Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Barometric Courage (A Rant)

When the barometer drops, so does our courage.

Boston was not hit hard, yet the "courageous" leaders saw fit to cancel just about everything.  Schools were empty, the financial district was a ghost town, and subways and buses were yarded.  This criticism extends to both private and public sectors, and to the the well-honed panic mechanisms in media who work everyone into a panic.  It was really the tsunami in Japan that made me realize that we are collectively, not the group we thought we were (or say we are).  As individuals, we may be resilient and self-reliant, but as a group, we are panicky dooms-dayers.  After the tsunami, the citizens of Japan pulled together and self-governed in the way that we wished we were capable of, and it was then that I realized that we were in denial.

The financial sectors in my city shut down as did most retail.  Yesterday, it was only the new citizens who had the backbone to open their businesses and to keep the gears of industry turning.  People who started businesses against all odds and oceans and green-card red-tape were standing behind their counters, ringing cash registers, etc., while the MBA's from the "best schools" cowered at home hoping that Skippy's treehouse would survive the wind and debris, and that their ESPN feed would not cut out.

We did not keep calm and did not carry on.  Commerce halted and our fragile spirits quivered.  Children were kept inside parked in front of televisions and parents called one another to foment panic and anxiety.  Don't wait for the city or town to clear the downed tree.  Don't wait for the cavalry or for Superman or for someone else.  Pull it together, organize your crumpled neighbors and get things moving again.  Take your ax  chainsaw, two-way radios, canoe, water filters, and anything else you have and put it to immediate use.  And for God's sake, save the generators for those who have medical needs requiring electricity, not for your damn coffee maker.  Unfortunately, communities often discourage self-reliance with radio and television telling us that it's too cold/wet/hot/humid/windy/dangerous/whatever to go outside.  If we're outside, we can't be in front of the TV or radio, and we will realize that it's never as bad as we are told.

There are plenty of people for whom the storm did much damage and do need a hand.  There is a reason that the early colonists didn't build their houses on the beach.

I had a conversation with a friend over at FEMA and one at NYC Transit.  They shed some light on it in a way I hadn't considered.  One told me that his theory was that people (governments and private sector) not actually in danger (Boston during the Hurricane) feel collectively left out of the action and want to feel like they are involved in either suffering or saving.  I think he's right.  Why spend time worrying about others and possibly feeling helpless or guilty from one's own inaction when you can trump up your own involvement to the point where you feel justified not assisting others?  Once again, the theme of selfishness and narcissistic obsession seems to explain plenty.  New Jersey and NYC are pretty screwed and need help immediately.  Many will need clothing as winter is arriving shortly.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sandy's Sand and Wind

The wind peaked on Thursday night.  We had to hold the rails to stay upright in during the fierce winds and moisture worked its way through a few of the newer "hurricane proof" windows.  Sometime during the wee hours, the winds stopped, then reversed to a more westerly blow with equal ferocity.

We walked the beach the next morning.  There were a few dead fish, but most disturbingly, were the plastics.  Bottle and drink tops littered the beach, not in thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but in the millions, giving me a feeling of hopeless anger.  What's worse, the seas had been so high that the coastal vegetation had acted as a catch for all of the plastics in the surf, blown in from the southern Atlantic, like baleen straining out krill as the sea retreated.  I had seen pollution similar to it on the island of Bonaire's windward side (called "plastic beach") where years of large and small plastics had washed ashore and fully concealed the actual sand on the beach.  It was surreal and horrifying, and that didn't even account for the unseen micro-plastics.

Cuban coffee in Coral Gables after the storm.  A large cup of hot milk to which you add the desired coffee (in the silver).  They make it from finely ground Arabica beans and add more sugar than is advisable.  You could say that I was alert for the next several hours.

I taught junior to make a coconut candle.

 Below, the beach was reduced to a fraction of its original size.  Several large sections of Bahamian cactus washed ashore as well, but plastics were the sickening majority.

A stairway to the beach was buried in several feet of sand.  The small white table top to its right is a standing desk where staff hand out towels to beach goers.  It was under several feet of sand and awash with sea.  Some areas were completely covered in sand from three to six feet deep.

