls again.

'All the way'

My Preppy Husband said...

When traveling last weekend, I was struck by how young the military boys looked in the airport and it sadden me to think what they were sacrificing. Thank you for sharing your observations of those so impacted by the war.

Pigtown-Design said...

My nephew, who is two, was born without a hand. He's in a program at Walter Reed, pairing him with a young soldier who has also lost a hand, so they can both learn how to function together. It's a brilliant program.

J.P. said...

Really glad to see you back.

Anonymous said...

Right on about dress & deportment. You got to suit up to play.
I attribute this to lack of raising by these boy's daddies and no peer pressure. One of my son's tennis partners came by our home attired in Lacoste shirt, madras shorts, & Gucci loafers.He dialed in on the loafers & wanted a pair.
Told him to get a job & this is definitely a post collegiate look. He will have to make do with his weejuns in the meantime...he is 12 years old....W&L material.

Sorry to hear about your umbrella,
it's a good thing it can't talk. Found mine in DC @ Sterling & Burke. Enuff said, back to the oil bidness.

Patsy said...

My marine sniper nephew is physically intact after 2 tours in Iraq as well, thank the Lord.

We owe these children so much.

ELS said...

That's a lovely story for LFG to pass on to her kids - their grandfather, consistently clotheshorse and gentleman. Charming.

Afghanistan - no easy answers, eh?

Beth Dunn said...

If I had a letter from Tom Wolf it would be front and center on my blog every day! xoxo


EsseQuamVideri said...

Welcome back.


The People's Business said...

Great stuff - can we see the collar on that shirt?

Conor said...

Posts like this are why you're one of the best ADG.

And red hair does run in my family (father's side). Don't think I could ever get my beard that big though.

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - Thanks for sharing about the men at Walter Reed. Those men and their fallen comrades cannot possibly have given more. You're right, they must be enabled to live fulfilled and productive lives. That's a mighty fine rainy Thursday rig. I'm crazy about the windowpane... would love to read a post on collars and neckwear.

Richard said...

Love the suit, tie, and especially the shoes. I too am a huge fan of suede shoes, and I wear them dirty and worn or squeaky clean.

Gail, in northern California said...

I have gotten so sensitive to the high cost of war (lives not dollars) that I find a certain segment on Sunday's George Stephanopolous jarring. In Memoriam, a list of 12 dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by 6 or 8 commercials before we hear, "And now, time for the Sunday Funnies..." In a matter of minutes, life goes on as though nothing has happened. This tally is repeated every Sunday. Does no one see it? Does it not register?

I admire and respect what you do. I just don't know HOW you do it.

As ever, your writing makes me think..and more than once.

Paul said...

I'm a huge fan of windowpane - it strikes me every time I see it on the rack - gotta have it!

Think about this everyone ---- those fine gentlemen at Walter Reed may have a problem dressing and looking "just fine" after the maiming they've managed to live through. Consider ourselves very lucky indeed! And if you happen to find one of those brave chaps in your pub - buy them a drink or two and listen to their story.

Rasputin said...

Generally love your sartorial style, but not a huge fan of that tie and suit combination. Maybe just need to see it in person...

As far as to begin... America's had so many chances to be the western power that wasn't like the others, especially after the Russians moved out. They don't call Afghanistan the cemetary of empires for no reason.
As with so many of America's current conflicts, you have to have all the respect in the world for the men and women who actually fight the war, while you need to posess a very healthy scepticism of those who initiated and guided it.

ADG said...

Tintintintint...Wall Bouncin''s what we do over here.

Meg...incredible program-heartwarming. I'd love to see a picture.

Everyone else...thanks as always for your comments!

ilovelimegreen said...

I'm not sure which is more dapper - your dressing or your writing. The tie is swell - I've always been an admirer of Glen Plaid - must be fabulous paired with the window pane suit.
ADG, your narratives are stellar -as always.