31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Piper Heidsieck Extra Dry Champage

Toby Cecchini wrote an interesting piece for the NY Times Style section last week on sabering a bottle of champagne with an eight inch kitchen knife. I'm not sure how that got through legal but I can just imagine the hipster element tonight...What a wonderful short film it would make. Keep in mind, if you lose your thumb it's very hard to open doors.

My drill would surely be considered boring but the 850 sq feet of my apartment pretty much demand it. I like Piper Heidsieck Extra Dry and have for almost 20 years. The champer's expert will tell you that Brut is the way to go with Extra Dry being too sweet -- Maybe.

But the PH Brut is too severe for me. Like one of those rail thin women lunching at Swifty's whose eyebrows are attached to the ceiling. Meanwhile the Extra Dry reminds me of Doris Day in 1975 telling Merv Griffin how much she likes sex. I'm not suggesting my deviant fantasy is any way to select champagne but it beats losing your thumb.

I chill it in a bucket with 70% ice and 30% water. If you're in a hurry, throw some salt on the ice. It's faster than a freezer and a lot less dangerous if you're forgetful. Which I am. I'm not sure why but I always think of Tony Curtis when I open champagne. The foil and cage are fairly straightforward but trivia buffs will be impressed when you tell them it always takes seven turns of the neck wire to free the cage. Always.

Now this important. Grab the cork with one hand and the bottom of the bottle with the other. Turn the bottom of the bottle but not the cork. While turning the bottom think of Doris Day in naughty underwear. Keep a firm grip on the cork pushing against the pressure. You don't want an explosion but rather something like a nun farting in a front pew. A short 'pffst' is just about perfect.

Pour into glasses...slowly. Replace bottle in bucket. Put on Que Sera, Sera and join in me a toast...

30 December 2011

A 1976 Christmas - From Neiman Marcus

(click on image to enlarge)

Last year, the 1972 NM Christmas catalog was featured here to a somewhat lukewarm reception. This year, the 1986 Apple catalog I posted was seen by half of the United States and all of Australia. I don't get it but I never do. Maybe it was the Belinda Carlise video? Anyway, I blew the dust off my corporate American Express card (they'll never know) and secured this 1976 cheese extravaganza off eBay.

Christmas of '76, I was waiting for the Special Forces 'Q' course to start at Ft Bragg. I didn't know Neiman Marcus from Shinola and the same could be said about Special Forces and what it took to make the grade. Of the 88 in my class -- three got their green beenies and they were all noncoms. My class was the last to allow lower ranking enlisted (E-1 to E-4) after which you had to be an E-5 or above due to the brutal wash out rate.

It's not what you dream -- It's what you fail at that gives character. And this catalog is full of character. That's why I love it so. However, I'm not adverse to an equally cheesy music video of the era saving my ass. Here's to the 85 who failed at USAIMA and to Phil. I remember this playing in the barracks like it was...a very long time ago.

29 December 2011

What's Right At Night - And What Ain't

M Magazine 12 / 87 (click on images to enlarge)

Watches with evening wear are okay in my book. So is this tie. The look is bound by white, black and stainless steel. Clean, understated and effortless. Not an ounce of foppery. Of course, it helps to look like this guy, but we're looking at what we can change.

I've mentioned my fondness of the double breasted dinner jacket before. I think they look swell on short men who like croissants with butter and gave up running 10 years ago. Most flattering... as long as we leave our clothes on. Consider replacing fabric covered buttons for something more Savile Row -- Black and shiny as opposed to matte.

A Ferrell Reed (whatever happened to them?) advert speaks to unmatching through sophisticated double links on pique shirt with elegant studs, a cotton pocket square and a most unusual but intelligent bow tie. The Glenurquhart plaid with forest green accent is perfect for the holidays.

I love a shawl lapel but this is a stark contrast to the bearded fella above. The matchy-match tie and cummerbund look to have been picked out by his wife. It speaks to the kind of California that considers itself ultra tasteful. You know...San Francisco. Instead, he looks like he trying to be the Red Baron or he's just a Georgia fan.

Notch lapel, matching black onyx with gold trim studs and cuff links. Pre-tied bow. I'm not saying you can't. I'm just saying -- with everything you've seen here -- you don't have to. It helps to have some fun with your evening. Who knows? This New Years, a woman may see something and in her mind wonder, "He's unusual. I wonder why?" Have a blast. I'm going to pizza party. But the pizza is amazing.

28 December 2011

Christmas - 1971

Hampton, Va, Christmas, 1971

27 December 2011

5th Avenue Lunch

Between 58th and 59th

Nice restrooms @ The Sherry Netherland just in case.

