The Cowboy Cool Collection by Calvin

In the 90’s Calvin Klein became a moneymaker via well branded underwear, but at the end of the day the brand was selling “American cool.” Fast forward to 2018. The label is still selling the same sentiment, it’s just that this time around “cool” comes in the form of cowboy.

If you’re not convinced, trying buying their $1,400, silver-toed boots…a sold-out success. Hypebeast has helped cement the power of Raf Simon’s Wild West vision, asking readers, “Will cowboy boots be fall’s biggest footwear trend?” Maybe. Style thoughtleaders from The New York Times to ASOS urged shoppers to pony up and soon retailers were barely able to keep western wear in stock.

Interestingly, rugged renegade style translates internationally as well. At last year’s Paris Fashion show, “cowboy-boot maker Lucchese crafted signature Western snip-toe boots” with Georgian label, Vehement to much fanfare.

Who knows exactly why The West is suddenly in vogue, but this trend spells like a byproduct of our seemingly insatiable craving for craftsmanship and good ‘ol Americana nostalgia.

Sources:

How Western Wear Turned Into High Fashion, GQ, 03/18

Will Cowboy Boots Be Fall’s Biggest Footwear Trend?, Hyperbeast, 10/17

Day 2: Settling into a Stumptown

Ace Hotel

Image source: Ace Hotel

The howling snow, late after Zama felt dangerous. She was frozen to the bone walking into her stark room that night, and she had to talk herself through each small task: Put left leg in pajamas, then right. Twist left contact container counter clockwise. She felt so far from everything that was real in her world. Portland was like stepping into an alternate reality. And despite feeling like a foreigner of her own life she felt right at home in that strange campy bed, nestled between heavy pillows military grade wool. It helped that she had painstakingly draped fabric on every object that blinked, make her room dark enough to suck you right into an endless slumber. As black as infinity. Engineering that level of darkness was something she was rather proud of. And being acutely familiarity with the biting cold air outside, she melted easily into her blackened sanctuary.

Kure

Image source: Kure

She woke up a new person, eager for a hot, hearty first meal. And she committed at Kure, opting for a robust medley of coconut cream, nuts seeds, and other bird seed-looking toppings. It wasn’t the best bowl of mush, but it was needed. The whole morning felt like the kind of moment you read about in Goop — a tree forest feast paired with productive wellness planning.

She took her time getting to the coffee shop. Her sweet time. It was nearly noon when she arrived. And then she text everyone. Time didn’t matter. She felt delightful, enraptured by the city. And again the google gamble worked out: Sisters Coffee was a bustling lodge of workers and chatter. Her latte was tall and it was time to settle into to mapping her future.

It was both ridiculous and yet necessary to believe this coffee chat just might change her life. She let herself get swept away by the vision of Colleen DeCourcy. The woman understood the shift happening under the feet of everyone in advertising and had a vision. Well short of. At the end of the day she clarified the current state of affairs, then dropped a single, bullet-proof line of advice for the future: “Any move that isn’t in the direction of nimbleness, emotional intelligence, transparency and collaboration, is building in the wrong direction.

Seems pretty unarguable.

It’s funny though – no matter how much a deep dive can inspired, he call of a beautiful day makes laptop life suddenly feel sinful, so she finally snapped the MacBook shut.

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Source: Pine Street Market

Pine Market. That mini food hall easily became one of the top five field trips of her PDX excursion. Trekking to that part of town felt just dangerous enough. The vintage storefronts, incrementally grungier pedestrians, paired with a killer playlist and the gait of someone on a mission made the brisk walk an invigorating experience.She rolled in ordered a big smokey bowl of rice noodles, fried egg and pickled goodness, then cut back to that record shop. 2nd Avenue. It was too good looking to pass up. And it existed precisely in the part of town it was meant to be. There was no pretense — the hits were nestled right in with everything I’d never heard of. The purity of that place. It was great.

