Saturday, March 30, 2013

Aldens and Love

I recently declared to a small gathering of other clothes nuts that if I was ordered to source my shoes from just one maker for the rest of my life it would be Alden. To a man, they were mildly shocked and I can see why. Once you co-mingle a reasonably deep bench of Aldens with the likes of Edward Green and Cleverley, Aldens take on a little bit of what I’ll call a ham-fisted, American clunk.
Additionally, one could argue that EG and Cleverley offer less clunky versions, slightly refined without being slick, interpretations of all the Alden favorites. I agree but still, there’s something familiar and comforting and American about Aldens that I enjoy. And there’s little remaining here in the Colonies that’s truly an American invention.
Sorry but the aforementioned Aldens ditty was a sleight. I spoke truth in the sleight but it was just an excuse, a set-up, to talk about love. This blog was supposed to be about clothes and shoes and socks and sartorial fuzziness though I’ve never been very focused and true to that intent. But I just felt that I should at least kick off my musings with something vaguely akin to what I used to write about. The following is part of an email exchange from early this morning. After reading it a few times and making an editorial change or two, I decided to share it…

“I must be getting used to my ICU campsite because I slept my ass off last night. Literally. I’ve looked all over for it and it’s gone. Not that I had much ass anyway. But I had vivid dreams which let me know that I was in and out of a deep sleep. The dreams were inconsequential…nothing too Freudian or otherwise and unfortunately not vividly sexual. And I’m taken by the fact that I dreamt anything at all here in the ICU amidst all of the chirps, beeps and squawks of medical technology. This coming Wednesday will mark one month of chirping, beeping and ICU squawking.

Writing wise, I’m preferring right now to just free-form a fixation about the definition of love that I landed on for a while yesterday. There isn’t at least in my opinion, one correct, proper definition of love. I would offer that different people have different definitions of love and how they express it…and no one is incorrect.

I remember LLS, our medical writer telling me one time about her father, a man who deeply loved his family but who just flat-out wasn’t much of an emoter. He didn’t cry, he didn’t offer flourishes of verbiage extolling how much he loved his wife and kids. He was rather stoic. Not cold…but stoic. But at the same time there wasn’t a deficit in his kindness or goodness. The reason I learned all this about LLS’s dad was when in the midst of a project she was working on with us, she got news that her brother’s dog wandered off in the woods somewhere around Lake Tahoe. LLS’s father dropped everything and flew from DC to Nevada and walked the woods for three days and nights helping look for her brother’s dog.

So her father, amidst his stoic and rather clinical, Germanic posture, was fully equipped with what I’ll call the love mechanics…the ability to emote and demonstrate in his way…what love is. LLS wasn’t surprised by his gesture at all but the reason I think she shared with me the details was just to kinda marvel out loud at how he chose to love people.

A more enduring love I think, is evidenced by walking for three days and nights with an inconsolable adult son who’s lost his dog—as opposed to just blathering on about how much you love someone yet offering little in actions to back it up. I think about the number of times that I’ve said and meant it when I said… “I love you” to my mother but didn’t have to back it up with anything other than the phone call that allowed me to declare it.

So…it’s easy to be in love…it’s easy to say, “Damn, I’m in love with this person”…when all is fun and easy and heady and new. And the dog isn’t lost.  I’ve also learned that this definition of love is the most fleeting form. For if it’s based exclusively on a platform of life being fun and easy and unburdened, it’s likely to be unsustainable when life gets rocky…when the shit hits the fan. The year and a half leading up to me marrying LFG’s mom was one big, heady long weekend. We both travelled so we ended up rendezvousing in fun cities for great dinners and cocktails and music and museums and interesting, eclectic people. And when we were home it was more of the same.

Gracefully resolving conflict? Accommodation and compromise? Forgiveness only made genuine by forcing down an almost unpalatable portion of humility...the humility made unpalatable only by the taint from our own ego? I believe these to be tactical behaviors that support a robust love and I never had to face any of these with LFG’s mom prior to our marriage.

I believe that love is its truest and best when people in love can love themselves and others through the roughest patches. Otherwise, love might better be remaindered to the chemistry, infatuation pile. And I’ve been reminded during these recent weeks and events that love might also be an instructive taskmaster if we are willing to be accepting students.

