Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Just Aren't Good Enough...YET.

So does it hurt any less the morning after? A little.

The Rangers have shown guts and heart like I haven't seen from a Rangers squad in almost 20 years, and I say that despite how old it makes me sound. The grit and determination of my boys last night, and for the previous 3 games has been unmatchable, even though they are now down 3-1 and looking at a likely quick exit from the first round. But had the events of last night not happened as they did, and had The Broadway Blues gone 30-0 with a lead heading into the third period, it would have only been delaying the inevitable, with or without Ryan Callahan.

Some tactical observations from last night game should show why it was that the Rangers simply never had it in them to win the game the same way that a high school basketball team could play the Lakers a thousand times and lose each and every single one of those games. First of all, although I dismissed the absence of Ryan Callahan, another fresh grinder would help, especially one who potted almost 30 goals this year. But I digress.

First thing I noticed was a lack of discipline in the blue shirted skaters. No, I'm not talking about the penalties they took, because they weren't undisciplined in regard to how often they felt shame, but they were very undisciplined on the forecheck. The forecheck is this teams bread and butter and if it doesn't work, they can't win. Too many times, especially as the clock started approaching 10PM Eastern Standard Time, Ranger skaters would put themselves in an offside position, forcing a total regroup at the offensive blue line in order to begin their pressure again. This enabled the Caps to get far too many easy breakouts. To me, this is just a sign of tired minds and tired legs.

The second thing I noticed was also forecheck related, and really showed the gap in quality between the two squads. Once the third period collapse took place, the Rangers decided they needed to go back on the attack, and they did. However the Ranger attack was a matter of gain the zone on the wall, dump the puck behind the net or in the corner, and grind it out. Too many times their tired legs were no match for the Caps back liners. Again, this was the fatigue that caught up with the team once the puck dropped in the third. It wasn't only evident on the defensive end, but in the attack as well. On the other side, the Caps employed a similar strategy when the puck carrier was not named Alexander. Semin and Ovechkin remained free to work their magic, but when anyone else had the puck, it went to the net, not behind it, as did the weak side skater. This tactic led directly to the game winning goal. A shot towards the net was blocked, and in a cruel ironic twist, Marian Gaborik's back check and hustle was a little too exuberant, and the Caps had a 3-1 lead handed to them on an icy blue platter.

The third thing i noticed was a real lack of an explosive force wearing a blue shirt. Marian Gaborik was brought in to be that force, and he was last season. This season however, he just seemed to not have that extra push he needs to make him one of the NHL's elite scorers. Alexander Frolov was brought in over the summer to be that secondary threat, and even had he not suffered the season ending knee injury, the promises he made were never going to be fulfilled. It also shouldn't be a surprise that Marian himself wasn't this year. It was only October when Colby Armstrong of the Toronto Maple Leafs essentially ended any hope of the Rangers being a contender this year when he plastered Gaborik from behind into the 8th Avenue corner of MSG. Gaborik was out for weeks with a shoulder injury that no one should be surprised may require surgery in the offseason. What else could explain how a perennial 40 goal scorer managed a measly half of that this term.

The team is in desperate need of real secondary scoring next year, and although the talk around town has been Brad Richards, who could be squeezed in under the cap, he is more of a set up man than a scorer. Remember the last set up man we threw lots of dollars at? He's helping the Canadiens dismantle the Bruins now, and I think Richards will be the same type of player. The untimely death of Alexei Cherapanov now hangs like a black cloud over this club, as he was drafted to be that scorer. Most of our other picks have been valuable secondary parts to a machine thats lacking a real first gear. In my mind, only a trade for a bonafide superstar scorer can fix what ails this team, but the pickins are slim unless the Rangers are willing to part with part of their young defensive core that they've been slowly building. Even if we were to look at the notoriously defensive Stanley Cup winning Devils squads, there was always more than one offensive threat.

This team simply can't be expected to make much noise in the playoffs as is, even in the parity of the Eastern Conference. But the news isn't all bad Rangers fans, because they really are just one or two pieces away from being a real contender in this new NHL. The Rangers have the best goaltender in the East behind Ryan Miller. They have a youthful core filled with leaders like Staal, Dubinsky, and who certainly will be the next Ranger captain Ryan Callahan. They have a young backline that is the envy of many teams with players who have grown over the last few seasons like Girardi and Staal, and newcomers who have filled in wonderfully from our Devil-esque farm team like McDonagh and Sauer. they have tough grinders, who will do anything for the team like Prust, Avery, and Boyle. With Vaclav Prospal and Ruslan Fedetenko getting a little older, these secondary players will need to be replaced, but with the addition of a real scorer to compliment Gaborik and give the Rangers a second threat, and a powerplay, they can be pushed over the edge of goodness. Lets hope Glenn Sather is listening.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Copperline, We All Have One.

So I've been on a James Taylor kick lately. Man this guy can sing. What I enjoy the most is how easy James makes it sound. He doesn't need a synthesizer, doesn't need a master technician, doesn't need 5 takes to get it right. His conversational voice, and real life singing just strikes me. Music can be amazingly emotional, and his is no different. First, it was Carolina in my mind, for about a week, as my beloved Blueshirts were battling for the final Eastern Conference NHL playoff spot. The Rangers, my Rangers, were duking it out with the Caroilina Hurricanes, and lo and behold, we edged them out on the final day of the season with a huge win over our bitter rivals, the NJ Devils, and the Canes lost later that night to Tampa Bay to assure us of our immediate future: a playoff bound squad. For how long has yet to be determined.

But it wasn't only hockey that made Carolina prominent in my head. Some of my adult life's sweetest memories are held within the boundaries of the Carolinas. My honeymoon and my daughter's first steps were taken on the soil of the South, in South Carolina. My wife and I both fell in love with the low country, with the warm sandy beaches, and not so cool ocean water of the Middle Atlantic. Of of my favorite family pictures (with all four of us) was taken on the beach in Hilton Head Island, walking our daughter and carrying our son to the water.

Needless to say, its been to long, and we'll be back sooner rather than later. There ain't no doubt in no one's mind that loves the finest thing around, and God do I love it in Carolina seeing the sunshine and feeling the moonshine.

