Union: kids these days

Union LA

110 South La Brea Ave. Los Angeles

It started as a bunch of counterculture kids in NYC, then they expanded to LA, where Chris Gibbs continues to move forward today.

The racks feature design centered casual and streetwear. They are all unique and all wearable.

Price points are what you would expect of direct from the designer items but if you have the money this place beats every big box out there.

Maxfield: design design design

I was very politely (no snark at all, they were so kind) asked to not take pictures.

8825 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles

I suppose I am in fact, a leopard.

Maxfield is avant-garde in the best possible way. It is full of things I would love on my shelf, my wall, or worn by other people on the street.

But only because I present better as Andy Warhol than as one dressed by him (no snark at all, I would love Andy as a stylist).

Just One Eye: to look at

Pardon the worst comparison ever, but Just One Eye feels to me like someone with taste, and money, opened a flea market.

915 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles

This speaks more to my class than anything else, but there are booths, or stalls, each with what appear to be a different vendor, all under one industrial roof.

But in between, or in front, or above, there is art. At flea markets I look for large scale images to paint over (cheaper than buying raw canvas) while at Just One Eye there is art to which I would only aspire.

Virgil Normal: is not

I am not an expert, nor even minimally informed on high fashion, but I would still venture to say that what one finds at Virgil Normal is not that.

4157 Normal Ave, Los Angeles

What it is, is independent, artsy, and the sort of cool that might get picked up by high fashion, yet exists in its own sphere without “them”. I am guessing they are cool with that.

It has the vibe of the sort of Los Angeles that exists on the flip side of the glossy Hollywood coin. The sort of place where hippies gave birth to skateboarders. Artsy but with scraped up knees.

209 Mare : appropriate clothing for nice places near the water.

Federico appeared on our Zoom call wearing a light blue terrycloth robe with a black shawl lapel. Behind him were two paintings, one a recreation of a Dali mural, and the other a loosely rendered Basquiat-esque  image, possibly a skull but in light blue and orange. He speaks English with the sort of accent that is hard to place and often pauses between ideas as if he is mentally translating through three other languages in order to pick the right word. He is exactly what one would imagine the models in a 209 Mare ad would be. Cosmopolitan.

Federico was born in Bogotá but spent time growing up in Hamburg, then, when his family moved to London, he shipped off to a sports oriented boarding school in Florida. To play golf. From there it was on to University in Atlanta, a job in D.C. and finally an MBA in Spain.

After graduating business school Federico found himself in Chile, as one does, and while there he attended lunch at a beautiful beach house. He described the scene as a beautifully set table, in a wonderful place, but there they all were sitting at lunch in sloppy wet t-shirts. It just didn’t fit the environment. That is until a guest arrived at the meal wearing one of the resort’s bathrobes. It made more sense. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave Federico an idea.

That is how one starts a luxury brand based solely on resort wear made from toweling material. If you cruise the catalog you find blazers with shawl lapels, or notched. With piping along the edges or not, contrast lapel, double breasted, monogrammed- or not. Federico was looking to make functional beach or poolside clothing appropriate for fine dining. Or just stuff that helped you look nice in a nice place that might also be proximate to sand and water. It was simple cream single button notched lapel, no monogram, that fist caught my eye. I’m not afraid to admit I love it. But I don’t frequent posh places nor am I big on crested pockets, and my skepticism surrounding those who do, is in large part why I reached out to Federico. I wanted to know if what I was seeing was something dreamt up by Instagram branding hacks or maybe someone who lived in a world different than mine. I’m glad I did.

Dude checks out.

That is how I would say it. From my conversation with Federico, I think he would say something a little classier with no hint of snark. I found him absolutely lacking in snark or snottiness of any kind. He’s better than me in that way. He was more than happy to talk about his clothes, his brand, his business model, as well as art, travel, sports and food. He told me that the Monaco Grand Prix is indeed as cool as it looks whether you are a Formula 1 fan or not. He also admitted that, just like the rest of us, He found Formula 1 mostly through Netflix. I appreciated that.

