Monday, May 30, 2011

Polo Wars

It's not what it looks like! (The author on right)
It was 1992 or 1993. In our downtown apartment over looking the lake and city lights, my roommate and I thought it would be a good idea to settle a score at long last.  Who was preppier, him or me? 

Instead of side arms, we entered this preppy duel equipped solely with the cotton arsenal in our closets and dresser drawers. The rule of the contest - who had more individual pieces of Polo Ralph Lauren clothing. (We were bored seniors in college and mildly intoxicated, so this seemed like a stellar idea.)

Back then, Polo was the standard bearer for quality and preppiness just as one could argue it is today.  Being young fools, we had wrapped so much significance in this brand of all brands to the point that we equated one's future success in life (wealth and enduring popularity with the opposite sex) with how much Polo we owned.

And so with a Shiner Bock (or was it cheap scotch) in hand, we headed to our respective bedrooms to  tally our ponies.

Me:  (3) button-down oxfords; (6) short-sleeved polo shirts; (2) pair of shorts; (1) twill baseball cap; (3) pair of boxer shorts; (3) pair of socks; (1) old bottle of Polo cologne

My roommate: (4) button-down oxfords; (3) short-sleeved polo shirts; (2) pair of shorts; (2) twill baseball caps; (6) pair of socks

Smugly, I thought I had this in the [tote] bag! 19 Polo-branded items to his to his paltry 17. But just as I was reaching for my bleeding madras crown, he slapped me down. "Not so fast, young Jedi," he said. "I don't have 17... I have 20." He reminded me that we said "individual pieces of clothing." I counted pairs of socks, and he counted individual socks. Beaten on a technicality.

He would go on to be a high powered attorney in New York, writing contracts. I would go on to IT middle-management in Pugetropolis, writing blogs.  But to this day, I still get great satisfaction from the fact that he didn't catch that my cologne was not an article of clothing.

The devil and the preppy are in the details.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red Clay Sole

Not shot in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver

Roland Garros is in full swing. At the time of my writing this, there are still a few North Americans left in the tournament. My fearless prediction - not to be confused with a lack of patriotism - is that no American will advance to the finals this year - men's or women's. I have history on my side. No American, in Men's Singles, has won since Agassi in 1999; and no American, in Women's Singles, has won since Serena Williams in 2002. You can't really blame us.  How many clay courts do you see in your typical North American city or suburb? Here in Cascadia, I can't think of many - besides the three at the Seattle Tennis Club - and they are not accessible to the average Joe or Josephina.

Seattle Tennis Club

You either have red clay in your soul or you don't.  We don't and here's why.  Clay courts are slower than hard courts, making it harder to hit "winners."  Americans like instant gratification; we like things fast. Clay courts require more maintenance than hard courts.  Americans are a "fix it and forget it" lot; maintenance is a fixed expense few cities or schools want. And most importantly, clay courts are "dirty" and will render our new white canvas Tretorns a rust-colored mess. And we just can't have that!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a Northwest Twist on a Classic Cocktail

First, let me say that it's really hard to beat a good London Dry gin, but in the spirit of keeping libations local, try this recipe:

2 oz. Washington Dry Gin (from Dry Fly Distilling out of Spokane, Washington)
Tonic water
Splash of Campari
Squeeze of lime (a germaphobe I know said not to throw the lime in your cocktail - it takes up room and it's full of bacteria!  I'll take my chances.)

Hemingway drank these while on safari in Africa, but he used Gordon's Gin. Source: "True at First Light" 

If you're in search of another local Cascadian favorite, check out Dry Soda for their all-natural, low calorie sodas. "Lavender" is the author's favorite because it reminds him of his prurience in Provence, but each of their flavors are unique and make excellent cocktail bastardizations mixers for gin, vodka, and tequila.

"In the sweet summahtime" Bob Seger, Night Moves

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shorts Weather

Well, it is finally "shorts weather" in Greater Cascadia and after this l-o-n-g winter the shorts are riding higher than Bob Marley on horseback.  Shorts weather here also means sunglasses weather.  Sure, sunglasses for the bright sun, but more than that, sunglasses for the pasty white Cascadian skin that hasn't seen the light of day since mid September.

