The Longines Watches
My watch game really kicked up a level last year, on my 30th birthday. Or, actually, 2 levels.
My grandfather is an extremely hard-working man, and, with my grandmother, built a farming empire with his bare hands. For all of his accumulated wealth and possessions, I was always taken by his Longines dress watch. It was simple, elegant, super slim, beautifully made. As a teenager I’d sit in the passenger seat of one of his cars and sort of stare at it as we’d drive back from an early-morning milking session at the farm, or out to an early dinner somewhere. I didn’t make much of an effort to hide my coveting the watch, and romanticized the idea of the watch one day being passed down to me.
In the mean time, I started more seriously considering watches of my own. Unsurprisingly, I took a shining to the Longines brand, and found myself a particularly big, particularly rare model: the Avigation A7. I promised it to myself as a 30th birthday present, and bided my time patiently.
On the eve of my 30th birthday, I went to pick up my new watch (which I’d finally tracked down) with my mother and my sister, who couldn’t stop grinning like idiots, especially when they saw the big, beautiful box that the thing came in. And on the katzenjammer day of my birthday (after turning my apartment into a whisky bar for the night) my mother handed me the same box I’d received the day before; only this time, with my grandfather’s watch in there.
I wear my A7 every day, and reserve the heirloom for special occasions.
The ’62 Re-issue Custom Shop American Stratocaster
This is a guitar I wanted since I first saw Stevie Ray Vaughan on an old Live at El Mocambo VHS when I was about 14.
SRV’s playing was entirely revelatory for me. To a young man coming of age (and to grips with his masculinity) Stevie’s way of playing perfectly described the tension and balance between tough and strong, and tender and empathetic. His music oozed emotion and sincerity, but sounded like it’d break your teeth if you didn’t watch out. As his hero Jimi would say, Stevie was bold as love.
I wanted his guitar since forever, and even rebuilt my first electric (a Japanese strat) in order to get his sound. But I promised myself that I’d buy it myself from Austin, Texas: Stevie’s hometown. And 2 years ago now, I did exactly that. I pulled into Austin in an American sports car (top down), got a beer in one of the old music joints Stevie used to play at, and dragged my girlfriend around every. single. music. store in Austin until I’d found my Number 1. And then I went to the huge statue of SRV that stands proudly by the river, guitar in hand, and said hello to my hero.
My favorite book ever: Infinite Jest
My confession here is that David Foster Wallace’s seminal, 1000+ page opus was my favorite book before I’d read it.
Having read his biography (D.T. Max’s Every Love Story is a Ghost Story) and most of his non-fiction first, I already felt a pretty deep kinship with David Foster Wallace’s perspective, humour, and humanity. One of his greatest achievements as a writer was his ability to do what he said he admired about great fiction — to traverse the barrier between an individual reader’s own consciousness and solipsistic human experience and really make them feel understood. In short: he gets in your head.
This book is a challenge. Part of the reason I’m so damn attached to it is that it travelled the world with me a few times as I plowed through it over the course of 9 months. It’s oblique, and pedantic, and obsessive, and just generally super challenging. The footnotes alone are a book in themselves, and a challenge all of their own. But in my naive and woefully under-researched opinion, there’s never been a body of work that’s so worth the work. It confirms all the things you ever suspected might make you a human by helping you to confront and embrace both the best and worst parts of what your own personal mind has to offer.
N.b. if you’re ever looking for a way to dip your toe into the deep pool that is DFW’s canon, I’d suggest This Is Water, a transcript of a commencement speech he delivered in 2004. It’s available both as cute gift book, and as a video on YouTube.
Homer Simpson Paper-mâché Bust
This story involves my friend and I turning up to LA for the first time to go to a concert, getting high (really, really high), and heading down to Venice Beach.
I found this guy with a gang of misfits on the side of Venice Beach Boulevard, being fussed over by his maker, a Mexican fellow. Sharing the table with Homer was Marge and Bart (fair enough) and Frida Kahlo, Bob Marley, and Charlie Chaplain. No sooner had I asked him if I could take a photo of the whole crew than an impassioned voice from behind him screamed “that’s my fucking Mexican”, and demanded I pay $20 for the right to photograph anything. The voice belonged to a gnarly (to say the least) old painter who was half-way through some of the most obscure art I’d ever seen, but which consistently featured the motif of a ‘funky pussy’ — a pink cat doing the fingers.
It was like $35 to buy the bust (and take some photos, too) so I did that, and hoped that the racist ‘owner’ didn’t take too much of the money for himself.
Make Your Own$DIY
Where the Wild Things Are Cassette Tape
I’ve been obsessed with reading, writing, and grammar from a really, really early age, and while it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where a love of words begins, I’d put most of my money on this being where it all started.
It’s a collection of Maurice Sendak’s classic kids’ books, from the ubiquitous Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen to some lesser-known gems like The Sign on Rosie’s Door, Pierre, Very Far Away and Eating Chicken Soup with Rice. Again, I can’t really quantify how much of an impact these made on me, but the upshot is that I’ve been excited about wordplay, storytelling, characters, and rhyming for quite literally as long as I can remember. Each story is rich and dense and beautiful and cheeky, and, as a complete bonus, is read to you by Tammy Grimes, who sounds like the most congenial and excitable grandmother you’ve ever had, and as a final kicker features a soundtrack by Mozart. I genuinely don’t think there’s any better gift for a young child than this exact tape (provided, of course, they’re born into a situation fortunate enough to be at least some of way up Mazlow’s pyramid.)
I’ve just finished, published and signed a book deal for my first ever kids’ book, which I’ve made with two very good friends. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, and something that, without a doubt, started here.