Monday, May 31, 2010

A History Lesson

Mr. David Bagwell who presented the definitive White Shoe Rule has once again submitted for our elucidation, a learned study of the relationships between his own state's flag, the Scottish flag, and the Russian flag.

Very few Russians show up here, but we are long on Scots. Native Alabaman's are few on the ground, and rarely pop in. For your consideration, I present Mr. Bagwell.

David A. Bagwell

There was no Alabama state flag from the founding of Alabama in 1819 until 1861, when Alabama seceded from the Union, and on January 11, 1861 the Secession Convention adopted as a state flag(1)one designed by some Montgomery women.

We didn’t have a state flag again until 1895, when a statute(2)adopted the present Alabama state flag, the design of which is set out by statute, and the statute says simply “The flag of the state of Alabama shall be a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white. The bars forming the cross shall be not less than six inches broad, and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side.” The statute does not say anything about the Confederate battle flag, but in public grade school in the early 1950s I was taught that the state flag is “reminiscent of the Confederate flag”.

The Confederate Battle Flag contains the cross of St. Andrew. It is not easy to find out just why the Confederate Battle Flag contains the Cross of St. Andrew; if you type into your web browser anything containing the words “Confederate Battle Flag” you don’t get much useful information; just a whole lot of electronic hissing which is either politically- correct, or politically-incorrect, depending upon your point of view.

Why did the Confederate Battle Flag contain the cross of St. Andrew? I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory. Most Southerners [or, “Southrons” as they were wont to call themselves before The Late Unpleasantness] were Scots [or “Ulster Scots” or Scotch-Irish, who were lowland Scots who first went to Ulster in Northern Ireland to work on flax plantations or linen mills, and then left when the Church of England began to require tithes of everybody and the land rent went up quickly and significantly, “the rack rent”]. And, one scholar(3)has a remarkably catchy theory that the only way to understand the difference between Southerners and Northerners is to understand that Southerners are Celts [Irish and Scotch] and Northerners are Englishmen.

Makes sense to me, when you read it. Undoubtedly the legends of the Scots were a major theme in antebellum Southern history. So, the legend is that in putting the cross of St. Andrew in the Confederate battle flag, the Southrons were honoring and invoking their ancestors, the wild and tough Scots.

So, that still does not answer why the flag of Scotland(4)has the Cross of St. Andrew -- a sky-blue or bright- azure background with a white cross in it, the cross of St. Andrew, sometimes called “the saltire (5)cross”. Oh, you know the story; the flag of England had the cross of St. George– vertical and horizontal members– while the flag of Scotland had the cross of St. Andrew, the saltire cross– and they put them both together upon the Union of England and Scotland(6), and naval vessels flew “The Union jack ”(7), with both crosses superimposed, and later, upon union with Ireland, they added a white saltire cross, supposedly to represent Ireland. But, you knew that.

OK, so what gives with the cross of St. Andrew in the national flag of Scotland?
And, why(8)is the Cross of St. Andrew – a blue cross on a white background--the flag of the Russian Navy, the flag which they call the “Andreyevski flag”, from the time of Peter the Great to the Revolution in 1917, and from the dissolution of the USSR in 1992 until now? Why do Alabama, Russia, and the Confederate States of America use the same symbol in their flags, now?

The cross of St. Andrew is, naturally enough, named for St. Andrew, who was the brother of St. Peter and was fishing with Peter when they both became disciples of Jesus and “Fishers of Men”. According to tradition, after Pentecost Andrew became a missionary to Asia Minor, Macedonia and southern Russia, and in 70 A.D. [or, “C.E.” as the secularists would have us say, for “common era”] was martyred in Patras, Greece. He is to this day patron Saint of Greece, Russia and the Ukraine.