These almost four weeks with my mom have seen me, the student, front and center on some days and flat-out cutting class on others. I’ve felt a more selfless love for my mother these past two days but I’m sure I’ll revert back to the egoistic, self-regarding, immature son who loves his mother but can’t be bothered too much longer with all this shit. You know, the selfish son who is angry that she lived instead of declining the absurd but surely transient second chance that we in the bleachers are now watching her toy with.

But for now, I’m feeding her small spoonsful of Cheerios and milk and I’m assuring her for the hundredth damn time that I’ve paid the lawn service fella to take care of everything that’s about to have the audacity amidst all this adversity, to bloom at home.”
Onward. Assless. ICU jockeying. Avec Cheerios and my mama.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Funeral Suits

I remember when I decided on this Flusser suit. Navy blue might not be the most flattering color on me but like white dress shirts, every guy’s wardrobe has some of  it; flattering or not. 
This one is a lightweight, Super Damn One Hundred-Something…I wear it year round but rarely. Rarely because there just aren’t that many dressy occasions that require it these days and I’ve never been good at the two-piece suit with no tie routine.

I remember wearing it to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House one Sunday with my soon to be fiancé and her parents. I had coffee with her father the morning before. He and I played golf and I asked him for his daughter’s hand. Wonder if LFG’s future husband will do the same. Shit, I wonder if I’ll be here for the asking. I stopped going to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House when I got divorced. I don’t miss it.
 Sleeve cuffs. I first saw them on Richard Merkin’s seersucker rig in that epic GQ article that he wrote about his closet. And I wanted sleeve cuffs. Flusser and Rykken obliged.
And of course I fuzzied it up further with English Split Back Fishtail trousers. Look at that tail.
 This is my dressiest suit…even with its Duke of Windsor-esque windowpane casual insouciance. It hasn’t seen many weddings but it has become my funeral suit. Navy blue is appropriately sombre and the windowpane’s jauntiness says that even though this is a funeral, we ain’t gotta forgo sprezzatura completely.
 My uncle, a lobbyist for the rural electric cooperatives, gave me a Willie Wiredhand lapel pin when I was about four years old. I thought that little guy was the bomb and even though I had no lapel to pin it on, my mom would pin it right smack dab in the middle of my shirt. When I was a pallbearer at my uncle’s funeral about four years ago, I wore my navy blue windowpane suit…with Willie Wiredhand pinned to my lapel. And for you city slickers who know nothing about the rural electrification effort, here's the skinny on Willie...“Willie Wiredhand was created for use by rural electric cooperatives and public utility districts. Willy was a stick figure, with a lamp socket for a head, an electric plug for legs and feet, and wore gloves similar to those worn by farmers.”
 The cool, kinda hippie guy who preached my aunt Kat’s funeral stopped me at the graveside after the other pallbearers and I had placed our lapel flowers on her casket. He wanted to know who made my windowpane suit. It was totally appropriate for him to ask about such temporal things. Even though I was still crying over the loss of my Aunt Kat, my tears were joyful. She’d had a great run. We shot the shit about clothes for a while and when he saw me walk towards my little British Racing Green Mini Cooper convertible, he just shook his head. “Cool car to go with your suit” he said. The graveyard in Timmonsville South Carolina doesn’t see much of the city-slicker type too often.
 And when my stepfather so beautifully exited this world one morning, sitting in his chair…not one bit of struggle involved, I pulled my trusty windowpane suit from the closet and headed to Florence for his funeral-celebration. He was one of the most decent people to ever tread this world. There was more joy than pain associated with donning my windowpane crepe for his sign-off. 
 But here’s the deal. There was never any ambiguity when I pulled my trusty suit from the closet for my stepfather, aunt Kat and my uncle. They were gone. But Wednesday before last I pulled it from the closet, chose a white dress shirt and a solid silver tie to accompany it, and placed it in the travel bag. It would have been foolish to head back to South Carolina without it. My sibs and I were removing my mom from her respirator two days later. And by all counts, given that we had a very emphatic DNR order in place, the chances of needing the suit were high. But there’s something just four-plus f_cked up about readying your funeral kit for someone who’s still alive—technically alive.
I returned home to Alexandria last Thursday afternoon with my funeral kit still in the bag. I do not wish this moment upon anyone even though I suspect that it’s a rather common duty amongst middle-aged folks with aging parents. I’m not a puker but there’s been a time or two over the last twenty days where if I coulda, I believe I’d have felt better. We removed my mother from life support and she decided that she wasn’t finished living. Shit. I was already out of the Kubler-Ross starting blocks. My bereavement launch had to be scratched when the countdown was at the two second mark. I love my mama but this is some cruel, wicked shit bar none.

