Bulee ‘Slim’ Gaillard was an American jazz musician, singer and songwriter born on January 4, 1916. There remains some dispute regarding the place of his birth, with some sources asserting that he was born in Detroit. Gaillard himself claimed to have been born in Santa Clara, Cuba where he spent his childhood picking bananas and cutting sugar cane. In a BBC documentary done on his life, he wistfully reminisced that he never really had a childhood – that he only remembers working from his earliest memories.
His father, Theophilus Rothschild was of German-Jewish ethnicity, while his mother, Maria (Mary) Gaillard was Afro-Cuban. It’s interesting to me that he took his mother’s maiden name as his surname.
His father was a chief steward for a steamship line, and he would sometimes accompany him on ocean voyages – which is apparently how he inadvertently got left behind and subsequently stranded on the Isle of Crete at the age of 12, for almost 4 years.
So, think about this: A 12-year old youngster gets left by his father on the island of Crete – an ocean away from his home, at a place where a completely different language is spoken, and where they don’t even use the same alphabet. He never saw either of his parents again.
While on Crete, he picked-up a few words of Greek and initially made some money making shoes and hats. Remember, this is a 12-year old. At some point, he started working on boats serving eastern Mediterranean ports – mostly to Beirut and Syria, where he learned to speak Arabic. His native language was Spanish, but he also subsequently learned to speak German, Greek, Arabic, Armenian and finally English.
Sometime, probably in 1931, he re-crossed the Atlantic on a ship that he reportedly hoped would ultimately get him back to Cuba, but upon arrival in New York, he never got off, and ended up in Detroit, probably via the Welland Canal. When he got there, he had nothing, and apparently didn’t even speak English. But in his own words, “I learned how to survive. When I got to Detroit, I found that there were Greeks and Arabian people there, so naturally I was more at ease with them.”
In Detroit, he was taken in by an Armenian family who owned a store, where he watched over the family’s children. He apparently tried making some money at prize-fighting; drove a hearse with coffins filled with bootleg liquor for the Purple Gang during Prohibition; worked in a slaughterhouse; trained as a mortician; and allegedly became friends with Al Capone.
While driving the hearse for the Purple Gang, he became interested in American jazz, and realized that it could become a viable way to earn a decent income. He consequently began taking evening courses in music and began to teach himself on a number of musical instruments – becoming proficient on piano, guitar, tenor saxophone and vibraphone.
At about this time he entered vaudeville with an act in which he reportedly tap-danced while playing the guitar.
After meeting and receiving encouragement from Duke Ellington backstage in Detroit, he made his way to New York City, determined to make it in the music and entertainment business.
By 1936-37, he teamed with bassist, Leroy Eliot ‘Slam’ Stewart, who had a unique musical style of bowing his bass while humming the same notes an octave higher. The duo billed themselves as, ‘Slim and Slam,’ of course.
Remember, just eight years before, this young man was homeless in Detroit after being abandoned as a child in Crete for almost four years, and could not even speak English. The proficiency and rapidity with which he became fluent in the English language (with no perceptible accent) is really nothing less than astounding. He was not formally educated. When he lived in Cuba as a child, he worked as a laborer.
With this initial success came a long-running radio program and a chance to appear as part of a specialty swing number with Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in the film, “Hellzapoppin,” in 1941. The segment below provides a good opportunity to see ‘Slim and Slam’ in their prime - along with probably the most exuberant and athletic swing dance sequence ever put on film.
Classic 'Slim and Slam' open this specialty sequence in the 1941 film, "Hellzapoppin.' But the real stars here are the dancers who were part of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers from the Savoy Ballroom. I'm fairly confident you will never see another swing dance sequence like this in your life.
Of all the dancers in this number, only one survives - Norma Miller, - who at 96 years old, was the dancer wearing the chef's hat in the video above. One of my ambitions in life is to meet this remarkable lady before either one of us dies.
As for the musicians in the sequence above, the vocalist, pianist and guitarist is obviously Slim Gaillard (a.k.a., McVouty); the bassist is Leroy "Slam" Stewart; the cornetist is Rex Stewart (from Duke Ellington's orchestra); and the drummer is Cee Pee Johnson (a regular at a number of Central Avenue jazz clubs in Los Angeles). I believe the clarinetist may be Jack McVea, but I'm not certain (note also that he's playing a metal clarinet). I do not know the identity of the trombonist.
In 1943, Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart were both drafted, with Gaillard going into the U.S. Army Air Force and serving as a pilot flying B-26 bombers in the Pacific.
After being discharged from military service in 1944, Gaillard teamed with bassist ‘Bam’ Brown as, what else – ‘Slim and Bam.’ During this period, another Gaillard novelty composition was written and recorded entitled, “Cement Mixer,” which became another popular hit, along with “Down By the Station,” which became a classic children’s song.
As the 1940’s wore on, he continued with his hip, eccentric, actually surreal style of entertaining, and like many jazz musicians of the period, he transitioned into the bebop idiom, playing with the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
I characterize his style as surreal because of his very off-beat sense of humor and playing which nonetheless was still indicative of an extraordinary talent.
For example, the recording of his song “Yep Roc Heresy,” was banned by one radio station as degenerate – even though it was simply a recitation of the menu from an Armenian restaurant. Slim always seemed to have the last laugh. He is also the only musician I’ve ever seen who could credibly play the piano with the backs of his hands, or play the guitar with his left hand fretting from the top of the neck.