St. Andrew was in Patras(9), Greece, during Nero’s time, when he fatally offended the Roman Proconsul Aegaetes in Patras by (1) curing the Proconsul’s wife Maximilla, and –maybe more importantly– (2) convincing her to adopt a lifestyle of sexual abstinence [St. Andrew was supposed to have been big on sexual abstinence], and (3) making the Proconsul’s brother the first Bishop of Patras. The Proconsul, highly incensed by some or all of this, sentenced St. Andrew to die, and supposedly Andrew was crucified by being placed on an X-shaped cross, which the Romans apparently called “crux decusseta”, which means – tah-DAH! -- “cross shaped like an ‘X’”. Latter-day Confederate patriots get all upset when you say that the Confederate flag had an “X-shaped cross on it”, and they say haughtily that “it is the cross of St. Andrew!”, but heck, what the Romans called the cross upon which they crucified St. Andrew was “the X-shaped cross”; I mean, come on, now. The Romans knew their crosses, and stuff.

St. Andrew was buried in Patras with full honors, and his grave became a shrine.

OK, so, why then is the cross of St. Andrew in the Scots flag? Well, because St. Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland.

Howcome is that? Well, this all has to do with relics and visions and stuff.

One theory(10)is the Holy Relic theory. St. Andrew’s bones were interred in Patras, and three centuries later Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome and the guy who presided over the Council of Nicea(11) in what we now call Turkey, just across from Constantinople, and especially his mother St. Helena [whose husband had been Emperor, too, but he abandoned her for a politically-powerful woman] developed a great interest in Christian holy relics. Now, this was a time only about 300 years or so after Jesus, and it wasn’t all that hard that early to find holy relics. St. Helena hired some men who found three old crosses in the ground at the foot of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified [promptly declared “The True Cross” of legend] and she and Constantine also had the bones of St. Mark brought to Constantinople [later to be stolen during the Crusades from the Turks and hidden in a barrel of “unclean” pig lard which the Moslem Turks would not touch, and taken to St. Mark’s in Venice] and she and Constantine set their eyes on the bones of St. Andrew, up in Patras, Greece, in order to move them to Constantinople, his capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The Scots theory is that some guy named St. Rule or St. Regulus [who was either an Irish assistant of St. Columba or a Greek monk, depending upon whom you believe] was directed by an Angel to take the bones of St. Andrew “to the ends of the earth” for safekeeping. St. Rule took a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some finger bones from St. Andrew’s tomb [the rest were taken to Amalfi, Italy by the French later(12) ] and took them to the “ends of the earth”, which was Scotland, naturally. St. Rule was shipwrecked on Scotland and came ashore at a Pictish [the Picts were an early Scots tribe] settlement which is now called, naturally, “St. Andrews” in Scotland, the home of golf, and of the place where Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry went to college. Maybe St. Andrew is also the Patron Saint of golf, except for the abstinence thing.

Whatever the story on how they got to Scotland, the relics of St. Andrew were in the chapel which was specially constructed for that purpose by the Pictish king Angus or Ungus– Angus mac Fergus-- who reigned from 831-861. This chapel was replaced by the Cathedral of St. Andrews in 1160, and St. Andrews [at some point they dropped the apostrophe from the apostle] became the religious capital of Scotland, and a great center for medieval pilgrims. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the relics, but during the Scottish reformation [you know; Presbyterians and simplicity and all that] likely they were destroyed or something. The place where they were kept in the cathedral is now marked by a plaque in the ruins.

But, back to King Angus, The High King of Alba, Angus mac Fergus. Aided by Scots, Angus went on a punitive raid South across the border into Northumbria, but they were pursued and confronted by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under the first Anglo-Saxon King of England, Athelstan, after whom “The Athelstan Club” in Mobile is named [the lobby of the Athelstan Club has a bronze bust said to be of King Athelstan, bolted down (thieves take note), which looks amazingly like a Roman centurion, bronze busts of Athelstan being undoubtedly rare in the market].

Defeat for Angus at the hand of Athelstan seemed certain, but he and his men prayed for deliverance, and there appeared in the blue sky a vision of the white saltire cross, the cross of St. Andrew. Angus vowed that if the Scots and Picts were victorious that day over the Angles and Saxons under Athelstan, then St. Andrew would evermore be their patron saint.