After speaking with one of my esteemed colleagues in my school, who is a musical connoisseur, and huge Taylor fan, I was introduced to Copperline. Copperline is a song about where James "grew up" in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It got me thinking about how I grew up, in a working class family on Staten Island. As a youngster, my grandfather would pick me up from my half day nursery school, take me to McDonald's and split a Quarter Pounder with me, then we'd play the horses at OTB. Wel, he'd play them, and I'd play with the racing sheets, making paper airplanes out of them. I still remember how he taught me to tear a small square in the body of the sheet, to keep the folds from separating, and keep the plane aerodynamically sound.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately, and what he'd think of me as a man, who knows nothing of the horses. His younger brother Sally, is not doing so well down in Florida. He and his wife relocated to the Sunshine State to stay with his daughter Josephine in their Golden Years. I see my life's first best friend when I see pictures of my Uncle Sal. He is a spitting image of my grandfather, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.

My grandfather passed away when I was only eight years old, yet for those eight years he left an indelible mark on my life. I think then of my own children, and we come full circle. One day they will see my father as I saw my mother's. My children share that special bond with my dad, one that fills me with immense joy. My dad is their first "best friend". The only first best friend they'll ever have, and one day they'll look back on these days, and remember fondly how they're "n-n-n-n-nuts" and the "punch in the nose" and giving "my regards", some things they share with my dad, as I shared Quarter Pounders and OTB with my grandfather. I'm glad my dad and I have one more thing to bond over. I know these days won't last forever, so I'm going to enjoy them, because

"Day breaks and the boys wakes up
And the dog barks and the birds sings
And the sap rises and the angels sigh, yeah
I tried to go back, as if I could
All spec house and plywood
Tore up and tore up good
Down on copperline
It doesn't come as a surprise to me
It doesn't touch my memory
Man I'm lifting up and rising free "

And one day I hope to remind my children of these forgotten memories and spark the love within them that burns brightly in my heart thanks to two men whose love for me could never be extinguished.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Republicans Want The Good Ole Days To Return - Or At Least March 25, 1911

So, Wisconsin has stripped workers rights in their state down to the bone. Tore off the flesh and muscle of their public unions, torched their skin, in an ironic twist that mirrored what happened a hundred years ago today. A century ago, people realized that the rights of workers needed to be protected in order to make the American Dream viable for everyone. Even the least of our people.

But its the people with the most that are having their say now, and they're loud, and they're pissed. They pay the majority of the taxes in this country, and their tired of supporting all those people on welfare who get food stamps and pull up to the supermarket in Cadillac Escalades. Except the thing is, when they're asked when was the last time they saw this, they can't remember. But they're pissed.

All those government workers who make cushy salaries and get "security" in their jobs are also a favorite target of these economic bigots. You know, that cushy salary of $45,000 a year, which is approximately the average civil servants pay, is simply too much for their wallets to handle. And they're pissed.

Those lazy teachers, who get to take their summers off, and get off all the holidays and weekends during the year. They're another group of Americans who are fleecing this country for all we've got. Their industry spends the most of our tax dollars out of any other (aside from defense of course). And they're pissed.

And then there was Bettina and Frances Miale. They were 18 and 21 respectively 100 years ago today when they woke up, and went to work. They never made it home to see their father and mother again. They never made it back to tell Leonardo Don Diego, my great grandfather, and his new wife Carmela, how their day was at the stoop of the apartment house they all lived in.

They made shirtwaists for Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the good guys, who were trying to save consumers money by cheating their workers of basic rights like bathroom breaks. Those noble entrepreneurs made tough business decisions and so what if two poor immigrant girls, residing in a small apartment at 135 Sullivan Street, would suffer because of it? Bettina and Frances should have been grateful to be able to earn their $12 weekly wage in this great country.

Work was what they came here for anyway, wasn't it? Their desolate and ever disappearing Southern Italian village couldn't supply them with it, so they came here, to live off of our dime. All the money being spent to better their lower Manhattan neighborhood was coming back out of the pockets of the Max Blanck's and Isaac Harris' of the world. And they were paying their salaries as well. So what if they locked them in their workrooms, they were being paid to work.

And on top of things, these girls, if you could call them that, were trying to organize a union in their shop. They were using their numbers to bully poor Max and Isaac into giving them the rights they didn't deserve. These unions did nothing but accomplish corruption among the ranks of the assembly, among the elected officials who were there to serve the people. How dare they?

If they did their job well, they'd have all the security they'd need. Why did they need to unionize? Why did they need to fleece poor old Max and Isaac, who were struggling to get by in their Uptown Mansions. For Christ's sake, they were thinking about letting go of their servants because of this talk of union.

But it took the rush of a fire, and the death of these two brave girls, to show the public that Max and Isaac weren't the good guys they've claimed to be. They weren't the good guys the papers were demanding they were. They weren't the good guys whose police bribes enabled them to intimidate and beat their workers who dared talk "strike". They were the cu&#$ that we all thought they were. They were the snakes in the grass who slithered their way uptown to their mansions while their workers trudged through the grime of lower Manhattan to get to their factory, and die. They were the f&@*$ who ordered their workers locked in, so they wouldn't sneak off with the odd shirtwaist.

They were Scott Walker. They were Marty Golden. I piss on their graves and on their descendants whoever they may be. And I piss on Scott Walker and Marty Golden. And so do the Miale girls. I only hope it doesn't take a tragedy like that of the one that happened a hundred years ago for the rest of America to relieve themselves of this Conservative government of the few. While it may not be life threatening in the same way as it was a hundred years ago, due to the cost of living in this country, the "cushy" salaries public employees earn are the equivalent of an unlocked door, and a working fire escape, and I'm starting to smell smoke.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lucky Man Memoirs

So today, Monday January 24, 2011, started just like any other workday. The alarm rifled us out of our peaceful slumber at 5:20 AM and shot us out into the world, sawed off style this morning. The temperature outside was a mind numbing, let alone bone chilling, 5 degrees Farenheit and our apartment, usually hot enough to roast a medium sized bird, was alarmingly chilly. I figured it was just that cold. Until I tried to wash my face. No hot water. That also meant, no heat. Great. I texted my super, who thankfully was on it like a bat out of hell, and before it was time for my 6:30 shower, we were up and running again. All that to spite the effort I put in to heating two large spaghetti pots filled with water, which on occasion I have had to use to bathe on cold winter mornings when our eighty year old apartment building's boilers failed us.

