Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Bunky and Odds and Ends

Today is Bunky's birthday. He's defending Colorado from forest fires today, but I hope he has a safe and fun birthday none the less. Seeing him last week was the closest I have come to seeing him on his birthday in many years. I had a great time.

For his birthday, Mrs. T and I gifted him our priceless 1989 MB 190 E sedan. I pray it works out better than his Land Cruiser. I think it will, as long as he is out of Colorado before the snows come.

Odds and Ends

Progress on the pool house has been slow since I returned. A lot of time has been spent doing piddly miserable jobs like repairing electrical and plumbing problems.

The tile has been laid and grouted in both rooms, and fixtures have been installed. We ended up using extra tile pieces for the base boards. The main job left is painting, then we can replace light fixtures, towel bars, mirrors and fun things like that.

We haven't begun to dicker over paint colors yet. My current choice is RL's Vintage Master color Cloud Blue.

To my eye, its almost the color of the pool, and works with the blue doors. I'm likely to be told differently.

If the weather holds (we are expecting high temps near 70 all week) I will be able to paint beginning Tuesday. Just in time to close the pool.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Detective Story Primer

Are you also fans of detective stories? I've been for most of my life, especially those of many of the old English mystery writers. I have to admit I've never been a fan of Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown. Most of their deductions don't hold up.

Eighty years ago, the rules of a sucessful detective novel were codified, and informally agreed to by the inner sanctum of mystery writers. For your edification I present them.

"Twenty rules for writing detective stories" (1928)
(Originally published in the American Magazine (1928-sep),
and included in the Philo Vance investigates omnibus (1936).

by S.S. Van Dine
(pseud. for Willard Huntington Wright)

THE DETECTIVE story is a kind of intellectual game. It is more — it is a sporting event. And for the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws — unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. Herewith, then, is a sort Credo, based partly on the practice of all the great writers of detective stories, and partly on the promptings of the honest author's inner conscience. To wit:

1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It's false pretenses.

5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic se'ances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

9. There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn't know who his codeductor is. It's like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn't ordinarily come under suspicion.

12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure.

15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no "atmospheric" preoccupations. such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.

18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader's everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author's ineptitude and lack of originality. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. (b) The bogus spiritualistic se'ance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. (c) Forged fingerprints. (d) The dummy-figure alibi. (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. (i) The word association test for guilt. (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.



Friday, August 28, 2009


I am, what is known dismissively to native Coloradians, a flatlander.

Mayberry is located 479 feet above sea level. Son Bunky, lives in Lake George, Colorado, elevation 8642 feet. I asked Bunky if my ears began bleeding overnight, just to tell the folks at home I loved them. Make no attempt to spare me. That part comes way later though. Allow me to begin at the beguin.

I left Sunday morning in near perfect conditions. Cool, sunny. Great for a long drive in a car without a/c. All went swimmingly until I hit the eastern most suburbs of Kansas City. Suddenly, and unpreferedly, I was awash in steaming hot antifreeze. Fortunately, I made it to an exit, got off the highway and waited for a tow.

So where do you go? I elected to entrust my 20 years old Mercedes to the local Benz store. I hoped they could diagnose, and have the parts on hand to get me on the road quickly.

What a treat. Naturally, they were closed so I had the car dumped by the gate, and hitched a ride to the nearest hotel. Across the street, as the crow flies, but a 2 mile walk over the interstate as the Toad walks. This adventure cost me lunch with the birthday boy and his family.

Let me tell you a bit about Mercedes Benz ownership in KC, this info I gleaned while spending most of Monday in the dealers waiting room. Either all MB's in KC are black, or black MB's in KC are unreliable. All the cars in for service were black. Not some, all. If I lived there, I'd have to have a red one, just because. Also, if you buy one black Benz, you have to have a second one for your spouse. They come in pairs only. Fascinating.

By 2pm the dealer had run my D&B, xray'ed me, knew the credit limit of the cards in my wallet, left me with enough cash to buy lunch and sent me about my way. I am grateful for the good care, and attention to detail exhibited by my new friends at Aristocrat Motors. It could have been worse, and of all the places for the car to break, that was the best of all possible places.

