Friday, October 11, 2013

Stout-Hearted Men: Days of a Dandy

Male Bonding at the House of Brews

But You Doesn’t Has to Call Me Johnson

“Oh Dandy, Dandy,
When you gonna’ give up?
Are you feeling old now?
You always will be free” – Ray Davies

“Stout-hearted men
Can stick together man to man” – Oscar Hammerstein II

A Dandy: also known as a beau or gallant - a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance and refined language. Historically, especially in late 18th and early 19th-century Britain, a dandy, who was self-made, often strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle despite coming from a middle-class background.

In the spirit of full disclosure, our tale will, at least, commence factually, and then at some juncture most certainly veer off of the turnpike of truth and the highway of honesty, onto the boulevard of bull and the avenue of exaggeration. When precisely the GPS of genuineness leads us astray is something we will uncover concurrently and, one hopes, that mutual discovery will serve to bring us all even closer together. Love is all you need.

It was a Friday, a slow Friday. Lacking any enlivening or exhilarating objectives and feeling a need for some form of activity, I meandered into my friendly neighborhood watering-hole where I oft-times find myself, not for the potables, but for the congenial and convivial camaraderie – minimally imbibing myself, of course, but in attendance as more of a positive presence to persuade other more weak-willed individuals of the wrongness of their behavior – kind of a 21st century Carrie Nation, if you will, sans hatchet, and naturally, substantially prettier.  And, there you have it, any attempt at reality already forsaken as it’s fairly more feasible that I was on-site in order to fulfill a desperate and despairing desire for several pints of Brooklyn Lager (unpaid/unremunerated non-celebrity endorsement.)  But as it was a time ago, and as life is so full, so rich and so active, it can be hard to recall such trivial and negligible details as momentary motivation.

As any tavern attendee can attest,  after an order or two of one’s selected spirit, the bloke with the equine begs conversation, the asp require egress and the vicar awaits, palm pleasantly extended;  so off to the gents it is – and, perhaps not unexpectedly, here’s where our yarn spins slightly askew.

Not to delve deliberately into detail, but I have always deemed the deed in which I was partaking to be a personal pursuit. Disappointingly, many designers of the men’s lounge seem to think it as more of a communal activity and one in which we should all share.  I prefer my pissoir performance primarily private, my urination unobserved, and not for the prying and peering lenses of paparazzi, TMZ or my fellow pub patrons; but the accommodations were hardly abandoned and so the quarters were as tight as a 5 star entry in Elliot Spitzer’s Rolodex.  And hence we found ourselves, shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder, two stout-drinking and stout-hearted men, when my comrade in answering  nature’s call turns in my direction (happily not his entire frame in my direction) takes in my attire and states, “you know what we are, you and I? We’re both dandies!”

Heinous Hollywood Dandy, Adolphe Menjou
 Now, perhaps I just don’t know how to accept accolades and admiration, and perhaps my dumbfounded stunned silence in response was an overreaction;  but the House of Brews loo seemed neither the appropriate time nor place to be exchanging complimentary conversation with a fellow XY. Standing there, side by side by Sondheim, John Thomas’s exposed and living free and easy, is generally a circumstance in which one stays more commonly to themselves; a rare moment of peace, a chance to look inward, a time of reflection, of singing to oneself quietly, or of recalling lists of things to do - but not normally a period for witty banter or repartee, or for comparisons of any sort. In regards to the "we're both dandies" commentary, this I cannot knowledgably address, for I observed proper protocol and did not reciprocate the apparel ogling and scrutinizing. 

Modern Dandy, Raymond J. Johnson Jr. You can call him Ray, or you can call him Jay...

 And why flattery in 19thcentury jargon - by all outward appearances the chappy did not seem to be from an earlier age?  Yet, despite his contemporary façade, he used the terminology, “dandy.” Should I have rejoined, “nay, my fine fellow, I am certainly no dandy. Charge me with thy term rapscallion, rake or even fop. But dandy I take offense to?” In retrospect, would a challenge to a duel, flintlock pistols at 20 paces, have been a fitting response?

To clarify for any women amongst the readership, from my understanding, men’s rooms and women’s rooms present substantially dissimilar environs.  Apparently, ladies rooms are superior to most New York City apartments, with couches,  large, well-lit mirrors,  seating areas, shelves to place needed accoutrements, big screen TV’s, open bars and masseurs. They are, by all accounts, perpetual personal paradises.  Men’s rooms, on the contrary, are basically holes in which things can go and then be disposed of; where one deals with the business at hand and then disperses as quickly as possible.

But, the relevant concluding question is, is nycityman indeed a dandy - a relic of a past era, an artifact from an ancient epoch, a remnant of long-forgotten days?  So, I happen to possess the footwear pictured. Is that walking stick representative of a dandy? (Hmm, a query that fairly answers itself, I suppose.) And I stock more waistcoats than the cloak room at Versailles and enough fedoras to supply a Broadway revival of “The Front Page.” That doesn’t make me a dandy.
"Maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing, after all."

Okay, as I mature and the years pass, maybe I am hurtling dangerously toward dandy-ism, with mustache wax, silk ascots and straw bowlers all items destined as future acquisitions; but I do request, if so moved out of kindness and unavoidable observation to praise such sartorial garnishes, let’s reserve that tête-à-tête for areas outside of the sensitive domain of the lavatory, and the next round will be on me.

Today’s tomfoolery closes with a pair of artists destined for performance and concert stages together – the Kinks perform, “Dandy” and Nelson Eddy sings, “Stout-Hearted Men" (listen to Nelson holding on to that note from about 1:33 in - you've got to love it.)

 Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

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