I also appreciate the Paradiso long sleeved polo he makes in vanilla or navy blue. I imagine I would look much less kooky wearing that among the longboarding hippies at San Onofre or among the Doheny regulars… but I am a kook and would 100% rock that cream colored Solenzara blazer.

But oh, yes, there is also the name. 209 Mare.

Mare is Italian for ocean or sea. People in Monaco would probably know that. I did not. What they might not know, but I do now, is that 209 is a reference to the date September 20th. That is the day Federico fell from a 3rd story balcony in Spain, through a glass ceiling, landing in a paved parking lot- and lived. He described it as miraculous (despite his not being religious) and a date that for him, merits remembering. For me it paints a scene out of a James Bond film where the hero is at a fancy party filled with Spectre agents plotting to destroy the world, a fistfight ensues, and as Bond goes over the railing his descent stalls into slow motion flailing, Adele starts singing, and a large text reading 209 Mare is imposed over the screen. Once the song is over and the opening sequence credits close, our hero simply picks himself up off the pavement, brushes dust off his terrycloth blazer, then walks calmly onto a yacht headed that sails off into the night. Perhaps I’m a bit irreverent but, but then again so is wearing Kambuku print swim shorts under a double breasted terrycloth blazer with white piping.

You Don’t Grow Out of It: Rugby

As a child I was often described as rambunctious. Now that I am a grown man, maybe slightly past grown, that is probably not how most would describe me, but that is only because I eventually learned how to sit still in my chair (turns out the secret to this all along has been money; I get paid to sit in my chair and it works beautifully).

DV IMAGE

But I’m still that guy.

And by that guy I don’t just mean energetic, I mean there is something fundamental about me where I am compelled to run into other people. Exercise doesn’t really cure it. I’ll run if I have too, but if for some reason it’s okay to shove somebody, maybe even get shoved back real hard, I will do it without question every time no matter what. I say shove because maybe I’m slightly shy of saying hit, but hit is probably more accurate. Punch could apply, but it doesn’t have to be a fist. It could be a shoulder, an elbow, or maybe just a shove as long as it is hard enough that you need to work to stay upright.

I don’t really want to hurt anyone, in fact, I really don’t like the idea of hurting people yet there is this odd thing, a very real thing that wants to be rowdy. It is fun. Plain. Simple. Fun.

I am not alone.

Not even a little bit.

There is a breed of person, I have mostly found them playing basketball, who object to even the slightest brush and hold the word “foul” sacred, but then there are these other ones. My people. These are the ones who throw elbows under the basket. These are the guys who sprint to the other end of the court not to try and block your shot, but to try and set a pick or take a charge. My people.

People like me are often found on football teams (the American version), in mosh pits, or wrestling. They, we, used to be boxers but now it’s mostly MMA, which is maybe just a tad too mean for the general person… but maybe not. The mosh pit was great and offensive line wasn’t the worst, but those things don’t carry over into adulthood. Not really. Football without pads isn’t the same game, my ears hurt if the mosh pit is too close to the speakers, and kids appear to find grown men in such places creepy. I get it, but here I am with this playful urge to push and shove. What do I do? Where do I go?

Pardon my rhetorical question, my lazy device, because I obviously have the answer, but I have long been perplexed at how few of you do.

It’s rugby.

It’s perfect.

I am not arguing that rugby is better than football (the American version) or that basketball is bad. I like basketball and love football. I love football like one might still have warm feelings for a first crush or kiss, no, it’s more developed than that. We aren’t divorced, we never broke up, so maybe football and I had a serious relationship but then one of us got a job on the other coast and things just didn’t work out and we had to affectionately pursue our own business, admiring each other from afar.

Which is part of why rugby is perfect. Less business. Not the sport, there’s plenty of room for business there, but I mean the game.

If you are an American and aren’t familiar with rugby don’t apologize, it’s not your fault. Most of us are introduced later in life, and that’s okay. Let me describe it.

It’s a game.

First, a bunch of people get a ball, then they run around throwing and kicking it, all the while shoving and tackling each other. There are boundaries and you do keep score, but most importantly there are built in ways you get to shove, tackle, and even throw each other. Yes. You get to throw people. Up in the air. They tend to be large people, so it ends up being more of a heave than throw, but it is still fun.

