The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Summertime Reading. . .

An engrossing collection of essays by academics and museum curators on all things Art Deco.  A heavy, over-sized coffee table book that I recommend highly.

We take a holistic approach to personal "Style" here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  So, various things besides simply clothing and attire are covered, which, hopefully, will enable a guy to kick up his everyday style several notches and live his life as a more informed, refined, and interesting individual.  A stylish man has considerable breadth and depth to his education, interests, and personality.  Ideally, he continues to inform himself about various subjects, news, and current events long after college and university exams are behind him.  Hence this morning's brief post. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

This one is, of course, connected to my model soldier and military history hobby.  A fascinating mid-19th century war in Central Europe when drums still beat the march time, flags still flew in battle, and uniforms were still colorful.

Currently, one of my favorite detective thriller authors.  Real page-turners about a downtrodden, hopelessly flawed cop living and working in Oslo, Norway of all places.

And for the stylish preschooler (current favorites of our own Young Master). . . 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summertime Style. . .

     Yours truly, beating the heat in my standard summertime uniform, during July 2008 as I checked on a couple of pork shoulders for some of that North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ that I whip up from time to time.  A 6' high privacy fence now surrounds our backyard, a 2010 addition after two summers with our overly familiar (and clueless) nextdoor neighbors.  Time now though for a scotch&water I think.  Or maybe a gin&tonic?

Summer is in full swing here in our little corner of the American Midwest as it no doubt is for many of you in the Northern Hemisphere.  July has been delightfully unusual so far this year.  With the exception a day or two here and there, when the AC became necessary at night, it has been unseasonably cool and green, something that is not typical for this time of the year in the midst of Central Illinois.  Usually by this time, it is hot, dry, and the grass is a uniform brown most places.  Hopefully, August and September will continue in a similar temperate and comfortable vein.  Cross your fingers and toes!

I am listening online this afternoon to Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK), Program 1 out of Bergen on the west coast of Norway, a place where I spent a lot of time in a previous life about 15-20 years ago.  The program features a pleasing mix of chat and a wide array of music from the last 40-odd years along with an announcer who speaks with a delightful Bergen accent.  Playing at the moment is There She Goes from 1987 by The La's.  

The song always reminds me of my wife since I used to hear it quite a bit on the radio during the winter and spring of 2000-2001 when the Grand Duchess and I began dating while in grad school at the University of Minnesota although neither of us realized just then that we were becoming a couple.  It was all still pretty innocent movie festivals and coffee afterwards along with occasional late-night telephone calls during the week about non-romantic, work-related stuff.  Or so it seemed at the time.  And I've never really worked out which of us pursued the other though I suppose it hardly maters now.  Funny how life works and good things sneak up on you when you least realize it.

Anyway, I'm still plugging away at the current group of five wagons for the supply and pontoon train that is taking shape for my mid-18th century fictitious armies, based loosely on the Prussian and Austrian armies of the same period.  You can read all about my übergeek model soldier hobby of longstanding by visiting the Grand Duchy of Stollen blogI finally decided some several years ago to wear my dweeb badge loudly and proudly.  Hello, my name is Heinz-Ulrich, and I paint 30mm metal soldiers for a hobby!

The autumn semester begins again in about four weeks (sigh), and I received one of those emails yesterday morning, inviting me to a day-long professional development seminar on August 11th.  You know the kind.  How dare they encroach on our summer.  Attendance is not mandatory you understand, but I feel like I ought to be there since it has been two years since I last did so.  Guilt is a wonderful thing, and the powers that be know it.  Just when it really began to feel like summer too.  Well, at least it will be time to dress up for campus appearances and teaching again soon, so there is that one small plus I suppose.  I've got a number of new items ready and waiting for the late summer and cooler fall months.

On the clothing and classic style front, the main point of this blog after all, not much to report.  It's summer, so I've worn a steady diet of khaki shorts, madras and/or knit polo golf shirts with leather deck shoes most days.  However, there is a four-season wool, navy pinstripe, single-breasted canvased suit by Southwick on the way that I picked up for a song (less than US$10 if you can believe it) via Ebay recently.  After the usual minor alterations and dry-cleaning, it will replace a similar Jos. A. Bank suit, which has been part of my wardrobe for seven or eight years, but I've never been completely happy with the fit of the coat.  Especially the overly large, boxy shoulders, one of several common complaints about Jos. A. Bank suits of more recent vintage.  You know, since they started manufacturing their suits in sweatshops outside the United States back in the 1980s or 90s.  Maybe it was earlier than that? 

Otherwise, my thrifting habit continues but at a slower pace since my closet and dresser drawers are absolutely crammed full of stuff.  I nevertheless stumbled on four like-new Kenneth Roberts silk foulard neckties a couple of weeks ago in my local thrift/charity shop, all made and finished by hand in Italy.  The prices were so good that I picked up all four: one in wine, navy, yellow, and one in tan.  I can wear 'em when the semester starts next month.