So, what to wear on such a day? Well, lately the Mrs. and I have been keeping the car out front and making the mile and a quarter walk to work each morning, while on colder days, we drop off the kids at their day care, and then walk a block and a half to the R Train for the three stop train ride. So I figured warm was the best way to go. I started off with, guess what? Underwear. But not mere mortal underwear, undersilk long underwear. Picked up at Century 21 last winter, these incredibly light garments keep you so warm when its cold out, yet their so light that when you're in an overheated building all day like I am, they don't make you sweat. Just great, and at $10 a piece, i highly recommend them. On top of those I threw my Billy Reid Levi's 501 jeans with a nice thick two inch rolled cuff accessorized with an old Abercrombie & Fitch brown belt I got from the bastardized mall store in Roosevelt Field when I was in college. Just beneath the cuff, were my newly polished Red Wing Indy Boots. The glow coming off of these from the $8 polish they got at the Dry Cleaner/Shoe Repair on 78th and 3rd are a sight to behold!

Throwing my top half together, planning for the mile plus trek, I decided I should grab my vintage Abercrombie & Fitch (before the malls of America grabbed them and bastardized them) plaid grey/blue flannel top, a herringbone JCrew vest, a vintage ($2.50 I think at Salvation Army) Austin Reed wool tie, and my Ercole's bespoke Harris Tweed sport coat.

Over that I wrapped my neck in a Merino Wool Blue Fair Isle Drakes of London wool scarf, leather Polo Ralph Lauren Brown Gloves, and my thrifted Harris Tweed Double Breasted Brown Overcoat. topping it all off, was my new go to cold weather head gear, my Made in Winnipeg (those folks know what winter is really about) rabbit fur hat.

But all that, was for naught, thankfully, as one of our colleagues who also has her daughter in day care with our two angels, was just about ready to leave when I rounded the corner to head up to the train. "Hop in guys!" she cheerfully exclaimed to my wife and I as the clock ticked 7:15. Awesome, a ride to work!

The work day came and went, and as it was my first since last Wednesday, when I left work early feeling dizzy from the congestion in my sinuses (yup, you guessed it, another infection). Thursday I spent the day in bed, and Friday, i spent the day with my daughter, who was next in line after my wife to catch the wicked cold that infected said sinuses. On our way out, another friendly colleague saw us standing, ready to bear the brunt of the now 20 degree cold, and asked, "You wanna ride?" Hot damn, the day can't get much better! But when my wife picked up our kids from day care, she was concerned with my daughter's "swollen" eyes. So, we thought we'd take her to the doctor, and I'd skip my workout at the gym. I was pretty tired, as I'm still being antibiotic-ed, and it was my first full day at work in almost a week, so i wasn't too upset. When I saw my little girl, I wasn't concerned much at all with the swelling, as it simply looked like allergies, and rather than rush her down to a different doctor, we would wait until her pediatrician was back in his office tomorrow. So, I would hit the gym after all. Back, shoulders and a little bit of bi were the added prescription for me. I lifting things up and put them down many times while listening to the glorious new Decemberists album, The King Is Dead, yet another item I highly recommend.

So I got home, had a great dinner, prepared by the Mrs., of spaghetti with peas and grilled pork chops stuffed with plenty of garlic, and sat down to enjoy the Ranger game. This blog, was the last thing on my mind. My daughter, my wife, and I were simply hanging out after dinner as my boy fell asleep while watching cartoons about an hour earlier. All of a sudden, blood curdling screams were coming from the bedroom. My boy was pissed, and he wasn't having it! He sat in my wife's arms (where he usually is when he's not roaming the apartment looking to slam things into out TV) for a good 20 minutes, and the screams became more piercing, and the tears flowed like money into a Congressman's off shore bank account. We decided to try and let him cry it out, cry himself to sleep. Not having it. After about 15 minutes, I went in, knowing that we'd have to go and put my daughter to sleep soon anyway, and I picked him up, and I held him. I whispered in his ear lots of things that I'll never forget and he'll never remember. I professed my love, and gave him all of my heart, the little guy was really upset. But slowly, he stopped crying. His deep, I just got finished crying breaths, became fewer and farther between, until it was just me and him sitting there, staring nto each other's eyes. My wife had already put my daughter in bed, and while my son and I were having our moment, she was being obsessive compulsive like me, lining up all of her sleep buddies and counting them. One, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. And then all over again, and again, and again. I swear, I DO NOT DO THIS WITH MY SPORT COATS, SHOES AND TROUSERS, really I don't. I only do it weekly, to assess where the gaps are, and what I "need" next. She was waiting for him to go to sleep. She needed to be with her brother. And I was hoping he wouldn't, so we could keep looking at each other, and I could keep feeling my eyes soothe him. Thats what I really needed. Then it hit me.

HOLY SHIT. I am one lucky mother fucker. I have a wife, who takes care of me and is the best mom I could have asked for for my kids. I have a daughter who shares the same annoying characteristics (they're not flaws) as her old man. And I have a son, who I can sooth with a whisper and a glare and who can teach me what it means to live life. We have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and while we may bitch and moan about allergies, we are all, thankfully, generally healthy people. And we have LOVE. I know that soon enough, I'll succumb to the things I want, and I'll "need" another bespoke sport coat, or tweed suit, or overcoat, or pair of shell cordovan boots, and I'll really believe I need it. But just in that moment, in the night light of the hallway in their bedroom, in the glare of my son's eyes and in the compulsion of my daughters mind, I knew I've already EVERYTHING I'll ever need.

