Thursday, December 16, 2010

Investing in Beautiful Things....

For as long as I can remember, I have been a car enthusiast.  This is due largely to my father who came up in the days of '57 Chevy's and drive ins.  I remember as a kid cleaning his work car, a VW bug with a brillo pad trying to get the white residue off of it from his week of work at the factory.  I remember pulling out the carpets and changing the oil and looking through Hot VW magazines for ideas.  Fast forward to now, I'm still exploring beneath the hood, along with cleaning my car and sitting under the tree admiring the design.  Like Valentino said, "I can't help it I just love beautiful things."

A few months ago, my brother Donovan and I installed some speakers and bought an amp to power the old Becker radio that came with the car.  I had cleaned the car, waxed it, conditioned the seats and vacuumed the carpet ready for a Sunday cruise.  We hit the interstate and are flying along, surfing for good songs on the radio when out of nowhere a young girl in a VW bug pulls out in front of us.  I swerve to the left, then back to the right where I had to plunge on the brakes or hit the VW.  I didn't hit her, but my car started to pull to the right and I had a feeling some trauma had happened to the old beauty.  

When we got out of the car, we noticed the Lower Control arm was broken.  I was fuming, it was a beautiful day and the Saints were going to be on and here I was calling a wrecker.  I quickly pulled myself together as my brother assured me, that we'll be able to fix it.  I guess I realized too that it was better than a wreck.

Thanks to the family business and a place to store my car, we were set to do the necessary repairs.  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!  Old cars teach us patience and to take a step back and have some appreciation for the simple things.  We were under the car after having jacked it up to get to the control arm and it began to get dark as my uncle Lloyd walked up with a work light.  He got under there with us and then my dad crawled under and began telling stories of changing transmissions under the tree.  My mind went adrift thinking of the beautiful moment this old car was bringing all of us.  There was no TV or computers involved, just elbow grease, some stories and a lot of curiosity in German engineering.

I tend to think that I can learn anything but this job was way over my head.  My brother was a fearless animal on this job.  We had screws and brake fluid lines and air suspension parts everywhere.  All I could think of is remembering how to put it all back together.  We finally got the part off of it and brought it into our machine shop.  My dad and brother put a plan together and brought it to the welding dept. and in a matter of a few hours it was ready for installation.  Under the car, we were wondering why more people didn't drive these well made cars.  It was probably because we are programmed to not touch our cars now.  They have taken the soul out of driving.  What a bonding real life experience for me and my brother, dad, and uncle.  

Noone could imagine the feeling we had when we got behind the wheel and cranked the car up and put it in drive and hit the road.  A month of learning the art of patience and communication.  Searching for parts, looking at my beauty jacked up on her side was a life lesson.  My shop class was soul craft!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In God We Trust..

The Artisan approach is catching fire in NY.  When I lived in Brooklyn, I'd pass Shana Tabor's store on my way home, walking my latte.  Her store at the time was part vintage and part homemade clothes for guys and gals.  She started with an aesthetic that was starting to take shape in the neighborhood with guys like Noel at "Saved" and St. Helen's Cafe.  Every time I visit the city I check into her store to see what she has going on.  She now has four locations which is a sure sign of things to come in our country.  The attention to detail that was main street may be making a come back.  Lets hope so anyway.

The Madison shoe and boot by Stacy Adams was a great call by her.  This to me has always been a shoe for the pimp but she discovered this one line called the Madison.  I just purchased some in raw leather.

The Brockton original

It was great to see her again in her store succeeding.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about her was that her hands felt like working hands and her fingernails were dirty...

A Moveable Feast...

Tonight on PBS "Paris, the Luminous Years".  Speaking of cafe's and writing and gathering with great thinkers, wow tonight see the folks who started the trend.  I think it airs at 8:00 p.m. New Orleans time.

Young Hemingway

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New York Coffee Culture...