Summer vacation is a time for reading, and I've managed to get through a couple of detective thrillers during the last few weeks, for example Field of Prey by John Sandford and before that Breakdown by Sara Paretsky.  Next up is one of the Harry Hole thrillers by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø.  The title escapes me at the moment.  I've also been working slowly through The Powers of Horror by Julia Kristeva, a somewhat less fluffy bit of feminist nonfiction that deals with the concept of abjection.  

While terribly interesting reading, Kristeva's work is not necessarily something you breeze through in just a few nights before you drift off into dreamland.  Not unless you want to have violent, disturbing dreams that is.  And then there has been the fascinating book on the Art Deco movement, given to my by the Grand Duchess for our anniversary at the end of last month, which is really a collection of essays on the architecture, interior style, furniture, and clothing fashions of the 1920s and 30s.  And of course, we've been working our way through the Midsommer Murders series via Netflix streaming, so it has been kind of busy around here since the spring semester ended at the very start of May.

Ahhhh. . .   You hear that?  The house is still at almost 4pm in the afternoon, the Young Master is having his daily Quiet Time, and the inside temperature with the windows open is ideal for an afternoon nap, so. . .   That is where yours truly is headed next.  A supper of fresh tomato sandwiches (courtesy of the Grand Duchess and her vegetable garden) along with fresh sweetcorn off the cob and iced tea, sweetened with sugar and flavored with fresh mint from the garden, will follow.  After the Young Master's bedtime, it's back down here to Zum Stollenkeller for 90 minutes of hobby indulgence before a game of Scrabble or Yahtzee with the Grand Duchess afterwards.  School might start in less than a month, but for the time being, it's still summertime!

--  Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Three Points to Keep in Mind. . .

James Purefoy as Beau Brummel in the 1996 BBC production entitled This Charming Man.

An average guy working to kick up his everyday style several notches should aim to be the following:

1) Be discerning where your personal appearance, conduct, and who you spend time with outside of work (or obligatory family functions) are concerned.

2) In other words, be meticulous when it comes to the details of your work and casual attire, your behavior in public, at home, and by yourself as well as in your choice of friends.  Where the latter is concerned, choose interesting people with wide-ranging interests and experiences, who enrich your life, and whose lives you can enrich in turn.  Life is too short to spend one's waking hours in less than interesting company.

3) Last, be fastidious in the maintenance of everything mentioned above rather than sinking to the bottom simply because it's the easiest path to take.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Dozen Things You Simply Don't Do in Public. . .

Personal grooming behind the wheel of your car?  Just don't!

After reading Dear Abby online this morning, in which a woman wrote about her husband's habitual grooming behind the wheel of the car, and how this kind of distracted driving frightened her, it occurred to me that it was time for another reminder post like today's.  So here we go.

For average guys who realize the need to kick up their everyday style several notches and are working hard to do so, remember, it's not always about the clothes and shoes.  More often than not, "Style" has to do with how we are to be around, from others' perspectives, both at home and in public.  The kind of men we are in other words.

One very effective way we can ensure that we remain pleasant to those we know well and those with whom we are unacquainted, but who might notice us from across a crowded room, is to observe the dozen tips below when it comes to certain extremely common, but less than pleasant personal habits.  In a nutshell, here are various crass/gross/icky things you simply don't do in public.  Even if it has never occurred to you before.  Not knowing is no excuse for being boorish and coarse.  Especially in the age of the Internet.  Ready?  Take notes if you need to on the following: 

1) Don't clip your fingernails or toenails in public.
Do this in your bathroom at home, Tyler, and don't leave the clippings behind for someone else to walk though.  Need I say anymore?

2) Don't shave.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a corner office at work like Don Draper, with a door you can shut fora few minutes of privacy, to say nothing of an electric shaver in your top drawer, you shave in your own bathroom at home over your own sink.  You don't do this around or in sight of others.  And you certainly should not be doing it at the wheel of your car as you scream in to your Center City office at 90 miles per hour on the Schuylkill Expressway because you kept hitting the snooze bar on the clock radio that morning.

3) Don't brush your teeth or gargle.

4) Don't comb your hair, beard, or 'stache.

5) Don't trim your eyebrows, ear, or nosehair.

6) Don't pick at bugbites, sores, or scabs.
It's time to get those nervous habits under control, Cody.  Besides, picking at yourself can cause infections and leave behind ugly scars.  Apply disinfectant, a band-aid (plaster) if necessary, and let it heal for the love of Pete.

7) Don't fix a wedgy.
What are you, five?  Retire to the bathroom at home, or the restroom in public, to fix your underwear.  Or try buying a larger size of tighty whiteys.

8) Don't adjust yourself.
Go somewhere else where you'll be alone for a minute or two to fix the problem in private, Elephant Man!  The rest of us don't want to see this.  Trust me.  It's neither macho, nor sexy.  The rest of us, male and female, are laughing at you.  Really.  We are.

