Rem Koolhaas must die. A

Rem Koolhaas must die.

A couple of months ago, I did my best to tear Rem Koolhaas a new one for the friggin’ godawful new Prada store on Prince street. “The ultimate luxury is not shopping!” burbled this great, horrible pillock when describing why he had, on purpose, designed a space that was good for nothing.

Evelyn Waugh loathed chrome, mirrors, and sheetmetal-paneled studies as a harbinger of Horrible Modern Society. It wasn’t the chrome decorations that Waugh hated, it was the decadent, frivolous, and ultimately pointless lives that were surrounded by them that Waugh equated with the Apocalypse. Flip, trendy, and a self-important generator of deeply crappy soundbites, Rem Koolhaas could have been ripped whole from Waugh’s darkest nightmare. Witness his latest abomination: the new flag for the EU, guaranteed to cause headaches and look already dated TWO FRIGGING YEARS AGO.

As an antidote to Koolhaas’s feckless and burbling embrace of mid-nineties post-productive post-representational awfulness*, I present Cal Hopkins Amish Armada: clean graphics, sarcasm used AS sarcasm (not masquerading as some kind of delicious postmodern irony), and a T-shirt I can wear on my motorcycle in Lancaster county.

Rem Koolhaas must die. A

In an email to me,

In an email to me, my dad had this to say about his own days on Amtrak, commuting four days a week from Philadelphia to edit Travel Holiday magazine:

I remember the rag trade crowd from my own Amtrak days. Some of them can complain longer and louder than anyone I’ve ever heard, but they’re great in emergencies — pushy, funny, indomitable. One day, a young kid got separated from his parents in the Newark station and got on the train by mistake, leaving his parents behind. How scary can that be? The conductor, a grumpy Italian we called Toscanini, wouldn’t help the blubbering kid, so the garmentos stepped in, locating a cell phone (those were the early days of cell) to call Newark station and get word to the parents, calling ahead to Metropark to arrange for someone to meet the kid, comforting the poor lad, etc. etc. It was a combination of commedia dell’arte and Yiddish theater, which pretty much represented the garmentos’ ethnic milieu. I still see some of them at fashion events at Drexel. It’s like seeing college classmates or army buddies.

In an email to me,

I took some guitar lessons

I took some guitar lessons in high school (guitar playing, juggling, sandals; the embarassing triumvirate of quaker youth): enough so that the neck of the guitar stopped being a single, inscrutable unit and resolved itself into six separate strings and a fingerboard. I often think about that when I learn something new; a larger, complicated object suddenly resolves itself into an aggregation of smaller, less complicated ones. Or, in the case of a motorcycle engine, it resolves into an agggregation of smaller, equally incomprehensible things that can burn you.

Anyhow, Amtrak is starting to resolve itself in the same way; I know most of the conductor’s faces on the Keystone run now, including the big, goofy guy you get if you sit in the rear half of train 654. His top-volume soliloquy over the loudspeaker every night:

“In five minutes, we’ll be entering Philadelphi…AAH, the city that spoils you, loves you back, and leaves you begging for more. Exit only where you see one of the handsome conduct…AAHs. Thank you for riding Am-TROCK! …your preferred MEHW-de of trans-por-TAY-shone.”

I’ve also started being able to separate the passengers into groups. There are the garment workers, buyers at the big wholesale mills in the fashion district: the men are in old, good suits with suspenders, the women in loud animal-print dresses. One introduced herself to me as being “in the schmatte business”, which was pretty damn cool. Then there’s the grad students: one, like me, starts in Exton, traveling five days a week to the College of Pharmacology at NYU. Then there are the dot-commers; about five of us, all living where the living’s good, and traveling to where the working’s possible. A smattering of stockbrokers, lawyers, and salespeople, and then one woman with a furry, squirrely shock of hair: red on top, gray on the sides. I overheard that she’s an NYU professor, but I forgot her name. Which is a damn shame, because with hair like that I bet she’s a famous kooky professor.

Today, the Amtrak-ing happens to be good; I’ve gotten a seat in the dinette, with a table so I can use a mouse. And there’s food, and we’re on time. Being on time is actually the thing that made me realize that my train is a human enterprise, not a Mysterious Manifestation of Bureaucracy; we arrived ten minutes early in New York yesterday, and everyone’s still praising the engineer this morning. It’s like a folk song:

“He musta run every stop signal on the tracks!”

“He got every lucky break from North Philly to Newark!”

“He’s Rocket Man!”

I took some guitar lessons

My great aunt’s estate

My great aunt’s estate (my maternal grandmother’s sister, that is) is getting auctioned off in New Jersey this weekend. Boy, there’s a weird feeling for you. Seeing as both of us are from Chester County in Philadelphia, Kate and I share a Thomas ancestor here and there. (Mine: Anna Thomas, of the meek and Quakerly grand tour diary. Kate’s: George Thomas, Anna’s brother, who I’m convinced was sneaking out of the hotels to whoop it up in Khartoum.) The auctioneer’s indifferently-spelled history of the Thomas family is here, though it’s got me scratching my head about which aunt is which.

There’s likely to be a Young family/Smith family caravan to Morris Plains, New Jersey to bid on some items, like possibly this corner cabinet of my grandmother’s, or maybe these dessert spoons, or this bookcase, which has no sentimental value but is a great bargain if the estimate is to be believed. And I’ll probably bid on this Westtown School Sampler (from two years after the school opened!)

Missing is the cool suit of samurai armor that Dr. Chandler brought back from feudal Japan, and that used to scare the hell out of me when I rounded a corner in the attic. Just as well; I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. As it is, I don’t think I have the spondulix to get this smirking matriarch.

My great aunt’s estate

Sartorial Week continues My friend

Sartorial Week continues

My friend at work, Kyle Smith, has spontaneously decided to start “Bow Tie Thursdays.” This is the same Kyle Smith that actually made one bazillion dollars selling CutCo knives during his summers in Kansas City, and whose Horatio Alger powers will either turn him into a kind and benevolent force for change in this world, or a towering force of evil, depending on whether he gets bitten by the radioactive spider or snorts the evil green swamp gas. Either way, I’m happy to join in on his project, and hopefully get [My employer] a reputation as “that Orville Redenbacher agency.”

Also, in re: kilts and eyepatches, my friend Alejandro Rubio sent me proof that eyepatches are the cognoscenti’s accessory of choice, and — best of all — Tiffany Webb, member of the The Ultimate Water Gun Council of Elders* sent me this link to my very next lawn-mowing, painting, and general utility outfit for the new homeowner. Follow this link immediately!

*(Moniker: “Mrs. Webb”, which has, I think, a Diana Rigg Healey/catsuit/judo-chop panache)

Sartorial Week continues My friend

Until Kate and I finish

Until Kate and I finish painting our house, I’m still living out of a loose conglomeration of boxes and duffel bags, and am ironing shirts blearily at 5:45 AM. Which I don’t mind, but there’s a pile of repeat-offender clothing I’m gonna burn when the rest of my wardrobe is out of storage and back on full rotation.

The setup has hampered my (already sketchy) organizational skills, apparently: I made it all the way to Trenton, New Jersey this morning before realizing that I left my wallet behind. A moment of panic ensued, but just a moment: I still had my Amtrak pass, my laptop, my Bluetooth phone and GPRS service, my wireless webcam, my iPaq, my rubberized messenger bag, and a solid pair of boots. In fact, the list of things that I could and could not do is a twenty-first century inversion of common human abilities:


  • Email or talk to almost anyone on the planet.
  • Get a satellite photo of the train station.
  • Change the items on the CBS Soaps In Depth website to anything I want.
  • Order flowers, transfer my assets to Switzerland, send a low-bandwith streaming video of wherever I’m standing to anyone, anywhere.


  • Buy a cheeseburger.
  • Open doors.

The last one was the one that hurt; I became the sheepish one in the hall, waiting for someone with a proximity pass to let me back from the bathroom. Will the survival guides of the 22nd century describe how to fabricate an EZ-Pass out of tinfoil and a cigarette box?

Until Kate and I finish