J Crew Painter’s Destroyed Oxford

Maybe I’m feeling the outrage that people felt when companies started selling ripped jeans, and I know J Crew isn’t the first company to sell new clothes that look old, but I still think a painter’s destroyed oxford is ridiculous. I was going to excerpt the description below, but it’s too good to cut up, contrast side-seam gussets and all. Also, monograms are available. I wonder if they did this hoping for a viral backlash that would send a torrent of angry web-traffic coursing though their store picking up socks, scarves, and belts as the case may be.

“A faded and frayed collector’s item with paint splatters, a repaired pocket and cuffs-it’s our vintage oxford taken to the next level. Dense two-ply cotton oxford with a shorter, hipper collar point. Aggressive stonewash with grinding for that “beat up,” worn-in vintage look. Tailored fit—a slimmer, more tailored cut with a made-to-measure feel. Button-down collar. Hand-nicking at collar, placket and cuffs. Standard placket. Chest pocket. Back yoke with box pleat. Contrast side-seam gussets. Narrow cuffs. Shirttail hem. Import.”

The New Style
The New Style
J Crew Painter’s Destroyed Oxford


Gift-shopping is hard. I’m pretty well-stumped on good gift ideas for R— (hi, honey!) but I should know better than to look at “gift guides” from online stores. She told me she found Amazon’s “wife/girlfriend” guide particularly infuriating, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I looked in more detail.

No, Amazon, I’m not getting her diamond jewelry, a “fashion watch,” or Wonder Woman lingerie.

Or a subscription to Marie Claire. The hell?


She said YES!

Last Thursday, on the commuter rail home, I decided to finally take steps to make an honest woman out of JR. I’ve been certain for a while that I wanted to spend my life with her and I look at an engagement and the wedding as a formality. I’m not minimizing those things, but I don’t think they’re going to change our lives very much. This lack of change is the main reason I decided to propose.
JR’s got a lot of traveling going on this month, so after I decided to do the deed, I knew I was going to get right to it. Also, while deception and subterfuge are 2 of my strong suits, this is a pretty big cat to keep in the bag. This led me to a couple issues: how and where to get a ring, and how and where to give it to her. People take these proposals very seriously, you can’t nonchalantly plop a felt box onto the coffee table during a ballgame. It’s simply not done.

Getting the Ring:
Like the majority of people getting engaged for the first time, I had no idea what I needed to know to buy a ring. JR hasn’t ever made a point of taking me through a jewelry store hinting at what style of ring she would or wouldn’t like. This would have made my decision monumentally less intimidating, and guys, you might want to see if you can set it up if you have ANY interest in engaging your girlfriend. Refusing to be caught unawares I spent the better part of Thursday and Friday evenings, learning as much as I could about buying an engagement ring and wouldn’t you know it, the internet was a pretty handy reference. I learned a lot on this site and this one, while also spending a bit of time on Bluenile.com “building my own ring”.

So like any young buck looking to engage his mate, I felt a basic understanding of the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carats (though they should probably include chape, as well) was enough to handle anything the jeweler would throw at me. JR had to go in to work on Saturday morning and that figured to be about my best ring-buying opportunity for the following six weeks so I jumped at it. At my first stop, I found one ring that I liked. However, after asking the saleswoman about the diamond, I was borderline offended when she told me the clarity and color ratings. It seemed like most of what they sold was crap so I decided on to keep on moving. Remember, I was under time constraints. On the way to the next place, I called JR’s mother, father, and sister to get permission (and hopefully fish for fashion advice), they were down (but lacked concrete advice). Luckily, the next place I visited was great. They won me over immediately with superior lighting. You wouldn’t think it would make such a difference, but actually being able to see the diamond sparkle does a lot to help it sell itself. The salesman also won points for trying harder to get me to buy a ring less expensive than my obvious favorite. Less than 20 minutes after walking in to the store, I was skipping out, the future in my pocket.

