Heritage and heirloom? True West doesn’t care about buzzwords. What matters is what lasts — what can handle life lived in a rugged landscape where the weather turns on a dime. That these clothes come from primarily American standouts, match a modern Western aesthetic and fit in at a five-star resort as well as they do on the ranch — true West doesn’t give a damn. What matters is they get the job done, and they do it every time.
The first thing my mom did with her first full-time, real-job paycheck was put a downpayment on a brown 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with orange racing stripes. It was a stupid idea. She had no money, no savings and she already had a car. But she bought it anyway with that initial dose of real cash. The first thing I did with my first full-time, real-job paycheck was commission a painting of a deer from an aspiring artist friend. It was a stupid idea. The painting was amateur. It cost me $500. It’s sitting in my closet at home under a decade of dust.
Over the years, I’ve learned. I see now that splurges should be on the things you’ll get the most experiences from. My mom knew it then. I know it now. So my most recent full-time, real-job paycheck splurge was on a custom, American-made bicycle. It’s taken me ten years, but I got my Firebird.
Let’s establish this first: Bermuda is not cheap. Straight budget fares, you will not find. But, with a bit of creative exploring and the right recommendations from the locals, you can eat, drink and play without burning cash irresponsibly. The guide below goes both high and low, but I can assure you from firsthand experience that each expense is worth the cost; whether they’re in your vacation budget, well, that’s up to you and the wallet.
The sand at Pink Beach is pink. The crystals of sand are the hue of a conch. This is because the archipelago that makes up the fish-hook of Bermuda is the breached rim of a submarine volcano’s caldera, forming a seamount. That seamount turned to limestone under the hungry munching of marine organisms over millennia, then it rose to the surface. Waves beat that limestone into a pink pulp, and now, this beach is a paradisal cove the color of a cloudless sunrise.
In the last three years, the cottages that rose on the hillside above Pink Beach were also pummeled; a British banker knocked them down, then raised an impressive European-inspired, Bermuda-faithful resort, The Loren at Pink Beach. It’s the first new construction resort on the island in 45 years. The timing is impressive — and strategic. America’s Cup is on the brink, and the hotel opened doors just months before the tourists and sailing aficionados hit like a Cat 4 hurricane.
My favorite writer is David Foster Wallace. When he killed himself in 2008, I was on LA’s 10 Freeway near the Museum of Tolerance, listening to NPR. DFW gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 that’s been popularized — a sort of commencement TED Talk — and he started that speech with a joke. Two fish are swimming along, and an older fish swims by and asks, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” And the two fish look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?” He goes on to articulate a “truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away.” And the truth is that we are not to swim against the current, or to pursue action without consciousness. The good life is about finding awareness; repeatedly discovering that “This is water, this is water.”
Modern bohemian style was birthed in the revolutionary movements of the hippies, feminists and Beats of the post-WWII era. And, to pull it off today, it’s perhaps best to heed the water joke more than any pithy epigrams on tides or currents. In a fast-twitch mental environment, find the water first, then figure out where you want to swim.
“We build kick-ass adventure rigs,” says Matt Henwood, president of Main Line Overland, as he drives a 2017 Toyota Tacoma built out with a Warn-wench equipped ARB bumper, Dakar Rally-proven EVO Corse wheels, a Norweld UTE flatbed imported from Australia, and a Woolrich Edition Four Wheel Camper bolted on top. The truck is raised, suspension is beefed up and chunky BF Goodrich KO2 tires spin over the central Pennsylvania landscape. It’s a kick-ass rig, and for the past 48 hours, we’d been adventuring in Bald Eagle State Forest.
Some of the finer things in life just need time. While well-intentioned tech critics quickly dismissed the haptic home button on the iPhone 7 — according to the Verge, “it’s awful…a new kind of bad haptics” — it’s grown on me, a sort of subtle Apple engineering trick whose nuance slowly reveals itself.
So, yes, this iPhone 7 Plus has a dual camera with Portrait Mode, a faster Siri and no headphone jack. But my lingering obsession is that little haptic button.
Coming off a flight from Paris and a series of media interviews after Uniqlo’s first American preview of a forthcoming collection, Yuki Katsuta, Uniqlo’s SVP of product design and global research, showed no signs of jet lag. He bounced in his seat, jovial and lively. He fielded questions about sustainability, trends in menswear and what’s cool in Los Angeles. He acted like he’d had 12 hours of deep sleep. Katsuta-san needs the energy, as he is the lifeblood of this young brand with big hopes. In his tenure, he has effectively stirred things up in the fast fashion space, especially with Uniqlo’s huge expansion into the American market. I peppered him with a few questions about what’s next for the brand, and he had a surprisingly conservative outlook, outlining a plan that is best summed up like so: iterate, refine and repeat.
