I was lucky to have parents who cared about good design. Early toys included the smooth wooden blocks and trucks from Creative Playthings. In fact, inspiration for the Creative Plaything pieces were the Froeble blocks, that caught the attention of a young Frank Lloyd Wright.
Manhattan Beach in the mid-60’s wasn’t a mecca of modern design, but Southern California was becoming one. The Arts and Architecture magazine sponsored Case Study houses had people thinking about how they were going to live in different ways, and new materials, building techniques and the cultural zeitgeist had people thinking about life in a more modern way. As an architectural history student at UCLA, I came to appreciate how cultural and political thinking was manifested in architecture, from the craftsman movement through post-modernism. The modern movement reflected the time, and new rules for design replaced the old playbook. Read more…
World Class Service, Old World Quality
As I was wrenching on the Defender 90 last night, installing a Mantec swing out tire carrier, with my friend and fellow Defender enthusiast, Barry Fein, Barry was lamenting the lack of high quality customer service and attention to detail with most of the vendors we deal with–truth be told Barry was doing most of the work, I was assisting, and admiring his skills. Barry has both a beautiful ’94 defender 90, blue, and my desired ’93 Defender 110.
Since I had time to think, while Barry was torquing, I realized he was right, service industry pride is generally lacking and in LA, while most are doing service work, as a holding pattern for what they really want to do, the customer suffers. Since the experience is rare, great service and excellent work is a luxury worth paying for.
I was introduced to Los Angeles’ Pasquale Shoe Repair by a friend, after being tooled by Beverly Hiils renowned Arturo’s—expensive, cash only, kinda rude, and not exceptional work. When you pull up to Pasquale-land, you’ve entered a Vegas-like (think Bellagio) plaza, with a cool little café, serving excellent food, they now have pizza, and an active juicer, with my favorite—orange, ginger, carrot. Mr. Fabrizio Pasquale, rules the café, while his lovely and charming wife and staff man the shoe repair. This is a whole building, not a space in a strip mall, they have their own parking—reason enough to avoid Beverly Hills and there’s easy in/out off of San Vicente.
Of fins and memories of summers past
Southern California’s amazing monster South Swell two weeks ago brought epic surf to most south facing beaches, but left west facing beach breaks like my home break, Manhattan Beach, with massive close outs if the tide wasn’t perfect. I was lucky enough to catch the tide right for surfing–the Stretch Quad detailed before, on one of the mornings, but the low tide boomers brought me back to my bodysurfing roots.
My dad was first and foremost a bodysurfer. He was old school all the way…Never, ever wore fins, and rode in the straight down, one foot up technique pioneered on Venice beach in the ‘40’s. He brought that technique to the South Bay, and I always ride my last wave in, one foot up.
Magnaflow Tech Center
I know I’ve been a little car crazed lately, and I haven’t even gotten around to detailing the entire stable here. But as nutty as I am for cars/trucks/bikes, it’s really the customizing thing that has me. I’ve been through the typical phases, dating back to high school, and starting with car stereo—I even had a vintage under-dash record player at one point—and through wheels, including all of the flavors of powder coating. (I was doing black wheels way before it was fashionable.)
But my taste for customizing cars isn’t strictly cosmetic. I’ve been through all of the performance upgrades as well. My main interest is getting cold air into the engine faster—it’s denser and leads to better performance, as well as getting exhaust out of the engine as quickly as possible. Well designed “cold air” kits solve the former, and the science of exhaust kits fix the latter. The latter is actually more fun, because the sound of a perfectly tuned exhaust is genius.
Might as well have the best
“Made in America” isn’t just an uber patriotic screed imploring you to buy a Dodge Charger before Fiat gets its hands on the marque, and makes the new Fiat 500, 2010’s Mini Cooper…BTW, I love the 500, old and new.
Rather “Made in America” handcrafted clothing, luxury goods, work wear, boots and clothing have become a filter for taste-making hipsters. There are several great blog, including my favorite, A Continuous Lean, — dedicated to the subject, and while I never thought of it as a filter for my key purchases, I’m inspired by those that are really taking it to heart. Classic brands like Alden, Hamilton Shirts, Red Wing Boots as well as independent artisans are leveraging the materials, i.e. Horween Shell Cordovan that only a few of the old timers had access to. More to come later on Alden and Horween in a future post.