The Proposal:
I knew I had to do something, but unfortunately, my best ideas are usually too grandiose to accomplish on a limited clock. I contemplated the jumbotrons at both Fenway Park and Gillette, but both of those would have required waiting longer than I was willing and a intolerable level of public embarrassment (for JR). I wanted something memorable and remarkable, but not fantastically cheesy. I definitely got out Scrabble and pulled “W-I-L-L Y-O-U M-A-R-R-Y M-E J” out of the bag. Not knowing how to best utilize the letters, I put the tiles into my sock drawer, just in case, and went back to the drawing board. I’d had a sneaking suspicion since I decided to propose that if we were in the house, I’d use Charlie and James to help. So I did. I raced back after getting the rock since JR was supposed to be home around 2 and here it was 2:10 already. I had decided to tie the ring around one of the cats and a poem around the other. I tried the ring on James first, thinking he wouldn’t realize it was there. Unfortunately he did and kept putting it in his mouth and chewing on it. At around 2:20, JR called and said she was on her way home. I quickly tied the ring around Charlie’s neck and he actually didn’t seem to mind the bling too much. I knew neither cat was going to be happy about the poem so I wanted to wait to attach the ribbon until JR pulled in the driveway. So I waited, and waited. And waited. I didn’t want Charlie running all over the house with a ring around his neck, so I made him wait with me in the office. Which got hotter and hotter with the door closed and sun streaming in the window. 45 minutes later, JR called and said she had gotten a call from a friend and was talking to her outside a coffee shop and that she’d be home in a couple minutes. She came home, I tied the ribbon around James’ neck, carried him to the kitchen (knowing Charlie would follow us in), dropped to my knees and asked, “Will you marry us?” JR hadn’t seen the ring and thought it was a joke and when she realized I was serious, she started crying. Charlie, meanwhile, had decided to bring JR’s ring into the litter box. We grabbed him quickly, cut the ring off, JR tried it on, and said yes. Mission accomplished.

We haven’t seriously discussed any ideas for a wedding or a date yet, but I am REALLY excited to efficiently plan an extremely happening shindig. Really. When we do begin planning the wedding, you can come back here to read about everything we go through; to share in our joy and revel in our misadventures.

She said YES!

Going to Shows

Tonight I went with JO, W, and N to see Bloc Party at the Paradise. After working as the road manager for a touring band for the past 3 years or so, I don’t really enjoy going to concerts that much anymore. Growing up I was at the Saturday and Sunday afternoon all ages matinees all the time. Now it’s kind of boring going to shows, though. In fact, the last time I saw live music recreationally was in Sept of 2003, and then it was only because my new favorite band was in DC the same night as the band I worked with.

Bloc Party isn’t my newest favorite band, but I did start listening to them recently enough that I was still semi-excited about the idea of going to see them. To me they sound like what U2 would sound like if U2 started today. The music was pretty good. They played for just long enough for me to get bored (35 minutes) and then during the encore I was so excited to go home, that I was excited again. I guess you can’t expect much from a band with only one album, but you’d think they would have SOME other material, maybe a cover or two?

Being at the show with JO, W, and N was fun, too. Instead of joining in the hipster fashion parade, I think it’s safe to say that they’ve internalized hipsterdom to the point of almost complete and total cynicism. Maybe that’s a generalization. It was interesting, though, that everyone in the crowd we mocked (which was everyone) totally deserved it. There was the giant in the suede jacket who didn’t realize his height and couldn’t decide between leaning over and talking to his friend or crashing in to various members of our party. There was the frat boys who accosted the band for tickets at dinner before the show. (We were in the table next to BP, who, in their defense, refrained from returning any dishes or ordering copious amounts of JD). And then there were the fashionistas that looked like they raided their dad’s closet from 1975 before the show. I mean, has anyone going to indie or British Dance Rock shows looked at themselves in the mirror lately? Mods with bad haircuts? Preppies with torn sports coats? I’m not sure these people know.