I leave again this Wednesday to head back down into the belly of this “what do we do with mama now”, beast. Happy? Optimistic? I don’t know yet. And that damned Kubler-Ross didn’t write anything about a bipolar hopscotch game of jumping in and out of various realities. I wrote an update email a moment ago to a good friend. There’s enough news in it to capture some of my additional sentiments. And for now, the navy blue Super Damn One-Hundred whatever is back in the closet.

 “Hey P.W. …

This remains an all-consuming wild ride. And in some ways, I think it's kind of a bad joke that the fates is playing on me and my sibs. I packed my funeral suit when I headed back down to SC. It woulda been foolish not to but I did feel really odd reaching for my navy blue windowpane suit while my mama was still alive. This entire ordeal has been trippy that way.

My mother can't move her arms or legs. But her mind is back...99% and with a vengeance. It took me several hours after she came off the respirator to explain what had happened. She asked to see her surgical site on her abdomen. I showed her and she processed what had happened and how close to death she was. I told her about her heart and kidneys and brain function and how she had been essentially dead to the world for ten days. I was trying to be upbeat and happy and speak slowly since I could tell that she was still confused. Then, after realizing that she'd been out for almost two weeks, she expressed in her wobbly, respirator tube compromised voice, frustration about missing two episodes of a show called The Walking Dead. Poleaxed is an understatement.

So we've all had to shift gears from grieving and prepping and letting go to the high stress processes of what we shall do with/for her next. I am not optimistic about her quality of life but this And her rally, her decision to not yet leave us, has been a primal one. One not augmented by medical interventions that we did not want. The Do Not Resuscitate order was and is in full force. But she just decided that it wasn't her time.

I'm home with LFG....for four days and I can't begin to tell you how restorative it has been to reconnect with her. And she's been the sweetest to me. I've now got to re-engage in work stuff or my already slow business is gonna evaporate further. I'm not an Ativan guy but Xanax has been my trusted friend throughout this journey. And I'll resume it on Wednesday when I head back down to help out.

Stay tuned and stay warm. And send me my Mercedes and some squirrel money to go with it when your lottery money rolls in.




Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Morning--Comfort and Familiarity

