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Entries in Gear (141)

Monday
Dec172012

Craftsman Hand Tools 

These chromed puppies are still made stateside, and carry a sort of benchmark in the realm of “lifetime warranty”. Take any hand tool: a wrench, a screwdriver. Maybe some pliers. Use them. Heck, even abuse them. They’re good for life. And not just your life.

Maybe you inherited them from dad. Or grandpa. Or maybe the tools cascaded down through the obscure flume of antiquity from a distant ancestor. They might have been bought 3rd hand twice removed at a flea market out of some guy’s trunk. They may be etched and caked with grime from untold use on long extinct automobiles, whose parts have been melted down and made into new Craftsman hand tools. No matter. That tool is guaranteed for life. Break a tool, and take it directly to any Sears (yes, they still exist), and a replacement will be proffered.

Obviously, Craftsman remains well made. Somehow the longevity of these tools flouts conventions of the typical lifetime warranty. Perhaps, it should read: “Multiple Lifetimes”. Or: “Guaranteed for the life of a family tree”. Or maybe even: “Whosoever haveth this tool at such time it doth break shall be entitled to a new one”. Like many well made things, Craftsman hand tools just seem to last.

Wednesday
Dec122012

Rickshaw Bagworks

The messenger bag has, in many ways, become the lynchpin of small, upstart, domestic manufacturing here in the states. The demand is there, with the utility needs of carry and transport intersecting with the DIY mindset of the young city dwelling professional whose trappings include ever shrinking rectangular tablet and smart phone devices, and who actively seek out homespun reinventions of American manufacture. With a range of sleek urban bags, the Rickshaw Bagworks Company is carving a niche for itself in San Francisco.

Rickshaw is formed around the notion that people love bags as pragmatic devices of use value, and, by way of natural extension, fashionable accents. The name of the company, Rickshaw, is an obvious reference to the human drawn bicycle carts, and speaks to the core ethos of the bag maker. There is something simple, timeless, and perhaps even poetic about the singularity and efficiency of a bicycle. And a rickshaw – well hey – that even pulls the weight of others.

Rickshaw carries a line of messenger bags, laptop bags, totes, sleeves of various dimensions and ilk, backpacks, and folios (even a folio for the still ubiquitous and somewhat timeless Moleskine journal). There’s also a bag designed for the handlebars of a bike for added storage space in transit. For urban transit, daily commutes, cross town errand running, by way of taxi, subway, bus or foot, Rickshaw bags offers an array of carrying options.

Tuesday
Oct092012

Dixon Ticonderoga

When tasked to name a favorite grade school feast, many might cite tater tots or johnny marzetti. Some might recall the tantalizing aroma of tacos as the cafeteria line moved at an excruciatingly slow pace. Still others might fondly reminisce of the wonderment that was Pizza Friday. But if honesty is the best policy, let’s indeed be honest; we chewed on nothing as often as we nibbled on our whittled down, trusted yellow number two pencil.

As did our father and his father and infinitely down the family tree. And the best odds are that the incisor-indented writing tool in our collective adolescent mouths came from Dixon Ticonderoga.

Based now in Florida, the office, school and art supply company was originally founded in 19th century Jersey City. Named after graphite mine magnate Joseph Dixon and New York battleground Fort Ticonderoga, the company has served as the go-to medium of communication, art and scholastics since its inception (“You can’t erase pen ink”, the teacher always said). While online text seems to reign these days, it is impossible to tally Dixon Ticonderoga’s importance over the years. Important correspondence, be it lamenting love letters from two souls separated by war, or a scholarly revelation of math or science, following hours of trial and error, the simple pencil has been both the background and forefront of personal and global history. Before technology made us lazy, a Dixon Ticonderoga made us earn it.

These days the legacy lives on. There is a charm to the DIY factor of life, and it is a model that we have all followed at some point, as will our kids, thanks to the Dixon Ticonderoga. Just remember the cardinal rule: never chew the metallic eraser holder. It’s hell on the teeth.