9) Don't pick your teeth.
Not at the table, not as you walk away from the table to pay the bill in a restaurant, and certainly not in a room full of people.  And don't be so gauche as to ask the waiter or waitress (or your host) "Do ya gotta toothpick?"  Likewise, don't make a habit of "working" a wooden match or toothpick in the corner of your mouth constantly.  It just makes you look trashy and common.

10) Don't burp or hiccup out loud. . .  or pass gas for that matter.
Is it really even necessary to mention this?  For too many, sadly, yes it is.

11) Don't spit.
It's foul and totally unhygienic.  To put it another way, a gentleman does not spit.  Period.

12) Don't honk your nose into a handkerchief or tissue, Finnegan.  Or your napkin while seated at the dining table.  This is about as disgusting as items #10 and #11.

There really isn't much more to say about any one of these offensive practices other than this.  If you absolutely cannot control yourself and must engage in any one of the items mentioned above, retire to your bathroom or bedroom at home, or the nearest available mensroom when you are out.  No one wants to experience your grooming rituals and unpleasant personal habits, and they should not have to.  

Now, I must be in the declining minority though because you don't have to look hard to encounter these kinds of things most places these days.  The world in 2014 seems rife with men (and enough women) who think nothing of engaging in one of more of these habits anytime and anyplace.  Gross behavior almost seems like a badge of honor for lots of people now, something I simply cannot fathom.  

Let me assure you, though, that behaviors like these ARE, in fact, highly offensive and just plain uncouth.  They should not be for public consumption and are best attended to in private.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Couple of Classic Items for Sale. . .

A Southwick wool suit in a lovely herringbone patter, sized 44R.  Learn more by visiting The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style on Ebay.

A Brooks Brothers wool sports jacket in a beautiful creamy Glen Plaid, sized 43R.  Learn more by visiting The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style on Ebay.

These and lots of other quality items are available for purchase via The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style Ebay page at very reasonable rates.  Drop by and have a look.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, July 14, 2014

Elegance versus Vulgarity. . .

The late Gary Cooper, about 1936, looking extremely understated and elegant in a double breasted suit.

"We communicate vulgarity or elegance or something in between each time we meet another person. When we recognize this point, then presenting our best selves takes on a whole different perspective. Suddenly we can be inspired by something as simple and yet complicated as clothing.  And when we finally realize that our body is a canvas that offers us the opportunity to communicate the workings of our inner self, a whole new world is opened for us to discover." -- Sonya Glyn Nicholson

Read the entire essay at Parisian Gentleman.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Dressing for the Dentist. . .

This morning's shoe and sock combination.  Loafers are Allen Edmonds, and the socks are cotton trefoil numbers from the wonderful Dapper Classics, which recently celebrated its second year in business.

I returned home an hour or so ago from a 90-minute session with the dentist, which resulted only in his telling me that the crown ordered a month ago and scheduled for installation today did not quite fit properly.   The new crown will not be back from the lab that manufactures these for another four weeks.  

Sigh.  It's times like these when dressing nicely for oneself, even for something as mundane as an early morning dental appointment, helps one come to terms with wasting time and waking up far too early.  So, what did ol' Heinz-Ulrich have on this morning?  

Things were pretty casual really.  Besides the shoes and socks pictured above, I wore a pair of very light Dove Gray dress chinos from Land's End that I've had for a long time, a summer weight navy wool blazer, and a pink and white striped OCBD shirt in a fairly light weight by Ralph Lauren, which joined the wardrobe last fall.  No pocket square though, something that was purely an oversight, but maybe it's better not to get too dandy for a visit to the dentist or doctor.  Right?

One thing about looking pulled together for these kinds of appointments.  And I've mentioned it before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  Looking nice (re: NOT sweatpants and an untucked golf shirt with baseball cap and over-sized white "dad sneakers") seems to cure receptionists, hygienists, dentists, nurses, and doctors of that patronizing -- and intensely annoying -- tone that seems to be rampant in the healthcare industry here in the United States at least.  

You know what I mean.  When healthcare professionals automatically call you by your first name and speak to you with an overly loud voice as though you are an idiot five-year old who does not understand the most basic English.  GOOD MORNING BOBBY!  HOW ARE YOU TODAY?  NOW, THIS BIG POPSICLE STICK IS REALLY CALLED A TONGUE DEPRESSOR, AND I NEED YOU TO OPEN YOUR MOUTH REALLY WIDE.  OK?  THAT'S A GOOD BOY.  It's almost enough to provoke physical violence when someone in pajamas -- oh, excuse me -- surgical scrubs with cute little bunnies and shooting stars all over them speaks to you like that.  Know what I mean? 

Anyway, it's far better to show up the to the office or clinic looking like you deserve a little respect and consideration, which means that you ought to go looking pulled together. . .  instead of like you are taking a sweaty beer break from mowing and raking grass clippings in the backyard on a hot day.  Besides, you deserve to be spoken to as Mr./Ms./Mrs. by people who do not know you.  At least until you until you invite them to call you by your first name.  Over-familiarity and false bonhomie are two of the many things wrong with public life in 2014.  But I digress.  

