Topsail Beach

We went to the reunion more out of obligation than anticipation. I love them, I want to see them, but the timing was bad. Surely the time will never get better and thanks to parental arm twisting we loaded our two kids in our ratty car and drove for ten hours.

I am one of six children, all grown, no two living in the same state as another, we do not get together very often. Not only do we not live near each other but my parents sold the house we all grew up in, the one they spent nearly 25 years inhabiting, and moved to nowhere. Consequentially we have all made home in other places. We don’t live in other places, our homes are in other places. Gathering to nowhere is difficult so we chose the beach of North Carolina. Not all obligations are unpleasant.

The beach house was a geometric dome, the kind of place built by someone with unique taste, but not exactly taste. There were plenty of rooms and showers to house the family of my childhood plus the children of our adulthood. A great room had triangular windows looking toward the ocean and a loft hanging over the top. Half of this main space was a kitchen and long dining table with a fifties style diner booth and stools at the bar off to one side. This little corner included a jukebox radio and a wall hanging of girls in poodle skirts, just in case anyone missed the retro reference. Stairs steep enough to nearly be a ladder led to the very top where a lookout loft had space enough for a hammock and a 360 degree view through small windows. It was deathly hot up there discouraging loiterers and making it the ideal place for a twelve year old boy. There was conveniently a twelve year old boy in the group and he was happy to stay up there.

We, my created family, arrived three days later than the rest and my oldest sister vacated her room on our behalf. I think all were genuinely happy to see us as it was assumed by most, including us, that we would not be able to make it. But we did.

Reunions, like much of real life, are a mix of joy and heavy unpleasantries. These people who have meant the most to me through my youth, the ones who formed or created me, are people I not only love but also like. We do not get to be around each other, sitting around one large table reminiscent of the twelve foot oak table we grew up sitting around, here we lounged around watching masses of little cousins sit around a large table in our place. The little cousins always like these things best. They play and make new friends of loose relations, buddying up on boogie boards or chasing each other up and down the stairs. They are making new memories rather than reliving old ones like the older folk. We. The older ones interact and look back. This is the happy part.

When we start new families we do so with hope and often times a picture in our heads of what we want. Families are made up of people and people will do what they want. Hurt feelings or disagreement are picked up along the way. Some are patched up and some are just passed by. Some issues are easy, like who left their dishes in the sink or how we plan to vote in November. Others are hard, like changed religion or changed spouses. In a family as spread out as ours such issues are easily pushed back till we get together, then there they are, issues.

Issues with children are easy, you correct them, hug them, send them to bed or to time out. Adults, though still one’s child, when no longer children, cannot be dealt with quite the same. Sometimes the only tool from that old bag that still applies is the hug. Our family is good at hugs, the rest of this adult thing still feels new. New is often awkward, but we hug anyways.

I suppose that is why reunions are good. You may not get time to patch everything up, but you have time to hug. You can sit on the deck looking over the beach and talk of old times or touch on the now. You can play in the waves and build sand castles. We don’t have to talk about the awkward things we can play Apples to Apples instead. We do all that because we are family and to us that is not just permanent but potentially eternal. Eternal is a long time.

It takes a lot of hugs to get there.

Philly Menswear Blogger Meetup

Skip sent me an email in the early afternoon asking if I was going. I had no idea what he was talking about so of course I said I was. My wife asked what I was going to wear. It was a good question.

Like an embarrassed school boy I was dropped off around the corner. I stepped onto the curb, brushed crushed Cheerios off my jacket, and blew kisses to the kids in the backseat. I could hear the timing belt squeal as they pulled off, back into traffic. I’d been to the Commonwealth Proper showroom before but I had never met the man who answered the bell. He smiled but the look on his face showed he had never met me either. He offered me a drink, I accepted a bottle of water.

