Holiday Purchasing Guide for 2020

This worldwide pandemic has meant some unforeseen adjustments in my life. One such has been a dramatic increase in online purchases. Some of these have been socially responsible efforts, such as the can of green spray paint I ordered rather than picking up in person, because who knows who is infected with what at Home Depot. Other orders might have been a bit more frivolous, such as the rejected raw cut baseball bat I bought, which then required green spray paint for decoration.

I needed this decorated bat to hang on my wall so that my wife could answer the question, “Why is there a bat on the wall behind you?” while she is on important Zoom calls.

Because I am a team player.

Another example of me contributing to the better life of others is this list of things I have found while slumming through the consumer side streets of the internet. I am doing so now, giving you just enough time to order the same things immediately, and have them arrive just AFTER Christmas.

Modest Vintage Player boxing gloves. These are the most beautiful and classy tools with which to do something potentially ugly and base- punch stuff. I only got the gloves but really want the matching heavy bag and mitts.

A while back I included a steel banded watch on my most wanted list. Now that I mostly sit indoors looking at a screen that always has the time of day up there in the corner, I bought a watch. It was way less than $100, the brand name will impress no one, and I am so, so, satisfied with it. It is exactly what I wanted and that is rarely what I get.

Lest I think myself modest, I balanced out my humble watch by buying two hyper pretentious Penn patches. I am toying with the idea of adding one to the pocket of a blue blazer but know full well such would make me too self-conscious to ever wear it. But I will want to.

Early on in the pandemic I came across an online ad, on Instagram, from a company with a name I had never heard before, in China. I will admit I had my doubts but what I saw was an accordion folding lattice covered in fake leaves that would perfectly screen the peeling paint on my back fence from view. The price was impossible to pass up, so I gave it a shot. After four months of waiting what I finally got was an 8”x11” frame that when expanded covered approximately one of my legs. I was a bit upset by the false advertising, but I did have to admit the price I paid was appropriate for the product.

After 5 years (more likely 15) of looking them up, but never buying anything, I ordered a tomahawk. I recently got a notice that my selected item is on back order and I would be updated when its status changes.

I wallowed a bit in a pool of guilt thinking I should have forgone such indulgences in favor of saving my pennies for more worthy things like sending my kids to college or maybe even a one day affording a mortgage. I felt enough of this guilt that I steeled my will, did the math, and discovered that with the amount I was spending all I would need to do is redirect these funds to high return stocks and in a mere 15 years, with discipline and austerity, I would finally have enough for a down payment on a used 1998 hatch back. Which of course dropped me into a deep disgust for our world but I felt much better about myself.

It Is Worth the Trouble: depending on how you measure it.

The first time I graduated I didn’t “walk”. I took my last final on a Friday and on Saturday morning I moved 5 states away. I stayed away for seven years. I was jaded and disgruntled and just wanted to get out and to be done. I wasn’t sure my degree was “worth it”.fromthestage

The second time I graduated I sat through two ceremonies, walked in one,  and I milked everything I could out of all of it. I wanted more. I loved it.IMG_9247

Now I have the opportunity to sit up on stage at graduation ceremonies every year and it gives me a moment to pause and reflect at the differences between my first and second ceremonies. Or rather, compare my attitude relating to the two educational experiences.

What I have learned from this reflection is at the heart of why I do my job.IMG_4375

What I learned is that I did it all wrong the first time. The worst part is that I didn’t know I had done it wrong till I did it the second time.

I had done it all wrong and because of that I didn’t think it had been worth it. I worked hard, and scrimped and scratched to pay for it, and I needed a degree to get a job, and sure I learned some stuff in there and I definitely needed a job, but in the end I felt spent and it was almost as if any real lessons I had learned were in spite of, rather than because of, school.IMG_7487

Then, thinking I was only pursuing career advancement in a trade school sort of way, I went to school again and it was as if fireworks, a choir of angels, and all the possible light bulbs surrounded me in glittering explosions of song and light.

I was risking more, spending ten times more, and it was the most wonderfully indulgent experience imaginable.

And because of it, I am happier every day after, than I was any day before.procession

That happiness is how I measure worth.

Education is worth it… when you do it right.

School is worth it.

Worth, all of it.

That is why I love my job. There are things about my job that are hard, that are drudgery, that frustrate me to no end, but I love it because I can feign some wisdom from what I have learned along the way and I can help others know how to do it right the first time.

You can do it right the first time.

Happy graduation season everyone!

In the Studio: Leatherhead Sports

Leatherhead Sports makes hand made footballs and rugby balls. They are the coolest. I thought they should have an illustration equally as cool.












I like to think Leyendecker would be flattered.

