Friday, July 26, 2013

Navy Blah

My closet is full of fuzzy. You know—my sartorial contrivances that for the most part successfully made the breach from idea to existence in good form. 
I love pattern and texture and consistent with my Pee Dee roots, I’ll always like a little smidge of trashy thrown in too. Exhibit A for this “look at me, look at me” spore that still inhabits my essence is this redneck-ass pair of honky-tonk trailer trash drunk meets the Regatta britches I bought in Charleston the other week. It was half price time at M.Dumas, the only thing left on King Street in Charleston worth visiting (unless you wanna gander for a moment in that museum known as Ben Silver) but oh no…I had to pop for something full-price. That something being these Vineyard Vines please make fun of me thangs. Shut up. Shut the ___ up.
And this is how bad it’s gotten betwixt me and Ms. LFG. I waited till she was back in the room at the Mills House before I slipped down to Dumas and made the purchase. To this day she knows not that they exist since I sneaked ‘em in my travel bag and spirited them back home sub damn rosa. Kinda like the Underground Railroad for shit one ought not to be buying in the first place. Remember...she forbid me to wear my F. Todd Howell Hog Farmer Coffman Specials depicted above. Shut up I already said. 
I’m her father. She respects me and loves me and even though she only grunts at me now, the grunts are mine. All y’all  told me that the grunts are pretty much the only thing I’m gonna get for the next five years and if LFG saw these britches; I do believe amidst her somewhat sequestered feelings for me, she would thereafter cut me off from even the all too infrequent huffs and eye-rolls. It ain’t worth it.
But amidst all my color and pattern craziness, some kinda default anti-GTH override seems to be more consistent than the flurry of fuzziness that busts out from time to time. What is this default override of which I speak? Blue jackets and tan trousers. Case in point you axk for? My zillion pairs of tan or close to tan linen and cotton/silk trousers that I wear the hell out of all summer long. Did I need another pair? 
I thought so and the flat front, beltless, frog mouth cowboy pocketed pair seen here would be my latest contrivance. I still ain’t gonna tell you the source. It’s my dirty little secret but just suffice it to say that my spendthrift self ain’t gonna let Uncle Flusser or Miracle Mark Rykken make me no bespokeydoke britches at seven hundred a go. 
These are remarkably less...price-wise and as far as the need for quality and durability, these are rigorous enough. And tasty, tasty, tasty… ‘specially after we throwed a two-inch cuff on their south ends. Then again anything swathing my still in-shape temple of sexiness is gonna be tasty, tasty, tasty. Speak up.
And jackets? I wear a solid blue one seventy-five percent of the time. Certainly I love other things color and pattern wise and Miracle Mark Rykken at Paul Stuart has a lovely summer jacket in the works for me right now. It’s a great gaggle of pattern and color—with hacking flaps on it to make it just fuzzier enough.
But Miracle Mark also has for me in tandem with that jacket, another, you guessed it, blue one. But oh, it's different. Three-Two Roll--Peaked Lapels--Double Vented of course but the game changer on this one?...Hacking Pockets including ticket. Now that's different, no?
Blue jackets prevail…yet I’ve got those windowpane and tweedy things in my closet that I’m so crazy about and I’ve got a remarkable Russell Plaid jacket for winter that’s sitting right now on Savile Row awaiting my first fitting. It's a different shade than the one above and I’m gonna remain cagey and coy regarding who’s making it for me till I write a story about the jacket and the cutter this Fall. But for now I will say that he is the most imaginative cutter on the Row today…imaginative without being all tarted up like the current stewards of Huntsman's legacy. Damn. When I think that something’s too fuzzy or tarty then it probably is.
My interest in the Russell plaid was very precise. I didn’t want the common version infrequently offered in trousers and jackets off the peg. The standard version is rather brown with a light cream background that makes the already geometrically crisp Russell appear even more structured and harsh. There’s another version...above...that’s slightly greener and creamier and I’m just gonna tell you right now that it will be the bomb. Or as Zbigniew Brzezinski used to pronounce it…“bom-buh.” Now I’ve yet to see my Russell jacket and have deliberately not asked to see photos of it because I want my first sighting to be in situ. I missed my first fitting in New York when my mama blew up but one of my best buddies saw it. Here’s what he said…