Skip smiled with an easy, “there he is!” reaching out his right hand and putting me a little more at ease. There was music playing but the room felt quiet as I made the rounds shaking everyone’s hands and hearing their names. I had never heard of nor met any of them before and I assume it was reciprocal, except Sabir. I knew Sabir via a previous email exchange and failed attempt to meet. He extended his hand, smiled at me sideways, and froze waiting for me to acknowledge we were familiar. He looked like the type of guy who only has two expressions, smiling or Blue Steel. Tonight was all smiles.

Conversations quickly resumed and just as quickly I forgot all the names I had just been told. I looked around and saw a tweed jacket with ticket pocket and horn rimmed glasses, Black Watch jacket paired with blue polka dotted tie and jeans topped off with a tuft of curly red hair, a chambray shirt untucked with jeans and tennis shoes, then the guy in a blue suit tie bar under pastel plaid tie and two toned wingtips all accented by the neck tattoo creeping up above the collar toward his turquoise ear disks. Sabir was wearing double monks with an aqua jacket that had functioning buttons on the cuff. Skip was telling another guy with a tweed jacket and blue pocket square that he looked like Commissioner Gordon. He was right, the guy did. Everyone was slim and fitted, appearing put together. I had come to see more than be seen but at my size the latter is unavoidable. How I appeared is, to me, an absolute mystery.

There was little to no critiquing of each other’s clothing, nor any visible reactions to anyone’s appearance. There was a brief but attentive discussion about the American preference for natural shoulders in which I participated. I did so not to offer anything useful to the dialogue but more to experience talking about clothing in male company without being thought strange or having my masculinity questioned. I guess the others there would see nothing unique about such talk, which like not knowing their names, made me wonder if this was where I belonged. It is difficult to be self aware in completely new environments but being self aware and self assured are not the same thing. I have heard the best way to jump out of an airplane is without thinking about it too much and I have decided to approach my social inexperience in much the same way. I packed my parachute with great care years ago so I know I will land safely. For now I will just experience flying, or falling with style.

As the night progressed from Whiskey to some concoction of wine and moonshine that came in faux milk bottles, talk drifted from Wales being the armpit of Europe to fighting bums while wasted. A question about the origin of Sabir’s jacket led to talk of the difficulty in finding fitted jackets for slim chested men. “Why do you think I wear bespoke,” came a sincere exclamation, soon followed by the same phrase repeated minus the sincerity. The room erupted in laughter, the butt of the joke included, and the deliverer of the punch line raised his arms in victory, thanked the crowd for their applause, and promptly left the party. This was my first time witnessing a perfectly executed Costanza and I was impressed.  Some people came and went, the conversation ebbed and flowed, and I hung around iPhone in hand.Skip is a good man and I now know whose company I was in.  They are menswear bloggers and good guys. I’m now back in my comfort zone where I have the time and resources to learn everyone’s names though its a bit too late for that to matter.


Because they are French and he is no longer a Hasid

Revolution was in the air and the Bearded Ladies were on the stage.I suppose the MC of the event would naturally be in drag because Bastille day is a French event? I’m sure this is applicable for some reason. I will not speculate as to why.

Joan D’ Arc sang Talkin’ bout my Generation, Napoleon sang We are the Champions, and Ben Franklin was break dancing.Our feisty mob made enough of a roar that Marie Antoinette sent her minions to mock us from the walls of our proxy Bastille.When our MC complained of the monarchy’s “rain” of terror the crowd fired their squirt guns in the air. Antoinette responded with her yearly reply, the words we keep coming back to hear, “let them eat Tastycake!”As the defiant aristocrats threw tasty treats to the crowd below we peasants scrambled to catch free food. Her majesty was pardoned again… I think they blamed insurance issues with the guillotine.

Family fun accomplished, the wife and I called a babysitter and trekked down to the stadiums in South Philly.She was unimpressed with the man in the parking lot who threw up the contents of his tailgating before the Pink Floyd concert. We were unaware of that show, it wasn’t why we came, but it looked like about about 50,000 middle aged white people got that memo and were ready to rock.