Cape Madras "Vail"  in (34) thank you very much

I can't wait to sport these babies while I tear up the golf course (literally), for the golf course is one of the few venues where a Cascadian prep can let out a sigh of relief.
"Phew! I'm not alone on this quest for prepdom in the Pacific Northwest," he thinks to himself when he sees some prepped-out golfers the next fairway over.
"Uh, yeah you are," he later thinks when he finds out, at the 19th hole, that those same golfers are in on business from Connecticut.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I don't care for baseball, but I do like going to weekday afternoon baseball games when the sun is shining.  Today was one of those days.   Every once in a while you just need to blow off work and hang out with friends. Hey, the French do it!  And if those masters of the 35-hour work week can take great pride in ditching out of work, why can't we? Here's to you!  Viva le France!  But here's also to that great American pastime for giving us a reason.

The beergarden - more about the sun & beer than the game!

Bless her heart

Like a vacation, "screwing off" lets you reconnect with who you really are.  It makes all the other crap make sense  tolerable.  It gives you perspective. "You are only what you are when no one is looking."


To my knowledge (and unlike Ferris) we weren't spotted in the crowd on ESPN highlights.  But if we were, so be it!  I'm the boss anyway.

The home team won... a walk-off win against the Halos. The other team lost the pop fly in the sun... in Seattle, if you can believe it.  Not a bad Cascadian afternoon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Distant Sun

Today, under a building overhang, a stranger said to me that it could be a long time before we get reliably sunny weather. Just at that moment, we each were sprayed with dirty street water from a passing bus.  We weren't strangers anymore.

(Good thing I was wearing rainy-weather shoes, or as we like to say here in Cascadia - "shoes.") 

a desert island song & band - Crowded House's "Distant Sun"

If you ever have a chance to see Crowded House or Neil Finn's solo act, do it. You don't have to be a Gen X'er, but being born in the 1970s, or earlier decades, might help. These Kiwis don't come to North America very often, and heaven forbid they go on the casino or free concert-in-the-park circuit, but even if they have a less desirable venue, it would be worth your while. It was mine.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I love rowing, but I love the idea of rowing even more.

Who is that man in the green cap?
I rowed for The University of Texas "back in the day." I know - Texas is not exactly synonymous with the life aquatic or rowing, to be sure. But with my intentions being as pure as the lake we rowed on, I took it up as a club sport. (More on that in a sec.)

Sidebar: In Austin, most rowing is done on Lady Bird Lake, which is really just a dammed-up spot on the Colorado River. The lake used to be  called "Town Lake" because it courses through the middle of downtown Austin. The "lake" is spanned by the Congress Avenue bridge, which is home to the world's largest colony of urban-dwelling bats.  (Can you say "guano"?) The lake - none too pure.

Back to a now-Cascadian, then-transient prep trying to explain r-o-w-i-n-g in Texas, for Pete's sake. At the time, rowing wasn't just any "club sport."  If you are like me, the idea of  "club sports" in college evokes images of frisbee golf, competitive hackysack, or late night dwarf-tossing. But rowing, as a club sport, was different in that it enabled marginally-athletic guys like me to think we were cool on campus. It also gave us that  "je ne sais liberal arts smugness" hard to achieve with, say, club rugby or club pickelball. It gave us a chance to travel, wear henleys, talk about how we don't drink because we're athletes, not talk about how we ate magic brownies after regattas because we're club sport athletes, etc.
It's different now.  Texas actually has a nationally ranked rowing program... #15 in the country! This fact takes the fun out of it for me, since my motivation was to impress liberal arts lassies, not actually work hard and take it seriously. There's no messing with successful Texas sports programs.

"The Cut" with Montlake Bridge in the background (Seattle)

In Cascadia - Washington to be exact - it's the same as it has been for a long time... they row well here... really well. So well, in fact, I had to ask myself why such a locally popular and strong preppy sport didn't radiate more preppiness through out the land.

