Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raleigh Antique & Classic Boat Show

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to go to nearby Lake Wheeler and look at the boats. The Raleigh Antique & Classic Boat Show held today offers an up close look at some of my favorite things, Mid-Century mahogany runabouts and other collectible power boats. It's not like one of those huge boat shows that is full of fiberglass bass boats, jet skis and acres of boating dood-dads for sale.

The event is fairly small but I Like that. It is put on by the RDC Triangle Chapter of the Antique Boat Society and it is free to attend. A great group of guys, Society members are always interested in lending a hand to other boaters and to encourage others to join their hobby. They enjoy showing off their 'babies' and are friendly to gawkers drooling over the richly varnished decking and sparkling chrome hardware.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trailer Trad Living: My Hometown in Watercolors

My hometown was probably a lot like yours. When you were a kid, it was often a source of frustration and boredom. That sleepy downtown never seemed to have the cool clothes that the big cities had. Too quiet. But as you grew older, those creaky old businesses with the Victorian store fronts found a place in your heart.

I painted these quite a few years ago but, thankfully, all of these places are pretty much like they were. I hope you enjoy my hometown. The next time you are in the Virginia Hunt Country, you might just run across it! Say hello to John at It's about Thyme. -One of the best restaurants you'll find, I promise.

Mr. Gayheart, who's family ran Gayheart's Pharmacy for many years, passed away this Summer. So it's a little bitter-sweet to show off the old place. It actually has been made into a proper diner-type place now but the flavor is still vividly there. -You just can't get Gold Bond foot powder or whatever anymore. Guess a great chocolate 'malt' and juicy burger will have to do!
Knakal's Bakery is a Mid-Century time capsule that just happens to do a really great job of baking lots of tasty treats. Everyone gets their Easter and Thanksgiving dinner rolls there (be prepared to stand in line). The women are no-nonsense but polite and they use a huge gas porcelain oven that was, undoubtedly, an antique when the bakery opened in the 1950s. -My Great Uncle Sam (Verduce) was baker there for many years (-hadn't thought of that classy, funny gentleman in years....).

It's About Thyme is a french provincial restaurant in town. It is jam-packed almost all of the time and deservedly so. The quality is superb and the prices are fair. Most of the crowd on weekends are diners from Washington, DC traveling to the country to see what the fuss is about. When I showed John, the owner, this picture he gratefully accepted a copy but said "I don't sell lobsters, you know." -Always with the details, this guy.

Like a lot of guys, my Dad started making money as early as he could. He started working at Baby Jim's in the early 1950's, helping out and delivering hotdogs and sandwiches on his bicycle. Pull into the busy little parking lot and grab an excellent chili dog and fries (don't expect 'super sized' fries. -They still offer the teeny 1950's serving size!).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trailer Trad Job & Money: Lose The McMansion

The increasing popularity of smaller homes (or ‘cottages’) is very trailer trad. They’re obviously TT because smaller is cheaper and cheaper is good. But it’s more than that. Less money spent on the structure CAN mean more money available for the building lot. This might mean a lot that is ‘closer in’, resulting in a shorter commute to work. It might mean a lot that is a block closer to the water or a lot in a more charming, historic neighborhood. And less square-footage can mean more money available for better materials, upgraded HVAC/appliances or special craftsman-made details.

Raise your hand if you think that owning a huge house is cool. Now, raise your hand if YOU CURRENTLY OWN a big house and think owning it is cool. Probably not as many hands. Moving forward, there are too few reasons that the market for big houses will grow and a number of reasons why the market for smaller, perhaps VERY small, houses will be the place to live and have your money.
So many McMansions were built, in part, because builders and developers made money per square foot and therefore the larger the structure, the more money per building lot. Likewise, when the bubble was expanding, homeowner’s could increase the return on their downpayment investment by leveraging it on larger, more expensive homes. Since the bubble burst, the hangover from all of this leveraging has been severe. Like a real hangover, the hangover from the McMansion boom may seemingly last forever. But after that, what are the options those seeking a trad lifestyle? -Consider smaller, perhaps very small, homes.