There, at what is now called “Athelstaneford”, in what is said to have been 832 AD, Angus defeated Athelstane. At that spot the saltire cross flag flies always, even at night when it is lit. The battle is commemorated on November 30th, “St. Andrews Day”.

[1] It is now known as the “Republic of Alabama Flag”. On one side was the Goddess of Liberty holding in her right hand an unsheathed sword, in the left a small flag with one star, and in the arch above her, he words “independent now and Forever”. On the other side of the flag was a cotton plant with a coiled rattlesnake, and under the cotton plant are the Latin words “Noli Me Tangere”, meaning “Touch Me Not”. This flag was flown for one month, and on February 10, 1861 it was damaged by severe weather and was removed to the Governor’s office and never flown again.

[2] Act 383, February 16, 1895, now ALA. CODE Section 1-2-5.

[3] Grady McWhinney, Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South.

[4] Some people think that the flag of Scotland is the “Lyon Rampant”, the yellow flag with red lion rampant on it, but according to an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 1672, this is the flag reserved to the Scottish Royal family, and only they are supposed to fly it, or one of a very few “Great Officers” who officially represent Scotland, and its use otherwise is an offense. I am not part of the Scottish royal family. Are you? Any Scot, however, may fly the blue flag with the saltire cross, the National Flag of Scotland.

[5] “Saltire” apparently comes from old French, possibly meaning “stirrup-shaped”.

[6] This happened when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, at the Union of the Crowns when Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603. King James gave us “The Union Jack” and, some say, the term “Jack” is itself named for him, but see the next note.

[7] A “jack” is a small flag a naval vessel flies on the bowstaff, indicating its nationality; in the U.S. Navy it is flown while in port from 8:00 AM to sunset. By tradition of the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the Confederate Navy, the jack is the “union” of the ensign [read: the box of stars], but after 9-11 the U.S. Navy replaced the box-of-stars jack with the snake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” legend, signifying the fight against terrorists, a move which rankles some traditionalists. The “ensign” is the national flag which is flown at the stern, and the commission pennant flies at the masthead, and is normally a long and narrow flag indicating that the ship is a commissioned Naval vessel, or at least a government ship. Supposedly the whip-like pennant derives from the British tradition of hoisting a whip to the top of the mast to signify victory, in turn done in response to the Dutch tradition of hoisting a broom to signify “a clean sweep of the sea”.

[8] The website of the Russian navy, in its English portion, explains that St. Andrew had an extensive mission in Russia during his lifetime, mostly around the Black sea, and that St. Andrew is the patron Saint of Russia.

[9] Patras is a town on the northern shore of the Peloponessian peninsula, the southern shore of the Gulf of Patras, which is an inlet of the Ionian sea.

[10] A rival theory is that Acca, the Bishop of Hexham, a collector of relics, brought the relics to St. Andrew in 733.

[11] Oh, you know; in church every Sunday lots of Christian churches recite the “Nicene Creed” that Constantine’s fellow counselors at Nicea adopted as the fundamental statement of the Christian faith, back then, and has remained unchanged since then, except for the addition by the Roman Catholics [to the eternal horror of the Orthodox] of the so-called “filioque clause”, which says “who proceeds from the father and from the son”, suggesting to the Orthodox that perhaps Jesus was somehow his own father, not unlike the country music standard “I’m My Own Grampaw”. This stuff makes a huge difference to a lot of people.

[12] The larger part of the relics were taken from Constantinople in 1210 and are now found in Amalfi in Southern Italy. In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of the Saint’s shoulder blade to the re-established Roman Catholic community in Scotland, and during his 1969 visit, Pope Paul VI gave further relics of St. Andrew to Scotland with the words “St. Peter gives you his brother”, and these are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

David Bagwell lives in Point Clear, Alabama, and has his own "White Shoe Law Firm" in Fairhope. In almost six decades he has never lived outside the South, although he once spent most of a year traveling around the world on a Fellowship to study international business, during which he almost always wore a suit, but never a white suit or white shoes, since the message of a white suit in -say-Rangoon or Calcutta, or ever Marseilles, might convey a different messsage than intended.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

White Shoe Shopping

Too many guys who think nothing of wearing white Jack Purcell's, or latest Nikes are put off by the idea of a sturdier white shoe. The most common excuse is "I don't want to look like the ice cream man." Man up. You wear the clothes, they don't wear you.

