A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

Confessions of a Thrift Store Fashion Shopaholic: Part 1

Unlike many of you, I'm not made of money. Again though, unlike many, I turned into a fanatic about building a wardrobe of high-ticket clothes--for which I pay a good deal less than cheapskates pay for crap.

Why would I do this, some may ask, if I can't afford at present to roam the globe or fly first class or even buy a modest mansion?

1) The best clothing doesn't just cost more, The silhouette and fabric, combined with a jacked sense of pride, release your inner tiger.

2) Dress for success, indeed. But we also must dress for all kinds of success. I don't need a slew of formal sportcoats or dozens of button-down plain or pinstriped shirts. What's right for one job interview may not be right or another. I learned a long time that overdressing's as off-putting as showing up in rags. I've also paid steep prices for being wrongly or under-dressed because I lacked a versatile wardrobe.
3) Most people can see the difference between a cheap knock-off at Macy's and a real Armani coat or shirt. After my first book, The Suiting, won a Stoker award, the Canadian tailor who inspired the book gave me a beautiful suit. One day while I wore it on New York subway platform, a conductor hit the brakes and cried: 'Jesus, where'd you get that suit!"
4) That said, how could I get the best quality threads without paying a king's ransom?
I narrowed it down to three choices.

a) I could shop at discount clothing stores like Ross Dress For Less or T. J. Maxx.
b) I could rummage through the sale and clearance racks at big department stores.
c) I could search until I found a thrift store that succeeded in ringing my bells: clean, in a good part of town, with regular replenishment of new and like-new men's clothes.

Why was C the choice for me?
Discount and sale/clearance racks are generally potluck. They include returns, 'imperfects' and onesies or twosies (of a kind) marked down to make room for  new stock. Most often, the things that you want aren't your size. And the no matter how low the clearance price is, it's more than you'd pay at choice C.

Your eyes and nose will tell you if you're about to enter the wrong thrift store for you. If you see grungy carpeting or smell formaldehyde (used by some stores to 'clean' the clothing they acquire), back off. Do not go in. You're likely to get a dreadful formaldehyde hash or take bed bugs home with you. God bless Salvation Army, but shop for your clothes elsewhere.

I found my store in Ballard, an upscale Seattle 'hood. It's clean and bright with tiled floors. Here's a photo taken of the store on its opening day,

My immediate needs for a job search were these: dress shirts, sportcoats, slacks and shoes. Over time I scored on all fronts. These examples are offered to show you a little thrift store math. All of these items were new like-new:
--Dress shirts by top designers or name brands: Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Thomas Pink of London, Nordstrom, Calvin Klein, Brooks Brothers, Kenneth Cole,  etc,
Sale: $12-$18. Average: $13.
--Sportcoats by Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Henry Grethel.
Sale: $9.99-$25. Average: $15.

As I write this post, I'm gearing up to change jobs. At last have the confidence that comes from knowing I've got the right look for wherever I go.

Next week I'll share the brass tacks of how I conducted my search over a six-month period.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Coming November Attractions

I've been remiss in updating this blog. But I pledge to behave in November, I swear.

You'll get:
--An update on my job search and the new strategies I've taken.
--A passionate post on readiness and planning for good luck.
--Secrets of a thrift store veteran and how my killer wardrobe came to include a wool/cashmere sport coat worth $600, 3-dozen designer shirts and an authentic navy peacoat.
--A special post about--(surprise!).

Stay tuned. You're gonna like November.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Peacoat is Going But Not Gone

Say goodbye to the peacoat as known and loved by the Navy--

--and the cons at Alcatraz, who wore surplus peas exclusively by 1962:

What a blow to read this news about the classic double-breasted coat with its too cool collar turned up high:

In 2016, the United States Navy announced that its blue wool pea coats — which had been in use for well over a century — would cease being standard-issue for Sailors. In 2018, a black synthetic parka would be phased in, and by 2020, while Sailors could continue to wear the pea coat as part of their uniform, they’d have to purchase it with their own money.
--The Art of Manliness

It'll be interesting to see how many sailors are willing to part with their money. Depending on the style, peacoats range from $300-$800 new. Here's what I've learned about buying a pea after shopping in stores and online:

1) You'll do well to begin with a trip to an Army/Navy surplus store. Why? Because you'll see and try on the real deal, and learn what $300 will buy you. You'll get the feel of the Melton wool, the stiffness of the wide lapels and classic pop-up collar, the heavily stitched buttons. You'll see the official Navy label with the contract number, etc. Slip your hands in the hand warmer pockets and feel the soft, thick cloth lining that will warm your mitts.
2) Armed with this knowledge, feel free to shop online. I did twice.
    a)The first time, for a hundred bucks, I got what they claimed to be a Mil-Tec US Navy peacoat. Not  Navy-style peacoat. No, the real thing. But the box it came in shocked me: so light, I thought maybe a sweater had come. True, it looked like a peacoat...but it didn't feel like the real deal I'd seen in the surplus store. The wool, I learned, was 50% wool/50% viscose. The buttons were loose. The collar, though it buttoned high, didn't have that classic pop. And the hand warmer pockets? These were lined with polyester, A cheap imitation all the way around. Compare the picture of it with the old-time photo that starts off this post--and weep for what a C-note will buy you:

                                                    Mil-Tec US Navy Pea Coat Black size L

    b) My second online gamble worked out well for me--mainly because I wanted a lightweight slim impression of a pea I could wear to a summer photo shoot. Just 35% wool, it's useless for late fall or winter. But it fit well, looked sharp and won lots of positive feedback. The color shot appears at the top of my blog. The fifty bucks had been well spent but it still left me wanting the real deal.

