Tag Archives: culture

Birdwell Beach Britches:

In 1961, back in the days of Gidget and the Endless Summer, a seamstress named Carrie Birdwell Mann started making and selling swimshorts at her Orange County home. More than 50 years later the company is still in O.C. making pretty much the same thing, and for the most part- only that one thing.IMG_6570

We call them boardshorts. The world knows about boardshorts thanks to Old Navy and Target, but surfers know about boardshorts largely thanks to Birdwell. Mrs. Mann invented the shorts specifically for them.

Not to take away from what Quiksilver, O’neill, or any other surf brand have accomplished, but when it comes to boardshorts, Birdwell is what all of them are trying to be.IMG_6498

Like any responsible adult, the folks at the factory were a little leary of me when I showed up asking questions. But once they determined that, as they put it, “wasn’t up to any weird @*!!” they were more than happy to show me around.IMG_6492The family sold off the business, or as the current owners say “entrusted” them in 2014. Since then, a couple things have changed, while some other significant things have not.

For instance, they started using actual patters.IMG_6489While this may have removed some whimsy from the whole purchasing experience, it did make predicting if the shorts were going to fit a little more reliable.

They also updated the van.IMG_6597And by updated I mean they painted it not fixed the engine, which is why I found it parked comfortably in the factory parking lot.

What they didn’t change were the people working the floor. They have remarkably low turnover and most of the folks sewing the shorts today, are the same folks who sewed them ten years ago.IMG_6494

This might be in part an explanation for what else hasn’t changed, which is that these shorts are nearly bomb proof. I think these shorts are what the authorities use to identify the victims of shark attacks since the shorts are what always survive.

*I said that not them*IMG_6506

It is interesting that in our modern world of fast fashion and quarterly shareholder returns, there can exist a company and brand that survives without attempting to broaden offerings in order to capture market share or lowering quality to widen the margin and spur more turns.

They didn’t do that and they are still right there.IMG_6566

Like I said before, I don’t surf.

But if taking steps past big box mass retail is a sign- I might be on my way.IMG_6594

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Where Your Fortune is Created:Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

It wasn’t till after we left that it occurred to me that for a couple bucks they probably would have let me write my own fortune to have stuffed inside a cookie. Tip to anyone considering a proposal of marriage; visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory located in a tiny alley in San Francisco’s Chinatown.IMG_5998

In Ross alley is a little shop about the size of my living room, where dreams are created. Well, maybe not dreams, but rather the little cookies you get with your sweet and sour chicken. I had never considered how these little treats are made, just as I have never really considered how my iPhone or a kazoo are constructed, but when confronted with an opportunity, why not?IMG_5991

There ya go. That’s pretty much it. A circular conveyor belt with a hundred Forman Grill like hot plates spins around spitting out hot pancakes that are peeled off the press and the folded around a slip of pre printed paper  into the shape of a croissant. You walk in, go “huh.” Then buy a bulk bag of cookies and go on your way. That is my style of learning.IMG_5736Going there is worth the trip and being there is even better. I find it incredibly American. American in that it is very much IN America, but in a place where a large number of people have come from somewhere else in hope of a better life. That is American.IMG_5990

What is also very American is gawking at the the culture of others without any real back story or true cultural understanding. That was my part in the whole visit. I played my part well and I am through and through American. Below I present exhibit A:IMG_5993

I appreciate drying your laundry the cheapest way possible and I don’t mind dried fish, but combining the two displeases me. I would guess that were it otherwise I would displease most of the people who might sit next to me on a bus.

But that is my opinion and this is America where we are each entitled to our own opinions… and smells.IMG_5997

 

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When Traditions Rightfully Die

Traditions are the wisdom and rites of days and sages passed, carried on to the present. These traditions feed the roots of young saplings striving to be trees.

When one is blown about by the winds of fortune, or driven by the desolation of misfortune, it can be hard to find native soil; where roots can dig deep for nourishment.
Steinbeck had something to say about that, but then again so did JD Clampett. Same people going to the same place while remaining worlds apart.struttin

We are not, nor have we felt, Californian. Who you are or were means more come the holidays. We were not originally, but we became, Philadelphian. When you are not, or are not where, you want, you feel a little empty.

So then what?

groveneon

I have read and discussed at some length the ins and outs of assimilation, the tragedy of cultural genocide, and most recently quite a bit about our modern murdering of all that was once good in popular culture. We are now horrible and depraved when once we were honorable and chaste.
Traditionalist versus progressive. Culture wars. War on Christmas. War on rights. All the while I’m just getting used to saying “the” 10 versus “I-95”.groveband
I read a Wall St Journal article decrying the decline of American WASP rule. The author said things were better when the United States had an Anglo Saxon ruling class. Those with this birthright quelled scandal and instilled morals on the masses. Now that class has lost its throne and the world is horrible.
He was right that much of what is normal now is horrible.

IMG_0055

But too often the traditionalist forgets what was also horrible back in the good old days.
In the case of Mr. Wall St. Journal what he really meant is not things were better back then but that things were better for HIM back then. Were he a black woman perhaps his article would read a little different.
Then again, any one of us is only what we are. We can’t be what we are not.

So again… When what we were is no more, when we are no longer where we once were and can’t go back, then what?

groveflyingreighndeer

We kill the WASP!
We throw the tea in the harbor, we march from Selma, we flee the potato famine, we strap Granny in her rocking chair, toss it up on top of the jalopy and head to Californy! You take what can come with you (that is worth taking) and you strike out. You adapt. You be you, but in a new place.

atthehottub
Merry Christmas.
Happy Hanukkah.
Off to a New Year and a Brave New World!

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