I’m Old Fashioned

November 24, 2010

Perfect Thing No. 2: My old fashioned glass. Let’s start here: my second Perfect Thing is not an old fashioned glass. It’s an Old Fashioned glass. And when it comes to drinking either a) rye, b) bourbon, or c) an actual, properly made Old Fashioned, you need an actual, properly made glass. Preferably crystal or maybe well made, handcrafted glass. Can anyone seriously enjoy sipping whiskey in anything else? (Okay, don’t answer that). Just as there is much argument on the proper method of preparing an Old Fashioned, there really should be no argument about what to drink it in. At the very least, it needs to be a luxuriously large (10-12 oz) glass with a thick, heavy base. It needs to feel good in your hands, just like the putter that’s been in your golf bag for 25 years. When you pick it up, you think about it. Among the many things that may come through your mind when you see it on your shelf and get ready to hold it (where you bought it, the conversations that you’ve had holding it, the company it has kept) the first should always be this: don’t drop it.

I used to be married.  I mean, I AM married, but I was previously married to someone else. And, you know, divorce sucks. There are honestly few great moments of any relationship ending, especially one that has produced two amazing daughters, as mine had.  So I’m not saying that the time, now eight years ago, when I walked through the house deciding what was worth taking to my new home was a great moment.  But it did have it’s pluses. I knew I wasn’t going to take much, as I didn’t really WANT much. And my girls were going to be living primarily with their mom, and I wanted there to be little or no visible scars, as the invisible ones were already evident. And because I wasn’t going to take much, I figured that what I WAS going to take needed to be thought out and decided upon carefully. (Why does Steve Martin’s hilarious scene from The Jerk now come to mind? “The ashtray, the matches, the remote control, and the paddle ball game…..that’s all I need…..I don’t need ONE OTHER THING….ok, and this chair…..”) So besides my clothes, here is what I took: the set of Italian handmade Vietri tableware pottery that once belonged to my mother, my grandmothers hand made quilts, a vintage tiger-oak antique bookcase, and my Old Fashioned glass. 

The glass is made by Waterford. Specifically, the Lismore pattern, 12 oz, and its called the double OLD FASHIONED GLASS. It was given to me from a man and his wife in Midland, TX as a going away present, as I was leaving the Episcopal church there to take the job as Rector of the Episcopal Church in Aspen, CO. He was a man who knew his way around drinks, who appreciated, for instance, a good scotch (if I said “Highland Park”, the city in Illinois would not be the first thing that came to his mind).  He knew that I enjoyed whisky. It was a nice, thoughtful gesture. I have not seen him since that day, now 11 years ago. I wonder what he would think if he knew his gift made the Top Five of “Things That I Took When I Got Divorced”. Or #2 of my Perfect Things. Thanks, Bob.

With any good glass, it is only as good as what it is filled with. Not simply the golden hue of a good bourbon, but the memories that fill it as well.  When you bring one down from its resting place, it should tell its own story. The quality of the glass, or the craft in making it, is not as wonderful of the use thereof.  Which, of course, is a great metaphor for life itself.

How to Make A Proper Old Fashioned: (just like I saw my grandpa make)

2 orange slices (one for muddling, one for garnish)

2 maraschino cherries (one for muddling, one for garnish)

1 sugar cube

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 1/2 ounces bourbon or rye

club soda

De-stem one of the cherries. In an OLD FASHIONED glass, carefully muddle the sugar, the bitters, one of the orange slices, and the de-stemmed cherry. Discard the orange rind. Add a splash of soda to the muddled mixture and stir briefly. Add three or four ice cubes and the bourbon. Top with soda splash, stir briefly, and garnish with the remaining orange slice and cherry.

My Perfect Things

November 10, 2010

Mens Journal, The Robb Report,  as well as  a few others, love to roll out their yearly “perfect things” or “must haves”.  I buy all the issues, of course, because I love to read about $30 cigars, $245 jeans, and $1,000,000 cars that aren’t available. I enjoy dreaming, and actually have a large collection of pages I’ve ripped out of magazines over the years of things I would love to own, places I would like to go, hotels I would like to stay in, and scotch I would like to sip, categorized in manila envelopes with pen-scribbled titles like “clothing”, “restaurants”, “home”, etc. Of course my family wonders about me, and cannot figure out why I spend inordinate amounts of time pining over these things I will (probably) never own, or places I will (probably) never go.

So I began looking around my house. And as I did, I noticed that I had a lot of nice things. Not $30 cigar nice, but things that I would never think about parting with, things that have meaning, things that have memories.  After spending a few days looking around, and categorizing some of them in my mind, I realized that I had compiled a list of my own “perfect things”, things that I don’t have to want for, because I own them.  So I have decided to write about a few of my perfect things, and why they have meaning to me.

Perfect Thing #1: my Justin ropers. First, let’s get some things straight. I was born in Texas. Books have been written, and many fights have started, about that short five word sentence.  It’s hard to explain, especially to those who don’t share that Godly heritage, but like it or not, there is something special about being born in Texas.  If you aren’t from there, or haven’t lived there, I can’t explain it. But if you are, or have, you already know.

