Saturday, May 31, 2008

WTH Style - Angling for the Neo-Hippie Vote

If I was running for office I'd wear something like this to get the indie rock festival crowd vote. With a color scheme like this, who needs psychedelics?

Let's face it, the khaki sack is a pretty drab garment. But with a little creativity something funky this way comes.

The shirt is a Mercer, and if I had it to do again I think I'd have had this (and its yellow-blue brother) made as a buttondown.

The tie is a thrifted jobber from the "Rugby" line from Ralph of Long Island. The colors are nice and it is completely unlined, which is unusual and makes it hang funny.

Having gone thus far with colors I didn't think a blast of orange and purple from the breast pocket could possibly hurt. What the hell.

An extra fillip of color on the watch strap, and then things calm down at the feet.

The Great Loafer Hunt (continued)

Just got these Johnston & Murphy Aristocrats from eBay, and they fit.

Hooray for that.

They need new soles and the heels are getting close to done. I think I will try my local cobbler rather than going the NuShoe route, partly because I am curious about the indigenous guy, and I think he will be cheaper, and partly because I know a girl in that town and I could just accidentally drop in and say hello.

These have a nicely banged-up look to them. I have no idea how to guess their age, but I'm sure some shoe nut out there can tell from the markings on the heel.

What do you suppose "Sulvaprene" is? Sounds like an ointment for genital warts or something equally foul.

"Lifelong," no less. A gift that keeps on giving?

Funny thing - a few years ago I would have eaten a mud pie on national television rather than wear loafers. Now I devote considerable time, energy and resources to the quest for the right ones. Damn you, clothing forums.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Have Seen Flavor Flav, and We Are Doomed

Just to compound the dreadfulness, Flavor Flav's evening costume has notched lapels.

Last night I watched something called "Flavor of Love" on the VH1 channel, in the company of some of the younger residents at the facility where I earn the weekly check.

Mr. Flav, a rapper of modest accomplishment, wears outlandish clothes, crowns, viking helmets, and large clocks around his neck. In the "reality" program, he is interviewing, sort of, three silly young women all vying for the unenviable position of being Mr. Flav's paramour.

Mr. Flav, whose memory appears faulty, possibly for the same reason his eyes appear bloodshot, has problems remembering the girls' names, so he makes up monikers for them that are easy to recall. One of them is known as "Thing 2," which assumes there was an original Thing.

Regular readers of this blog know that I take a peculiar delight in watching bad movies. Kitschy pop culture is a lot of fun.

"Flavor of Love" is just wretched stuff. There is nothing funny, witty, or clever about it.

Jazz writer Stanley Crouch has something to say about the Flavor Flavs of this world, in an interview with
All About Jazz:

AAJ: When you condemn gangsta rap, aren't you fighting city hall? This isn't a subculture any longer. It is the predominate cultural influence.

SC: It is contemporary minstrelsy. You have to remember that minstrelsy was once very big. Minstrelsy was extremely popular when it came out. People didn't imitate the minstrels off stage like they do now, but that was definitely a big industry and created all these products that had all these grinning “coon” figures.

All of that was part of the minstrelsy that dominated American life in terms of its popular culture. That's what we're in the middle of now and it has to be recognized for what it is.

In 1990 I did my student teaching in a high school in Kingston, N.Y. One of my kids wore a large clock around his neck. Oddly enough, he was always late.

This young man had little interest in English, very poor social skills, and a burgeoning drug problem. I didn't understand him at first but now, years later, I suspect he was imitating his hero.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Memorial Day routine

Fact: Cousin Charlie and family like to come to the summer camp on these major holidays, and while it's all very jolly hanging around with little children...

Besides, I get the place to myself most of the year, so it's no skin off my nose to skedaddle and let the folks have their time in peace.

It is my extreme good fortune that the other side of the family has a cabin in the Catskills, an hour and a quarter's drive from here. We don't share this with anybody, and it even has plumbing and electricity.

Arriving Sunday morning at about 10:30 a.m., I was confronted with the dilemma - do I sweep mouse turds and deceased faux ladybugs, or cut the knee-high grass?

(The ambitious and go-getting among you are thinking, "Aren't you going to do both?" Ha.)

I went with the grass.

Then I read the end of a pretty good mystery - The Skeleton Man, by Jim Kelly, and started a Weenie novel, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.

("What the hell is a Weenie novel?This blog is going downhill fast.")