Music and fashion are so closely linked and I wonder why. I stopped going to hardcore shows when Straight Edge became more of a fashion statement than an ethos. SxE varsity leather jackets = lame no matter how fervent your belief in a ‘my body is a temple’ philosphy. However, thinking about it for a second, I can’t really say that’s why I stopped going. Not wanting to deal with hipster kids, though, is a good enough reason to stay home any day. And I don’t think JO, W, and N are alone in their internal hipsterdom, either. I imagine a movement afoot. I wonder if there will someday be a battle for true hipsterdom and all the fashion hipsters (LOOKING like you’re too cool for school) will do battle with the emotional hipsters (KNOWING you’re too cool for school). It’s unclear who would win this battle, quantity or quality, but one thing’s for certain, bands like Bloc Party would probably stop selling so many tickets.

Going to Shows

Guernica (or, The Trials Of Love)

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Li’l Sis: So, I have a third date this weekend.
Me: What’s the scoop?
Li’l Sis: We met out at a bar, in line for the bathroom… Very romantic.
Me: Nice. Where are you going on your date?
Li’l Sis: I don’t know yet. Probably dinner. The whole thing is impossibly awkward.
Me: Why awkward? Or no more awkward than usual dating?
Li’l Sis: Well, all dating is awkward.
Me: Who asked out whom?
Li’l Sis: We exchanged emails and then one thing led to another…
Me: “So, yeah, I guess we should get together sometime or something.”
Li’l Sis: Pretty much. I think it was more like, “Do you want to get a drink or something, or whatever, maybe.”
Me: “But if you don’t that’s cool, in fact, forget it, I’m moving to Nova Scotia.”
Li’l Sis: Yeah, I’m very much of the, “I might like you, if you like me, but if not, then no I’ve never thought about it.”
Me: See, me too, but history has shown me that you have to just go balls out, or whatever the female equivalent is.
Li’l Sis: How would you know? You’ve been with Rachel for like 10 years.
Me: There was a time when I wasn’t and I vaguely remember that time.
Li’l Sis: Oh. Well, I think the problem is I normally date very forward women, who do all the awkward stuff.
Me: Well, you’ll just have to grab the reins. What’s the worst that can happen?
Li’l Sis: She can say, “Ew, what the hell? I don’t like you like that.”
Me: Well, I doubt she’d say “Ew.”
Li’l Sis: You never know. I think its one of those “time to be an adult” moments.
Me: Look, you ask her out, and if she says no, you never see her again.
Li’l Sis: Well, we’re already going out. The issue is somehow moving to the next level. On our last date, we were sitting in her car, it was clearly time for one of us to make some sort of a move… and that’s when I ran out of the car.
Me: Ouch.
Li’l Sis: I know. The chicks dig it.
Me: Next time you’re in that situation, where you’re both thinking “someone should make a move,” someone should make a move. Otherwise she’ll start thinking, “she doesn’t like me.” I mean, come on, sitting in the parked car?
Li’l Sis: I know. I kind of panicked.
Me: Been there. But, you know, be charming and hilarious, like, “So… Seems like one of us should make a move here.” What a great “how we started dating” story!
Li’l Sis: I guess. It’s just hell. Plus, she bought dinner on the last date so I thought she would be in charge of “moves.”
Me: How enlightened of you
Li’l Sis: Well, if she’s going to be the man-figure, so be it.
Me: “She bought dinner, so I’m expected to put out?”
Li’l Sis: Yes, that’s how it works. Anyway, I’m just used to dating more forward people, or rather, people who aren’t spazzes like me.
Me: heh. well, this is your chance to de-spaz yourself
Li’l Sis: Yes, my very helpful friends have suggested practicing the “lean in” in the mirror. I don’t think so.
Me: I’m picturing you smacking your forehead against the bathroom mirror.
Li’l Sis: Yes, it’s hilarious. Thanks, friends. I’m sure I’ll have a hilarious story by Sunday. My life is a romantic comedy.
