There is, or at least can be, a fine line between clothing and costume. A fine line between doing your thing, and schtick.
I appreciate those who do their thing, but I fear far too many are just trying to do “a thing”. For example, I present to you Teddy Roosevelt doing “a thing”.
Now compare Teddy doing his thing.
See the difference?
In one, there is a born and raised New Yorker who has gone out West and dressed up in what he thinks Westerners wear, and in the other, he is wearing something suitable for what he is doing, and where he is doing it… in New York.
So on that note, and along those lines, I present some archival finds that should make any hipster eat his own heart. Not to say that any modern day man trying to claim gender normative manliness with a little extra panache’ shouldn’t rock a hat, but these guys absolutely do it better.
As a 14 year old struggling for a small slice of social acceptance I used to flip through the pages of GQ magazine. Mostly I would just look at ads in search of the perfect haircut thinking that if I could get my own just right, maybe I could one day be as cool as these guys looked. No. That isn’t quite true. I was mostly just hoping to get just a little bit closer to cool but I knew I would never really get there. So I just flipped through the pages looking not reading.
Except for this one column, “The Style Guy”.
I grew up in a world where people were very much judged by what they were wearing, but almost no one knew a thing about style. It was just her skirt is too short, His pants are too saggy, and what brand is that? I was aware enough to know I was clueless and too ignorant to really know where to look for guidance. My father could tell me exactly what someone might have been wearing in 1825 Wyoming, or the importance of socks while hiking, but would then communicate that thinking about clothes at school was too trivial to be concerned with. Mom could point out a Mondrian or a Rembrandt but had no interest in either Coco or Chanel.
My only hope was Matt Hilbig.
Matt lived around the corner and taught me that you could buy boat shoes at Payless and no one would ever know they weren’t Bass. He also taught me that you could find everything from GQ ads in Nordstrom, but that my money was probably more in line with J. Riggins. Matt was the source of all of my practical and tactical sartorial lessons- but he was also 14.
Then I discovered the Style Guy.
As I got older it was The Style Guy that answered questions I never knew I should ask, and that even if I knew to ask, I had no one around who could answer. He explained to me the difference between a barrel and a French cuff, which one might assume everyone would know but I didn’t. He taught me what a contrast collar is and helped me understand that they probably aren’t for me. Above all he taught me that I could think about this kind of stuff without just trying to imitate some external norm or marching in some sort of conformist regimental order… and how to do so without being an idiot.
I had been reading the Style Guy for quite some time before I learned that he was that one grown up who used to show up on MTV talking about news. It was long after that when I learned this guy grew out of the Andy Warhol Basquiat punk rock New York and into the suit wearing wingtip world of GQ, without doing some sort of image dance that wasn’t really him. This man was amazing.
I have to say was because yesterday he passed away and I have lost the best teacher I ever had in how to be less of a dork, while still being me. He was the best.
Matt, you were second best. Just sayin.
I am afraid of neither cliché nor dumpster. I may be a little bit afraid of going all Johnny Utah and trying to teach myself how to ride a cliché in Red Hot Chili Pepper infested waters, so I settle for sitting on the couch and painting what should otherwise be a sporting good.
I found it in a dumpster. I saw it as a low rent project that would allow me the tools to learn my next sporting hobby. I had dreams of riding waves and floating just out beyond the break.
Two years later I have ridden very little beyond a sofa and sadly, I float a bit too easily in the pool.
Then I got an idea.
It is still rideable. At least in theory.
A broad “thank you” is in order.
I am generally skeptical of the sincerity of anything posted on social media, especially Fakebook. It is the home of the humble-brag, desperate calls for attention, and every narcissist’s second favorite venue for self aggrandizement (2nd to twitter). It is like the digital age’s version of a perpetual high school social dynamic with all of its posturing, superficiality and huge doses of TMI.
Then came my birthday.
This year I chose, for the first time, to allow my birthday to be public. I have seen long scrolling lists of people wishing other people happy birthday, and the snarky voice inside my head thought that really they were a bunch of people who wanted to bee seen wishing happy birthday rather than really wanting to celebrate any certain person, so I was not really surprised that many people sent me online well wishes, but I was a little bit surprised at how it felt.