“…and after we'd chatted a bit about this and that and him and her, he showed me a lovely exclusive swatch of brown checked tweed -- of which he had only enough for one or two suits -- and it was right down my street. So I said yes. Then he casually asked me if I wanted to see your jacket. Just as casually I said yes, and he brought it out: I was knocked completely base over apex; the antique Russell plaid made up beautifully. So beautifully in fact that I cancelled my original choice of the brown check and told him to make me up the Russell.”
You’ll learn who this fella is that’s aped my Russell when I write the story. Let me just tell you for now that I’ve never been prouder to have someone of his taste level be inspired by something that I contrived. Maybe he can make some headway with my little grunter, LFG.
Oh, and before we get back to blue jackets, the swatch(es) above has been bothering me for six months. I ran across it when I was seeking out the just-right version of the Russell plaid and I can’t get over it. Kinda like the carpincho hide that I’ve been obsessing over courtesy of those clever Cleverley boys. I thought I had it washed outta my noggin after seeing a garish, hip-hop pimp ass carpincho shoe in green. It was absurd enough to scare even my fuzzy redneck rump to death but somehow the carpincho spore has embedded itself once again. Be quiet. I’m not sure which of the two colorways above will prevail. Do you have an opinion?
My mostly navy…blue jacket penchant has always manifested with gold buttons….blazer style. Puerto Rykken and Alan Flussfluss made my blue linen jacket years ago and just assumed that I’d want horn buttons on it and sent it accordingly. And I accordingly called them and requested a set of gold buttons as soon as it arrived. I think it goes back to my college days when every KA wore a navy blazer with gold buttons. All the damn time.
Here I am years ago dancing with a little stunner on the deck of the Disney Cruise-r. Linen Flusser blazer and a dance partner who at that time still thought I was the Cat Daddy. 
Photo stolen once again--from Ivy Style. Shut up.
But times change and some proclivities adjust accordingly. The anti-fuzziness…the duende…the subtle confidence manifest in this man’s navy jacket caught me many months ago when we were having lunch in Gotham. G. the Bruce Boyer was rocking a navy double breasted jacket in a way that made me feel childish about my peacockery. And I’ve had that jacket on my mind ever since.
Photo stolen from Rose Callahan...Order your copy of I Am Dandy today. If not, I'll cut you.
The understated subtlety reminded me of those classic dressers who had very nice clothes but very standard things regarding color and cut. Bill Blass and Bobby Short come to mind. Both when not in formal attire, were usually seen in gray or blue clothes. Superbly cut and minimally accessorized. Could I ever become a student of such elegant restraint?   
I don’t know but what I do know is that I wanted to try such a jacket yet I had no budget for it. Rykken and Savile Row nicked my entire 2013 bespoke budget. So where might I turn for such an experiment and do so for less money? Seems like one thing that’s consistent in this story is my insistence on not uncloaking my sources. To that end, I’ll keep this one under wraps too—at least for now. The first fitting was quite good and I’ll do a write up on the jacket once I get it back after just a few needed tweaks.
It’s a hopsack but not one of those stiff feeling cheapies. Rather nice hand for the money and my hunch is that it’ll end up being a go-to staple. We’ll see how long I last before I tart it up with gold buttons. Yes by the way--that is a machine made button hole. I'm slumming in MTM land instead of bespoke. Most of you mugwumps don't even know the difference so leave me alone and I mean it. And before one of you Style Forum turds leaves an anonymous of course, message about the cheap plastic buttons...they are the try on buttons. Nicer ones will replace the scrimmage set.
Oh, and I couldn’t not do something to make it just a little bit pimpish. The lining is quintessential South Carolina Horry County Pee Dee White Trash. All to be damned. Inspired by G. the Bruce. Tarted up by D. the G.
Duplicates. After the Rykken one rolls in and the G. the Bruce inspired one makes way I'll be down to only six blue jackets.
Final point regarding owning duplicates of the same thing. If you know you've got backup, you're less likely to worry about the consequences of capricious behavior that might damage your goods. Case in point regarding my deportment is reflected here. Amidst that clothing carnage there's a navy blazer. This was a few summers ago when I got a craving flung on me and peeled down right then and there--outside. Can't recall now who exactly was the motivator but I'm sure we had a big time. And for you newbies who haven't read about my other antics, the above is nothing. I've been known to set my damn self on fire. Read here if you don't believe me. Now back to the pile of clothes in the photo...had I been really worried about my clothes getting soiled or had I been wearing a jacket made of some delicate dupioni or a fragile fresco...I'd a probably thought twice and then...done the same damn thing. 
Onward. Home from a wild week that began in Jacksonville and ended in the northern burbs of Chicago…flying with the summer vacation travel rookies. One copes.  
And what'll help me cope this weekend will be some Honky Tonk Healin'. Listen to my boy David Ball, a fellow South Carolina redneck, as he extols the virtues of the Honky Tonk Healin' process.

