Tag Archives: Vintage

don’t call that vintage: your old room

16 Jun

I had been back in my hometown for about 30 seconds when I heard my name being called from across the street. I stepped out of the car into the welcoming warm air to see my parents’, and formerly my, diminutive and ever-busy neighbor waving at me. 

I waved back and she called out again, “Come here, I have something for your dad.” I followed her into the house that was neat and tidy and light and airy. I knew the floor plan well – it matched a third of the houses in the 1950’s tract neighborhood. Another third looked like the house I’d grown up in. She handed me a basket with a card for my dad who was healing up after surgery and on the mend. The basket was full of fruit, and I recognized the same distinctive curly cue handwriting that typically graces the first Christmas card that shows in our mail box each year. She asked about the boys and told me about her grandkids and we said our goodbyes, so I could unload the car and get the hospital to see Dad. Before I could even pull the suitcases from the trunk, one of the next door neighbor “kids” who was probably a good 15 years older than me, rounded the corner on his way to his dad’s house (who’s floorplan matches ours). “Hey there!” he called.

I was fumbling for my old key when I found two very warm cartons of milk sitting on the doorstep. It was Thursday, milk delivery day. My parents have had the same milkman my whole life – Dave…Dave, the milkman. When I mentioned the warm milk to my mom later, she said with a sigh she’d have to reduce the order again. Dad’s drinking soy now.

“You can’t quit the milkman,” I said.

“I know,” she said.

Though I eventually grew to at least enjoy the uniqueness and kitsch factor of having a milkman, I may have at some point asked “why can’t we get our milk at the store like everybody else?” (I know now that kids don’t appreciate things, as much as you beg them too. The hope is that someday they will, I suppose, and then be brave enough to tell you as much.)

My brother was in town too. He’d staked his claim by tossing his stuff in the blue room, which was most recently mine. I took my INXS poster out of there when I left for college, but alas it was truly Scott’s old room. It had only become mine, and blue, when Scott graduated from college and took his Jimmy Buffett and English Beat albums out once and for all. I think he half expects back rent for my time spent there, and maybe an additional fee for the intense shade of baby blue I’d insisted on immediately upon his departure.

That would put me in the smaller green room for this stay; the room where my canopy bed once was, and where the Tooth Fairy could find me, where I’d lip sync to the Go-Go’s, and where the neighbor kids would come to knock when it was time to play. John and I call it the Sleep Chamber; its blackout shade allows the lucky slumberer to blissfully snooze to noon with nary a care. No TV, but that’s ok, the sleep chamber was secretly a boon.

A couple of days later, after much discussion over the weirdness of just the four of us in the house for the first time in 25 years, Scott vacated the blue room to get back to his family. So with mom and dad both home and watching the news (hellooooo, every day of 1986), I started nosing around my old drawers and shelves.

Enough had changed in each room to keep them from looking like shrines to our childhood, but enough had stayed the same to never let memories be too far out of mind. In addition to stacks of photos – childhood friends, puppies, neighbors, vacations, there were a handful of toys, including a miniature Strawberry Shortcake wearing a nightcap and nightgown. I followed my first instinct which was to immediately put her to my nose and take a huge sniff. I really didn’t expect to smell anything, but there it was….the unmistakable smell of Strawberry Shortcake. If you’ve ever smelled her, you know what I’m talking about. It’s strawberry and something else, I don’t know what, but it’s very specific to her. And as I stood there maniacally smelling an old doll, the summer of 1982 came back in one crazy rush, as it tends to do when you’re already feeling nostalgic. Seeing both E.T. and  Annie in the theater and hitting the mother lode on my birthday – I got Strawberry Shortcake, an Annie electric toothbrush, the Annie locket, a huge book about Princess Diana, a chic ribbon choker, stuffed E.T., and E.T stickers, and that’s just the stuff I remember.

The smell was also very specific to one glorious sleepover that summer. I had friends, sisters from the church I attended, who had a pool, matching strawberry pajamas (including a set for me) aaaaand……waterbeds. We splashed in the pool until we were good and sunburnt, then focused on Strawberry Shortcake and her cohorts Apple Dumplin’ and the Purple Pie Man, bringing them to life to befriend Barbie. I was more than likely wearing one of my sparkly appliqué shirts with a cool saying like, “Foxy,” or “Nano Nano” from my favorite TV show, Mork & Mindy.