It was worse than camp, well equivalent. The floor cracked in the middle. It was very much prison vibes and that water. She thought the ice water was some game against her, some test of her patience. But finally as if by magic, the showerhead started steaming, instantly becoming unbearably hot, but in the best way possible.

With t – 2 time, she flew down the big beamed mahogany stairwell. Thoroughbred was going to include beautiful people, and living in an aloof world only truly understood by those that have it all but lack any true sense of direction.

The ride meant traveling back over the river. What was it about crossing those bridges that felt quietly epic? Was it something about the grandeur — you can see so much — the light at that time of night? Laurel Theater’s neon sign beamed in early evening glow. It was remarkable how many theaters a city smaller an Austin possessed, and even more remarkable how many had such character. She was a fan.

All and all, Thoroughbred felt a bit hallow. The cast was stringently pared back. To see the odd dynamic of two rather psychotic girls and basically them alone for two hours is not a common movie setup. She wondered, often, what the people around her though. This young girl, watching all these films by herself.

23rd Avenue

Image Source: Eater

Her chariot to the next theater rolled up, with everyone watching, in a powder blue Ford pickup headed by an older woman sporting silver hair and a utilitarian style. You knew without asking this woman had lived in Portland long before you even thought about being born. She dropped me at NW 21s pointing me in the direction of 23rd. A delightful street of evergreen Christmas lights, beautiful boutiques and cozy restaurants that reminded you of escapist places like Georgetown, or Pimlico in south London, or Montecito, the hilly haven in Santa Barbara.

The Rider

Image source: Mubi

The only thing that needs to be known about the Rider is this: It made me cry in that cleansing way that comes in slowly, eventually leaving your face streaked with single heavy, hot tears pooling under your chin. I still liked the Western more, but in that moment there was something about that cowboy’s dedication to his siblings that was so loyal, sacrificial, and protective.

But that lingering moment could only last so long. Tomorrow required an early start.

PDX: Landing in the City of Roses

Because it was too sunny in LA, she decided to go to Portland. The city offered a kind of enchanted familiarity and comfort she felt having never been. So even before she went, she had made up her mind it would be everything she wanted. Honestly though, she, luckily, hadn’t made any expectations in her head of what it might look like: Only what the city might feel like. She was looking for that understood bond of kindred spirits — some of course quietly loved their city’s rain and some suffered through with a selfless sense of calm, knowing they were in good company, in fact better company than when the city was flogged with summer visitors.

The plane took off late but they still got there early. Looking out the window, she fell in love, actually though. She didn’t necessarily believe in love at first sight with people, but with places, certainly. A future-looking whisper of a vision seemed to drift in the air. That might be wishful thinking or a longing manifesting itself as a daydream, but she felt something looking down at that river.

With a leap of faith and the intention of giving herself room to ease into Downtown, she decided to try a coffee spot on the east side. Turned out that was a good gamble.

The driver dropped her in a desolate sci-fi movie. The wet town was truely deserted. It was as though the world had ended and despite the knuckle whitening weather, a single man could be spotted, completely oblivious to being an isolated circumstance.

But there were people, further down. And they were doing precisely what the Lyft driver said they would–waiting in a long line with hands in jeans but not much by way of warm clothes. “People here love to wait in line. Even if the place next door is just as good. They will wait together.” She was comforted to see his comment being confirmed. What was this Pine State Biscuit spot? Clearly a local favorite. She snapped a picture shamelessly embracing her outsider status. It really was just like landing in London. And what was not to love about playing anthropologist in a new city?

 

 

 

Alberta Ave. Who knew Proud Mary would be THE spot to get a sense of Portland’s quirkiest neighborhood. (That said, she never actually found Proud Mary, but instead landed inside Just Bob’s, which lived up to PDX’s character 10 fold.)

Crossing the bridge further confirmed the growing affair against LA. It was inexplicable, but she felt herself 10 years into the future living up in a mountain cabin off in the foggy distance. She could see herself looking back down at herself, here now.