Next stop Topeka for a hi and hug with the birthday boy and back on the road. Drove to about the western edge of Kansas, thereby missing the opportunity to spend the night with Katy and her husband.

I owe Kansas an apology. This is the third time I have driven across the state, but only the first in daylight. My memory,and I have lived there several times, is that the state, bisected by highway 70 was straight and flat, and visually unappealing.

In fact, it is straight, physically beautiful in a stark kind of way, but the route is all up hill. Elevation rises 2500 feet from Kansas City to Goodland in the west.

Tuesday was more uphill climbing. I anticipated Tuesday would be a hard go, especially physically. I'm uncomfortable breathing in Denver, and had another 4000 feet to climb until I reached the summit of UTE pass. It was downhill from there to Lake George. While in Lake George breathing went well, but my ears and teeth hurt. Only now, am I feeling better.

I had a marvelous time with Bunky. We hadn't had an opportunity to talk in a very long time, and had a great time catching up. I'm very proud of him. He chose the road less taken, and all its attendant costs. He's holding up pretty well.

Wednesday. Funny story. Bunky drove me to the airport. I chose to wear a suit. Perhaps naively, I feel better treated when I'm dressed like an adult. In fact was offered an upgrade. As I boarded the plane the waitress asked if I was returning from a funeral. Tan linen has that effect. No, I said, I just wanted to dress better than the help.

I had a great time, I'm happier being home.

So what did I learn? Travel is broadening, and as much as I may be grateful for the myriad opportunity available in the western parts of the US, I could probably live with myself if I never traveled much farther west than say, Topeka. The wild west isn't my thing.


Home - an observation

Glinda was right, there is no place like home.

We spend our lives attempting to find home, running away from where we thought it was. Home, far beyond the place we get our mail, or hang our hat. Home, the northstar of our personal compass. Our world view. Our orientation.

Put a boy in a car, alone for 3 days and god knows what you'll have at the end.

I used it as time to clear my head, get over myself, get back in synch. Time to think about all the things I take wrongfully for granted. Most importantly, I fell in love all over again with the woman I've always adored.

My home is where we are, together.

I'll report on my travels, trials and tribulations tomorrow, but for now rest comfortably knowing that eventually it all worked out. Could of been worse, should have been better.

More importantly I relearned where my home was.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dear Ms. Browning

Dear Ms. Dominique Browning:

I believe that you truly exist, although I can't prove it.

In this world of instant communications, Google, Twitter, Facebook and other attractions I know you must have people who are paid to report web stories about you. If you do not, Google will automatically search and report to you for free.

Dominique, half tongue in cheek, I wrote several blog entries about where devoted fans could find some of your recent writings. I even swore to read telephone directories if you wrote them. I've heard nothing from you. Not that I expected to.

None the less, EVERY GD day since, half a dozen ardent fans Google you and land on my blogs doorstep. The world is curious. Stop in and say hello. Catch us up on life after House and Garden.

We miss you.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

A rare event

I'm off!

For the first time in 3 years I'll have the opportunity to see all three of my children within several days.

I first head to Topeka to see #1 son and his family. Monday is his birthday, and its the also the first time I have seen him on/near his bd in many years.

Even better he 's bringing my muse, granddaughter Paige. Hooray for me.

Then it's off the Denver to see daughter Katy and her husband.

From Denver it's into the mountains to find #2 son. I feel like Stanley trudging through deepest Africa.

#2's bd is Monday week, so I'll give him his bd prize (my car) in return for a ride back to the Denver airport in it. I haven't seem him near his birthday in 15 years or more.

I return home Wednesday night late. Seems the only way to get to Mayberry from Denver is to go through hell and gone. I'll be back here Thursday morning. Keep the light on for me.


The Pool House-Kitchen Side

Ultimately, the kitchen side will mirror the bath.

As you walk in from the pool, there is a 4 foot deep and 7 foot long corridor. Originally, inside the door was a mirror of the cabinets you see in the second picture. Immediately inside the door was a sink, dish washer and storage cabinet.