My friends and I were doing a coffee tour of NYC last week when we were doing some shopping downtown.  John and I were reflecting on what a cup of coffee used to mean in the city in the late 90's compared to now.  NY has seen a surge of quality in it's coffee over the past few years, due to the influx of Roasters from the Northwest.  Stumptown, along with many other artisans are teaching the city what a quality cup is all about.  I have long forgotten the Cafe Americano.  My European friends used to look down on American coffee, but after spending time in Paris this year, I'd put NYC coffee up against anything coming out of Europe.

I spent a lot of time in my old neighborhood, Williamsburg and must say Blue Bottle was really impressive.  Coffee is indeed the new wine.  I can't call this a renaissance because I don't think we've ever imagined coffee to this extreme.  The Artisan attitude that is the fabric of daily life in the artist communities is what keeps me coming back to the city for more.

Your old percolator won't cut it anymore.  They have broken drip coffee down to a science.

Cafe Pedlar still ranks high on my list of cafe's because of their combination of space and quality coffee.  Let's not forget that a cafe is a place to dream and write and the combination of a quality bean and ambience can spark the muse.

The Rabbit Hole made my list because of the fact that my friend Dave and I went there on a Saturday morning and had a nice simple breakfast with a good coffee.  They didn't hand me the coffee and stare me down with an attitude, it was just good.  The space pulls you in as well and it is located on Bedford next to my old house.  

Chasing the Muse...

It's not always easy to lasso the muse.  She exits the room before you even realize she's there.  In NY while making my first record, she was found in the little nooks of the city.  Often in the subway musician who I would entice to my home studio.  The whole record was a manipulation of the muse.  In those days, incense was used along with many books and meditations.  The computer was huge in my writing process and the combination was often quite frustrating.  Today, it usually comes from sitting quietly with a guitar.  I have fallen in love with the guitar and the many mysteries that lie within.  Now living in New Orleans, I'm finding many inspirations and the biggest is the gypsy scene in the Marigny.  I have become friends with Raphael Bas, who has started to give me lessons.  I don't necessarily want to master the style, but it is influencing me greatly and making me a better player.

I met Raphael through his work with my friend Bart Ramsey in the band Vavavoom.  I've been meeting him on Saturdays and am enjoying my time of exploration.  

The gypsy master, Django Reinhart.  I love the idea of old Paris when all the masters descended on the city.  I wonder if they knew what they were doing at the time or just naively following the muse?

New Orleans own, Harold Batiste and I out one night talking music.  There's so much to learn in the ever expansive world of music, only to learn a glimpse of it and never to master, only to chase her.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Latest Spill...Treme!!

New Orleans, Pre "K", Pre Who Dat and Two Dat and Dis And Dat and oh Treme'.  Through the years,  the city has been able to chew up and spit out phoniness and commercial music.  Now the commercial blues are taking over Frenchmen street.  It's one thing to watch folks from out of town learn the music of your land and in turn watch them sell it to the folks that visit.  It's another story when it is being sold on television as the real thing and then in turn it cranks up the wattage in your favorite bars.  Seriously, New Orleans is going from Edison bulbs to Florescent quick.  

New Orleans has made it out of the funk of "K"...I'm not even going to say the word,  it is used too often to play the sad song, or the triumphant one whichever is a better sell.  While everyone grabs for the spotlight of The Treme, I'm looking further into the deepness of the city looking to connect to the past that only a local can know.  I guess in the end, I'm glad our economy is good enough to move onto another street.  I almost feel like when the second generation hipsters started to invade our neighborhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The first generation is one thing, but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.  Jesus, it is a bit watered down, the last thing we need is another flood line in New Orleans.  
With that said, just like any great city it takes em all.  It's up to us to weave the fabric of the past into the new quilt.  Oh give us strength to overcome this day of the celebrity landfill spilling over into our charming lot!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Tweed Run!!

The Tweed Run is a group bicycle ride through the centre of London, in which the cyclists are expected to dress in traditional British cycling attire, particularly tweed plus four suits. Any bicycle is acceptable on the Tweed Run, but classic vintage bicycles are encouraged. Some effort to recreate the spirit of a bygone era is always appreciated.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shop Chic!!