The performance below from The Steve Allen Playhouse which aired on March 4, 1963 provides a good example of Slim Gaillard’s classic comedic talents as a jazz and popular musician.
Classic Slim Gaillard - a very talented multi-instrumentalist and outstanding jazz musician. The only musician I ever saw who could credibly play a piano with the backs of his hands. The sequence where he plays alternatively with the front and backs of his hands, elbows and right shoe is nothing short of amazing. Not only does he not miss a beat, he hits all the right notes - and makes it look so easy in the process. It's not.
You've also gotta love the way he fit the program sponsors (and Westinghouse Broadcasting) into his lyrics. A savvy entertainer indeed.
From The Steve Allen Playhouse that originally aired on March 4, 1963.
From the latter part of the 1940’s through the 1950’s, he took up semi-residency at Billy Berg’s Swing Club on Hollywood Boulevard, appeared at Birdland and Downbeat in New York City, and toured with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic. Jack Kerouac even recounted his encounter with Slim Gaillard at a San Francisco club in his classic beat novel, “On the Road.”
In the 1960’s and ‘70’s, Gaillard turned to acting and began guest appearing in television shows such as Mission Impossible; Charlie’s Angels; Marcus Welby, M.D.; and Medical Center, and in the mini-series, Roots: The Next Generation, as Sam Wesley.
He was apparently pretty smart with a buck too, and with his show business earnings, for a period of time ran a motel in San Diego, owned an apple orchard outside of Tacoma, Washington, and owned some real estate in Florida.
Slim Gaillard was also Marvin Gaye’s father-in-law. His daughter Janis married Marvin Gaye, and she gave birth to Marvin Gaye’s only child – fashion model, singer and actress, Nona Marvisa Gaye.
In 1982, he returned to music at the suggestion of Dizzy Gillespie, and toured Europe extensively, making London his home from 1983 on. He died from cancer on February 26, 1991 at the age of 75.
So, why have I spent so much time in telling you about this man? And what does he have to do with being a flâneur in 21st century America?
I personally believe there is something to be learned in his approach to life.
In his own words, he never looked back. He kept moving forward – even though he wanted to look back, and it was painful for him not to do so. And this is what most of us do. We look back, and we fret at why things didn't go the way we wanted them to. And we don't move forward. We stay stuck.
But look at what he accomplished in his life by not looking back - or by fretting over the present. Here was a 12-year old child who was essentially abandoned in a foreign country, halfway around the globe from his own home, never to see his parents or his home again.
I cannot even begin to fathom the trauma and despair and sadness this young man experienced so early in his young life. Yet he did not allow the circumstances of this life to crush him. He coped and persevered, and ultimately became remarkably successful. I personally believe he had a guiding Hand. And perhaps that Hand is evidenced in one of his songs, “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” – an uncharacteristically somber song that he generally only sung by request, and when he did, tears would reportedly often flow from his eyes.
One of his longtime show business associates who worked with Gaillard from 1965 through 1972 was Mariah Adams, aka Marian Vee, who asserts that the song was in actuality a prayer that came to him from God.
None of us will ever know that for sure, except perhaps Slim. But when you research this man, it becomes evident that despite the incredible fears, sorrows and loneliness this life must have given him, he remained universally known for his genial disposition, off-the-wall sense of humor, intelligence and talent, and that he always had a smile for those around him. There was no self-pity here.
So you look at this talented, hip, surreal jazz musician at his peak by the late 1940's, and when you come to realize the circumstances of his life story, you can't help but marvel how he evolved into the entertainer he became.
In 1986, the BBC produced a remarkable four-part series on this man's life and music. Like Slim himself, the documentary is a bit surreal in parts, but it probably provides the most in-depth look at this man we will ever get.
He was clearly a free spirit, being guided I think, by something greater than himself. Always moving forward. Always reaching out to others with a smile and wit. Making those around him laugh. The qualities of a good flâneur, I think.
And despite the fact that few people today remember him, he led a most remarkable life. Certainly an instructive example for me. Maybe you too, once you get to know him.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
If you're so inclined, the 4-part, 4-hour BBC documentary entitled, "Slim Gaillard's Civilization," is currently available on YouTube, and you can access each of the episodes from the links below. There are also many, many other videos of Slim Gaillard performances available on YouTube for those interested in researching him further.
You will need the following ingredients:
4 Cups - Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup - Whole, Organic Milk
½ Cup - Water
1 Tblsp - Instant DRY Yeast
6 Tblsp - Unsalted Butter, Softened
2-4 Tblsp - Honey
2 Tsp - Salt
Whisk together the flour and yeast in the mixer bowl. The flour and yeast should be thoroughly mixed, so whisk briskly for at least a minute.
Combine the whole milk and water in a 2-cup capacity, microwavable measuring cup, and microwave the milk/water until it is approximately 105°F (40-60 seconds on ‘High,’ depending on your microwave). Use a food thermometer after removing the measuring cup from the microwave to ensure precise temperature.
If it’s not hot enough, place the milk/water back in the microwave (without the thermometer, of course), and heat incrementally until 105°F is reached. If the milk/water is too hot, simply leave it to cool to 105°F.
The proper temperature is important, because the dough needs to be warm enough to allow the yeast to bud, and the dough to rise. If the solution is too hot, you’ll kill the yeast. Too cold, and the yeast won’t do anything.
