Tee Totalling

Within the framework of this blog (as well as in real life) I’ve often lamented the loss of style in the modern world.  I’ve droned about hipsters, men without hats, pomades, etc. but must admit that there’s one item of casual dress that I wholeheartedly embrace:  the time-honored tradition of the T-Shirt.  I am such a fan that I must periodically return to my overstuffed t-shirt drawer and begin the painful process of weeding my collection of ratty, threadbare shirts.  It’s horrible.  I hate getting rid of my treasures.  So much so that I clutch tenaciously and feverishly to at least two different favorites, and in reality there are way too many.  Once as black as the darkest night, now they’re sort of light charcoal, and so theadbare and worn that when held to the light they resemble some loosely-woven mesh.  Cheesecloth, maybe.

However, the field must be tilled ever so often and fresh soil risen up to the daylight.  That’s what I do.  I churn my shirts, so to speak, and the ones that haven’t been seen since last summer are the first to go.  This process brought some old memories to mind, specifically thoughts of old t-shirt fads long gone.  Today’s Realtree fad will soon fade, and hopefully those ubiquitous “KEEP CALM AND BLAH BLAH BLAH” shirts will disappear from public consciousness, at least until the great retro 2010’s craze of 2025 rolls around, at which point reproductions will fly off the shelves again.   Certainly some trends will continue as they always have: throwback soda and candy logos, band tees, beer and sports teams…these will never perish from the chests of frat boys, hipsters, and concert-going blue-collar types. Ever.

The same can’t be said for these bygone relics…


Big Johnson

Technically, these shirts were introduced in the late-80’s, but they really seemed to take off circa Spring Break 1994.  Seriously, you couldn’t go to to the mall, the sports bar, or the beach without seeing some dude with a Big Johnson shirt.  The whole gag consisted of thinly-veiled sexual innuendos, like “Big Johnson Surf Boards…If It Swells, Ride It!” or “Big Johnson’s Casino…Liquor Up Front, Poker In The rear!”  They seem dated now, and the jokes are so stale they’re probably made of the same material as your basic M.R.E.  But the catchphrases were brand-new at the time, and twenty-something bros found them hilarious.  I mean, who can argue with this gem?

Subtlety.  A lost art.

Subtlety. A lost art.


Hard Rock Cafe

This one makes me a bit sad.  The Hard Rock Cafe still exists and seemingly thrives, most notably the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as vacation destinations such as Myrtle Beach and exotic Detroit.  However, the corporation seems to be just as dedicated to spreading the good old-fashioned American rock-n-roll experience to the rest of the unwashed world, with locations in Jakarta, Angkor, and Phuket (how that never made it to a Big Johnson shirt, I’ll never know) in addition to European strongholds like Oslo and Amsterdam, because there’s nothing else to do in Amsterdam, right?  Duh! The sad part is how the internet and cable television have sort of taken the mystery and adventure out of seeking out a place to get over-priced (but still pretty tasty) burgers whilst surrounded with all sorts of rock-n-roll memorabilia.  I remember sitting in the New York Hard Rock (see, that even sounded cool in 1988), scarfing down a burger and Dr. Pepper, while overhead loomed the awesome, gnarly axe-shaped bass guitar of the God of Thunder himself, Gene Simmons.  Nowadays, I can go on Ebay and shell out some hard-earned PayPal cash and own the sonofabitch.  (The axe, not Gene Simmons, although if the price were right…)  I could also order a Hard Rock t-shirt from the comfort of my living room, and never have to spend time at an airport or drive the six-plus hours to Toronto’s Skydome (that’s what they used to call Rogers Centre) to get the same exact shirt I picked up there in 1991.  The excitement, the discovery, the Kerouac-like feeling of literally being on the road, going somewhere; maybe somewhere you’ve never been.  The pride you felt when you pulled the shirt on and left your apartment and somebody read the words “Hard Rock Cafe Miami” and met your eyes with a look of envy and wanderlust.  Those days are over.  Thanks a lot, stupid fucking internet.

The SkyDome logo had a snappy, ultra-modern redesign.  This was it.  No, really.

The SkyDome logo had a snappy, ultra-modern redesign. This was it. No, really.



I must admit that I was never cool enough to own a Hypercolor t-shirt.  Apparently, I was the only human in North America that walked the streets with a regular old shirt that didn’t change color when someone held their hand on it for like five minutes.  For the uninitiated, the whole gimmick was due to a revolutionary dye that changed tint when it experienced a change in temperature.  You’d put on a purple shirt in the coolness of your bedroom, go out to catch the bus in 80-degree weather and MOTHER OF GOD!!  MY SHIRT IS NOW RUSTY ORANGE!  Then they got tricky and started printing the damn things in tie-dye patterns, so it was a swirling cauldron of ambiguous chromatics, dizzying and dazzling onlookers and passers-by.  “WHO IS HE?!  A WEATHER-LORD OF TIME AND SPACE?!?  ONE OF ELTON JOHN’S BAND MEMBERS?!  YE GODS, LOOK AT HIS MAGICAL ATTIRE!  BEHOLD HIS COMING!”  Plus, yeah; when someone gave you a hug, you could totally see where they put their arms around you.  Show-off motherfuckers, gettin’ hugs and shit.  Some bullshit, right there.

Show me on the shirt where he touched you...

Show me on the shirt where he touched you…


I know I’m leaving some out.  I decided against the brand-name trends, like United Colors of Benetton, Gotcha!, et al., because that sort of thing is in constant flux.  Remember when a couple of years ago you saw FUBU everywhere?  Yeah.  But hey, feel free to suggest others in the comments section.  Especially you youngsters that might remember stuff from the turn of the century that old guys like me sort of missed. (Those shirts Guy Fieri wears, for example.)  On second thought, nobody mention Guy Fieri.  The rest is fair game.  And as always, thanks for reading.


