Forgetful Gentleman

There is a saying about a road that is paved with good intentions. I am like the civil engineer of those types of roads.

To avoid unnecessary burden or hurt feelings, my family randomly draws names every Christmas season to decide who buys gifts for whom.  It has become less of a raffle and more of Russian Rullet as to whose name I draw. 

I have never failed to purchase a fantastic gift.  But I almost always fail to get the gift to the recipient before October.  True story.

I have recently been the receiver of other’s generosity and have been inspired to repent of my forgetful ways, but as with most of us on that wrong path, we cannot correct ourselves, ourselves. 

Enter Forgetful Gentleman.

I wrote a short email and before I knew it, well before Christmas, Santa (wearing his summer time brown outfit) brought me the answer to my problems.  Well, maybe not the answer to all my issues, but surely on a road less intentional and more full of action.  Shouldn’t we be men of action?

I was sent an engraved wooden box with a velvet interior.  To the left were embossed cards for all occasions: birthday, thank you, get well, and love.  To the right was first a manual written with the intent of instructing the sinner as to the appropriate course of action (in this case writing), and underneath were the tools needed to bring intention to fruition; stamped envelopes.

I did not learn it in school, but I have come to know, that class is learned.  Class is not enough to be internal, class is shown by how one acts.  Thank you notes are nothing unless they are sent.

I sent a thank you note!  A new leaf?  Perhaps.  We will know for sure come December.

My wedding was eleven years ago, is it too late to send thank you cards?

Special thank you to Nate Tan at Forgetful Gentlemen for giving me something to aspire too, and the finest box of cards I have ever seen.

Starting New Things

I’ve been in the studio quite a bit as of late.  Here is why…

Today I launch a new blog, not instead, but in addition to this one.

I have long loved the advertising illustration of times past.  When I have looked back at Leyendecker or others of that time I am amazed that the work, meant as a modern advertisement, could still look so appealing; not dated. 

Of course most don’t wear straw boater hats today but after viewing these ads, one might want to.  There are of course great ads out today, but these old ones were done with a brush.

So are mine.

It feels appropriate to kick it off with the blog that started the menswear or fashion blogging craze that exists today, Scott Schuman of the Sartorialist.

As I’ve spoken with other bloggers, successful ones, there was a common theme; they saw the sartorialist, loved it, and were inspired to do something of their own.

I make no claims to being a Leyendecker, Rockwell, or Eakins, but I will be posting illustrations of blogs, bloggers, brands, or others, that I think deserve a hand painted ode to when things had style and beauty.

Enjoy… and tell a friend.

On Immigration

If this is the result of immigration…

Cinnamon, vanilla, rice, and almond... yes please. Trust me on this one.

 then LET THEM COME! The southern end of the Italian market is no longer Italian and I am 100% fine with this. Thanks to affordable horchata concentrate I am on my way to Texas to make a speech, “Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!”

Football Can Save the World

Football is the answer to all our problems.Don’t laugh, I’m serious.

Now I’m not just talking about sports in general but this specific one. I will concede that all sports, well most sports, have merit. It is good to learn that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winning takes work, or luck, or a weaker opponent. Sometimes you just aren’t good enough, sometimes the referee robs you, and sometimes you are just unprepared.

There are rules. If you choose to disobey the rules penalties are enforced, unless they don’t catch you, but someone always notices.

Sports are proactive, or reactive, but always active. Doing is required. You have to play. There are those who watch, and they are often loud and always have an opinion, but someone has to play.

All these things apply to sport and life. These merits have made room in our academic institutions and our children’s schedules. Long live sports!

But if I was told all sports must go but one, I would need no time for deliberation. The answer is clear. If I had to choose one sport with which to instruct our youth, one sport with the most to offer, one sport with which to craft our world, it would be Football!

First, before you start, I’ll address the violence. Yes, football is rough, so is life. I am not fundamentally against spanking kids, but I’m doing everything I can not to. It is hard not to because I know that sometimes a quick smack in the mouth teaches a lesson quicker than a sermon, 5 time outs, and forfeited toys. The problem is I don’t want my children associating smacks in the mouth with me. That’s what is great about football. There are strict rules governing the use of violence. There is room to exert it with everything you have, but only while in control. When you lose control there are the most severe of penalties… you get thrown out of the game.