Place the mixer bowl on your stand mixer and mix at low speed with a dough hook. On a KitchenAid mixer, this would be speed #2.
Add the butter in 1 tablespoon increments, then slowly add the heated milk/water mixture, followed by the honey, then the salt. (Note: You’ll have 2 tablespoons of butter left over from your stick. Place the remainder in the refrigerator for the time being, as you will use it later.) Use a bowl scraper to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl if necessary, while adding the ingredients. I prefer one with a handle, only because it’s easier to use.
Once all the flour is moistened, increase your mixer to medium speed (#4 on a KitchenAid), and beat for 7 minutes.
At the end of the 7 minutes, remove the dough from the mixer, and place it on a lightly floured countertop (I also use a silicone food mat). The dough should be smooth and somewhat shiny. Knead the dough by hand for a minute or two, shaping it roughly into a football. Then cover it with plastic food wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes. The dough should approximately double in size during that time if the yeast is properly active.
Remove the plastic food wrap from the dough and knead by hand for another couple of minutes, gradually working it into an elongated shape for easy placement into the pain de mie pan.
Insert the dough into a pain de mie pan that has been greased on all sides with unsalted butter, using the remainder of the stick you had placed in the refrigerator.
Note: Using butter on the sides of the bread pan allows the bread to brown nicely when placed in the oven.
Depress the dough with your knuckles or fists so that it uniformly covers the entire bottom of the bread pan. Slide the lid on the pain de mie pan, leaving about an inch opening at the end, covering that opening with plastic food wrap. Don’t forget to also grease the underside of the lid with your remaining unsalted butter.
If you are not using a proof box, you can use your oven for the second dough rise. Place the bread pan on the center rack of an unheated oven to allow the dough to proof (e.g., rise) for 30-40 minutes.
I also pre-boil a pot of water, and place the pot of boiling water on the bottom of the oven when I place the dough in the oven to proof. The moisture and heat from the boiling water helps the dough to rise faster.
When you see the dough coming up through the 1-inch opening you left at the end of the bread pan, remove the pan from the oven, and the lid from the pan. Deflate the dough with your knuckles or fists, then slide the lid fully back on the pain de mie pan.
Preheat the oven to 425°F, placing the bread pan on the center rack for 20 minutes. Make sure that the position of the pain de mie pan is such that the lid slides towards you when you place it in the oven.
At the end of 20 minutes, open the oven door and carefully slide the lid of the pain de mie pan completely off, placing the lid in your sink or other safe place. I use silicone potholders for this operation. Remember, you’re handling metal that is 425°F.
Leave the bread pan baking in the oven without the lid for another 8-15 minutes – depending on how brown and thick you want your crust.
When the bread has browned to your desired level, remove the bread pan from the oven, and let sit for 5 minutes. The bread will shrink slightly during that time, allowing you to easily remove it from the pan.
After the 5-minute cooling period, I gently run a small icing spatula around the perimeter the bread (but you can also use a standard butter knife).
Spread a clean kitchen towel on your counter and, using potholders (as your bread pan will still be extremely hot), pick the bread pan up by the ends and slowly tilt the pan away from you, directly over the kitchen towel. The bread should simply tumble out of the pan onto the towel.
Place the bread on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. The first slice is always the best!
Probably the most critical item you’ll need to bake a standard Pullman loaf is the bread pan. I use Amco Food Service Pullman Pans with sliding Lids, and I find them to be the best bread pans I’ve ever used. They’re heavy-gauge, aluminized steel, commercial bakery pans. And perhaps most important of all, they have a silicone coating that allows the bread to simply slide out, and clean-up is a snap – ‘cause nothing sticks. These pans are available from Amazon. Just click on the links above to see them.
A standard dial pocket food thermometer is what I use to ensure my milk/water mixture is at 105°F. Not sure how you can achieve that without one. You can get these for about $5.
A 2-cup capacity Pyrex glass liquid measuring cup is also virtually essential to get your milk/water mixture to the proper temperature using a microwave. About $7-$9.
Standard sets of dry measuring cups and measuring spoons are probably also essential. Some bakers are experienced enough to gauge by dead reckoning. But I know I’m not.
You actually don’t need an electric stand mixer with a dough hook in order to make your dough. Indeed, people have been kneading dough by hand for millennia. You can mix the ingredients manually in a bowl until the dough reaches a consistency where you can take it out and knead it by hand. But figure on allowing yourself at least an extra 20 minutes to do that. Good exercise, though.
If you do use an electric mixer, make sure it has a powerful enough motor to handle the density of the dough. My choice would be a standard KitchenAid, but you’ll need a fair amount of dough to get one (sorry).
And So Why Is It Called a Pullman Loaf?
Pullman loaves were originally called pain de mie by the French, and were baked by European bakers beginning in the early 1700’s in order to minimize crust.
In the United States, the Pullman Company selected this type of loaf for standard use in all of its railroad dining cars, simply because its brick shape made it stackable, and it conserved space in the very compact dining car galleys and pantries operated by Pullman.
Given that most people alive today only know of Amtrak as an operator of rail passenger service in the United States, few probably realize that up until December 31, 1968 – the Pullman Company operated virtually all sleeping car service in the country, and at its peak in 1925, operated a fleet of 9800 cars, employing 28,000 conductors and 12,000 porters.