Me: I can’t wait!
Li’l Sis: I know… You’re one of many people anticipating my latest antics. I dont know if I can top fleeing the car.
Me: That’s pretty awesome. Did you, like, say “i gotta go?”
Li’l Sis: You’ll love this. I said, “OK, well, maybe give me a call after Thanksgiving, if you want, or whatever.”
Me: Strong.
Li’l Sis: Yeah, it was classic. Then I shut the car door and said, “dammit.”
Me: It’s funny:in some ways I can’t quite help you because I’ve always humiliated my self in the other direction. And if not always, at least more memorably.
Li’l Sis: How?
Me: Attempting to bust said move, and receiving the stop sign.
Li’l Sis: No, really? That’s my nightmare! How are you still alive?
Me: I mean, it’s humiliating at the time, but that leaves less of a long-lasting stain than the pain of regret over action not taken. Those are the ones that haunt you. Oh, God.
Li’l Sis: What?
Me: I just remembered. One time in college, I went apple-picking with this girl. Afterwards we were sitting in her dorm room, on her bed, side-by-side, hands nearly touching. And I think “I’m in!” So, I lean in… and she leans out… and I say, “So… is that a print of ‘Guernica?'”
Li’l Sis: No, I’m dying. Really?
Me: Honest to God. Like, “No, I didn’t just try to kiss you, what?”
Li’l Sis: I can’t believe you survived the lean-out.
Me: It was awful, but, I got over it.
Li’l Sis: Huh. See, normally, I don’t have this problem. I just get drunk around people I’m attracted to, and… you know.
Me: Well, you can always try that approach. “So, instead of dinner, how about I come over to your apartment with a case of bud light… for me?”
Li’l Sis: I was actually thinking about that. I just need to get her over here and, also, we need to be drunk. Wow, Me, if you can live through the lean out, maybe I can do this. I don’t know anyone who’s tried it before.
Me: It’s true. I have survived the ultimate defeat.
Li’l Sis: I just hope there’s a “Guernica” print around.
Me: Totally. “What? No, I wasn’t leaning in, I was leaning over.”
Li’l Sis: Just looking at the art. Not trying to kiss you.
Me: What made it worse was that after my classy recovery line, she was all, “Oh, Me, I’m sorry, I’m just not interested in you that way.” So I couldn’t pretend it hadn’t happened.
Li’l Sis: Oh God. Insult to injury.
Me: So, not only did I get the lean out, but she wouldn’t blot out the memory. I had to go through the full formal rejection.
Li’l Sis: Sweet Jesus, you got the lean out and a verbal smack down.
Me: Inside I’m thinking “Dude, did you not get the clear ‘Guernica’ code word? ‘Guernica’ means ‘this never happened.’”
Li’l Sis: She didn’t even leave you your pride.
Me: “Yeah, I got the impression you weren’t interested when you leaned out.”
Li’l Sis: How did you leave the room? Were you just like, “Well… and I’m done. That’s it for me, folks.”
Me: No, because now we were having The Conversation. I had to nod, and say yes, let’s still be friends, and she gave me a little “take care” and saw me to the door.
Li’l Sis: What did you do? Did you go home and just go, “Shit, now i must die.”
Me: Pretty much. Freshman year was a whole series of “Now, I must destroy the universe” moments.
Li’l Sis: Did you just turn to her and say, “Look, when I point out the ‘Guernica’ print, that means, let us never speak of this.”
Me: “Hi, maybe this was too subtle, but did you not get the idea that I would rather swallow tacks than speak of this?”
Li’l Sis: “Have I ever shown any interest in art? Who the fuck cares about a ‘Guernica’ print? Let me slink away, for God’s sake!”
Me: Anyway, you will not have to go through that. That was a unique event.
Li’l Sis: Huh, well this has really helped. I have never known anyone who’s attempted a sober lean in, and survived a lean out. And you don’t seem crushed, a shell of a man.
Me: No, no, I recovered.
Li’l Sis: Hmm…I guess I’m lucky I’ve put this off until the age of 27.
Me: I guess… I guess it could be easier when you’re older and have built up a wealth of successes.