Monday
Oct082012

Miguel’s Pizza & Rock Climbing Shop

Image Robannz

A trip to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest isn’t really complete without a stop at Miguel’s. This pizza shop has been feeding climbers, hikers, locals, spelunkers, and visitors since 1984, and probably has the distinction of the only pizza parlor and rock climbing shop on the planet. The gravel parking lot is usually filled. Volvos and SUVs and ramshackle Civics (and at least one token VW Bus at any given time) with plates as far flung as Montana, Vermont, and Ontario. Several from Colorado and New York. Most splaying bumper stickers – markers, really – of past outdoor conquests and treks, or allegiances to jam bands. A dancing bear. Some Phish icon. The packed lot speaks to the quality of the place.

The pizza itself is a well-made and unique semi thin crusted pie, and bears a vague resemblance to pizza indigenous to the East Coast, and harkens to eponymous owner Miguel Ventura’s former residence of Connecticut. A heady hint of oregano tops off the pizzas, with a grand permutation of possible additions including chorizo, corn, pasta spirals, rice, beans, tofu, and zucchini; orders are made at a counter flanked by 200 foot coils of specialty climbing rope, carabiners, headlamps, and displays of high end rubber toed climbing shoes. Tables inside are surrounding by repurposed bench seats from school buses worn and frayed from years of use, and patched loosely with red duct tape. The overall ambiance of the place exudes a well worn, comfortable, and inviting feel, and is well in line with the rugged yet inviting ambiance of the Red River Gorge.

Image B.Smaurer

Outside, around back, Miguel’s offers a table area for eating, and a wall of Ale-8 deposit bottles braces against the outer wall of the basement, and clutches of friends huddle over a steaming pizza and soft drinks. A half court basketball setup to the side seems to have a constant game of pick-up, and occasionally hosts tournaments comprised of teams of rock climbers. The 24 hour accessible basement is a tiny cove of a room evocative of a mid nineties coffee shop. Replete with worn paperbacks of Dragon Lance and Anne Rice novels on a shelf, the ubiquitous chess sets in various disrepair, in colder weather the basement provides extra dining space, and also presents a kind of living room for campers.

Image Paradem

Behind Miguel’s one can’t help but notice acres of tents. Some of them appear well established with wooden platforms, blue tarpaulins heavy with leaf sediment, and guy wires anchoring to stakes and trees. Campers can camp for $3 a night, and do – attracting climbers from around the nation and globe, offering a sense of community while they participate in events on and around the numerous crags and rock faces at the Red River Gorge. Amenities include shower facilities, laundry, wifi and computer access, and even cooking facilities. There are also a few bedrooms for rent for around $40 a night. It’s like a modern, rock climbing oriented equivalent of a medieval tavern or inn, offering a sort of one stop shop for travelers and climbers. Miguel’s is an experience, and is almost emblematic of the Red River Gorge.

Thursday
Sep272012

Prasco Park 

Regardless of which side of the aisle a person stands concerning medical care, wellness and good health are universal necessities. And falling ill can be an expense that debilitates one’s financial health as well. Prasco has been a company set on healing bodies and wallets since the introduction of Authorized Generics in 2004. Authorized Generics (high quality pharmaceuticals at a generic price) have been saving lives and bank accounts for millions, and Prasco is the industry leader in this movement. And now, though already armed with an arsenal of good karma, Prasco is bringing its philanthropic culture to another institution-the baseball diamond.

Cincinnati is home to the first professional baseball team so it makes sense that Prasco’s homage to the great American past-time takes place in the Cincinnati area. Prasco Park is a state of the art baseball stadium with a golden era aesthetic to it. One can imagine Babe Ruth swatting bombs or Willie Mays shagging flies inside the pristinely clean brick domicile. Of course the players and fans of those days never enjoyed the meticulous upkeep that goes into maintaining the picturesque field of dreams. Nestled against Mother Nature’s finest backdrop, the stadium boasts 550 permanent chair-back seats, poured concrete dugouts, a clubhouse, press box and a sound system that is typically only found in newer Major League venues. The private field is home to the Cincinnati Spikes, a professional team, and with its dimensions has served as host to many baseball events, from youth leagues to collegiate. And in an act that falls in line with the values of its parent company, admission and parking is usually free at Prasco Park.

