Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Okay, I'm not obese, but I have gained back almost all the weight I lost a couple years ago. I'm tall enough that the extra pounds are spread out, but I definitely can't dress like a model. I won't go into the reasons behind the weight gain now; suffice it to say that I needed to get some new clothes.

When I think of clothing for men of girth, but not so much girth that they need to shop at a store for large men, I think of Old Navy. That was not going to do. I do not like logos or words on my clothing. I do not wear t-shirts except to sleep or to a concert.

I started with Nordstrom, because in spite of all its limitations, it's the best menswear store in Santa Barbara. I got some nice Diesel jeans there during their after-Christmas sale. I got a couple work-appropriate plaid button-down shirts at the same time.

I got some wonderful jeans at Civilianaire a few weeks ago. That store is wonderful. It was started by the same people who started Lucky Brand. Unlike Lucky today, which is now owned by Fifth and Pacific (formerly Liz Claiborne), Civilianaire still makes its clothing in the USA. They sell only jeans, shirts, and related items (jean jackets, hoodies). The stores are small, and the employees of the store in Venice (CA) were very helpful.

With a trip to Palm Springs and my birthday coming, I needed something to wear. My first stop was the Nordstrom Rack in Oxnard. I often find more interesting things at Nordstrom Rack than at Nordstrom. I got several shirts, some board shorts, and a pair of swim trunks. One of the shirts is a very colorful Robert Graham. Another is my first Tommy Bahamas shirt. Buying a Hawaiian-style shirt felt like crossing a line. I was about to turn 50, and now I had the shirt to prove it!

Then I went to the Camarillo Premium Outlets. I don't usually buy anything at the Barney's Warehouse, but found a nice-fitting pair of Levis Made & Crafted—their made-in-USA line—and an incredibly soft knit pullover by Shipley & Halmos. I saw nothing suitable at Hugo Boss. I found some wonderful jackets at the Armani Company Store, but nothing I could wear often enough to justify spending $800. I found two wonderful shirts printed with a topographic design at Lacoste. The new, bigger Saks Off Fifth store was packed with colorful pants and shirts that fit my style perfectly. I ended up getting two pairs of the same pants, one in white and the other in lime green, plus shirts in cotton, silk, and linen. The prices were very reasonable. In fact, this may be my new favorite store.

My birthday was Sunday, March 10. Like two of my friends (Kristin Frascella and Chris Fesenmaier), I wore three different outfits during the party. I started with the olive-and-orange board shorts and the Hawaiian shirt. Then I switched to white pants, blue-and-white topography-print t-shirt, and white loose-knit long-sleeve Michael Kors pullover. I ended with jeans and a blue-and-white linen shirt.

According to GQ, the best outlet mall in the U.S. is the Cabazon Premium Outlets near Palm Springs. My next post will be about today's visit there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction

Our friends Christopher and Philip had their annual holiday party tonight. Andrew and I met at this same party seven years ago. It's one of the social highlights of the year for us. Unfortunately, Andrew was unable to go this year, but I went. I brought chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries.

Andrew gave me a wing pendant a few years ago. It's made by Brooke Stone Jewelry. I wanted it because it reminded me of my favorite song by my favorite artist: "Wing," by Patti Smith. It's on the 1996 album that restarted her career, Gone Again.

I like to wear it with black, especially with my black Frye boots. That's what I wore tonight, so I wore the pendant. As I took it out of the jewelry box, I thought to myself, "I should listen to Patti Smith on the way to the party." I got into my car and drove away. Then I remembered: my iPod was in the dock on the kitchen counter. Then came the weird part.

When I listen to the radio, it's usually KCRW. I have it on two presets because it's strongest at 89.1 at my house, but at 106.9 elsewhere in Santa Barbara. I turned on the radio and heard music. The artist? Patti Smith. The song? "Wing." I was dumbfounded.