I'll never forget tonight, though I'm sure I'll forget that I now know I have everything I need. So in case I do, I know its right here, in print, on the internet. I know I am a lucky man. Now if only I could remember that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Late October Brooklyn Attitude

Wearing clothes is all about feeling good in them, wearing clothes that fit your personality as well as your surroundings.

I pride myself in being a Brooklynite, for chrissakes, I named my first born Breuckelen. Being a Brooklynite, i embrace the blue collar work ethic that built this wonderful place. Yes, all you Williamsburg hipsters and Park Slope mommies who have your own idea of what makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn, you're dead wrong. Its not you.

Its not that we don't appreciate all that you bring to our great borough. Not at all. Who else would we have to sneer at, or mock for living off of mommy and daddy's inheritance while occupying a loft and playing in a band only your friends pretend to think is talent laden? Who else would we give the Brooklyn salute to, when your strollers block the sidewalks of 7th Avenue while you stop and talk the latest craze sweeping over early childhood education over a $7 cup of coffee, totally losing in your own self-importance, the fact that people are actually trying to get to and from places on that very same slab of sidewalk? So, don't read this post, and assume that real Brooklynites want you gone. We don't. Because after a long day of hard work, we need an outlet for our frustrations and a viable source to mock.

So, my dad may laugh at my use of the words "blue collar" when referring to my family upbringing. But I'm not the one with the statue of the Virgin Mary in my backyard. Even though my parents were both educators, and successful ones, the blue collar mentality that their parents raised them on, squeaked through the generations and X&Y chromosomes to the way I was raised. Anyway, I digress. Back to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is an attitude. Work hard, play hard. Brooklyn, we go hard. Fughedaboudit, you've heard all the cliches. Well, as I mentioned in my opening, if you can confidently wear your clothes, you will look great in them. What I was wearing this Friday, 10/29, is a clear example of that in full effect. My suit, was a vintage one. I don't think I spent more than $100 on this mid weight tweed two piece suit. It a Turnbull & Asser that i scored off of eBay a few years ago. Its double vented with hacking and a ticket pocket in the true English fashion. Its also from the early 1970's or late 1960's, making it almost 40 years old, older than me. Not much was changed on this. I shortened the pant leg, and gave them 2 inch cuffs, shortened the sleeves, and had the shoulder pads removed. That's it.

Now, the suit was only part of Friday's rig. I had my tailor Frank, at Ercole's in Dyker Heights, make me a shirt and tie that i could wear with this. With all the colors and patterns, it was not an easy task, and after looking through several books of shirting fabric, and hundreds of silk tie swatches, we settled on the pair you see. A blue on blue striped shirt and a floral navy, blue and red neck tie. Add to that a classic English silk paisley scarf from Drakes of London, a Donegal Tweed Kangol flat cap, and Alden tobacco calfskin long wing bluchers and you're set.

But the apparel is only half of what makes the look work so well. The other half is the attitude, the surroundings, and the photographer. thankfully, I have a wife who has an eye for picture taking, and when given creative reign, does some real wonderful things. But enough of me talking, I'll let you be the judge. And with true Brooklyn attitude and grit, if you don't like it, go take a long walk off a short pier.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Peggy Olson of My Mad World

Thats me. I am Peggy Olson. The Bay Ridger more famous for being a woman in a man's world than for her excellent work. You know, the person who busts their ass, but is never really fully appreciated or partially understood because people can't get past the fact that she is one gender and not the other. This is the struggle of every male teacher who teaches in an elementary or secondary educational environment.

Lets look back upon them, the male role models from the schools of our youth. They were either two things: the jock gym teacher/coach or the looney scientist/historian who wore the same tweed jacket and bean blucher mocs. That's it. The "real" educators, the ones who "made a difference", "who cared for their students" and lacked the balls (pun intended) to tell kids how life really is, and what they really needed to do to be successful in the real world were always the motherly role models I couldn't stand as a kid growing up. Sure they may be molding our youth to be fine young educators of the future, but our educational subculture is one that is completely opposite of how the real world works, and for our soon to be young men, the way we view male teachers is a real disservice..

Is it because I don't bake cookies for my class or my clearly visible tattoos that I make no effort to disguise? Maybe its my freakish beard that I let grow each winter. Maybe its not what's on the outside at all, but my masculinity that makes me the outcast in an insiders world. Remember, i grew up in a family of educators. My mother and father both taught school, and both went on to become highly successful principals. My mother, in a rough and tumble public middle school in Sunset Park which she single handedly turned around before retiring to a "cushy" job at a Staten Island Catholic grammar school ; and my father, who was the Associate Principal at a Brooklyn all girls Catholic HS, before finishing his career as the Principal of another one on Staten Island. The irony of the fact that my most important male role model worked with women and girls for most of his educational life is not lost on me. I've been on the inside, and I've seen how it works. On top of that, I've been teaching 7th and 8th grade in a K-8 school for 10 years now. I know I am a GREAT teacher, my kids will tell you that. Well, the ones who passed will. And even the ones who didn't have grown to realize that me being a hard-ass to them, and forcing them to work, was for their own good. Pushing students to do their best is not an easy task. Sometimes they push back. Literally.

I'm pretty sure my supervisors recognize that I do a good job, but I'm not so sure that they know how or why I work the way I do. I get the feeling a lot of people roll their eyes and think, "what a nutter" each time I'm crowing like a bird, hiding a "corpse" under a bedsheet behind police tape in the back of my room, or when I'm screaming as if I've been shot through the heart, and you're to blame. Yes you. Because its you, who continue to expect the same thing from your children's teachers who allow this stereotype of male teachers to live on. You want the teachers to bake cake. You want them to say "OK" without asking why. You're the ones who think the same things that women in the profession do when they see a man behind the desk or at the board. He's either a coach, or a whack job. Well, sorry to tell you, he's none of those. He's a man.

Part of the reason I enjoy dressing like I do is because it makes me feel like a man, in an emasculating profession. It separates me from the rest of my male colleagues, yet unfortunately it doesn't take me far enough away from the male educator stereotype. Maybe its that I love tweed too much, maybe its not. Men are different than women, for better AND for worse, and there's nothing wrong with being who you are no matter what you do. Right Peggy? Am I less of a teacher for not cutting out little fucking butterflies to post on my bulletin board, no, but you know what, I'm more of a man for not, and thats seriously lacking in secondary and elementary education.