Historically, a white shoe connoted a man was above the fray, that he had the resources to expand his wardrobe, but didn't, especially in urban areas, need to toil in the streets. Thus the white shoe law firm was smarter, had a higher class of client than the local ambulance chaser.

I have a life time supply of white dress shoes. I've made a number of mistakes in their acquisition. If I can bring one convert into the fold, or save 1 gentleman from himself, my mission will be accomplished.

A lot of guys find their way from dirty bucks to its summer cousin the red soled white buck. This is about as basic, classic if you prefer, as it gets. A campus staple until the early '60's they actually improve with age. Few shoes are as comfortable as a well broken in white buck. Sadly, they've no discernible style. Bass and Jack Purcell are the usual sources.

As dress shoes, a gentleman has got to keep them neat, and clean. As play shoes they need to be scuffed. Three years is about all it takes to pass from one state to another.

Ben Silver has advertised this Crockett and Jones number for many years. It is a gorgeous shoe, at near $600 it should be. Many, myself included, lust for a pair, but it requires a willingness to suspend disbelieve and common sense long enough to pull the trigger. If you've the means, this is the gold standard.

The welted blucher indicates this is a dress shoe. Its sense of style will never allow it to become as casual as the basic white buck. It will also never be confused with the ice cream man's shoes.

Fortunately, a number of substitutes exist for a man not in the market for $600 summer kicks. Orvis advertises this suitable split toe substitute for around $150.

My favorite source is Roberts in Minnesota.

Roberts is a quality source for both high and low priced white shoes. They also have a great saddle selection, but that's a story for another day.

Happy shopping.


Friday, May 28, 2010

The Lamp is Lit

The Yankee White Shoe lamp is officially lit. God bless all here.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Water Water Everywhere

For the past year and half we have been spoiled by rain. We have rain here, we have rain there. It has rained hard every week, for what seems like ages. The memory of the drought of '06 is fleeting, quickly.

Not only have we been spoiled by having the gods water the moss and woods, our house water comes from an artesian well. We haven't had a water bill in 4 years, and take clean, tasty, free water for granted. That's where trouble lives.

Yesterday Mrs. T and I met with our Dutch Uncle, who periodically leaves his oceanside Garden of Eden in suburban San Diego to spread the gospel of thrift, prudence and the value of the long view when planning for the future.

After the 20th hearing of this song and dance, I tend to nod, and look forward to lunch. It's was over lunch where he dropped his water bomb.

Utilizing his own principles of thrift and prudence,and hopes for an occasional rain he allowed he was hoping to reduce his household water bill(2 adults)to $18,000 (US) this year, $50 per day if that's easier to get your head around.

I almost lost my lunch, trying to figure out how to get into the water company business.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Do you enjoy puzzles?

Mrs. T and her children are great puzzlers, their patron saint is Will Shortz. Crossword, science, game, math puzzles rock their worlds. I prefer a good detective novel and the occasional Sudoko. What does fascinate me though are puzzle creators, and the mad men and women who spend their lives searching for the hidden meanings behind books, most of us read only for entertainment.

Mother Goose nursery rhymes are historical fact? Who knew.

My patron, Martin Gardner, died this week at age 95. In over 70 books, Martin explored the arcane, the weird, and the unusual in straight forward, non-jargoned prose.

He was the foremost scholar of Lewis Carroll's, Alice novels. In 3 books (The Annotated Alice (1960), More Annotated Alice, in 1990 and a definitive edition combining his notes from both volumes in 1999.) He explored, named names and explained the riddles, puns, jokes and hidden meanings of the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and all the other oddball characters.

For half a century Gardner's book has never been out of print, selling more than a million copies in Britain and the United States. He also produced The Annotated Snark (1962), The Annotated Ancient Mariner (1965) and The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown (1987), about GK Chesterton's fictional detective.