There are pads to protect the player. In a violent sport there must be some sort of protection but pads also change the game. What my rugby playing brothers don’t understand is that football pads are covered in plastic and metal. Plastic and metal are much harder than muscle and bone. Pads allow a player to play past the usual physical limitations. Without pads a player could not run full speed directly into another player, who is also running directly at him, exploding into the contact rather than bracing for it. The pads remove hesitation and fear, allowing the player to give it their all without inhibitions. The result is much more explosive collisions, more intensity, and more violence.

Laws, family, and society work as pads for life. All can both protect us and change the nature of the game we are playing. The more padding life or society gives us, the harder we can play without fear of pain or penalty. If we abuse this padding the consequences are also amplified.

Football, more than any other sport, must be coached. Someone is calling the plays, directing the game, orchestrating the whole show. Every play is choreographed. There are so many moving parts that must work in concert with each other, that the one moving the chess pieces must be heeded. A player must learn to take instruction, feedback, and criticism, not only in daily practices but during the heat of battle as well. Player and coach must learn to communicate and wills must bend. Someone must lead and someone must call the shots. A player who wants to play must learn that performance gets the coaches attention. If a player wants to get noticed, wants to contribute, they must gain the coaches favor. Some coaches judge solely on skill and performance, others on personality and family. A player must learn that if the coach is running the show, the player must accommodate. Most all programs have multiple coaches. A player must learn to listen to different coaches and use these coaches as advocates in their favor with the head coach. Each individual must not only perform individually, but gain favor of layers of others, be they teammates or coaches, and at the end of it, all must work together to win.

Society works the same way. Jobs, governments, neighborhoods, and families all possess layers of hierarchy and networks that must be maneuvered and navigated.

Unlike basketball, baseball, or even hockey, no one player can completely dominate a game. There is no real Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of football. In basketball all players are more or less doing the same activities, dribbling, passing, shooting, defending. Some may perform these tasks with slightly different roles but essentially a center and a guard are both dribbling, passing, shooting, and defending. There are some players who do all these things so well they can render the rest of the team secondary or even inconsequential. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter. A goalie can amazingly shut down an entire team… not in football.

Each position in football has a unique purpose, and all must be done well to have success. A quarterback is useless without good lineman, and the two positions are absolutely nothing alike. Receivers and linebackers are nothing alike but both are essential. The different positions are so varied that they require players with a staggeringly wide range of skills and abilities. Some positions require obscene size and strength, others speed and agility. Some take aggression and reaction, others vision and cunning.

To win a team and its players must learn to perform individual tasks while also relying on others to simultaneously perform completely different tasks. You must balance individual responsibility and trust in others, as well as a system. A player must learn to trust someone who is nothing like them; doing things they can in no way do themselves. Leaders may emerge and weaknesses may become apparent, but to win all must adjust and work together.

This lesson, above all else, can make the world a better place. We must not all be alike in the world, nor should we be. Difference is good, even essential. The key is learning to appreciate that no one position, or person, can do without the other and all are important.

As long as we are all on the same team.

We perform our roles with varying levels of success, while others do the same. We win, we lose, and our actions have consequences for both ourselves and others. The way we play in life has rewards and sometimes pain. How much better prepared is a person, or a society, that has practiced living while young, before it really matters? How much better prepared is someone who has learned what it takes to win, or lost and still got up to play again?

Our world and our society are fraught with problems. We have racism, starvation, greed, and selfishness. Irresponsibility, laziness, nepotism, and politics are everywhere.

What is to be done?

Let’s play football!

Viva La Farce! Let Us Eat Cake!

The Bastille was stormed again…  this time it was on a Saturday… in Philadelphia.

Expressing our Frenchness

Each year the Eastern State Penitentiary and surrounding neighborhood celebrate Bastille Day with a fun-filled poke to France’s funny bone.  The celebration which includes America’s version of French culture, a.k.a. cross-dressing, culminates with Marie Antoinette atop the castle walls, surrounded by gendarme and storm troopers, showering the crowds below with Tasty Kakes.

Viva la Farce

Last year she avoided execution by being traded to the Redskins, this year she was sentenced to be Schwarzenegger’s house maid.

Reminds me of the time I played rugby against a team from France.  They arrived wearing Berets, red scarves, striped shirts, and carried loaves of French bread.  Thier skin-tight jerseys were hot pink… and they were good, VERY good at rugby.  That is another story…

Rugby Tale, 40 Minutes is a Long Time to Play a Man Down

“Ummm, why do you have tape wrapped around your head?  Isn’t it supposed to cover your ears?”

She had missed the game entirely, which was not unusual.  “Yeah, I didn’t wrap my ears today; can you give me a ride to the hospital?”  She raised one eyebrow and pulled her keys from her purse.