Men don't back down when they think they're right. Men don't get involved in the caddy nature of the "educator", and when they don't, their seen as outcasts, or not part of the team. The problem is, is that the team isn't co-ed, its all girls. Its the same way that Peggy Olsen is viewed by her bosses on AMC's popular Sunday drama Mad Men. She does things the way a woman does, in a man's world, and she's damn good at it, but she's seen as a bit of a freak for being who she is, a woman. Well, ladies and gentlemen, she's not alone, because there are tens of thousands of male Peggy Olsen's teaching your children. Lets just hope that they all don't sell their balls down the river. If not for themselves, then for the sake of 50% of their kids that also have their reproductive organs on the outside. Y'ever wonder why it is that the boys are usually the ones who are in the most trouble in school? Its because the few male role models they do have aren't taken as seriously as their female educators, unless of course they are administrators. Where I'm sure my nagging mother (yea, another stereotype right atcha) will be thrilled when she hears thats where I'm headed next. I wish I wasn't, but I don't think I can take being pigeonholed much more. To all my fellow male teachers who read this, or my fellow male friends who are looking towards education as a career, this Bud's for you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Favorite Fall Fabric

Enjoy this fabulous time of the year for what in my opinion is the best fabric ever made. Some may love the soft touch of cashmere, or the weightlessness of a finely spun wool, but to me, no fabric represents the luxury and hard working personality of Brooklyn, better than Harries Tweed.

Its history dates back to the mid-1800's when a local islander from the remote outpost of Harris, Scotland was commissioned to make cloth for a Scottish noble. Ever since that wool was taken off the loom, it took off and was seen worn by people in all walks of life, from royalty and movie stars, to truck drivers and dockworkers.

What makes Harris Tweed unique is that it is made only on the island of Harris, and only through man powered looms. Its character as a cloth is evident as there's a real texture to it. Its rough, and hard working, like the islanders off the Scottish coast. It also can contain beautiful colors that a finely worsted wool simply does not. Its plaids and checks and herringbones turn the garment into a piece of geometric art, that can be enjoyed by one and all, but when combined with its character, and its hand, take it even a step further.

You can wear Harris Tweed with just about ANYTHING. In my mind, selvedge denim is Harris Tweeds' cotton counterpart. Raw indigo jeans help bring out the colors that the tweed produces and purveys a hard working, long wearing combination thats good enough for the trendy Williamsburg streets, the docks in Red Hook, or the offices of Metro Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Those skinny jean wearing hipsters will look just as good as their fuller cut denim wearing longshoremen when throwing on a nice herringbone tweed, although only one will know the feeling of kicking back in it after a long hard days work. The shrewd, luxuriously minded businessman with his grey flannels could also look the part with the very same jacket.

Aside from being one of the most colorful fabrics, tweed is also one of the more functional ones. It keeps you incredibly warm when its incredibly cold. Its weave and thickness allows it to keep you dry on the inside when its ever so wet outside. There are even lighter weight tweeds that you can wear inside in the warmest of heated rooms without feeling overly hot. This miraculous fabric is very much like the Underarmour cold gear which was created with the help of modern technology and science, except this dates back to 1846, before the American Civil War, the first year of the Mexican-American War, and the year that California, for a brief time, was an independent Republic, not a US state.

From October through the end of April, at least three days of my work week, you'll see me wearing one of my tweed jackets made for me at Ercole's on 13th Avenue and for the rest of the year, you'll find me dreaming about them, ordering more fabric, and pondering what my next commission will be. In my mind, no fabric represents my beloved borough more than Scotland's own Harris Tweed.

Here are some of those days from last season:

I'd love to hear your comments!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Cut-Off Short

So, the cat's out of the bag. The esteemed editors at Esquire magazine have selected me to be among the 5 finalists in their Best Dressed Real Man competition for 2010. I'm really honored to be thought of in the same light as the other four finalists who each out their own unique spin on how to do things sartorially. But for those of you who know me well, keeping it real is always something I set out to do, with whatever it is in my life, be it food, drink, clothing, or anything else.

Today, I'd like to talk about keeping it real, casual. Many men in the know have lost touch with reality. No, I'm not talking about Thom Browne and his skirt suits for men, and I'm not talking about any other modern designer either. I'm talking about many of the "old school" philosophers on men's dress, and how it should be done. These are the guys who abide by the "rules" to the point where they become someone else entirely. While I feel its important to know the rules, I also feel that rules were made to be bent, if not broken entirely. And what's a more perfect time to bend or break rules, than the summer time.

Some of these stuffy folk will tell you that a gentleman NEVER shows his legs in public, and therefore should never wear shorts unless at the gym, or while participating in some other form of physical activity. Well, to hell with them. A real man doesn't live by some Victorian dress standard, and nor should he dress according to one. When its hot outside, and the situation calls for it, wear shorts damn it. But how do you wear shorts?

2009 Esquire BDRM Dan Trepanier has got it right with his assertion that the baggy cargo shorts should be kept in the halls of your local high school and suburban college campus. (
In my mind, though, he missed the mark with how an urban young man, in fairly decent shape, should wear them. To me, the perfect way to say your relaxed with your clothing, is with a cut off pair of shorts. Those simple frayed edges make a bold statement, and let people know that you'd sooner knock back a couple of beers at the bocce court, than knock off anything on your home office to do list.

I am a runner, and I hit the gym at least four times a week. I am an athlete and have been all my life and I've been blessed with a pair of decent looking, and performing, legs. I'm also a teacher, which gives me the opportunity to relax with my beautiful family during the scorching months of July and August. So damn you Dan, if you tell me to leave my short shorts at the beach. And damn you fogeys who say to leave the shorts on the shelf in the shop altogether. I work damn hard, and because of that, earned the right to wear my shorts a little shorter than Dan would want me to. As an athlete, Dan should know this, and take advantage of the walking sticks God gave him. Now, it takes a certain air of confidence to pull off shorter shorts as well as some decent looking legs. Its no wonder Johnny Drama focused so much on his calves in Season 4 of Entourage. Here's a look from a recent block party in Bay Ridge, where the people were as plentiful as the Peronis, and no one batted an eye at my short, salmon colored cut offs.