We have removed the cabinets and disconnected the water to the kitchen side. Mrs. T is a firm believer in decorating for our needs. Future owners can customize to their tastes when we turn the house over to them. Should they wish to reinstall the plumbing the stubs are open, behind the wall in the mechanical room.

This may end up a mistake, but without the cabinets inside the door we do lose counter space for buffets and al fresco dining. We have opted to install a hinged shelf along the wall. Folds down when not in use, pops up as needed. Intuitively, I don't like it. I hope to be wrong.

Again this side had the blue indoor/outdoor carpeting. It will be replaced with the tile used in the bath.

A little thought into preplanning this space might have made it somewhat useful. Instead it is narrow and cramped. I realize construction is expensive, but another couple of feet would have transformed this space into something useable in 3 seasons. Now its merely a pass through.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

A family tragedy

My sense of the absurd has always gotten me into trouble. It may again very soon.

There was a local story making the news in Mayberry this week. A 13 year old boy died suddenly during football practice.

Perhaps a preventable tragedy, but one none the less. The boy's father died too young of a heart attack and the 8th grader was a great comfort to his mother. My sincere condolences to his family.

So what, you're thinking. Why shouldn't he want to play football. His friends play, television programming is fixated on the sport, it's the American game right? Collateral damage happens.

I am going to completely overlook the fact the lad was 6'2'', and 370 pounds. (That is not a typo). I make no judgements. I don't know the child or anything relevant about him, but I do suspect he probably wasn't much of an athlete, as conditioning may have been lacking.

To me the real tragedy is that this boy was allowed to play with kids his own age. This man amongst boys could have/would have seriously hurt someone by falling on them. Opposing quarterbacks. Toast. Other linemen, flattened.

To my way of looking at this story, a crime was committed by the coaching staff.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Pool House Tile

From Lowes, 12x12 tiles, about $1.80 per tile.

Before you go, stop at and download the 10% off coupon. Or stop at the post office and pick up a change of address packet. The coupon is in there also.


Pool House Part 2- The Changing Room


The changing room is approximately 8 foot wide and 10 ft long. As you enter, behind the door is the shower. You walk in towards the vanity and beyond that the toilet. The original vanity was this lovely number with an antique blue bowl.

The toilet was a matching blue. Lovely.

All of the fixtures have been removed, and if you live along the Highway 70 coridoor between Mayberry and Colorado Springs I would be happy to deliver, should anyone care for these treasures.

The blue indoor/outdoor carpet has been removed all replaced by a grayish porcelon tile. Hint: If you plan on tiling a non heated surface, say a porch or patio, ceramic tile is strongly discouraged, as it may shatter in the cold. Go for natural stone, or porcelain. We went for the porcelain.What you are seeing is the tile ungrouted. The grout, for you tile junkies is called London fog, a dark grayish color.

Lighting is provided by a lighted ceiling fan, and this attractive piece.

The plan for Friday is to grout and to install the new vanity. The vanity placed on a 4 inch base is solid oak and the top is white marble. The new toilet is white as well.

So now I'm stuck. The walls are painted flat builders white. I am willing to paint, refinish, decoupage, or whatever else the vanity. The top stays. Presumably a mirror of some kind will live over the vanity, and the light fixture replaced, with sconces, or .....

I've got a blank canvas.

In choosing wall finishes, several prejudices apply. No pastels. In other rooms we have tried many techniques. The room is off season storage, so suede may not hold up. We are unwilling to wallpaper.

Keep in mind we live in the midwest, far from sand and beaches.

What do you think? Should we go wild and use Ralph's island brights or keep it bright and anticeptic?

Fire away.

Let us begin year two

Today marks the first anniversary of this humble bloggers writing life. Blogging has taken me by surprise. It began as a subtle attempt to share some of the family stories with my far flung children. They quickly found me out, and made it clear they weren't necessarily interested, although I do still add them from time to time.

I've met many wonderful people here, I grateful to you all. You never cease to amaze me with the stuff you come up with.

So as we head off into the future I have no immediate promises to make. I will strive to earn your trust, keep you entertained, informed and hopefully in the process become more thoughtful and engaging writer.

