Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Olympics: Gold At Albertville, '92

Thankfully, I have only taken one police-administered breath-a-lizer test in my life. This happened in France in January 1992. I had driven up to Courcheval 1650 from Albertville, and toured what would become our group's Olympic home one month later, the Hotel du Golf. Naturellement, I lunched outside in the sun with Henri, the hotel's owner. It is my recollection that we sampled some local beaujulais, which Henri cooled in the snow.  The yellow scarf pictured above witnessed the whole thing.

I wanted to return to Albertville before dark, because I was inexperienced at driving those vertical roads with their constant twists and turns. I had only begun to learn the art of alpine driving, having negotiated sleet and fog coming up to Albertville from Lyons.

I remember little about that first descent, except that it was wonderful to come down through the pretty towns, like Moutiers, below Courcheval. But, exiting one of the the last sharp turns I ran into du lineup gendarmes: a surprise alcohol level test.  This is great, I remember thinking: big time corporate events leader arrested in France on a DWI. That would make a nice pre-Olympic headline.

But, Friends, this was pre- Olympic France. I do not know what my score was that day, but they did not retain me or even scold me. I had a gold in my first Albertville event.

Later, my Olympic job became Chief Driver, since all of the Renault Espace vans had standard shifts located on the column. I was one of very few who could drive them, making many trips to and from the airport in Lyons and the train station in Moutiers, not to mention Albertville itself.

One sunny afternoon, my colleague John and I watched hockey in Meribel. Afterwards, we stationed ourselves at a bistro, where we could watch the ski-jumpers high above us across the road and sip our wine. 

When we got back up to Courcheval, I realized that I had left my yellow scarf in the bistro, and John wanted me to go right back and retrieve it. Instead, I said we'd try the next day. This was typical of our respective working styles. John, a former army Colonel and MP never left anything undone or unplanned. My somewhat looser system could annoy him, but he had slowly come to trust me anyway.

Late the next day, on our way to watch the ski-jump finals in Meribel, I stopped by the bistro, made my way through the crowded tables filled with attractive brightly-clad skiers and spectators. There, hanging on its peg, exactly where I had left it, was my scarf.

As we crossed the road, John just gave me one of his looks and a slight shake of his head, amazed that  nobody had walked off with the scarf. 

I had won my second gold at Albertville.

Note: for a look at the trois valees area above Albertville, please go to:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Little Black Dress

Before making light,
God cut
a piece
out of the charcoal night.

held it
in one hand
and waited.

When the sun
had grown
white hot,
God shook the 
dark form,

and beheld:
the little
black dress.

Then God 
looked about
for tan shoulders
on which to
perfectly drape it.

The rest
is herstory.

For Ingrid Michaelson
Copyright 2009/TW McDermott

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Five Do's

RareBurghers have been known to:

....Wear one brown shoe and one black for informal wear or business casual, provided that they are the same shoe, just different colors. Subtilely done, others may not even notice, but it will still feel just right.

....Also wear laces that are a complimentary color to a pair of shoes: black/brown and brown/black are the most obvious combinations, but some of us could do blue on black as well.

....Always wear a dark trouser shade for business settings, even when going casual. They know that charcoal grey or dark wash blue jeans are best (when the latter are appropriate). Khakis or "suntans" are for weekends and/or the country. Pre-faded blue jeans are not for business, unless you are Mr. Lauren or work for him. Actually, pre-faded jeans are not for anything; fade your own.

....Have a black and or navy knitted tie in the closet or rolled and kept in a round tin or box. They will have been made in Italy, and, very often, come to a point at the wide end.

....Always pack a blazer or similar coat and at least one tie (that black or navy knit is a good bet), when traveling for a week or longer. This is true no matter what the destination or purpose of the trip. You may be invited to a special place, because you're the type that naturally packs these essentials .

Monday, February 8, 2010

Five Never Do's

RareBurghers never:

.... Allow either a bright or dingy white tee-shirt to show at the collar. If you must leave a tee-shirt collar showing, make it black, grey or navy.

....Chew gum. The only possible exceptions would be: while wearing a uniform in a dugout, on a long road trip with children, or during take-off or landing.

....Wear a white broadcloth straight-collared shirt with a tweed sport-coat. Also, never wear gold or silver cufflinks with that coat: cuff knots will work better.

....Try wearing short pant cuffs and suit coat, with no socks and oxford shoes; that is for Thom Browne  school days, not for men.

.... Ditto baseball caps. The only possible exceptions would be: in the same dugout as the gum, on the beach, on the course or court. Maybe.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shoes To Be Wounded For

Some of us are shirt men, others may have a particular thing for ties. I am a shoe man.

I look for the perfect pair of shoes like a poet looks for the right word, and, just like that poet, I fail most of the time.

I bought the shoes shown above at Prada's shop on Fifth Avenue during a lunchtime stroll. No, I am not a "Prada Guy;" I had never purchased anything there before and have never done so since. Some men of a certain age have their Harleys, I had these shoes.

To be honest, I bought two pairs of shoes that day: one brown, one black. Same cap-toe on both, but the black pair was a more formal shoe, almost patent-shiny, with beautifully sculpted lines. But, we are not speaking of that black shoe today.

The leather used to make my brown cap-toe shoe is glove-soft, as long as that glove had been made in Italy and sold in a tiny shop in a narrow alley in Milan. The softness of this leather would make men weep as they might over Gisele's thigh, Kate's pout or Federer's backhand.

I had spied these shoes on a previous stroll and thought about them in the same way that Proust must have thought about his madeleine. This happens frequently to me when I see certain shoes.

But, as with many love affairs, this one was troubled almost from the start, since these are not comfortable shoes, at least not for me. To begin with, I have a high arch and a short, wide foot, usually size 42 or 8.5-9 E. Also, my left foot is slightly shorter than my right to match my left leg which is a touch shorter than my right.

You can see my shoe problem immediately, particularly since I am not in a Lobb tax bracket. 

I have tried various inserts in these shoes. I have tried wearing them with no socks as if they were moccasins, but I cannot pull off the Thom Browne look (few, if any, can). When I wear the shoes into the city for a whole day, my feet (especially my left) ache by day's end. The shoe is so flat, accommodating the special Prada rubber sole, that it is almost completely impractical for me to wear.

You might think that I'm sorry to have ever bought the shoes. You would be wrong. I look at these shoes in my closet with the same eyes with which I look at a Rothko painting or a Noguchi sculpture in a museum. I feel certain that one day Paola Antonelli will display them in her MOMA collection.

There are inexplicable things we do in life and,  no matter how hard we try to correct certain tendencies, we seem incapable of doing so. We fall for the wrong girl, take the wrong job and leave home without our umbrella. 

There are more beautiful shoes like these in my future that will hurt me for wearing them.

I do not care.