My work wardrobe takes up a considerably high percentage of my discretionary funds (which as a civil servant, aren't that much to begin with), so buying new shorts for the summer is not a priority. This doesn't mean that I can't obtain another few pair each l'ete, and another reason why cut-offs are cool AND practical. I found a few pair of regular trousers I already owned that didn't quite make the cut when I was setting up my spring/summer closet and I put them aside until I was ready to make my move. I tried the pants on, took a pair of scissors and cut a small hole a few inches above my knee on both sides. I then removed the pants, and cut straight across the front until I was open to both side seams. Then, at the back, I cut at a slightly downward trajectory until I reached the mid point between the seams, and then cut back up until the pant leg was completely removed. I repeated the process on three other pair of pants that I was not using any longer, two of which were almost 10 years old from a shopping spree at H&M when I first started teaching (Yet another good reason why you should never throw things away). The two pair from H&M were a nice lightweight blended material (wool and poly) and had pinstripes. The "dressed up" look of the pinstripes combined with the frayed edges of the cut-offs makes for a perfect combination. To me it says, "Eff this, I'm not working! I'm playing!"

Here are a simple pair of khaki cut offs that were once capri shorts (Banana Republic circa 2001) from my GTLing "Jersey Shore" days (yes folks, I've grown up quite a bit in 10 years, but moving off of Staten Island can do that to you). Paired with a madras plaid JCrew shirt with the sleeves rolled up, this kept me fashionable and cool on my trip to the Prospect Park Zoo with the kids in tow.

The key with this look ironically, is to know the rules. Yes, I just spent the first portion of this post criticizing "those guys" for always sticking to the rules, but sticking to them and knowing them are two different things. To know that shorts are a casual is important, because it should ease the fears about wearing a pair with such an extreme casual element, the cut-off fray.

Now, not everyone has the legs of a runner. Some have chicken legs and some have plumper legs. That doesn't mean you can't rock this uber casual style of short. I suggest taking the cutting point and dropping it closer to the knee, as Dan suggested in his blog. Here are a few examples of longer cut-offs I wore this summer, but by no means are long shorts. The first are cut slightly longer than the salmon shorts and paired with a cutoff-sleeve madras shirt. Perfect for the Bronx Zoo (my daughter likes animals, what can I say?)

Here we see a similar pair with the same shirt, pre-sleeve surgery:

And the same pair with two other shirts, a luxurious Roberto Collina pima polo, and an Old Crow Medicine Show concert tee (Roll Tide):

I hope today's post has helped convince some of you two things: 1) If you've got the shape, don't be afraid to show it off and 2) A simple pair of scissors can turn a pair of pants (because I may be the only one to ADMIT to owning capris), into a great casual staple for your summer wardrobe. And if the cut-off long just isn't for you, any decent dry cleaner can chop your old pants into shorts and finish the bottom for you to keep a cleaner look for about $10-$20.

Unless of course you're too busy covering the legs on all of your furniture. If thats the case, you'll need more than my blog to help you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Esquire BDRM Style - V-Day Edition

I'm honored to let everyone know that the editors of Esquire magazine have for the second straight year selected me as one of the top 25 entries in their annual best dressed "real man" competition. I know last years finalists and winners were all men of immaculate style, and I'm honored to be mentioned in the same breath by the editors of such a prestigious men's style magazine. But I'm even more honored to be considered a "real man".

To give you an idea of what constitutes being a "real man" to me, I'd like to share with you the story of someone very close to me.

It began humbly in a small cold water flat in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment building in 1917. There, Anthony, a "real boy", shared an apartment with his immigrant parents and six brothers and sisters. He grew up in the boom times of the 1920's, when Hollywood began to take control of the American style barometer. Stars of the silver screen were written about as if they were the saintly heroes, and young Americans, with money to spend, emulated these icons. It was quite different for Anthony, and millions of other recent Italian immigrant families, who couldn't share in the fun of the roaring 20's. They struggled and lived their meagre existence to the best of their abilities, happy in the fact that they had family, a roof over their heads, and any kind of clothing on their backs, let alone the latest fashions.

When the Great Depression hit a few years later, Anthony, and families like his didn't feel it in the same way that the American History books tell it. In fact, things were so desperate when these immigrants got here, due to heavy competition for jobs and a form of racism that still exists today within groups like the minutemen, that the Great Depression and the New Deal policies FDR enacted to counter it, actually helped advance them as a whole while the rest of America used them to struggle just to get by. While the nation was still recovering from the severe economic downturn of the 1930's, newsreels began broadcasting frightening scenes from across the Atlantic and Pacific of fascist dictators who were taking control of their nations. In the mother land of Anthony's parents, Italy, a man named Benito Mussolini was ruling with an iron fist, eliminating anyone who criticized him or his regime. He took his army across the Adriatic Sea to conquer Albania and into Africa to reclaim Ethiopia after the Italians were embarrassed there nearly half a century before. To the north in Germany, an even more terrifying ruler was gifted control of his country promising to not only restore dignity to a deflated German people, but to eliminate all those who were to blame for dragging their nation down, specifically Jews.

Then, on December 7, 1941, the newsreels were not of foreign conflict, but of conflict right here on our own American shores as the US Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japanese fighter planes. After the death of almost 2500 US servicemen, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared "a day that will live in infamy", and war on Japan. Through a network of alliances, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States and many Americans took up that call, and ran to defend her in the face of the naked aggression that was fascism and totalitarianism. Anthony was one of those brave men.

As a 23 year old kid, Anthony joined the Army and went to basic training, to defend the only country he knew. Throughout the basic training in Ft Benning, Georgia, many "white" Americans gave Anthony and his fellow Italian Americans shit for not being "American enough". "Dago Wap!" they'd shout at him. "Mussolini's bastard!" his commanders called him. This was the thanks he got for volunteering to defend the country he loved. He'd been used to it though, but for some reason, which he never shared, he took these bigoted insults more personally than the ones thrown his way on the streets and in the factories of Brooklyn. Perhaps it was because it was these men, whose hatred seethed through the surface, were the same men he'd be depending on to keep him safe and alive against the foreign hatred that awaited overseas.