When someone is running with the ball, you tackle them. When the person with the ball is on the ground, you get to shove people from the other team away from the ball so you can pick it up and keep running. That’s called a ruck. If this kind of shoving isn’t productive, you stop, and your 8 biggest people hug together in front of the ball and collectively try to push the other team’s 8 biggest people backward, till the ball pops out the back of this reverse tug-of-war, at which point your smallest player picks up ball the ball and tries to pass it away before someone tackles them.

If the ball is on the ground in front of you, you just pick it up and run. If someone passes you the ball, someone else is going to try and tackle you, so run. You can run right at people, or try to run around them, or throw the ball away to someone else. My favorite is to pretend to pass the ball but then keep it and run right at the potential tackler. You can score points by running the ball to the end of the filed or by kicking the ball through a set of goal posts, and you just keep playing, shoving, and tackling till you are exhausted, or for 80 minutes, whichever happens first.

Then, after the game, you rub menthol on your neck and legs, glue up any small cuts, then go hang out with the other team. Often this is at a bar or what non-Americans call a “pub”. At the pub people sing songs, drink, tell stories, or just chat about whatever. Other times you go somewhere and sit around a bowl, or a 5 gallon bucket, filled with muddy water and you listen to reggae. Someone will always play Lucky Dube.

It won’t matter who those other people are, where they are from, or how rough the game was, this after party will always be great, because above all else these are people who love to crash into other people.

For fun.

So it isn’t just me. There are a lot of us. I don’t know why this is fun. I don’t know why I want to crash and tackle and ruck or scrum. But I do. I always have. I think I always will. It is why, if we are friends, I might hip check you for no reason. It is why, if we are just sitting around, I might shove your chair or kick your shoe. I’m not trying to be annoying; I just want to play, and pardon me if I pause when we greet, I am just restraining myself.

But if you are an Aggie Old Boy, a Greenville Griffin, Park City Haggis or Atlanta Renegade, especially if you are a Wharton Wharthog… or a Giltini, Eagle, Puma, All Black, Wallaby, Bok, or Cherry Blossom… If you are CHABAL! I will shove you.

Lets play.

I am a Kook

A Kook is, but is not only, a person who is bad at surfing.

There are a million ways and reasons to be bad at surfing, but one of the kookiest, is to have no clue as to what you are doing wrong.

Perhaps the most kooky thing, is to make no effort to learn what one is doing wrong, yet continue surfing.

I am a kook.

I don’t want to be one, but there is so much I don’t know, that it will take a lifetime for me to get half a clue. That is my best-case scenario; one half clue.

I’m putting in an honest effort but there are obstacles.

For instance:

  1. I’m not a real athlete, I’m more of a beast. In other words I’m more made for smashing and lifting than I am for balancing or doing anything at a high speed. Or a medium speed. Or anything involving the word speed.

             Except eating.

2. I need to lose 50 pounds. I require a lot of buoyancy to counteract my displacement to equal gravitational force. In other words, It takes a lot to make me float. Maximum displacement does not improve surfing. But more than that, surfing requires a lot of paddling and other things that resemble physical activity and at least 50 pounds of me are in no way helping. Those 50 pounds are the guy who lives on the couch, eats from your fridge, but doesn’t pay bills.

3. I live in Rancho Kookamonga. Kook is in the name of the place. No, it is not really spelled that way, and no, the word itself isn’t REALLY the problem, but the geography is. I am at least an hour away from the beach with no traffic. Everywhere in California has traffic, and gas is expensive.

4. Money. It would be nice if I had more money, or if things related to me surfing didn’t cost as much money. I’d be happy with either solution, but as it stands gas, road tolls, wetsuits, surfboards, and TIME are prohibitively expensive. I have found ways to scrounge out some time (for now), tolls come in small bite sized chunks, but that board. I currently ride on the homemade generosity of an older board that has been beat up almost as much as me, it weighs as much as me, and while it currently helps get my oversized self upright on a wave, it pretty much only allows that. And I’m not sure how much longer it can handle this one job. Surfboards, the ones big enough for me, are expensive.

