Field Notes || Herb Ritts: L.A. Style at the Getty Center

30/04/2012 § 1 Comment

New York is a vertical city, and its skyscrapers are climbing ever higher (case in point, just today my next-door neighbor One World Trade claimed the title of tallest building in New York).  All that height, especially in the canyons of the Financial District or parts of Midtown, can feel a bit oppressive at times to someone like me, who grew up in one of the most horizontal cities in the world.  For comparison’s sake I could give you some facts and figures about square mileage and population — essentially: LA is larger, while NYC is more populous — but nowhere is this “horizontal-ness” illustrated better than from the observation pavilions of the Getty Center.

Known for its impressive views from the Pacific to Downtown, the Getty Center is one of the best places to take in the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles (if it happens to be a clear day).  Designed by Richard Meier, the Center also houses a large portion of the Getty art collection and has been the setting for a marriage proposal or two…thousand.

Familiar vistas aside, I also made the trip to the Center to catch the Herb Ritts retrospective, L.A. Style.  Best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and fashion editorials, equally impressive are Ritts’ nudes and his exploration of the concept of gender.  A compact exhibition, complete with large-scale prints, vintage magazines and a screening of his music videos (e.g., Janet Jackson’s Love Will Never Do (Without You), Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game), L.A. Style is an excellent collection of some Ritts’ most iconic images, taken in the 1980s and 90s.

Herb Ritts: L.A. Style at the Getty Center
April 3 – August 26, 2012

The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Open Tuesday – Sunday

The Grand Tour || The House Where Satchmo Played

29/04/2012 § 3 Comments

Most homes of a certain age in Los Angeles usually come with old Hollywood stories of former residents.  This Spanish beauty in Westwood, owned by good friends of mine, is no different.  Home to Spencer Tracy and his wife for a time, and host to an intimate concert by Louis Armstrong, this estate has a charmingly eccentric layout, complete with original tile work, exposed beams, hardwood floors, interesting built-ins and one of the only SoCal basements I am personally aware of.

A relatively recent purchase, the owners are still hard at work with renovations but I twisted some arms and was allowed to take a few photos of their progress thus far.  I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Bird’s Eye

18/04/2012 § 2 Comments

Even though I did manage to snap these pictures on a business trip this week,
I have been chasing my tail a bit, so I hope you’ll excuse my recent silence…

A few tidbits I’ve enjoyed in the meantime:

Video treats: a very whimsical Hermès “Petit H”
and a snippet from A.Y. NOT DEAD F/W 2012 featuring Dree! Hemingway!;

Opinion: What Mad Men Shows About American Pop Culture
“The 40-Year Itch” by Adam Gopnik {via The New Yorker}

Endorsed: the ladylike naughtiness of the Mimi Holliday by Damaris
Sea Breeze lace thong {via Net-a-Porter};

Men’s style file: Dean at his best {via A Headlong Dive}
and Jackie Robinson off the field {via To Take the Train};

Aesthetics: a rumination on stripes {via Little Augury};

Travel: a Tuscan farmhouse I must. visit. immediately. {via Designtripper}; and

Just finished: Bright Lights, Big City — so NYC in the 80s, so excellent.

Back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, promise.
xoxo.  M.

Field Notes || Argentine Polo Open

27/03/2012 § 3 Comments

Taken at the 2011 Argentine Open Polo Tournament on my trip to Buenos Aires.  The fifth-oldest polo competition in the world, the tournament was first played in 1893.  For more information, visit Asociación Argentina de Polo.

Desired Destination: Siena

24/01/2012 § 3 Comments

Church of San Domenico, Siena.

With all the dispatches a few weeks back from Florence for Pitti Immagine Uomo, my thoughts couldn’t help but turn to the time I spent studying abroad in the same city.  I loved living in Firenze, just off of Piazza Savonarola, in a tiny and charming apartment that originally served as servant’s quarters for a massive home owned by an old and aristocratic family.  As I looked at the countless photographs of the peacocking at the trade shows, I couldn’t help but look past the — well-dressed, of course — men, to the city that was peeking around the edges, and remember what living in Tuscany felt like.