A dose of Americana at its finest? Perhaps the greatest medicine of all.

Tuesday
Sep252012

Baden Sports-Axe 

As MLB pennant races heat up alongside the scorching dog days of August, baseball fans have been given box seats to a season of change. The knuckleball has returned, as has the resurrgence of small market clubs in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Teenagers swing like veterans in Washington; veterans everywhere are clinging to their field of dreams like superstitous shortstops keeping to the grass in nonsensical ritual (NEVER step on the chalk). And in Detroit, a husky man named Fielder menaces opposing fastballs; he is no Cecil, but they do call him Prince.

The prince is crowned on the diamond; the baseball bat, perhaps, might soon have a new king.

From Little League to the NCAA, slow pitch softball to Phillies infielder Jimmy Rollins, the old batter’s box adage “chopping wood” has taken a turn for the literal. Baden Sports, pioneers behind too many sporting good innovations to list, unveiled the Axe this season. The revolutionary bat, approved at all competitive levels, has taken an old Ted Williams offseason training regimine and introduced it to the playing field. Where traditional slugger lumber was rounded at the handle, causing an unnatural tension from impact to the hands (a nightmare for team physicians), the Axe is ergonomically structured to mold to the natural movement of the swing. The results? Less stress fractures and (as close as can be) a fighting chance to connect on an Aroldis Chapman 105 mph missile.

As of this writing, 11 models exist for athletes across the four-bag spectrum. At the professional level, Baden employs the traditional ash and maple DNA from American trees, fabricating tension-free at-bats from their factory in Wisconsin. And with the full endorsement of former pros and current stars, the next wave of the sport is trinkling in. With the Baden Sports Axe increasingly in the hands of Little Leaguers globally, the next decade’s wave could be bordering on tidal.

As for purists? Basketball was originally a game played with peach baskets. Imagine what Shaq would have done to those poor things. And if an axe handled bat was good enough for Red Sox icon Ted Williams, we say it’s good enough for the game.

Tuesday
Sep182012

Liberty Bottleworks

Made in America

These durable aluminum bottles boast the distinction of the only all metal drinking bottle made in the USA. Fashioned in the sleek style of the cylindrical canteen popular with today’s outdoor enthusiasts, health buffs, and just folks on the go, the Liberty bottles offer an array of painted styling as decoration. Ranging from the “Mass Transit” model (featuring a selection of subway maps from various American cities), to the model described as “Topo” (a set of topographical elevation maps), and “Freedom” which is a small collection of drawings inspired from WWII era posters and pinups, and other stylizations, the water drinker can choose what sort of statement – fashion or otherwise – they wish to make. Buyers can also order custom designs as promotional devices or a commemorative series.

Liberty Bottleworks is also committed to engaging an ongoing stewardship with various charitable and conservational organizations, and as such pledges 1% of sales proceeds, and 1% of employee working hours to the betterment of those causes. Such commitment is in line with the company ethos, spearheaded by a product that keeps untold thousands of pounds of disposable water bottle waste out of landfills – not to mention the money saved over years of not buying twenty ounce bottles of water from vending machines. Kind of liberating.

Friday
Sep142012

Standard Goods 

Garrett Colton might be a good candidate for the television series “Hoarders”, and that’s alright with us.

After a two-year gig alongside Scott Sternberg at L.A. menswear label Band of Outsiders, Colton’s harboring tendencies, combined with a creative influx that filled his worldview with everything from clothing and books to coffee beans and locally crafted jams, led to a passion project; a modern take on the timeless general store.