For me, the song is about being connected to something bigger than myself. There's irony in these lyrics:

I was a wing in heaven blue
soared over the ocean
soared over Spain
and I was free
I needed nobody
it was beautiful
it was beautiful

That a wing is flying of its own volition is an illusion. The illusion is beautiful, and the recognition of the illusion is beautiful. I've experienced this myself. I am part of the universe, and I am the universe.

I've rarely heard Patti Smith on the radio, even on KCRW. I've never heard "Wing" on the radio before. The "coincidence" reflects my understanding of the song's meaning. Something in the past, perhaps something Patti Smith did, set off vibrations that, years later, shortly after 4:00 this afternoon, caused both me and the DJ to think about this song.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Spy With My Little Eye... Blurry Stuff

I can pinpoint the exact moment in which I knew my vision was no longer perfect. I was in an elevator in the building where some friends and I rented an apartment, attempting to read a map in Time Out Buenos Aires.

"They make the type so small these days!" I said to Steve and Joseph.

"The type is the same size it's always been," Steve said. "You're getting old."

Scree-ee-ee-ch! I glared at Steve so hard that the elevator stopped. Okay, the elevator didn't actually stop, but it felt like the world stood still a moment as I absorbed the latest proof that I was human and would inevitably experience the same indignities as other aging humans. My tongue moved to the tooth with the divot from the tiny chip I got biting into a fork at the Elliott Bay Books Cafe years earlier, in remembrance of the moment I was confronted with my mortality.

My optometrist, who is just a year or so younger than I, told me 42 is the common age for people who previously had good vision to start needing reading glasses. I was right on time. The conventional wisdom is that this it the age when our eye muscles (like our other muscles) start losing elasticity. Imagine a rubber band that previously held a bunch of pencils tightly, but over time becomes loose. Unlike the rubber band, you can't just loop your eye muscles once more. (Or can you? Maybe I should call one of those inventor 800 numbers.)

So reading glasses. They cost $20 a pair or so at the drug store. I bought a pair, and then another, and when I found myself needing a pair, another, until I had probably five pairs of cheap reading glasses in the 1.0 to 1.5 magnification range. I got an unusual pair with copper-colored metal frames while on vacation in Montreal. I got bifocal sunglasses so that I could see camera settings while outdoors. (They make me nauseous and remain in a drawer.) I needed all these glasses so that I could have a pair at work, a pair in my bag, a pair by my bed, a pair to use when I lost one of the other pairs, and so on.

Last winter I learned I had a vision benefit at work—in fact, I'd been paying almost $10/month for it. (I'd thought it was for life insurance.) It included funds for a pair of frames, so at my next eye exam I got a decent (i.e., not drugstore) pair. The manufacturer was Ray Ban. I've had good luck with their sunglasses, so I figured the reading glasses should be fine. They were great, but then I left them in a cab in Paris. (Fortunately I had that pair from Montreal with me as well. Always take two pairs of glasses on vacation!)

I have a flexible spending account (FSA) for healthcare expenses, funded with pretax dollars from my paycheck. My expenses so far this year have been lower than in previous years. (I haven't been seeing lots of out-of-plan doctors in search of a solution to chronic pain caused by facet syndrome and exacerbated by pectus excavatum, but that's a story for another day.) You can pay for glasses with FSA funds. I headed to Occhiali, the local fabulous-glasses store, where I found a nice pair of Japanese-made hand-molded acetate Entourage of 7 frames. They were not cheap, but I had to use those FSA dollars somehow, and it was either new frames or colonics. (I kid.)

Then, a few weeks ago, our friends Jesse and Shane were in town. I really liked Jesse's sunglasses, which he said they were from Warby Parker. I'd read a little about the company in GQ, but Jesse and Shane explained more. You pick out five styles you like and they send you the frames to try on (with plain lenses). You send the try-on pairs back in a prepaid box and order what you want with your prescription or reading-glasses magnification. Aside from some polarized sunglasses, everything costs $95, lenses included. That sounded cool. 