My latest Desired Destination is one of my favorite places in Tuscany: the tiny, medieval town of Siena.  Approximately one hour south of Florence by car, Siena is noted for its sport, its fierce neighborhood loyalties, and its ancient history.  The town is divided into seventeen contrade, or wards, each with distinct boundaries and identifiable symbols and animal mascots.  While originally instated to provide military support and initially organized by trade, the contrade have evolved into extremely patriotic neighborhood associations: a resident of Siena will be baptized, married and eulogized, all within his or her contrade, and as you walk through the town, you’ll find the symbols prominently featured everywhere — as almost all contrade have declared rivals and allies, boundaries are very important.  These rivalries reach a fever pitch during the Palio, a biannual horse race that has been run in Siena since the 14th century.

The symbol of Siena: Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf
Actually, this is Senius and Aschius, sons of Remus. (Thanks to Simon for the correction!)
“Legend has it that the city was founded by Remus’ sons Senius and Aschius who stole the statue of the she-wolf from Apollo’s temple. Senius rode a black horse, Aschius a white steed. Those colours form the city’s heraldic colour scheme black and white while the city emblem is the same as Rome – the she-wolf and breast-feeding twins.” Via.
Palazzo Salimbeni, piazza Salimbeni.
Headquarters of the oldest bank in the world, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena,
which has been in operation since 1472.
Piazza del Campo.

The Palio is run in Siena’s historic center, the Piazza del Campo.  Spectators fill the Piazza to the brim, with wealthier spectators enjoying the view from balconies above.  With layers of dirt packed over the stone, the horses and riders must complete three loops around the Piazza as fast as possible.  Complicating matters are the Piazza’s sharp turns and the fact that the jockeys must ride bareback —  injuries are frequent and it is not uncommon for horses to compete and win the race after discarding their graceless riders.  At each race, ten contrade are represented, alliances are tested and rampant bribery is rumored, in this ultimate competition for bragging rights and glory that is much unchanged since it was first run in the 14th century.

Spectators in the Piazza del Campo, 1947.  Photos by Walter Sanders for LIFE.

Each contrade brings their horse into their church for a pre-race blessing.

Horse racing not your thing?  Fear not.  Siena’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site assures that there is something for almost everyone, especially if you like art and churches.  There are the beautiful secular frescoes in the Palazzo Pubblico and the amazingly elaborate Duomo di Siena to see.  However, if you prefer to simply wander about the old winding streets, I wouldn’t argue.  And definitely bring home some of the beautiful and brightly painted ceramics Siena is known for — contrade specific, of course.

For accommodations, turn to Hotel Certosa di Maggiano.  Originally a Carthusian monastery built in 1394, the property changed hands and fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 1969 and eventually converted by Anna Grossi Recordati into the luxury hotel it is today.  Surrounded by six acres of countryside and boasting one of the best restaurants in the world, chef Paolo Lopriore’s Il Canto, the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Siena, conveniently located only one kilometer from the town.

Images via Hotel Certosa di Maggiano.

Currently closed for the winter, this darling hotel is set to reopen on March 16.

Perhaps I should book a room for when Pitti rolls around again in June…

Hotel Certosa di Maggiano
Strada di Certosa, 82
53100 Sienna Siena, Italy
0577 288 180
~*~

Field Notes: Buenos Aires, Argentina

12/12/2011 § 7 Comments

Palermo Soho

Plaza de Mayo

Mausoleum of General San Martín, Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral

Mercado de San Telmo

Museum ships

Argentine Polo Open

Recoleta Cemetary

Field Notes: Buenos Aires

As you may recall, I recently returned from a trip to Buenos Aires and I have been raving about the city to anyone who will listen.  The word amazing has definitely been bandied about quite a bit.  Simultaneously cosmopolitan and relaxing, the city makes for a perfect destination when the northern hemisphere turns to winter.  With the exchange rate currently in my favor (~4.6 pesos to the dollar), it was an affordable escape as well.  Of course, I am plotting my return trip as we speak…

I recommend staying in one of the Palermo neighborhoods: Hollywood or Soho.  The neighborhoods are named for their resemblance to the American cities with the same name: Soho with its bustling shopping and dining, Hollywood with its concentration of the city’s media companies.  I stayed in Palermo Soho and found it to be well located and felt exceptionally safe after dark.  It is, however, a bit of a walk to the Subte (subway), but taxis are plentiful and quite affordable.  Instead of staying in a hotel, I rented a flat, which is definitely the most cost-effective option.  Through Buenos Aires Rents, I found a sparkling clean studio in a brand new building with 24-hour doorman service, laundry, gym and roof deck with a pool, for a little over $60 per night.  While renting a flat means you don’t have a concierge on hand at all times, the folks at Buenos Aires Rents were always immediately available for my questions and also offer car service for airport transfers.  If you are the type that requires daily room service, take a look at Esplendor Palermo Soho, which was darling and directly around the corner from where I stayed.

