Sunday, August 28, 2011

Familiar Footing

Arrived to the gin-clear water of a quiet medium-sized New Hampshire lake.  The Orvis jacket has lived there longer than I can remember.  A pair of LL Bean mocs, flip-flops, and boat shoes are the only footwear I take.  The Bean mocs are useless on wet wooden stairs and logs, but brilliant on granite faces of enormous rocks.  At quarter to six in the morning, young Jr. awoke with the declaration that it was time to "make something".  "The only hardwood we have is firewood" I told him.
"Okay, we'll use that!"
"Uhh... Okay. We can do that."
The woodshop is where many generations have crafted the replacement planks for docks and buildings, forged iron hinges, repaired caned seats, and every manner of repair imaginable, often completed to unnecessarily fine detail.

Small lads can cut a line steadier than one expects when using a coping saw.  A pencil line makes a good guide.  The gratification of a rasp, a file, and a few planers comes easily to new woodworkers.

Young hands learn the joy of concentration and the pleasure in craft of using hand tools. Chisels and a club mallet make a straight line, even though they were new to him.

 Fitting the mallet head and driving the wedge in elicit young smiles and reward the patient planing and (well-supervised) chiseling.

A rag of Minwax and the summer sun cure the creation.  Here, it rests on the bench we made in ten minutes using a bow saw and a hand auger.  The mallet spent hours cracking acorns, smashing ants, "cidering" crab apples, and pulping weeds.
A sail towards the swimming island where we anchor astern and tie the bow ashore to jump off the high sheer rocks, my bare nancy feet griping about the granite during the first two days.

Mumma and Papa Loon teach their two young how to fish and swim.  We had the same plan.

A grapnel for throwing to shore trees, a mushroom for mud and muck, a Navy for sand and rock, and two Danforth styles for sand and gravel.  With these in the hold, we can land in any of the lake-bottom's personalities.

Spliced eyes and toggles are a project to pass time, but are indispensable for large coils of line, rolled towels, hanging picnic bags, and nearly anything else.

Water sparkles with sunlight from lunch until sunset, and on the VERY rare morning when the water is not glass-smooth, Jr. and I enjoy the opportunity for a six o'clock sail in the rainy gusts while others sleep.

One never outgrows a love for water, and a restless thumping in the chest propels adults of all ages to climb to the top of the granite edge and leap into the clear deep, feeling the water in the nose and bubbles past the face that haven't changed since the first life-vested panic-filled jump as a tot.  I use the same words of encouragement this year for mine (from the lower ledge) and the giggle is distinct when the heads surface, gasping with surprise and relief.  Boys and girls of summer.  They are full steam until the dinner spread, with a thirty second transition to twelve hours of snoring, and only then do I uncork the bottle.  Other boats appear at the dock, and friends stroll up to the house with their bottles and a years worth of news to share.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer White, I'll Miss You

One thing I always miss after summer is the tropical white jacket.  Usually in a cream or ivory, there is something very pleasant about them, and it's not just the aesthetic of the contrast.  When you wear the summer "[off] white", you are constantly reminded of the nagging ticking clock, the mercilessly turning calendar pages, and the very real sense of season.  You are forced to confront the temporary momentness of it all and indulgantly absorb it while you can.
I had the tailor repress the lapels by over an inch to tame them... the idea is a look of "as light as possible".  Not only should it be light and cool, but it shouldn't make people sweat just by looking at it.  Summers in cooler places do better with the heavier silks, wider lapels, or wools which are stifling in a hot city.

The jacket is a true ivory color, though in this image it looks a washed out white in the late day sun.  What do you expect?  I use my phone for all the pictures.  Aint no artsy photographist.

The lush gardens at their peak, the fresh peas and corn, and of course, the rum and tonic... all provide me (and most others) with an unexpected kick to the skull when I look down and see that July has evaporated again.  My stomach prickles with the fear/guilt that I let it escape somehow as if I'm sitting in summer's bistro, and a half-finished plate of splendid moments gets taken from me by the waiter/calendar when I turn my head.  "But I was just getting started!" It's a souring admission of self-swindle.

You can fill in the blank:  "Late August? But... but...I never got the chance to______________."

I have a madras cummerbund that I only wear in summer, which requires VERY slow walking because of the abdominal insulation it provides.  All the pleats angle upward, and hide under the jacket for the evening, visible only when walking with an unbuttoned jacket... a feeble attempt at self-cooling.  Tall black socks are needed for black tie, but begrudgingly worn in summer as ankles turn into diva nudists sometime in late June.

A pair of London-bespoke shoes specifically for city black-tie and the half-lining of the light-weight dinner jacket make it tolerable.  My gorgeous evening-gowned date was stunning and turned heads as she sipped her Ward Eight... how she ever agreed to marry me several years ago is anyone's guess.  She doesn't wince when I order calves liver, and she insists that we start every meal with cocktails and a tray of fresh oysters at the bar.  By the time we leave after dessert, she has organically charmed several people into new genuine friendships, and they will be invited to the next party where she'll greet them beaming and attentively.

More difficult to find are the more-to-very yellow dinner jackets, and I openly love them.