Observation-lounge bar car Hickory Creek operated on the New York Central's 20th Century Limited between New York and Chicago from 1948 until the mid-1960's. The car also had 5 double bedrooms.
The on-board services, amenities and equipment offered by the Pullman Company were considered to be so superior, that virtually all famous trains operated during the last century, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited, and the New York Central's 20th Century Limited were operated for most of their existence as extra-fare, all-Pullman trains - meaning that all the railroads did was to pull the cars that were actually operated by another company - not the railroads themselves.
I sometimes wonder how many Americans today even know what a Pullman car is. Yet as recently as only 50 years ago, they were as much common-knowledge as Western Union telegrams.
The company was headquartered on the South Side of Chicago. When company founder George Pullman died in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, was named as company president. In 1911, he was named chairman of the board of the Pullman Company, and remained in that position until 1922. He died in 1926.
So there you go. More information about Pullman loaves than you could ever possibly imagine. Enjoy the bread!
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
Note: If viewing Part 4 on an iPad or other tablet, this particular post is best viewed in a landscape orientation due to some formatting issues specific to the mobile environment. Smart phones are fine in portrait mode.
Finally, those of you following this blog for its lifestyle perspectives may be wondering about the purpose of all of these initial, perhaps overly philosophical postings, and why this one in particular addresses a topic that could be considered by many as so morose.
Because we all have to deal with it.
How we react to the hurt can have enormous consequences regarding the quality and fulfillment of our lives. And so I felt that it was important to establish some basic tenets of Social Interaction, because I view it as such a key element in the pursuit of flânerie – which happens to be my adopted personal approach for maximizing the quality of my remaining life, and which I have also chosen to share with others through this blog.
All too often I find that the people with whom I interact are struggling with the same issues that I am - but nobody seems to want to discuss them openly. Instead, most prefer to construct facades of perfection in their lives for the benefit of others that have no relationship to reality. As a result, their struggles are unaddressed, and therefore unresolved. And the hidden despair and loneliness simply continues, albeit perhaps somewhat repressed.
And of course with the advent of the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, we've all taken the perpetuation of 'happy face' facades to a whole new globalized level, haven't we?
So with this posting, along with all of the other previous material that has been uploaded onto The American Flâneur blog and website, I think we’ve essentially established an important prerequisite framework with which to start truly enjoying what this life has to offer, face-to-face with our fellow human beings, along with some approaches to handle the pitfalls we're definitely going to encounter along the way.
So, here we go. It's time to kick-ass and make the most out of life.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
I must give my profound thanks to a cherished friend and award-winning blogger, Ms. Lisa M. Barr, who reviewed the preliminary draft of what became this 4-part post, and who was kind enough to provide her insightful comments regarding this difficult topic and my treatment of it - although I'm positive I didn't follow anywhere near enough of her very sage advice. Ms. Barr is just a wonderful lifestyle and bridal writer and blogger, and you can follow her on a number of her own social networking sites, a couple of which can be accessed by clicking on the icons below.
Now as much as it pains me to say this – as it is by now quite apparent that I am an enthusiastic advocate of quality bars as social institutions, particularly in the pursuit of flânerie – one thing I would not do when you’re hurting, is to go to your local bar and drown your sorrows in a half dozen or so cocktails, crying on the shoulder of your favorite bartender.
But perhaps more importantly, the consumption of alcohol does not ameliorate the effects of the melancholy. In fact, if you’re drinking by yourself, it only makes it worse. So if you’re sad when you walk into the bar, you’ll no doubt be about ready to kill yourself by the time you have to leave (especially after you get the bar tab).
I truly believe the best bet is to follow the points summarized in Part 2, to pray (yes, that's right, pray), and to just keep moving forward in terms of continued constructive Social Interaction. And that would be my best (and really only) advice to anyone, when the doors of friendship and love slam shut. You really have very little, if any, control over the feelings or perceptions of others. When you're rejected or betrayed by someone dear, it goes to the very core of your self-worth. It can cripple you if you let it. I get that. But you really need to suck it up and keep moving on. And that's what this series of postings is intended to help you do.
So let's wrap all of this up in Part 4.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
Note: If viewing Part 2 on an iPad or other tablet, this particular post is best viewed in a landscape orientation due to some formatting issues specific to the mobile environment. Smart phones are fine in portrait mode.
So, continuing from Part 1 of this post, when a door slams shut in my life with someone who had previously added so much to the quality of it, here are some things I hope that I will have the ability to do, in terms of strength, awareness and self-discipline, and I would respectfully suggest, you should too:
We'll continue to talk about the recovery process, including what not to do, and how to proceed next, in Part 3 and a few other subsequent blog postings.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.'"
We talked at length in the last post about how that with some of those whom you meet during your lifestyle as a flâneur, you will develop a profound admiration, affection and perhaps even love.
This is a good thing.
It is one of the most meaningful things you can do with your life, and it is one of the primary reasons for leading the life of a flâneur – so that you can meet as many such people as practicable. They will enrich and add meaning to your life. It is why Social Interaction is so important.
But there will be those who will not return your admiration or affection. At best they might be indifferent. Or they may even actively dislike you, ridicule you, or exploit your affections and maybe even play you for a fool by attempting to take advantage of you. Some may even betray your trust. Or even try to strategically harm you – in your work environment or your social or personal life for their own perceived advantage. When this happens, there will be a hurt and a bitterness unlike just about anything you’ve otherwise experienced.