Idaho State was not a rugby powerhouse but neither were we.  We were of course a superior club to them as was evidenced by our matching uniforms and warm ups, but we had no room to assume victory.  They showed up in two vans and we trickled in from the Sigma Nu house or whatever other corner of campus we had slept at the night before.  We shooed the hippies playing ultimate off the field, shook hands with the grad student who came to reff, and the game began.


We were better athletes, they were older and more experienced, I would even say they were crafty.  The game was an even match.  I can’t recall all the details but I do remember how it happened.

Their winger had a lane down the sideline.  He wasn’t a top shelf athlete, nor a lifetime rugger, but he looked like a Marine and played like one too. His teeth were clenched in the sort of grimace that implied a cigar was meant to be there.  I had the right angle but not the rugby sense to overcome my gridiron training; meaning when I dropped my shoulder for the tackle I put my head in front rather than behind.  This would have been fine were it not for my teammate who had the same angle a half step behind.  My head was caught between G.I. Joe’s elbow and a Polynesian’s knee.

I opened my eyes and sat up with my teammates gathered round me.  As I did so I watched everyone’s eyes get big and there was a collective, “Whoa.”  The reff, who was the closest thing we had to a medical professional present, I think he was a philosophy major, stated for all our information that it probably wasn’t as bad as it looked as head wounds just bleed more than other places.  Kaleo, our team captain, made me stare at his two fingers while he reminded me that we didn’t have any extra players today.  “You have too much hair for us to use the super glue but we can probably tape it up.  The game still has 40 minutes left, that’s a long time to play a man down.”  I looked around at my teammates whose eyes were pleading with no sympathy, and I asked for some tape.

I spent the rest of the game confused.  My mind was clear, I knew what day it was, where I lived, and that my girlfriend was now almost 60 minutes late.  What I did not know was why I kept missing tackles, running crooked, and falling over without provocation.  I think I even asked the reff about my strange behavior and he replied “Get back five meters and play on.”

We won.

After the game we shook hands, sang a song, and made a rookie run a Zulu.  “You commin’ with?” Kaleo asked as he loaded up to go to the pub.  “Naw, she’ll show up eventually,” I replied as I reclined on an elbow.  I threw the blood soaked jersey in the team laundry bag, donned a T-shirt, and waited.

The doctor explained there is a bone floating in fluid in your inner ear.  This little bone is responsible for balance and if knocked out of place by something like a Polynesian knee, can leave an individual in a perpetual state of faux intoxication.  Unlike most in my sport I had never been intoxicated and was a bit intrigued by the idea.  He explained the therapy that would remedy my problem as he finished up stitch number 32 and Lisa painted her nails.

The intoxication only lasted a week, the relationship lasted another year, and the sport lasted ten more seasons.  There scar is barely noticeable.

Review of Fourth Festivity and Not Judging a Band by its Cover

National birthdays are best celebrated in the nation’s birthplace.

Last year I highlighted all you can eat ice cream a.k.a. reason for living, this year it was the “Party on the Parkway”.

Birds eye view of said parkway

For those unfamiliar, the “Parkway” is the road connecting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to City Hall which sits at the center of the city.  For this, and any other occasion that calls for collective celebration, car traffic is diverted and pedestrians rule the way.  Beginning at noon, just after the parade, vendors opened shop, bands began playing on the stage, and revelers reveled.

We arrived early to enjoy the free bouncy castle, face painting, make and take crafts; essentially all things kid.  I will spare you the cute pictures… trust me they are cute.

allow me to bring you along for a walk down the parkway. 

I can't do this... and by "this" I mean go out in public with no shirt and bike shorts. I would be scare the children.

When cars are moved out, the street performers move in.  I think I have seen these same guys up in NYC.  If not, then there is a school somewhere that teaches classes on jokes and stunts that the students then carry out to cities across the country.  Whether it was the same guys or just the same act, I’m still amused by watching someone do a front flip over the head of a nervous tourist.

Just a few yards away was the yin to this high flying yang.

I can't do this either... all my tires are attached to my car.

I have seen strong man competitions on TV, know a guy who competes in them, but this was my first live experience.  I think I got a hernia just watching.  While lifting 1000 lbs off the ground is impressive, the facial expressions left quite an impression.  I would have teased them for looking so silly, which I always did while watching TV,  but for someone reason I felt compelled to be very polite with these guys face to face in real life. I wonder why?