So, soften those godawful early morning appointments, and give yourself a small reward for rising before the sun, by dressing a bit better than might be required.  You'll feel a tiny better about yourself and the world as you start your day.  And isn't that worth the extra few minutes it might take to match your shoes and belt and tuck in your shirt properly?


Thursday, July 10, 2014

"All in Good Time," and Other Platitudes. . .

The craftsman house interior palette (found via Squidoo online three months ago) that I'm working with to plan repainting of various rooms over the next two-four summers.  The living room, library, upstairs hallway, newly created TV room at the back of the upstairs hallway, and downstairs bathroom are slated for, ahem, a little brushing up.

Average guys working to kick up their everyday style should keep in mind that both an overhaul of one's attire and one's home interior take some time.  It's better for things to develop gradually, rather than all at once.  Sure, there are people who can drop a ton of money on either clothes or furnishings in one fell swoop and redo everything at once.  But that's not necessarily the way for a physical space or personal wardrobe to develop and become an extension of your personality, is it?  Just watch old episodes of What Not to Wear and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to see what I mean.

No.  It's preferable to slow down, think things through a bit more carefully, develop some kind of plan, and then proceed according to that plan, making minor adjustments along the way as needed.  You will, of course, want to keep a running list in your mind or on paper of what you want or need to do, and be aware that getting it just right once you have that newly altered thrifted suit, or refurbished dining room table and chairs, might take a try or three before you realize, "Yeah! That's it."  As with so much else though, the journey is more than half the fun.

When it comes to home interiors, clutter is perhaps the biggest thing with which most of us wrestle.  Some of you might recall that I mentioned decluttering our own abode several weeks ago when my wife and son were away.  Of course, many of us want (Really?  Really??!!) those vacation trinkets from the package tour to the Greek Isles five years ago on display somewhere, but it's easy to get carried away with tiny Eifel Towers, sand paintings, seashells collected on a beach somewhere, and that huge sombrero you purchased at the last minute in the airport on your way home from that drunken Spring Break trip to Mexico 25 years ago.  None of these items were among our particular clutter problems by the way, but you get the general idea.   

Nope, clutter is the devil as I've mentioned before, and there comes a time when you've got to put some things away.  Or throw 'em out.  Be merciless here because not everything from your youth and young adulthood is necessarily worth displaying on your shelves or keeping in the attic once you are out of college and (hopefully) functioning as an adult.  Honest.  A reasonably straight dwelling that's free of clutter looks a lot larger within its component rooms, less junky, and much more inviting as a result.  

But unless one is going for an ultra modern, minimalist look, an absolutely empty room looks sterile and unfriendly, kind of like one of those fake IKEA rooms set up to display their stuff in the store.  You know?  It is the addition of books and some carefully chosen personal items, within reason, that help to impart your own unique stamp to a particular space.  If you are patient and look around long enough, sooner or later, you will find precisely what you are after and at a reasonable price.  

While we had enough "stuff" to fill every room of the house when we purchased it several years ago, much of our combined furniture was of undergraduate and/or grad school vintage.  You know.  Old, cast-off family things, a few IKEA pieces, odd lamps from the 1970s, stuff scrounged from curbsides, and so on. High time then to begin shedding some of the less good stuff and adding more adult pieces as and when we are able.  Which we've done routinely in the last five or six years.  

During that same time, we've added a number of nice looking, more sophisticated and adult items, which help give our home an eclectic, lived-in look without veering too close to being an Architectural Digest photo display on the one hand. . .  or the dreaded and all too common sloppy-mess-that-could-be-a-whole-lot-better-with-a-bit-of-imagination-and-careful-weeding-out on the other.  

Like sprucing up one's wardrobe, the idea of adding things gradually also applies to minor repairs and changing interior colors to suit oneself.  Since our home is in the craftsman style, it occurred to me to do some research online and try to nail down reasonably authentic interior colors once I decided that it was time for the ubiquitous honey-tan on the first floor to go.  Hence the illustration above.  

I've decided on three Olympic latex (emulsion) colors that come close to three of those shown above.  You've already seen examples of the Olympic 'Tea Leaf Green' in the repainted bathroom photographs from June.  This color resembles the second from the left in the third row down from the top.  Kind of a calm gray-green.  I've also decided for the living room on Olympic 'Parchment' (very close to the second from the left in the second row from the top), and a very light gray, akin to the second color from the left in the very top row, for the library walls.  These rooms will get these colors, during the summers of 2015 and '16 respectively.  The ceilings and (planned) crown moldings will remain white.

It's a lot to anticipate in the meantime AND take care of over the next several years, but doing so one room at a time makes the task manageable.  I'm also reasonably good with this kind of stuff thanks to years of watching and later helping my mother and maternal grandparents, all three of whom were adept at these kinds of do-it-yourself things, so it will be exciting to watch everything take shape in our own home.  