As you may have discovered, I am technologically inept. If inadvertently I'm missing something which would make reading easier for you, tell me. You may have to show me how, but I'll do it.

And finally, Mrs. Blandings warned me that Blogluvin was worse than crack. She is absolutely correct.

Even worse than my propensity to check it out too many times per day, I recently discovered I haven't spent quality time with any of my favorite bloggers recently. I have missed a great deal lately. Blogluvin has gone away, and I promise to catch up for the summer I've missed.

I thank each of you individually.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sartorialist

For those of you interested in Scott Schuman's blog "The Sartorialist", I received a copy of Scott's new book "The Sartorialist' today.

Most of the pictures have not appeared on the blog, and since I don't stalk his work sites most were new to me.

It's about 500 pages of fabulous photographs.

Well done Scott.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Pool House

Someone wiser than I would ask, "Toad, pool season has maybe a month to go. Why are you tearing your pool house apart now?"

Incoherently, I would answer, I have a water leak.

Water, water everywhere.

It began as one of those ill timed household projects you allocate 30 minutes to complete. One thing led to another, and now it will take a week and a thousand dollars to finish.

I knew early in the season I had a leak. Naturally, I turned the water off, and blithely decided we could do without the pool house this season. Luckily, its been cool this summer and the changing room wasn't missed.

The pool house was designed poorly. It's in 3 sections. Behind the double doors in the first picture is the mechanical room for all the pool equipment. The rooms are small and inefficiently laid out. Cabinets are MDF and have soaked up 20 years of leaks and humidity. Naturally, its poorly insulated, so when the pool heater is on, the building is uninhabitable. I hope to correct many of the original sins.

Behind the door on the left is the bath and changing room. On the right a small kitchen. I've spent the last couple of days ripping out wet drywall (wetwall?), waterlogged cabinets and musty carpets, and plumbing fixtures.
Today its going to be repairing plumbing problems, hanging insulation and greenboard, and if time allows beginning tile laying. Initially my plan was to complete this mess before I leave Sunday for Colorado. Not gonna happen.

Over the weekend, I'll show you the tile, so we can pick colors.



For parents sending the progeny to university for the first time its a good idea to get a clue about their classmates, and real world references. I know you've lived with them, but have you ever really thought about them?

Things you take for granted, are not part of their world. Need a gut-check? Take a look at Beloit College's annual Mindset.

Twelve years ago, the college presented a list of the life references for its incoming class. The idea, part tongue in cheek, was to alert its teaching staff that the incoming class of freshmen did not necessarily share the same world view as its tenured faculty. Experiences common to adults, often go right over the heads of their children and students. Mindsets helps to explain why.

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991.

For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.

Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.

The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.

They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.

Salsa has always outsold ketchup.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.

Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.

They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.

Rap music has always been main stream.

Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.

Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago.

The KGB has never officially existed.

Text has always been hyper.

They never saw the “Scud Stud” (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders.)

Babies have always had a Social Security Number.

They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.

Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.

They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.

American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.

Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.

State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.

The European Union has always existed.

McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.

Condoms have always been advertised on television.

Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.

Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.

The American health care system has always been in critical condition.

Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.

Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.

There has always been a Cartoon Network.

The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.

They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

Women have always outnumbered men in college.

We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.

Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.

Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.

It's always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.

Madonna’s perspective on Sex has always been well documented.

Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.

Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.

Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.

There have always been flat screen televisions.

They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.

Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.

Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.

Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.

Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.

Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.

They have never been Saved by the Bell

Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”

Most communities have always had a mega-church.

Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.

The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.

Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.

There has always been a Planet Hollywood.

For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.

Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.

“Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.

Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.

There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.

CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.

Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.

NATO has always been looking for a role.

Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.

Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.

The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.

Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.

Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.

Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.

Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Congress could never give itself a mid-term raise.

There has always been blue Jell-O.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Ralph's Print Models

I was reading through Ralph's 100 pound homage to himself over the weekend trying to find a photo taken from an old ad. Naturally, I couldn't find it, but in the mean time I was struck by an observation. Since I couldn't shake it, I am exorcising it into your heads. You can pass it on to some unsuspecting soul when the mood strikes. It's much like an old song you only know a few lyrics to, and those mostly wrong, but it just won't go away.