When the seasonal nostalgia gets too much during a crappy winter, the solution is shameless, simple, and fun:  A party with a summer/tropical/cruise theme stipulating that men MAY wear their summer dinner jackets.  Granted, it's depressing when you head back out into the snow at evening's end, but sometimes a little self-deception/fakery* is needed.

*The life-force of men's style blogs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reader Question: Mixing Seersucker

"Dear Yankee Whisky Papa. What are your thoughts on mixing seersucker pattern? I don't have a seersucker suit but I do have a jacket and different pants."

I have a seersucker suit in tan and white, and a few odd pants and jackets myself.  I had never actually tried to mix them actively, though not from fear of fashion police or Levitican law... I guess I had just never done it.  

I thought the two patterns actually worked out well.

I have an old 1980's tie from Thomas Pink that got along just fine, and a Polo shirt I got for next to nothing at the old Filene's Basement.

"How do you pull of an outfit with mis-matched patterns?" The young and easily offended daughter of a prominent coffee family asked.
"Oh, don't worry... they are pulled off much easier than they are put on." Uncle Max said, shamelessly preying upon the generations-younger lady, "But I'll probably need help with the cuff links." 
His mischievous wink was enough to send her away until the next party when her social amnesia* kicked in.

*Social amnesia has many synonyms.  Some call it friendly forgiveness, or use the phrase "all well by doubles", meaning that the next day, you forget whatever inelegance is spouted and unless it was overly cruel, you put it immediately behind you and don't mention it during your doubles tennis game.  Since I don't play tennis, I have to forgive such things immediately.

More Dog-piling

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Catalog Agenda Adenda ***Update***


 A few items arrived through the mail slot recently caught my eye... but not necessarily in a good way.

LL Bean's Signature series catalog is chock-full of odd ideas tuned flat in their presentation.  I still have no idea what they are going for.

This dress/sock/shoe combination lets men know that there will be no sinful hand-holding before marriage, and when this gal is "legal", the same men should expect to father no fewer than twelve children. Also, you'll have to move out west.

When I go sailing, I tend to NOT invite the creepy guy from the truck rental garage.

 Though duck season is still well away, this outfit will let others know that you enjoy paddling around lakes and ponds before being patronizingly tolerated at the local un-picturesque general store.  You've been in three times this summer, but mysteriously can't seem to be treated like a local.

- - - - - -

From Ralph Lauren, their catalog seems to be a bit all over the map.

The guy reassures young preppy aspirants that wearing jeans with a shirt and tie is not stupid, not passé, and still very *yawn* original.  The gal reminds us that the 8000 square foot "ranch house" dad has just outside of Sante Fe is a great place to "just hang out and focus on my art".  After three months, the "art" will have yet to materialize, but you "were at least able to make some great contacts in the local galleries".

"Can you believe that someone was just going to throw this old tablecloth away?"  Apparently, the image team was overcome with J.Crew catalog (circa 1990) nostalgia.  Some things are timeless... including fungi and communicable diseases.


Though not unattractive, LL Bean Signature is now dabbling the agenda towards the ambiguous English-overcast-estate-aesthetic.  Make no mistake: I'd chat her up, but those shoes on that soggy ground is patently anti-LL Bean... a direct rib against Yankee sensibility and practicality.  Put her in some manure-encrusted Wellies, and you're onto something.

- - - - - - 

Finally,  Brooks Brothers sent me this catalog for their children's line.  The agenda is harmlessly eye-roll inducing.


 I chose NOT to publish the more obvious picks, but many of the images, especially those of the young girls, are approaching inappropriate maturity renderings.  The looks are a bit too Lolita/Jon Benet Ramsey for this parent's tolerances, but such is the burden of a father.

Am I being too reaching?  How about $70 cotton pants for your 10 year old?  Expensive white pants on a young boy... what could possibly go wrong?  Foolish.  

In case anybody was still not fully aboard:

Many of the clothes are actually cute/handsome, but the prices are naive and the agenda of the publication is the age-old catalog ploy: carefully construct an attractive world, and offer ambitious readers a piece of it... for a price.  That is what advertising is.  Use your unsuspecting children as dress-up dolls for your fulfillment and maybe you can rid yourself of some of that pesky money in the process.

I suppose that the entire thing would be far more tolerable if the prices were a bit more proportionate to the life-expectancy of the garment.  While I like the push to get children into non-athletic clothing for daily wear, the Brooks Brothers Fleece (yes, that's the actual name) seems to come off a bit too angled for me... and at no bargain.  The name, however, is hilariously appropriate.

As for LL Bean Signature, I would be curious to hear the snake-oil sales pitch that claimed to identify the demographic to whom this must be targeted.  Can somebody - anybody - please make sense of this?  I am unable to decipher the slant here. 


When I arrived home this evening, a new Brooks Brothers "Back To Campus, Back To Town" catalog had arrived.  In what can only be described as brain-exploding conspiracy-level twists, just as Lady Aldrich began taking the collective pulse of fellow unsatisfied LL Bean enthusiasts (myself included) one page of the Brooks Brothers booklet seemed to flip this entire thing around once more.

While LL Bean seems to be going for a new look, here we see that Brooks Brothers is actually going for the LL Bean look.  Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?  What the hell is going on?