Since the Grand Duchess is not experienced in this sort of thing -- She freely admits her sense of color and spatial relations are weak -- and she will be away with our son for two or three weeks each summer visiting her parents when the future work is undertaken, it won't be that hard to do.  The main thing is simply to have a block of uninterrupted time to work, get everything finished, cleaned up, and the rooms put back together as I do each one.

Once the living room and library have been repainted, then it will be time for better, floor-to-ceiling curtains, which will help our ten-foot ceilings look even higher  It seems increasingly like we are going to stay put for the next few decades, and also increasingly unlikely that I'm going to hit it big in some state lottery and be in a position to buy us a large flat either in an old section of Berlin, Hamburg, Bergen (Norway), or Bolzano (Italy).  So, we might as well do our best to approach elegance and even opulence in our home through planned improvements.  Slightly larger rooms would help of course, but I fear our tendency might simply be to cram in additional furniture and stuff, which gets us back to square one.  To paraphrase the late Joan Crawford. . .  No more clutter, ever!!!

A final thought today on interior decorating (I really despise that term and much of what it implies).  In much the same way as with men's attire, not everything you purchase and add to your interior decor needs to be the most expensive, the newest, or an actual antique (lots of garbage is sold as "antique" nowadays).  With some forethought and creative license, there is a great deal of nice stuff to be had that can provide years of tasteful, attractive, and adult service in you home, The trick is to do some research to increase your knowledge base, develop a discerning eye, and look out for quality stuff that you like and can acquire without breaking the bank.  That's as true for home furnishings and improvements as it is for classic menswear.

-- Heinz-Ulrich  


And since The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style began as a blog primarily about men's attire, I should mention that there are several recently thrifted sports jackets and a double-breasted blazer at the tailor's right now.  I'll share photos and commentary on the these once I have them back in August just before the fall semester begins.  There are also two or three recently acquired suits that will appear 'round about October after some minor alterations.  These, however, are heavier weights, and definitely not appropriate for what could still shape up to be an uncomfortably warm August and September in my little corner of the American Midwest.  Stay tuned! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Develop Consuming Interests. . .

Yours truly on the bike for the first time in over five years, and the first ride with my wife the Grand Duchess since April 2009.  The three of us hit the road for a 20-mile ride yesterday afternoon with a picnic lunch at the halfway point, a small state park where the Young Master was able to run around and play for a while before climbing back into his Burley trailer for the trip home.

On the way home from our family cycling tour yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that it is important for an average guy working to kick up his everyday style to cultivate a few interests that can be shared fairly easily with others.  Sure, it's great to have various solitary pursuits.  I have many, painting and collecting toy soldiers among them.  But solitary pursuits like that become a problem once someone special enters the picture.  

With apologies to Neil Diamond, you want some things that you can share and enjoy together.   As my foresighted mother once observed many years ago, "You're not going to find many interesting or well adjusted girls, and one day young women [a few do exist, to be fair, but they are very thin on the ground], who want to hear about Dungeons & Dragons or shortwave radio for more than a few moments."

The Grand Duchess and Young Master at the conclusion of Saturday's ride.  Sigh.  Like father, like son.  He simply would not look at the camera and smile a normal smile without making some kind of funny face.

With that nugget of parental wisdom in mind, it's a good idea to find a few thing to do in your free time that others might enjoy too, and which you (hopefully) will be able to enjoy together.   You know, things like hiking, cycling, camping, skiing, sailing, or horseback riding for example. . .   or, when it's raining or too cold, books, boardgames, playing cards, cooking, antiques, current events and politics, learning another language, or simply the lost art of conversation.  

Additional interests that are easy for others to tag along and enjoy themselves might include things like gardening, visits to art museums, or, when the funds are available, travel.  Hopefully that will be international in nature.  But the list of possibilities is vast of course.  And if you're lucky, a few of those cultivated interests will flower and become life-long pursuits.   

Enjoying a day of pre-Christmas skiing in Wisconsin during mid-December 2008 (before our son arrived in late October of '09) .

Before anyone misinterprets what I mean, however, I am most definitely NOT talking about watching TV sports chronically and habitually (as fun as that can sometimes be), or routine games of Magic the Gathering at the local gaming shop.  Both might provide for hours of fun and wackiness with "da boys," but they are also a bit too easy to fall back on and a little overdone if we are honest with ourselves.  

Better to avoid that particular rut and use your imagination instead to develop different interests that will add not only to your quality of life, but also help you to become a more interesting and well-rounded individual.  Consuming interests that you share will also provide ample fodder for interesting conversation and reminiscing with that special someone in the years to come.  Endless monologues about pro sports statistics and fantasy football leagues at the breakfast table, on the other hand, almost always fall short after a very short while. 

Finally, who is this smug doofus in the t-shirt?  Just yours truly fooling around in the backyard on the afternoon of July 4th this year before changing into another shirt before our company arrived.

