Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fancy Clothes and Sweaty Bro's

Sheila was going through closets and getting out her spring clothes when she found two Tommy Bahama silk shirts that her husband, Frank, had purchased before he passed away. Frank was a much, uh, trimmer guy than me so it was surprising to see that he had shirts sized XL. But I assumed he had found them for a great price (probably at a time when he was a little bit heavier than his usual fit self) and rarely wore them, so it was perfect for me. 

And I need to get my wardrobe straightened out ... I have lost a fair amount of weight over the past year (about 100 pounds) (yes, I was a fat bastard) and I have been slowly getting new clothes. Sheila, who knows about stuff like this, has been great in helping me find the right kind of clothes. Of course, a lot of the help is in the interest of making me look acceptable and not my usual embarrassing self (Sheila always looks perfect) (even when she's just hanging out around the house). 

Copeland's in Kennesaw
Now, a Tommy Bahama shirt was just the thing I needed Sunday morning ... we were going out for brunch with our friends Brenda and Martin to a place called Copeland's, a nice restaurant in the Atlanta area that has a jazz brunch every Sunday. Brenda and Martin were the very first "non-family" people I met when I moved here to be with Sheila and they immediately made me feel welcomed. Sheila and Brenda have been friends for a very long time so I always try to not be so "Jersey" when in the company of Sheila's circle of peeps. And dressing in something other than old Dockers and a quasi-faded LL Bean shirt that are both too big for me was a good place to start.

In addition to the Tommy Bahama shirt, I was also wearing a new pair of sorta dressy dark-wash jeans that I had just bought at Horsetown ... yes, Horsetown ... a cool cowboy attire shop here in the Atlanta area. Horsetown has more jeans than anyplace I've ever seen, as well as a ton of western/southern style shirts, hats, boots, jackets and everything a style-conscious Georgia boy/girl could want. And the staff is amazingly knowledgeable, making sure that the clothing you buy fits right. 

So, there I was at the Copeland's jazz brunch with my gorgeous girlfriend, good friends, wearing my Tommy Bahama silk shirt and fancy Horsetown ... yes, Horsetown ... jeans, and I realized how different my Sunday mornings are now, as compared to a few years ago. Back then I regularly would be sitting at home in a sloppy, ill-fitting t-shirt and Walmart jeans chomping on a bagel with waayyy too much cream cheese, dripping it onto my clothes while I piled on the weight. Now? A fancy joint with great people, my beautiful partner, some coolio clothes, eating a crab-cake Benedict meal with excellent cheese grits and listening to very good jazz!

Affogato, a perfect mid-afternoon snack
Later in the afternoon Sheila and I were on the deck having our afternoon affogato (a wonderful small dessert dish with gelato and espresso) (BTW, we make our own gelato) talking about my wardrobe and what I had to do to get up to speed. If you recall (What? You DON’T recall?) Laura (my daughter) was visiting a few weeks ago, and she is a vintage clothes re-seller, so she knows where to look for bargains on nice clothes. And I’m in the mood for bargains since these Tommy Bahama shirts are like $100 a shirt, or more. Sheila suggested we look at Etsy and eBay to see what we could find, since that’s where Laura sells her stuff.

Sure enough, I found 4 shirts on eBay, slightly/lightly used (Like New! according to the listing) (I hope that means no armpit stains) (I spent enough years of my life wearing my brothers worn out junky shirts), up for auction, ending in a few hours. Two bidders were trying to buy the shirts, but I waited until the last 20 seconds of the auction and outbid both of those losers (that’ll show ‘em, don’t be messing with a Jersey guy) paying only $72.00 for 4 shirts ($18 a shirt, for the math challenged) and thereby saving at least $300 if I bought new. 
Tommy Bahama - hopefully pit-stain free
Of course, I still need to worry about the armpit stains … if my brothers weren’t such sweaty bums when we were little I’d probably not be losing sleep over these potential pit stains, but they were a bunch of slobs! It wasn’t just armpit stains, either, no way, they’d be spilling food all over themselves, having runny noses drip on stuff … I’m not even willing to think about what was going on when they hit puberty, yucky … so who can blame me for being leery of bodily fluid secretions being stuck on my new high end, fancy Tommy Bahama silk shirts?