"I give the impression of knowing far more than I do," he once admitted, "because I work hard on research, write glibly and keep extensive files of clippings on everything that interests me." Naturally, he was an accomplished exponent of the musical saw.

He shall be missed.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If 8 year olds drove

Do you have trouble controlling the technology in your life? Ever have to call a kid to tell you how to operate your computer? Do you play video games?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, allow me to introduce the Mercedes Benz SCL 600.

A pretty coupe. Has the obligatory high end sports car gullwing doors. Close to $200k and fits 2 adults and their golf clubs comfortably. US Luxury tax is in effect.

The rear looks like GM something or other.

Most important are the interior refinements. Leather seats, optional sun roof, multiple cup holders,

and neither pedals, nor steering wheel. Enjoyed best via a joy stick.

Wouldn't it be fun to risk life and limb daily in nerd boy wheels?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Victoria Day

Americans, by the grace of god and an act of Congress, are exempt from knowledge of the metric system, or anything Canadian.

According to an unscientific poll I conducted last week, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans had any idea who the king and queen of Canada were. Only 4 in 10 knew the official currency was the Euro. 6 of the 10 believed Canada was in line to become the 51st state, just after Puerto Rico. Most significantly, 5 of 10 were able to locate it on a map, in under 3 tries.

Today, is Victoria Day in Canada. For English Canada it marks the celebration of the British monarch's official birthday. It also unofficially marks the beginning of the summer social season. None of that "white shoe rule" stuff for them. With the risk of frost over, gardeners in southern Canada use the date to begin spring planting. Northern Canadians use the day to bathe. Gotta be quick, summer is not long.

Fall begins June 1.

For a serious look at our northern neighbors take a look see here. They have a great deal to teach us, despite the fact their tomatoes do not have the shelf life of broom sticks.

Oh, Canada...


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Car shopping with Toad II

It was once a truism amongst car guys that as men mature, or age if you prefer, their car preferences tilt towards the cars of their youth. As nondescript as modern cars are that may not hold much longer, but it still works for me.

I learned to drive in one of these.

It was a '68 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, 'bout the size of a post war suburban ranch house. My girlfriend, later wife and mother of my children taught me to drive, in her dad's car.

I have two recollections about that car. It had an awesome stereo. These were the days of the introduction of FM radio. Finding a car with FM was rare. Finding one in a car with a better stereo than home beggared belief.

The car could pass anything on the road, except a gas station. Admittedly, gas was maybe 20 cents/gal, but grass cutting paid less then. I loved that car.

Since then I have made a lot of lemonade, but drawn some definite conclusions about my next set of wheels.

Several words of warning. This may not be as politically correct as some may like. That's life. When I last had a daily driver, I drove maybe 50 miles a month, I also keep cars forever. Green to me is driving something that already exists, I'm not going to concern myself if it gets 8 MPG. I still have to contend with emission regulations.

Conclusion 1: I've never had an accident. My number is likely soon up, probably by a multitasker in an urban assault vehicle, so I better be prepared. The car better be big.

2. I like convertibles. It's a holdover from my cigar days. I enjoy the cigar, I hate the lingering smell. Ragtops are the way to go. My dermatologist says he can fix the sun spots and cancer.

3. Gotta be cheap. Cheap to buy, cheap to fix. No computers, GPS, Teeth, or gizmos.

4. Gotta look nice, and be reasonably unique. I hate the thought of approaching an intersection and finding 4 identical cars next to mine.

So what did I come up with in my fantasy shopping list?

The Ultimate, rolling crime wave. A car for the ages. Thank god, I'm married, cause this would be hard for many to resist.

The white suited BOSS Toadmobile. Antlers optional.

If your tastes are for the eclectic take a gander


Friday, May 21, 2010


On several occasions over the past year I have had a little sport with the local retired art teacher who has a chip on his shoulder. You can catch up here, here or here.

He thought an art installation would bring his neighbors closer together, never understanding why they did become closer, at his expense. They sued. They sued in the county court, the state and Federal court. To make certain he understood their anger, they billed him for their lawyers too.

