Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vieux Velo

A good French antique dealer occasionally shows up at the flea market and he always has interesting stuff. This past weekend, he brought an old French bike out and there was something about it that interested me. It's rather amazing how little the basic manufacture of bicycles has changed over the years.

Its original condition really spoke volumes. I began to think of its value as a display piece. What was weird to me about it was its size. It's tiny. Two feet from floor to seat. Was it a salesman's sample? I'm used to full-sized bikes in that great utilitarian black and white color scheme but, being a dad, I'm conditioned to expect children's bikes to appeal explicately to little kids. Pink with My Little Pony decals, or whatever. This was an EXACT replica of an Edwardian bike, down to the 'dress guard' holes drilled into the rear fender that held lacy web-like things that kept women's long dresses from getting caught in the spokes of the rear wheel. This was a girl's bike (you can tell by the 'swan's neck' frame style) and everyone says that guys bikes are more desirable. But I don't care because I think that they look cooler and, if you're a guy over the age of 30, getting astride this style is a LOT more comfortable if you know what I mean.
My hopes were dashed (slightly) because it turns out that little, TINY kids did actually ride similar bikes in France in the early 20th Century so my bike was probably not a salesman's sample. But it's still really cool. Typically, children's bikes are fairly common but I suspect that ones this old are fairly rare, especially ones this small. Check out these great vintage photos of small children riding similar bikes long ago.

This antique bike's small size makes it ideal for display. I can envision a vintage bike enthusiast hanging this up on a wall to capture all of the nostalgia of early French cycling without the size of an adult model.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Bike

On a Saturday morning, what better thing to do with my new bike than to head off to the neighborhood farmer's market. I was looking for some fresh fruit (June being official Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month in North Carolina) but was disappointed to find out that we are kind of between seasons. Too late for strawberries and about a week early for peaches. But there was plenty of goodies like Bavarian pastries, scones and lots of veggies and herbs displayed for sale.

It's also fun to talk with the vendors about their wares. An increasingly big thing is locally grown eggs, cheese and meat. They talk passionately about the difference between their eggs and grocery store eggs, for example. One vendor seemed especially disdainful of the direction that Big Ag. was going. "Did you know that they can grow steak in the lab now?" Another vendor chimed in. "I've heard that the Japanese have developed a 'meat-like' vegetarian product that uses poop as an ingredient." I nodded somberly in agreement not wishing to point out that organically grown bean sprouts are the suspected source of E-coli poisoning in Germany.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brooks Buttondown & Bally Boots

Lately, certain bloggers have taken shots at their breathren for buying their clothes at thrift stores. I buy used, vintage clothes for the same reason I buy used, vintage furnishings. I can find stuff with character, history and quality construction that is unavailable from any store at the mall at any price. Here are two recent good examples. I spend less and less time at thrift stores because they seem to be filled more and more with cheap, disposable clothes of the kind bought by guys who only buy new and don't understand quality. But I did find this terrific B-squared buttondown. Another advantage with buying vintage is items have already been laundered and have shrunk down to their real size. This yellow shirt is size 17 which would be too big new but is about right in its current state. I call these 'postage stamp' buttondowns and they are what everyone remembers when you talk about the greatness of Brooks Brothers buttondowns. Their label is small and simply states where it was made and not to bleach it.
The reason why the shirt was donated in the first place was that it had a two inch long blue ink pen stain between the collar and the chest. Ouch. I actually didn't notice it until I got it home but I decided to try to get it out. This is a good tip. With a BLUE ink stain, take a cotton ball and soak it with denatured alcohol (I used some Superior 70 Bayrum) and dab the stain, preferably with some tissue or cloth on the other side of the stained fabric. The alcohol desolves the ink and it should be absorbed into the tissue on the other side. Then, launder as usual. It took me two times, but it worked great.

Where at the mall do you find real, Swiss-made Bally mountaineering boots? REI and Sports Authority are all out. In my travels, I came across these vintage boots in my size. After a little polish, they cleaned up nicely and should be ready for hiking this fall or for wearing around town with a ski sweater this winter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Groovy Yard Sale

On a recent Saturday, I was trying to get to a NC State University neighborhood church rummage sale when traffic was diverted due to a fireman's funeral parade. I went onto a shady old side street that I never go down and, lo and behold, there was a young kid flipping a homemade sign like a batton that advertised a tag sale at an overgrown (but beautiful) cottage down the street. I decided to check it out.Glad I did. THIS is what a yard sale should look like. Turns out that the homeowner collected quite a lot way back and she stuffed it back in the detached garage. Years of vines, idle cars and dust created that perfume of stagnant time, caught and permeating in a forgotten, overgrown eddy. Trapped for pickers, like me, to discover.
Here is one of the items that I picked up. It's a copper plated ashtray from the 1930s advertising Galion steamrollers. I think that it matches my copper cigar humidors pretty nicely.
Usually, I steer away from small framed photos because they get lost if you put them on a wall. However, this small photo of a fencing student (?) looks really good hung over my wine rack.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rock the Veg!

I finally broke down and bought a bottle of Pinaud Clubman Lilac Vegetal aftershave from the barber supply place. The scent is fairly unique among aftershaves. Its basically French Lilac water and smells very old-fashioned, even anachronistic. Southern Gothic. The smell of black suited deacons in a Faulknerian church in July, their L.V. aftershave propelled through the congregation by frantically waving hand fans. -Or was that the aroma of flower arrangements from Saturday's funeral fading in the heat? Floral with a hint of something sinister beneath the surface.

I guess that leads up to the big question. Is wearing a Lilac- infused cologne masculine? Are wearing a pink Lacoste, sporting day-glo Lilly pants or slipping a carnation into your lapel masculine? No. And yes.

Rock the Veg!

That's the rallying cry over at Badger and Blade blog where they are actually selling t-shirts with that slogan emblazoned on a bright green bottle of Lilac Vegetal. Check out these amusing L.V. youtube videos.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Christmas in June

I've been to some pretty fun yard sales lately. The one this weekend really captured some fun Raleigh memories because this particular house was locally famous for its huge Christmas displays that it held every year during the 1950s through the 1970s.

The large figures displayed Dickinsian or Nativitiy themes and really were great. Hand painted in long gone factorie in the 1950s and 60s, some of the larger figures were taller than me. I tried to buy one that still had the 'for sale' sign on it (the great figure of the Dickinsian trumpet player) but I was told that someone had bought every one. -Not a small sum, let me assure you.

I was talking to a long time neighbor and she told me that she wasn't surprised. "Some folks have the money and this display meant a lot to people." The buyer supposedly is going to display them at Christmas time like in the old days. The cynic in me told me to start checking Craigslist for them to be sold off, one by one.

Upon reflection, I told the cynic to shut up.