And then I went fishing, in my silly hat, shirt with the epaulets (in case of field promotion) and copious amounts of sunscreen.

The Esopus Creek is a medium-sized trout stream until it gets to Allaben, N.Y., where the discharge from what is known as The Portal, bringing water from the distant Schoharie Reservoir, turns it into a major example of muscle fishing (also suitable for kayaks and fat people in inner tubes). I like the upstream section because it's lightly fished and there's an excellent napping spot.

I cleaned out my chest pack and pared down the selection to the flies on the fold-down thing plus two small boxes. If I can't catch fish with what I've got, plus guile and experience, then I stink.

A slow day, in all. The sun beats down on the stretch I was on, which is angled almost exactly east-west, so nothing really started to move until about 7:30 p.m.

Which was fine, as I had a sandwich, cold seltzer, and the Weenie novel available for the napping portion of the fishing day.

Five trout total, only one of any consequence - a brown of perhaps 15 inches, who slurped in a swamped Light Cahill dry from the downstream part of the pool in the photo. I took the shot from that angle to show how close the stream is to the road, for no particular reason.

Above: The usual exercises in narcissism, shot by my trusty assistant Ralphus.
Trad grass-cutting clothes: devolved Eddie Bauer chinos tucked into socks to deter ticks; Filson boots; Lands end buttondown short-sleeve; crumpled Orvis Stetson.

Iowa Smith and the Temple of Trout: Indy fedora from the Village Hat Shop and Filson shirt.

Below: This fold-out thing on my chest pack is handy but tends to get clogged up with flies. I spent the better part of forty minutes clearing it out and setting it up with wets. The hackles on dries get crushed when it's zipped up.

A stonefly casing from the upper Esopus. These big clumsy bugs make their unsteady way to the shore at night. Trout love 'em. When the casings are on the rocks it's good news for us.

The fly below hatched and courteously flew right into my hand. I have no idea what it is; my taxonomic skills are along the lines of "the little brown one, the big green one." A Light Cahill seemed the closest fit in color, and hey - it worked.

Pool on upper Esopus. Water is very clear; the angler must keep a low profile. Luckily it's a corner of the road; louts do not scramble down to throw corn and garlic cheese at the fish because there is nowhere to park, and the first rule of lout fishing is "Do Not Get More Than 50 Feet From the Car."

Bird crap on rock. The creature who did this must have been pretty big. Or pretty stopped up. I think I might use this photo to augment the movie reviews - a film so bad it doesn't even deserve a coil could get the Birdshit Award.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cold & Murky WTH Style

I'm spending my (late) evenings and mornings at the family summer camp, conveniently located only a few miles from my apartment.

With no plumbing to speak of and the weather remaining unseasonably cold, it's not as much fun as mid-summer, when I can quite literally go jump in the lake.

The other day, in fact, it was chilly enough to chuck together items with the aim of staying warm and dry as I puttered around. I even went and chucked a line into the lake attired as such, which is:

A Lands End tweed from the days when they made sacks, just one of the many great finds from the Ask Andy Trad forum; an LL Bean long-sleeve pullover that I never wear, for no good reason; beater chinos from the days the K-Mart's house brand was flat-fronted, untreated, and about $12 per; and another Ask Andy find, a pair of hardly-worn Filson boots I could not ever afford new.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Small Streams

I am a small stream fan. I enjoy the difficulty of casting in close quarters and the stealthy creeping about so the trout don't see me coming a mile away.

My nearby favorite drains out of a warm-water lake, cools off in the forest, takes on additional cold water from innumerable springs, and drops about a thousand feet in a three mile run.

There are three ways to approach it - from the top and work down, from one of two spots in the middle accessible by hard-to-find paths, and from the bottom.

All three methods represent an indisputable pain in the fundament.

Once embarked on a course of action, it is difficult to retreat. Especially moving upstream, as clambering up is, on balance, easier than clambering down.

The payoffs are a tremendous workout; solitude; and the chance to catch crazy little wild brook trout.

I typically use either a seven-foot bamboo rod or a six-foot graphite, both for five weight lines. Once in a while I will trot out a magic wand, a six-footer for a number two line, but I prefer the heavier line because it rolls better, if that's what the situation calls for, and is much more useful for fishing nymphs, droppers, and with weight.

"Hold on a minute," you say, looking at the photos of the tiny creek. "Weighted flies in this dinky water?"