Standard Goods opened last fall in a small storefront on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. A throwback to the small town department store, Standard Goods offers a variety of must-haves. A meticulously scrutinized clothing line, vintage LL Bean and products from MAKR among them. West Sweet Preserves find their way to the shelves, as do Tourne ceramic vessels, skateboard decks, leather goods and anything else that might be found through local artists, obscure international brands or the unabashed treasured cove that is the garage sale. It is a lesson in the rustic, a dive into the eccentric. From behind the counter, a painting of the debonair (and just a touch unnerving) Davenport Brothers watches over the operation, a 1960’s relic that serves as homage to the diverse vibe that filters the room.

Standard Goods has unleashed a “Guest Buyer” series, employing artistic souls (RTH’s René Holguin, Saving the Season’s Kevin West to name a few) to purchase items for the shop. Guest buyers educate clients on their purchases in a video produced for Standard Goods’ web site. It is, in affect, more experience than commerce; unlike its name, nothing standard occurs here.

At Standard Goods, expect an artist’s den and a new outlook on what we call “things”. But don’t expect to buy the Davenport Brothers painting-something so effortlessly cool cannot have a price tag put on it.

Friday
Aug312012

Rolling Orange 

Rolling With Model Doutzen Kroese

Rolling Orange, a Brooklyn bicycle boutique/lifestyle outlet, is a company seeking an unlikely revolution: the act of slowing down.

In Holland, city living is revered. Met with the same abundance of population and constraints of time and space as other metropolises globally, the Dutch culture has conquered the traditional city ailments by in fact slowing it down. Through cargo and city bikes, pre-WWII vehicles that provide the strength and accessory components of an automobile, the Dutch have cleared the streets of congestion (and toxic emissions in their skies) by adopting the health-conscious, DIY freedom of biking for transport. Why can’t it work in Gotham? We can’t find a reason and neither could Rolling Orange owner Ad Hereijers. It was this success story that inspired Rolling Orange.

The lifelong city boy runs the company under the concept that everyone should “go into the slow lane and take time to enjoy urban life.” And with the Holland fabricated two-wheelers, which come in an array of stunning bright colors (hipsters fear not-standard black is available as well) and a plethora of configurations and add-on options, the vessel to bring harried New Yorker’s to a lifestyle of pedaled strokes (and away from the cardiac kind) is suddenly stylized and attainable.

Exchanging subway tokens and cab fare for fresh air seems like such an obvious no-brainer. These nightmare expenses could be forgotten with therapy. Riding a bike? You never forget how, and after straddling a Rolling Orange cargo bike, you’ll never want to.

Thursday
Aug302012

Petaluma Supply Co.

In the landmark Charles Schultz comic “Peanuts”, a major arc involves Charlie Brown’s regal Beagle, Snoopy, as the future MetLife spokesdog trains for a wrist-wrestling contest in a California town called Petaluma. It was a charming story that played out in the Sunday morning dailies, just behind the coupons and obits. And it became an American classic.

Petaluma seems to breed American classics on rotation, evident by the Petaluma Supply Co. Located at a crossroads of farm life, couture consciousness and wine country, Petaluma Supply Co. is based 45 minutes north of the Bay area, (.045 seconds on your PC) a haberdashery throwback that seamlessly serves a demographic as eclectic as the neighbors that surround them. Vintage rugged bags, pomade and shaving cream, the found wooden letter opener, perhaps even an original edition of the Boy Scout Handbook-Petaluma is a virtual general store, an environment most un-peggable (though they probably would sell pegs, should they be unique and interesting enough).

The variety is expansive; an item might range from a quirky barn or warehouse discovery to any of its numerous, esteemed brands (Field Notes, Tally & Hoe, Wood & Faulk amongst them). It is a rewind of time, homage to an era when excellence in quality was not a tagline or a boast, but simply something expected and required. They serve as a purveyor of a lifestyle that respects “things”, things that are tangible and fleshy, built from one hand and placed into another.

The “things” that fill the spaces in our lives, vintage in age and timeless in merit. Kind of like Woodstock’s floppy-eared best friend. There must be something in the Sonoma County water.

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