My Personal Belongings
"Somedays I sit and wish I was a kid again…" Ahmad
Photo by Pamela Evelyn .
Few things make us feel as good as childhood memories. If you grew up anytime in the last 50 years you surely know the simple joy of glimpsing into an imaginary world through the heft and well constructed bulk of a View-Master. The range of slides to choose from are endless and in an instant (with a good source of light) you can be whisked away to a land of animated characters or the sights of the worlds greatest landmarks, all captured in astounding visual quality.
I have two of the original Bakelite pieces and a handful of slides which I leave out for my guests during dinner parties and get togethers. If you can host a party with good food and beverage that's one thing, but if you can invoke the feeling of youth in your guests, then you are a host of a valuable magnitude. First introduced to the public at the New York World's Fair, it didn't take long for units to sell, and they brought with them a pure form of escapism, it may have been a stagnant image but it was alive enough when animated with thought. Nowadays we have the luxury of enjoying a 3D movie in the comfort of our own surroundings, or we gather in a theatre and join in a communal experience as the big screen jumps to life right in front of us.
Back in the day though, View-Masters were the pinnacle of larger-than-life entertainment and for more than nostalgic purposes; they could be found in almost kids toy trunk. I mean growing up as kid myself, I used to love reading comic books, but what better way to see you favourite illustrated hero beat the bad guy, then in frame after frame of in-your-face action? Each click of the squeaky plastic slider brought you deeper and deeper into the created universe in front of you. Dinosaurs, underwater creatures, even the mystical kingdoms from our favourite and most celebrated fairy tales, were all there for the taking and it empowered our imaginations. I'm glad to see things haven't changed that much, if anything they've advanced our senses to be adept to more information, but sometimes it's the simple things that offer us happiness, and whats more celebrated than a slice of simplicity from the old school life and the days of pure innocence?
FOR MORE WAYS TO SEE INTO THE FUTURE CHECK THESE OUT:
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
In 2003 Swollen was signed to Virgin Records. We were all living in L.A., we had apartments being paid for and we were earning a per diem. Life was good. One afternoon while celebrating glorious existence, I found myself at a margarita bar during happy hour. In the hours that followed, I met a gentleman by the name of Chris Carter and his appreciation for affordable shots of tequila was in sync with mine and needless to say we hit it off like long lost brothers. Two days later, after a legendary weekend bender, Chris and I decided to ask each other what our line of respective businesses were. Turns out Chris worked for an eye wear company called RetroSpecs.
They specialized in vintage American pieces all the way from original Bausch&Lombe Aviators, to American Optical frames that were commissioned for the military for WWII. Swollen was heading to Toronto for the MuchMusic Video Awards and I wanted to look my best so I met up with Chris one day at his shop and bought a pair of prescription sunglasses. I wore them on the awards show, we won that year and, I have had a long love affair with the company ever since. In those 10 years I have never lost (knock wood), a pair of my RetroSpecs. Some have met with a breakage or two but I just pack them up in an envelope and send them down to L.A. where the fitter of all fitters, Hans Hettich, sets me up again and the relationship of loyalty and friendship continues. What RetroSpecs does is more than just sell you a pair of glasses off the rack, or in their case, out of the drawer. They keep all the frames in a great old wooden filing style cabinet and the feeling of nostalgia starts before you even dawn the specs. The approach is really an upstanding of the bespoke tradition.
You can choose your lens colours in up to a three gradient tint, the choice of frames and prices ranges from modest to wow and, if you so desire, which you will, they have custom cast 12 karat gold nose pads to upgrade the already fabulous cotton and crushed seashell ones that come standard. There's a certain unexplainable feeling of pride that comes when you know you are the only one rocking a certain piece, so I encourage you, next time you are in the market for a pair of glasses, check out my people at RetroSpecs, because sometimes you have to look into the past to be able to see into the future.