 

 

 

Extending her legs into the downpour in front of Heart, she felt a little bit like Carrie Bradshaw–Suddenly empowered by the glimmering, wet bustle of downtown. She took her spot at the window sill.  She couldn’t have imagined it better if she tried. The world was a blur with the rain drowning out all the conversations between beautiful people in Timberland boots, slouchy backpacks, and hieroglyphic tattoos happening around her. She was here, and this was just the beginning of her trip.

Ace Hotel Portland

Ace felt small, but warm like an oversized den in a ski lodge. She knew the bellhop saw something in her sad eyes and she liked this. She felt he was an observant attendant, watching the coming and going of guests behind the protection of his mustache and his black knit cap. The room was sterile like a hospital room from the 70s. She looked at herself in the mirror behind the door. The skinny alleyway of the door to the bed was nice. She knew she couldn’t stand still for fear of losing her high. And her stomach killed, so best not to stay in one place. She grabbed her bag. She had a movie to see and melancholy was not an option.

 

 

 

Western grew on her. Looking back it’s  now her favorite. Probably because she could then and still can’t seem to understand the unjustified kindness maintained by the German cowboy, in spite of endless bullying right down to the film’s final scene. “What are you looking for here?” The closing line, delivered from the cowboy’s only friend, hung in the air: A beautifully somber reminder that existing is sometimes all there is. That, and knowing you’re living out a life to your own standards no matter how much others try to break your moral fortitude and gentle nature.

 

 

 

Image source: Portland International Film Festival, 2017

Interview 02 | Modern Love

It’s funny. I go to a few girlfriends: “I want to do some ‘expert interviews,’ what topic do you want to discuss… if you’re up for it?”

And you know what I got back? Not “oh I’ll do film,” or a Netflix series, or my love for vinyl.

Nope, I get a handful eager to offer up their opinions on “modern love.” With “modern” being the necessary keyword. I hardly know why I’m surprised, and, honestly, I’m equally eager to be enlightened.

I book my first modern love interview with Ashley, a dear friend I’ve known for at least a decade.

We end up spending a solid two hours convincing ourselves that the struggle is real. We lament that technology is eroding the charm of dating and replacing it with confusing games. We vent about people’s impatience and shortsighted millennial-ness. We discuss the limitations of algorithms’ ability to really know us and what we’re looking for…How online dating has become weirdly comparative and addicting. Etcetera etcetera.

And, yes. Sure. All that is frustrating and — for many–  is defining of today’s reality, but …

I walked away from the conversation feeling unsatisfied. We only echoed what seems like everyone else’s stance —That we’re living in an era of “modern love” where the standards are different (i.e lower) than our parents’ generation. I hate how black and white and defeatist this stance seems.

Naturally I take my frustrations up with Google. Unfortunately I get more of the same — If you ask your search bar to define love, it’s “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Modern love, though, that’s far bleeker. Urban Dictionary confirms, it’s mediocre love; love of this decade.

Lovely, what ideal times we live in!

But I disagree with this arbitrary line in the sand. Modern love, psh. ‘Modern love’ is — should be — ‘love’. What is up with believing the 21 c. gets to write new rules for romance?

In order to prove my theory though, I deiced to entertain the idea that there is in fact a retro, real love and then this more recent, mediocre version.

I go back to Google: “Percent of songs about love in western culture?” I assume this percent is high. Pairing a stat about Americans singing their hearts out for romance, in spite of the fact that 52% of women are unmarried proves… well…I don’t know, except maybe musicians are the experts I should really be talking to when it comes to all that. But I digress.

The fourth line of results returns, “Love in America” sans any reference to music.

Click.

I scan the headline and subtext.

Perfect — proof that today we have high expectations for a kind of love that isn’t being met by the real world….but surely these expectations have to be based in some kind of truth…probably from a past, better version of love…right?

Then I dropped to the next line of the article: Issue — May 1938. 1983?!

No: May 1938.

