Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dispatch from Whistler, British Columbia

I like Whistler, British Columbia, because of its staggering natural beauty and its heavy snow - you know, the kind of snow that stirs up images of mom's mashed potatoes or the seconds bin at a down pillow manufacturer.  But mainly, I like Whistler because I like Canadians, Aussies, Brits, and other members of the Commonwealth of Nations who descend on this master-planned town like tweakers to a methadone clinic.

crummy video of crummy snow from yours truly 

I don't like contrived Europa and contrived Europa Whistler is... on the surface. If you look under the stairwells of any Whistler establishment, you are sure to find cases of Europe-in-a-can.  Come on!  Trying that hard is not becoming. And if you lean too hard on the "stone walls," which adorn the sides of the many "pubs," "creperies," and "pastarias," you are sure to fall through, revealing the Wizard of Whistler. No, you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto, but you're not in the Old World, either.

The interiors of many of the eating establishments are adorned with "bolt-on art" and other fun and quirky mountain sport paraphernalia. (Did they ask to borrow a page out of the Applebees playbook? Egad!)

Needless to say, Gstaad this is not, but it doesn't have to be. On my last trip to Whistler, I actually met one of the guys who helped construct it back in the early 1960s. He said that back then there was no theme, no faux-stone walls, no bolt-on art. It was pure, rugged British Columbia and it was AWESOME.

Like I said before, "prep" is supposed to be authentic, not contrived. Cascadian prep should be no different. To expand on this concept, a world class ski area in a world class country should not be contrived.  It should be natural and effortless with a go-to-hell attitude.

Photographic examples of Whistler retailers trying too hard. In the last 6 or 7 times I've been to Whistler, these same Dale of Norway items have not moved one inch (I mean 2.54 centimeters).
And what's with the kits below?  Target audience being whom? You don't go to a resort to buy for the next season.  You buy for what you need right now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nubuck Chuck and friends

Just as I sometimes enjoy indulging in the cheap value-based brand of Charles Shaw, a.k.a, "Two Buck Chuck," I also sometimes enjoy cladding myself in cheap value-based shoes and socks. (The only way I admit this is that I also must admit I overspend on shoes and socks regularly.)

the author in full office repose

The shoes, "Bass Brocktons" in taupe suede. $64.95 from an online seller. The socks, Macy's "Club Room" brand. About $15.00 for three pair. Oh and the pants, Brooks Brothers "Eight Wale Corduroys." I forget how much - $100 maybe? (Don't harsh the cords - it's 57°F/14°C right now in Pugetropolis for Pete's sake.)

a mere 30 miles from Portland, OR, USA
My toes chew through socks like Star Jones through a chicken wing, so I just can't justify having a drawer full of Thomas Pink's at $30.00 a pop. And slogging through the soggy streets of Cascadia is not kind to shoes of any make, let alone a nice pair of $225.00 walk-over bucks.  So yeah, I'm given to go cheap on some items and treat them like consumables, but this unprep philosophy allows me to fork over more greenbacks for the Barbour rain jacket or the 2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurene. Trade-offs.

(Prep vs. Pragmatism.  Prep 0  Prag 2) 

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Western Feeling

The Foals - This Orient

You may ask, "So how is this germane to Cascadian preppiness?" Well, time for another round of "6 Degrees of Pugetropolis Prep." I'll have you know that The Foals are from Oxford, England - namesake for the cloth in which our favorite button-down shirts are made. The Foals, in the US, are signed to Sub Pop - a Seattle-based record label.  And, quite simply, I just really like this band. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

J. Press Your Luck

I just recieved this shirt in the mail a few days ago (the actual pictured below).  It's my first foray into J. Press. I ordered it in a drunken frenzy while on vacation with too much time on my hands (fun but dangerous). I read too many style blogs with writers from "Back East" not to notice that J. Press is Mecca for men's traditional/preppy clothing. So I just had to bring one home.