You bet. A lunker in this brook is a 10-inch fish, and they didn't achieve elder status by rushing madly to the surface to attack whatever gaudy dry fly happens to float by, like their younger contemporaries.

No, they tend to hang out in the plunge pools, which get surprisingly deep, and generally bide their time until something attractive floats by, or drifts along the bottom.

So I use an attractor-dropper rig, albeit with a short length of tippet material between flies - say, a foot and a half, tops.

Sometimes, though, this strategy seems too fussy, and I switch to the strategic prospecting with a single dry fly, usually big, bushy, colorful, or some combo thereof. It's fun planning the cast, because the fly is going to a very specific spot and one wrong move means either spooking the fish or getting hung up on the back cast (assuming there is room for one at all).

Might strike some of you as a lot of trouble for itty-bitty trout that I never keep (most of them would have a hard time dominating a saltine cracker), but I love it.

Above: The brook, looking much wider than it is. Below: A typical finny denizen, and the absurd attractor fly "Madame X". By the way, if you are looking for a good source of flies and tend to buy in bulk, go no further than Wally Allen in Boulder, Colo. at

I've been a customer for eight years. Great selection, great prices and fast shipping.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pensive WTH Style

Why "pensive," you ask?

Because it's a better word than "lachrymose," "lugubrious," or "angst-ridden" for the situation.

Which is, in a nutshell, this:

I got sick. I thought it was last year's tick thing. There is no evidence of that, but to be on the safe side the doc gave me a course of antibiotics, which make me sick as a particularly mangy-looking dog.

One side effect of the medication is a roiled tummy. And where there is a roiled tummy there are frequent trips to that little building in the middle distance in the first photo.

I could be doing this in my apartment but it's much quieter and nicer up here at the summer camp.

Which has no plumbing to speak of.

Just to pile on the joy, I went on a Graham Greene kick, grabbing a stack from the library. (
A Burnt-Out Case, The Human Factor, The Honorary Consul.) I haven't read these books in years, and while they are excellent and enjoyable they are not, perhaps, the best tonic for a man whose insides are churning around. As I read about Senor So-and-so's struggles with Faith or inability to love his fellow human beings I am reminded of the insides doing the fandango, and of the fact I haven't had a date since the Super Bowl.

So until this thing wears off I am switching to P.G. Wodehouse.

Jacket is a McGregor; madras shirt from J. Press; Lands End Super-Ultimate-Mega Chinos; Sebago loafers and SmartWool socks, as it was a bit chilly that day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I have not forgotten nor neglected to post. My insides are not cooperating. I am over the worst and hope to be with you shortly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Coming this week...

This is very lazy, I know, but the traffic numbers are way up and I want to keep the ball rolling.

I really, really want to get a check from Google, even if it's for $4.32.

On the agenda:

What to wear while reading Graham Greene; Gas prices and the stupid American driver; British cop shows.


Friday, May 9, 2008

The Cinema - Helmet-Haired Hero Fails to Foil Phantasm Fiends

The Tall Man glaring at Reggie, who insists on wearing a pre-tied bow.

(1977) begins bootaciously, with bared bobbing boobs and grunting, gasping graveyard gropes.

Then the demonic dame stabs the prone putz, for no apparent reason, and we cut abruptly to somebody's funeral, where Jody, who has authentic late 70s helmet hair, is talking with Reggie, who doesn't.

Usually I like a film that makes no sense, but this turkey acts like it does, and this is confusing. Even CACA has rules.

So the upshot is this: The Tall Man (played by the immortal Angus Scrimm) runs a funeral home which is a front for a supernatural outfit that is taking the recently deceased, turning them into little malevolent dwarves in capes, and shipping them through a portal to be slaves in a world with eternal cold and crushing gravity.

Yes, the doomed are heading off into the America of President Barack Obama.

We have: Car chases; six breasts; yellow blood; flying orb thing that drills through some guy's head; absolutely no story to interfere with the plot; terrific hair continuity problems; relentlessly horrible theme music that is the same as "Tubular Bells" from
The Exorcist except the phrase goes up, not down.

This gets a "Ffffffft" from Fast-Forward Freddy, and a lone coil from me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

WTH Style

Our old pal and frequent antagonist Russell Street, always one to jump at a chance to wax theoretical about clothing style, has posted on FNB regarding a rather offhand remark from the "Summer Style" post on this blog.

And hey, I'm flattered. Mr. Street (a man of many aliases) strikes me as rather kooky...