"You know it's hard to forget what you got looking back, looking back, looking back, looking back… " Lauren Hill
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
I awoke one morning to the glorious rays of the Los Angeles sunshine beaming through my bedroom window. It was 7:30 in the morning and the birds in the backyard were singing a sweet song. Ever since my last visit I had pining to add another fine handmade Italian hat to my modestly growing collection, which at the time of writing this, on the patio at Shutters On The Beach, totals a whopping sum of two. Now, in my defense, I have acquired a taste for a particular brand which heralds back to the late 1800’s and is, in my opinion, a company which excels in their craft.
Borsalino has a long steeped tradition in the art of hand constructed head wear. My first piece was a straw fedora, the trim of ribbon around the crown is constructed of two separate pieces, a two tone taupe graced with a silk and linen band of light turquoise emblazoned with gold writing that proudly states their hallmark. I was back in L.A. and Fred Segal was having a sale. To my utter delight their were offering my new favourite hats at a price to good to refuse. After trying on a few from the selection, I settled on another straw piece, this time darker in hue, shaped in the Panama style and, the band of fabric was a bitter sweet chocolate colour.
I have grown a great affinity for both hats but have developed a bit of snobbery towards others of inferior quality. Once you go Borsalino you never go back. This mornings inspirational weather prompted me to go searching for a third hat to add my accoutrement. I looked in every store I came across and nothing I tried on was even close to as comfortable or looked as well appropriated. After this trying ordeal I let my mind come to peace with the fact that I am only willing to top my head with the best and, if that means I must continue to scour high and low for perfection, let the search continue.
“…people with a feather in the cap of they Borsalino…” Black Thought from The Roots
It has been known that when Fred Astaire bought a new hat, he would throw it against the wall a couple of times to give it more of a broken in look.
FOR OTHER GREAT WAYS TO TOP OFF THE CROWN CHECK THESE OUT:
It all started with a horse and carriage. Thierry Hermès, German by descent,was fashioning bridles and harnesses for the well to do of Europe. As the lineage expanded, his son took things to a new level and started to lay the foundation for the Hermès we know today. I have been lucky enough to visit the flagship store in Paris and it was, hands down, the most interactive and welcoming shopping experience I have ever had. The building that proudly stands at 24 rue de Faubourg Saint-Honorè, has a presence of it’s own. Now partially a museum, history emits from the walls, if only they could talk I’m sure they would have a thousand stories to tell and, they would all be in a wonderful French accent. My connection to Hermès began with one of their carrès a few years ago. I started rocking it daily and was inspired by the way I could use it to dress up or dress down most outfits. After procuring a number of those, I turned my attention to the leather goods. By then I had a love affair with the company and a huge respect for the process they go through before giving products their stamp of approval. When I walked into the Paris store, I knew what I was after.
“Bonjour Monsieur!” Where the first words I heard as I entered. From there, a lovely attendant kindly asked me my name and assured me that if I needed anything at all, to simply ask. As I walked through the store, I took in the whole experience. I bought a deck of cards for my Mom and, the salesperson had them transported downstairs as I continued my browsing. I could smell the leather wafting in the air and I followed my nose to the counter that beheld a selection of notebooks, agendas and, journals. Then I saw it! Staring me down, an olive green notebook cover with a simple yet elegant round snap on it’s far right hand side. The emblematic symbol would one day protect my thoughts and ideas from prying eyes. At first, my Ulysses notebook sat in it’s box, safe from fingerprints and potential scuffs. Then, one day, I wrote in it and, the paper convinced me that all my creative processing would be respected and encouraged. It has become my repository for everything. Even the outline for this site is safely harboured there. Arrows pointing to future ideas and linking past thoughts make the cotton linen paper look like the rantings of a madman. So far so good.