"But what will People SAY?" you ask. They'll say that you were smart. Location. Location. Location. Everyone knows the importance of this old real estate axiom. For nearly thirty years, location in planned communities with large yards in good school districts has been a sure bet for those looking for a home. But times have changed. Baby Boomers are nearing retirement and are long through with their child raising years. Being in a good school district is no longer as relevant. A large yard to accommodate playing children is no longer necessary. All of those bedrooms and bathrooms that seemed so handy then now just seem like a lot of wasted space and upkeep now.

Back in the 1990s, McMansions sold like hotcakes and were considered very fashionable. But, why were they so popular in the first place? Why did they seem so attractive to us? Why did they seem so necessary back then?

Now, I’ll be first to point to a shingle style ‘cottage’ in Newport RI and recognize its beauty and think “Wow, I’d love to live in that.” And I can readily point to newly constructed large homes that have individuality and charm and admire them.

We lived in a beautiful community in the Washington, DC suburbs that integrated large homes wonderfully into the landscape of the community. It's called the Kentlands and was developed by the New Urbanism visionaries DPZ.

This is perhaps the premier example of New Urban development called the Kentlands in the Washington, DC suburbs. We bought and sold a couple of homes here. My family used to live in a small cottage near the lake. We sold it the day we that we put it on the market.

But there so many huge houses that have been constructed since the 1990s that are cookie cutter models with surface differences applied to the fa├žade and piled onto tiny lots totally out of scale with the lot and street. Look at the historic cottages below and tell me that you wouldn't prefer them to some 4,000 sq. ft. monstrosity on a golf course?

These Key West cottages won't sleep twenty and don't have fifteen foot ceilings. But no one can argue about their desirability or style.

At the end of a long day, it doesn't take a huge house to make you feel comfortable and at home. Entertaining can be done outside if necessary. Regarding guests, they can always stay at a hotel.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trailer Trad Attire: Rockin' the Croc, French Style

Even all-time classics need a tweak every now and then. And if you are looking for a fresh take on the Lacoste polo shirt, who better to look to than the French? ATP champ Arnaud Clement has been entertaining tennis audiences for years with his acrobatic, athletic brand of tennis. And, all the while, he has been proudly wearing his country's badge of honor, the Lacoste polo shirt.
But with a twist. He wears them with contrasting bandanas. Before you assume that I'm advocating 'mandanas' a la Brett Michaels, please know that this combination is a classic and has little to do with concealing a receding hairline (For more on guys trying to cover receding hairlines, see my upcoming post on golfers who wear sun visors like Don Johnson did in Tin Cup).

Ah, Lacostes with bandanas takes me back to tennis in the 70's when the high school ace in my town, Doug Woodside, wore his Lacostes with a bandana. But he wore it rolled up and hung around his neck to absorb sweat during matches. Looking back, I think that he wore it that way out of a shear sense of flair. Of course, I was in my wanna-be Fila Borg gear at the time and didn't get it at all. -Takes years to appreciate real style (although Bjorn Borg and Fila were very cool too). Oh yeah, and he dominated wielding beautiful, wooden Wilson Jack Kramers with the 'VS' (VS natural gut strings) stenciled on his strings. -About says it all, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Made Milwaukee Famous: The Beer & The Band (reshown)