Ladies if you will forgive me I am going to be male today.

Every notice the print models in a Lauren ad, especially the earlier Bruce Weber photos?

By all tokens of injustice they are beautiful people. The girls all look like Mrs. L. Tall, willowy, flatish. Most are probably 15 pixalated to look 20. I CLEARLY understand their job is to strike a pose, create a mood, and sell clothing.

But guys have you ever seen one of his models you would throw everything away for, kidnap and whisk away to hike the Appalachian Trail with? Not I. How does he make their eyes so vacant? It robs them of their beauty.

Now the boy models are a completely different case. You get a sense they are real people. In this life I'm not drawn that way, but if I were or was female a lot of the men look wantable.

Am I making this up?


Don't try this at home

Bunky's somewhat customized Land Cruiser

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I blame Scott Schuman- Redux

My final pre anniversary peak into the musty archives was caused by several emails I received this week. I had pre-ordered Scott Schuman's new book, "The Sartorialist". The original release was planned for August 12th. I woke up that morning with an email saying that the book release was postponed and I could look forward to its release later in August. Next morning I received a shipping notice, saying it should arrive on Monday. Go figure. Originally published October 9th. I still grateful for Tintin's generous comment.

As a young man how was I to know there were rules about proper ways to dress?

In the era and neighborhood I grew up in, every guy dressed in a mixture of preppy/trad. We had no notion that other forms of dressing existed. I still dress that way, as do most of my friends. The neighborhood stores still feature mostly preppy togs.

Out of high school I had a month or two to between graduation and basic training so went to work for a men's haberdashery. I got to be a shoe dog. Knowing absolutely nothing about shoes, I relied upon my boss, Ralph, who was a most excellent teacher.

Ralph spent a great deal of time attempting to educate a clueless teen about the advantages of Allen Edmonds over Johnson & Murphy's, and why Weejuns were crap. Didn't matter to me, Weejuns were $8 per pair the others were $40.

Ralph did one thing I am grateful for, When the J&M's went on sale, he took a pair of black and a pair of brown tassel loafers put them aside for me and insisted I buy them, since I would need them when I was an adult. I still have those two pair.

Throughout my working career, although all day every day I was encased in a BB gray or blue suit, I never owned a pair of lace up shoes. It was the black or brown J&M tassels or a pair of penny loafers. At home it was pennys or Topsiders. Then I found Scott.

Scott Schuman is a photographer who 3 years ago began a blog known as The Satorialist.

Each day Scott walks around NY taking pictures of "real" people who dress with flair. One of his earliest postings was a copy of an essay by men's style guru G. Bruce Boyer(whose picture is shown above) describing Mr. Boyer's introduction to the world of bespoke clothing. A later posting was an essay by Bruce on the joys of suede shoes. The scales fell from my eyes.

Immediately I needed suede shoes, in snuff, tobacco, or chocolate. Cap toes, brogues, chukka boots, penny loafers, bit loafers. Not to mention the bucks, white and brown, nor the Clark desert boots.

My shoe closet is almost the same size as Mrs. T's., except mine are all suede.

Should you venture into suede world, on your way home from the store, pick up a can of Scotchguard. Nothing ruins the look of suede faster than water.

Photo from The Satorialist

Saturday, August 15, 2009

without comment

The jacket with a thousand fathers

If I were honest, I'd blame Ralph. His "Out of Africa" creations. They left an indelible impression. Khaki, olive drab, linen, perfect summer weather wear.

I don't look like Robert Redford, and I didn't/don't have Meryl's money, so for a young man putting together a working wardrobe, linen didn't make much sense. My masters would have shown me quickly to the door.

Fast forward a few years, until say 2007 or so. Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist published this photo.

I take a look in the mirror, and say I'm old enough to pull off a bit of linen. It's likely to be tough sell at home, but c'est l'vie.

Fast forward again to summer 2009. Schuman does it again.