We walked through the masses and entered the Xfinity Live area. We had never been and did not know what to expect. It is new.This was the first free concert events that provided pre-show entertainment that was about our speed.Matisyahu came on soon enough. We had heard he was no longer orthodox but we were slightly unprepared for what we saw when he took the stage.He had gone from looking like a rabbi to looking like Asher Roth.  The music was still as good, and really that is why we came, but still, halfway through my wife leans over and says, “Jewish reggae is one thing, but now it feels like I’m just watching another white rapper.” I had no solid response.









Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Perhaps you are smarter and more informed than I, we can have that argument later, but while walking with my wife through Washington Square one evening I came across a word I had never heard before.

Athenaeum founded 1814.

It was inscribed on a bronze plaque with no other explanations. Intriguing.

Athenaeum of Philadelphia

I had lived most of my life just calling the library “the library”, till arriving in Philly when with a snicker I read every sign that read “Free library”. I never knew any other kind. Till now.

Apparently the word means a place where printed materials are kept, available for reading. Turns out this private circulation library is open to the public 9-5 Mon-Fri.

Staircase to the stacks.

You must buy a membership to check out a book, and they say there is a members only reading room, but any old person, like me, can stroll right into this room.

main reading room

If I make an appointment I can do research here.

research room

I didn’t read a thing on this trip, I just strolled around being a creep with my iPhone.

in the chess room

While I may not be the best, I enjoy a game of chess. I am horrible playing chess with friends, better in the park, I have no idea how good I am here but i intend to find out.

chess room

Why have I never heard of this place? I am not all knowing but I believe I am slightly more informed about this city than the average Joe; so how did I miss this all these years?

Stacks in the research room

It was some years ago that in like fashion I discovered Philly’s civil war museum complete with Honest Abe’s death mask. I found this one slightly more interesting. I’m not sure why, but seriously, how did I miss this?

Death mask from Napoleon

Home of the Free

I am fat. No really, I know how big I should be, how big I am now, and while not always the most self aware I have a pretty good idea of what my mass is made. I am not ignorant of how I got this way or how to fix it so I am not open to suggestions on what worked for so-and-so or what I should do. I think my lifestyle has become affected by all the academics I have been reading in that I know all the answers but don’t necessarily want to actually put those answers int0 practice. I leave that to those lab rats that I see through the foggy glass as they run on treadmills at gyms.

home brewed ginger ale

Now that my academic life is mostly over it is time for action. I went jogging.

Cities are great for running; lots of even surfaces with lots of things to keep your mind distracted. Last Tuesday these distractions included members of the occupy movement.

Independence Hall

I was unaware they still existed.

It felt appropriate that they would be at Independence Hall the week of the Fourth of July and I was happy to see them there. I sympathize with much of what the occupiers claim to stand for, I am in fact a member of the lower half of the 99%. I happily kept jogging.

Dust in the Wind

That next morning we loaded up the kids and staked out a claim on Market St. from which to watch the parade. Kids love parades. My wife and I decided that one fire engine is quite enough and that the dramatic level of police presence where we were must have put the other side of town in great jeopardy. There were marching bands from Michigan, a Latino dancing group from Virginia, and about half way through, there were occupiers.

Occupy somewhere else please.

They were not in the parade but parading down the sidewalk along side the floats and bands. They stopped on the walk right behind us and stayed. “Money for fighting forest fires, not for fighting foreign wars!” they shouted in unison. One white man with dread locks and no shirt walked laps around us, filming the group with his digital camera, I believe we were being streamed live to the web. O yay!

The group that made me smile yesterday caused me to cringe today. My ideals were at that moment tested. My wife tried to explain to the kids that the loud people saying mean things about the parade were part of what make America great. I believe she is right though at that moment I admit my thoughts were mostly retorts of things akin to “yeah, free to be an idiot.”

I looked one way and saw a group of mostly young, mostly naked, people shouting that the parade we were seeing wasn’t patriotic, only to turn and see a contingent of buffalo soldiers marching past. At that moment of annoyance and frustration I appreciated what I hold sacred about my country and my constitution.