And one more thing…my mama—the one that was supposed to die last March—walked the other day. Six steps—with a physical therapist on each arm—but still.

ADG the Second One

Sunday, July 21, 2013

John and Julian Part Two

It’s a skilled nursing facility—this place that now harbors my mom. So there’s a scattering of humanity in all phases therein. It’s a place for transition...rapid for some and not soon enough for others. The ennui and loneliness of those being warehoused indefinitely and rarely visited by family is palpable. And then there are those who seem busy.

The busy ones are usually Alzheimer’s patients…still in early enough phases to harmlessly roam the halls…surveying…inspecting…pondering. Their disease progression seems to me most evident in their eyes. Early on their eyes are still sharp but vaguely suspicious and then they seem to become more distantly hollowed…troubled.
This busy one is in the room next door to my mom and his eyes are somewhere between suspicious and troubled. Maybe there’s a weigh station on the way to full dementia that belies suspicion and trouble. Maybe anxious. He’s fit and obviously ambulatory. Friendly but mostly unaware of his family’s identity when they visit. This busy one walks. And surveys.

I was told we had some distant—at least to me—kin also in residence. But my flurries of intense visits are focused exclusively on my mom and I knew not nor cared too much about some extended family stranger billeted there. I was standing in my mom’s doorway when he walked up and asked, “Who is in there?” and I stated my mom’s name and for some reason I felt compelled to include her maiden name with my answer. “I’ve got to see her” he said. Not “may I see her” or “could I see her.” …“I’ve got to see her.”
Obviously this man had seen enough of my mom’s face to register something. Maybe he’d seen her en route to physical therapy. Perhaps he’d walked by her almost always open door and seen her sitting in her chair. He was tentative as I made the way for him to my mother’s bedside. He of sound body and feeble mind. My mother whose mind is sharp and body useless. The twain. And he said, “Frances.”
This man who rarely knows his daughter when she visits somehow hearkened enough of his rapidly fading life to remember my mom. And he seemed troubled by it. Or was he concerned to see her mostly bedridden? Or was he troubled because he couldn’t place her? We won’t ever know because John’s utterances were incomprehensible beyond my mother’s name.
Yes. This is Julian’s younger brother, John. The flyboy…the one who survived…the one who came home to run the dairy farm for thirty years and to also sell crop insurance from a little agency in Manning, South Carolina. My mother was an eight year old farm girl to his eighteen year old recruit status.

I saw the scrapbooks full of Army Air Corps photos the next day, courtesy of John’s daughter. She’d bought them to John in an effort to jog some of his memory. It was for naught but I sure loved seeing them. And so did my mom. You see, my mom and John are first cousins. Their fathers were brothers and John’s father, the oldest, inherited the family farm. My grandfather was gifted an adjacent one.
And then it began to come back to me. I’d visited that dairy farm as a small child but only once. It's the home of my great grandparents. My mother and her nine sibs all left their farm and scattered and by the time I was born, my maternal grandmother was long gone and my grandfather was soon to follow. So most of my knowledge about my mom’s family, beyond the loving gaggle of aunts and uncles I had, is all second hand. I’m pleased that this wasn’t the case with my paternal grandparents and their farm. My summers there were bliss.
So I learned enough to write about John and Julian by visiting with John’s daughter and sitting with my mom as she narrated each page of the two scrapbooks. “That’s Miss Hutto and that’s Miss so and so” my mom said. These were single gals who taught school and who lived at a local rooming house in town. And families bonded with them and had them out to Sunday dinner after church. This was the early 1940’s and I suppose that everyone, whether you were in Brooklyn or on a South Carolina farm, kinda looked after one another.
My mom’s the one who said that Julian was the better looking. She was a little girl, the baby of ten kids from the adjacent farm and I can only imagine how much she considered her older cousins to be handsome heroes. I didn’t ask her to tell me if she remembered the details of learning about cousin Julian’s death...where she was and how she felt when they told her.
Cousins…little adoring ones and older uniformed ones. I doubt that LFG remembers being in such awe of my sister’s boy—the one named after me—the one who’s seen the ugliness of war firsthand.