Li’l Sis: True. Although everyone else I talk to says, “You want to try this sober? Seriously? How is that possible?” But now I’ll tell them: “Guernica!” It’s my new war cry.
Me: I’m trying to think if I ever started a relationship with a drunken hookup.
Li’l Sis: Seriously, that’s how I start all my relationships. This might be why they end poorly.
Me: No, I’ve seemed to take my bracing starts and ends cold sober. It’s like plunging into an icy stream: difficult, yet stupid.
Li’l Sis: Very brave. I’ve always done it the old-fashioned way. Drink too much with someone you’re attracted to, and it’s like a law of physics that something will happen. You know, a drunk object in motion… Some things are best attempted in a hazy fog, with a lot of deniability. I’m looking forward to losing some more of my self-respect. Looking in the mirror and thinking: “Seriously, this is my life. I actually got a lean-out? Thanks, world.”
Me: It’s kinda win-win… if you don’t get the lean-out, obviously, good. If you do, you can say, with confidence, “I have survived the worst this universe can throw at me.” Bring. It. On.
Li’l Sis: Well, at least my hilariously awkward dating moments bring joy to others. Bird girl, girl who couldn’t spell, all good times.
Me: It’s true! So far this one’s only fault is she’s too funny. You can overlook that.
Li’l Sis: I guess, although I’m really more comfortable as the funny one. Now which one am I going to be? The nice one?
Me: Apparently, the forward one.
Li’l Sis: Maybe. Maybe I’ll be the forward one, and she can play the role of me, pretending to be oblivious to the other person’s attempted moves.
Me: Well, it’s better than The One Who Runs Away
Li’l Sis: Yes, although fleeing the car is an adrenaline rush.
Me: I can only imagine. Oh god, I’m thinking of more blaze-of-glory stories.
Li’l Sis: Go.
Me: This is too embarassing.
Li’l Sis: Please?
Me: It was at camp. And there was this girl I liked, so, naturally, on a night off, a bunch of guys went to Steak ‘n’ Shake. And, logically, the thing to do was obviously to write her a poem on the back of the paper placemat they give you.
Li’l Sis: No, no.
Me: And of course, to fold it up and kind of awkwardly hand it to her next time I saw her, and then scamper away like some small rodent. Then, of course, the next day, I saw her and said something like, “So… did you get the thing I wrote?”
Li’l Sis: Oh God.
Me: And she said “… … … yeah.”
Me: And I said “… … Ok then.”
Me: And that was that.
Li’l Sis: Me, never leave a paper trail
Me: Well, I know that NOW.
Li’l Sis: What did the poem say?
Me: Oh, who can say.
Li’l Sis: Was it rhymed?
Me: It was free verse.
Li’l Sis: Stop, stop.
Me: I can only imagine the scene when she read it. “What, exactly, the fuck is this supposed to be?”
Li’l Sis: You know she showed it to all her friends, right?
Me: Oh, I’m pretending that’s not so.
Li’l Sis: Did your friends ok this plan?
Me: My friends FORMED the plan.
Li’l Sis: See, these are not your friends.
Me: “You should write her a poem!” Yeah, you think? I mean, in my right mind, I never would have done it. But these people all said, “Yes, yes, good idea.”
Li’l Sis: A poem? Did they like her too? Was this sabotage?
Me: I mean, it was either a terrible joke at my expense, or we were all morons. A poem. On the back of a Steak and Shake placemat.
Li’l Sis: You have no idea what the poem said?
Me: God, I have no idea. “Duuurrrrr, will you go out with me?” shouldn’t be a poem.
Li’l Sis: It’s hard to make “want to hold hands in friendship circle?” into poetry.
Me: “Will you sneak out into the woods so we can make out” is pretty romantic, sure….Mine was the kind of crap a 16 year old would post on his Live Journal today.
Li’l Sis: Well, I feel prepared: No poems, and “Guernica.”
Me: You should write those on your palm before you go out.
Li’l Sis: How on earth did you get to be so brave?
Me: Well… I dunno… the alternative was no nookie, so…
Li’l Sis: Fair enough.