In post-WWII Paris, the intellectual café society championed be-bop, jazz and the existential thought of Jean-Paul Sartre. They gathered in the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) district, promoting bohemian cool in Paris and beyond. In America, the beats, feminists and hippies were disrupting societal norms extending, not least of all, to style. Out of this cauldron of intellectual creativity came the modern iterations of bohemian style, trickling down through popular culture in France, Britain and the U.S. through the ’70s and on into our current decade. The style is highlighted by natural fabrics, casual fits and creative modification. In times like these, it’s worth remembering the disruptive trends of centuries past, and at the very least let their revolutionary thoughts influence your style.
You’re going to have to wait for the comparisons between the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 and the iPad Pro until the end of this post. I have my reasons. You can wait. It’s a short post. Evaluate the Tab S3 in its own universe, not one dominated by white-backdrop ads and farcical tweets.
The 9.7-inch tablet is a powerful piece of tech, with a Snapdragon quad-core chip (2.15Ghz + 1.5Ghz), and I found that websites and apps (especially in the Google universe — Maps, Gmail, etc.) loaded even faster than expected. I have very little patience, and I felt like this tablet simply connected to the internet better, a testament to both the wi-fi connectivity and the speed of the apps. You get no traffic jams on the processor side.
The screen is also high tech, a “Super AMOLED Display with High Dynamic Range.” Translation: hi-def movies and games and other stuff you like to watch on a tablet look really good. Samsung is also equipping the tablet with the redesigned S Pen, which, thankfully, never has to be charged. I love pens and tablets, so this naturally made my experience much better, and the S Pen has a nice handfeel and is precise (it responded to my chicken-scratch accurately). And, Samsung offers the magnetically connected Pogo Keyboard, which — despite its crunched size — offers surprisingly satisfying key feel.
All in all, the Tab S3 is what’s expected of a gadget in 2017: it’s a great tablet with all the requisite tech to let you binge Netflix, play games, scroll Instagram, write emails, scribble notes and dive into Facebook and Twitter rabbit holes. What else does one need?
It’s not easy to whittle all the work NAHBS exhibitors put into their bicycles down to a measly little ten. And it’s totally unfair. I left off some great bikes (Best Road Bike winner, David Kirk, you are missing from this list, as is Best TIG Welding, by Kent Eriksen), and I kept my focus narrow — only bikes from USA companies (Raleigh, Cherubim, Tsubasa, Officina Battaglin, my sincerest apologies). So, know this: This list is a super elite list of makers I think you, GP readers, would do well to consider for your next bike. But it’s not an exhaustive list. It is simply and humbly a great starting point for building respect and beginning to lust after an American handbuilt bike.
Like an airline’s carry-on rules, the laws of traveling in the city are oriented toward the compact and lightweight. The holdall (a.k.a. duffel or weekender) should fit in an overhead bin — or a hotel’s bag holder. One personal item should fit your surroundings — a proper tasteful backpack that looks at home in an urban environment, not packed for an overland expedition. And beyond one or two pieces, that’s all you need. Don’t overdo it, or the city (like an airline) will make you pay — in discomfort, if not cash.
Don Walker — an amiable, extra-large human being with a knack for epigrammatic refrains — noted that what makes the North American Handbuilt Bike Show so special is that these bikes are made with love. Walker, a 26-year veteran frame builder and the founder and organizer of NAHBS (now in its 13th year), didn’t mean it in any kind of sappy, overplayed narrative of a heritage, craft, artisanal product, but rather that the added value of these added-price bicycles is that you get something that comes with the relationship of a frame builder building a bicycle. And, he noted, you don’t get that coming from Taipei or China. In support of his claim, the floor of the conventional hall in which we stood was packed with 100+ bicycle maker hearts beating, and the proof of their love of bicycles sat on two-wheeled display in front of them.
So love is one thing. The other thing you get with these handbuilt bikes is innovation and the pursuit of a better bicycle-riding experience. Across the floor, the precipice of what’s new and next and fun and cool sat in prototype or newly released glory. Monster cross bikes. Performance gravel bikes. All-road (road plus?) bikes in all shapes and sizes. Curvy, beautiful, beach-cruiser-inspired mountain bikes. Classic road bikes. Retro track bikes with crazy modern tube tech. The whole show shined with bike geekery of the highest order, with the tinkerings and R&D canvassing new ways to explore the world on two wheels. And yet, even with such innovation, the overwhelming feeling at NAHBS isn’t the lure of “the next hot thing.” Instead, NAHBS charms by luring you in, bicycle by bicycle, frame builder by frame builder, sharing a narrative that is, at its core, a simple and beautiful love story.
Over the weekend, hundreds of handbuilt bicycle fans descended on the Salt Palace in Utah’s capital city. The North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show (NAHBS) celebrated its 13th year with 180+ international and American independent bicycle exhibitors (bikes, frames, parts, paint, accessories and more). As the show specifies, “NAHBS showcases the talents of individuals around the world whose art form is the bicycle.” The rolling art was on full display, and the judges had the difficult job of determining the show’s best in a series of categories. Among the many winners, these were our favorites.