Not long after, I had reason to find out just how cool. The Montreal glasses, which I was now using for bathtub reading, broke. The next day, the pair I keep at work broke. The try-on pairs arrived a couple days after I ordered them. I liked all of them, but ordered two, using more of those FSA funds. They seem just as high quality as the ones that cost four times as much. (The picture at the top is of one of the frames I picked, the Colton in Sandalwood Matte.)

While I'm on the subject, I might as well address my most recent eyewear purchase. Unfortunately, sunglasses aren't purchasable with FSA funds. You'd think the IRS would recognize the medical necessity of sunglasses, but no—at least not without a prescription. Occhiali has a big sale a couple times a year. I'd stuffed their sale postcard in my bag and was planning to drop by the day the sale started. My Ray Ban aviators were deteriorating; in fact, I'd had to pop one of the lenses in a week or so prior. Then, the day before the sale, as I was loading my car at Costco, I shifted to keep from dropping a box and bent the Ray Bans irreparably.

Occhiali was able to provide me with a nice replacement, this Bulgari pair that is no doubt made by the same eyewear company that makes most of the Italian-made designer sunglasses.

That's all about eyewear for now. Tomorrow perhaps I'll write about support hose. On the same trip where Steve pointed out my aging eyes, Joseph pointed out the varicose vein in one of my legs.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Smells Like Benevolent Spirit?

Since reading in GQ or Details (one of those deep men's magazines) that one should not use scented deodorants if one wears colognes (as I do), I've been using unscented Right Guard Total Defense 5 Clear Gel. It works perfectly. For about a month now, knowing I'm about to run out, I've been searching for more at CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Albertsons, Vons—everywhere I've been that sells deodorant.

Amazon was too expensive: $5.69 each including shipping.

I bought some unscented Tom's of Maine, but wasn't relishing using it, as it's a stick rather than a clear gel. I wear a lot of black, and sticks leave a residue.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I found it at Ralphs! I bought three of them—for $3.59 each. (I would have bought the remaining two or three, but figured there might be other desperate people as happy to find them as I.)

This morning I discovered that yesterday I'd used the last of what I'd had; there was none left—nada!. The timing is... eerie. Is there a deity that cares about me not having white residue on my black t-shirt, or that wants to make sure my Chanel Egoist Platinum isn't overwhelmed by Arctic Blast? Whatever the explanation, I'm happy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weight and Depression and Pies and Shopping

Physical size is an aspect of appearance that has informs style and affects fashion choices. If you're large enough, many fashion options are not available to you. But for every size there are clothes that work and clothes that don't. For example, a perfectly muscled athlete would not look his best in skinny jeans. A beanpole model wouldn't look his best in a tight-fitting polo shirt. And so on.

My weight as an adult has ranged between 155 and 212. I am taller than average (6'1"), but small-boned, and feel most comfortable at the low end of the range. Last year I read Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat and, after adopting its recommended very–low-carb diet, dropped 55 pounds, to 157. I love baking, however, and got in the habit of baking a pie every week. Although I could get away with small pieces once a week  without gaining weight—at least in the short-term—I eventually unflipped the switch that had helped me lose the weight, and began eating carbs regularly. I gained back 24 pounds.

At 180, I was not what most people would consider fat. Still, I did not have the body I prefer and knew I can attain. More importantly, if I didn't do something, my weight would continue to rise. I resumed eating in accordance with the Taubes guidelines.

The first time around, following the guidelines was, for me, easy. Resuming, however, proved difficult: I kept thinking I could reward myself every day! Then, a couple weeks ago I remembered that last time I began by cutting out sugar. I cut out sugar, which wasn't hard at all, and after about a week the switch flipped back. I'm now back to 20 g or less of carbs per day and the weight is coming off. Thank goodness! Much of my clothing had stopped fitting or become uncomfortably tight.