Next time, I will definitely stay at the Hotel del Casco, which is actually in San Isidro, a bit north of Buenos Aires proper.  An exceptionally beautiful, 1890s neoclassical palazzo that was formerly the summer home of an aristocratic family, the Hotel del Casco has been converted into a gorgeous 20 room hotel that retains much of its original 19th century aesthetic.

Hotel del Casco.  Perfection.

Buenos Aires is a city that easily lends itself to cafe lingering and meandering.  I spent many lovely, lazy mornings people-watching over coffee and toast topped with dulce de leche in corner cafes.  Afternoons were for siestas.  Evenings were for late and lengthy dinners of steak and malbec.   But should you be more itinerary-minded, there is plenty to do.  Visit one of the many art museums, go to the Plaza de Mayo and see the Casa Rosada, shop for antiques in the San Telmo market on Sundays, board the museum ships of Puerto Madero, and visit the massive Recoleta Cemetary (where you can find the tomb of Eva Peron).  I especially recommend Graffitimundo, a great tour of Buenos Aires street art and graffiti, for an inside look at a burgeoning art scene and neighborhoods a bit off the normal tourist route.  If you go in mid-November as I did, you can catch the Argentine Polo Open, which I quite enjoyed.

As for cuisine, Buenos Aires is widely known for their red meat and red wine.  I had fantastic meals at Don Julio (Guatemala 4691 in Palermo Soho) and El Trapiche (Paraguay 5099 in El Centro).  I also dined at what is widely considered the best restaurant in town, Cabaña Las Lilas (A.M. de Justo 516 in Puerto Madero).  While Cabaña Las Lilas was quite good and takes full advantage of their picturesque setting, I definitely preferred the atmosphere of Don Julio and El Trapiche, both of which felt more locally authentic and less touristy.  It is also worth noting that most of my dinners — with multiple courses and wine — tended to run between $25 and $40 per person.  Also, make sure not to miss Cafe Tortoni (Avenida De Mayo 825), the oldest coffee shop in all of Argentina, founded in 1858.

Parting notes: WiFi is plentiful in the city so no need to run up massive roaming data charges. // Bring the plug adapter for Australia and not the one marked “South America.”  For some reason, Argentina uses slanted prongs unlike the rest of the continent. // You won’t need a visa, but upon arrival you will have to pay a fee equal to the amount the US charges Argentines for US visas.  Currently that amount is $140, but it will also cover any other entries over the next ten years.

You can see the rest of my photos from Buenos Aires here.

Field Notes: The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. at the Rose Bowl Flea

27/10/2011 § 2 Comments

Now, when I say that I am originally from Los Angeles, it’s kind of like the geographic equivalent of rounding up to 10 from 7.  How so?  It’s because I actually spent the majority of my formative years in little place slightly to the north and west of Los Angeles proper, known to some of you simply as “The Valley.”  Yes, the location of the party where Tai took a shoe to the head and went on to roll with the homies.  Yes, the place that you have to thank for the “like” that permeates the vernacular.  Yes, the San Fernando Valley.  Like, oh my God.

Granted, The Valley is kind of like the red-headed stepchild of the Southern California family.  It’s not regarded as especially cool or interesting, but rather, frankly, as being kind of lame.  My mother, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, can’t even remember going there once as a child because, as she put it, “Why would you?”  Perhaps I wear my pride somewhat internally, but when it gets down to it, I have so much love for my Valley and the years I spent there.  I totally embrace my inner Valley Girl.

So you can imagine how happy I was a few months ago to discover The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co., purveyors of fine vintage American-made workwear from 1930-1970 and handmade, utility-inspired dry goods/accessories.  And when I realized they had their own take on the classic tool bag, very much like those I had been admiring by a few other designers, but automatically and infinitely so much better because of its Valley origins, I might have geeked out a bit.  So of course, I shot off a note to learn more about their bags and the operation at large.