There is a tradition in my faith that states this country’s founding was inspired by God. I believe that. I call it a tradition because it has come to mean differing things to different people within my faith. I have had my religious devotion questioned when I have written or spoken about the moral failings of our founding fathers. There are those who see such discussions as an affront to the God inspired work they played part in. I don’t see it that way.

Saul, before he was Paul, was not good or nice. My experience with humans tells me he was not perfected after his name changed. Peter, the chief disciple, denied knowing Jesus as he was being sentenced to death. there has only been one perfect person and that was not me, nor was it George Washington.


God, through necessity of working with his children, must inspire imperfect people to do His work. Knowing this I proceed with caution when looking at their lives to see which parts were the inspired ones. I’m not sure I, nor you, are really qualified to say which is or is not.

Watching the occupiers intentionally annoy my family I witnessed an element of the American ideology that I have no doubt is in line with divinity. Freedom.

I am not inclined to believe that capitalism is any where near inspired or sacred. I am also not a Marxist. Both theories are too much entrenched in the failures of human nature and our tendencies to inhibit the freedoms of others. I am not comfortable placing my destiny into the hands of a collective or into a central redistribution system nor am I comfortable with tying my choices and freedoms to the numbers of dollars I posses. In capitalism you are as free as you are rich and history has shown that those “with” (be they private or governmental) cannot be trusted to share.

Philly’s China Town

My jog the other day took me through China town. It was strewn with American flags flying over Chinese characters. I love it. I love the hope and opportunity possible in our system.

I live in a Polish part of town

I also jog through North Philly and Kensington. I spend time with many who are truly impoverished and have seen that these people are no where near free. Many live in situations where they make choices but none of the options before them are actual opportunity. They cannot afford a path to freedom.

graffiti removal

I believe we as a nation, and a world, are indeed on a moral decline. But I deeply believe this to be a “we” and not a “they” decline. The poor and the rich are a problem. The right and the left are a problem. Black and White both perpetuate the problem.

But that is the risk of freedom. If one is given the right to choose, there will and must be failures. This is part of the sacredness of freedom. My faith teaches that at one time we all lived with our family in divine glory. Heaven, all of us, together. Happy, holy, and untried. We chose freedom. We chose this mortal existence to be provided opportunity to choose for ourselves the existence we wanted. Our Father granted us that freedom and I consider it holy.

Occupiers at Logan Circle.

Later that evening, after watching fireworks, I walked past those same protesters from the morning as they swarmed over the fountains in Logan Circle. They still had their megaphones, chants, and appeared mostly absorbed in themselves. Seeing them made me sad.

I agree with them. I think unfettered capitalism is placing the levers of freedom, money, mostly into the hands of those who are willing to do anything they can to get it. I do not trust those thus motivated to control my freedom. I should be an ally but in watching them I am most certainly not motivated to join. Nor do I think they want me.

Yelling at my children with a megaphone while they watch a parade is not the way to gain my sympathy. I believe your tactics hurt your cause. I believe your lack of evolving past the 60’s form of protest has doomed the cause to fall into the same hole as the American economy. Protesters and manufacturers can rest in that same pitfall together due to lack of evolution.

But both are a byproduct of freedom. So is my spare tire; both it’s excess and existence. I have started jogging and it is about time I also ate less. Sounds reasonable. Reason? How novel. I think there may something sacred about reason.

In this season of national celebration I realize I do love my country. I have known this all along, just like I knew I shouldn’t have the second helping of cake. It is this country that both provided me the cake and allowed me to eat it to. It is this freedom that also requires me to get off the couch and jog.

Happy Fourth.

Family Fourth: Photo Essay

Super-Scooper All-you-can-eat Ice Cream.




Penn’s Landing






Opinions and expression


Not Geno’s


Proper form


Social Media






Fabric Artist




Best of Show


Free to annoy








On the scene


Lauryn Hill!!!! Are you serious?!?!?




More freedom to annoy


Carpenter’s Hall