And what about travel?  Sorry, guys.  Obvious and popular destinations like Cancun, Cozumel, Las Vegas, and Hawaii don't count exactly.  Sure, you've got to fly there.  And they might seem nice enough in the travel agent brochures and via national tourist board websites if you like throngs of badly behaved, sunburned tourists and over-priced, tacky mall culture.  But you haven't really left home either, have you?  

Staying drunk, or stoned and passed out on the beach, or camped out day after day in front of the slot machines in areas where everyone speaks English -- unless it's time for the all-you-can-eat freshly frozen seafood buffet for just US$5.99-- is hardly an interesting way to spend vacation time, now is it?  Behaving like you are an overgrown college kid on perpetual Spring Break is, likewise, unappealing in the extreme once your college years are behind you.  

Nope.  It's far preferable to step outside your comfort zone, and strive for something a little less predictable, off the beaten path, more adult in scope, and a bit more interesting.  You'll thank yourself later.   As will the family and friends you regale forever after, at least as long as they sit still for it, with tales of your adventures.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, July 4, 2014

Learn to Cook a Few Genuine Meals. . .

A couple of pork shoulders after about three hours along on July, 03 2011.

It strikes me that lots of average guys, in particular those who live alone though not always, live on quick fix meals like pasta with a jar of tomato sauce dumped over it, pizza deliveries, and various icky microwavable foods like Pizza Combos, usually eaten in front of the TV or standing over the kitchen sink.  Other guy favorites are the dreaded platter of goopy nachos, spicy chicken wings, or chips and dip of some kind.  Yuck!

It does not have to be that way.  An average guy looking to kick up his everyday style in the very broad sense can find and learn to prepare a range of tasty meals without too much trouble.  And even if your weeks are busy, and you are pressed for time as everyone claims in 2014, it does a mind and body good to slow down during weekends and holidays and take the time to fix an actual sit-down meal, you know, with plates, placemats and/or tablecloth, silverware, and napkins.  

Here is my suggestion for the perfect (informal) summertime outdoor meal.  Is it burgers, hotdogs, or barbecued chicken?  Nope.  It's one of my signature meals during the warmer months, my maternal grandfather's North Carolina Piedmont-Style Pulled Pork BBQ with Red Slaw.  Here's how to do it.

For this recipe, you'll need the following:

The Pork BBQ. . .
2 large pork shoulders
1 large bag of charcoal
Hickory chips
A covered grill. Not an open bearbecue pit!
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
Coursely ground black pepper (to taste)
1 package of good quality hamburger roles

The Slaw. . .
1 large head of cabbage
Equal parts white sugar, white vinegar, ketchup
Lea and Perrin's Worcester Sauce (to taste)
Coarse ground black pepper (to taste)

The Iced Tea. . .1 two quart pitcher
5 bags of Lipton tea
3-4 sprigs of fresh spearmint
1 cup of sugar

The Process Explained. . .
1) Slow cook two large pork shoulders over indirect heat for about 6 hours, or slightly longer. I use a domed Weber grill with Kingsford charcoal and wet hickory chips to help the flavor, but a propane gas grill with a lid will also work. I set the two pork shoulders off to one side, so they are not directly over the coals, which I bank against the opposite side of the grill.

2) Baste your meat once every hour with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and coarse ground black pepper. Not only does this help to flavor the meat, but it also helps to dry it out. True BBQ is not overly moist, but somewhat dry in texture and consistency.  That's where the red sauce comes in, which I'll discuss in a moment. You'll also need to add about 10-12 new charcoal briquettes to your coals every hour. It's a good ideal to do all of this at the same time, so you aren't running outside to check the meat/grill constantly during the day. You won't need to stand next to the grill all day, but it's a good idea to leave your schedule pretty open when you make North Carolina Pork BBQ yourself.

3) While your meat is cooking, chop a large head of cabbage by hand with a large, sharp kitchen knife (blenders and food processors won't work well -- I've tried them) until it's "fine course" -- tiny pieces about the size of a small pencil eraser, give or take. Salt moderately and bruise the cabbage by squeezing it with your clean hands in a big bowl. Set to one side.

4) Mix your red sauce. This is the type of BBQ sauce found across the central Piedmont area of North Carolina. Other regions have their own variation on the sauce, either ketchup or mustard based. Anyway, the basic recipe is equal parts of white sugar, white vinegar, and Heinz ketchup. Add some course ground black pepper and Lea and Perrin's worcester sauce to taste. How in the heck do you spell that word anyway? Once you have a mixture your like (I prefer to go just a bit light on the Ketchup), add it to your chopped cabbage and mix everything together in a huge bowl. Put in refrigerator to cool.

5) You'll probably need to mix up another small batch of this red sauce to sprinkle on your sandwiches. Put it in a shaker bottle, a small cream pitcher, or take the really blue-blooded approach and use what we use -- an empty squeeze ketchup bottle that we saved and washed out for just this purpose! And remember, equal parts (more or less) white sugar, white vinegar, and ketchup with a bit of Worcester sauce and course ground black pepper to add some "zing."

