NorthernGRADE Los Angeles

There are going to be some great, local brands at NorthernGRADE Los Angeles. Image and more info here.

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Visiting: Steelhead Fine Goods

My friend Allan is the owner of Steelhead Fine Goods, a quality, bespoke leathergoods company based in Santa Barbara, California. So it’s fitting that he’s named his company after the ocean-going form of rainbow trout. Steelhead.


Once upon a time, you could name any river or stream in Southern California, and these beautiful fish were probably known to swim up it from the Pacific Ocean and spawn in their place of birth. But the damming of rivers, pollution, and over-fishing have left the steelhead a rare sight in the past few decades.

Steelhead Fine Goods, like its namesake, is rare breed. 

I had the chance to visit his shop recently during Allan’s downtime, chat, and take some photos. Check out the photos here:



Just like conservationists are wont to bring back the magnificent steelhead, Allan is looking to breathe new life into a once dying craft. 


I’m not going to lie, I was taken by the smell of leather and the prospect of some nice leatherware. So after leaving his shop, I placed an order for a leather belt. I mean, it’s good to support independent craftspeople, right? Oh, and you can check out more of Allan’s work on his Tumblr

Throwing a Beefsteak


I don’t know how the beefsteak banquet fell out of fashion but it sure as hell needs to make a comeback. After all, how could a menu of steak and beer be wrong? So, on a not-so-warm Saturday evening a handful of friends gathered to make an honest attempt to bring it back.


An early 1900s beefsteak. Note the simple menu.
For those of you who aren’t aware of what a beefsteak entails, I suggest reading “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks,” an (amazingly sexist) article from a 1939 issue of The New Yorker. Quite simply, the beefsteak is, “slices of ripened steaks, double lamb chops, kidneys, and beer by the pitcher […] Knives, forks, napkins, and tablecloths never had been permitted.

Oh, and one other rule: no women.

I’m not going to lie, though, at the onset of this event, I’d been thinking about throwing sides in, maybe even a salad or other chlorophyll-based sustenance. But a cooler head prevailed and a friend convinced us to throw a genuine beefsteak. Thank you, Scott.


Then as osso buco and round tip hit the red oak wood fire with its aroma and smoke wafting into our faces, we drank beer from mason jars and discussed welding, woodworking, and various other things that we thought would make us appear manly.

The night’s success could be seen on our aprons, wiping steak juices from off our fingers, catching beer spills, and, in my case, wiping blood from a cut tongue on whatever white section of poly-cotton we could find. This is definitely something we’ll be doing again. Just maybe with a sober photographer on hand…

‘Bing’s Tux’ from One Trip Pass

This story about Bing Crosby’s bespoke Levi’s tuxedo comes by way of One Trip Pass, a great blog on all manner of Americana, and was far too good to pass up. So I asked and was graciously granted permission to re-post the story in full. (Thanks, Jay!) Here goes…

Lynn Downey has a pretty killer job as Levi’s archivist. I visit her and the vault any time I can think up an excuse. Recently I was chewing the fat with her about my visit and subsequent fascination with Elko and North East Nevada. She told me all about the history there with Bing Crosby and the Levi’s denim tuxedo. I asked if she would write a piece on the subject for One Trip Pass and she agreed. The following is her story on the subject. Thank you, Lynn!

“Quick. What comes to mind when you hear the name Bing Crosby?

“White Christmas.”  Goofy movies with Bob Hope, like “Road to Morocco” and “Road to Zanzibar.” Golf. Levi’s® jeans.

Huh?

That’s right. Bing was a huge fan of the Levi’s® brand, and in 1951 the company went above and beyond the call of duty for Bing when he and his favorite jeans were insulted by a hotel clerk in Canada.

First of all, Bing had always been a Levi’s® jeans and jacket wearer. He owned a working ranch near Elko, Nevada and was also its honorary mayor for years. He posed for the covers of albums and sheet music in the clothing. Get it? He loved the brand.

So when he went hunting in Canada with a friend in 1951 he naturally wore his favorite jeans and jacket. One evening, the pair decided they wanted to stay in a hotel in Vancouver, and when they got to the registration desk they were politely but firmly told by the clerk that they would not be admitted to the hotel.

Why?

Because they were wearing denim.

You see, in the 1950s, denim had a very bad reputation, thanks to Marlon Brando, James Dean and all those other malcontents who were upsetting the social order by not conforming to America’s postwar obsession with suburbs, picket fences and men in grey flannel suits. Not only that, denim still retained its work wear, laborer origins.

In other words, not at all the appropriate clothing that this particular hotel allowed beyond the lobby.