Guernica (or, The Trials Of Love)


Well, they did it. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

Even after the ALCS, I wasn’t sure this was the year. Well, a Red Sox fan is never confident, but I didn’t think our pitching could hold down the Cardinals offense. Boy, was I glad to be wrong. Looks like more evidence for the adage that the postseason is all about premier pitching. If you’d told me in advance, I never would have believed that Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds would have one hit between them.

The World Series was a little anti-climactic after the rush of The Greatest Comeback In Baseball History. Games 1 and 2 were exciting because we seemed to be trying to lose (8 errors?!), but couldn’t. Games 3 and 4 were simply the confident administration of a methodical drubbing. A good move was watching Game 4 down at the local tavern, where we got to drink, shout, and high-five total strangers. Watching a high-stakes sporting event at home on the couch doesn’t have the same impact. (“We won!’ “Huh. Good show.” “Bed, then?”)

There has been a lot of hand-wringing in the sports press (and sour grape-ing in the New York Times) about what the “end of the Curse” means for Red Sox nation. The implication is that now that we’ve won, we won’t know what to do with ourselves. Even Rachel admitted that she was a little conflicted about winning the World Series. Once we’re not Red Sox Nation, bound together by our shared heartbreak, what are we? Just a bunch of people who all happen to root for the same consistently successful team. Like Yankees fans.

(Because let’s face it, for all of our scrappy underdog persona, we have the second-largest payroll in the Major Leagues, and we use it. Exhibit A: Curt “Bloody Sock” Schilling.)

The other day I had the chance to talk to a very nice guy, who happened to be a Yankees fan. I told him my theory that rooting for the Yankees (or any perennially successful team) must be rather unsatisfying. If they win, you’re happy, but not overwhelmed: winning is your due, it is expected. If they lose, you’re stunned and humiliated (see 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004). What was it really like, I asked, to root for a team like the Yankees?

“It’s really, really great,” he replied.

So I’m not worried about rooting for a successful Boston team. I rooted for a (mostly) successful Cardinals team in the 1980’s, and those were good times. No, what I’m worried about what our lost humility will do to us as fans. How are we going to be identified? We’re not the eternally hopeful, eternally heartbroken group we were until this October. I just hope we don’t end up being the most obnoxious fans in the game.

Don’t get me wrong! I am completely thrilled that we not only beat the Yankees after last year’s cataclysm, but that we beat them in historical fashion. My bigoted uncle (see my “Intermarriage” essay) is a huge Yankees fan, and the thought of showing up at his son’s wedding wearing a Red Sox yarmulke fills me with such joy that I’ve actually caught myself rubbing my hands together and cackling. Cackling!

I’m worried, though, because we’ve shown some bad manners even before we had a championship under our belt. When we’re playing the Devil Rays at Tropicana Field, and the Sox fans outnumber the Rays fans, why do I hear the crowd chanting “Yankees Suck?” Even when we’re playing the hated Boys from the Bronx at Fenway, is that really called for? Sure, the Yankees are overpaid and arrogant, and I’m all about rivalry (back in the StL we used to call the Mets “Pond Scum”) but whatever else you want to say about New York, they don’t suck. At least since the late 90’s, they’ve played themselves some baseball.

And the booing. Look, we were all a little bitter about not getting A-Rod at the beginning of the year. (Although, now? Last laugh.) And yeah, he’s a bit of a punk, and has oddly purple lips. But there’s no call to boo him. In the first game of the World Series, did I really hear the Fenway crowd boo Albert Pujols? Who in their right mind would boo Albert Pujols?! (Heh. Heh. “Poo-holes.”) Our lowest moment, though, as a fan base, was during the introductions before Game 1 when the crowd booed third base coach Dale Sveum. People, I know he’s made some bone-headed decisions directing traffic over there, but to boo a coach? In his home park? On national television? At the World Series? After the ovation everyone else got? Shameful.

So we need to cut that out.

Apart from that, though, I’m not worried about life as a fan of the un-cursed Red Sox. Everyone loves a loveable loser, but everyone also loves a winner, and this bunch is so personable that they’re easy to root for. The best sign, naturally, is that I ended this season with the same words that ended last season (although with a grin instead of a sigh):

“Four months ‘til pitchers and catchers!”