This is one of the reasons why I placed such an emphasis on Agape love in the last post. Love selflessly. Expect nothing in return.
In doing so, you’re laying the emotional groundwork for dealing with the intense pain of rejection or betrayal when, (not if), it ultimately comes – without letting it ruin your life by poisoning your attitude or outlook. Because if you let that happen, you’re likely no longer to engage constructively in meaningful Social Interaction, which is so critical in my opinion to successful flânerie, and in enriching the quality of your life.
I can frankly see such rejections or betrayals coming in my own life, as sure as I am writing these words. And I am preparing for the blows when they come, because they will be devastating and profound, particularly at my age and stage of life. But whether you see it coming, or whether it catches you completely off-guard, what do you do when it happens?
We'll talk about that a bit in Part 2.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 37-40
Jesus replying to a question posed to him by the Pharisees at the Temple in Jerusalem.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15: 12-13
Jesus speaking to His disciples in the Upper Room during the Last Supper.
There is a long Judeo-Christian tradition of loving one another as being among the most important things we can do with the life that has been given us.
As you engage in the Social Interaction typical of a flâneur, already outlined somewhat extensively on this website, you will get to know many different types of people. Some you will like immediately; others you will grow to like as you get to know them better; and still others – no matter how hard you try (or even no matter how hard they may try) – will just not float your boat.
That doesn’t mean that those in this last group are necessarily bad people – it just means that their personalities and other characteristics that make-up their humanness are not simpatico with yours. And that’s okay. In situations like this, I think it’s absolutely all right to be thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to know them, as well as for how they may still have nonetheless enriched your life, and simply move on – ‘cause it’s a big world out there with lots of other people to meet.
Conversely, there will be people you meet with whom you hit it off immediately. They may possess qualities that you personally admire; you may find that you have shared experiences with each other that create a bond; or you may share similar worldviews that also create a bond – or any other combination of factors or characteristics.
As you get to know these people a bit deeper, the affinity and affection you have for them may ultimately develop into a profound love for them.
Love. In the post-modern, narcissistic American culture of today, we tend to associate that word, more often than not, with romance and/or sex – particularly if it is between people of different genders.
The ancient Greeks on the other hand appear to have been a bit more sophisticated in how they differentiated among different types of love, and for purposes of the treatise here, I believe it would be instructive to review how they defined the different types. The number of distinctions and actual terms used can vary from source to source, but for our purposes here, we’ll go with four types, and define them as follows:
So, given the frequent over-simplifications and misconceptions that have been reinforced through persistent conditioning in our present-day culture through the arts, commerce, politics and media for at least decades, it is no wonder that loving others – particularly those of opposing genders, even in a pure way, has the potential to cause much confusion, misinterpretation of intentions, anxiety, and even great sadness.
Yet to develop a selfless love for at least some of those whom you meet is an inevitable outcome of Social Interaction.
I suppose I would represent a classic case-in-point of one who has a propensity to love those of the opposite gender. As a 61-year old man who has been faithfully married to my wonderful wife for 23 years, the only man I have ever loved in any way was my father. That’s it. All of the other truly profound friendships I ever had in my life were with women.
I think the reason for this is relatively straightforward to explain. I was once described by a friend while in a bar as a [rather hopeless] Romantic.
Having that disposition, and working in the operations end of the railroad business for my entire adult life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the male co-workers with whom I was associated didn’t really share any of my sensibilities, interests, or for the most part, my outlook on life. In fact, they didn’t have a clue as to what made me tick. When I did meet someone who knew exactly what I was about, at least in my case – it was always a woman. Consequently throughout my entire adult life, my most profound friendships were always with women.
Perhaps my case is atypical – perhaps not. But I believe it is nonetheless instructive in how to love others, particularly those of opposing genders, and still be absolutely faithful to your spouse. And this brings me back to the four types of love identified by the ancient Greeks that were summarized above.
If you are married, I would argue that your spouse – and only your spouse, is the one person in your life for whom all four loves apply. And I would further assert that Eros love is a love to be reserved for your spouse, and your spouse alone.
Now I may have lost about 80% of my readers with that last statement given our current societal values – but that’s actually okay. Because it’s not difficult to see that things can get gummed up pretty fast if you are married, yet also unconditionally love others in your life – without following the two principles in the previous paragraph.
The other thing to keep in mind about your spouse is the special spiritual relationship God has created between a husband and wife that exists between no two other individuals, succinctly summarized by Jesus Christ in His response to the Pharisees concerning their inquiry to him regarding the lawfulness of divorce, as recounted in Mark 10:6-8:
“But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.”
Therefore, there is no other relationship in this life as exists between a husband and wife, regardless of how you love others. And it is important for your spouse to know this and believe this to truly be your feelings. Otherwise you will have some significant problems to overcome. In my life, I view my wife spiritually not as another person, but as an extension of myself, and me an extension of her.
And frankly what this means is that there is no one in this life equal to your spouse. If you always keep that in mind, and abide by it, you can love others (in an Agape sense) all you want, and your life will remain in balance.
However, I can also state without any equivocation, that there have been a number of other women in my life for whom I have had Agape love. And I have found these experiences to be among the most exhilarating, yet painful in my life.
Exhilarating, because it is a love for others as God intended – a purest form of love that requires nothing in return – that puts another human being ahead of your own selfish interests, and in my opinion, is the highest purpose to which you can commit your own life.