When I was a kid it was the barbershop next to the courthouse. Or the little haberdashery where I worked part time. Saturday morning congregants. Liar’s poker. Coffee. Cigars. Guy stuff before any of it became a trend or an affectation. Yep, they smoked cigars on Saturday morning in the men’s shop.
I was never really a part of that congregation. I shaved every morning but to those guys I was still a pup. Plus, I had to straighten stock and begin the never ending task of polishing glass counters and cases. But I would watch ‘em play liar’s poker and listen to the fishing tales and other small town, provincial cocksureties. And the whole pile of it smelled like Bay Rum and Old Spice. Then the half dozen or so poker braggers would disperse and regular commerce began. I liked the regularity of it. Rarely would the attendants vary.
I remember walking down Connecticut Avenue when I first moved to the D.C. area. I happened to glance down Jefferson Place and the Flusser awning caught my eye. My Flusser fanaticism was well established but my Flusser togs inventory was nil. I had his books but hadn’t been able to afford his clothes, save the one horizontal striped dress shirt that I bought in 1988 after driving my ‘84 Jetta like a scalded dog through the Lincoln tunnel on my lunch break. Montclair the Flusser atelier at warp speed. Flusser wasn’t there that day which was probably for the best. I had to get back to work. I bought the only horizontal striped shirt they had in my size and it cost half as much as my Jetta was worth.Oh, and I had a few Flusser dress shirts from his ready to wear phase…courtesy of a summer sale at Britches of Georgetown. Otherwise…Nadda.
A Flusser shop in D.C.? I walked over and hit the buzzer. I can remember exactly what I had on because it wasn’t what I’d want to wear to a place like this. Levi’s 501s, a black turtleneck and a navy blue double breasted overcoat. Who gives a shit what kind of shoes I was wearing. So the owner, a guy named Mark Rykken introduced himself. The place and the guy...heady. Mind you, this was amidst the wave of Flussfetish spawned by Gordon Gecko and Wall Street. It was pinstripes and horizontal go-to-hells and I was all-in.
I bought my first suit right then and there. Thirteen hundred bucks. What the flip was I thinking? Double breasted nail-head  The works. All the freakin’ way. Thank you. I remember Rykken tactfully navigating the measurement process, mentioning only once that jeans weren’t the best swathing around which to run a tape measure.Whatever.
That first visit spawned a routine. Saturday mornings. Hanging out. Eyeball deep in bolts of cloth and Apparel Arts books and PKZ posters and gut ends with white tabs. Thurstons. No cigars. No lies. No need for ‘em. And Rykken’s dad would be there sometimes. Retired U.S. Army officer and jazz fanatic. Crusty guy who you’d a loved if you ever met him. And he, rather like the Andover Shop’s Charlie Davidson, had met and known a lot of the jazz names through the years.
Flusser would come down from Gotham from time to time but I was still yet to meet him.It would be a few years later before our paths would cross. Life is rich, no? Rich in that you never know. You never know what these six degrees, kismet,providential, whateverish encounters are gonna hold. How they’ll unfurl. Rykken to this day is one of my best friends in the world. So is Alan. LFG calls Alan...Alanflusser…one word. And she prayed for him one night. Right after she prayed for Obama. Who’d a thunk it?
I miss those Saturday mornings. But D.C. is too much of a company town…a factory village…to appreciate and sustain something as tasty and special as this little townhouse was. I honestly believe that the reason I still have such a dismissive view of D.C. as a town of any élan, style or taste level is because the Flusser townhouse is no longer here. D.C.? Eff ‘em.
It’s been a couple of decades. And all the players in this saga have experienced rich journeys since. Some of us have less hair and our remaining strands are gray. Not all of us register the same metrics on the tape measure but I do. Only because I can’t afford to replace my clothing from the salad days. 
So here’s to Saturday mornings. Coffee and “I’ve got three sevens” lies. And comforting destinations. Familiar nests with friendly congregants. Bay Rum. Flannel and linen. Familiarity.

Onward.From my Alexandria nest. With congregant LFG. No lie.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers

 “Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers.” I’m not sure where or when I first heard that but it made sense the moment I did. That’s what Joseph A. Bank was back in the early 1980’s when I discovered them. My first encounter was in Washington D.C. during the summer when my liver and I pretended to work for the Senate Judiciary Committee while really working the mean streets of Georgetown and the beer soaked floors of the Day Lily Restaurant, aka the Chinese Disco.

My KA brother and Presidential Gardens roommate, WHS and I rolled into the Washington, D.C.  Jos. A. Bank one Saturday and the Poor Man’s Brooks moniker stood. The place was brimming with 3/2 sack goods and bevies of button downs and foulards and Brooks aping collaterals that would leave one believing their fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy could be tactically supported by this singular purveyor. I bought a gray seersucker 3/2 sack sportcoat that afternoon and wore it for the next decade.

My next Bank encounter was in Charlotte, North Carolina after I somehow ended up in the pharmaceutical business. No longer indigent but certainly not flush, I was a regular at Bank-Charlotte. My first ever Aldens came from there. I was ready to deepen my footwear bench beyond Weejuns but wasn’t ready or able to add shell cordovan to the queue. I wear to this day, my calfskin Alden tassels, courtesy of Bank-Charlotte.
When you see this logo, rest assured that you are looking at a pair of Aldens in excess of twenty years old.
And if you ever see this logo, rest assured that you are looking at something that once existed but based on the edematous piles of poo currently purveyed at Jos. A. Bank, will never be again. The idea that Jos. A. Bank at one time offered a line-up including Alden seems laughable today. But they were at one time, a Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers. Indeed.
Onward. Still vigilating and mama tending. In calfskin Jos. A. Bank Aldens.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Rocking-R Ranch

