Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Humidity Bouncing

Island hopping around the territories and a few off the grid.  A vehicle full of beautifully uniformed lady officers (US) picked us up... their hair wound tightly into neatly pinned buns under their pulled-low hats.  Seattle, Kansas, Miami, and San Diego birthplaces for each of them, and all smart as whips and as tough as nails.  I love women who can qualify with a .50 caliber.

A seaplane functions as a commuter craft and remains out of the scope of inspection and supervision of the FAA, making the out-of-market gypsy flights fun and forehead sweat-inducing.

Seashell hunting in the late afternoon with Jr., who found me a nice paperweight for my (temporary) tropical office.  The air conditioning has been left in the OFF position, and the humid salty air swirls across the desk and fills the sun-lit office.  All bedroom windows and doors stay open throughout the night as well.  Mojitos made with mint and basil leaf, and lightly sweetened with brown sugar make me question human existence as I once understood it.

We ran into some friends from Boston, and the children played together for the day.  When we dumped the bucket of collected shells out for a poolside examination, two shells began quickly scurrying away, making the children squeal with laughter.

Mrs. had a custom made hat in a tiny child's size to keep Jr.'s head protected from the heavy sun. Under $40, and some complimentary coconut candy.

A bucket of slowly collected shells were threaded onto dental floss to make a necklace for a favorite teacher back in Boston.  Patience, son.

Tan and summer-weight checked suits all around, and in the old cities, everyone (but the tourists) dresses well.  Elsewhere (and far off the grid) roadside barbecued pork on a skewer runs me $1 from a wood-fired grill, and my sailing knife stays nervously on my belt when I venture to the beaches sporatically prowled by neglected ribby dogs.  In some areas, the pristine and deserted beaches should be approached skeptically as local desperation has recently made them occasionally unsafe.  The best restaurants have ugly cheap plastic furniture, florescent lighting, open walls, and fantastic food.  You are also likely to find well-dressed theater goers, politicians, laborers, and locals of all sorts elbow to elbow, enjoying themselves and their neighbors.  Mojito.  Mojito.  Mojito.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Colonial Thanksgiving

No turkey and stuffing.  Red snapper stuffed with peppers.  A colonial Thanksgiving from a different colony.  Open window and the crash of surf, and wind-agitated palm trees.  High ceilings and tall shutter windows and doors. Linen and loafers. One more week to attempt the avoidance of sunburn.  Business requirements of a suit and tie in the coming week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kate Hall and the Kater Skirt

When my wife asked me if I would mind accommodating about a dozen or so of her attractive friends for a private skirt fitting in our house, I happily agreed.  Then she dropped the hammer: "Thanks, Dearest... if you don't mind clearing out for a while, that would be great. Come back by 10pm."  Oh well.  Luckily my neighbor (whose wife attended) had a full bottle of rye, so I went next door.

Kate Hall has been behind several women's clothing lines, and now runs her own in Maine.  The signature skirt is the Kater Skirt, a double-lined silk skirt with (most often) contrasting waists and triple buttons.  They began as primarily a summer line, though Mrs. has commissioned several winter weights in lined wool.  When girlfriends continued to request similar skirts, my clever bride decided to make it into a party.

 The always lovely and sweetly charming Kate Hall.  Her skirts fit every type, and the lines of each garment make any woman look great.

She also gave out these wine bags, made from old (cleaned) sails.  The dacron holds the bottle nicely and provides a sturdy carrier.  The old brass hank is there for effect, though I've used spares before for "flying the khaki pennant" (drying your pants on the back-stay while underway).  She is a work horse and a relentless perfectionist, but she is also endlessly accommodating.  I can say with years of experience that she throws fantastic parties, too.


*ADG, your gifts to Jr. on the sill, just as he arranged them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tea and The Urban Harvest

The roof garden is nearly gone.  The basil was pestoed long ago, the tomatoes plucked and eaten, and the strawberries finally slowed down.  Left, are the rosemary pots, the oregano and sage, and the mint.