I like diet sodas. A regular Coke may be 10 times better than a Coke Zero, and 100 times better than a Diet Coke, but unless I'm feeling especially pure, a Coke Zero tastes better than plain water. Unfortunately, when I drink beverages containing Sucralose (the sweetener in Coke Zero and many of the other better-tasting diet beverages) I get depressed. I am not claiming there's a cause-and-effect relationship: that could open me up to a charge of defamation. I'm merely claiming a correlation. I'd forgotten that I can't ingest Sucralose and ended up depressed. When I remembered the correlation, I stopped ingesting Sucralose, and the depression lifted within a day.

In theory, I could still ingest aspartame, the sweetener in Diet Coke. I am likely to do so, though for now, water tastes just fine.

The last item in my title is "shopping." When I feel fat, I do not shop for clothes. In two weeks I return to Palm Springs, which is near what GQ calls the best outlet mall in the U.S. I know I won't have lost all 24 pounds by then, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to fit in all of my clothes. That would mean my body is close enough to my goal size that I can buy new clothes. In other words, Cabezon, here I come!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue

Maybe it's because my dad was a politician, and I grew up wearing campaign t-shirts in patriotic colors. Maybe it's because of all the July 4 parades I was in as a kid. Or maybe it's because I was in marching band. Whatever the cause, I like wearing red, white, and blue.

Yesterday I wore white jeans, a blue-and-white striped shirt, and a blue-and-red plaid tie. Today it's blue jeans, a blue-and-white gingham shirt, and a red, white, and blue-striped tie. Tomorrow is July 4, and I know the white jeans will come out again, though I'm not sure what the rest of the outfit will look like. I own a lot of blue, but very little red. I guess the white-stars-on-red-background scarf will appear. And I hope the white jeans don't end up red, white, and blue from the blueberry and strawberry-rhubarb pies I'm making.

Red, white, and blue I have, but I've been lacking in cheer. I've been asked why I haven't written much lately, and the answer is that I've been a little down. Here's hoping that seeing friends and fireworks tomorrow will change that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nordstrom Half-Yearly Men's Sale

While Macy's seems to have five sales a week, with markdowns on markdowns of markdowns, Nordstrom has five sales a year. Two are specifically for men; two for women and children; one for everyone.
  • Half-Yearly Sale for Women and Kids (May)
  • Half-Yearly Sale for Men (June)
  • Anniversary Sale (July–August)
  • Half-Yearly Sale for Women and Kids (November)
  • Half-Yearly Sale for Men (starts day after Christmas)
It seems to me that the half-yearly sales are designed to get rid of stock from the season that is ending, while the Anniversary Sale is of new items purchased specifically for the sale.

The summer half-yearly men's sale started last Friday, June 15. As usual, Nordstrom offered double Nordstrom Rewards on the first two days of the sale. As a holder of two Nordstrom cards who had three rewards certificates burning a hole in his pocket, I visited our local Nordstrom Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The after-Christmas men's half-yearly sale is their best sale of the year. The summer half-yearly is alright. This year's offerings included as wide a range of items as usual, but with what seemed like a smaller-than-usual total number of items:
  • 10–20 pairs of jeans in each size, many in colors other than blue or black
  • Dress shirts, some from better brands like Ike Behar or Hugo Boss
  • Shorts (which I don't wear in public)
  • Short-sleeved shirts (which I don't wear in public)
  • Suits and sport coats (only four or five in my size)
  • Socks
  • Underwear (I bought the only two packages of briefs on sale in my size)
  • A few hats and bags
  • A big pile of iPad cases
  • Neckties
  • Shoes
The range of shoes on sale was as good as I ever see at the local Nordstrom store. I got a lovely pair of dark-chocolate–colored Cole Haan Air Reno boots. I'd been looking for some brown boots, and while these aren't the boots I'd buy if money were no object, I like the look, the Nike Air insole makes them super comfortable, and they were priced just right.
I also got a red necktie. (Unbelievably for someone who likes to wear red, white, and blue together, I did not have a red tie!)
There are deals to be had. If you live in San Francisco or Seattle, there are probably also some cool items unavailable in the smaller stores. And if you don't find anything now, the Anniversary Sale is only about a month away.