But kooky compared to what on the Weird World of the Web?

So, the offhand remark was about socks. "What the hell" as opposed to "Go to hell," specifically.

The GTH look, to me, is typified by loud pants. The four-color model. The plaids. The pants with members of the animal kingdom embroidered upon them.

If I may borrow from an old photo essay, here is my (fictional) cousin Rufus, here decked out in a parody of the GTH style:

Between the obnoxious tie, the pants, and the fact that "Rufus" is a cocktail-swilling buffoon, this is caricature. But lose the tie, the cocktail, and the addled expression, and you'd have a fairly standard GTH presentation, with the trousers bellowing for attention next to the otherwise conventional items.

But here's a stab at "What the hell?"

Same pants, but with boat shoes, ribbon belt, an oxford cloth shirt as it is a little chilly on this wet spring morning, and a shapeless silk jacket that's more of a sweater with lapels. It still looks too studied, I think, but this in the milder direction.

I can see myself thinking, "Aw, what the hell, I'll get some mileage out of these comfortable but somewhat garish plaid pants that seemed like such a good idea when I bought them."

Perhaps the difference between WTH and GTH will come down to this: WTH is more about one's comfort and quiet, private amusement. GTH is exactly what the name says it is.

As I am currently suffering from the antibiotic treatment for what may or may not have been a recurrence of last year's tick-borne illness, and as the extremely spacy state of mind the treatment produces resulted in last year's "My Screwball Cousins" (widely held to be the only worthwhile Coiled Pleasures post ever - and has somehow disappeared from this site - this link goes to the Lakeville Journal), I will try to concoct some examples of WTH style in the next couple of days. But will thinking too hard defeat the purpose?


OK, let's suppose somebody called and said, "Hey, come on over for a cookout, as you are." Not likely on a cloudy Thursday in early May, but we're all used to a certain amount of "let's pretend."

Cotton plaid jacket, pink ocbd, slightly high water chinos, Quoddys with no socks. The WTH element here? The belt with the trout on it.

And the truck with no brakes and the expired registration, of course.


It actually was a dark and stormy night. Cold and wet this morning, and there are certain errands I absolutely cannot avoid.

The screwy element here is the belt. It's too long, and the loose end flops around a bit. I don't mind, and only if someone's staring at my midsection will it be noticed.

Let's end this unusually fervid exercise in narcissism with a few thoughts from G. Bruce Boyer:

There is no such thing as being "accidentally" well-dressed. Nonchalance is a studied pose, and those men who carry it off have not gotten dressed in the dark...[It] is often seen when some aspect of the outfit plays against the grain of the basic pattern or genre - so long as the difference is minor...Nonchalance is a light tug on the sleeve, not a violent shake by the lapels.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Catskills 2008 - First Trip

High-sticking an attractor-dropper combo. Should have been crouching but my back was sore.

This past weekend I made my first foray of the year to my home waters - the Esopus Creek in Ulster County, N.Y. (and its tributaries).

Conditions were excellent. So good, in fact, that I wonder if we're in for a lot of high and dry-ness later on.

The Esopus is big water. And unlike a lot of Catskill rivers, it is not easy to fish the dry fly here. Too fast, too deep, not enough defined riffle-pool-riffle setups.

Lots of pocket water, though, and a great place for the high-sticking wet fly or nymph man.

The spot where I began, however, has a stretch along the southern bank that is relatively flat and placid - and is shaded by mid-morning. A perfect place, in fact, to prospect with a dry fly, either roll-casting from the bank or fishing straight ahead from the stream.

I am a fan of the larger fly. Dinky flies don't interest me, probably because I can't see them.

So I tied on my favorite "Hey, Get a Load of Me!" pattern - a Royal caddis, size 14 - and started flicking it here and there.

Sure enough, a nice rainbow rose up and grabbed it on the fourth or fifth cast. Nothing spectacular, a 12 or 13-inch wild rainbow.

But the Esopus has something like 60,000 of them at any given time in an 11-mile stretch from the Portal in Allaben to the Ashokan reservoir.

That's a lot of fish.

That ended the actual fish-catching portion of the day, however.