The Letter on My Chest: Hillflint

I once spent a day in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania. I was doing research on the history of American football, focusing on its roots as an elitist quasi military ivy league creation and then its metamorphosis into a blue collar American religion. In the course of investigation I was able to handle a number of artifacts of various type and description, but my favorite item, was a sweater.sweater stuff

After handling this 100 year old piece of knitwear, woven back in those primitive times, I was a bit surprised at how hard it was to find one of like quality today. I started in my own college’s bookstore, one of those misnamed retailers of pennants and polo shirts but no dice. Plenty of t-shirts, but no classic P. In my various travels and continued research I was able to find some schools with similar items, but not the one I wanted. I looked everywhere. Lots of sweaters, but not the right one.

Then there was the internet and this one website. Hillflint.

I found it and finally, over the holiday, I got it.


The letter was not a felted applique patch but rather an intarsia knit letter woven right into the chest, just like the original I found in the archive.


The little bit of branding in the waistband was their own touch but I liked it. This was not a jersey meant to be worn on Franklin Field, it was a sweater meant to be pulled over a button down on a crisp campus afternoon. Or in my case, a California evening when it dips down to the unheavenly temperature of 60 degrees.

Smacking the Ivy Off Each Other

These young men and women will one day, one day very soon, be managing huge hedge funds, litigating at the largest firms, and take their place among the country’s best and brightest.

Last Saturday they spent the night punching each other in the face in front of a cheering crowd.

sign out front

Every year the students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business square off against the law school for Philly Fight Night. The proceeds from the event go to the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia, this year they raised $90,000, but that isn’t why people go. We went to watch ivy league kids punch each other in the face.


Missushammas and I sat down with our programs and began picking our horses. Lets see… Matt “American Psycho” Magan 170 lbs. vs Konstantin “the Doctor” Gromov 195 lbs. I pick Gromov. Samuel Rech from Italy vs. Zach Garland from Texas? Look at the picture, Sam is too pretty, and he’s from Italy? Zach all the way. And so it goes on down the line, us predicting winners based on pictures and nicknames. Then the lights go down and the music starts. We are ready for them to rumble.


Fight night is only 60% fighting and 40% dramatic entrances.  As fighters names are called we watched  entourages of dancers, military processions, and skits usually including the fighter knocking out a crowd of mean looking stooges. When the bell rings it is obvious more time went into the entrances than the fighting.

Oh the fighting.cheers

I call it video game fighting. At the bell the two fighters approach each other and begin flailing wildly as if someone is blindly hitting the Xbox buttons as fast as they can. Such fights end in one of two ways, dramatic knockout in the first round, or two fighters exhausted and leaning on each other after one minute of action.

The first three fights were knockouts.bowtie and sparkly

After 8 fights I picked six right, the Mrs. only one. I beamed with pride as I am rarely right when the two of us shirtsThe next day I was asked “were there any good fights?” There was one. Do not get me wrong, there were lots of entertaining fights, but those are not the same as good fights. The last bout squared off Mark Wales of Australia vs Giancarlo Albelice of the United States Marine Corps. There were no windmill punches or corkscrew whiffs, but rather heads moving side to side and jabs. Two heavyweights actually boxing. It was beautiful. boxersThe American won. He looked a little less skilled but was much more the  aggressor. This was a vulgar crowd that appreciated offense over defense, power over finesse. And we, my date and I, appreciated it all.tie guy

History Class

I recall conversations in my home state and in my house about whether or not MLK Day should be an official holiday.

There would be argument over whether or not celebrating anything dealing with race made race issues worse (because acknowledging the existence of race is obviously bad), does our economy need another day off, and should we celebrate a philanderer. Discussions would waffle back and forth with no clear winner till someone would bring up communism. At the mention of that C-word a hush would fall. Everyone would stare out to nowhere, not having any available retort. Communism was the civil rights trump card. There was no available defense of being a communist.


In the mind of people engaging in this discussion, communism was real. These were Vietnam or cold war veterans. These were bootstrap capitalist republicans. These were people who fought against the red scare, not for fear of losing some personal economic empire, I never met an industrial titan, but they were people afraid of losing the personal liberty they treasured. These men wore Army green to defend rights of religion, rights of personal property, and the right to be left alone. These were people who remember that fight.

These were not the ones who fought against black people. These were people who watched the civil rights movement on TV. These are the ones who watched the fire hoses, did nothing, but still felt fulfilled by watching the Cosby Show around the same television set. These were of course, most white people.