5. I’m getting old. Not just older, but I am solidly closer to old than young. I make friends with retired people. There are things my body could once do, that it no longer can, and when I try it hurts. Things always hurt. It doesn’t matter what I do, the pain just sort of shifts around depending on the activity.

6. Excuses. The idea that the board, or my geography, or the tides, are why I’m not a good surfer, are excuses that don’t really hold water (though unfortunately the board does indeed take on water). I should just eat less. I should find ways to earn, or save, more money. Eating less might help that. I think if I ate less I could be more of an athlete. I have known these aforementioned things long enough to have done something about them yet this list remains up to date.

But mostly I just want a new board. A magical one. One that would make me better.

And that is why I am a kook.

Because of 1 through 6, plus this last bit…

I intend to persist.

I can’t help it. I’m stuck. I’m snakebit. I’m stoked. Addicted. Hooked. I’m no good at it and it is still fun. It is fun every time. It is hard every time and once I think I have improved, something proves me wrong.

Every time.

And I have fun.

So I will be there this Saturday morning as the sun comes up. I will be trying to get better but battleships are hard to turn even when they have an able Captain.

And I will go down with this ship.

July 24th, Pioneer Day

In 1833 William Beebe joined the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in upstate New York. At this time, the church was just 3 years old. Louisa Newton married William and joined the church in 1835. They were living in Nauvoo Illinois when the United States expelled the church, and while sheltering in Council Bluffs Iowa, they had a daughter, Ruth. The family waited 2 years for Ruth to grow, then walked to the Salt Lake Valley in 1852.

As a child in Providence Rhode Island, Leprelet Hopkins skipped school and stowed away on a ship. He stayed aboard six years and was eventually washed ashore after a shipwreck in New Orleans. When Johnston’s Army marched to Salt Lake, to occupy the Mormon territory, Leprelet followed them working as a mule skinner. When the army left Utah, he stayed behind- and married Ruth.

Jesse Hobson was baptized a Latter-Day Saint in 1834. When the church began preparing to move west, he and his wife Catherine were assigned by Brigham Young to homestead along the trail to act as a sort of liaison with the Pawnee. While there they had a child, Henry. They finally moved to Utah in 1852. Henry grew up and married Emily, the daughter Leprelet and Ruth.

Joseph Field was baptized in 1844, in Yorkshire England. By 1857 he was living in the Utah Territory where he married a widow, also an English immigrant, Sarah Brook. There they had a son, Joseph.

Louisa Kent was born in Calcutta, the daughter of an English officer and an Indian woman. She married Charles Booth, whose English family had been living in India for generations. The two of them joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and left India in 1855, traveling by ship to San Francisco. They settled in San Bernardino, till Johnston’s Army was marching to Utah and Brigham Young called all the members from San Bernardino to move to Utah. Louisa and Charles moved. In Utah they had a daughter, Mary Louisa.

Marry, married Joseph.

This story continues a few more generations till my mother is born and then of course came me.

I was raised in Utah where every 24th of July the state celebrates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. There are parades and fireworks. We celebrate those people, the things they endured, and the things they built; which was cities, institutions, and families. Many take great pride in the accomplishments of our ancestors. We go to great lengths to always remember and never forget.

Except for the parts we don’t talk about or have already forgotten.

Just this year, 175 after the Latter-Day Saints began settling that valley, a monument to the Black people who were part of that exodus was erected. 3 men, who were held as slaves by members of the church were in the vanguard of that first wagon train. This part of the story was not really remembered, or celebrated, till after a sustained and lengthy campaign carried on by Black people and other allies.

The lore I was taught growing up was that the Salt Lake Valley was unpopulated when the church arrived. Of course that wasn’t entirely true. It was especially not true for the valleys up and down the Wasatch Front where Shoshone and Timpanogos people were forcibly displaced either by armed violence or by the destruction of their preexisting eco system.

We barely remember any of the instances or ways in which our ancestors might have been wrong, yet we insist that there must be a remembrance, and of course what we believe should be celebrated, is only the good. Which is fine. But it all depends on who “we” define as “us.”

Just today, in church, the congregation listened to the family story of a very good person whose story included, as a side note, the one time some Native Americans invaded their ancestor’s home, but that luckily the Natives had not come to kill, but to simply steal food.