It made me happy. It felt good.
People said some nice things. It was a bit like when the Grinch stole Christmas but the Whos still sang and hearing it made his heart grew bigger. My cynical inner Grinch told me that “happy birthday” from someone I never talk to means nothing and drawing satisfaction from such shallow offerings makes me the emotional equivalent of a toddler. But then some people PM’d me, a couple even called, others just said Happy Birthday on my wall and kicking and screaming my inner Grinch gave way to simple gratitude and appreciation. It was nice.
Sometimes people are just plain and nice and when they (you) are, it makes a difference. It matters.
I appreciated the well wishes. I learned from it.
So- thank you.
I advocate for leading a life of sophistication and collected calm. Anything rowdy or without deeper meaning is to be avoided. As the kids might say, I keep it classy.
For example, I support the attendance of dinner parties where one can commune with thought leaders and sophisticates. Mingling with those who elevate thought and decorum is the best use of one’s evenings.
There may be occasions where physical exertion is appropriate, but dignity should predominate. If an outing is to happen, one need not lower one’s self.
Music is an important part of creating an atmosphere of celebratory sophistication. Many of the great symphonies and orchestras perform the classics during this holiday season as a service toward the elevation of humanity.
When dining one should not overindulge. Moderation takes a back seat only to presentation. Please remember that seating arrangements and plating are what truly makes a dining experience “fine”.
There is at this time of year a tradition of gift giving. I reservedly participate but remind us all that the appropriate response should always be quiet reserve and calm.
I like to think of myself as an example of intellectualism and decorum. The world needs more of this. There is far too much noise and irreverence. I am above such things and would that this were true for us all.
Yes. A paragon of elevation am I. And as such, I bid you all a happy new year.
An important part of parenting is protecting your children from infectious disease. While my offspring have been able to avoid measles, mumps, and Jenny McCarthy, I am still a failure in this regard. You see, my daughter has contracted a condition that flares up every December. It elevates her stress levels, tires her out, and completely disrupts our life.
It is sad. She is only 12.
I wish there were a cure.
Some kids grow out of it, others learn to live with the condition even when it is in remission, but it never goes away.
This disease is called Balleritious Nutcrackevitus.
I heard it was first contracted in France. It found its way to my house when my oldest daughter was 5. It caused uncontrolled leaping and a swirly dizziness. She was a mess.
I hoped she only had the juvenile strain but as time has gone by, it has only gotten worse.
At first it was almost amusing, but then it started taking over. The uncontrolled swirls gave way to these repetitive motions. She would squat then stand, squat, then stand- for hours. She would lift one leg, then put it down, over and over again, and again, and again, and a gain. It ate up all of her mind and soul, and finally, it ate my weekends.
We have tried everything. We have seen experts, spent thousands of dollars on treatments, and finally, we visited an institution.
It was like some sort of leper colony where similarly infected young people could commune and older people could commiserate together. It was supposed to be therapeutic but it seemed to only make things fester.
We even tried relocating, thinking that perhaps a drier climate would help her system grow stronger. It was hard, she struggled. We thought she would finally break free, but then Decembers would roll around and she would succumb.
One specialist recommended we try these orthopedic sort of shoes. They build in some sort of contraption to try to control the spinning. These medical devices are expensive and not covered by insurance. She has become completely dependent.
I have learned that varying experts disagree on prescribed treatments. Vaganova says do this, Cecchetti says do that. Balanchine only treats a specific strain of the illness. I have been told that we have to pick a theory and go with it. I always want a second opinion.
I have watched the patient get worn down from a swirly little squiggle to becoming serious beyond her age. She tends to fixate and focus on every little bit of the therapy. You have never seen such a dedicated out-patient. All of the patients are that way. Fixated.
I fear that if she does not recover soon, institutionalization will be her only hope.
Merry Christmas Nutcracker families.
