Friday, October 14, 2011

Practical Clothing and the Subtle Landscape

An extended weekend with clear blue skies and warm air was well-timed.  The moment was seized with leisurely drive out of the city to half-day at a fair where ribbons of varying colors had been awarded to all manner of vegetable, animal, and flower.  A sunflower head the size of a small tire sat near a pumpkin that weighed nearly a ton.  A booth sizzled away with an aroma that was magnetic... battered and deep-fried peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.  Twinkies and Oreos battered and fried?  Yes.  Hell yes.  Battered and fried cheesecake?  I'm listening.  Thankfully, Mrs. and the others were off looking at the exotic ducks, because I knew the face she would make if she saw me consuming batter-dipped deep-fried dessert on a stick.

"We fry all of it, Sir" the man in the apron told me.  The small spotted scars on his hands and forearms told me that he had plenty of experience dropping things into hot cooking fat.  

"I wish I had known that" I said. "I had a bacon cheeseburger earlier.  I could have had you fry it" I sighed.

"I would have, Sir" he said.

Neither of us were joking.

Onward to New Hampshire for a last weekend on the fresh spring-fed glacial lake.  Swamp maples always turn first.  Some call them swamp fires, because of the brilliant red leaves that appear first in autumn.

That Monday was the popular trubute to that Johnny-come-lately Chris Columbus... I'm of the Leif Ericson doctrine.  Would that make it a Valholiday?  I know, dumb joke.

 This might be what the Abenaki and the first settlers saw when they hunted and fished.  The marshes turn early in autumn, and the cooler temperature bring the trout back to the more shallow depths.

A patch ironed onto the inside of a rip.  Boat shoes are preferred for pulling docks from the water and I have not fallen in since 2007.  My day will come again.  On the last boating day of the season, I decided to go for one last swim.  I climbed onto the stern of the boat and plunged into the HOLY %#*@$! THIS WATER IS COLD for a bracing swim.

 A sweater that is older than me and lives at the lake. A shirt I've had since high school, with a hopelessly fletched collar.  Don't let other blogs fool you... this logo was not considered cool throughout the late 80's and into the 90's.

Season's last family paddle.

[Above photo zoomed in]

On the drive back to the city...
 Landscape's beacon.

Public Library 

 Architectural flourishes are actually very practical features.

The HQ of the iconic magazine.

The New England landscape is not wild.  The nucleated villages are specifically laid out.  Houses built before the 1800's had central chimneys and faced south to absorb as much sunlight as possible.  Only after the classical revival period (1815 - 1825) did the end-gables face the streets.  The woods you see are not the wild virgin forest we often assume.  Vast acreage of southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts were once cleared for farming.  Laboriously assembled stone walls still line many property lines along the road, originally laid after two or more seasons of painfully excavating the stones.

Sturdy maple trees also line the road, but they were planted there to make tapping easier, as syrup makers prefer not to wander all over the woods changing buckets.  Now, the trees are connected with modern tubing, and the reservoir is emptied and reduced inside the home to create the desired grade of syrup.  Steeples are also the Yankee landscape's permanent beacons, and columns of smoke are visible year round in many parts.  Besides large highways, the landscape was not changed in any macro sense the way oxbows or the occasional dam alter things.

An autumn cocktail is made well with Maple bitters.  A bar in Central Square mixes it with Canadian whisky and lemon.  A colleague, who told me about the bar, appeared in the office in this soft herringbone suit.

Modern trends have made rye and bitters very popular again, and like three-piece suits and dressing intentionally, this trend resurrects what was once very common.  Not all trends are bad.  If your style doesn't change much, you will likely come in and out of "fashion" about every twelve years.  If you think tight high-water pants and sockless dress shoes are here to stay, you likely also think that the LL Bean Signature aesthetic is here to stay too.  Talk to me in five years.  If you think that the urban woodsman/lumberjerk look is permanent, you likely can't repair engines, can't load/shoot/clean a gun, and can't swing an axe.

Baked ham with maple glaze.  French-Canadian farmer's (meat) pie is topped with syrup.  My tie this morning also has a few spots of Grade A on it.


  1. What a beautiful setting! Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Your comment about Izod sweater made me laugh. My grandfather and uncles were golf pros and we always received Izod at discounted rates. I did not like sporting the croc then, but it was there and we had to wear it. :)

  2. What's fun is that if you live in certain places, certain styles will never go out of fashion. Maine Hunting Shoe, Carhartt felt-lined, fleece of any vintage, thinsulate gloves, Red Wings, heavy canvass: these were practically a uniform for me for about a decade and whenever I return to the place where that was true I find they remain current among all ages. Hence, perhaps, the quest for an authentic personal style that is immune to fashion without being insensible to it.

  3. Beautiful.

    I must tell you, Lacoste wasn't popular in the late 1970s-early 1980s period, either, when I was regularly persecuted by wrong-side-of-the-track townies for wearing Lacoste clothing and accused of being a dreaded "preppy". This happened in New Canaan, CT, of all places!

    If you think that the urban woodsman/lumberjerk look is permanent, you likely can't repair engines, can't load/shoot/clean a gun, and can't swing an axe.

    Haha!! Spot on. Too true.

  4. Your pictures are beautiful. I love seeing Yankee magazine (my father used to dine with Jud Hale) and I am trying to resist your "first settlers" reference (they were all my husband's ancestors). I laughed out loud at your "tight high-water pants and sockless dress shoes" comment, and I am impressed you haven't fallen in since 2007. I loved this.


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