The construction at home has been completed, so we head northward to Boston today to face Sandy for second half of her tour.  Hopefully, she'll spin out before causing too much harm.  The skies are cloudless but very windy today and the large Atlantic swells are still rolling into southern Florida.  I am a storm magnet, Dave T.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another Casualty of Casual

***Getting CRUSHED by the storm here in Miami today.  
Palm trees bending and their fronds pointing away from the wind 
as if they're in a speeding convertible. Rain works it's way under doors 
and into closed windows.  We are hunkered down 
in the cocktail lounge.  No rationing so far.


From the Boston Globe, October 22, 2012
By Brian McGrory, Globe Staff

Excerpt (with emphasis added):

Here’s what I was faced with,” Ray continued. “I had a choice. Make Locke-Ober more casual, lower our standards to conform with the way society is today, or I could close it. I could close it with its history and its dignity intact. Because, frankly, it looked as good as it’s ever looked. The service was good, and the food was good."

"It’s unfortunate,” Ray continued. “It’s bittersweet for me. I’ve owned it since 1978."

But the reality, Ray has learned over the past decade or more, is that Boston has changed, often for the better, but not always so. An increasingly younger city is on a constant search for the next new thing, restaurants being no exception. Formality, here as everywhere, is a thing of the past.

Read the rest here.


We were enthusiastic regulars and will miss it dearly.  What's worse than losing it is that which killed it after holding on for 137 years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Coat Drive

If you find yourself in Boston on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7pm, come by:

The Sail Loft
80 Atlantic Ave.
Boston, Mass. 02110

Please come out to join good friends for an evening of cocktails, conversation, and most importantly coat donations for those in need.
We are gathering to collect clean, usable, and warm winter coats of all sizes for those in need in the Boston area. 

Please take a moment to look through your closet to find a gently used coat or two that would be of use to someone that is going without this season. I am sure we can all easily find at least one or two coats that we wouldn't miss, and someone else might treasure.

We are collecting coats of all sizes, genders, ages etc. Please bring anything that is usable that you would be able to pass along to someone in need.

This coat drive will be benefiting Bay Cove Human Services here in Boston, and the "One Warm Coat" initiative nationally.

More information on these organizations can be found at:

Nothing wasted on overhead for this event.  No frills, no fancy.  If you are not near Boston, locate something near you and donate a coat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reader Questions

A tropical storm pattern is again ruining a spearfishing trip for me, so once again, the spiny lobster, grouper, hogfish and the invasive lionfish are temporarily safe.  The sun is still out and warm, but the seas are growing everyday and the wind pipes away.  We drove up to a spot just south of Ft. Lauderdale where the activity undersea had been good lately.  When the guide dropped us off over the second reef, I held my breath and dove down following a small yellow line we had marked to the floor at 30 or so feet.  The visibility was a frustrating fluctuation between only five and ten feet with the silt and churn.  On the surface, we bobbed up and down on five-to-eight foot swells.  My purchased permits became a mere donation to the state (happily).  Bad day for us, but the suicidal kite boarders were in fine form.  Even the grackles, gulls, and the pelicans have gone into hiding.

Some reader questions from this week:


Yankee Whisky,
What, if any, accessories do you like? Specifically wrists and necks.



Dear Reader,
While I generally require that all of my reader questions begin with gushing praise of my blog, I will set aside this rule to answer your question.

Beyond a watch or the occasional outdoor event bracelet which allows me access to the drinks tent, I don't have a taste for accessories at all.  If you have something that you like, or is meaningful to you, by all means wear it.

Speaking of wrist accessories, I imagine that recycling centers are seeing a lot more of these in the past few days:

What a putz.


Dear YWP, 

I have been enjoying your blog for some months now and look forward to each new posting. I have a sincere question for you. How do YOU pronounce patina? I have been told that my putting the accent on the first syllable as any proper Anglophile would, is wrong and makes me seem a pretentious ass. I must note, I AM a pretentious ass, albeit a broke one. Nevertheless, I just cannot bear to pronounce one of my favorite words like one would pronounce the nickname of small child. I appreciate your ruling on this.