For some living in Greater Cascadia, wearing a tailor/institution like J. Press poses problems - the utter lack of recognition here being of chief concern. Downtown Joe, if asked, "What's J. Press?" would probably reply with, "Uh, um, is it some kind of device for rolling joints?"  Seriously, outside of those few Cascadians who went to school in NY or the surrounding states, or did a stint on Wall Street, or heaven forbid, like me, regularly muse in the writings of fashion bloggers, no one here knows J. Press.  

cotton madras short sleeve

Well, I aim to change that, so I started with Mrs. Cascadian Prep. Remember, a prep of any type, she is not, but she does love this madras shirt and hinted at my needing to get more. Get more, I will, and I will wear them proudly through the streets and in the offices of Pugetropolis, Portlandia, and "The Van."  I will push the envelope and Press my luck. For those of you out there who already know the joys of J. Press ownership and who travel to the Pacific Northwest or the Lower Mainland, join me and take up arms... wear your J. Press and wear it proudly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The [Dis]parity of Grunge and Prep

Alexander Julian
Living in the land that begat grunge, I am happy to report that it is still DEAD, and if not dead, waiting for another silver bullet or swift coup de gras. I have to admit, when grunge music became popular in the late 80s / early 90s, I found myself bopping my head and banging my steering wheel to some of its wildy-popular anthems - all while wearing Ralph Lauren button-down oxfords pinched from dad's closet or my own Alexander Julian polos.

This month marks the 17th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Rest in peace, Kurt, and rest in peace, Grunge. To both I am thankful, for they are given credit for killing the dreadful hair bands of the early to mid 1980s.

At first glance one might say that there is nothing in common with the grunge sensibility and the prep sensibility. Well, contraire mon fraire. There is more to these ways of life than meets the eye. Consider the following: 

Kurt Cobain
1967 - 1994
- Both have isolated beginnings, be it in the Pacific Northwest or the Atlantic Northeast.  This is real Darwin "Origin of Species" stuff, or more correctly, "allopatric speciation."

- Both have predecessors to which they openly pay homage and reference. Grunge has musical groups like The Who, Neil Young, and Led Zeppelin and vocational groups like lumberjacks and electrical linesmen from which they were influenced. Prep has institutions like the Ivy league, prep schools, and sports and hobbies like rowing, sailing, lacrosse, hunting, and fishing from which they were informed.

- Both wear utilitarian clothing.  Grunge: the lace-up boots, cargo pants (or shorts), flannel shirts, insulated underwear, stocking hats. Prep: the boat shoes, khaki pants, oxford shirts, and perhaps a hunting or sailing jacket. Each item may be used for multiple purposes, in a multitude of venues.  Which brings me to...

- Thrift. Both groups, regardless of socio-economic standing, see thrift as a virtue, hence, the frayed khakis or faded oxfords, or duct-taped combat boots or tattered flannel shirts. 

- Both have a "Come as you are" mindset, or to put it bluntly, an "FU" mindset. Not that either group is rude - quite the opposite - but each group has a quiet confidence in themselves which will not waiver in the face of ridicule. They are true to their clan, but accepting of others.

(But did the two ever co-exist?)

Niles Crane.jpg
Niles Crane from Frasier
1993 - 2004

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Roanoke Inn Tavern

The Roanoke Inn Tavern is in Mercer Island, Washington. Mercer Island is an actual island in Lake Washington, between Seattle and Bellevue.  It consistently ranks amongst the highest in scholastic test scores and the wealthiest of zip codes for Washington state. These superlatives, however, are not the Cascadian prepster's only draw to Mercer Island. 

a full parking lot at lunch time
In a nutshell, another key reason is HISTORY. Preps of all sort love things steeped in lore and history and this fine establishment has both. First, the place has been around for about 100 years. It is rumored that it once hosted "dancing girls" and prohibition-era drinking (What establishment didn't host "dancing girls"?)  Reportedly, even Roosevelt (Teddy) had imbibed here and preps of all types just love Roosevelts.