Painful, because those to whom such love is directed may not even be aware of it. And if they were, they may very well not understand it, and maybe would even ridicule it. Because it’s just not a common part of our culture. So the pain, and it can be quite intense, is associated with not getting back what you’ve offered in return. But remember, by its very definition, Agape love is not about what you get back from others – it’s about doing selflessly for them because they have come to mean something quite profound to you.
In our imperfect nature, it’s quite easy to try to love others selflessly but secretly hope for some acknowledgement or positive reinforcement from them. But when we do that, we are missing the point, and in the process, setting ourselves up to get seriously hurt.
However trust me, regardless of the selflessness of it, Agape love will still truly enrich your own life. It is the freest form of love to give, and it is totally under your control, because it’s predicated on nothing but your willingness to give it. To engage in Agape love with anyone will have a transformative effect on the perspective you have of your life.
I would respectfully suggest that you haven’t really lived until you’ve actually experienced it. And as a flâneur engaged in meaningful Social Interaction with many others – you will. It’s only a matter of time. Just be prepared for it when it comes.
Now. What do you do when a person to whom you’ve extended Agape love ignores you; rejects you out-of-hand; ridicules you; or even betrays you? What do you do? It will be one of the most painful experiences of your life. And how you respond will determine not only your longevity as a flâneur, but also your ultimate happiness as a human being. We’ll talk about that next, "When Doors Slam Shut.”
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
We live in very interesting times. People are communicating with one another at a greater frequency than at any other time in human history – but the means of communication is more often than not electronic, rather than face-to-face.
I am quite confident in asserting that humanity was never meant for this type of sterile Social Interaction. But nonetheless, it will no doubt continue to expand at probably an exponential rate. We are to the point where we prefer to text one another rather than have a telephone conversation, let alone one that is face-to-face. And we often don’t even use words to communicate anymore, but rather we have devolved into the use of technological hieroglyphics known as emoji and emoticons.
It was Pliny the Elder who first observed that the, “….eyes are the windows to the soul.” Yet, how soulless our interactions are in the context of today’s technology! How frequently we communicate with others without ever seeing their faces! And some of us don’t even speak to real humans, but rather artificial intelligence such as that which is built into our smartphones, like SIRI.
A true flâneur, in my view of the world, shuns this relatively recent predisposition towards impersonal communication and is always inclined to face-to-face conversation – preferably over a cocktail. This is the social creature man was meant to be. To be able to see the sparkle in the eye, or hear the inflection in the voice, or observe the body language while speaking – these are among the characteristics, the cumulative effect of which make up what we know as civilized Social Interaction. It’s not just words on some electronic device, or far worse – emoji.
So the flâneur endeavors to wander about the social places, watching those engaged in their daily activities – even if it’s only idleness, and always on the lookout for someone who piques his or her interest or curiosity. It could be something a person is doing, how they look, or perhaps just the expression on their face.
But the glorious freedom in the life of the flâneur is that you’ve made time in your own life to approach anyone you want and at least attempt to get to know theirs. By smiling, introducing yourself, and engaging them in some conversation that is meaningful both to them and to you. Not all who you approach will have an interest in returning your conversation. But you will be surprised at how many not only do, but who are also appreciative of the interest you have shown in them. And at the end of the conversation, you may have not only learned something of value from a fellow human being that can enrich your life, but you may have also made a new friend in the process.
Not too unlike the poetic lyrics from the wonderful Johnny Mercer song,
Free and easy, that's my style
Howdy-do me, watch me smile
Fare-thee-well me after a while
'Cause I gotta roam
And any place I hang my hat is home.
Sweetenin' water, cherry wine
Thank you kindly, suits me fine
Kansas City, Caroline
That's my honeycomb
'Cause any place I hang my hat is home.
Birds roostin' in a tree
Pick up and go, and the goin' proves
That's how it oughta be
I pick up too when the spirit moves me
(I go where it behooves me**)
Cross the river, 'round the bend
"Hello stranger!", "So long friend!"
There's a voice in the lonesome wind
That keeps whisp'ring, "Roam!"
I'm going where a welcome mat is
No matter where that is
'Cause any place I hang my hat is home.
 © 1946 Warner/Chappell Music Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
If there was ever a song that captured the true spirit of the uniquely American flâneur, for me this would no doubt be among the top three.
So, here’s a quick story for you that will serve as an instructive example for the point I’m trying to make in this post:
After a very difficult day in the office about four years ago, I wandered into my favorite bar at West 36th Street in New York City for a late lunch. It was about 2 o’clock – maybe even a little bit later. The place was mostly empty, save for a few people doing the same thing I was – namely taking a late lunch at the bar with a cocktail to wash it down and to take the edge off of a lousy day.
There was a lovely lady sitting a couple of barstools away, and after I had gotten myself into position with a Manhattan placed in front of me, she looked over, smiled, and asked me how I was doing. I think I sullenly replied, “Fine. How you doin?” – or some other such socially-retarded retort. Nonetheless, we started chatting over our libations and pub food – for the next several hours.
Needless to say, when the time came for us to part company that day, my outlook had changed completely – all on the strength of a conversation with someone who previously had been a complete stranger. We planned to get together for a follow-up lunch and, as sometimes happens after a chance, random encounter – we never did. And worse, we lost touch.