A few more yards down the road was a stage.  While one act was finishing up, I saw these guys getting ready.

How could I NOT want to hear this band?

Cream suits and a boater hat!?  Kids, you can forget the bouncy castle, we are watching these guys.

The lineup called them the “Chin Chins”.  It did not list a genre or style, but I liked their style so decided to stick around.

Chin Chin in action

I will give them this, they played their hearts out.  Only problem was the sounds they made in doing so.  I was disappointed.  It was like looking at a beautiful chocolate cake only to bite into it and find out is was plastic.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t chocolate cake.

After such being let down on the live music front we made a great decision; we went home.  There, with the air conditioning on, sitting on a comfortable couch, we turned on the TV and watched where we had just been.  Had we wanted to, we could have gotten back in the car and gone back.  But we didn’t.

Knowing there is fun to be had if we want it, is part of the fun.  The Roots concert was great, the fireworks were spectacular, and the couch was the best.

Till next year.

For Your Consideration

Now that the festivities on the fourth are done and the celebration gives way to recuperation, may I offer something for your consideration?

Imagine for a moment the year is 1776 and you are black.  You are owned by a white man, a rich white man.  He is riding off to fight for independence from England.  He has fully embraced the idea of freedom and liberty and an individual’s right to determine their own destiny.  He has not offered you your freedom and has taken certain steps to ensure you don’t try to gain it yourself in his absence.

How important would the fourth of July be to you?

Let’s skip forward a few years.

You are still black, but free and living in Philadelphia, maybe New York.  War has begun with the southern states which are fighting to retain the right to own your people as slaves.  The white people around you argue over what they are fighting for, retaining the Union or freeing the slaves.  Either way, you still aren’t allowed to worship with, go to school with, join the labor guild, or live in the same area as all these lighter skinned Americans.  Even the unpopular immigrants, Irish and Italians, don’t appear to like you.  They are coming over in droves.

How would you feel about America as you watch these newcomers become naturalized citizens, who then riot at the idea of a draft to go fight for black people’s freedom?

Soon the whole world is at war.

Germany keeps invading other countries and declaring themselves superior.  You, a black person watch as the whole country marches off to stamp out the evils of Nazi racism and protect the freedoms of not just America, but the world.  Meanwhile a law was passed saying you can vote, yet you still aren’t allowed to do so.  You can’t testify in court against a white person, no matter who that white person is or what they have done, you still can’t join the unions or go to the same school as the white people, and all the police are white.

In such a situation what might you think when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?

Then we go off to fight in Asian countries.  We do so to protect against the freedom squelching powers of communism.  Thousand upon thousands of  American soldiers are shipped thousands of miles away to defend the relative freedom of citizens of Korea and Vietnam.  Meanwhile you, remember you are black, still can’t send your kids to the good public school, ride in the front of the bus, join the union, see a white doctor, or live next door to a white person.  Did I mention you still live in Philadelphia?  A bunch of folks from all over are heading south on Greyhound buses and they are getting beaten senseless.  The Police don’t protect them because they are the ones doing the beating.

How, with all this in mind, would you feel about America?

Would you be justified in being angry?

Would it make sense that you lack pride in these United States?

Might you resent this country and its promises applied to all except you and yours?


Lets consider how black people have reacted historically (go back to being white again).  In the Revolution black people signed up to fight.  There was a hope that freedom and liberty would one day trump the slave system.

In the civil war black people lobbied and pushed for the right to fight for the north, and once allowed, did so with vigor.

In the World Wars, black people enlisted.  Knowing they would be relegated to being cooks and porters, they still joined up to go fight for other’s freedom.  Many even enlisted in foreign regiments to be able to see combat.  They did not relinquish their American identity, but had to join a foreign force to be allowed to defend home.  Black troops were on the vanguard liberating Paris and concentration camps.

While the law would not defend black people at home, they were still drafted to go to Southeast Asia.  They fought and died just like the white men.

All throughout American history black people have answered America’s call.  From it’s inception, American’s with ancestral roots in Africa have stood up for the Star Spangled Banner and put their lives on the line.

Who can compete with this brand of patriotism?  What group of people has better earned a right to complain or voice opinion on national matters?  Who am I, to ever cast doubt on the motivations or loyalties of these “others”?  If I ever hear a black commentator, blogger, or author being less than enthused when America is celebrated, maybe I’m the one who should be quiet.

On this, the days after our nation’s birthday, maybe we can think a little about where we have been and where we are now.

God Bless America and all those who call her home.