Luckily for Bing the bellhop recognized him, and the men were given a room. And when he got back to Elko he told his neighbors what had happened. They in turn contacted Levi Strauss & Co., which immediately went to work on a special garment made just for Bing, and which would not likely be duplicated by anyone.

They made him a denim tuxedo jacket.

It was made of the same denim used for the 501® jeans, had a lovely cluster of red Tabs in the lapel, fastened by another cluster of copper rivets, and a huge leather label on the inside. This stated that denim was appropriate attire for any occasion,  and that stuck-up hotel clerks should just get over it.

The company presented the tux to Bing at the 1951 Silver State Stampede rodeo in Elko. Dressed in 501® jeans and a cowboy shirt, Bing happily donned the jacket and posed for the cameras. He was so taken with the tux that he wore it to many of the press appearances for his next movie, “Here Comes the Groom.”

The company made replicas of the tuxedo jacket as display items for salesmen to loan to favored retailers. And a few of the replicas reside today in the LS&Co. Archives. Under lock and key.”

– Lynn Downey

A Ride to Nowhere

“I’m a wandering gypsy.” -Lady Gaga

Sometimes it’s nice to get on your bike and ride for no reason. 
My ride last night started off that way. I just wanted to get out and avoid the monotony of life indoors, so I pulled a bike off the rack and went for it.

photo: The Geriatric Aesthetic


First by a Prius who was ecstatic that I gave him enough room to make a right turn. Only he rolled into the crosswalk and blocked the path of a visibly (and rightly) pissed pedestrian. Then by the In-N-Out that smelled of grilled onions only after I passed it. 

Next was a car that had no time to wait for me, a lowly and solitary cyclist, at the four-way stop. It seems modulating the brake or gas is too much effort; friction shifters and moustache bars, I’m led to believe, are easy.

The last bit is where I keep a steady cadence up a hill with a few drops of rain hitting my jacket. But in the end I’ve earned a view of the city.

photo: The Geriatric Aesthetic

The orange glow of sodium-vapor street lights dance across the ground as if the night sky has been inverted and suddenly my aimless ride has a purpose. If only to find solitude. In the city. In yourself.

Omoir Photography

photo: Cristina Gutierrez of Omoir Photography

There are no two ways around it, Cristina, of Omoir Photography pumps out some great stuff.

Some people (nowadays, and more often than not) wield a Canon DSLR with an L lens like they’re some kind of professional but they seldom have the requisite skill or creativity to pull it off. Cristina does.

Over the approximately two years I’ve known her she’s won some awards for her work, “abduction” and has produced some shots that truly make me jealous. In fact, there has been more than one occasion where I’ve stopped in my tracks to think, “Where the hell did she get this idea? And why didn’t I think of this?”

I personally like her darker stuff but I’ve also seen some great portraits coming from her direction.

Check her out. Keep her in mind.

Rogue Territory’s Supply Jacket

These Supply Jackets from Rogue Territory are what easily the nicest denim jackets I’ve seen in a while. Best of all, they’re made here in Los Angeles.
photo: Rogue Territory
       photo: Rogue Territory

"Trout is all"

Fly-fishing. Camping. Friends.

How to Tie a Bow Tie

The Hill-side has best (and most whimsical) video on how to tie a bow tie I’ve seen yet.

Yellowstone Playlist

I flew to Salt Lake City, rented a red Nissan Versa and headed up to West Yellowstone for the Tenkara Summit (which was mentioned in a previous post). It was the first time in my life that I’d seen that much sustained and rolling beauty in one drive. Never in my life had I ever see this much of the “West,” despite the fact that I come from a place so far west that if you travel any further in that direction you end up in sea water; Long Beach is not the kind of place that conjures up the Old West.

Then it began. The music in my head. Most of it was twangy and a little country. It just seemed to fit as I drove by bales of alfalfa hay and beat up pick-up trucks. At the next stop I cobbled together a playlist of songs to compliment the trip.

Some of the songs I cut out because, in the end, they just didn’t fit the ultimate mood. Some of them are rearranged to tell a better story, unlike the completely alphabetical order I originally had them in when I scroll through my iPod. But mostly, no one wants or appreciates a sprawling playlist shot at oneself like buckshot on the side of barn.

(An astute ear might be able to hear that none of these songs are particularly new and that’s because I haven’t updated my iPod in about a year.)


Enjoy. 

  1. Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines
  2. Drive-By Truckers – Righteous Path
  3. Kathleen Edwards – In State
  4. Bright Eyes – Four Winds
  5. Wilco – Jesus, Etc.
  6. Dan Auerbach – Mean Monsoon
  7. Billy Bragg & Wilco – Hot Rod Hotel
  8. Kathleen Edwards – Goodnight, California

I also compiled a YouTube playlist for those of you that don’t want to hunt for yourself.