I think I found the answer... it's because the traditional rowing powerhouses from back east are being challenged by schools from the West Coast, the Midwest and the South Central. The whole paradigm is shifting.  Cheating Tiger Woods in golf. Derrière-picking Nadal in tennis. Football-loving Texas in rowing. Don't get me wrong... I love each of these three sports establishments, but they can dilute the spirit, obscure the history, and cheapen the lore. Preps need spirit, history, and lore.

Division I
1) Tie - Cal & Princeton
7) Washington
9) Yale
12) Harvard
14) Washington State
15) Texas (seriously)

Division II
1) Western Washington Univ.
2) Seattle Pacific Univ.

The rowing Winklevoss dudes who "founded" FB... sorta

Opening Day of Boating Season was Saturday, May 7th, when  the Pacific Northwest's premier regatta - The Windemere Cup - is contested.  The fours crews rowing this year were Cambridge, Stanford, Oklahoma, and Washington. Washington won.

(A few pics taken in Tigre, Bs. As.... more reasons why rowing is great.)

Buenos Aires Rowing Club

La Marina Regata Club

Rowing Club Argentino

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Portland(ia) Prep Digs - The Nines


The Nines is located in downtown Portland, Oregon, USA. It's a stone's throw to the Willamette River and the requisite waterfront arts & crafts fair encampments [read "hippies" here].  It's also a casual walk over to one the best bookstores this Cascadian prep has ever patroned - Powell's Books. Nearly every book you ever wanted - new or used - is available at Powell's Books. Prep, Trad, and Sartorially-themed books are well stocked here, too. I don't know if that's because no one buys them or if it's just the opposite (probably because no one buys them - this is the land that gave us Nike and Columbia, after all).

The Nines is close to Portland Streetcar stops, where one can hop on and be whisked over to the Pearl District. The Pearl District is nice because of its many art galleries, boutiques, restaurants (try Oba), and gelato shops (try Mio Gelato on NW 11th... and for the love of God, do not try the blue cheese or french onion gelato, like I did.)

If you live in Washington state or Vancouver, BC, take the train (Amtrak Cascades) down to Portland and then cab it over to the hotel.  If you live further away, fly in and cab it to the hotel. You really don't need a car in this pedestrian-friendly town. And if you want to tour the burgeoning wine country an hour away, van tours are a good way to go.

Also, remember, thrift is a virtue to the prep and while in Oregon you won't pay sales tax.  Take the money you save and spend it on a nice Oregon Pinot Noir.

Alert: many locals pronounce their state, "Ory-gun," as they have a nice, folksy nature about them. But be advised - never, ever call it "Oreh-gone." You will be summarily tarred and duck-feathered for not doing your homework on its pronunciation.

(So you missed going there this Mother's Day... there's always Father's Day... hint, hint.)

Portland train station
Lobby of  The Nines
a room at The Nines (my kid not included)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Leather (keep the chains)

The devil and the preppy are in the details. Socks, belts, and otherwise subtle affectations are always good areas to manifest one’s inner prep. In keeping with this spirit, I recently went on the hunt for an eyeglass case. My car’s glove compartment and office desk drawer are littered with cases, which range from the spiritless vinyl (or naugahyde) type to the clunky box with overly aggressive spring hinges that can render one fingerless.

Like with most of my searches, I started with Google “Bing” (since I live in Cascadia).  I typed in “preppy eyeglass cases,” which brought up the usual cutesy-poo offerings clearly aimed at the distaff side (or "testosteronely-challenged").  There were one or two cases I saw at Rugby, of the usual nautical or tennis motif, that I promptly passed on in hopes of finding something more classic & durable... that means LEATHER. 

Ben Silver "Liberty" frames (or are they?) and Col. Littleton case
Then on a whim, I clicked over to, where I found this beauty. It’s timeless; it’s manly; it’s unique; and it can be monogrammed!  Colonel Littleton – a neat Tennessee-based company who caters to the leather aficionado - makes this leather case (as well as several other fine leather “accoutrements”).

Sorry if I just alienated my vegan readership, but then you probably shouldn't be here anyway.  May I suggest this link?

If you want to know about the glasses, please comment or send me an email.