It wasn’t much of a contest really. Cowboys versus Army. I flirted with the cowboy thing but it just didn’t have the sustainable siren call that playing army did. Vietnam was in full-swing and Mangum’s Army-Navy store had military surplus piled to the ceiling and five bucks would load a kid up with gear. There’s something palpably exciting to an elementary school kid who gets to play with authentic stuff. Maybe if you were a kid in Arizona you coulda run up on something authentic to play with cowboy-wise. But not so much in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina so my giddy-up days were few.
And for some reason I equate kids playing cowboy with the 1950’s. Seemed more sustainable back then even though in my house we watched Bonanza and Gunsmoke…the 60’s and early 70’s western genre shows…every damn time they came on. Mainliest reason I now think is because my mama liked those men…James Arness, Michael Landon, Clint Eastwood and Pernell Roberts. My mom even liked Festus.
She and my aunt Kat liked to fainted when James Arness came to town to be the Grand Marshall for the Southern 500 Parade in Darlington. It was before I was born but for all my life, they talked about it like it was yesterday. Clint Eastwood marshalled it one time too. Oh, and we also watched Maverick and The Rifleman and Rawhide reruns. Anybody remember Sugarfoot? And my dad? If he was home he’d be slumped in a Scotch coma within fifteen minutes of one of those shows coming on.
Kids of my generation didn’t seem to have a sustainable affinity for playing cowboys and Indians. The Dennis the Menace show had Dennis in cowboy gear almost all the time and seems like Jerry Mathers in that gay sitcom, Leave it-it’s Beaver, mighta played cowboy sometimes when he wasn’t falling in that hot cup of coffee on the billboard. And when we played army a few kids would always reluctantly be the Krauts or the Yankees. But who the hell ever wanted to be the Indians? Nobody had the gear for it. The inner tube covered drums and the rubber tomahawks we all brought back from the Smoky Mountains usually ended up in the trash in no time. The redundancy of beating on that drum while riding in the back of my mom’s station wagon on the way home from the mountains had me tired of that toy before we got there. And who the hell knows what happened to the tomahawk. I’m mawkish and maudlin as hell now but at seven years old, the idea of me and my buddies putting on a Trail of Tears pageant across the front lawns and driveways of our neighborhood didn’t resonate.
Ian from Downunder…one of my friends and readers loved Chuck Connors and the Rifleman when he was a kid. I wonder if there was something more alluring, more magical about such things when you watched them from Australia. I know that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was an absolute over the top attraction in London during the late 19th century. What with all the savages and rough-trade buckskin types from America doing pyrotechnical and twisty-turny things on horseback. But Australia itself seems a bit wild west-ish in its own right.
So Ian and I were exchanging emails last year and he told me that the only thing he wanted one Christmas was the special rifle that Chuck Connors used in the Rifleman. You know, the short barreled one that had the big 0-ring cocking lever that Connors could with the flick of his wrist, cock and shoot in one motion. Seems that kids in Australia wanted the same loot for Christmas that we did.
And Ian got his Rifleman 0-ringed, short barreled Chuck Connors baby one Christmas morning. But with a freaking white stock on it. What kind of bad Japanese manufacturing joke was that? Can you imagine the gut-punch of Christmas morning excitement gone south when seeing your…the only thing I want for Christmas…one item—a wrist flicking instrument of alpha-male death and destruction…tainted with a molded plastic stock in the same color as your sister’s freakin’ Princess Phone? Damn.
But I had some cowboy stuff. One Christmas I got the entire kit similar to this little poke. Chaps, vest, cowboy hat with the roped-trussed decorative fabric around the edge of the brim like Woody’s from Toy Story. Matching six-shooters too…and a bandana. This was in the late 60’s when synthetic materials were in full force and my vest and chaps were vinyl. Tan vinyl with those silver concha medallion things down the side of the chaps and on the vest. Each concha spinner had a brown fake-suede fringe strip spouting solo from it and I swear that those conchas were stamped from Japanese coffee cans. I know the sheriff’s badge was. They only color plated the fronts of such things.
I’d yet to become a Cub Scout so the cowboy bandana that my mama helped me cinch-up felt more foreign to me than any other part of the rig. And I wasn’t goin’ for no jaunty neck dressing sprezzatura per-damn-say. All I knew is that on TV when the cowboys were parched, they’d take to one knee and with a little bit of water from one of those Indian blanket covered canteens, wet their neckerchief and sooth their parched, momentarily troubled cowboy brows. I say momentarily because most of the shows were thirty-minutes so whatever was troubling them usually resolved quickly.