Douglas in Philadelphia 



The leverage that this was given originated in part from Paul Fussell's book Class, which said that the pronunciation of this word was a sure-fire indicator of class.  Unfortunately, like many points in his book, it is inaccurate.

I usually try to infuriate as many people as possible by avoiding emphasis on certain syllables. I also try to pronounce it differently in different situations to confuse further.  You can actually pronounce it with neutrality with practice. If the audience expects one way, I go the other. It's tricky, but it can be done.
Does this answer your question?


***Note: As of earlier this year, Fussell is dead.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dress Code in The French 25%

Or is it French 1/4?

During my few days in New Orleans, my only free time is usually dinner.  On this trip, I took a colleague over to the stodgy old Galatoires ("Gal-uh-TWAs") for a nice French Creole meal.  When I couldn't decide between a Martini and a glass of bourbon, the gentleman serving us suggested "Why not one of each, sir?".  Done.

The rack of jackets available for under-dressed male patrons.  
Notice how many were in use by the number of empty hangers.

A pneumatic press assists the formation of Connecticut shade-wrapped 
Nicaraguan filler on Bourbon St.

There are better restaurants elsewhere, but the deep wear and soul (I almost said 'patina' again) on this place made me think of Locke-Ober back home: old, traditional, a little stuffy, but still pretty fun .  Though they require jackets on men, they sadly allow jeans and sneakers.  You'll also find smartly dressed elderly patrons drinking liquor, laughing, and being lovingly fussed over by the wait staff.  Next to us, two women in their mid-eighties with perfect hair, smart suits, and conservatively worn pearls sipped gin and told each other stories in a beautifully southern patois.

The next night, a chef friend of mine gave me more food than was sensible at the kitchen table of
Revolution.  Very pricey but since I was his guest, I avoided the pain of the bill.  They know exactly what they're doing in the kitchen.  For atmosphere though, I prefer Galatoires.


Next post will be from southern Florida, where we are hiding out while the staircase is torn up and replaced.  I hope that the majority of the loud construction directly disrupts certain neighbors of mine.

Hopefully, the new devices I procured will allow us some fresh grouper off the Atlantic coast.  I am guaranteed to get a sunburn, and hopefully not a spear through my own foot or a shallow-water blackout.

Because this is a men's style blog, I want you to be under the false impression that my entire time there will be like the guy below watching the regatta.  

In reality, I will be the inelegant and disproportionately pale guy asking his wife to spray him with another shellacking of SPF 30, but I won't tell anybody that part, and neither should you.  Deal?

More old images here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

East Coasting Southward

A benefit for the (sadly underfunded) Boston Mounted Police held in Hamilton, Mass.  Too rainy for an actual game of polo, but the youngsters were allowed to crack the balls around.


In a federal office, a painting depicts a Cold War building.  When I looked closer, I saw a charming 
(and unlikely) detail.


 In Topsfield, the blue ribbon went to this picturesque little bonsai.

The train ride to New York City was fast, but the obnoxious cellphone conference calls were all around me.  In the city, I stumbled across this group while working my way in and out of the
spots on West 44th.

A college friend (and bourbon-pushing host) has keys to Gramercy Park.  He took me through and gave me the last three years of gossip concerning the politics of the place.  Fascinating.

A lunch with (The Trad) Tin-Tin, who served great wine and great food.  He was as much the gentleman as I had imagined.  Sharp wit, attentive host, and an all-around fun guy.
At Penn Station, I saw this Anglo-clad gent waiting his train as well.

A heavy new jacket, gift from Plum.  Thick and thorn-proof and warm beyond reason.  He took me in and out of some excellent restaurants near Clinton Hill.  I like bars and restaurants that offer very little choice.  Gigantic menus are a turn-off for me, and I often leave the choices to the server or the chef.