We do the same kind of archaological dig when we visit John’s old room….we find term papers; Michael Jordan basketballs, posters, and clippings, John’s Student Body President campaign trucker hat, and inevitably his prized possession – his model of the General Lee, from The Dukes of Hazzard. I’ve never seen him smell any of it.

I half-heartedly looked around for the Nano Nano shirt to show the boys, but came up empty handed. Instead, I tucked Strawberry Shortcake into a plastic bag to preserve whatever scent was clinging to her little body.I proudly handed her to John to smell when we were reunited. He says he couldn’t smell anything. Boys.

don’t call that vintage: grub

14 Apr

There’s a new pancake house in town.

That’s not a euphemism; there really is a new pancake house in town. And it’s kinda glorious. They put bacon in the pancakes…..yes, IN the pancakes. The waitstaff talks about the hand-whippedness of the butter with such passion that you think back with disdain about every stupid meal you’ve ever had that did not come with this butter.

Jake went there with my parents, and they hung his drawing of a leprechaun eating pancakes in the front window, creating three fans for life. A mere two days later, the rest of us were back to visit the drawing, and to procure more hand-whipped butter.

Now we have a tough choice at breakfast, as the new shiny place is down the street from one of this town’s famed institutions of culinary indulgence. For being an institution, I find it curious that nobody really knows the name of it, because when it’s spoken about in hushed whispers, everybody calls it something different. The source of the confusion would the multiple signs out front – one says “The Chef Burger” and the other says “Giant Chef.” I’ve also had the experience of raving about it to more than one somebody, and they cock their heads in bewilderment, until a look of realization comes over their faces and they say, “ooooh, you mean The Burger Chef.” At our house, it’s known as Giant Chef, of course, because that is the most fun to say and to visualize. Frankly you could call it “Stinky’s” and I would eat there.

A friend at work clued me in to it. I think I said “biscuits and gravy,” which if you’re around me enough, you will inevitably hear me mumble. Apparently, it was the secret password. The way I like to remember the transaction is that she looked around stealthily then leaned in to whisper the location before disappearing back into the cover of night. Or the office. Whatever.

The waitresses have worked there only forever, and your coffee cup never even gets down to half full. The biscuits & gravy are a steal (comes in handy at a cash-only joint) and they taste exactly as they should, only better. If you know biscuits & gravy – then you know exactly what the biscuits should be like, and you know exactly what the gravy should be like. Well – these are like that. And if you aren’t intimately familiar with biscuits & gravy, then I would recommend the corned beef hash, and then after that, I don’t know what to tell you. There’s always the donut place across the street that’s nestled in between the Army and Navy recruiting centers. And the friend who slipped me the intel on this place? Well, I’ve seen her there about a dozen times, and one of us usually has a ballcap on. Zach always spots her and announces her presence, much to her delight, I’m sure.

My kids are breakfast kids and have easily embraced diner culture– I’ll say it – they’re naturals. They chat up the waitstaff, use their manners and compliment the food. They’ll pay together at the register, usually in their dirty and dusty sports uniforms, and talk about baseball with the regulars at the counter. And when they are offered a free lollipop even though the sign says $.25, they say “thank you,” look over their shoulder at us and you can practically hear the little cartoon tooth twinkle thing happen.

In high school, I would drive 20 miles for good pancakes. It may have been IHOP, but it was worth it because they had German Pancakes which were really crepes with butter, powdered sugar and lemon. Sophisticated, right? I was savvy enough to know this was a dish I would not likely learn to make anytime soon. As a friend recently reminded me, we wrote a hard-hitting article about these pancakes in the high school newspaper.

Before you start worrying about my cholesterol, I want you to know that I’m an equal opportunity breakfast lover. I don’t just partake in greasy spoon diner culture, but the brunch culture too. Yeah, I like berries and compotes, and stuff made with buckwheat. I think I’ve said “lox is my middle name” and the closest I’ve gotten to a scuffle was with the girl who cut in front of me in the hour long wait for brunch in the West Portal District of San Francisco (My brunch rival, as John called her). As a kid, I would lazily lay in the backseat of my parents gigantic Chrysler, one knobby knee crossed over the other and imagine the day I would eat brunch in San Francisco, looking at the bay and listening to Christopher Cross, and maybe drinking Riuniti on ice, whatever that was. That, I decided would be my benchmark of adulthood…when I know I’d finally made it into the utmost realm of sophistication.