Not the take a stand George Wallace type of white people, but the “isn’t that crazy stuff happening way over there?” type of white people. In the lives of these white folks, black people were on TV, communists were lurking around every corner. These paranoid white people live in places like: Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Dakotas; maybe Vermont and Maine. There are more of them than most people think.

These are people who have maybe met one black person, that one time, and know nothing of black history or culture. In fact they don’t even think those things do or should exist. “We are all Americans,” they say, adding that all this hyphenating business is causing divisions.

You see the funny thing about a hypocrite is that most don’t realize when they are one.

Just last week I sat in a class of graduate students in history at an elite university and listened as the students expressed shock and wonder at how violent Jim Crow life was for black people. These are the people who intend to write history books. These are the educated. These are people who don’t really appreciate how bad it was. These budding historians aren’t the one’s I’m accusing of being hypocritical, but just like the armchair philosophers of my memory, they didn’t, and still don’t really appreciate how bad it was. Many don’t appreciate or even know how bad it still is.

This is where it could make a difference.

If an American of any color can realize how violent and oppressive life was under Jim Crow, they would realize that a black communist wasn’t plotting the destruction of American freedoms, they were struggling to gain freedom of their own, and not some philosophical ideological freedom, but the simple, tangible, day-to-day right to decide one’s own destiny; or at least the right to try.

What those of the fading generation never fully appreciated was the extent to which the freedoms they loved were denied to black Americans. Kelley and McDuffie do a good job in their books laying out the systems of oppression that spurred some black individuals’ embrace of Marxist communism. There were people like Queen Mother Moore who in the communist movement found the educational opportunities America had denied her, Maude White who found philosophical support as well as career fulfillment, and many others from city domestics to field laborers. There were millions of people who for hundreds of years had been systematically and violently denied the rights that men in the previous generation donned a uniform to defend.

But these men rarely saw this. They had selective vision. They often changed the channel.

If these individuals can realize this about themselves,  how much more understanding would they be of people like Maude White, Langston Hughes, or MLK when those people “changed the channel” when it came to Soviet atrocities? How much more understanding would the religiously conservative people of my youth be, of black communism if they knew they held meetings in churches and saw no contradiction in it? Queen Mother Moore was not the same as Mao Tse Tung.

In recent years I have watched protesters gather in American cities to take a stand against the growth of government and it’s potential to trample their liberties. I have heard loud leaders warn of the potential citizen’s disenfranchisement that will follow the cloaked “socialism” of Obama. I have heard this and I have watched people believe it. They seem to miss the irony that they have mobilized over e felt disenfranchisement, while they refuse to appreciate that someone else would have a desire to mobilize over enforced disenfranchisement.

Would some of these modern conservative activists be less fearful of Eric Holder’s youthful flirtation with communism if they knew more about the communist party’s work on behalf of the Scottsboro Boys? Would they be more open to black activists with a socialist past if they appreciated that the communist party had schools for Alabama laborers while the local police burned Black schools down?

There is in the conservative white popular culture, the idea that communism, in either its current form or in American history, takes hold mostly in the mind of spoiled college kids who are immature and have little to no appreciation for the freedoms they enjoy. It is assumed that these anti establishment youth are ignorant of the evil deeds carried out by Pol Pot, and ignorant of the real life suffering thousands of citizens faced under such regimes. It is assumed that these tender footed youth don’t know what it is like to carry a rifle in defense of free speech; which brings me back to hypocrisy.

Perhaps information and perspective have little to no effect on politics. Perhaps empathy and understanding don’t naturally spring from new knowledge. But if those calling others ignorant can realize the history they themselves are ignoring, they will at least have the opportunity to be ignorant intentionally. Maybe some individuals would adjust their views, or change what it is they advocate for, or maybe not. Either way an individual would be exposed for what or who they are. Erik McDuffie explains that the feminist communist leaders in America’s past saw themselves apart from others who fought for civil rights in that the others were treating the symptoms of poverty and racism, while they themselves were combating the cause of those things. That is what educating the people from my MLK Day memory would do; attack the cause not the symptom.

It is more than arguable that a mass understanding of Black communism in American history wouldn’t make a consequential difference in today’s political condition. I argue that if the masses were better informed, in a deep and substantial way, then those who wish to move those masses will be better equipped to do so. At least it would be an informed discussion. The majority of American’s sat on sofas not Greyhounds. It may be argued inaction equals endorsement, but from those sofas they watched Martin Luther King’s plea to judge an individual by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The people I knew, despite their distance in both geography and ideology, took this to heart. There exist good people who get “it” wrong, because they think communism is a way to judge someone by their character. Civil rights leaders did not choose to be Black, many whites know that they know nothing of what it means to be Black, but they think they know what it means to be a communist.

For them, this makes a difference.