So I couldn’t possibly walk up the street to my best friend Randy’s house that Christmas morning to see what he got from Santy without my cowboy kit being complete. Neckerchief included. I mean really…what if I got half way through the two block walk and got parched? Even though I didn’t have a canteen, I could stop at Miss Violet’s house and use her spigot to wet my bandana and sooth my troubled cowboy brow. Hell, we drank outta any and everybody’s spigot on the side of their house anytime we were thirsty. And we put our mouths right smack-dab on those cast iron spouts. How else were kids in Florence, South Carolina gonna get their mineral supplements? We didn’t get fluoride in our water till ‘82. 

I saw Randy a few years back and he swears his parents have a photo of me at their front door bedecked in my vinyl vest and chaps. Boots, cowboy hat and neckerchief and dual six shooters strapped to my probably elastic waisted at least on the back-half, jeans. I’ve gently nudged him a few times to track the photo down for me but he’s yet to produce.
Even though the full kit cowboy phase was short lived, I got a pair of cowboy boots every fall from Phil Nofal’s fine shoes. Once a year, every year till I was probably twelve or so. And I’ve shared that my ten years younger brother destroyed all of my toys but the highlight of my Christmas this year was the recovery of a pair of my childhood cowboy boots.
I’m not certain that these are the same pair that I’m sporting with my creased Wranglers in that old photo but I’m tickled to death to have them.
We moved into the house I grew up in when I was four and I don’t recall having a say in what kinda light fixture I wanted for my bedroom but I think my mom did ok by picking this one. My mama is the baby of ten kids and I had zillions of older cousins. And the oldest got married when I was still a tyke. Her new husband, Bill was one of my idols and I can remember him explaining to me that the symbols on my light fixture were ranch brands. Cowpokes would brand cattle and even their personal horses with the symbol for their ranch. Cattle rustling and horse stealing were serious offenses he said and you needed to know which animals were yours.
And for some reason when he told me about the R atop the u-shaped cradle…the “Rocking-R”, I took to that one especially. And he got a pencil and in his newly graduated from architecture school architect handwriting, meticulously branded my Johnny West horse with the Rocking-R Ranch brand.
I would lie on my twin beds from time to time and stare at that light fixture from age four till I moved out at eighteen. Sorta like being in the ranch bunkhouse butcept I didn’t have to share it with anyone save for  my dad when my mom would lock him out of the bedroom…until age ten when my brother came along and ruined everything. It was unsettling when I was a real little kid and I’d wake up to the sounds of my liquor smelling dad snoring in the other twin bed. I think I was about five years old when one morning his snoring in the bunkhouse woke me up and I looked over and my still dead to the world daddy was on the top of the covers in his boxer shorts…sporting (it runs in the family) gigantic…gigantic to my five year old eyes…morning wood. I’d never seen anything like it. It seemed bigger than my whole body…big enough to have its own Social Security number. It appeared as if a purple, German helmeted alien had overtaken my dad and now periscoped out of his underdrawers. I panicked and ran to my parents’ bedroom door and beat on it till my mom appeared.
“Mom, mom, something’s wrong with dad!” She peeked in the door to the bunkhouse and took one look at it and slinked back to bed without any effort to calm me down or to mitigate what I thought was my dad’s “oh shit he’s gonna die” terminal tumescence. I now know that the reason that he was my roommate three nights a week was the result of my mom’s curfew. If he wasn’t home by the time she went to bed, he knew to head straight to the bunkhouse

The light fixture is still there and I looked up at it from my twin bed this week. All these years later it still looks too new, too sixties-ish to be almost a half-century old. I looked up at it over forty-five years ago when I tested God and prayed that he’d leave under my bed, the Safari gear set with Stanley's…"Dr. Livingstone I presume” pith helmet included…from page 137 in the Sears catalogue. He didn’t. I remember looking up at it, awash in tears that blurred my view as I heard parental footsteps bounding with authority down the hall to tell me to “dry it up or I’ll really give you something to cry about” even though my ass was still stinging from what I thought was plenty of f_cking reason to cry.