He had is day in court this week. The teacher's case was that since he titled his work, "Holocaust Revisited", and he was Jewish his rights were being trampled. The judge called it a safety hazard, gave him 20 days in the cooler, during which he would be allowed to rethink his position, so that he was prepared to restate his case upon his release.

He was unrepentant, as he was led from the courtroom.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Springtime at The Park

Sometimes not cutting the grass can be a good thing.

We are fortunate in that we are able to grow the grass as high as we like, and not have to worry about the Jones. In spring its especially fortunate. I'll show you why, without going to Bambi on you. It may help to click on the photos.

It's rare that we have geese in the pond. Occasionally, they'll stop for a while, but they have never nested here, and deep down I know that is a good thing. We had them in other houses, and they generally do not make good neighbors.

This year they appear to have nested somewhere near the lake. The tall grass is teeming with bugs and good geese grub, so they should be happy there. In speaking to the moms today I warned them of the bass in the lake, but otherwise they should be happy.

Just up the hill, the deer like to hang out. The dogs sit in the window and howl at the deer who pay them no mind. It is almost birthing time for the momma deer, so we tend to keep the dogs inside. If we are good the deer let us babysit.

Guys, you'll know this. There is a voice wives save for special occasions. It's never good, and only a fool would fail to react in his most solicitous manner. I heard that shriek this afternoon.

The monologue went something like this.

"I don't know or care what that is, get it away from her and do it now."

Charley, the hunter, found a turkey.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vermont Country Store

If you are unfamiliar , The Vermont Country Store is the last refuge for the weird and wonderful.

Looking for a pot holder loom, just like you used in camp? They have it.

Lanz of Salzburg jammies. It's there.

If you remember it, they most likely have it. It's a wonderful place to visit.

The store opened in 1946. Mr. Vrest Orton found the merchandise, his wife, Mrs. Mildred Orton compiled their catalog, did the book work, processed the orders and paid the bills. Mrs. Orton was active in the store until 1978.

The store now managed by their son, and his children mails 30 million catalogs per year.

Mrs. O died May 6 at age 99. Her family's tribute is moving in its affection for a wonderful mother, grandmother and probably in her day a tough boss.

Our condolences to the family.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

book report day

It has been unseasonably cold. For the past 3 weeks daily highs in the 50F's, hard rain every other day, the iron horse is broken beyond repair, nothing to do but spend afternoons curled up with a book or two. Mercifully, this weekend highs are forecast in the 90's.

I'll share my findings with you.

Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden.

I knew nothing of the Burden family before picking this up. It was a surprise to me to learn the mousy little Latin teacher at my high school, was Wendy's uncle, but that is my only connection. Little did I know he was one of the richest men in America.

The Burden family are descendants of Commodore Vanderbilt. By Wendy's birth in 1955 the family had ossified to a group of bright, underachieving misanthropes. Her family memoir, is perhaps unintentionally, the funniest book I'd read in a very long time. The privileged are different, mostly in ways you'd wouldn't even dream of. You wouldn't wish their life on anyone you remotely cared for.

Great beach reading.

Kid Carolina by Heidi Schnakenberg

This is a biography of R.J. Reynolds, Jr. son of the founder of RJ Reynolds Tobacco. After his parents early death, Junior was left a great fortune and little responsibility, never a good combo. The burden of family, money, free time led to a playboy life, and a life long inability to accept personal responsibility for any of his actions. In a phrase, he became a world class drunk. Not much of a story, and feels like it's a morality tale written by or for 12 year olds.

Give it a pass.

How could I not love it? I've had a crush on Dominique since forever.

Perhaps because I'm male, or more likely I was going through my, let me fix it phase, that I got bogged down. It was a tough go for a while for me, before I finally got it .

So I put it down for a day or two, then was able to get into the rhythm of the story. The best review I've read was Sunday in the NYT, I'll let them tell the story. They do it better than I could ever hope to.

Buy 2 copies, and give 1 away.