I moved back to Texas in 1996, and one of my first purchases was a pair of proper boots.  There are basically two different styles of boot: the cowboy boot, which is characterized by a higher, slightly angled heel and a square or sharp toe, or a roper boot, which has a shorter, squared off heal and rounded toe. And if you have to buy only one style, the roper usually gets the nod. For me, it was the 10″ Justin Bay Apache Roper, single stitched, with the J11 toe, handcrafted proudly in the USA.  Trust me, everyone is Texas knows what a Justin roper looks like.

My ropers are at the top of my list of my perfect things. They’ve been around. I’ve worn them to a bar, to cookouts, to dance in, and received communion in them. They’ve heard George Strait and Boy George, seen The Big Chill and The Big Lebowsky, felt Colorado powder at 5 degrees and Arizona dust at 115.  I’ve worn them while asking forgiveness for something I did while wearing them. There’s not many things you can say that about.

I’ve had them polished only once, and I regret it. Because of that, for a few long months the boots lost their well worn patina, the warm look and deep feel that is acquired over time by being worked over, beat up, and not babied. They look like we’ve hung out together.

Patina doesn’t happen to things that aren’t constructed well. Patina happens to things like a 24 carot wedding ring, my dad’s old Leica camera, a kitchen wooden spoon, and vintage garden tools. They happen to things we want to keep. And sometimes, like my ropers, we value them more when they’ve been around, and look that way.

So when I glance at my ropers, I am reminded that sometimes a life that has seen the better part of darkness, with experience written into your skin, is oftentimes treasured more than a life that is too pure, unworn, and not having been shaped by the places God has taken you. Sounds perfect to me.

The Hope of Imperfection

August 21, 2010

With a nod to one of my theological heroes, Leonard Sweet, for the inspiration for using “SoulTsunami” (it’s the name of one of his books) I launch my internet 1/2 acre.

A few weeks ago back home in North Carolina I met a retired veteran who was a write-in candidate for President during the 2008 election. While most of us would recognize the names of the 15 popular candidates (okay, maybe not….do we really remember Thomas Stevens?), few of us would know that there were over 37 total candidates who were actually on the ballet in at least one state.  As he likes to say with his dry New England sense of humour solidly intact, he withdrew his candidacy before he was elected.

At my request he recently sent me his seven page typed Inaugural Address, which he wrote just prior to his October 2008 “withdrawal”. It was incredibly thoughtful and well put together. He recognizes the insight of Franklin Pierce, a fellow New Englander who became President, for trying to annex Hawaii, 100 years ahead of his time. He thanks Colin Powell, his running mate. He orders the immediate and complete withdrawal of all American combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls to task those involved in the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He announces the appointment of Ward Connerly to be Secretary of Education. In short, he was, for a small moment of his time, the President-elect.

He had no real designs, of course, to be the next President of the United States. He is a sometimes disgruntled ex Navy guy, his faith in the Navy so shaken that he no longer trusts them to give him a proper burial at sea. He has a wonderful wife, who together run a little gift shop in a small mountain town. Well educated, incredibly bright, has some opinions (as does any good New Englander) and a voice that wishes to be heard . So, why not run for President?

I’m an owner of an original Obama “HOPE” poster, thanks to my amazing wife who chased one down for me before the printing presses stopped and they became a collectors item (and, of course, before the Palin “DOPE” posters, the Benedict XVI “POPE” posters, and the Bill Clinton “GROPE” posters). The word “hope” hit a nerve with many during his historic campaign, because many people were feeling hopeless. It certainly struck a chord with me, who continues on a journey from despair to hope, from shame to grace, from insanity to serenity, from isolation to reconciliation. I have seen my fair share of tsunami moments over the last six years, the kind that I was not sure I would be able to recover from. I yearn, as most do, for a deeper, steadier current. And for me, this journey has to be a theological one. From my earliest years, the paths traveled (both rocky and smooth) which actually had any kind of headwater were the ones where God always seemed to show up. For me, the transformational moment was not that I “found” God, but that I had let myself be found by God. It was not that I finally “believed” in God, but that I came to understand that God believed in me. I discovered that the most important discovery for me was that I had been discovered.

Last month, I closed our business, which meant I now have to use to the term “unemployed” in many more conversations than I care to.  I have a wife, two daughters, no health insurance, and my 401k is not bursting at the seams. A bit of a scary time.  Many of my failures in life, including the business, resulted in part from the fact that I am loaded with imperfections. Yet there is some crazy satisfaction – thankfulness, maybe? – that there will always be inevitability of pain and life struggle. And there is even a cartharsis in saying so. (FML, anyone?). At the very least, it opens us up to being rediscovered, to be found again for the first time.

And as a newly unemployed person, it invites me to be open to let God move me into a completely new area, using my decent education, life experience, meager smarts, and sometimes disgruntled voice. Maybe I’ll be a write-in candidate.