“… my apologies again about the coffee — I’m an idiot.”
I was once again unreasonably early and stood outside the coffee shop in Soho waiting for him to arrive. I watched a man in a fedora, skin tight jeans and knee high fur boots walk past, two guys in skinny suits with Moses beards, wearing work boots, and a six foot tall, waif thin woman in high heels and fur shawl all walk past. Seeing them, and knowing I was about to meet the blogger whose work is known as the go-to place for all things hipster, I began to really wonder who it was I was about to meet.
When he walked up, right on time, he was above all else… normal.
He told me he isn’t fashionable. He referred to fashion as the “F” word. He retold how style industry people meet him and say, “Really? This is the guy?” I must admit meeting with the knee high boots guy would have been pure visual entertainment, but Mr. Williams was the kind of normal that isn’t a disappointment.
We went inside and I ordered a hot chocolate, they were out, so I got apple juice. The normal line of questioning followed, completed by him saying, “So it’s kind of like I invited a Jew to have bacon?” I tried to convince him it was a complete non-issue, coffee is my favorite flavor of jelly bean, but I’m not sure he completely believed me. This wasn’t supposed to be about me.
In Michael’s case normal is not boring, but it does require you to pay attention. He does not act or speak in a flash of flamboyance to draw attention to him or his point, he and his work just are. That is in essence what A Continuous Lean is.
I had trouble describing to my wife what the site is, Michael helped by saying it’s a men’s interest blog focusing on Americana. “Why Americana?” I asked.
“Uh, I guess because I’m American.”
Great answer. He put me, and might I say a whole lot of other skeptics, in our collective place. He put me in my place because he is not some Soho sleuth trying to figure out what is cool and market it. He is not polling or trolling the streets for the next cool thing and trying to pass his version of it off as authentic. He is simply a guy from Ohio with a history degree. A guy from Ohio, not in the “let me cover up my fly over country past to become NYC” kind of way; nor is he the “Look at my Crocodile Dundee woodsy shtick and love me” kind of way either. He is simply from Ohio.
“I like traditional stuff. I figure if something has been around for 100 years it’s probably because it’s good. If you go to Istanbul you can get a traditional wet shave that has been done the same way for hundreds of years…. I’m American. Not in the flag waving, we’re number one kind of way; it’s just what I am… Americans didn’t invent the suit, we invented jeans. The clothing and things we perfected were work wear and utilitarian things. I like that stuff and I just started posting stuff I like.”
Approximately 350,000 people per month like it too. Such a large number makes me feel a little sheepish, but I have to admit… I’m whole heartedly one of them.
He posts things like trips to flea markets, how to tie a monkey fist knot, and most recently a company that makes shoe horns. Shoe horns?
This brings us back to normal. Michael Williams has a way of making normal cool. He has crafted a strange world where the Varsity quarterback is envious of the second string nose guard and finds himself trying to dress like him. He has urbanites scouring the countryside and searching attics for old military tents and ammo cans. He has me interested in shoe horns.
I got the idea he finds this all a bit funny but he doesn’t laugh very loud. I’m not sure if he does many things very loud. He was apologetic and modest. He had a dangerous way of distracting me with questions about myself, preying on one of my weaknesses. He even volunteered that he thought his site might appear too materialistic. How unfashionable.
As if he was sorry for it, he admitted he liked a lot of “things”.
“It‘s not that I’m telling everyone to go out and buy this stuff (the comments on an infamously expensive notebook are priceless) its more that I’m exercising demons. I see stuff I like and after I write about it I no longer feel I have to own it.”
Preach on my good man, preach on. The only problem is he does it a little too well and in exorcising his own demons; he’s passing them all on to me. I’m sure those featured don’t mind at all. I’m currently saving up for a new notebook.