I like coffee and tea, but I really only drink black tea and the very occasional blend specifically formulated for a sore throat.  While visiting a middle-eastern cafe in Harvard Square, my group was seated at a small intimate table and given a beautiful pot of mint tea, which suited our stomachs well after the winter gorging that immediately proceeded our cafe visit.  The tea was fresh, hot, leafy, minty, and delicious.

This weekend, I harvested 90% of our roof-garden mint before the cold got too far into it.

 Picked and de-leafed.

Dried in the oven (120f for 45 minutes).

Crushed and scooped into a teabag. 

Boiled.  Unlike black tea, you can boil mint tea instead of just steeping, and it's impossible to over-steep.

 It turned out nicely, and I generally despise herbal tea.

 No caffeine, so Jr. can sip one too after filling winter meals in the city.

It's not quite as good as bitters for settling the over-stuffed stomach, but it does help.  The rest of the pot was cooled and poured into ice cube trays to make minty ice for liquor drinks later on for an autumn cocktail party.  Hello, winter.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Art of the Guest and Hilarious Pajamas

We grew up with a bustling house.  There were always dinner guests, long-term guests, foster children, adopted friends, relatives, entire sports teams, and people who happened to be within earshot when mother signaled for dinner.  The table would be expanded, chairs crowded in, and place settings reproportioned. Guests and children alike were forced to follow the strict ritual of the dinner with permissions to be excused, waiting one's turn, and not speaking loudly.  Mother was agile in her hospitality, and could clear for action at a moments notice, sending us all to our stations to make things happen.

The opposite of uptight, my siblings still think nothing of quadrupling dinner guest rosters within minutes of dinner, and guest rooms are always ready.  A couch or an air mattress is just as good as a guest room, and the best weekends are when the house fills unexpectedly and all spare rooms, beds, couches, and squares of floor are occupied the next morning... bonus points for stumbling upon improbable pairings of guests in the morning.

Let me shift the angle of this to focus on the guests themselves... or one in particular.

Either you love having guests or you don't... I rarely find middle ground, but one friend of mine has perfected the art of being a house guest.  A perfect host himself, I am always happy to hear that he is heading to Boston from New York City.  On weekends, breakfast is always in pajamas, and longtime friend and college roommate "Plum" tends to elevate pajamas and robe wearing to an art-form, explored with enthusiasm.  He enjoys mixing dressing-gown style (robe over shirt and tie, trousers, slippers) with pajama function (robe over pajamas, worn with cashmere sweater and scarf).  A normal morning usually has Plum arriving to the meal dressed in an amusing mix of styles directly indicating a level of indulgent luxuriating never imagined by others.


In winter, silk pajamas, sleeping cap, soft leather slippers, suede-soled mukluks, silk scarf, possibly even a fez or a bear-skin shawl, all are well within the realm of possibility when he is a guest.  He usually shifts into his academic tweed to give a lecture and then attend receptions and parties until the wee hours.  Though he may arrive back to our place at four or five o'clock in the morning, he always rouses early for breakfast with my family.

Plum has worn each of these hats during outdoor cigar evenings in autumn/winter.

If it's cold outside, he'll make a fire in the morning, and skillet the bacon and sausages from the hearth.  Potted shrimp on toast, brandied peaches, or potatoes get skewered onto long toasting forks and carefully turned over the flames while my young son looks on in salivating amazement.  It is important to note that he approaches all of this with a wise-ass angle and he is never smug or annoying about it.  It is almost a sport to him, and because he is never showy in his professional professorial clothing (he prefers dark tweeds and wools), he can be costumy and fun during the winter.  If he's a guest at a summer or coastal house, he will find an ancient bathing suit in a trunk somewhere, and at the urging of the nostalgic grande dame, trot it out, absorbing the laughter and ridicule with a wink.

Wool bathing suit at a junk shop in Eastern Europe?  Plum will buy it.  A canary-feathered opium robe from Hawaii? Absolutely.  If you fall asleep on his couch, you will wake up warm because he will have draped you in a heavy Klondike sled blanket or the fur-covered hide of some Asiatic goat.

