Saturday, January 23, 2010

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

The Circle Theater
Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

Early Sunday Morning
Edward Hopper
oil on canvas

1959 MGA 1500 Roadster

1959 MGA 1500 Roadster

Vintage MGA advertisement

Lucas pin from Moss Motors

Reading through Walker Lemond's excellent blog 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son got me thinking about the vintage cars that I've owned.

Rule No.166 Drive a vintage car before you are 30

The key concept here is "before you are 30." After that, you will find that you've accumulated enough responsibility that a vintage car ceases to be transportation, and becomes a toy.

My early 20s found me living in Southern California for a spell, and I set out to find a classic British roadster- my first car purchase. After test-driving a number of Austin Healey 100's, and a nice early E-type Jaguar, I settled on a 1959 MGA 1500 roadster. The above photo shows a nicely restored example. Mine was BRG with a black interior- clean and well-preserved, but far short of concourse material.
Hella fun to drive with the top down on a sunny day, the MGA boasted a number of vexing idiosyncrasies:
  • Twin SU carburetors that required frequent tuning
  • Cooling system way under-engineered for California driving
  • Mechanical oil-dampened shock absorbers
  • Lucas electrical system
Lucas electrics- the butt of jokes among vintage British car owners- have a nasty habit of short circuiting and wafting the acrid smoke of an electrical fire from behind the dash or under the bonnet.

Rule No.372 If you drive a vintage car, be able to wrench it yourself

On an ill-fated jaunt into Northern Baja, the engine overheated and threw a push rod. I managed to limp the car back to San Diego, where it sat DOA until I moved back to Northern California.
I got a crash course in auto mechanics restoring the car. I bought a Chilton's manual and a set of tools, and set about rebuilding the engine, electrical system, and hydraulic system.
Restoring this car from the ground up was an immensely satisfying experience; not one I've sought out since, but knowing that I had the skills was worth the skinned knuckles, spitting and cussing, and the seemingly endless search for rare parts.

Eventually, I sold "the stagecoach" to a collector in Marin County to make way for another vintage car, and was not too sad to see it go.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

C.C. Filson Mackinaw Cruiser

Style No.110 Mackinaw Cruiser

Detail: back map pocket

The year was 1897; the place Seattle. C. C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers was founded by Clinton C. Filson to supply goods to the horde of adventurers headed for the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. The conditions were so harsh that the quality of their clothing was a matter of survival, and Filson staked his reputation on making clothing that stood up to the challenge. "Might as well have the best" is the company's tag line, and they have earned their bragging rights.

As the rush north ended, Filson began to supply sturdy clothing to the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest, as well as to sportsmen and others who earned their living in the outdoors.
Filson's product line-up is a traditionalist's dream- made in Seattle of the highest quality materials, their core line of heavy wool and waxed cotton outwear is largely un-messed with- same as it always was.

The Mackinaw Cruiser, patented in 1914, is Filson's signature product. Made of heavy (26 oz to the yard) dense 100% virgin mackinaw wool, it was designed to meet the needs of timber cruisers. It sports no fewer than 8 pockets including the map pocket formed by doubling the back panel and accessible via large snapped flaps at the side seams.

I've owned this coat now for more than 15 years, put it through its paces, and it is just about broken in. New, it is stiff enough to stand up on its own. A lifetime investment, my grandchildren will be wearing this coat if it doesn't end up at the Goodwill.

Eventually, no doubt, the Mackinaw Cruiser will be watered down to meet the expectations of the modern marketplace- the fabric lighter and softer, enzyme washed, sewing outsourced to Asia, and re-branded with some heritage collection re-issue nonsense. For now it is still the real deal- made in America for its intended purpose.

C.C. Filson

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

'Jumping Trout'

Winslow Homer
watercolor on paper

'Life-size Black Bass'

Winslow Homer
watercolor on paper

What I got for Christmas

Santa Maria Novella showroom in Florence, Italy

Gift box of Santa Maria Novella soaps

My wife and I honeymooned in Northern Italy, and while visiting Florence- being in the know about natural fragrances- she made a beeline for the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
Established in 1221 by Dominican friars, Santa Maria Novella was officially founded as a private enterprise in 1612, making it one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. They are known for meticulously handcrafted products made from only natural ingredients.
Their Melograno (pomegranate) soap is a Florentine classic. The scent is old-fashioned and like nothing I'd ever smelled before. Evocative of old rooms, antique furniture, and leather-bound books, it is forever etched in my animal brain as the smell of Tuscany.
Sapone per Uomo is another favorite- sandlewood, subtle, musky, old.
All Santa Maria Novella soaps are triple milled, hand molded one at a time on 19th century equipment, aged for 60 days, and hand wrapped.

...because life is too short to shower with crappy soap.

Available in the U.S. from Lafco New York

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas in Portland, Oregon

The family rotation had us celebrating Christmas at my sister-in-law and her family's new digs in Portland this year. Much as I was missing Christmas in Hanalei, Portland is my favorite American city, and I took the opportunity to visit some old (and new) favorite establishments.

Portland Outdoor Store

Always my first stop in Portland, the Portland Outdoor Store has been a landmark since 1919. A classic western wear store- Pacific Northwest style. Walking through the door is passing into an earlier era...nothing looks to have changed much since at least 1940. Excellent stocklists of Filson, Pendleton, Barbour, Levi's, and Woolrich. They stock a huge selection of Lucchese boots, but oddly, nothing from Pacific Northwest/ Great Basin boot makers.

Portland Outdoor Store
304 Southwest 3rd Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 222-1051

A great write-up by Foster Huntington here.

A few blocks away, sandwiched between Old Town and Chinatown stands the Wax Building, once home to the United Clothing Company. Men's furnishings, hats, work clothes, and shoes are long gone, but the iconic signage remains.

Pendleton Home Collection

Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon ca.1915
photo by Lee Moorhouse via University of Oregon Libraries

I spotted the Pendleton Home Collection store on a trip through Portland a couple of months ago, and returned for a closer look. I was hoping to find the complete collection of Pendleton robes and blankets, especially those from the American Indian College Fund series which are of heavy, unnapped wool bound with black wool felt, and generally of higher quality and design than Pendleton's standard blankets. Instead, I found a schmaltzy generic cabin concept not at all reflecting the company's regional heritage. I also visited their stores in downtown Portland, and Lake Oswego, and generally found them to be dazed and confused with respect to their product offerings. Pendleton is one of the great heritage brands of the West, but is overdue for a re-focusing of their presentation.

Pendleton Home
210 Northwest Broadway

Portland, OR 97209
(503) 535-5444

Winn Perry store interior

Winn Perry shaving accessories

Located in the old industrial quarter on the east side of the river, Winn Perry- the brainchild of Jordan Sayler- has been getting its share of blog press of late, and was a must-see for this tour. All-around a class act; stocklists include Alden, Pendleton + Opening Ceremony, Billy Kirk, Gitman Bros., and as of this post, Archival Clothing. I had already blown a sizable hole in my bank account with gifts for friends and family, so I satisfied myself with a copy of Inventory Magazine.

Winn Perry
2505 Southeast 11th Avenue
Suite 102
Portland, OR 97202

(503) 922-1298

The perfect end to a perfect day- a stop at the Bridgeport Brewpub. I'm not much of a beer drinker- living in Sonoma wine country, I prefer a big Cabernet- but a pint of stout on a winter afternoon in Portland was indicated. The 2 story post-industrial interior was very tastefully fitted out. Service was friendly, and the mussels + frites were killer.

Bridgeport Brewpub
1313 Northwest Marshall Street
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 241-3612