I recounted this childhood dream to John early in our relationship, and he has since caught me many a time affirming my adulthood and ascendance into the utmost realm of sophistication, when a) I’m eating brunch and looking out the window or B) I’m listening to Christopher Cross, which happens more than one might guess. Now if only I could get my hands on some Riuniti.

*Up there is a photo of the one, the only, Giant chef. Over there is the pancake picture by the renowned breakfast artist, Jacob. (One of his oil pencil drawings of my morning coffee hangs in our kitchen.)

This likely wraps up my vintage series. I have a couple of other vintage topics I want to get out there, but they just haven’t come to fruition. Watch out, I may use them to pay homage to this series that pays homage to vintage stuff that we love. Blows your mind, right?

don’t call that vintage: ‘dos and wheels

6 Apr

We took the boys in for haircuts the other day. Zach climbed up into the chair shaped like a race car and asked confidently for the “Buster Posey,” while Jake’s stylist and I stood over his impressive noggin of thick hair, pawing at it. She said “texturize” a few times and I nodded solemnly. We swept it over his eyes this way and that, and I gave the international signal for “No ‘Dumb and Dumber’ bangs please.” She looked horrified that I would even suggest such a thing would be possible on her watch. But you have to ask – you have to get it out on record that there are to be no straight across bowl cut bangs. We’ve been burned by that before.

That very morning the boys had been running about the baseball fields as the parents sat in the stands lamenting the states of each of our kid’s hair. Everybody’s was long and flopping into their eyes. And now thanks to baseball season, they were having to try to contain their locks under their hats, where we could also count on the bonus of all that sweat. The older boys are of course now responsible for the washing and the rinsing of the hair, which only makes me wonder how many layers of sweat we’re talking about, really.

Courtney the stylist whirled around Jacob like a blonde satellite – her brow furrowed and those funny scissors with all the teethy things snipping away in a blinding blur.  She circled him a dozen more times after she stopped snipping to swoosh the hair around again with her fingers. When she was finally satisfied with the swooshiness I suppose, she swung his chair around so I could see the results. “I love it,” I said loudly and matter-of-factly.  John leaned over to me and asked if there had actually been any hairs cut. It was my turn to roll my eyes. “It’s the style,” I said with the indignant emphasis of a teenage girl whose own style was being questioned, as I walked over to join them and swoosh it around too. Courtney, at my side, hands on her hips, chimed in. “It is….it is the style.” John shrugged and looked out the window to the parking lot, now painfully aware he was sitting in a room not only full of women who took pride in staying current with 10-year-old boys’ hairstyles, but also little boys who were too wrapped up in “Scooby Doo” to be of any help to him.

Jake grabbed his banana split lollipop out of the basket and took his spot next to us on the bench while we waited for Zach’s 1977 Luke Skywalker fluffy mane (his second go-round with this) to be shorn into the Buster Posey. The lollipop was still in Jake’s mouth, when in all seriousness he asked, “can we go to the mall?” John and I looked at each other, and busted out laughing like a couple of tired and predictable sitcom parents.

“What? What’ so funny?” Jake asked, still swirling the lollipop.

There was our little boy, with his styled hair, dirty baseball uniform, Kojak lollipop asking us to go to the mall, in his voice that seemed deeper than it was yesterday.

“Nothing,” was all we could say as we regained our composure. There was no way that he would be able to see himself as we saw him in that moment. Like he was going to ask for a 10-spot and the keys to the ’81 Camaro.

He comes by it naturally I suppose – I’m not making up the part about the ’81 Camaro. His father and I have logged many an hour driving around in an ’81 Camaro. John’s family bought it new back in the day, and he recalls with a gleam in his eye the day they got the call it had arrived. He was pulled out of school, and they headed off to the nearby metropolis of Twin Falls, Idaho to pick it up. I like to picture John in the teensy backseat with the silver interior, beneath the t-tops, with his own crooked haircut and big brown eyes. I also like to imagine him sticking his tongue out at the other kids as his family drove triumphantly through the streets of his very small and gossipy hometown.

John ended up bringing the Camaro, silver interior, t-tops and all, to college in LA where he fielded purchase offers nearly every time we stopped to get gas. He tried to teach me how to drive its manual transmission, but that was a short-lived and failed endeavor. I would instead be in charge of switching out the Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins CDs in the Discman. Still a very important job.

When we got married and moved to San Francisco, we knew the Camaro would not match with our new urbane lifestyle, so it went back to Idaho where it was quite literally put out to pasture. Whenever we go up for a visit, John takes a few minutes alone to trudge out to the field where the Camaro now sits. One year, he glumly reported that wasps had taken up residence under the hood.