What Folly!

I was gonna write a piece on how I spent my summer, but decided instead to focus on one small part of this summer’s grand adventure.  Briefly, a tale of caution and one of customer service gone wonderfully right in a pace called “The Edge of America.”

Folly Beach Rocks.  Literally.

My family and I shared an amazing beach house with some family friends and some new acquaintances (ever seen a Scottish expat boogie-board?  I have) in the lovely little town of Folly Beach, South Carolina.  Folly Beach is about twenty minutes from Charleston, and I’d been looking forward to the trip particularly because of Folly’s reputation as one of the very few good surf spots in South Carolina.  What we discovered about the beach itself was that the hurricanes, tropical storms, and the gods-know-what-else have eroded much of the sand.  To correct this situation, the Army Corps of Engineers and others have re-seeded or replenished the beaches by dredging up ocean sand and putting it back where it belongs:  beneath the feet of hard-working Americans on their respective vacations.  (SCREW YOU, NATURAL OCCURRENCES OF NATURE!) But what my family, our friends, and I discovered is that in all the dredging, the engineers unwittingly deposited huge chunks of calcified sand and coral in and amongst the tons of loose beach sand.

Okay, so this might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Okay, so this might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Now there are wicked clusters of dark grey rocks, essentially a conglomerate of really hard sand and crustacean shells and such, all compressed by the weight of the ocean itself and probably Godzilla.  (Wait, it’s the East Coast.  Probably Clover.  Yeah.  Clover did that.)


I done stepped all over your sand, yo. Now it’s rocks. Sorry, yo.


Several of us got nasty scrapes, stubbed toes, and worse.  The kids ended up wearing water shoes to play in the surf.  We happily discovered that the further south we got from the main pier (and away from the city lifeguards, as it turns out) the nicer it got.  The stones were much more sparse, and it felt like a proper oceanside retreat.  I was able to surf without worrying about serious dings and scrapes to my rented longboard.  Speaking of which…


Ocean Surf Shop Rules The Most.

I wanted to rent a longboard (it had been ten-plus years since I’d surfed) and so prior to the trip itself, I checked out the website for the “big surf shop on the corner” there in Folly Beach.  Seemed like they had reasonable rates, tons of boards to rent, etc.  Upon arrival, I showed up and found the shop was run by a bunch of kids.  One of the teenagers (I assume he was a teenager, but shit, man.  I’m in my mid-40’s so EVERYONE is a teenager) said “yeah, man!  We got plenty of boards!  Come with me!”  I followed to the back, where the lad threw his arms up in theatrical frustration at the empty spaces where rental boards normally took up residence.  “Oh, no!  Bummer!  I thought we’d have a few left!  Don’t worry, though.  People bring ’em back all the time.”  A different kid (I think he may have appeared in “Teen Beach Movie’) up front took my cell phone and promised to call as soon as one became available.

I never heard from them, the entire week I was in Folly Beach.

I swear before all that is holy, I Googled "surf douche" and this was the second image to appear.

I swear before all that is holy, I Googled “surf douche” and this was the second image to appear.

But rather than place my surfing fate in the hands of others, I took the walk down a few blocks to Ocean Surf Shop.  It was upstairs of some property management office, but as soon as I made the climb, I knew I’d come to the right place.  A dude that looked my age was consulting with a young guy in glasses behind the counter.  The subject was “how to determine the surf forecast when there are two different swell directions.”  A proper surf shop.  A shop where the older guys passed their knowledge to the groms who hung around during flat spells.  A shop where the older guy (okay, maybe he was in his late-20’s, but still an improvement) looked up and smiled through his beard and asked if he could help me with anything.  A shop that said “sorry, we don’t have anything over 8 feet available, but there’s one or two coming in later today or tomorrow, if you want to check back.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  I called ’em up the next morning, and the bespectacled kid (I recognized his voice) told me that a 9-foot Walden had just shown up.  I ran down, picked it up, and had a great week of fun waves.

Everyone, this is Walden.  Walden, everyone.

Everyone, this is Walden. Walden, everyone.

After returning the board, I decided to buy a trucker hat with the shop’s logo.  There was another family being rung-up at the counter, so one of the shop’s owners offered to check me out back in the office.  His assistant (wife, perhaps?) ran my card in a room full of wetsuits, boogie boards, and used surfboards awaiting approval for sale.  I left thinking “This is how it should be.  This is how you run a shop.”  I was treated like a customer from the outset, better yet: I was treated like a surfer, or at least a guy who wanted to surf (there’s a subtle difference.)  I was not blown off or treated like the 40-something kook that I am.  It was how businesses should work, and if you ever need anything; sunblock, t-shirts, wax, leashes, hats, surfboard or board rentals, go to these guys first.  They earned my repeat business, and the next time I’m in FB they’ll be my very first stop.

Upon returning to Indiana, my five-year-old claimed the hat for his own.

Upon returning to Indiana, my five-year-old claimed the hat for his own.

Oh, a footnote to this story:  as I left with my new hat and a few free stickers, I noticed the family that had been checking out as I’d been shopping, now about a half-block ahead of me on the busy main strip.  The kids and mom walked excitedly beside their dad, a guy about my age.  Tall, dark-haired, handsome guy.  He was smiling and so were the kids.  Under dad’s arm was a nine-foot Walden surfboard, the same one I’d just returned.  I don’t know if you wanna call it the “circle of life” or whatever, but it made me smile.  Another satisfied customer.  Another family with a huge bag of memories.

As long as they watch out for the rocks.