So think about this: If you can find such a friend only 1% of the time out of all of the new people that you meet, how much more enriched would the quality of your life be? And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you be seeking to meet new people all of the time? So, go out and do it. And do it intelligently. You owe yourself nothing less. (Note: For help with this, check out the Resources page to learn how to hold an engaging conversation, if in fact you are a recovering smart phone addict.)
But for you to motivate yourself to consistently meet new people, you really must have an interest in them; like them; and perhaps even grow to love them. You can’t be a misanthrope like I was for most of my life. If you are, I do not believe you would make a very good flâneur. You might as well just become a hermit.
We will talk about how to appropriately love others in the next blog posting – tricky business indeed given today’s crass, narcissistic, and carnal American culture.
But if you do it right, it’s the highest purpose you can give your life. And that's coming up next.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
Before you even set foot out the door to begin your journey as a flâneur, you need to make sure that your house is order, both in an allegorical and literal sense.
Why is this important? Why does it even matter?
Let’s talk about clutter and disorganization in the home. Both are symptoms of your state-of-mind. And if you are not clear of thought, in a methodical, organized way, you will not be able to effectively pursue flânerie as well as your capabilities would normally allow.
Throughout different periods in my life, I have found myself on both sides of the coin, and in reflecting upon this, the periods of disorganization in my home always seemed to be accompanied concurrently by periods of stress in my life – virtually always work-related.
It’s somewhat difficult for me still to discern the primary causal factor during those times of my disorganized home environment (e.g., did stress cause the clutter and disorganization, or did the clutter and disorganization cause the stress).
I suspect that stress and disorganization feed off of each other – with one exacerbating the other. So if you can get a handle on one, you’re probably well on the way to getting control of the other.
Of the two factors, I believe clutter/disorganization is the probably the easiest and quickest of which to gain effective control – but it still takes self-discipline and focus. And depending on the amount of clutter you may have accumulated in areas of your home, getting control over it may be daunting – if not downright overwhelming.
There’s only one way to start: with one room and one article at a time. So if you have a bedroom, home office or basement that looks like a bomb hit it – just start picking up stuff and sort it out. I initially sort things into different piles – with each pile consisting of like-things that will ultimately be organized or stored together in a single location. You should also have a trash pile – and that perhaps should be your biggest one.
With every item you pick-up or sort-out, you should be very rigorous in asking yourself whether-or-not you really, really need it. If the item is truly junk, you owe it to yourself to throw it away. If it’s still in a state-of-good-repair, but you no longer need it – make a separate pile for charitable donations (e.g., Purple Heart, Goodwill, etc.) and get the benefit of a tax deduction as well.
Once everything in a particular room has been organized into piles, start work on each pile and put the stuff, neatly and well organized, in its proper place.
I cannot emphasize enough how a well-organized home environment will enhance your journey as a flâneur. De-cluttering and organizing your home environment will do the same thing for your state-of-mind and put you in a position to most effectively engage in Social Interaction (not to mention the value it brings to your Image and the quality of your Lifestyle).
Remember, the pursuit of flânerie is not about accumulating stuff – it’s about the quality of the social interactions you engage in with the people around you and your ability to take the time “to smell the roses” and savor life itself.
This relentless pursuit of ‘stuff’ – and how most of us shortchange the quality of our very lives with what we have to do to get it – is how most of us all get caught up in “the daily grind” in the first place.
When my wife and I bought our house, it came with those single, white-enameled wire shelves in all of the closets, typical in most new construction. So essentially you could hang up your clothing and store some boxes on the shelves and on the floor, but that was about it.
One of the first investments we made in our house was to customize the closets in our master bedroom. I felt that it was extremely important to be able to properly organize all of my clothing and personal accouterments so that they were always visible and accessible. My bedroom closet is the first place I walk into when I start each day. To have it well organized gets each day off to a similar start.
You can easily spend thousands of dollars on fully custom closets, but you can also achieve the same results by shopping around and purchasing closet components at the big box hardware stores and installing it yourself. In my opinion, based on the change it made for me in being able to find my stuff and getting my day off to a good start – I personally think it is worth the time and expense.
In the event the clutter overwhelms you in your home and you truly do not know where to begin, there are in fact personal organizing services no doubt available locally in your area. You can find one easily enough through the Internet or your local telephone book. Sometimes it can help immensely to have a professional organizer give you the needed push. Again, such a service comes at an expense. These people will work with you and assist you in determining what you need and what you don't - as well as show you how to properly store it so you know where to find it when you need it.
De-cluttering and organizing your home – assuming it needs it, or course – is an important prerequisite to flânerie, in my opinion, as the resultant home environment will also help to unclutter your mind and assist you with taking a more orderly approach to your life so that you may more fully enjoy it. And that is what we want to do as flâneurs, isn't it?
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
Now that the formalities of defining the philosophical framework and essentials of American flânerie have been dispensed with, there remains only one additional sine qua non before beginning the journey, namely, a brief discussion about the man who is the inspiration for this enterprise..
"If you ever wondered whose oyster the world is, meet Charles H. Baker, Jr.”
Esquire Magazine, 1954
Charles Henry Baker, Jr. was born on Christmas Day in 1895 in Zellwood, Florida. His parents, Jane Paul Baker and Charles, Sr. were both apparently from the Philadelphia Main Line, though I have so far been unable to determine precisely where.