The Rocking-R Ranch brand and its cohorts lorded over me the first time I came home high. It was there when I rolled in after kissing a girl for the first time and it supervised me as I saw for the first time in my life, a real-live boob. Two of ‘em actually—attached to my first girl. I got to briefly touch one of them and the only thing that coulda made that moment more surreal would a been if I was high.

I sat below it when Ted Walker, one of my surrogate fathers on loan from around the corner came over to talk with me when my dad died. It was awkward. But different awkward than when I touched first girl’s boob.

The other thing I remembered this week when I looked up at my light fixture was how safe I always felt as a kid not only in the bunkhouse, but in every way. And my dad gets no credit for it. My mom was the female Ben Cartwright archetype. She ran the ranch…our Ponderosa…like clockwork and she protected all the dudes and dudettes who worked there. She purveyed love, structure and discipline situationally; whenever one of those parenting hat tricks called for it. And she was as close to perfect at it as anyone will ever be.

The ranch is full of visitors right now but to me it hasn’t ever seemed emptier. I’ll be back there in a few more days probably and there will be no hurry for me and my sibs to decide what to do with the little Ponderosa…the Rocking-R Ranch that we grew up on. We are all too raw right now…still waiting for the seemingly cruel triumvirate of God, medical technology and heartbroken ranch hands to decide on a final note. But one thing’s for certain regardless of whether my Rocking-R matriarch ever runs the place again, this city slicker is bringing the light fixture from his bunkhouse home.

Onward…In nauseating circles.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tatas and Milk

Two floors below is Labor and Delivery…headquarters for joy and hope and tender beauty. Youth and happiness. New beginnings. One floor below is Oncology…beginnings and farewells. The twain in contest.

Every elevator ride here hosts a load of native humanity. Disease and dotage pay but vague heed to where you went to school and who your daddy was. I just rode up with new friends I’d made in the lobby…two little African American girls dressed as ballerinas. So damned cute. Instant ear-to-ear smile on my face.  I couldn't help but feel joy making its way out of my heavy heart. Their grandma was taking them to see their new little brother. One was all-in…ready to see her baby. Her little-er, cuter sister couldn't have given less of a damn. She had a singular mission. To push every button on the elevator panel and she did. I liked that the elevator became a local. It caused us to take longer to get to our floors and I giggled with the ballerinas. Grandma didn’t.

These critical care nurse angels—they just finished bathing and pampering and moisturizing and swathing my vegetative ventilated mother. She smells good and her skin is pink and soft and healthy looking. And I'm still talking to her as if we were sitting at the kitchen table. And then it feels stupid because even if she might be hearing me, she's unable to respond to any command...any half-hearted "squeeze my hand if..."

And trust me—the fact that all of her adult children are in town, standing beside her bed holding her and talking to her and loving up on her—if she could respond—her eyes would be wide open. And she would tell my little brother that he needs to lose weight and my sister would hear my mama say apologetically that my sis is still pretty...even with the ravages of the lupus that mother passed to daughter. She’d tell me that I look tired and I’d tell her that she’d look tired too if she’d slept the last three nights in a recliner by her ICU bed—anything but lulled by the lock-step never miss a beat cadence hiss-puff of her respirator. And I'd tell her that I'm happy, insistent actually, to be spending night  four in the same spot since she'd spent many a night never leaving my side.

I desperately need some of the life affirming delight that lives elsewhere in this chamber. I'm going two floors down to look at those other guests and welcome them to earth while I  manage the ennui associated with my mom not being able to decide to exit it. I’ll angle for another dose of joy from little ones who are also pink and swathed and bundled and smelling good. Little ones not yet burdened with reconciling the value of remaining in this temporal world while sorting out their readiness to let go of it—the twain in contest. Their motivation and focus is sweet and pure and simple and I envy it. Their twain? 