Smooth. Cool. Refreshing. American. Milwaukee’s most famous beer, Schlitz, is about as American as it gets. However, the band What Made Milwaukee Famous (WMMF) isn’t from Milwaukee but chic Austin, which might surprise some given their straight-forward brand of power pop. I am now, I can say with confidence, a Schlitz Man. Yeah, I know what they think when I leave the Harris Teeter grocery stores in Raleigh’s upscale North Hills or Cameron Village. “What’s Ol’ Bean doing buying Schlitz of all things when Corona’s on sale for $23.95 a twelve pack? And with LIMES IN SEASON! To that I reply,”There’s a recession on, Brother.”But it is about more than the price. If it was about price alone, I’d buy Natural Light, Bud Light, Milwaukee’s Best (or ‘The Beast’ as it was known in college) or some such unfluoridated tap water on sale, thereby helping those brands capture that last five percent of canned beer market share. But I don’t. I buy twelve packs of Schlitz, the only one with ‘The Kiss of the Hops.’
That slogan is true if you try a can. It is light but has plenty of real, beer flavor with subtle hints of both hops and malt barley. Its sweetness grows subtly as it is savored rather than hitting right off with a sweet rice taste like a certain St. Louis-based beer does. Neither have I found Schlitz to have weird off-flavors or oxidation skunkiness found in many other mass-produced beers. –But it has not always been this way.In college, Schlitz was known by the unflattering moniker “Shi*z.” Apparently the 1970s through the 90s were pretty bad years for the brand. The trouble started in 1953 when the brewers at Schlitz went on strike. This opened the door for that competitor from St. Louis and the brands fortunes stagnated for years after that. In the 1970s when so, so many things went wrong, management tried to stretch a dollar by shortening the brewing process. This made the beer flat, so they did the genius thing and added seaweed extract. Happily, they’ve since gone back to the 1950s recipe and it really epitomizes the flavors that should be present in a classic, massed-produced American lager.
In the glass, Schlitz also remains appealing. Its color is a rich amber, not washed out looking like competitors that take up two thirds of any given grocery store beer isle. Schlitz, along with PBR, usually take up around two square feet of cooler space. Some trappist triple bock brewed by five guys in the Alps is easier to find than Schlitz.

This is because Schlitz remains largely ignored by both the mass drinking public and trendy alike. PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) is a hipster favorite compared to Schlitz. I don’t follow the crowd and I buy the one with the beautiful khaki and brown can design, unchanged since the 1940s when it was provided by the U.S. Army to GIs rolling through Europe. I buy the beer that was Number One back in the 1950s. I buy the beer with an annual ad budget of $3.95. Yeah, I buy the beer ‘that made Milwaukee famous’ - Schlitz.

What Made Milwaukee Famous- The Band

The band What Made Milwaukee Famous makes indie rock that I think will appeal to adult FM listeners who shy away from the genre. Guys like me who are sick of hearing the same ‘classic rock’ over and over but can’t stomach the FM pop rubbish put out these days.
The band What Made Milwaukee Famous has been around a while and is prominent in the local Austin music scene. They are one of those indie acts that never quite became the chic pick among the trendy but, never-the-less, have fully established their alternative rock credentials. According to its website, since forming, the band has opened for The Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Snow Patrol and The Smashing Pumpkins. WMMF also performed with Franz Ferdinand on Austin City Limits, making them one of the only unsigned bands to play for the show in its 34-year history. The band is composed of Michael Kingcaid (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Drew Patrizi (keyboards, vocals, guitar), John Farmer (bass, vocals), Jeremy Bruch (drums, vocals), and Jason Davis (guitar, vocals).
Selling Yourself Short What Made Milwaukee Famous

There are many good indie bands like WMMF that may appeal to ‘FM guys’ and I will try to blog about a few more soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Trailer Trad Collecting: Diner Antiques

Guys love diners. Everyone has a favorite to kick back on a Saturday morning and ingest a plate of food that he'd never consider eating during the week. Women love them too but many would never admit to loving something so decadent and caloric. To men, great dives and diners are things to be appreciated. Everyone has a favorite diner or place to get that early morning or late night meal. Maybe that's why I like reminders of them so much. Here are some nostalgic collectibles that I hope will remind you of your favorite.
Remember White Towers? Maybe you didn't have those in your town. What about White Castle? Or maybe Little Tavern if you grew up in the Washington, DC area? Archaic relics of the art deco era even back in the 197os, they were comforting, nostalgic stops at the end of long nights of drinking or come-as-you-are retreats with plenty of hot coffee in the dark, pre-dawn hours.

If there is a perfect plate for holding that huge breakfast of salty country ham, three eggs over hard with a tall stack of pancakes, this might be it. It is from around 1950 and was for a restaurant called (appropriately enough) Ham N' Eggs Restaurant. Maybe after enough black coffee, it's slogan 'Ham That Am' would start to make sense.