Wait what? For the past 80 years, love has been troubling our country? Even when everyone was paired off in cookie cutter houses, we struggled with this fantasy of finding our one, true soulmate and all the promised bliss in that?

Apparently technology can’t be our saving scapegoat. This proves that our problems with sourcing deep, passionate love date back to way before Tinder.

I was stumped. Maybe America’s independent, always-forward-thinking culture and the construct of long-term compatibility are fundamentally at odds with one another.

I’ll also venture that many 20 year olds may think they’re craving love but in equal measure love their freedom; Love being able to roam around as individuals — ever improving, ever becoming weller, wealthier.

After all, personal optimization can often seem easier as a nomad. And let’s face it. When marriage is less necessary, the logic goes that a relationship should be THE BEST or else what’s the point.

I don’t think modern love means lower standards than other generations — quite the opposite. Shakespeare was ahead of his time when he taught us that love, at the end of the day, is “an authentic and free expression of one’s innermost self.” In other words, modern love might actually be the highest order of romance.

Unfortunately, though, romance today is measured by the same impossible standards so many American overachievers apply to themselves, their careers, and their Instagram feeds. So while modern love — the good kind — might in fact be an alluring, self-actualizing experience. It’s also, maybe, a far rarer commodity, leaving many still searching.

…Or hopefully giving into a love for life, with or without some other half.

Interview 01 | Drew, Designer & Entrepreneur

The following is the first entry in a new series, On the Orange Couch with JLG. It derives whole heartedly from my new found obsession with beloved podcast, magazine and Netflix series Off Camera with Sam Jones

Velvet couch, orange. Framed by barrel lamps with shaggy, seagrass shades. The wine needs opening, but the record’s on, Leon Bridges maybe. What else on a Sunday. Racing back to the mirror and in my haste I set myself back a solid two minutes as the mascar dots my eyelids with black flakes. Naturally in the midsts of wiping everything clean, he’s knocking. He can wait a few more seconds, I tell myself as I dig into the draw for a dab of lip paint in desert rose. The mascara I’ll forgo: too stressful, too tedious. And the messy bun atop my head will have to do.

This is hosting at 25 — Hasty but pulled together enough to almost pass the adult test. Naturally Drew rolls up classy as ever with his collar popped and that side smile. Arms go out, as though you could resist. His eyes move inside as he assesses…and more or less seems to approve, “Looks great, so much space,” says the boy with the most impeccable taste, and an immaculate shoe box in Beverly Hills.

We’re midway through the first story, and I’m nodding like a bobble head. No bother that in my absent minded twisting I’ve likely ruined any chance of ever untangling that cork from our extraction contraption. We pour generously, and there’s a sense that the room is sort of floating. Finally The Great Gatsby’s descriptions of “smudgy” (to use a Joan word) spaces makes sense in my head.
I lied. Actually the first conversation was more of a musing than a story. He opens in earnest with ‘Isn’t it the worst when everything’s going right? When you feel too happy with the way things are?’ This could come off as irritating, but it’s clearly a genuine quandary. And I get it. Feeling settled is the goal that never feels all that satisfying. Is happiness suppose to be a sense of enjoyment ‘in the now,’ but clouded with the ever present concern over just how long until it all turns stale? Or is a better version of happiness a yearning that can never feel stale because it’s never really all there? We discuss.

I cut myself off before I can get to my Quartz article spiel: The cornerstone of my argument on the matter. He hasn’t told me about Abu Dhabi!

It’s like a sweltering version of the Netherlands– moneyed, incomprehensively well run, filled with happy, communal people that barely work — barely as in 3 day work weeks. And moneyed as in people don’t have mansions; they have compounds filled with mansions…and “fridges for Ferraris.” Yet for a nation that has it all, the one thing they lack, he observes, is the very thing that fuels America. They lack a sense of individualism, and with that comes an utter lack of personal tastes, a creative class, and really any mode of true self-expression rooted in personality. Every aesthetic object is valued in terms of monetary capital. In short, people there buy based on known price tags, then shamelessly flaunt their expensive “hodgepodge of bad taste” for all their friends and family to see.