Writer and restaurateur St. John Frizell has done a good job in researching the details of his early life, of which said details are rather scant. If you are interested, I would refer you to the article he wrote for the Summer 2008 issue of Oxford American, which you can navigate to from the Charles Baker link on the Resources page of this website or simply click here. Any information I would provide in this blog posting would only be duplicative of his superior efforts.
In 1925 Charles Baker received an inheritance from a grandparent who was apparently successful in the Pittsburgh steel business, and this presumably gave him the resources to embark on the first of his three trips around the world, aboard the S.S. Resolute of the Hamburg-American Line.
At every port-of-call, Charles Baker made it a point to seek out the most notable dining and drinking establishments, taking copious notes for the cookery and cocktail recipes he was able to obtain, as well as for the characters and other local color with which he became acquainted at each place, then filtering these notes through the perspective of his worldview into prose that ultimately became the foundation for The Gentleman’s Companion, Vols. 1 & 2, and all volumes and articles thereafter.
This was a man who clearly loved fine food, drink and life, and the social interaction that went with it. And he preserved it all through his writing.
It is Charles Baker’s writing style that endears him to so many, which has often been described as “baroque” in its character – indicative of an educated man-of-the-world who was keenly aware of many things, and who wove all of that awareness into a complex tapestry of imagery and obscure interconnections of knowledge, resulting in a descriptive prose that captured not only the food and drink and atmosphere of the establishments in which partook, but the previously referenced characters and local color as well, all in a dimension seldom seen. And perhaps most significantly - he captured the nature of the era itself.
It is extremely important to understand the context and timeframe in which he made these journeys. The period between the World Wars, despite the economic and political hardships that were inflicted upon many, was nonetheless an exhilarating time to be alive. It was a time when communications and transportation technology had advanced to the point that almost every place in the world was accessible, but it was also still an adventure to get there.
Traveling to different parts of the world at that time truly brought you into….. different worlds! Different foods; different people; different libations of every imaginable kind – not the tedious homogeneity that one fines permeating our modern globalized existence today. And it was also a very unique time when, in the words of St. John Frizell, “life [was] improbably well-lived,” regardless of where on the globe you might find yourself.
And here’s an important point: it wasn’t that people had an excessive abundance of anything back then – far from it. But they seemed to make the most of what they had in the most civilized way possible. That’s the difference. Today we have abundance, but we seem to have lost either our knowledge or desire of how to use it and live graciously.
So as a result, no matter where on earth Charles Baker traveled, he almost always seemed to find a place where he could quaff that distinctively American invention – the cocktail. Ingredients and presentation would always be indigenous to the locale, but nonetheless it appears to be one of those pleasurable aspects of life that a good portion of 20th century humanity had in common.
And it is my observation that he embarked on his journey within a relatively narrow window of time during which the confluence of so many other cultural factors came together (e.g., technology, social conventions, style) to provide for a life experience that none of us today can ever hope to see. The world was indeed his oyster.
But as we have seen, he chronicled this world for us so that we could live it through his highly unique and descriptive prose. You owe to yourself to go to the Resources page and check out at least one of his books.
In 1932, Charles Baker met the woman who would become his third wife, Pauline Paulsen – daughter of August Paulsen, a Danish immigrant who came to Spokane, Washington in 1892, and who became a millionaire through his stake in the Hercules silver mine located in the Coeur d’Alenes range of the Rocky Mountains during the mid-1920’s. When August Paulsen died in 1927, much of his fortune went to his daughter, Pauline.
It was a marriage made in heaven for Charles Baker. He and his wife now had millions of dollars available to them – right in the midst of the Great Depression. She shared his love of travel and drink, and so the stage was set for him to live the life of a flâneur and bon vivant until his death in 1987. They shared drinks with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Burl Ives, Hervey Allen, Errol Flynn, William Faulkner and Robert Frost.
They settled in Coconut Grove, Florida and built an estate they called Java Head, which is where Charles Baker finalized his manuscript for the Gentleman’s Companion, first published in 1939. The estate still exists by the way, and currently has a market value of about $9.3 million, with 10 bedrooms, 7.5 baths, all within almost 12,000 square feet. Just for kicks, you can see a video of the property here, if you’re so inclined.
Now, I don’t have millions of dollars, nor do I live in a 12,000 square foot estate in Coconut Grove. Instead, I have a jumbo mortgage with a day job in New York City. But you know, it doesn’t matter.
When I first became aware of Charles Baker, it was during a period when I was spending the better part of my own life trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of it. I saw how this man lived his life through his writings. And when I saw him characterized by one critic as both, “a flâneur and bon vivant,” I knew immediately that my future aspirations and finally been defined. Charles Baker showed me how to savor the best in life, and to capture it through his wonderfully descriptive writings.
So, a Charles Baker and a millionaire I am not, nor will I ever be. But I do share Mr. Baker’s passion for life, fine libations, and the ability to savor, love and share with those around me.
Therefore, in thinking this through, one thing has become very clear: You don’t need great, or even modest wealth to become a flâneur - or even a bon vivant. It might be nice. But you really don’t. And in fact, I have concluded, that to be the kind of flâneur to which I aspire, in the manner that I have defined, that much money would truly be a detriment to the effort.
It's really far more about one's state-of-mind than about wealth.
I think I have a better way. And I’m going to lay it out here in this blog. So stay tuned.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
David Nogar is a railroad transportation consultant presently working in New York City.