In short order, I received a lovely reply from Warren Schummer, the man behind San Fernando Mercantile Co., as well as Vintage Workwear, a blog focusing on vintage workwear from the 1940s through the 1970s.  It turned out Warren’s Valley roots were a bit more established than mine, as his go back three generations, and helped shape his addiction to workwear:

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, particularly Sylmar in my youth, then left and spent a few years spent in Huntington Beach. Came back to Studio City for my teens and 20s, Sherman Oaks for the 30s and then to Tarzana in the west valley for the past 10 odd years, give or take.  My pops owned an auto body repair shop on Ventura Blvd in Studio City where he specialized in German cars including Porsche and Mercedes Benz cars in particular. That environment in addition to my Grandfather working at the now defunct Chevrolet plant in Van Nuys helped shape my love of work clothing.

Warren began collecting — actually, he called it “hoarding” — workwear and soon came to realize that the best way to support his collecting habit was by parting with some of his pieces.  This led to a stall at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (#3282), where he has been in residence for more than 18 months now, on the second Sunday of every month.  Warren also owns All Valley Handyman Service, which provides him with the opportunity to wear his vintage on the job.

Wanting to apply the inspiration he found in vintage to the creation of new merchandise, Warren began with a small run of work caps made from vintage fabrics, selvedge denim and brown duck, which did well.  With the success of the caps, bags were the obvious next step and a tote and tool bag-inspired bag soon followed.  Warren is intensely involved in the design and construction process, seemingly coming just short of sewing everything himself — which I think he probably would try to do, if he could.  All of San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co.’s merchandise is made in the USA, with most of it made in Southern California.

After hearing and loving all of this, I knew that I desperately wanted one of Warren’s bags and that I would definitely be stopping by stall #3282 on my upcoming (at the time) visit to the Rose Bowl Flea.  A few short weeks flew by and I found myself in the sweltering Pasadena sun at the Flea.  I dragged along Nick — of the rather awesome Tumblr No Secrets Between Sailors (and also Instagram: nosecretsbetweensailors) — and made him show me the ropes.

The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. was our first stop.  Nick and I had a good long visit with Warren and his lovely lady Michele, while taking shelter in the shade of the tent and slowly perusing an amazing selection of workwear merchandise.  We also discussed the specifics for one of his glorious 16″ bags that will be making its way to me in New York in the near future.  Of course you’ll receive the full rundown when it arrives.  Such a great afternoon.

Warren and Michele.

Nick.

The vintage inspiration…

…for their bags.

Vintage Cat’s Paw keychains.

If you are at the Rose Bowl Flea, be sure not to miss the The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co.  If you can’t make it out to Pasadena, check the shop out online, as well as the store blog, and the Vintage Workwear blog.

Field Notes: Big Sur. Big Paradise.

18/10/2011 § 10 Comments

Big Sur was pristine, remote and breathtakingly beautiful.
If you haven’t yet made the trip along PCH, move it to the top of your list.
Immediately...

Redwood morning.

Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.
Henry Miller

The blue sky adds “Dont call me eternity, call me God if you like, all of you talkers are in paradise: the leaf is paradise, the tree stump is paradise, the paper bag is paradise, the man is paradise, the fog is paradise”
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur

Breakfast at Big Sur Bakery.

Partington Cove.

The sea swirls up but seems subdued — It’s not like being alone down in the vast hell writing the sounds of the sea.
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur

Pacific fury flashing on rocks that rise like gloomy sea shroud towers out of the cove, the bingbang cove with its seas booming inside caves and slapping out, the cities of seaweed floating up and down you can even see their dark leer in the phosphorescent seabeach nightlight
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Bixby Bridge, built in 1932.

A few Allagash Whites at Post Ranch Inn.

Sleep at Deetjens, the original Big Sur roadhouse.  Built in the 1930s.

Fotos: PCH ~ Los Angeles to Big Sur

14/10/2011 § Leave a comment

Santa Monica palms.

As I mentioned, I’ve been travelling this week along the California coast on the Pacific Coast Highway.  I’ve got a million pictures — is this boring? are these like boring vacation slides your great uncle made you look at? — and here are some of my favorite moments from the drive north from Los Angeles to Big Sur.

La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Amazing Mexican food.
If you are in Santa Barbara, you must make a point to stop at La Super-Rica.

Have we discussed my horchata addiction?  It’s ridiculous.

Old Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna St
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

The Santa Barbara Mission was the tenth of the California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It was established on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786.

Morro Bay.

Elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery.

Sunset near Big Sur.

Fotos: Los Angeles Union Station

11/10/2011 § 9 Comments

Los Angeles Union Station, the “Last of the Great Railway Stations.”
The station opened in 1939 and it is one of my favorite places in LA.

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