Were you aware that most of what we conjure up when thinking about French style, its sense of fashion, furnishings, champaign, jewelry, and cafe society, sprung from whole cloth during the reign of The Sun King, from 1660 to 1715? I wasn't.

Prior to his reign, France was barely recognized by Europeans. Venice had style, London had quality, Amsterdam had money. By 1700, Paris was recognized as the world capital of style, a position it still holds.

If you are interested in the history of fashion and lifestyle, I recommend it.

The final installment of Johnny's trilogy of food writing. If like our family, you travel with Apple's America as a guide to good eats, you will enjoy it.

Not a great beach read, but a perfect vacation afternoon read. Its chapters are by geographic area. No need to read it sequentially.

Enjoy your day at your neighborhood independent bookstore. They need your support.


Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm searching for a book

Once again, I come hat in hand, seeking knowledge from my favorite people in the world.

I'm trying to remember the name of a garden book, I read twice last year, wanted to purchase, then lost the title.

It's the story written by two guys, if memory serves who were teachers in SF, but moved to garden in New England. They were able to grow marvelous plants that no more belonged in their area than I do. Each chapter was devoted to a specific plant species, tree, or weed.

Ring a bell?

Thanks, muchly, in advance.


Thank you Dr. Carver

Could be I'm just hanging with a better class crowd than I once did, but it occurs to me that the greatest health breakthrough in my lifetime is not the plentiful cancer treatments, or the eradication of many childhood diseases, or even advancements made to assure that giving birth isn't fatal.

My vote goes towards dental care.

In my youth, grandparents had few teeth in their mouth. A glass on the nightstand with granny's dentures was a fixture. Our family has tales galore of how Aunt Jane's dachshund ate Pa's teeth. Scratch deep enough and I'm certain your family has them as well.

Today, grandparents have teeth.

What does this have to do with George Washington Carver you ask?

Once upon a time,George was a Missouri kid, who eventually found his way to Martha's neighborhood, then college in Iowa, finally becoming one of America's most successful scientists, and inventors.

Interested in agriculture, young George was well versed in the ways of country people, and most especially the shortage of teeth in adults. His creative genius, led him to explore methods of getting dietary protein into people who couldn't or didn't chew well. His solution?

Peanut Butter.

You thought, PB&J was just for kids didn't you. In fact it has saved thousands of lives, and made the world a better place for many toothless old coots.

Peanut Butter is my favorite food, right after fried chicken. Dr. Carver's name will always be held in high esteem in our house, for this solitary gift to mankind.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lands End

The man in the brown truck arrived Friday delivering my order from Lands End. Oh happy days. Friday being date night I couldn't wait to tuck into my new duds and see how I did. I hate the anxiety which comes when ordering on line, but not as much as I hate doing the real shopping experience.

That said, here is a quick review.

In the olden days I always kept a sweater in the car during the summer. That way I could be gallant if when on a date the restaurant was cold, I could offer a wrap. Now, Mrs. T doesn't get cold, I do. The car found a new sweater.

From the first photo, you can tell I actually ordered the navy, not gray, although I will kick myself if I allow the gray to get away. I love this sweater. It is somewhat heavier than I hoped, which is great for early S/S, bad for middle. It was 60F Friday night and the weight was perfect.
I am a jerk about shirts. They have to be just so, although for an inexpensive play shirt like this I will forgive a lot. I have little to forgive here. I wish it didn't have the breast pocket, but so what. It is sized, like a real shirt, no SML. The tails are long, buttons quality, and includes placket buttons, which is a plus for me.

My sole caution is beware if you have a middle. If you do try the LE custom, or the big. The same shirt is available there and will be made to fit, for not a lot more.

It's a bit much I know, but I like the scarf.

So for date night we went into the big city. The Italian neighborhood has fabulous restaurants on every street corner, except the one with the church. A blind man could sniff and pick a wonderful place. Our date night partners got to chose, and picked the only lemon in the zip code. We enjoyed their company anyway.