I'm floored by the details of this jacket. Mentally, I'm composing my own. In the mean time I bought several linen suits. Research. I wanted to get a feel of how linen worked. I fell in love. I enjoyed the creases. However, the heavier the material the more rumples, the fewer wrinkles.

Scott begins to rub it in. I feel like I'm in "The Blues Brothers". It must be a mission from the gods. "Find a heavy linen jacket", they said.

I hesitated. I rationalized my sloth. Closet's too small, time to save some money, it's too late for this year, and on and on.

Then Mr. Mort adds his two cents worth. This is the jacket you were meant to have, said Mort.

Not so fast. If I was going to do it, it was going to be my way. Unlike one you would ever find in a store. Unlike one, I would ever see again.

Two weeks ago I succumbed. Made my list, went to the tailor. Sing like this I said.

Unconstructed, one button, shawl collar, side vents, patch pockets, working sleeve buttonholes picked in baby blue, half lined. I want to wear it like a cardigan sweater.

Today the tailor's translation of my vision came home. It was worth the wait. As I have said before, you need to think a problem through, thoroughly. Once you understand the problem, the solution is often obvious.

You've waited long enough. Here it is.

The blue stitching on the jacket button may have been a mistake. Easily fixable.

The cloth is still very stiff. Needs a bit of the Fred Astaire throw it against the wall treatment, or even better to be rolled up in a gym bag for a couple of weeks. I more likely to wear it soft. Also, it's surprisingly heavy. Not uncomfortably so, but noticeably.

I especially like the hand sewn edges along the collar.


the wizard of oz

1939 was a great year for movies.

Released on this date 70 years ago, was the first color movie, The Wizard of OZ.

The flying monkeys still scare the begeebers out of me.

Sadly, local lad and munchkin, Mickey Carroll died recently. I would see him occasionally at Uncle Harrys. He never seemed to mind if you asked him a question or two about the old days, so long as you didn't interfere with his gaming.

Photo from Beyond the Rainbow


Friday, August 14, 2009

Vernon Jordan- Cool Guy

Vernon Jordan, husband, father, activist, gentleman, and very cool guy. If it seems his name has been in the news forever, it's because it has. Tomorrow is his 74th birthday.

Those of you, of a certain age, probably first heard his name in January 1961 when he was a member of the legal team that successfully sued the University of Georgia, to change their admittance policy to accept black students. He accompanied Charlayne Hunter, later Hunter-Gault, through the admittance process. You know Charlayne through her work at PBS and later CNN.

In the 1970's he served as Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund, and the National Urban League.

In 1980 he was shot in Fort Wayne, Indiana. President Carter's visit to the recovering Mr. Jordan was the first news story broadcast by CNN.

Since then he has served in various capacities for Democratic presidents, most notably President Clinton, and on President Obama's transition team.

He is a member of many corporate and education boards. Got one whale of a Rolodex.

Additionally, Mr. Jordan is a successful author. Tells a great story. I recommend, "Vernon can Read" and "Making It Plain".

Happy Birthday Mr. Jordan. You've made America a better place.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Scenic Way

I do not believe I am alone in selecting routes based upon their scenic appeal. We all need something, on our daily grind, which gives us a smile, something to look forward to.

This simple mailbox is my talisman.

It's the absurdidity of it which gives me a smile, every time I see it.

The mailbox is in Mayberry, along the Missouri River bottom. Immediately behind are bluffs. In front, some distance away, is the water treatment plant and acres of cornfields. There is no conceivable reason for this mailbox to exist, yet every spring someone, from somewhere, repaints it.

During the spring floods of 1993 this area was 10 feet under water. This photo is was taken less than a half mile upstream. A 500 year levee gave way suddenly and devestated northern and western Mayberry. The west was mostly light manufacturing and offices space. North was farmland.

In their hubris, the Feds threw LOTS of money at the levee, to create a 1000 year levee, making the river more dangerous. Mercifully the confluence with the Mississippi is not far downstream.

Since we are now so well protected, the nations wealthiest family built the largest outdoor mall in the flood plain.

Long before my days are over, the northern cornfields will be plowed under and the land suburbanized. My mailbox will probably still stand.