Even before I was old enough to vote, I thought I was a Republican. It was part of my upbringing. It was my family, it was me, and I thought I was Republican because that party stood for what was right. Everyone around me was Republican and we all recoiled in horror, but not disbelief, when Bill Clinton’s affair moved past accusation into scientific fact. He, and the excusing of infidelity and immorality that he stood for, was what I stood against. Because that was what I thought a Republican was. And then I moved to Georgia.
In Georgia being a Republican meant you wanted the confederate battle flag to be incorporated on the state flag. That was not me. I didn’t want anything to do with that. But there was more to being a Republican than a flag, like spousal fidelity and financial accountability. I was for those things. But the other republicans made it obvious that they weren’t “for” me. Because I am Mormon. We, the other Republicans and I, were aligned politically, except for that flag, but they made it obvious at every turn that I was not only different, but bad. I was going to Hell. I was in a cult. I could not go to their Christian school; I could not be in their club, because Mormonism is bad.
I didn’t take it that hard. I understood. Growing up in Utah I had witnessed non-Mormon Christian kids being told they were bad. They weren’t welcome in homes and in clubs. They were Gentiles. Now it was my turn. I never thought it was right, not as a kid and not when I lived in Georgia, but that had nothing to do with being Republican. It was just an unfortunate overlap. But that flag thing, and everything it stood for, was enough to cause me not to register in the party of my birth. I still voted for W of course, I just wasn’t registered in a party. Then I moved to Philly.
Everyone I worked with in Philly was a Republican. It was a corporate job and we pushed a lot of money around. We were hard working, responsible, and deserved the associated rewards. Everyone else thought part of the rewards they deserved included strip clubs and debauchery. Not me. They were mostly married. It didn’t matter. It was just grown up fun and had nothing to do with politics. Democrats were the devil because they wanted to steal our wages, extort us with unions, and get fat on hand outs funded from our pockets. “Screw the religious right” they would say. “Stay out of my bedroom and my pocket,” they would say. “Besides, priests are messing with little boys and deserve to be fried. Democrats don’t believe in frying people and if anyone deserves it, it’s those priests.”
In Philadelphia I also got to know hard working poor people. They lived in violent neighborhoods with bad schools and toiled for every penny they got. Just pennies. Now not everyone worked hard, some had given up. Some were dragging themselves from hovel to handout, hating every minute of it, but seeing no alternative. They bought chips and candy with their EBT card, and paid their rent under the table in apartments where the plumbing didn’t work. It was hard for me to figure out. I never really did, but I learned to call a lot of these people my friends. My coworkers just called them lazy people looking for hand outs.
One day I was waiting to present a new product to one of my larger accounts. It was a family owned company in Southern New Jersey and they took pride in their history. Dad built the company up from the ground, Mom kept the books, and the two boys were running the day to day preparing themselves to take the wheel. It was election season and everyone was complaining about what the Democrats were doing to their property taxes. It was a solidly Republican room and I was waiting my turn. When the big boss, Dad, showed up, he got things under way, “Alright guys get it together. Watch your language because we have our Mormon boy rep here to go over a new product.” Everyone laughed. No problem. I have been to enough happy hours, drunk enough Shirley Temples with these guys to be used to the ribbing. Then there was that one guy. “Oh yeah, the Mormon guy. I know all about Mormons. I see them all the time in their white shirts on bikes. Supposed to be religious but all they do is cruise around North Philly screwin’ black chicks. That’s where you live right?”
I was a caught off guard. Not by his comment exactly, I was used to both crassness and ribbing, but I was more surprised by the complete lack of reaction in the room. The Dad, the Mom, the whole business, no one batted an eye, corrected the guy, nothing. This man had just made a comment designed to mock a specific set of ideals and beliefs that I hold sacred and central to who I am. It was no big deal. No one cared because there was business to attend to and everyone just looked at me, waiting for me to present this great new money making opportunity. These were the Republicans.