Sheila, who by now realizes that I’m damaged goods, just fluffed off the pit stain concerns, making me a little less leery of buying used clothes (but Like New! according to the listing) (and they’d never lie on an eBay sale, would they?) (shoulda looked at the return policy before I paid). I expect to receive them in a few days, future blog postings will provide the results (that’s assuming any of you will still read this stuff).

Well, that experience led me to start looking at Robert Graham shirts, too … I have a Robert Graham shirt that I bought on a super-super sale when we were in Destin, FL last Thanksgiving. That shirt, brand new (in other words, pit stain free), was $80, and normally sells for $220. And it’s a nice shirt, but I’m not spending $220 on new shirts … it’s bad enough I’m buying socks that cost $22 a pair, I can’t afford $220 shirts anymore with the price of socks these days! This is the Robert Graham shirt, I was wearing it in our bad Christmas picture …
I'm the dumb-looking one
Anyhow, I digress … so I think, “why not look at Robert Graham shirts, too” and I pop them into my eBay search engine. And there are a ton of them on eBay, most for low money. But since I had just bought Tommy Bahama shirts, and already have the 2 shirts from Frank and my 1 Robert Graham shirt, that makes 7 (seven!!) fancy shirts and only one pair of Horsetown (yes, Horsetown) jeans and bad shoes. Sheila, who most certainly must know that I’m just not that bright, corrals me back to the issue at hand and says, “We need to talk about your shoes”. “No way”, I said, “I’m not buying used shoes, you don’t even want to know what my disgusting brothers did to shoes, I’m not buying used shoes”. After Sheila got done rolling her eyes and, I think, saying a silent prayer for mercy, she said, “No, not used, new. Reef makes nice sandals and slip on shoes”.

Reef? I had never heard of those shoes, yet here was Sheila just firing these names off one after the other … Tommy Bahama, Robert Graham, Reef, even Thorlos (my $22 socks)...  I realized I was way out of my league. Of course, if you have been paying any attention, you already know that. But Sheila pulled up the Reef page, said “Get these and these”, indicating a pair of sorta flip-flop shoes (but not like the K-Mart $1 kind) and a canvas-looking-slip-on-loafer thing, cautioning me to only wear them in the house when I get them, making sure they fit, just in case I have to return them. This high-stakes maneuvering is making me dizzy … my brothers never worried about junk fitting them, they just secreted fluids and sent the clothes on to the next guy in line.

Frank, my youngest brother, never had to worry about this kind of stuff … he was the last in line, but my sister Barb was ahead of him so she was a kind of nasty clothes buffer and most old things were tossed before Frank could fit in them. And Barb, the only girl, she always had new stuff, and her own room, too, while the rest of us were stacked up like mid-shipmen in bunks on a battleship. I think that’s why both Frank and Barb are successful in life … no pit stain worries. Sorry, went off there for a minute …

So, just to recap, I’m living in this beautiful, large home in Georgia, driving a new Lexus, wearing clothing I had never heard of, retired and sharing my life with an amazing woman! Not bad for an old Jersey musician, not bad at all …

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mobile & Donuts

Sheila: "Would it be okay if we didn't have yogurt this morning and eat one of the donuts instead?" Me: "Sure!"  Okay, some clarification here ... Our normal routine consists of waking up and having the first cup of coffee in bed while watching the morning news, followed by a yogurt before we get the day going.  Also, when you're in a relationship where your sig other is several steps above your pay grade, you just agree to everything and hope she never goes in for her vision check. And, let's get serious, am I going to turn down a donut?

Especially when the donuts are from the Sugar Rush Donut Company in Mobile, Alabama, the location of our most recent road trip. These donuts are waayyy up on the list of greatness, getting very close to Gibson's Donuts in Memphis, TN or The Donut Hole in Destin, FL ... Actually, Sheila doesn't think The Donut Hole is THE best, since she believes we were being swayed by the general beauty of Destin (I think Shauna and James, Sheila's daughter and SIL, might argue that point) (I should have brought some Sugar Rush back home for them, now that I think about it) (hopefully they won't read this blog post), but these Sugar Rush babies are, indeed, tasty!