In other words, the AUE is one of the 10 wealthiest nations in the world, so how wild to have all the money in the world and yet not know how to spend it, or rather, to spend it well? For a place that could easily be written off as a utopian kind of wonderland sounds to me like a dystopia. Surely it has to feel slightly unfulfilling to clutter one’s life with objects one doesn’t even personality like — but simply wants because the rest of the world has decided to give them a steep sticker price?!

The ending to our overdue gathering lands on the topic of love. Well I force him to discuss. Initially he coyly says, “Nothing new, lets hear about you.” No no. I press on. And it’s funny, no one worth talking to ever opens up about this topic at the first try. Everyone always holds back. It’s almost like an unspoken social code not to gush about these things on the first cue. “So how’s that guy?” I’m vague but I can’t be wrong if I keep the line open-ended.

We finally get into the heart of what turns out to be a truly crazy story. The plot line revolves around an Instagram star that initially seems like a promising potential but around Christmas time goes off the rails. For every curt text by Drew an average of seven rapid fire replies are vollied back. He’s relentless and revealing all his cards — i.e. shamelessly proving just how many tabs he keeps Snapchat history. It’s actually absurd…and hilarious to read. The endless texting thread has me thinking back to an all-too-true op-ed by The Atlantic, How It Became Normal to Ignore Texts and Emails.

“As much as these communication tools are designed to be instant, they are also easily ignored. And ignore them we do…The result is the sense that everyone could get back to you immediately, if they wanted to—and the anxiety that follows when they don’t. But the paradox of this age of communication is that this anxiety is the price of convenience. People are happy to make the trade to gain the ability to respond whenever they feel like it.” And in some cases this drives some mad. And gives the other party all the power.

The article continues, “it’s not always easy to figure out what someone meant to convey by using a certain emoji, or by waiting three days to text you back. Different people have different ideas about how long it’s appropriate to wait to respond. As Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, wrote in The Atlantic, the signals that are sent by how people communicate online—the “metamessages” that accompany the literal messages—can easily be misinterpreted.” The irony is that we seem to both be troubled and obsessed with this ambiguity.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Because we did too. Drew got a message from Pillow telling him it was past his bedtime if he wanted optimal REM.

All this rambling is to say that we had a good conversation. One that was offline. I want more of these, so I’m going to make them happen…Next up? ‘On the Orange Couch with JLG’ will host Ashley, Consultant & athletic enthusiast, on the topic of modern love. Stay tuned.

Fascinating but totally useless artistic experiments

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Why does any writer sit down to write?

For exactly a year, I’ve sat on a book I told myself I had to start. It wasn’t the subject matter that had me tripped up. I simply didn’t see a point in going to great lengths to say something that felt insignificant. It’s such a crippling feeling to want to write but to feel it’s not worth anyone’s time, namely my own.

According to a recent piece by The New Yorker, “personal essays cry out for identification and connection,” but cautions that the system, “the personal essay economy, is a dangerous forum for people to participate in” as it often returns feelings of shame and ridicule. In other words, people looking to pour their intimate insights out to the Internet often aren’t met with the comforting head nodding they so crave.  

I’m not sure I agree. Some may write personal essays for themselves. This is why I write — to better understand ill-defined inklings percolating in my brain. “Identification and connection” are lovely byproducts but not the root force driving me to write.

So taking this full circle…when musing over “why does the writer sit down to write,” I don’t think all those who string words together do so for the same reason (naturally). That said, every writer has an audience in mind, even if sometimes that audience is oneself.

So here I am writing for myself. I want to own that I’m writing for myself. It’s suppose to finally allow me to be okay with not having to say anything of substance. I can write for the exercise of writing rather than the final product.