NOTE -- this is a tangy, spicy, and delicious mixture. It's not "hot", but if your palate is not used to spicy things, you'd best skip this recipe because you won't enjoy the heavy smoked, peppery flavor of the meat or the tangy sauce and red slaw. "Caveat eator!" as they used to say in Ancient Rome!

6) Make a tall pitcher of sweetened iced tea. Lipton's makes the best. And be sure to add three large sprigs of mint if you have it, to give your tea an extra burst of flavor. Let the five teabags steep for about 5-6 minutes before removing them. Leave the sprigs of mint in your pitcher of tea though. Chill in the refrigerator until dinner time.  Serve over ice.

7) When the outside of your pork shoulders are pleasantly done -- crispy, but not too black -- remove them carefully from the grill, and set onto a platter. Let cool on the kitchen counter for about three hours. Fix yourself a scotch & water or gin & tonic and set a spell on the front porch!

8) While someone else sets the table for dinner, it's time to put on your apron, wash your hands well, and start a pullin' that pork. This is the part of the job that I like the least, but you'll soon get used to it. Gently pull the pieces of pork -- it should come off in large chucks in you hand without to much effort -- into finger-long fairly small pieces, and then ull these apart until you are left with finely shredded bits of meat about as long as your fingers. The natural tendency of a slow-cooked pork shoulder is shred fairly easily. Pull both of your pork shoulders now. It will take you about an hour. The job is more difficult and time consuming if you chill the meat and try to pull it later it later.

9) Once all of this is done, serve your bowl of warm shredded pork BBQ, red slaw, and an extra vessel of the coveted red sauce. Call the chilluns* to the table and get ready for a truly ambrosial experience! 

The best way to eat pork BBQ is in "good" hamburger or kaiser rolls (NOT the cheapest ones available) with a liberal amount of the extra sauce sprinkled over your meat. Replace the top half of the your buns and enjoy your sandwiches with the red slaw on the side. For an even more authentic Piedmont North Carolina touch, it's perfectly acceptable to add a spoonful or two of the red slaw to your sandwich before replacing the top half of your bun.  You will not need salt, but you might like to add a few twists of coarsely ground black pepper from a pepper mill before you dig in.

10) Pork BBQ sandwiches and red slaw can be a messy meal! Given the preponderance of ketchup in this recipe, it's probably best not to use your nicest table linens for this meal. Use paper dinner napkins instead and have plenty on hand. It's probably also a good idea to wear old clothes to the dinner table too because it's easy to drip/splash red sauce onto that favorite madras shirt or pair of khaki shorts, even if you pride yourself on really nice table manners, and it's devilishly hard to get those kinds of stains out! For these reasons, the picnic table in the backyard is probably the most ideal place to enjoy this sort meal.

Things to Keep in Mind. . .
The above recipe and process for preparing North Carolina Piedmont-Style Pork Barbecue and Red Slaw is a nod to my deceased maternal grandfather David Lewis Stokes, originally from Lexington, North Carolina.  

During my boyhood and into my early twenties, Granddaddy always prepared this dish for us several times from May through September each year.  Thenm my mother picked up the baton through the 1990s into the early 2000s, and it's a tradition I have continued on my own since 2005 much to the delight of my wife, the Grand Duchess, friends, and other family members.  It's not for the health conscious, given the high fat concentrations and the amount of sugar used in the sauce, but the 'barbecue' as we call it is smoky, spicy, and mouthwatering.  In theory, I could eat my weight in the stuff, but I can't seem to manage that to quite the same degree as when I as 15 or 16 years old!  

The only drawback is that the barbecued meat and slaw take all day to prepare, so it's hard to do much else besides hang around waiting to begin the next step.  When you aren't checking the meat and basting it with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and course ground black pepper, it's time to chop cabbage for the slaw, pick mint for the iced tea, and finally mix the sauce.  That is made by combining roughly one cup of ketchup, one cup of white vinegar, and one cup of sugar -- I prefer slightly less ketchup -- further seasoned to taste with course ground black pepper and Lea and Perrin's Worcester Sauce.  

This 'red sauce' is used to flavor the slaw and the meat in your sandwiches.  It's tantalizingly spicy but not uncomfortably so, though several years ago my visiting in-laws, who have rather less expansive pallets, found it too much and asked for plain ketchup!  There are no words. . .
Anyway, after about seven hours of cooking/smoking over indirect heat, the pork shoulders come off the grill and go to the kitchen to cool for two-three hours on a platter.  Then, it's time to get your hands dirty.  You pull the dried, smoked pork off the bones and into slivers slightly smaller than your fingers.  

If you have any energy left, and you aren't doubled over from anticipatory hunger pains, it's time to make some hush puppies.  You can find many recipes for these in the right cookbooks or online, but avoid the New England style with Bay Seasoning and whip up a batch of their plainer Southern cousins.  

Finally, when everything is ready, you can sit down to the table to dig in and enjoy a most delicious, "down home" meal with a large glass of sugary, spearmint-flavored iced tea.  Oink, oink!