There was no discussion or remembrance, of the experience of that Native person. That person was an example of one of the trials “our” ancestors endured, a story which could never be comfortably retold if one of that Native person’s descendants would have been sitting in the congregation.

We would tell it differently if we really considered Native people part of “us”.

I have only learned this lesson myself because I sit next to a Black person in those pews every Sunday. It has helped me think a little bit more about the stories we tell and the perspective from which we view them- especially when it comes to how we remember the 1850’s in North America.

When I look at my family tree and lore, then look at where and who I am now, there is an obvious throughline. I am who and where I am now, because of who they were and what they did. But I don’t know the whole story. I only know our own retelling. I don’t know who my ancestors might have hurt, or how, or why, and many might question why anyone would want to know such things.

And to such I would say, because there is no value in remembering the past at all, unless that memory is full of truth.

If we remember a walk on the moon, but erase all traces of physics or science, we will likely get the story all wrong. What then is the value of remembering? Perhaps there would still be some, but it would be trivial, which would be shame as that event was more than trivia. We can learn from it. It helped form the world we live in now, but without knowing the science there is little practical use to that tale.

So we should be careful in how we remember, and be even more careful if we are telling “others” to forget.

If we are looking to take credit, then we must also accept blame. If we want to celebrate or glorify the past, then we must have a full understanding of what that was, or who that was, because these celebrations aren’t just a communication of who we are, but who we hope to be.

If we have to ignore or erase groups of people from the past in order to celebrate today, then we must continue to ignore and erase those same people moving forward.

How Do We Know Who the “Good Guys” Are?

Two major obstacles to curbing gun violence in America are: the concept of good guys/bad guys as a static thing or type, and then the partisan practice of demonizing the political opposition.

When we create a world view where there are good people and bad people, and that they will both always be that thing, and then we paint our political opposition as the bad guys, there will never be any room to collaborate or compromise – ever. Because in this worldview the other political side will always have bad intentions and always be working toward bad outcomes. One will be fighting against that opposition’s assumed identity rather than addressing the issues at hand.

We cannot allow ourselves to give in to this bias, not just because it is based on a fundamental lie about human nature, but also in that it absolutely cripples our ability to improve society.

People are not fundamentally good or bad. Even the most extreme evil doer will also be capable of benevolent acts. A mafia don may both order a murder and then financially support those in need. A person who has done nothing but good, maybe even been heroic, can later commit acts of atrocity. Those who have done horrible things, might never repeat such acts but rather commit their lives to humanitarian service.

Humans are neither static nor one dimensional.

The idea that bad people will always do bad things no matter what laws we pass might be true at an incident level, as in bad things might always happen no matter the law, but it is completely untrue at an individual human level. Meaning, an individual may or may not have their actions influenced by any given law at any given time. A young man may have bad intentions and try to harm a large crowd of people at one point in his life, but if the tools are unavailable or inconvenient, requiring additional effort and a longer timeframe, it cannot be assumed that this person will maintain those bad intentions indefinitely.

Our intentions and energy level fluctuate. Anyone who has attempted to get or stay “in-shape” knows this at a fundamental level. While an individual’s actions or motivations vary through time, there may at any given time be enough actively engaged fitness minded people to keep a gym in business, though the individuals actually showing up will always be in flux. Bad things may continually happen but they are not necessarily done by a stagnant, limited, group of individuals.

Political parties are made of people. Party platforms shift and change. The idea that one party is all good or all bad, or that either party will stay whatever it is forever, is wrong. To believe as much is the definition of bias.

Such biases are magnified in the gun debate.

The safety of children cannot be managed via political tribalism.

Arming the good guys to defend against the bad guys assumes that we know in advance who is who. Disarming bad guys in advance requires the same assumption.

I do not know how much I will weigh next year, but I do know I eat less when food is less convenient. I also know that working out takes a lot of work and sacrifice and maintaining motivation over a long period of time, is hard. I usually give up. Or slack off. Because I’m a person and my mental and emotional state shifts over time.

We need to keep this fluctuation in mind when crafting policy, passing laws, voting, or in our pursuit of justice.