That brings me to Filson. Much has been written, discussed, blogged and Style Forum’d on the sale of this Seattle company and what would become of their American made clothing bags and luggage. While some manufacturing has moved offshore, the company’s mainstay bags, leather goods and luggage continue to be produced stateside. I put a lot of miles on my bags, and while often derided by my working colleagues, I’m not afraid to check a bag…sure it adds time and isn’t as cool to do so, but I love having the stuff I want with me when I get wherever I’m going. Early in my career, I was a traveling TV syndication salesman—selling shows for Disney first, then to Fox…Shows that started with Wonderful World of Disney reruns, through A Current Affair, to The Simpsons. Traveling around the country, this was the era of garment bags and Haliburton suitcases. No one had seen wheels on luggage yet, and most people checked their bags. I’ve been through the Hartmann phase, the 80’s Cadillac of luggage, on to San Francisco’s Glaser Design bags, through North Face duffles, and now to Filson. My bags of choice are the Filson medium wheeled check in bag and the extra large wheeled bag duffle. I also use the medium field bag and rugged twill tote bag as carry ons and briefcases.
But this post is an ode to the Filson medium wheeled check in bag.
Why natural rubber feels better, lasts longer and is just better all around
I try and find a yoga class five days a week, and it really makes me feel good and I think it’s the best full body workout. I’m lucky that I have Yoga Loft really close to my house. Honestly, I don’t even need to pedal the Kronan to get there.
I also like that beyond my mat, yoga doesn’t require any special equipment.
Custom shirts as value and the alternative to “ironic T-shirts”
I’ve gotten to the point, and to the age, where expensive, ultra washed and “ironic” printed tees, are not only unappealing, they feel ridiculous. Sure, in this city and industry, I’m a bit anachronistic wearing a suit and tie most days. I don’t expect others to do the same, I just like it, and it’s kind of become my thing.
While many find adventure and in discovering the perfect pair of distressed Japanese denim, I’m doing the same in finding craftsmen who are still making clothing the old fashioned way—one piece at a time and with great care.
That doesn’t mean that value doesn’t matter. Custom shirts at the same price, or less than store bought, just makes good sense. This really is a story about value.
How a signature product changed the category
My first tug on the amazingly stretchable the Hurley Phantom boardshorts was at the Sundance Film Festival this year. My friend and Fred Segal Fun owner, Jackie Brander, always assembles the best and coolest brands for her celebrity SWAG house, and I was able to do a few laps, see what people were oogling and pick up a pair of classic K-Swiss sneakers with my pal and Lionsgate Vice Chairman, Michael Burns.
The Hurley gear was in high demand and their “one and only” T-shirt had the celebs lined up. On the rack was a pair of the Phantom 120 boardshorts, which had blown out of the SWAG house in a matter of hours. Having grown up in Red Hang Tens in my youth and then on to Katins and Birdwell Beach Britches, I have had my share of trunks—and rashes. What’s amazing about Hurley’s Phantoms is the amazing stretch, and seamless construction. Why no one had developed a super comfortable, really stretchy short before seems crazy, but Hurley has nailed it.
I started playing the Ukulele in 7th grade, Center School talent show was my first performance, while the older surfers at Marine Street—The Marine Street Crabs—were my inspiration.
I rediscovered playing the Uke last year and found my original old Kumalae Uke from the 1920’s. I remember buying it at the Roadium Swap Meet in Torrance as a kid. I take a Uke with me on the road when I traveled for work and vacation. I love the way the Uke sounds, how it makes me feel, how small/light it is—it’s hard not to be happy playing a Uke.
Growing up in a beach town, surfing started in grade school. First boards included cut down longboards—this was the short board transition era, that featured hand fashioned bungee cord leashes, before the real thing was productized. It was then that we all moved to second hand longboards and transition shapes. The most coveted had been ridden by local heroes and pros.
While more pleasure than transport, surfboard shapes, colors, shapers, and fin choice, do as much to establish your rank in the line up as that first takeoff at a spot that isn’t your home break. When you’re trunking it, there isn’t much beyond your board to establish your personal brand.
Many of my friends have gone quiver crazy, too many boards and confusion when it’s time to get in the water… Which board? Which fins, etc….
I’ve tried to simplify things and have gotten down to a reasonable number, five: