On French Cuffs and Meeting the King of Norway

I’ve always had a bit of fashion sense. It started as a child watching my father don his bright red Italian ski sweater while shoveling snow in our suburban New York driveway.

And while watching my sister slide on her silk elbow-length gloves for prom (that pop bought in Milan…he was a Pan Am pilot whose main routes were London, Paris and Rome).

For sure, my eye for sartorial style mostly came from my sisters and pop. Mom and my brother Hal, on the other hand, must have viewed clothing – and those oh-so important accessories that can pull any outfit together — as mere utility. You wore stuff because you just needed to. Fashion was never about making a statement – about who you are, or rather who you wished to be.

I suppose our family could afford to buy upscale clothes, but we seldom did. Yet, pop occasionally schooled us in the rudiments of style by returning home from trips abroad with some seriously cool and classy and exotic things – an Hermès scarf from Harrod’s, a paisley tie from Carnaby Steet, an aquamarine ring from Rio — that gave us an eye for beautiful things.

On an entirely different plane mom instilled in us the notion we were not rich – which we were certainly not – by insisting most everything be purchased or negotiated at sale prices. I recall several times she took me to the local Goodwill to buy ice skates, an overcoat and snow boots.

Being a preteen in a tony New York suburb,  I remember sheepishly shuffling around the Goodwill storefront with my head bowed and sweaty hands in my pockets, slinking over my shoulder to make certain none of my friends saw me stepping inside.

But as time and experience and financial hardship seasoned me as an adult, I began to see shopping differently — buying clothes and belts and shoes and glasses in a whole new light.

I’m not gonna lie. I love shopping. No, I love a good deal. No, I love negotiating a great deal. As long as everybody wins when walking away.

Whether it’s houses (we’ve only ever bought foreclosures) or cars (never less than 50k miles) or computer accessories (direct from china). As a lifelong bargain hunter, especially for shoes and clothes, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll bet you’ve learned the same…

#1 Quality need not be expensive

Most of the stuff in my closet, shoe rack and jewelry box is filled with items I paid less than half the retail price for: hefty combed cotton Kirkland Signature t-shirts, briefs from wish.com, monk strap shoes and leather sneakers from Nordstrom Rack.

And there’s my 13 vintage sport coats and dress raincoats from Value Village and Goodwill. Average market price at high end mens clothing store: $600. My cost: $40 (not including the first and only dry cleaning)

I’m up to seven watches now, though only 4 work. Average purchase price: $50. Market value average per similar looking luxury brand watch: $1,000.

Would I ever buy a Rolex Submariner for $6,000?

I already have two.

One I paid $90 for in a backroom on New York’s Canal Street. The other is an Invicta. Both are as accurate as the real McCoy.

#2 You don’t always have to get a killer deal

I have a side hustle that often requires being outdoors. I’m in Seattle. That means rain.

As such, I recently needed to buy a pair of waterproof boots. My daughter who lives in Anchorage said I should get XtraTuffs, which are as common around marinas, fishing boats and dog sleds in the PNW as flip-flops in Newport Beach or Birkenstocks in Boulder.

The best deal I found online was $90. I later discovered an off-brand for $50 with comparable quality. But frankly the brown and beige vibe seemed heinously unattractive … anti-fashion even. So I did more research and found killer rubber boots — Grundens, the choice of many a professional seamen. Only not boring brown and beige, but olive green and a pop of that signature Grudens orange. I got them only modestly discounted at Whistle Workwear. Halfway in the middle between the XtraTuffs and the offbrand boots– a $70 purchase that made me happy as a clam, plus dry feet and my style bumped up a notch (what’s not to love about a splash of blaze orange in the right places?).

# 3 Spend a lot to get a lot

When my daughter graduated from PLU with distinction I was so stoked to go to the graduation ceremony held at …. wait for it … the infamous Tacoma Dome! It was cool enough that Annie was being extra honored for her extra hard work, but what was more exciting to my alter-ego-driven brain (pls don’t tell her) was the notion of a chance meeting with the guest of honor in attendance … the King of Norway!

With two months advance notice my scheming brain went turbo. I went online and found the most upscale yet approachable custom shirt maker in the Seattle area. I booked an appointment, the following day met a hunky model guy dressed to the teeth at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel.

In an hour we had picked out the stunning white Egyptian cotton fabric from a massive sample book, chose collar style, buttons, and finally took painstaking measurements in a dozen places from the waist up.

Then I rode my ebike back to the ferry terminal and booked it back home … only to find my wife greeting me suspiciously at the front door with the dreaded question …”You were gone for most of the day. Where’ve you been?”

Out of respect for her — and our marriage — I will spare you the details. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, nor were my explanations even remotely accurate, or christian. But we recovered, albeit with a tad of eroded trust.

#4 Tell your wife

About ALL your non-essential purchases, whether driven by practicality, vanity, mania, impulse, whatever. Better yet, get buy-in before the big spend, not after. I could write a book about all my misdeeds in this area, but you get the idea. Talk before you buy…in most cases it’s not your money, but both of yours.

#5 Sometimes you just need to feel like a king

There are precious few times when we feel like we’re on top of the world, or need to climb there. I felt it when my daughter was graduating. I was so proud of her. But the idea actually meeting face to face with the guest of honor, the King of Norway. Seriously? I had a better chance of having dinner with the Pope who was halfway around the world than getting within shouting distance of even his entourage.

How much did I pay for that handmade shirt? One hundred fifty dollars.

How much was it really worth…to me?

A thousand dollars.

Why? Because it made me feel like a king for a royal celebration of my daughter’s incredible achievement. And because I’ve since worn it a half dozen times in boardrooms when the stakes were extremelhy high. And I wore it with courage and confidence.

