When the Catholic church is making more progress during the US Congress…
"In my music – if it has a purpose beyond dancing and fun and vacuuming your floor to it – I always try to gauge the distance between American reality and the American dream."—A VERY HAPPY DAY TO THE BOSS
I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.
Steve Martin = understated genius.
on the street in Paris
Stanley: Since 1913
I took an old-fashioned green Stanley thermos with me to work this morning. It’s fairly unremarkable; something that people have used to take coffee on the go for a hundred years. But now I have this big, fat, olive green thermos sitting on the desk of my cubicle, surrounded by the trappings of office life - the screens and monitors and buttons all in varying shades of gray and dark gray and slate gray and black - and there’s something quite pleasing about it. Maybe it’s the heft of the thing, compared to all those brightly colored slim plastic travel mugs shaped to fit your hand that are everywhere these days, or that I associate these kinds of thermoses with camping and outdoors adventures and men warming up old coffee over a fire. It’s completely out of place in the corporate world, at once reminding me that there’s life and experiences and a world outside my cubicle, and suggesting to everyone else that there are other parts to my life and me than the 8 to 6 grind.
I’ve been interested for a few years now in the way menswear has hearkened or reverted to this rugged outdoorsman look, and how mens’ magazines and blogs and Tumblrs are all about being a gentleman and having old-fashioned virtues and drinking old-fashioneds. The Stanley thermos would not be out of place on any of these blogs, suggested as more authentic and durable and manly than your everyday Starbucks cup. And the thing is, as I’m looking at this thermos on my desk, I sort of get the whole thing: all of the beards in Williamsburg, and artisan/hand-craftedness and Made in the USA fever, and the trend among upper middle class urban men to take up an interest in hunting, even as they spend their days slaving away in front of computer screens drinking cups of Keurig coffee. It’s maybe a little tiny form of rebellion against the corporate world, a gesture toward a more interesting, rougher world that they can’t inhabit because of economics and social status and norms and obligations.
I used to think that this whole trend was a kind of superficial artifice of manliness, and that young guys’ obsession with seeming masculine and fitting the mold of masculinity was sort of a regression, as women were continually trying to break through stereotypes of feminity. You would never see Cosmo or Glamour telling women to act ladylike and dress ladylike, etc., but you do see that all over the pages of Esquire and GQ and friends. I think there’s still some truth to that reading of it, that there is this desperate bid among young upper class men to retain a sense of masculinity in a sort of asexual world of office work.
But there’s a less cynical and more charming aspect, too, I now think. There’s something sort of simplistic, and a little sad, and a little uplifting about getting a kick out of drinking out of an old Stanley coffee thermos, or a mason jar if that’s your thing. It’s like there’s this quiet undercurrent running through all of our work lives: we’re all stuck here, together, doing this computer work, and we all kind of wish we could do something more adventurous and fun and exciting and, hell, 3D, but we can’t figure out how to get out of this technological mess we got ourselves into, and so we take instead these small symbols that connect us to that world, to those narratives, and we get a little joy out of it.
Biking is Sweaty
I rode my new bike to work today. Well, no, that’s a lie. I rode my bike to the express subway stop, which is a mile from my apartment via crowded, narrow Brooklyn Heights streets. It’s only in the 50’s, weather-wise, in the mornings these days, but all of the other commuter bikers are apparently riding in the tour de France this year and practicing on the streets of Brooklyn, and so I have to practice, too, and I ended up getting really sweaty and overheated and over stressed trying to keep up with the biking joneses. Plus, I haven’t yet figured out what to wear to a competitive bike race that turns into a corporate job in the same morning: a backpack? No. My leather shoulder bag? Maybe, but things don’t really stay on shoulders while on bumpy bikes. A blouse? Not a good look when doused in sweat.
On the other hand, it’s kind of nice feeling like my muscles get to move a bit before sitting at a cubicle the rest of the day, and zipping around the neighborhood I really do like, handlebars vibrating underneath me, is kind of a cool way to start the morning.
But if past is any predictor of future, my bike will probably be stolen anyway when I get back to Brooklyn Heights tonight. At least then I’ll be able to keep taking my taxis four blocks in the morning guilt-free.