Out of the hotel, turn right, not left. This is an important decision. Left is the philistine homogeneity of Times Square. Right is the neighborhood the Chatwal belongs to — the New York Yacht Club, the Harvard, Penn, and Cornell Clubs.
The Chatwal hotel started as a club, too, back in 1905. The Lambs were the first professional theatrical club in America, and they commissioned the Stanford White–designed building. Actors would stay in the building and they frequented the grill room and billiard room. The list of Lambs is robust — including John Wayne, Fred Astaire, John Berrymore and 6,000 others — and select faces still hang high in the Lambs Club restaurant, a beautiful ode to 1930s art deco centered by a massive floor-to-ceiling fireplace. A jazz duet plays during Saturday and Sunday brunch.
After a restoration and modernization in 2010 led by Thierry Despont, the turn-of-the-century building turned modern luxe. Rooms ooze the refined cool of an older era, with suede walls, gigantic leather-wrapped trunks for dresser and desk and matching cabinets. Chrome is everywhere, and everything is thick — conveying that the most expensive things carry weight. Tiles in the bathroom sparkle and extend into the spacious shower and cover nearly every surface that isn’t a mirror. This is design by generational urbanites, refined over years of persnickety critique. For the contemporary visitor, it’s a welcome introduction to true high class.
Formal doesn’t mean ornate. Formal is done best as demure, quiet, subtle, understated. Let the details do the talking. This look, with small punctuation points with a satin-trimmed tuxedo and black suede boots, is ready for the theater or dinner at Le Bernardin. And, perhaps best of all, it’s comfortable — because formal should never mean restricting.
Exclusive clubs are the manifestations of many sins: lust, gluttony, greed, envy, pride. From Costco to the Centurion Lounge, the temptation to be a “member” makes sinners of us all. And Mercedes-Benz, that German devil, knows how weak men can be when it comes to four-wheeled temptation. For this reason, Mercedes continues to make admission to the Club AMG more and more justifiable. With the development of its AMG 43 line — consisting of the non-handbuilt, but AMG-tuned, V6 biturbo engine — the exclusive club becomes so temptingly close it feels not only aspirational but attainable.
The AMG 43 line features the same engine across all nine “entry-level AMG” models, which mentally simplifies things. Pick the carriage you need, and strap the same horse to the reigns. To give you a sense of the best models (in yours truly’s opinion) from the line, I test drove each on the canyon roads of Los Angeles. Here’s the lowdown.
It’s cold. Like 35-feels-like-28 cold. The park’s empty. Six-thirty a.m. Women ride by on carbon-fiber bikes, jostling for position out front. Wind whistles through leafless trees. Along the course, there are no spectators; a man jogs by with his dog off-leash. On Harlem Hill, the pace picks up, two women drop off the back. No snow on the ground, no ice on the reservoir, the stoic deadness of winter locks the landscape. The riders roll past, motion blurs on the undulating west and south sides of Central Park. The peloton rejoins. Final lap. At the finish line, two officials sit alone, bundled in layers of down. Six miles pass; the group enters the last corner, where a rogue ambulance flanks the pavement to the right, bumping the peloton left, swallowing up the women in red and blue kits, slowing them down. They fight to reach the front and manage to land one in third. Helmeted heads hang. Sweat forms despite the cold. Riding back on Fifth Avenue, the mood is a mix of buoyancy and regret. Racing season is back, but no one likes to lose.
The beauty of the city is anonymity; you are in the center, and you are nothing. Reinvent yourself. Be different. Be the same. The city doesn’t notice; it continues on around you — you, a part of it and not a part. Let your style be of the same spirit. Muted. Quiet. Unnoticeable until there’s a focus — a zooming in of attention on the details. City casual isn’t about making a statement: sticking another billboard in a city full of bright lights and loud voices. It’s about fitting in with the flow, being anonymous; you, fully yourself.
I’ve never been a wine drinker. I drink beer. I drink whiskey. And I drink margaritas. If someone wanted to make me a cocktail, I’d drink that. But wine? Wine is for old people. Wine is what my Aunt stores in her cellar, then drinks too much of on New Years. Wine is expensive. Or wine is cheap, and it tastes equally so.
I felt this way, more or less, until last August, when I met with a number of winemakers and vineyard managers in California making pinot noir. Post-college, I worked in construction — home remodeling in the Seattle metro area. I met people who worked outside, people who made things, the stringy ligaments of the local economy. I connected with them, not because I was like them (I was just a snooty imposter with a tool belt), but because I liked who they were. Winemakers are of the same ilk. They are farmers. They are artisans. They are makers. And, when I met them last year, I immediately liked them. But I also liked their wine.