I eventually left that job and found myself enrolled in a university program where liberalism was baked into everything. If there were any Republicans there, they were hiding. Conversely, homosexuality and socialists were welcomed; in a way that would make my Republican roots shudder. I was happy to be in such an environment but I was unsure if I would be welcomed the same way. I stood up the first day of orientation, in front of my classmates and all the professors, and announced my Mormonism. No one cared. Well, not no one, there was this one professor, but they, the rest of them, did invite me out for drinks. Upon realizing their faux-pa, they insisted I still come to the bar. It wasn’t a strip club kind of bar- because they thought those were bad. Ya know, because those places exploit women, promote debauchery and all that.
I am not a Democrat. There are things in the platform I just won’t sign my name to. But since I left home, as I’ve grown, as I’ve lived, I have learned that the Democratic Party is not what I was taught it was- there is so much good there. I have learned that the Republican Party is not what I was taught it was- there is something dark and rotten. It does not stand for what I was taught it stands for and it has given a home to something to which I thought we were opposed. And so I am left politically adrift. I do not hate Republicans just like I don’t hate poor people. I do not demonize Democrats just like I don’t demonize Christianity. I am in the middle not because I lack convictions or ideology, but rather because I feel I am bound by them.
I will not give home and shelter to racism. I am devout in my religious convictions. And I stand in the middle and am surprised at the manner in which I find myself isolated. I am surprised because there are plenty of us in the middle, but most of us have gotten here mostly by a disgust at our own. We, or sort of they, are disgruntled with our one party or the other, yet still view the other party, the one opposed to the one from which they originated, as demonic. We have lost the Pollyannaish view of “our own” while also holding fast to what we assume the “others” are. And we have to assume because we venture into the middle but never look honestly all the way over into the other side.
So now I don’t know what I am and it frustrates me. It frustrates me because I have no desire to withdraw into seclusion or inaction. I have a compulsion to participate in public life, be part of society, to do good and make things better, but where is my vehicle? Where is the apparatus for me or anyone like me? I cannot go back to my roots- that party is too deep into something I abhor. I cannot be a Democrat- there is a non-negotiable technicality.
So where now? Am I alone?
My wife calls it “Fakebook.” I call it “intentional online messaging.” It is that thing we do where we present an image online of our most happy and prosperous selves.
For example, I have only beat this “Jared Raynor” in chess twice out of 200 hundred games. But I did in fact beat him and I think it no coincidence that I did so on the same day we met this guy on the street. It is also no coincidence that I have not previously posted screen shots of my losses. No coincidence at all.
I do not eat this beautifully all the time. But sometimes I do. I assume you have no interest in my peanut butter jelly sandwiches. They are neither artisan nor farm-to-table. They are pedestrian sliced bread Jiffy spread things best stuffed in elementary school lunches not posted anywhere on anything.
This is because I am a positive guy and my online life is not my life. My online presentation may be derived from reality but is not, nor has it ever been my, or anyone’s totality.
So I share the things and places that are good and worth knowing. worth doing, Possibly worth replicating. Like Leo’s successful execution of California casual unintentionally blending with my living room decor. That is worth replicating.
But not everything is interesting or good or presentable. I choose mostly the good. I choose this so that when I present the bad, perhaps it might get some notice. Maybe when travel tips and food pics gets crashed by the realities of racism, some of us will take an extra pause to consider.
Maybe we will do more than consider and we will act. We will do something. Act. Exert. Do good.
So I spare you my morning breath and laundry laden bedroom floor. You don’t need to see my kid’s mistakes or my neighbor’s noise. Because so-what. Who cares.
What you should know is that I find double monk strap cap-toe shoes to be incredibly versatile. They dress up and down like a grown up but not an old man. You should know that Bodega Louie is the best pastry in town.
And you should know that racism is real and we should do something about that.
I am a bad parent. I failed to post back to school pictures of my children on Facebook. I am not against doing so. I just didn’t do it.
Posting those pictures means I have to help the third grader memorize her times tables. It also means that it is after Labor Day and my white shoes are once again a defiance rather than simple footwear. I like being defiant but defiance doesn’t help the kid learn 7×4.
Speaking of kids, I went outside my office door for some air the other day and there were kids everywhere. It caught me off guard. But then I remembered I work on a college campus. I got to see lots of parents taking first day of school pictures of their 18 year old children to post on Facebook.