Growing up in a small farming town, I was surrounded by many men in work clothes.  Somewhere between farming clothes to machinist attire.  When I was young and rebellious, I wanted nothing to do with this look but now I have grown to appreciate not only the style but the hard working men who wear this everyday.  I remember seeing them going to work in the morning and returning home all dirty.  Many of them would hit the showers only to return in a fresh set of work clothes.  It had become their style.  

I think the most alluring thing about the style is that it came out of pure function and just so happens to look good.  These were men of great craft and integrity.  They lived in the moment and provided for their families

These are the guys that introduced us to denim! Gold Miners!

Lately, I have been loving the top button on shirts with no tie.  Not to look like a preppy or a conservative, more like a machinist who is protecting himself from flying shavings.

Got to have some old Red Wings

Safety Glasses, Andy Fletcher Style!

Earnest Sewn is my jean of choice.  Not only do they fit me well, they represent what "Cafe Epoque" is all about, hand made by passionate people.  

Shop rags are so hip!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Order of the Knights of St. Crispin & an ode to shoe polish....

Order of the Knights of St Crispin was an American Labor Union of shoeworkers in the Northeast. Founded in 1867 it claimed 50,000 members by 1870, by far the largest union in the country. But it was poorly organized and soon declined. They fought encroachments of machinery and unskilled labor on autonomy of skilled shoeworkers. One provision in the Crispin constitution explicitly sought to limit the entry of "green hands" into the trade. But that failed because the new machines could be operated by semi-skilled workers and produce more shoes than hand sewing.

Shoemaking is a traditional handicraft profession, which has now been largely superseded by industrial manufacture of footwear.   Ever wonder why we are so attracted to "vintage" items.  We feel like we have a piece of the authenticity of the past.  What is authenticity?  Truthfulness to ones origins, a sincere, devotion to ones craft.  The individual artisanship of an item is a paramount criterion, such items often have cultural and/or religious significance. Items made by mass production are not handicrafts.

For the past 10 years I have been attracted to these big clunkers, made me remember some special men from the past.  One thing I noticed was how bullet proof they were and how many new shoes in my collection have come and gone while these just remained.  Trends came and went but these were always there waiting for me to come to my senses.  I'm remembering shoe polish from my little league days.  Shane's mom would polish his shoes, pearly white before every game.  I could see him down the side lines now after I pitched him the ball and he raced for the touchdown.  Shoe polish is a nice reset button. I guess I've always been "green", recycling my shoes and keeping them on the road and keeping the shoemaker opened for business.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just A Wee Bit...

Over the weekend, we took a trip to Northern Ireland for our dear friends Oliver and Susanne's wedding.  Wow, we had a great time with our friends from NY, London along with many other places.  I'll be following up shortly with details of the trip.  Many special moments with fires in TeePee's, A Game of Cricket, & Cottages.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Music on the Playlist...

I discovered this guy from the old school way of browsing a record shop and the passionate guy working the counter suggested I give it a try.  I'm going to miss the face to face conversations about music when the record shop goes extinct.

This dude made a master piece holed up one winter on his own.  A true new sound!

The guys have a new folk sound that is easy to have on and doesn't annoy you like some new hipster wanna be music.  After living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and being a signed artist, I'm always hyper sensitive to the press some bands get and don't really buy it at first.  Afterall, there are a number of hipster bands getting away with some cheap sounding stuff.  I love it all though.

I was a little skeptical at first, I guess because they're from Texas but damn their new record is good!  The bass player does it for me, so economical and only plays where necessary in his own little groove.  Great sounding drums too!

Broken Social Scene
Probably my favorite band over the past few years.  A lot of talent flows in and out of this group, Feist being the most familiar.  This is one of those bands that you peek in the record store for something new every month and you often want to buy something you already have just to make it brand new again. "Looks just like the sun" is one of my favorites.  "Feels Good Lost" is a great driving record.

I've always been a big fan of Sofia Copola and I discovered these guys because she is married to the singer.  And what a charm he is.  We went to see them at Tipitina's in New Orleans and they blew me away.  They sounded as good or better than anyone I've ever heard.  I think it's the best record of 2009. It was nice to see the kids go crazy for this band from Paris, right here in our back yard.