PS: I have since ordered the gray sweater, and the shirt in navy gingham. Happy Fathers day to me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Car shopping for Toad

Some may remember that last summer I gave my car to #2 son, who continues to scare the wits out of me with his chosen career as a forest fire fighter. This summer, he is on a first responder crew stationed in Couer D'Laine, Idaho.

I haven't missed not having a car, Mrs. T and I very rarely have separate places to be, and in a pinch, Camilla can always be dusted off. That hasn't stopped my car buddy from daily submitting can't miss opportunities for my perusal.

Two this week, will give you an idea of what he's shopping for me for. Those of you too young to recognize them don't think I'm jealous. I'm not.

This is a Renault Dauphine, early '60's. It's also the French version of a British Morris Minor of the same era, although a Brit would have apoplexy at the thought.

Someone in fairly good shape could out run either of these on level ground. Many years ago, Car and Driver magazine had a story of the lucky stiff who had the coveted Morris franchise in San Francisco.

Eventually, the owner got word his ship had come in and he could pick up his cars at the wharf. On the appointed day he emptied the sales floor and garage to get drivers to pick up the cars. All went well, until they got to the first hill. The cars weren't powerful enough to climb the hill. Sales were slow.

A good rule of thumb in the US is to only buy French cars, in France for driving in France. If one day you catch stupid and decide to buy a French car in North America, ask yourself, before leaving home, who is going to fix it? Follow up with, where can I get parts? Honest answers to those two should set you straight.

If family and friends have always publicly thought of you as something of a dolt consider the Citroen 2CV Sahara.

The 2CV is a great little car. Primitive, but sturdy. The Sahara, just stupid. The French wanted a 4x4 of their own. Something to traipse around the colonies with. So how did they do it? Two engines of course. 1 in front, 1 rear, with all kinds of gizmos to get them to run in synch. Somehow they found almost 600 takers.

Next Saturday I'll show you what I'm really looking at, maybe.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Red Sea Rig

My most erudite corespondent wrote yesterday asking, "fat man what do you know about Red Sea Rig?"

"If its a British car I probably owned one or two", was all I could come up with.

Before he would have made me look it up, but this time he took pity and included a most detailed Wikipedia report.

The sun never set on the English Empire, but what did they do at night? Much of the empire was oppressively hot, whether on sea or shore, and managed by and large by gentlemen, with very strict rules of protocol. Wherever he was located, a British gentleman was expected to dress for dinner. Maugham covers this territory very well.

But hokey smokes, in the closed quarters of a navel warship, summering in the Red Sea, pre AC, a man in formal mess dress could die of heat stroke. Thus a new uniform option was born, only for semi formal occasions, in specific locales, hence Red Sea rig.

The components are simple. Black tie, without the jacket, but with either a black or red bow tie with matching cummerbund.

Modifications have been made, to meet specific requirements, and each military service created their own . The gentleman shown is wearing the Royal Marine Band variation.

The female officers version:

A uniform so practical was sure to make friends amongst the civilian population as well, so in many parts of the empire civilian variants have become acceptable. Today they most likely to seen by officers on cruise ships, or diplomats stationed in the Middle East.

The American version, "Gulf rig", is naturally the laziest. Tux pants, bow tie, no jacket, rarely a cummerbund, basically a male guest at a black tie wedding reception.

Don't be getting ideas. You would never be able to sell it to your better half, and protocol requires that you must be invited to wear the rig.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

A favorite day at our house

Desperately in need of good news I present for your consideration our family's red letter day times two.

First, today marks the annual celebration of th birth of my beloved son in law, darling daughter Katy's husband, Gary. Better known to many of you as the chap who saves me from myself on blogging issues, especially correcting white fonts on white backgrounds. He is the tall lad in the white shirt. Happy Birthday to Gary.

More importantly today is also Katy and Gary's fourth wedding anniversary. They were married in a beach side service in pre-flu infested Cancun, Mexico.

On that most special day I wished them much happiness, and hopes for many splendid years together. I redouble those wishes today. They make a cute couple,and since each knows they are in charge, they should be happy for many years to come.

Happy Anniversary to two of my favorites. They always make me smile.