It wasn't all bad at Benning though. He wound up forging friendships with other men that would last their entire lives, however long they'd be. Two of his best friends were also Brooklyn sons of Italian immigrants, Joey Dondiego and Sebby DiCarlo. Anthony, Joey and Sebby were inseparable, on and off base, for the entirety of their stint in Georgia and beyond. When given leave, and back in their beloved Brooklyn, they swore to each other to visit each others families to let them know how things were going, and that they were doing fine. Sebby's parents were easy, they were living in the same Beadle St. tenement house, and Anthony and Sebby were like cousins, growing up playing stickball on the streets and eating dinner at each others houses as regularly as their parents would play Pinochle or Canasta.

Joey's family was a different story, as he lived way across the borough in the summer playground known as Coney Island. Joey's father, a barber, had died when Joey was just 19, and that left a heavy black mark on him. But he had his brothers on whom he could rely. Frankie, younger by a few years was also in the service, preparing for war. Lenny was barely a teenager when his father suddenly suffered that fatal heart attack in his shop. At the time of his father's death Lenny was a student at Abraham Lincoln HS where he excelled in Math and Sciences and answered with no pretense when asked what he'd do with his life, "I'm going to be a medical doctor!" he'd exclaim proudly and confidently, without forgetting where he came from. Len never let any obstacle stand in his way, and by the time war was on, he was a young graduate of John Hopkins Medical School practicing medicine on Park Avenue, to the wealthiest New Yorkers, fulfilling the dreams of an entire family. Then there were the three angels who were the apple of their father's eyes. Rose was a young wife who lived nearby with her husband, a doctor to whom Lenny looked up to immensely. Margaret the middle daughter, was an spunky blonde bank employee whose love for the New York Yankees was bested only by the love of her country and sense of independence. Finally there was young Vivian, a beautiful vivacious woman who inherited her grandfather's red hair and fiery personality, who just happened to be there EVERYTIME handsome young Anthony came over for dinner, to fill in Joey's mom Carmela on what was new with her son. Vivian and Anthony struck up a friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives. After Anthony's final visit before being shipped off to war, Vivian had asked the strapping young soldier to write to her from the front, and write he did. Letter after letter came in the mail for young Vivian detailing for her the horrors of war, and the longing of young love. In those letters Anthony professed his love to Vivian and promised that when he returned they would marry and have their own family. But first, Anthony needed to survive.

Anthony began his campaign landing in Southern Italy, almost in the exact same location from where his parents left to immigrate to the country he was now fighting for. Fighting their way northward through Rome and Venice to the Austrian border, Anthony learned quickly how to dig ditches and cover his head from oncoming fire. He learned how to shoot without looking at what he was targeting. He learned how to keep from getting hurt, and most vitally, he learned how to stay alive.

As Anthony and his troop advanced through the mountains of northern Italy and Austria, his superiors had warned them that the Germans were getting desperate, and seeing that the war may be coming to an end, would try and inflict as many Allied casualties as possible, and that some of the ways they did this were not seen as within the rules of combat. Knowing that American troops were in usual need for some of the creature comforts of home, the Germans would set booby traps: carts, filled with American comfort foods like Hershey's chocolate bars and Coca-Cola were set up along the sides of major arterial roads from which the Nazi's retreated and their enemies in arms followed. As well as filling these carts with the delicacies that Yankee soldiers long wanted, they were rigged with explosives, so as soon as one of the goodies was removed, a massive explosion would immediately kill whoever lifted it, then sending shrapnel rocketing through the immediate vicinity taking out as many enemy combatants as it could. Anthony was smart and too determined to fall for such false temptation. His friend though, and brother in arms Sebby, wasn't as disciplined. With Anthony looking on in horror, Sebby approached what he thought was an oasis of American goodies in a European wasteland. He shouted for him to stop, to remember what they were told. Sebby either didn't hear, or didn't have the will to fight a minute longer. While his best friend, Anthony, watched, Sebby blew himself to bits reaching for the sweet taste of home that he missed so much. Anthony witnessed his best friend lose in a game of Nazi Roulette at the tender young age of 26. Anthony's eyes saw what could only be the tales of our worst nightmares and had the courage to walk farther, fight harder, and to love deeper. He lived the rest of his life with that incident emblazoned in his mind, yet his tenderness wasn't calloused a bit by this horrific, real experience. He had something more to live for.

As the war wound down, Anthony found himself in the forests outside Berlin. Marching in line with his battalion toward the burning capital, his Lieutenant spotted a corps of Nazi soldiers walking in the opposite direction, about one hundred yards across the lifeless, leafless woods. With the taste of death on his palate, and the smell of gunpowder in the air, Anthony gripped the trigger of his standard issue Army rifle, and watched as the soon to be defeated Nazi soldiers starred right back down their barrels at their American counterparts. They eventually walked their separate ways. Both sides knew that the end was near, news of Hitler's suicide had already begun spreading throughout the ranks of both armies, and with a peace just hours away, both sides carefully danced the dance of life, through the forests of death. Perhaps the Germans had their own beautiful red heads at home waiting for them. Perhaps that glimmer of hope, of a love put on hold, saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers on both sides, forever changing their places in the book of destiny. Perhaps the Nazis were out of ammunition, we'll never know. What we do know, is that this was reality. Death was a constant reality for Anthony, be it his own, or someone else's at his own hands.