Sheila, cont'd: "Can we split the chocolate covered coconut sprinkled one? I don't want to have the apple fritter, that's too healthy and I feel like cheating today". TOO HEALTHY??? The apple fritter weighs about 2 pounds and has so much sugar glaze on top that it looks like an ice sculpture! But, hey, who am I to disagree (see relationship positioning details, above), and the chocolate coconut donut is equally amazing. Me: "Sure!" (I'm a verbose character, aren't I?) Point of reference, a pic of the "health food" fritter ....

Health Food
So, another chance to spend time with Sheila while she has an out-of-town audit for work, and after all, I am now fully unemployed … err, uh, hmm … retired, yeah, that’s it, retired (sometimes it feels like unemployed, especially when Friday comes and there is no paycheck in the direct deposit) (hey, you say, that’s what you wanted, right?) (yes, it is, but still … no paycheck). Seriously, it’s one of the greatest things about this retirement deal, being able to spend this time with Sheila; it helps keep her off the planes and lets her relax on these small journeys.

Mobile is about 5 ½ hours from home, an easy drive using two primary interstates, I-85 and I-65. This is where the new car (a Lexus RX350 for those who haven’t been paying attention) is a real blessing. I’m not a big car buff, and honestly, never gave two darns about any car, but this Lexus is a thing of beauty. It’s the first car that I ever looked forward to driving, both for the comfort of the ride as well as the amenities that come along with it. Sheila loves the seat warmer, even when its warm outside … she likes keeping some stuff warm while her face is cool from the A/C. She is basically always cold, even when its hot outside, which is good for me since I’m always warm and that lets me get away with more, uh, contact than I should be allowed to have.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Home - Montgomery, AL

On the way down to Mobile, we stopped in Montgomery to visit the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald home. The Fitzgerald's only lived there for about a year, but they rarely stayed anywhere for more than a few months so 1 year is quite the accomplishment. Of course, they were both, umm, whack jobs that led completely unstable lives, yet were loaded with talents for writing and art so the tour of their home was fascinating for both of us. Well worth the visit if you are in the area.

The Admiral Hotel, Mobile
Sheila had booked us a room at the historic Admiral Hotel, right in downtown Mobile. It's been quite a while since I had been in Mobile, and certainly never in this rarified level of comfort and style ... The Admiral Hotel is just loaded with Art Deco design and has a bunch of cool features that would make it worth the while for another visit at some point in the future.  And it was within walking distance of the Mobile St Patrick's Day parade. They have valet parking, definitely a necessity here in Mobile, especially when they have an event in town … The Price Is Right was filming a show in Mobile and apparently, this is a big deal! Who knew? So, valet parking it is. And no, we didn’t see Drew Carey.

While Sheila was doing her audit at the client on Friday, I took the time to seek out local music shops in Mobile. I'm always, unrealistically, hopeful that I'll find some rare bass for el-cheapo cash at these little shops, but once again, it was to no avail. I did stumble across the St. Patrick's Day parade, which was small, sweet and very well attended by many locals all decked out in green and having a great time! Because Mobile is a Mardi Gras town, bead-tossing is the custom at these events. I was busy catching plastic strands flung in my direction, doing my best to not be blinded by flying plastic shards and trying to keep the little girl next to me from getting cold-cocked. But it was fun to be a part of it and I did keep some of the beads for Sheila ... not that she needs them, she is a Mardi Gras girl from way back in time!

We got lucky and Sheila finished her audit a bit earlier than expected, giving us time to head to Fairhope, Alabama for a massive art and craft festival. Fairhope is a beach type community along the Mobile Bay, a pretty town that gets consumed with this art festival every March. It’s reported that there are 230 exhibitors spread out in the center of town, but walking that thing made it feel like 2000 … it was quite the jaunt, especially after I walked a couple of miles in Mobile earlier that day and Sheila walked through most of her audit. According to my ever-trusty iPhone health app, I walked a total of 3.8 miles that day and I’d have to guess Sheila was right in that same neighborhood. So why does she look all skinny bones and I still look out of shape?

After many, many years with Bunny exhibiting at these shows, it was quite different visiting as an observer. I felt myself examining booth construction and design, thinking about what a PITA it must be to pack up at the end of that show. But it was great to just walk and look at the wonderful stuff these folks were selling.We had just about reached the end of our walking ability when Sheila said, “I really want a donut when we get back to the car.” How can you not love a good looking woman who loves donuts, too!