We've played endless hours of cards together in foreign train stations, nearly drowned our college Dean while sailing, and smuggled black-market fireworks across the Canadian border.  While there are many who make hosting into an art, there are few who make being a guest an art.  Plum does both.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reader Emails: Christmas Gifts

Dear Y-W-P. I want to get a good Xmas gift for a friend who is always well dressed. Can you suggest a nice event to take him to? Maybe the symphony or the theater in Boston? I live in Cambridge [...]

***NOTE: I responded with an actual list of nice events in Boston... most of which have a legitimate accompanying foundation affiliated.

But it got me thinking...
Style blogs are often silly, stupid, and superficial... Boxing the Compass is without a doubt silly, stupid, and superficial, but it's fun to put together on a weekly-ish basis.

Instead of velvet slippers, vivid pocket squares, and too-tight tweed jackets, consider giving donations as gifts this year.  Research the charities well, and ask around.  If they throw ostentatious or lavish fundraisers, be skeptical.  If they can provide full disclosures of their balance sheets, all the better.

Half of my family is of Connecticut stock, so when reader JKG mentioned this charity, I thought I'd look into it a little closer.  I liked what I found.

Organic is hit-or-miss, but local is always good.  Last winter, my wife and I were staying at a nice resort-like inn in Connecticut.  When the manager told us for the third time that all of the linens were "made from 100% organic cotton", my wife finally told him that we had no intention of eating the towels.

Keep in mind that many charities, trusts, and foundations have matched giving, so even a $5 or $15 donation is appreciated.  My brother often gives donations on behalf of his siblings, and it is a nice way to enjoy Christmas morning.

People always make jokes about getting socks for Christmas, and by the looks of many blogs, I think that some of the ankles featured (in lace-up dress shoes, mind you) could use a pair or two.  The Trad put it well when he suggested this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Greatest Email Ever

I just got this from a fellow I ran into at a recent trunk show.

Apologies for the tardiness of this email, I misplaced your card while drunk and just found it last night also while drunk and here we are.
I enjoyed our talk at the [x and x] last weekend and if you are still keen on drinks let me know how your week looks.

Literally, my favorite email of 2011.

*NOTE: This is why you should carry social cards to social functions and business cards to business functions.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Resoling Shoes and Marching Band Interference

Two pair of shoes with sole holes.

I called Giuseppe to ask where he sends his, knowing that he had long ago smoked out the best possible value for the desired skill level.  "Savas" he said.  Perfect... so I put the shoes into a Ratsey Bag and hopped on the subway bound for Davis Square (Savas had Saturday hours).  Outside of the subway, I pushed through the throngs of alterno-marching bands which were gathering quickly.  When I reached Savas, the door was blocked by about 500 people and a large boisterous brass ensemble, and the business had closed for the day.  Should have called first, I guess.  Just my luck.

During high school, a friend was taking the SAT's one Saturday at a local school.  About 30 minutes in, a marching band began doing a dress-rehearsal outside of the classroom window.  Apparently, they marched back and forth for over an hour, which nearly drove him to a boil (he's regularly anxious about nearly everything).  I guess it didn't harm him too badly, because he went on to a fine school.


One of Boston's best dressed fellows recommended the spot he takes all of his (London-made) shoes.  I dropped them off at Rinaldi's, and was told to pick them up in a week.

A week later...

The brown pair:

Not bad, but I had to pay an extra $25 per pair for staying in Boston and not going out to Somerville for Savas.  The total was $150 for two pairs.  It was a good price for the city, but had it not been for the Davis Square marching band festival, I would have saved $50.

A different pair was sent back to Allen Edmonds a few months ago.  They offer full reconditioning and resoling for about $100.  To be honest, I thought that the replacement sole (the original was also rubber) was too thick and bulky.

Above, you can see that they did patch the inside of the inner back heel.  Their work is good, and they do a fine job of repairing any damage to the outer shoe, but the replacement was just too clunky compared to the relatively thin and pleasant original rubber sole, and the shoes look and feel heavier.

I spoke with the cobbler a bit, and he said that the resoling business is expanding noticeably.  He said it was "the economy".  Perhaps... but let's hope that when (and if) things turn around, the values and lessons learned will be kept and possibly passed to others.

***Please forgive the odd formatting.  Blogger is being testy.