Once the war did end, Anthony's work was far from done. He, along with hundreds of thousands of other American soldiers, had the responsibility to take prisoner any defeated German servicemen they could find. The Germans made no bones about it either, they were certainly looking for their former enemies turned savior, the Americans, to take them. This was because their other option wasn't an enticing one. Still stinging from the heavy losses suffered at Leningrad and throughout the Nazi advances into Soviet territory, Russian troops wanted blood. German foot soldiers were routinely executed by Soviet troops at their surrender in and around Berlin, and the Germans were running to American troops throwing themselves at their feet, begging for them to take them prisoner and accept their surender. Anthony knew what the deal was, and he saw the look in the eyes of his Soviet allies when Americans began to take Germans as prisoners. The look was one of real hate, real disgust, and ice cold vengeance. The problem was, Anthony and his American brothers were unable to accommodate all of those surrendering Germans and he regretfully turned many of them over to the Soviets, fully knowing the fate he had unwittingly sealed for them.

All of these were the real experiences of a "real man"; a Brooklynite, a truck driver, a lover, a fighter, a son, a brother, a husband, a father and MY grandfather. He was a real man, an American hero and a role model. My grandfather, Anthony Nunziata, son of two Italian immigrants, a distinguished US Army veteran, helped save the world. He wasn't a moneyed businessman. He wasn't a well connected politician. He wasn't a Hollywood celebrity. He wasn't a pampered professional athlete. He was a man, a real man, like me, and many of you. He is my flesh and blood, and my hero. He was a man, who put real life and real love on hold to do what he had to do and make this world a better place, a safer place for me, a real grandson, who he hadn't even met yet. He did it for my children, my little girl and my little boy who carries his name proudly.

In my own small way, I try to do the same thing through the young minds and young lives I help mold each and every day. I try to teach them the realities of war, of love, of life and of death, so that one day when they are the "real men" and "real women" of this world, they can make the real decisions so others won't have to put their lives on hold, or prematurely stop them to make it a better place for their children. So yes, I'm honored that Esquire magazine's editors think I'm stylish, but I'm more honored and humbled that they think I'm "real". My grandfather, even 25 years after his death, continues to teach me what being a real man is all about. A real man is about life, he is about love, and he is about family. A real man works hard and does what is right and what is needed of him not because he has to, but because he wants to. You taught me that through your life, and your legacy, and you led by example. So thanks for everything papa, but most importantly, for being real. Really.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Straight Up Red, White and Blue Canada Away With Our Tenacity Part 1

Last night was a huge step forward for American hockey. Our boys out worked, out gritted, and eventually out scored the world's "best" in their own barn for a mesmarizing 5-3 Olympic Hockey victory earning them the number one seed in the elimination round to start on Tuesday. It also earned the boys a well deserved day off before they face either a gritty Swiss team, or an overmatched Norway in the quarters. But thats the bigger picture. I want to look at three smaller pictures over the next few hours that I said were true before these games began.

Team USA was a better "team" than Team Canada. Sure, thats a point easily proven by the scoreboard at Canada Hockey Place at just before 7PM local time in Vancouver last night, but even without the help of an electronic time counter and tally keeper it was clear all over the ice for most of the 60 minutes yesterday. Americans were more than willing to sacrifice themselves for their teammates. Specifically, our boys, Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury were pivotal in their roles as penalty killers, specifically late on, and were ready at the drop of a hat to throw their bodies in front of the hundred mile-an-hour vulcanized rubber hurled at their teammate Ryan Miller (who I'll get to later). One block in particular by Callahan, after he failed in a clearing attempt in teh final minute, stood out. While going down feet first at the Canadian point man, Callahan raised his right arm and took a blistering shot off of the inside of his gloved hand. I've done this to catch flip clearances out of the zone, and for those who don't know, it doesn't always end well. The inside of a glove offers very little protection, if any, and frozen pucks traveling slowly can break bones. To Callahan though, team was more important.

It also didn't hurt us the Capt Clutch was on the scene to score America's third goal, breaking a streak of Canadian momentum that started when Dany Heatley slammed home the red shirted team's second of the game, and sending the barn into temporary delirium. Drury's goal came by rushing the net after a goalmouth scramble and comedy of errors by the Canadian backline and goaltender, and his linemates , St Louis Blue David Backes, and Callahan, incessant pressure. Drury, the man on the spot, picked up the loose puck in the slot, and fired home a wrister into a vacated goal as three Canadians didn't know who to turn and where to look until it was too late.

Another example of better team play by the Yanks was the D to D passing in the offensive zone, and in particular on the power play. This tape to tape passing between the backliners in the white jerseys was key, as the US scored 3 of its 5 goals, including the game winner, as a direct result of point play. The Canadians, although breaking out with a Sidney Crosby power play tally late, simply did not have the puck movement on the back line that the Americans did, and it led to their downfall. Countless blocked Canadian shots, errant passes down low, and shots wide were a result of the Canadians not moving the puck, and not getting themselves into better positions as the Americans did when the time came.

Lastly, I want to talk about American tenacity in this game. Hard work has always been the key ingredient to the American dream, and last night was no different. On paper, our boys were outmatched, but on the ice, it was the Canucks who were outworked. A bigger and arguably more skilled Canadian team came in with the support of 3o million people, 15,000 of whom were at Canada Hockey Place to do it vocally, but it wasn't enough to push them past this youthful, hard working American team. All over the ice, the Americans were hitting, and taking hits to make plays, while the Canadians were falling all themselves and running into each other. On very few occasions were the Red White and Blue caught out of position on a forecheck, and when they were they were not called to task on it. Why? Because they were playing for each other, and working for each other. They looked like, and were selected based on this. Guys like Dustin Brown, who are offensive sparks on their club teams, were willing to play the role of grinders, to make things work for the USA. And work they did. No time in the game was this more evident than a stunning empty net goal as the clock winded down to under a minute last night. Relentlessly pursuing his Western Conference rival Corey Perry on familiar ice, Ryan Kesler, of the Vancouver Canucks iced the game for the Americans by simply wanting it more, and working for it. Perry certainly wasn't lollygagging it with the puck, the Canadians were desperate, and they needed to get the puck down the ice for a final push. But Keslers skating and then perfectly timed dive knocked the puck off of Perry's stick in his own defensive zone circle, and sent the puck right into the lower right hand corner of an empty net, sealing the W for our proud ice warriors.

It may not be a Golden Victory yet, but it was a big step toward that goal, and it was because we played a better team game than did the NHL All Star-Studded lineup of our northern neighbors.