26 December 2011

Brooks Brothers After Christmas Sale - 1982

346 Madison Avenue, NYC

I first pushed my way through the 44th Street entrance in 1982 during the after Christmas Sale. I see it like a crane shot high above the main marbled floor. Associates balancing stacks of shirts piled high in their arms. 20 or more it seemed. Customers followed...winding through the maze of dark oak cabinets filled with oxford shirts and silk ties.

I purchased a Maker's pink button down oxford. It came in a navy box stamped with a sheep and closed tightly by a stretch of gold band sprung across the corners. A Shetland draped saleswoman with Peter Pan collar and short blonde hair, slipped my box into the bag. I couldn't help but notice how perfect her hands were with frosty pink nail polish. A good omen.

The shirt was on sale. I'm guessing, but I think it was under $25. It lasted almost 15 years. The left cuff frayed by a too big diver's watch and the collar finally blowing out after some three years of dedicated yard work. I threw it in the kitchen trash can and stared at it. Knowing the story it told but never knowing how.

The original cotton oxford button down is marked down 40% if you buy four. Today and today only will get you another 20% off. That's $38 a shirt. If my math is right. In store or on line.

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Hay Street, Fayetteville, NC

The bars were razed and the hookers who tagged along were dispersed. That was all the civilians wanted. To spread Hay Street across Fayetteville like margarine on Wonder bread.

Three generations of bloused boot paratroopers spent Christmas on Hay Street. Cheering beer and strippers in Suzy Wong, The Seven Dwarfs or Pop A Top Lounge.

30 years later I walk an unforgotten route and nothing's the same. Cocky paratroopers are replaced with the waddling middle class twirling pasta in ersatz Italian restaurants.

Santa poses for pictures and I follow him to my hotel bar. He joins a red head and she smiles offering him a saved bar stool. He lights a cigarette with a Bic and orders a drink.

I think of Christmas when I was 19. Offering a stripper a heart shaped Whitman Sampler in my Bullit black turtleneck. She smiles down at me from her stage. When I think of her... I smile at Santa and buy him a drink.

23 December 2011

Friday Belt: T & A with Lord Chet

173 Years of Tradition - $19 a case

I first sampled Lord Chesterfield Ale by Yuengling back in 1985. It was introduced to me by a fellow park ranger at Valley Forge and I became a fan before I knew what hops even were. It's hoppy but not like an IPA. Crisp. Drinkable as all get out. I'm having one with Herr's Old Bay Potato Chips right now. Masses of red Old Bay are seeping between the keys of my laptop. Who cares. 'Tis the season...

There was talk of Yuengling from the PA guys when I served time at Ft Bragg -- Home of the Airborne and the cultural arm pit of North Carolina. Beer in NC was about as Wonder Bread as it could get. Bud, Miller, Stroh's. I'm falling asleep just thinking about it. The PA guys had their own language. Most of 'em were from Southeastern PA. "Pottsville, you bet!" Maceko would yell. Mace went on to OCS and was commissioned in the Infantry. A solid guy, Mace.

Like most of the boys from PA, they were who they said they were. One guy came back from a friend's funeral in Lancaster with a '72 red Cadillac convertible that was left to to him by the deceased. He knew it was a piece of shit. Told me it was a piece of shit. But if you told him it was a piece of shit... he'd take your head off, then your arms and he wouldn't stop until he was chewing your heel.

Today, I'm happy to say many of my friends are from Pee A, and I'm even happier I can secure a case of Chet for $19. That's a steal. While the hip suck on PBR, compare their tatts and sigh with resignation that everyone is hopping on their wagon -- Try the hops from Cascade via the Lord -- I don't think the Hip'll make it here for another year or two.

Turnbull & Asser, 50 East 57th Street, NYC

The one place you will not find the Hip is Turnbull & Asser. While working in London 20 years ago, the 20-something fashion plates would turn up their nose at contrasting (white) collars and cuffs. "Old fogey, mate. What are you? 50?" Well, yes. 20 years later. This is home to serious sartorial savvy. No Red Wings here. This is serious ass dressing and unlike Lord Chet, it don't come cheap.

Vintage T&A from the 1940s

But you do get what you pay for. Impeccable tradition, value and quality. Are you paying $150 for an alpha (S,M,L,XL) shirt with unmatched stripes yoke to sleeve and made in some place you can't pronounce? Yes? Then you need to have your head examined. Turnbull & Asser offer custom belts...with one hole. I love that idea. One. Hole. Very understated.

The, "How Much Beer Are You Drinking Belt."

I fell for this belt during my last visit at the new store in New York. I wish this was around when I was 25 with a 30" waist. Not that I could afford it then...or now. I'll tell you this...if I keep drinking Lord Chesterfield I'm never wearing this belt.

Piss Off Early...