Be sure to stand out where the fish can see you, and splash around a lot

I did watch a fellow on the opposite bank put on a clinic on How Not To Fish. Here's the gist of it:

  • Start on the wrong side of the river for a right-hander, and the side that will be in the sun until, well, sundown.
  • Stand on every prominent boulder and false cast a lot. A teenage girl might mistake you for Brad Pitt.
  • Splash your way downstream. That way the trout not scared off by the sight of you waving your rod around from the prominent boulders will run away lest you step on them.
  • Be sure at all times to have at least twice as much line in your hands or floating around your legs as you have in the air. This will amuse the other fishermen, even if they aren't doing so hot themselves.
I also spent a little time on some semi-private water. I belong to a loose confederation of fly rodders who pony up each year to stock a section of an Esopus tributary with brown trout. Cooperative landowners allow access for fly fishing only.

I am always curious to see if there are any holdovers. Last year I caught an extremely long, skinny and hungry specimen on a miserable day in April. He gave me a really nasty look, too. "You mamma-tamma - my first square meal in months, and it's a fake!"

No browns this time, but I did get a couple of the ubiquitous wild rainbows - little guys on their first time around the track.

As is my usual practice, I released everybody, hoping the combination of sore jaws and long memories makes for good outings in the future.


Fishing style - The Well-Dressed Angler is wearing cotton/wool blend Viyella shirts this early season. Here is a Lands End model bought secondhand, which blends nicely with the puke-green waders from Cabelas. Polarized clip-ons from Cocoons allow the WDA to use his bifocals, without which he can no longer tie on a fly.

The Summer Style

So I have retrieved all my summer weight jackets and suits from the mothballs. I have a lot more of them than I remembered.

I have five poplin suits and two seersuckers; about a dozen cotton sport coats, many in highly obnoxious checked patterns; a couple of lined linen or linen/wool/silk blends, and a completely unstructured silk jacket that is really nice for the chilly evenings in May and early June, and again come September.

I also have amassed a pretty decent collection of spectator shoes. Last year I was complaining about weddings; this time around my inner fop is hoping somebody gets spliced just so I can trot these things out.

(I am pretty fearless when it comes to work attire; I routinely outdress everybody. But even I would have to draw the line at showing up in a seersucker and spectators.)

I also kept a few partially lined, lightweight tweeds handy. It was 75 today, but will be 42 tonight.

I put away a bunch of shirts for the summer. I have far too many shirts anyway, and I want to give some of the sprightlier ones a good workout.

This year I think I will abandon the tie, for the most part, for July and August. There will always be circumstances that demand one, but for the routine day at work I think I will skip it.

(That's what I thought last year, too, but I relapsed.)

Solid linen ties in light colors are what I'm looking for in the thrifts now. I have several rather busy shirts and I don't want to attack the viewer.

I also spent an afternoon washing and ironing (hah) a big pile of poplin trousers. Poplin is a fabric that resists ironing and wrinkles almost immediately anyway, but I thought I'd at least get off on the good foot.

Dirty bucks, what-the-hell (as opposed to go-to-hell) socks, cotton belts, loafers...

It was a long winter.

The Great Trad Manifesto

Well, not really...

Read the Trad subforum at Ask Andy About Clothes for a week or so and you'll discover that the most public devotees of the style cannot agree on what it is.

The curious can read the occasional discussions on the other message boards devoted to men's clothing - Style Forum and Film Noir Buff - and become even more confused.

"Trad" - a clumsy term, short for "traditional" (
whose tradition?) - is best defined, I think, by what it isn't:

  • Darted jackets
  • Any shirt collar other than buttondown, with occasional exceptions for forward point or club collars
  • Pleated trousers
  • Anything that looks like it was designed by someone with a last name ending with "-ini."
  • Anything that appears to have been designed at all
  • Anything that fits too well
  • Anything flashy


Now immediately we can start to pick at this list. If we are going to make exceptions for some collars, why not all?

Is a guy wearing flat-front trousers, a white buttondown-collared shirt, a repp tie and a darted two-button blazer going to be zapped by a thunderbolt hurled by Chipp, the Trad god of Compliance?

Is a man in lime-green pants with embroidered, spouting whales on them really going to try to maintain he is a master of quiet understatement?

And my beloved chinos, baggy to the nth degree, can hardly be called elegant. One pair is so voluminous it's hard to think of them as pants - more of a mobile cotton force field.

So what is it then, this Trad? The British Ivy look, as ceaselessly promoted by FNB's Russell Street?

The look in the photos of "American Trad Men" in this thread on AAAC?

The efforts of the actual forumites, in this thread?

Or something entirely different?

More to the point -

Who cares?

Wear what you like and have fun.

So much for the manifesto.