Bartenders are always put off when I order "something to drink" but refuse to specify even the category.  "Beer?  Wine?  Liquor?  Sir, you have to narrow it down."  Since I like nearly everything, I'm easy.  "You're the professional" I tell them, "I'd like something to drink".

We Americans have too much choice, and we limit the richness of our experiences by constantly customizing our food and drink environments.  Next time you're in a restaurant, order "something to drink and something to eat" and see what they bring you.  Sure, they'll protest at first, but you'll be better for the experience.

In DC now, en route to New Orleans for dinner at the dress code mandated Galatoires.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Play Your Cads Right

Having grown up in unfortunately close proximity to several spoiled and worthless lumps, I have had the displeasure of knowing them now as adults.  The type is unavoidable in city life: man-children who grew up in consequence-free environments, perpetually unhappy yet striving to fulfill the unfulfillable, and endlessly revolving in a worn-out formula of social interaction and long-fatigued charm.  In doses, they can be alright for an evening, but they quickly burn through the good graces of their once-reputable family name and (wrongfully) the courtesies extended to them because of legacy.

On a recent occasion, I had the odd experience of somehow agreeing to join one particular man-child to his house in the city following a late arts event.  As a group, we walked from the event to his two floors in a nice old city home.  We were a group of five men, and all but one had successfully avoided the after-invite to his place for drinks for almost a decade.  For reasons known only to gin, I relented, and made the trip that thousands before me had.

Once inside, he encouraged us to make ourselves "at home" while he mixed up some drinks.  We were getting the more casual treatment; had there been women present, he would have activated his routine, which was notorious and predictable.  His house was a once-large but now cluttered cave.  His parents had left him the majority of their collection, and he jammed everything into his two floors.  Stacks of precious English porcelain unused in decades, framed artwork older than his building stood in fours and fives on the floor behind his large doors and camel-back couches, and more silver than imaginable awkwardly crowded every available surface.  Cardboard wine boxes were stacked in the pantry, partially opened, and his entryway was jammed with groaning bookshelves and about forty umbrellas.

The Rake's Progress

Countless women have fallen prey to his "charm" but once back at his place, only the drunk, dedicated,  or ultra-wonk art worlders stay for the final act, the majority being scared off by the evidence.

Parents and grandparents who establish trust funds for their progeny should always include strict incentives and conditions for personal, academic, charitable, or professional development.  As I sat on his dusty couch, one of the men in our group leaned over and said

"This guy's had life on a silver platter, but nobody can sit at his dining room table because of all those silver platters". [***Blogger's Note: the silver was stacked haphazardly and tarnished nearly black].

He was right.  Once the trust account began making distributions to the man, he gave up.  What's worse, it is obvious that his trust was meant as a supplement to income.  When he says that he "is on the club's board" he is right.  What he doesn't tell you is that since most clubs occasionally resort to posting a list of persona non grata for unpaid bills, he is listed there.  So yes, he is on the board, but on the bulletin board.

He sees himself as a romanticized man of leisure, but he doesn't have the personality, the commitment, the actual knowledge, or the resources to pull it off.  He rides the coattails of his parents and grandparents, referring to their country or seaside houses as "my place on the coast".

One woman told me that she agreed to go back to his place for "one last drink" following an elegant charity ball about a year ago.  She pointed to the spoked ship's helm leaning against a wall, and asked from what boat it originated.

 "Oh, it's from my boat", he said.

"So... how do you steer the boat now?" she asked, setting a quick trap that would determine her exit speed.

"We actually sold it a few years ago" he said.

"We?" she asked.

"My parents and I together" he said.

She confirmed that he was a man-child there and then, and she showed herself out amidst his protests.

Why do I write all of this?  Not because he has languished on several pseudo-academic and museum boards contributing nothing and forcing others to carry his weight.  Not because he never pays the bills he lavishly runs up.  Not because he buzzes the same cocktail parties every year and angers his hostesses.  I write this because he stuck me with the bill for the second time in the most crafty way possible.  If it had not been me, I would have applauded the chess-like maneuver, but I was bested by a cad.

As I write this, I can also think of a fast dozen or so who fit this description.