August 31, 2011

August 27, 2011

On the Shelf - The Gay Place

Happy 103rd (this would be)...

On the Way With L.B.J. (Aug. 27, 1960)

“The country is most barbarously large and final. It is too much country—boondock country—alternately drab and dazzling, spectral and remote. It is so wrongfully muddled and various that it is difficult to conceive of it as all of a piece. Though it begins simply enough, as a part of the other." - Billy Lee Brammer. "The Flea Circus" in The Gay Place, p. 1.
One needn't look any farther than the archaic title of Billy Lee Brammer's classic 1961 novel to see just how much life has changed in the past fifty years. And novel it was... a debut piece of fiction by a 32 y.o., standing timeless and firm among works by the likes of veterans McMurtry and McCarthy.

The Gay Place is actually a compendium of three related novellas, which share characters, settings, and themes, and paint a broad-stroke landscape of an exasperating yet irresistible politico life in 50's Texas. And throughout, two themes maintain the integrity of the fabric: i) "marital alienation and infidelity”; and ii) “an outrageous Texas governor called Arthur 'Goddam' Fenstemaker," based primarily on the peccadilloes of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Set in points in and around Austin, it describes a capital city that no longer exists and a political landscape turned on its head. A time when you had to have a "D" beside your name to get elected anything from dog catcher to governor. It was all but required reading for young government majors at the University of Texas, a requirement we gladly obliged.

August 25, 2011

Front & Center

Football season just around the corner, which means summer is coming to its rapid and merciful end. And with the change in season comes a change in spirit. Not that I've grown tired of the gin, mind you - full as it is, of body, and character, and alcohol. But fall brings fall cocktails, and since there's no sense mixing drinks across seasons (as any gradeschooler would tell you), I have included here a couple recipes to help you hasten the depletion of your clear as you prepare the move into your brown. Cheers...

2 oz. dry gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. superfine sugar (or use simple syrup)
8–10 mint leaves
Chilled club soda
Large ice cubes or ice spear
Glass: highball
Garnish: mint sprig

Place mint leaves in cocktail shaker and gently muddle. Add gin, lemon juice and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Fill shaker with large pieces of ice and shake gently for about 10 secs. Strain into a highball glass filled with large cubes or ice spear. Top with chilled club soda. Garnish.

1 oz. London dry gin
1 oz. Bols Cherry brandy or Cherry Heering (seriously you don't need this)
1 oz. Bénédictine
1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. soda water
1 dash Angostura bitters
Glass: Collins

Combine all ingredients except soda water and bitters in an ice-filled glass. Top with soda water, stir briefly and dash with Angostura bitters.

Note: The original Singapore Sling appears to have been ungarnished. By the mid-1920s, they were adding the peel of a lime, cut in a thick spiral. By the late ’30s, they were also omitting the Bénédictine and bitters and floating Sloe Gin on top.

Cocktail photos and (adjusted) Recipes via: Imbibe Magazine.

August 19, 2011

Six Hours in Newport, RI

I'd coveted my friend's soft shell jacket for over a year, and in particular that Newport Shipyard bird logo emblazoned across the left chest. But lest I be labeled a poseur I refrained from purchasing any such gear until I'd seen the marina myself. Fortunately, a recent trip to the northeast presented the perfect opportunity. So on a cool, overcast Friday morning we set off for Newport, RI in search of some regional hullabaloo.

... and whattaya know

We took in the scenery along Ocean Drive, both to the left and the right, and made our way to the marina, which holds some of the most exquisite vessels on the water. One particularly inspiring machine was Puma's Mar Mostro, which will sail in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race. Then lunch on-site at Belle's Cafe: New England Clam Chowder and Twin Lobster Rolls, meat and mayo served on your traditional split bun, buttered and toasted and every bit of summer.
owner of aforementioned jacket
enduring logo


1 Washington Street
Newport, RI 02840

Afterwards, bellies full, we meandered through the privileged streets of Newport, ducking in and out of shops and bars before heading back to Mass. I'm certain we missed much more than we took in, and maybe next trip we hit up the International Tennis Hall of Fame for some grass court play and NYYC's Harbour Court. All I need is six hours and an invitation...

104 Spring Street
Newport, RI 02840

August 11, 2011

Auf Wiedersehen

Earlier this year I grudgingly accepted the fact that my 14 y.o. 528i had run its course. At least with me. Or more importantly, with my ever-flattening wallet. It was only in the face of overwhelming unreliability that we parted ways, and I use that term in the strictest sense because like some poor sap punching above his weight I was willing to stomach a lot just to hold onto her.

There were the busted cup holders, a minor nuisance. A broken passenger door handle that went unfixed for months, which did wonders for my chivalry quotient but got a little awkward when someone other than the Z was riding shotgun. The loose fender that would drag a bit after hitting a speed bump. The leaking hose that consumed a quart of power steering fluid a week. And the oil pan... that was the kicker. Fare thee well, friend.

Someone got her for a steal and with a little love & tenderness the ol' gal'll back on the road lickety split. 

As I was reminiscing I tripped across a couple odes to the heritage and provenance of the Ultimate Driving Machine that are as timeless and beautiful as the machines themselves...   

BMW Unscripted videos via: Ad Age.

August 7, 2011

Idle Speed Now, pt. 2 - Nonquitt, MA

... meanwhile, back on the northeastern seaboard, we touched down at Boston Logan and made our way through the rain and the traffic to Nonquitt. "It's not a town. It's a neighborhood." The driver was insistent about this. And turns out he was right. It is a neighborhood, or rather an enclave, set just outside of New Bedford, the Whaling City, along the south coast of Massachusetts.

The rain had subsided by the time we arrived. Our host, the groom, met us on the road and took us to our weekend house and lo, it had been struck by lightning just that afternoon. Hole in the roof and water dripping in and it smelled like a dwindling campfire. An ominous sign, no doubt, which turned out to be the last hiccup of what would ultimately be a perfect celebratory weekend. To F&B, all the best...

official cocktail of the evening, the Southside.

front of the house...

... towards Buzzards Bay.

picnic at The Casino

never seen a better climbin' tree

August 2, 2011

Urban Assault

Interesting trend, this camo proliferation, and only time will tell how far and how wide it’ll spread come fall. Hamilton Shirt Co., the venerable Houston-based fourth generation family run custom shirt maker, is making a bit of noise about its City Camo button down lately. Now, I understand that fashion and function don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but playing with a pattern as loaded with functionality as camouflage can get you into hazardous territory real quick. And honestly, unless your stalker ex-girlfriend is a snow leopard I really don’t get the utility. But that may just be my limited palate for gaucherie shining through. 

Caroline Matthews, proprietor of San Antonio-based custom guayabera maker Dos Carolinas, will be in Houston this week (Aug 3-4) for a holiday trunk show. I’ve had a couple shirts made by her - and have written about the process - and if you have the time I’d highly recommend making it over to Mariquita Masterson for measurements. Among its sizable fabric palate, Dos Carolinas has a camo pattern of its own that ought not to be missed. What with dove season rapidly approaching there may be no better time to stock up, though unless the birds have a sense of humor I’m afraid the tongue-in-cheekiness of the design may be lost. 

2505 River Oaks Boulevard
August 3rd-4th, 10a-5p

Caroline Matthews

City Camo shirt photo via: Hamilton Shirt Co.