Obligatory historical plaque

drink first, then order food
Second, it's a good value - good beer and liquor selections and good pub grub at a fair price. This is recognized by working stiffs and lay-abouts, alike. Perhaps it is this final reason - the diverse mix of clientele - that makes it such a great haunt for the Cascadian prep.  On any given afternoon, you are sure to find Jewish American Princesses swigging Stella Artois next to Presbyterian Proctologists.  In the back, you might find the latest billionaire playing darts with a contractor from the Millionaire's Club.  And Volvos and Acuras cohabitate the pea gravel parking lot in back.  Oh My!

   It's all good and it's all over at The Roanoke Inn Tavern. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Color Coordination

self-aggrandizing style a la Maxminimus with a beer chaser

A [Cascadian] prep makes every attempt to be color coordinated, even when resources are slim and impairment is likely. Color coordination is as compulsory to the prep as is church-going on Christmas and Easter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Ersatz" and other college words

1. serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial: an ersatz coffee made from grain.
2. an artificial substance or article used to replace something natural or genuine; a substitute.

The University of Washington in Spring
One can not overstate how important a good vocabulary is to one's success. Having a solid command of your homeland's primary language can only help port you into the upper echelons of business and society. For those of you who do not feel you possess any luck in lexicon, don't give up!  Like anything else, it can be improved with fastidiousness and practice. "A Word A Day" can be emailed to you; you can engage in crossword puzzles, and so on.  For those of you who do have a potent parlance, don't shy away from using it!  It would be disingenuous to do so and patronizing to play down to those around you.

The University of British Columbia
Here in Cascadia - home to two of the nation's smartest cities -Portland and Seattle - and home to #34 on Webometrics Top Universities in the World - Vancouver, BC - we don't take education lightly, but we do seem to conceal it. It almost feels like formal education is to be shamed, as being that of the bourgeois, as well as something to say sotto voce.  That's why I'm thankful for the Tech Boom and Bust. To all of those IT whiz kids who thought that by being able to string together a few lines of code, in jobs that paid $100K+, they could skimp on formal education, how is that working for you now?  It seems that being able to string together a few well-formed sentences wins, again.

There is no ersatz for an education at university and there is no ersatz for a robust vocabulary. (Now where's my Stevia?)

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Cascadian Prep's March/April Vacation

It's hard being preppy at 70 feet below the surface. (Does Vineyard Vines or Henri Lloyd make a wetsuit? Anyone? Anyone?)

Friday, April 1, 2011

BC Bud

"Chronic," "Skeech," "Sticky Icky," "Broccoli" - these, but a few of the names for that natural green drug, and all of which I learned from white collar professionals in the last few years. Some of these people smoke it; others do not; some lie about it; others do not. In any case, "pot" - I'll call it since that's what it was called when I first found out about it as a kid - seems to be growing in popularity and acceptance in upper middle-class, middle-aged, professional circles.

No longer fodder for the wannabe hippie, Bohemian, or tortured artist, pot seems to have crept into our everyday discourse.  On the golf course or on a ski lift, your attorney or broker just might give you the "Is this cool?" head nod, before sparking up. If you are "cool with it," you need not be afraid of being asked if you want some.  "Puff-Puff-Pass," now solely the domain of the aforementioned wannabe hippie or Bohemian due to its strong socialist overtones, does not play with your white collar friend. No, you are going to have to ask him

Here in the Pacific Northwest, "BC Bud" is supposed to be the fashizzle. They do hot house tomatoes well up there, why not weed? I'm amused by the fact that pot has terroir - like wine. Mexican Gold, Texas Tea, Colorado Cocktail, Maui Wauie - all of which denote the soil, water, and climate in which it was cultivated. Heck, I even think tasting notes are available for it.

My intent here is not to judge or disclose whether I use it or not, although I wouldn't want my daughter smoking it. My intent here is to help substantiate, through my own personal observations, that pot is an indulgence - no - rather, a relaxation tool for the classic prep* and quite possibly for the Cascadian prep, as well.  

* Click here for a fun little posting from the good people at Stuff WASPs Like on this very subject.
* Click here for an Admiral Cod posting, which lingers in the mind like the clouds over the Pacific Northwest, evoking thoughts of  Alex Garland's The Beach.