I don’t advocate spending ridiculous amounts of money on stuff you don’t need. But sometimes you just need to play the part, to own the space … at a wedding, a pitch, a speech, a special once a decade dinner.

Because you’re worth it, and so is your distinguished audience — of one or a thousand.

(Taken from the TrailMasters – Style blog)

Style video >>> https://youtu.be/yzG_3UJ-LvU

Taming the Black Dog of the Northwest

Scare crow and a yellow moon. Pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town. King Harvest has surely come (The Band)

A cool wind is blowing, smooth and soft this morning in the Pacific Northwest. Brown, yellow, red, and orange leaves have blanketed my front yard. Glancing through my bedroom window I awaken to a dark fog. But it’s peaceful. Suddenly, I realize it’s here – my favorite season — filled with the hope and promise of “glad tidings of comfort and joy”–gatherings with family and friends, fires in the fireplace and gobs of rich, buttery food.

But for those of us living here in the Northwest, a feint shadow crouches patiently in the corner of our minds. It’s a dark invasive spirit that will soon fill the air, daring to press against anyone without ample courage or fortitude to buffet its cold, biting headwinds – the menacing double threat of depression and anxiety.

In the mental health profession this illness of chronic depression (often accompanied by cycles of anxiety) is referred to as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Winston Churchill called his depressive episodes the “Black Dog,” a gnawing predator that nipped at his ankles for most of his adult life. One famous journalist calls it “living in a cold, heavy rain-drenched suit.”

Whatever the medical community calls it — no matter how pervasive among populations of Seattle, Poulsbo, or Pittsburgh — it’s a menace that will threaten many of us this season, more likely around mid-December when the pressures, commitments and expectations of Christmas reach their peak.

My family doctor in Poulsbo – with whom I visit every 6 months to personally keep the Black Dog at bay — calls depression our society’s most pressing pandemic. He tells me that “70% of his patients suffer from one of these illnesses – or both at any given time.” Another doctor friend from Seattle confirms that “No fewer than 50% of Pacific Northwest adults are (or will be) on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

But rather than dispense dire warnings of personal meltdowns, suicidal ideation or crippling isolation, I’ve got good news – news about the ways we can not only cope with the onslaught of seasonal, chronic or clinical depression – but stand tall while leaning into its most blusterous mental headwinds. And to be an advocate and encourager for our loved ones who may soon be prime targets of these invading spirits.

In the next few weeks I’m going to share a range of tips and tools to optimize your mental health. Think of it as a modest insurance policy to help you experience a bright and cheery holiday season.

I won’t spend time educating or spewing pop psychology sound bytes or advice on medication, diet or exercise (even though they’re important for emotional wellness), or even share proven behavioral therapy practices. Those tools, I believe, are best offered by licensed professionals.

Rather, my tips and tools are intended to be simple and sensible, understandable, and relatively easy to apply, one at a time – which can offer the glimmer of hope to get your mojo back.

“50% of Pacific Northwest adults will be on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

Before we start, please know this — that my audience is you – a fellow sojourner seeking a personal path of mental and emotional wholeness in our confused, frenzied culture. But the audience is also me, so I’m writing to remind myself of the proven ways I’ve used these tips to help me be my best during Seattle’s doldrums winter — so that my inner man can exercise good, wholesome judgement and behavior that’ll bless my family, friends, and colleagues.

Easy Success To Start Your Day

Make Your Bed – In the words of my friend Tim Ferriss, when you ‘win the morning, you win the day.’ Making your bed makes you an instant success — first thing. It’s a small task but has more emotional benefits than you can imagine. If you doubt the value of making your bed in the morning, watch this 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgzLzbd-zT4

Make A Plan – Failing to plan your day is planning to fail your day. Take out a piece of paper, write a list of 5 or so things you’d like to accomplish today. Then rank them by priority or chronological order. If you spend more than 60 seconds on the list and prioritizing, it’s too much time. My list is always super simple, especially when I’m in a funk: some phone calls and emails, walk the dog, a meeting, preparing dinner, whatever. These small things may not seem like a big deal to accomplish, but when you’re in the clutches of a deep depression finishing even the most rudimentary task — like dusting your bedroom — seems akin to painting the next Mona Lisa.

Meditate – Connect with your Higher Power, whomever that is, in whatever way works for you. He/she is the One who will give you the strength, courage and mindfulness to make it through at least to the noon hour. Personally, my daily routine starts with 5 or 10 minutes of Bible reading (or similar spiritual content) followed by a few short minutes of prayer. Sometimes, when I have extra time, I’ll listen to soft classical music on King.FM or stream tunes from my favorite solo pianists Ed Kerr, Paul Cardall or David Lantz.

Remember the hilarious movie “What About Bob” that was so popular in the early 90s? In the movie Richard Dreyfuss’s character (a famous therapist) wrote a book called “Baby Steps.” Well, like the movie’s plot line, the concept of “baby steps” to begin your journey to emotional wellness is no laughing matter. To win the day you must begin engaging in simple, easy-repeat rituals. Baby steps. Once accomplished — first thing in the morning — you can tackle more arduous chores and responsibilities later in the day.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more simple tips to tame depression including short daily walks, ongoing contact with your ESP (Emotional Support Partner) and doing a simple but profoundly fulfilling task…for a loved one.

I’ll leave you with a link to some great chill music I listened to this morning to start my day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0KulDJ09To

*Lead sentence phrase is taken from the poem “Christmas Eve”

This is the first blog post of Skipping Stones–The Personal Blog of Phil Herzog