Tatas and Milk. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sterling and Burke Hosts Benson and Clegg

My appreciation for Sterling & Burke is well established. I feel Bond-ish when I’m there. New and Old Bond that is. The streets. In London. Or maybe the Arcades…Piccadilly, Burlington and Royal—whatever. All I know is that in a world of consumerism marked by trendy, built-in obsolescence, Sterling & Burke offer an unguent to short-lived fripperies. Their goods have staying power. Like me. Shut up.
In our sound bite world of temporal edginess and drive-by irony, Sterling & Burke’s strategy is the opposite. They purvey things that are intended to last—out-last us actually. Things that are awaiting the patina that comes from cherished use…things that are leading candidates for being passed down and valued by others.
My buddy Scottie-the-Eff got me started on the Sterling & Burke journals that I now use routinely for work. I’m on the way to filling journal number two with my professional irreleventia. And I commissioned my replacement silk canopied Brigg umbrella with the graceful and accommodating folk at Sterling & Burke.
I mean, where else are there folk who will tolerate my long-winded back story about finding my first one in a cab in London and having the cabbie insist that I take it 'cause "some bloke left it in me cab this morning and I'm tired of hearing it wallow about."? And where else would someone, even if they were pretending, listen intently to me regarding why I HAD to replace my umbrella with the same silk canopy as the first one--because raindrops ping off of silk and just thud when landing on nylon? Try some of that lore-spreadin' caca over at J. Crew and they'll call Paul Blart. Damn.
I was in Sterling & Burke the other day, killing some time between LFG dance class sorties and revelling in their leather goods, journals, cufflinks and every conceivable umbrella contrivance. Sublime. And for some absurd reason, I walked into J. Crew to kill another fifteen minutes. The J. Crudités' tray of  paper-thin, ersatz artisanal whateverishness…courtesy of sweatshops the world over, seemed even more so after my Sterling & Burke visit.
And I’ve always associated Benson & Clegg with blazer buttons. At least one of my navy blazers has B&C sourced buttons and the visual treat of visiting their roost in Piccadilly Arcade is a routine part of my London visits. I wasn’t aware of their bespoke tailoring niche till I received an announcement from Sterling & Burke recently.
If their cutting and sewing was good enough for George VI, then who knows? Maybe we are about to discover a well kept secret. The B&C team will be on premises at S&B March 14-16. I’m on spending lock down but it won’t keep me from going by and seeing what these guys are all about—Bespoke and Made-to-Measure wise. Shoot me an email. If you’d like to meet-up for drinks and then walk over and buy me a B&C rig-up over at Sterling & Burke, I’ll allow it. Here’s the announcement…

Benson & Clegg visits for Bespoke Suiting Event
March 14 - 16, 2013

Sterling & Burke welcomes Benson & Clegg to Washington, DC for their first overseas Bespoke Suiting Event outside of New York City.  
 The cutters Kenneth Austin & Tony Martin from Benson & Clegg in London will be visiting America in March offering their range of tailoring services, bringing Savile Row style and quality direct to Sterling & Burke Ltd customers in the USA.

Offering the latest patterns of fine English and Italian fabrics, including such prestigious brands as Scabal, Holland & Sherry and Hunt & Winterbottom, to name but a few. Appointments will be held at Sterling & Burke Ltd, 2824 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Alternatively, if a home or office appointment is required, they are happy to accommodate.
Please call 202.333.2266 or email to schedule your appointment.
Thursday, March 14:  9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Friday, March 15:  9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Saturday, March 16:  9:30 am - 3:00 pm

Made to Measure
For the first time on our overseas visits Benson & Clegg is offering our superlative 'Made to Measure' service. These garments produce an excellent quality suit, custom made for the individual. Their cutters use their wealth of experience and skills to ensure your garment is crafted to the highest possible standards. 
With a large range of classic and modern fabrics, lining choices, as well as finer details such as real horn buttons and working cuffs, your garment will be an individual creation designed to your specifications.
Prices start from £770.00

Hand Made Bespoke Tailoring

The best clothing you can get. Entirely handmade on the Benson & Clegg premises in London, England. The craft and workmanship is unparalleled, with typically over fifty hours of precision labour in each suit. They pride themselves on comfortable individually styled clothes of subtle elegance, with an emphasis on top level workmanship. Benson & Clegg have a traditional handmade look, from the natural shoulder line to the elegant silhouette of the side seams. The majority of our customers opt for a two button single breasted suit jacket. However our cutters are able to work to almost any brief, for example single-breasted button one, two or three, double breasted formal, smart or casual. We have a vast selection of cloth to choose from, all of the very highest quality.
Prices start from £2,333.00

(As always—‘till someone tempts me with an offer I flat-out can’t refuse, I have received no favor from Sterling & Burke or Benson & Clegg for writing and posting this announcement)