...tomorrow is Christmas Eve

22 December 2011

Hot, hot, hot, hot... Chocolate

In a city where a Remy Side Car goes for $23 in the King Cole Bar, an $8 cup of hot chocolate isn't that crazy. Not for what it is: thick goopy elegance that coats your mouth in a smooth layer of cocoa-sin. It's really something of a bargain for anyone used to living in NYC. Or, maybe I've been here too long.

Maison Du Chocolate is in the T.A.O. (Tourist Area of Operations). 30 Rockefeller Center (at 49th) and most folk, fresh from shaking signs at the Today Show, are scared off by the prices. For me, it's a convenient location on a cold and rainy afternoon. The kind of afternoon made for a Nooner at the Algonquin. But if you can't do that -- drinking hot chocolate at Maison Du Chocolate is the next best thing. Maybe it's the fourth best thing. Certainly it's in the top ten.

21 December 2011

A Shirt for Both of You: Mercer & Sons

Flagler College, St Augustine, FL, 1983

That's M.E. up there in her dorm room 27 years ago. I'd like to make it clear this was a self portrait. If I were in the room that can would not be Diet Pepsi. M.E. wasn't shy about picking through my college closet and here she's modeling a hand made linen shirt issued to me by the National Park Service for living-history events at Castillo de San Marcos. I still have it, and after 27 years the linen feels like melted butter on Wonder Bread.

The Mercer Roll

Women have longed shopped the boy's department for shirts. Cheaper than a blouse, better made, more fabric, and half the cost at the dry cleaners. What's not to like? David Mercer and I were talking about how women are hosed when it comes to, 'tapered', 'no-iron', 'over-priced' shirt options. And I said, "I don't think anything looks sexier than a woman in a man's shirt."

'Your favorite shirt is on the bed...' Haircut 100

So when you order your husband's shirt -- remember, its yours as well. It's too late to order for Christmas, but in my family of slackers we always celebrated Three Kings. A perfect holiday for the forgetful, lazy and overwhelmed since it arrives on January 6th. It's sort of the last chance to get Christmas right. (Trad Three Kings Story)

Who knows...maybe the shirt you order will last 27 years.

20 December 2011

The Sterile Cuckoo - "Sometimes you have to get away from the noise, you know?"

Japanese One Sheet

I saw The Sterile Cuckoo in Lincolnton, NC with my mother and sisters when I was 12 years old. I don't think my mother knew what she was getting into, but it's a film I wouldn't hesitate to show any 12 year old -- Hell, a ten year old for that matter. Never released on DVD, it'll pop up on TCM every now and then, but a high quality, uncut version was recently added to You Tube in nine parts.

Producer - Director Alan J Pakula (Klute, Sophie's Choice, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Love With a Proper Stranger) captured the '60s I remember as a kid. Not just the look but the feeling. Those days of care free bliss interrupted by seconds of teeth gnashing anxiety. I suspect screenwriter Alvin Sargent had much to do with that.

You know you're in for something different when Liza Minnelli as Pookie Adams tells Jerry Payne (Wendell Burton), "Some people guzzle God like He was a keg of beer." Tim McIntire as Jerry's roomie, Charlie, nails overweight beer drinking and ersatz sexual success that, despite 10 minutes of total screen time, is one of the most amazing performances ever. Ever! Or, maybe I have too much in common with Charlie.

No one is attacked. No one means any harm. But hurt is everywhere. If Christmas movies and forced cheerfulness of a happy holiday get you down...check this film out. It's as truthful as you can get this time of year...when you need to get away from the noise.

19 December 2011

A Gift for Brohammas

Dylan Dalyn has needed a proper pair of shoes since I met him. Those vulgar Pliner square-toed wheels of his will clash with an Ivy League degree. These are a little too Italian for me but they'll suit him just fine in the city of Brotherly Love and Boyds. Marked down from $478 to $79 and available in more sizes than I thought. From Ron Rider.

A Gift for DB

My packaging guru since we were both 17. Obsessed more with the outside than the inside -- and that includes people. Nothing is cooler than the wrapper. Cream cries out for glass. Like Bond needs Walther. Johnny needs Bandit. Mina needs a Vespa. The bridge needs Lions. $14.95 and still in stock from Think Geek.

A Gift for Alice Olive

Alice loves photography and her Joe. And while she's all Nikon, I don't suspect anyone will notice this is a Canon lens. $24 for the 24 -105mm. $30 for the 70 - 200mm. Order from Photojojo here.

A Gift for Oyster Guy

Island Creek Oysters, Duxbury, MA

Thanks to Oyster Guy for a great year of comments. I have no idea who you are or where you're from but -- if you are who you say you are -- this is a no brainer. Wellfleet oysters can still be ordered in time (this is the last day) for Christmas. Throw them in the fridge under a wet towel and they'll keep for a week. Just imagine going to the fridge for a LaBatt Blue and an oyster. Life doesn't get any better. Unless you're Canadian. $150 for 100. Order from Gilt here.