What's a diner without comfortable stools to sit on? These candy apple red and chrome beauties are my prized possessions. the red 'crush ice' formica top is an original 1950s counter top that I mounted on top of a steel counter base.
Yee haw buck-a-roo! This place setting screams for a rib-eye with a bowl a' chili.
This is a scale model from Plasticville that you would use with your model train sets. These were made in the 1950s and really capture what towns looked like back then. This model is my favorite because of the chrome finish- just like a real diner!

This is grouping of old restaurant silverware. How'd you like to go into Chinatown and eat chop suey at the Shanghai Cafe? Or Clam Chowder at The Crawford House in Boston? Horn & Hardart was a large chain of 'automats' that allowed you pull entrees out of heated drawers with glass windows. They were popular from the 1920s through the 1950s in Manhattan and other metropolitan areas. The Woolworth spoon came from back when they had lunch counters. -Are there even any Woolworths anymore?

I think that this soup bowel also came from a lunch counter, maybe People's Drug (?). -Peoples Drug Store has become CVS but I still sometimes catch myself calling them Peoples.

'Green Ring' diner china has hunter green rings around the edge of plates, cups and every piece of china you can think of. For the novice collector, it perhaps is the easiest to find and is very affordable. It is practical for every day use. The great 'Superior Restaurant' logo on the top of the plate makes this one much more desirable than one with no logo.

These decals are from the 50's or 60's and were
probably stuck on diner or lunch counter windows.
This Coney Island glass dates from 1950.
It can't hold more than six oz. of soda and it probably was
given away as a promotion on the boardwalk. -Must have been quite
a scene in the early 1950s!

Do you remember how absolutely incredible
Shoney's Big Boys were back in the 70's!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Real Rugby- The Mothers Rugby Club (reshown)

Rugby is perhaps the most trailer trad of preppy sports. Rugby’s trad pedigree is easy to see. The sport was born in England’s elite ‘public’ schools and was loyally played by its aristocracy for generations. Prince Harry is a fiercely loyal rugger. But it is also known for the unique spirit of its enthusiasts, best expressed by the old axiom “soccer is a gentleman’s sport played by ruffians and rugby is a ruffian’s sport played by gentleman.” But what does that really mean?While sports like golf are preppy, rugby is trailer trad. Rugby is to other prep sports like crew, golf and lacrosse as Delta House was to Omega House. By that I mean that ruggers are extremely traditional yet are never snobby. Rugby players don’t take directions well but are often campus leaders. We welcome ‘characters’ as well as serious athletes looking for a competitive outlet. No sport is as lavishly muddy or bloody as rugby but rugby clubs usually are among the first to volunteer their time and energy to charitable causes. And no sport throws better parties. None. Look it up.

Rugby is the only major collegiate sport not sanctioned by the NCAA. Ruggers really have no use for all of the rules. My club, The Mothers, benefited greatly from not being sanctioned by the NCAA. The biggest benefit, in my opinion, was that it enabled us to schedule our own opponents.

So, even though we were a tiny liberal arts school, we were able to play Division 1 powers like Penn State, U. MD, U. VA, The Naval Academy, VA Tech, Georgetown and many others – and compete against them like equals.

Times have changed and while players still have fun, the Club is much tamer than in the old days. An overseeing body now schedules games but we still get our share of large schools to play against – usually with good results. My club punked The Pirates of East Carolina last weekend 35-15 are looking forward to The University of Virginia this coming weekend (I like our chances). Our B-side is also competing against the University of Richmond's A-side. -I like our chances there too.

Today, when other clubs visit our campus, they are often surprised. Our playing field and campus are awesomely beautiful. More importantly, there are a lot of women around. Some of whom are quite attractive. And third, The Mothers are extremely competitive on the field yet display a high level of sportsmanship and hospitality to visitors. I think opposing players leave pleasantly surprised after dismissing us as a ‘girl’s school’ at first.

Check out these pictures of my club The Mothers from the mid 1980s.