Jake points out with excitement new Camaros every time he sees one. (I’m still waiting for the comeback of my childhood car – the Chrysler Cordoba. It’s imminent, I’m certain.) Then the guys get kinda quiet, with what I’m guessing are the wistful thoughts of the wasp hive with t-tops sitting in the field, and their not-so-secret dream of resurrecting it one day. One of them, after all, does have the hair for it.

That’s a high school John and the family Camaro, circa 1991

don’t call that vintage: threads

31 Mar

My mom showed up at my house a couple of weeks ago with an armful of hangers. “I brought you some of your clothes,” she said.

“Wait, what? What clothes?”

“Your clothes. From your closet at the house. They are all clean, and in good shape. Do what you want with them.”

And there in her arms were tops that I instantly recognized as yes, my own…my own, from middle school and high school. I held up each piece up for inspection with a suspicious eye.  I totally appreciate vintage clothes. I’ve saved some of my mom’s handbags and skirts from her Betty Draper days; well-made, beautifully cut classic wool skirts…now lovingly stored for the day that I shrink to the size of a Betty Draper smurf, so that I can actually fit into them.  (Note to self: Food was just healthier back then. It’s today’s additives. It’s advertising. It’s the economy. It’s your crazy schedule! It has nothing to do with how much you love cheeseburgers!) What I was looking at now, my friends, was not vintage.

The turtleneck tank top had arm holes that most certainly would have reached my waist band. My arms in high school were like matchsticks. How did I get away with this? Wait, it must be a headhole. No? Definitely an armhole? Oooooh, I forgot about the second tank top underneath. That must have looked fantastic. I stared at it. “I can’t wear this one mom.”

“Sure, you can,” she said matter-of-factly. “Wear it under a blouse. You know, like a dickie.”

“OK,” is really the only thing you can say to that without sounding like a jerk.

Aaaah…the teal button down, dare I say, “blouse;” also square, also cropped, but with a sophisticated hint of acid wash. I remember popping the collar on that bad boy to show off my asymmetrical bob (with perm), polishing the look with some high waisted, white, peg leg pants. I was trying to remember what shoes I wore with this while Zach lay across my bed on his tummy, legs kicking up in the air, chin in his hands, carefully surveying the situation. “That shirt looks like Spongebob Squarepants.” I nodded my head in agreement and put the Spongebob Squarepants shirt into the very special pile with the dickie.

I held up the short sleeve pink cardigan and it formed a perfect rectangle. I peeked at the tag. Hold the phone! Benetton! Scoring something from Benetton was a real coup in middle school. My mind was reeling with possibility – I could belt it, or wear it with some skinny jeans and flats (I say that about EVERYTHING). When someone would undoubtedly ask who the designer was, I could say “vintage Benetton” like they do on the red carpet…you know, vintage Chanel, vintage Halston…it would be exactly like that. I set about unbuttoning it, getting it off the hanger, mumbling to myself, “I’ll just take a sec and try this on, lemme get my arms through the holes, button this up…there we go…I can make this work, let me just take a look here   – wait, no, nevermind… I cannot. I cannot make this work.” I cannot wear a square tummy revealing pink cardigan with giant buttons, even if it is Benetton.

It’s not like it was Esprit. As a kid, and through certain parts of adulthood, I would wear anything Esprit. I’ve never since had such fierce brand loyalty. My parents would take me on pilgrimmage to the San Francisco outlet. I’d save every tag, and catalog each piece in an Esprit notebook. And this felt like a totally normal and appropriate thing to do as a brand loyalist. Last year, as John and I were strolling through New York, my heart leapt when we spotted…an Esprit store. I didn’t know any existed. I raced in, and though it didn’t smell the same as it did when I was a kid, I had the same sense of euphoria.  Before escaping to the Sony store to try out a 3-D TV, John looked around. “They know who their audience is,” he noted, “They are are marketing it directly to you.” He was right. I was surrounded by women who looked exactly my age, and who I’m guessing were crazy for the sutff in 1986. They probably cataloged their stuff in an Esprit notebook too, also in a totally not-weird way. I bought a pair of pants that day, which as it turns out, are the best pants in the world.

As for the little slouchy black cotton jacket with distressed metal snaps that my mom delivered with the other stuff? That, I may have tucked quickly and quietly into my closet.