And there you go.  You will probably be too full for dessert, but if you want to live dangerously, a scoop or two of peach ice cream -- or better yet, some peach cobbler -- is a fine way to finish this delightful Southern culinary experience. I think my grandparents, Dave (from Lexington, NC) and Vivian (from Asheville, NC.  Mom hails from Asheville too!) would approve!

If you have any questions, just drop me a line, and I'll be happy to expound on the intricacies of North Carolina Piedmont-Style Pulled Pork BBQ.  Now, it's your turn to give it a try. You'll never think about BBQ'ed meat the same way again!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

*Chilluns -- A dialectal form of "children", which my grandmother used occasionally when she was being funny.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Exercise Caution and Restraint with Fragrance. . .

A visual guide, which accompanied the recent Wall Street Journal article on the subject of men's fragrance and wearing too much of it.

My wife and I recently celebrated our eigth anniversary by visiting a new Italian place in town that, mercifully, is not part of a certain national chain.  You know, the one where they play seating games and make you wait although reservations aren't necessary, and the dinner plates are the size of platters?  Where the atmosphere is always kind of like post-high school prom meals in the middle of the night with behavior to match from your fellow diners?  Yeah, that one. 

Neither was our restaurant of choice the other night similar to the other Italian restaurant in town that many of our friends and acquaintances rave about, but which is equally chain-like, generic and, worse, LOUD.  Definitely not a pleasant atmosphere in which to dine.  That's not even mentioning one's fellow patrons sitting just a few feet away in their t-shirts, wife-beaters, flip-flops, and baseball caps with their elbows on the table and their faces down in their troughs. . .  er, plates.  

Anyway, our meal last Saturday evening was decent enough, but I could not help but notice throughout our two hours or so at the table that periodically we were treated to the delightful aroma(s) of:

a) Male B.O.
b) Flatulence (I know, I know.  We should have left after the second occurence.), or 
c) Strong and cheap men's cologne and/or aftershave of one brand or another as people entered and exited the restaurant.  And we were a good 35' from the door.  

Then, lo and behold, I ran across this June 30, 2014 article from The Wallstreet Journal on men and fragrances which began like this:

"When it comes to men's cologne, it seems to be all or nothing. Many men wear none—and many men wear too much.

The results can be overpowering. The problem gets worse in the summer, when some men—particularly young men raised on all-over body sprays such as Axe—feel the need to mask sweaty body odor by spritzing on a little extra fragrance."

Read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.

Yes.  I know.  I've said something similar here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style before, several times.  It's like a broken record, but I'll sound the call yet again because it's so very necessary in 2014.  Guys, if you want to kick up your everyday style several notches, you need to remain mindful of four things:

1) Shower or bathe, for the love of God, before dinner or going out on the town, and put on fresh clothing if you've done anything strenuous during the day.  Yes, even if you showered that morning already.  And apply deodorant before dressing.  Ok?

2) Go easy on the body spray, cologne, and aftershave.  It's best if someone else has to be really close (24" or less) to smell it.  Less is more.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.

3) Put on some decent clothes and shoes if you are going anywhere other than the local Dairy Queen or beachfront food stand.  You're not on the way to the garage to work on your '71 Nova S.S. or '69 Chevelle.  Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you need a suit, or even a blazer and critter pants, but for the love of Pete, cover your feet, upper arms and hairy armpits with an actual shirt that has actual buttons down the front.  Not a t-shirt.  It's disgusting when people are trying to enjoy meal in public while your matted underarm hair and man nipples play peekaboo three feet away as the main course is served.  Ugh! 

And finally, take off those damn ballcaps when you sit down to the table!  This seems to have reached almost epidemic levels across Middle America, and I simply don't understand it.  How hard is it to take of that filthy John Deere or Chicago Whitesox cap?  I'm starting to think that it is not that we have fallen so far as a society in such a short time with regard to such frivolous and basic social niceties like table manners, but rather that lots of people never had them to begin with.  Sigh.

4) Control your body, guys.  You know what I'm talking about.  And no.  It's not OK just to let it out in public spaces.  Visit the restroom if necessary, and take care of the problem there.  Don't be a p-i-g pig around others!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

If not for yourself, then dress for the special person in your life. . .

The Madmen characters Roger Sterling and Don Draper hold up a bar somewhere in the Manhattan of the early 1960s, yet they manage to look great while doing so.  Believe it, or not, people tend to notice men dressed this well, and men who exude a similar self-confidence.

Apparently, "Women will sacrifice a lot for style: Eight in ten (80 percent) women would give up something in their lives — such as going out to dinner, using their cell phone, or even having sex for an entire year — for a better-dressed partner."

As I've long thought, and mentioned here before at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, spouses and partners (of either sex) appreciate men who put some effort into their clothes and grooming.  Whether they actually say so, or not.  Read the rest of this interesting and thought-provoking essay by Sonya Glyn Nicholson at The Parisian Gentleman.

-- Heinz-Ulrich