John came home and like most of his generation, settled into a life exclusive of small talk about the War. And now he’s on the home stretch of his journey. Unaware now of hardly anything, much less his service on all our behalf or the ultimate sacrifice of brother Julian. But he’s keeping things in check at the nursing facility, right next door to his cousin Frances.

Onward. Awash.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

John and Julian—Part One

Julian was the oldest and I’m told he was the better looking one. 
John, the lanky younger brother was quiet. Not brooding but perhaps a bit more than just shy.
Everyone signed up for the war—city boys and country boys alike. John and Julian did too and Julian became an Army Air Forces aviator. I reckon it's kinda natural that younger brother John would want to do the same thing. And what a departure it must have been. Two brothers born and raised on a South Carolina dairy farm now manning these flying machines and headed to war somewhere…wherever they were told to go.
Here’s Julian with his cousin Fred who’s on leave from the Navy. My stepfather said that he joined the Navy because the line was shorter at the Navy Recruiting office. Maybe Fred had a fear of flying.
These boys were barely more than children when they ended up in flight school. Maybe other generations upon return from such adventures would tell great tales…you know…long, animated, twisty-turny stories about the thrill of flying. I know I would. John and Julian’s generation rarely and then barely uttered a word about all of this. Milking cows and doing farm chores one day. Wearing shearling jackets and flying planes soon thereafter. Daddy would be John.
The personal photos of John and Julian and their brothers in flight reflect to me the same reality that all photos from this era convey. They all look older—much older than they are.  But they are kids. Some of them only five years older than LFG and none of the fellas in these photos have yet been tainted or hardened by combat—though many would be dead in another year.
Brother Julian died. Soon. His life ended in the cockpit of his fighter and so went his war sacrifice. Hell of a price for a kid to pay.
I can imagine the U.S. Army staff car coming up the lane, approaching the Turbeville, South Carolina farm house that John and Julian and their father before them grew up in. Army staff cars were ominous in any setting. I think more so in Turbeville. That's a 1970's photo of John and Julian's family home.
Baby brother John’s aviation career ended the day Julian’s life did. The only remaining son was humanely relegated to desk duty for the remainder of the war. I wonder how he felt about it. You know, the dialectic of emotions about losing Julian and the probably frustrating compliance with the Army's decision to spare their mother another staff car approach to the farm house. Seems to me most of those boys wanted to fight, not push paper.

These painful but all too ordinary tales…these matter of course, routine occurrences amidst war and destruction, seem anything but ordinary as I ponder them and I’m sure that John and Julian’s mom and dad had strong feelings about their boys’ jockeying these rat trap flying machines. I speculate that John's mom had feeling of relief amidst her grief when she learned that her only remaining son would be excused from aerial combat.
John came home and quietly resumed life on the dairy farm and membership in that Greatest Generation. And like most of them, he didn’t talk about it much. Turbeville, South Carolina to Manhattan…farm boys and city fellas…wealthy and poor. One thing I know is that few families were spared the call to offer up their sons. And the ultimate sacrifice, like the one Julian made, wasn’t limited to modest Southern farm boys.
So here’s to John and Julian and cousin Fred. And here’s to all the other boys from every region and every strata of society who served and especially to those like Julian, who made the ultimate sacrifice.


Monday, July 8, 2013

No Vacation...

...goes unpunished. Cheers from DCA...surprise I know. Green bags...Navy Blazer...
...As I sit here sporting my retooled Alden Algonquins avec Dainite soles. B. Nelson will, for two-hundred and fifty bucks, put the wrong damn color Dainite soles on your shoes and essentially tell you to be happy with it. I expect no mitigation. 
They're calling my flight so I'll cut this one short. Be aware though, that I've banned any and all pocket squares...Butcept white linen. Till further notice. Shut. The wrong color damn Dainite. Up.