The rest of my shopping experience was just as satisfying as I scooped up one more scarf and a losange, which is not a cough drop, but instead a very dramatic rhomboid shaped cut of cloth that could be worn while one relaxes on the French Riviera in a cabana, sipping on a glass of wine and eating fine food. Or you could just rock it like I do and wear it with a collared shirt and a fedora, a nice pair of shorts and some slip ons. It does take a bit of confidence to pull it off and, I had to work up to wearing it on more casual occasions but it was worth the journey. After I had amalgamated my wares, I walked back down the staircase where I was reacquainted with the lovely attendant. She had all my goods wrapped and ready to go. It was flawless. I signed up for my visitors tax credit and carried that little green piece of paper with me as a reminder that when I returned, I would have a few extra Euro to put towards my next purchase.
Hermès doesn’t cut corners. They don’t compromise. Everything they do is detail oriented and it shows. Not only in the quality but also in the delivery and, because of that, they will have my loyalty for the duration of my tenure. As my mountain of signature orange boxes continues to grow, so do I and, my belief in standing behind your product is personified through the company that started in a little workshop in France but has reached out and touched the world.
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
Every year for my birthday I buy myself a tobacco pipe. Their was a time, while Swollen was in it’s first years, that I had to balance the weight of two jobs in order to keep the rap dream alive. One was in a high end restaurant, the other was in a cigar shop called, La Casa del Habano. It was during what was known as the ‘cigar boom’ and, people were spending money on boxes of stogies like it was growing on trees.
The staff were mandated to smoke a cigar a day in order to keep the aroma of the store enticing to customers and also so we could brush up on our brand knowledge. Robustos, Corona Gordas, Pyramides, you name it, we carried it and, at one time or another, I smoked it. One day we had a customer come in and asked if he purchased a cigar, could he light up in the back room? Our policy back then was pretty open to staff discretion so I said of course and we stepped into the walk in humidor to select a fine Cuban cigar.
To this day I can’t remember what the gentleman bought, but I do remember the billows of inviting smoke that emitted from the back room as he packed, tamped and, stoked a beautiful handmade Peterson pipe layered with an aromatic tobacco. It was a game changer for me. Later that week was my birthday and I knew what I was going to buy for myself. Tucked underneath the safety of an umbrella, I wove my way to the Gastown area of Vancouver and, walked into R.J. Clarke with a look of wonderment on my face. They were, admittedly, our competition but they carried an entire stockade of pipes, tobaccos and, accoutrements in which we lacked. Jar after jar of Virginia and Turkish flake danced in my nostrils, inviting me to join their soiree, the price of admission was left up to me. I decided to enter into the gala ball with a modest piece, a Brigham pipe which was affordable in price yet had a great aesthetic quality. After a quick lesson on how to pack the tobacco, especially important when seasoning a pipe for the first time, and a tutorial on tamping ( the art of pressing down the tobacco to maintain a proper burning temperature ), I was back into the rainy landscape, a puff of dark grey smoke from beneath my umbrella must have made me look like a human steam engine chugging through the streets.
Since then I have become a member of The Peterson Pipe Club and have invested in a Julius Vesv, one of the most celebrated pipe makers in the industry whose high end pieces are constructed of actual dead briar wood, a rarity no matter what a salesperson tries to tell you, the last stockade was purportedly purchased by Julius’ father years ago. Nowadays the briar trees are grown and become victims to death by buckshot, which kills the tree but the true strength of the briar comes only after it has died of natural causes and this takes many many years hence it’s rarity in today’s marketplace. If you are looking for a device in which to smoke with style, I humbly suggest a tobacco pipe, the range of aromas produced by ignition of the tobacco is vast and, the instruments themselves range from ordinary to ornate. Plus, if you can pull it off properly, you may find yourself pondering the great mysteries of life in style, not unlike that famous character from 221B Baker St and, that is indeed elementary.
“A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man.”
-A. A. Milne
FOR ADDITIONAL WAYS TO SMOKE UP CHECK THESE OUT:
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
My first restaurant job was at the tender age of 15. I worked at a steak and seafood house in Victoria called Chandlers and the experience was very eye-opening. As a junior high student I was making pretty good money. I had graduated from washing dishes, in what is affectionately known as The Dish Pit, to bussing tables, I had it pretty good. I guess the manager saw something in me and a few months later, I was serving. I had the smallest section in the restaurant but it didn’t matter to me, I was just thankful to get the opportunity.