The photos at the top are of my very styley and tiny mom. The b&w photo is circa 1958. The ones with the baby (my brother) are circa 1963. Down here, that’s me as a kid. I was really into “outfits”. I thought I was pretty hot stuff….I’m pretty sure it’s 1986, maybe 87.  If you look closely, you can see my first Swatch.

don’t call that vintage:snaps

25 Mar

My designer friends would probably tell you that the resurfacing of the 70s and 80s aesthetic sensibility is so five years ago, but I am aware of it now, so I’ll just say that it’s “new.”  Maybe it’s because I realized my son is closer to the age of 21 than I am (oh, *&%$!) Maybe it’s because I visited a Swatch store on vacation, I don’t know, but I am seeing pieces of my childhood resurface in the oddest of places. Only now, the hipster at American Apparel is telling me it’s ironic, and fresh, fashion-forward, but still, gulp…vintage.

Every generation nods with a wink at a generation or two from before. I wore John Lennon glasses for a while, and for no reason. Maybe it’s fine for the kids who are enjoying it the first time around, but isn’t there some kind of rule preventing me from whole-heartedly embracing dingy bad photos and questionable shoulderpads, because I lived through them already? Maybe.

I’d like to welcome you to part 1 in my blog mini-series. “Don’t call that Vintage – I bought that new.”

I am about a year late to the hipstamatic party, but I am completely hooked on taking early 1980’s photos with my smart phone, which I realize is weird on about 7 different levels. I posted some of my work (may I call them “pieces?”) on Facebook, and almost immediately got a snarky remark, from a favorite snarky remark giver – a college freshman currently living across the country.

“Someone just discovered the hipstamatic app,” she wrote.

I had, and it was a problem, and I knew that.

I was lounging around in quarantine AGAIN with a flu-ridden kid when I downloaded the app to my phone. Hipstamatic takes what would be a perfectly good photo, and subjects it to vintage film, lens and flash effects. The kid with the flu was actually the one subjected – to me taking multiple photos of him sitting on the couch, taking a nap, watching tv, or pretending to take a nap in the vain attempt to get me to perhaps go away.

I showed John my results, and he nodded. After about the 10th oddly lit and grainy shot, he sweetly said, “They’ve made many advancements in photography, you know. On purpose. Pictures are much better now.”

“I know, I know. But look how gritty it is. It looks like the 70’s.”

“But why would you want it to look like the 70’s? The 70’s really didn’t look very good. We knew that while the 70’s were happening. And we were kids.”

When we met up with some old friends at a Starbucks (sure it was a Starbucks in Las Vegas) I showed them my handiwork. Megan was nice enough to play along with me. I’d snap one, and then we’d quickly look at it, critiquing each shot…the flash, the composition, and how our hair looked. Our husbands looked at each other, rolling their eyes the way only grown men and 12-year-old girls can, and went back to talking about basketball.

Other than the photo of a “Tigers Love Pepper” t-shirt, the rest of my Las Vegas photos were taken this way, as were the bowling photos a couple of days later when parents from our church went out for a high-brow night on the town. There is something about Las Vegas and bowling that seem to be the perfect vehicles for gritty, grainy images, and face-distorting lighting.

After 11 grueling minutes of Internet research, the dormant cub reporter in me was intrigued to find out that there is actually a backstory to the hipstamatic craze. (I will call it a craze, because I am currently very interested in it, though I don’t actually have any research to back up its popularity. Apparently, I am currently not that thorough of a cub reporter.) There is even a touch of controversy and a hint of burgeoning urban legend. Suppooooosedly, two brothers manufactured a handful of all-plastic hipstamatic cameras in 1982, that were inspired by Kodak’s instamatic cameras. The brothers were tragically killed in a car accident a short time later, and nearly all of their photos were lost in a housefire in the early 90’s. The story goes that a third surviving brother strives to continue Hipstamatic photography to cement his brothers’ legacies and further the artform that they loved.  However, conspiracy theorists boasting more than 11 minutes of Internet research claim that no such story can be substantiated, and that it is a clever marketing ploy designed specifically for suckers like me, and kids being ironic.

Whatever the story, I love these ridiculous pictures. 1980’s flash does wonders for my vintage skin.

Three of the four photos above are from my camera. The other one is legit. (Hint: my mom’s pants are also legit.) The one with the female humans (girls? ladies? moms? women? that’s a whole different issue) is me and my friend Megan (she’s the adorable pixie on the right). We’re waiting for the fountains at the Bellagio entertaining ourselves while our husbands rolled their eyes. Again.