Philosophy Now argues “art is something we do, a verb. Art is an expression of our thoughts, emotions, intuitions and desires but even more personal than that; it’s about the way we experience the world, which for many is an extension of personality.” In another argument,  the New Republic suggests that there’s two flavors of art and that “liberal” art refuses to be art for art’s sake. Instead, liberal art demands hyphenation– “We have art-and-society, art-and-money, art-and-education, art-and-tourism, art-and-politics, art-and-fun. Art itself, with its ardor, its emotionalism, and its unabashed assertion of the imagination, has become an outlier, its tendency to celebrate a purposeful purposelessness found to be intimidating, if not downright frightening.”

On the other hand  “Confessions of an Aesthete” suggests another flavor of art, one with the sole purpose of being itself rather than being an object in service of proving some higher ideological point. I find this delineation between liberal art and what I suppose amounts to conservative art rather American. What other country would question the “utility of art” the way the above “liberal art” argument seems to?

Maybe art doesn’t need to make a point, a conclusion. Maybe art doesn’t even need to be a finished product. Maybe art truly is a process of trying to arrive at truth, trying to accurately reflect how we’re seeing what’s around us.

Just as I found it liberating to set my audience as myself. I find defining art as a verb freeing.

Quartz recently released a fascinating article about winning at work by caring less. Oddly enough, it’s also about seeing value in a process rather than an end achievement.

The author makes the case that after WW2 Americans created a culture of “total work” wherein “work becomes total when all of human life is centered around it; when everything else is not just subordinate to, but in the service of work. We believe in working on ourselves as well as on our relationships. We think of our days off in terms of getting things done. And we take a good day to be a day in which we were productive.” The article goes on to question, how we might actually enrich our lives by letting go of our drive to be productive, or in other words to complete to-do lists, make things, and otherwise push ourselves continuously toward goals: “Once you’ve detached the notion of success from that of happiness, you need to work out how else to find that satisfaction—but without actually achieving anything. This exercise opens us up to Oscar Wilde’s famous dictum, ‘All art is quite useless.’ We can refute total work’s claim that only useful things are valuable by taking Wilde at his word, and considering how we can perform fascinating but totally useless artistic experiments in our own lives.”

The conclusion of this quote — “[how can we train ourselves to] perform fascinating but totally useless artistic experiments in our own lives?” is likely the entire reason I’ve decided to return to writing More Interested. I’m surrendering to the notion that his book needs to be a success let alone get published. I’m choosing (or trying) to invest in the joy of writing as a process. Maybe this process will result in a finished product maybe it won’t.

Then again, while writing for myself may help me get going on this process, but I know that what will push me to finish it is the audience of others — An audience that’s at first personal and second anonymous.

Tell me more

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As a creative person, there’s no better feeling than a wave of inspirational energy. It’s the most motivating power to suddenly feel moved to create. I think that explains why I’m so excited this week. After a 6+ month build, I’m finally at a place where I can openly admit to my latest project, a semi-autobiographical narrative of a social experiment released in a coffee-table-sized lookbook detailing all my favorite things and how they’re connected.

Before you go…”wait what?” Hear me out. The working title of this mess of a project is:

More Interested: An essential field guide & inspiration engine for those searching for more

If you’re still lost, here’s the Amazon-books-style pitch:

This book is for anyone that dreads being asked, “so what are your interests?.” And this book is especially for anyone that’s watched, with respect and a  hint of jealousy, someone else take that question and transform it into a spelling binding conversation.

Wellness, acting with intention, clean eating, meditating, fitness, self-awerness, natural beauty, peace of mind — The desire for gaining greater control of our bodies and mental states has never been higher. The desire to more deeply understand why we’re drawn to certain TV shows, people, vacation destinations, etc, is equally fascinating and valuable, yet who’s investing great swaths of time to gain deeper self-awareness of one’s interests? We let Netflix or Spotify tell us what we’ll probably like, but what if we could better be our own “discovery” engines? 

This coffee table book is an essential field guide toward helping people do exactly that — become their own discovery engines, told through the narrative of one girl that started from scratch. 

(Image source: The Curated Life)