Although we didn’t have the wine cellar that some establishments boasted, we had a decent selection and, people loved red wine with their steaks so, I had to learn the proper method of presentation and approach. I loved it. I felt like I was part of an exclusive club, especially when I thought about the fact most kids I was in school with only knew wine in it’s boxed form and thought drinking it straight from the spout was an ode to Bacchus himself. I didn’t start imbibing in alcoholic beverages until my early twenties but in that amount of time I had worked at a couple different restaurants until I settled into The Beachside Cafe. A high end, award winning, fine dining establishment that had a killer Sommelier, Mark Davidson, a tremendous Chef, Carol Chow and, in Janet Maguire, a successful and compassionate owner.
My past experiences allowed me a rare privilege. I was working in the both the kitchen, as a garde manger and, serving in the front of the house. I learned from the greats. Senior servers who had poured more bottles than you could shake a cork at and a Sommelier who was instrumental in guiding me through the world of wine ( thank you Mr. Davidson ). Years later I moved backed to Victoria and took up work at a great spot called Suze. They had hired me as a bartender but one day the dishwasher called in sick so I volunteered to fill in. That service we got slammed and they needed someone to prep veg, that is, cut vegetables. I was on it and I think they were impressed because, the next day, I was relieved of my bar position, given a kitchen spot and also took tables 4 nights a week. My appreciation for the industry runs deep and I was thankful to be a part of it. I still have the same Pulltap’s corkscrew, or crank as they call it in the biz and, since my tenure in the industry, it has continued to open bottles of all varietals. The universe of wine is as endless as the imagination and the pocket book will allow but, if you are abound upon it’s magnificent waters already, stay fast and make sure the cutlass by your side is tempered enough to release corks from their glass home with grace and style. Save the cardboard boxes for packing and you will be rewarded for your actions. Long live the vine!
“Don’t front…You know I got you open…” Buc Shot from Black Moon
For a great video on how to properly open a bottle of wine, click here!
Here’s some more ways to get cranked up:
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
A few years ago Swollen was touring the U.K. and I found myself in the fortunate position of having two days of free time to roam around London. I was very determined to pay homage to the world famous tailoring only found on Savile Row. Tradition abound as I entered the narrow side street and the storefront windows teased me with options. I was having a hard time choosing which shop to patron when I turned to my trusty Wallpaper City Guide and saw the picture of a location which, at the time of print, was still under construction. The visual of the clean white interior waiting for clothing to decorate it’s walls had my imagination bounding with possibilities as I started to feel like a discoverer on the road to Bespoke Island.
When I reached my destination, the London rain was falling hard and the signage for Kilgour was shining like a beacon of refuge. As soon as I stepped inside, I knew my idea of clothing would be forever changed. From behind the counter I heard a British accent chime in with, “Welcome to Kilgour!” I said thank you and started walking around the store with eyes as wide as a lad in a sweet shoppe. The gentleman suggested that I browse the section of shirts that bore a size 15 neck. I had always thought I was a 15 1/2 but I was pleased to find that I was wrong. A light blue button up was staring me in the face and when I tried it on in the change room, I was sold. The feeling of a proper fitting shirt is amazing.
Granted, I didn’t have the luxury of time to get properly sized for bespoke tailoring but I have since vowed to spend the necessary hours celebrating the ritual and eventually coming away with an ensemble that has been constructed with my particulars. Turned out the two gents were producers and made beats every second weekend up at a cabin in the woods of Britain. Our mutual appreciation of music and fashion elevated my experience and my loyalty to Kilgour was born. I continue to kick myself for not making multiple purchases that day but I try to balance my feeling of want with reality. A reality that will one day see me roll out of the store onto the Row with bags in tote, my understanding of custom made clothing having been once again turned on it’s head and, my closet all the better for it. Ta!
For more expert tailoring:
Crock pots, Dutch ovens, slow cookers. Three names for equipment that do almost the same thing, in essence, yet in practice, they deliver different results. Why sear a roast in a separate pot and then add it to an electronic cooker to finish the process? I have always believed in keeping as much flavour in one vestibule. Because of this concept, I am a huge proponent of La Creuset cookware.
I have been lucky enough to find my entire collection second hand from thrift shops or yard sales, where the $5-$20 price tag is much more approachable than the retail price at a store. Not that they aren’t worth the couple of hundred bucks you can spend on them new, they are, I just like the feeling of discovery when you see a reddish-orange handle sticking out from a pile of dulled stainless steel on the thrift shop rack. These pieces will not only last in this lifetime, I would wager that a lucky generation after you could easily utilize the set after they have been passed down. I haven’t had cable TV or a microwave in my possession for many years now and I think the same way about most kitchen gear. I want bubbling, searing and deglazing all at my control.
A pot roast should never be separated from its’ natural oils. Draining a little of the grease is a must but total departure from it’s environment can leave a beautiful cut of beef wallowing for it’s original place of shelter, nestled safely in the bottom of a Dutch oven(in this case actually a French Oven), surrounded by carrots, onions, stock and a little red wine. Let them rejoice as the lid tucks them in for the duration of the cookery, a warm oven awaiting it’s old companions, the entire procession aware of their collective duties.
I want to trust in my own math instead of being told by incessant beeping that my creation is ready to be revealed. When I lift the lid hours later and see a wonderfully fragrant culinary menagerie, I know the reward will be worth the effort. Very distinct lines that show the reduction of the evaporated liquid remind me of my Mom drawing my height in the doorway with a pencil as I shot up like a weed in my youth. Perhaps its the memories that make this particular slow cooking process more appealing to me than letting a machine do all the work. It could also be the joy of reaching into the oven and pulling out an orange pot whose patina gets richer with each meal made. Whatever it is, I’m feeling it and I encourage you to explore the world of La Creuset.Experience the difference between man and machine.
For more oven lovin’:
Photo by Pamela Evelyn .
I haven’t had cable in over 7 years and it is a feeling of freedom. My access to daily news and music is heavily routed through my Henry Kloss Model One radio by Tivoli. I remember peering through the window in a store in Zurich and pining over the little box which I knew produced big sound. I didn’t buy it on that trip and I always regretted it, then, around a year later, I was back in Vancouver and tripping around window shopping when I saw a red sale sign posted above the Model One display. I had to have one and now was the time. There’s nothing like finding a station you enjoy as the dial swings you through a vast range of broadcasted choices.
The radio itself is quite simple in it’s design but the clarity and options for attaching other devices are great. An on/off switch, an am/fm control and, the dial that designates your station of choice, is pretty much the whole makeup of the piece but then again what more do you need? I remember my Grandma and I listening to the radio as I helped her bake, the music of the golden oldies flowing from the kitchen. For that reason and more, my feelings of nostalgia are synonymous with radio.
Theres something about those finite streams of static that you wade through, before finding a station with clear reception and music you are in the mood for, that empowers the listener more than loading up a pre determined playlist. Surprise and anticipation mix together as the dj rumbles through tunes, each one revealed impromptu and sometimes without any rhyme or reason. I listen to a lot of opera and symphonic music but I’m just as quick to give the dial a twist and let it find a new home that harbours classic rock or hip hop. Back in the day the radio was the centre of attention and it not only entertained us, it also informed us. Imagine crowding around a transistor and listening to War of the Worlds as it struck people with genuine panic, or the narrated blow by blow of a championship boxing match as the hoots and hollers of Madison Square Garden emitted from the speakers. And who can forget the era of ghetto blasters as hip hop heads around the world toted massive stereos on their shoulders as beats and lyrics pounded out. I’m glad to say pure audio indulgence is still with us and with the Model One it sounds better than ever.
“My radio believe me, I like it loud, I’m the man with the box that can rock the crowd…” L.L. Cool J”