3)  The third option requires persistence and luck. But thrift stores can offer the real deal on the cheap. Three weeks ago I checked the men's coat section at Value Village. And on that first look, for $25, I found an older pea matching what I'd seen at the surplus store. And I am here to tell you there's simply no comparison between wearing the best imitation and wearing a real Navy pea.

Even if all sailors fall head over heels for the new parka, I think the pea will stay with us for many years to come. Its warmth and rugged rakishness are truly past compare.

I sign off with a gallery of pea loving stars:

If you'd like to know more about buying and wearing, check out the following link:


Saturday, September 22, 2018

On an oddly answered prayer

Last month I set a deadline of August 31, by which time I'd have found a new job for money and full weekends off. And for a while it seemed that I was on a roll: a call from the HR department of a former employer...and then a phone interview which seemed to go well. The next step was go be a call from the hiring manager within the next couple of days.

I didn't count my chickens yet, though everything seemed to be going my way for this as with the other goals I'd set, and met, for August. I had experience, references and a good record for my previous year with the company. On top of that, I'd tested the commuting time to their new office--a problem for some employees--and it was no longer than some past commutes I'd done. So, all in all, it seemed safe to assume I'd be one of the front runners.

But the damnedest thing happened.

They never called. Not only that, the starting woman in HR did not return any of my voice mails requesting a heads up.

The rudeness galled me. I felt down. And it seemed, at lease till next year, that nothing could be done. The one thing that I did do was remind the new department head that I'd been promised weekends off when I was offered the job and had spoken to three people about this.

Long story short: nothing happened.

Nothing happened until Thursday--when I learned I'd now have weekends off starting next Saturday.

It's been an interesting lessons in patience, persistence and flexibility.

Where I am is fine for now. The main takeaway for me is this: sometimes it's not that our prayers are ignored but answered in ways that surprise us.

At the same time, though, I'm prepared to admit:\

Friday, September 7, 2018

Lady Luck Loves Shopaholics

You know what it's like to wait day after week after month after year for the great goddess to bless us with: a new job, a new home, a new lover...

I've done my share of waiting too. But lately I've grown mindful of the number of times Lady Luck did drop by--but I wasn't prepared to receive her.

At this time of my life, though, readiness is everything. So,while casting my bread on the water, I spend much of my free time doing one essential thing: I shop. And I don't mean I just shop for food or even home necessities. The goal's to be ready on all fronts.

Recent shopping excursions::
1) Multiple trips across town to Value Village, Seattle's best thrift store. I scoured the racks for like-new dress shirts, ties and slacks to go to any business interview relating to writing or to a new job. A broad base of shirts is essential for me since I want to wear what is right for my mood on any given day, rather than be forced to choose from of a few things on hand.
2) Big 5 sporting goods store for an exercise mat, rounding out my home gym.
3) Amazon: a good book on body weight core workouts.
4) I shopped for a new strategy to obtain more reviews for my new novel, The Big Bopper.
5) I shopped for a new barber because my current one is out of town and my hair isn't interview-ready.
6) Tomorrow: Office Depot for cardboard file boxes to manage the clutter of papers.

Future shopping excursions:
1) Seattle DMV to update my address on my State /ID.
2) Post Office for a new passport.
3) Contact my cover artist about doing a promotional post card and/or business card.
4) Used furniture store: seating for guests.

And so on and so on and soooooo...Forth!

Live long, shop well and prosper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Half-Goodbye to Facebook

I've never believed in doing  anything by halves...till now. But when my smartphone died last Friday, I did more than replace and upgrade it. I removed Facebook from my apps.

My issues weren't with Facebook itself. I value my membership and cherish my friends. In fact, I'll post a link to this post there. No, my grievances included:
--The daily deluge of ads
--The junk mail and spam
--The drain om my battery
--The leeching of my time

My time and my attention. I was starting to resemble the FaceJunkies I saw everywhere: my nose all but glued to my phone. On the bus, in the break room, while walking.

No more. I'll check FB only on my laptop, at home. A few minutes in the morning before I head for work, then 15-20 minutes after work on weekdays. Weekends, perhaps a bit longer. But FB's an enjoyable part of my life--not a way of life.

If the change brings a bit of withdrawal, I'll tough it out and ask myself:

I'll tell my new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 'I love you dearly, darlin', but I'm a slave to nothing. I'll check you for messages or emails twice a day and that is all.'

This is my report. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

3 Hot Times Will Be Had This Month: REVISED

Intensity, thy name be NOW. No, rockets aren't exactly lighting up the sky, No bullets whizz about my ears. But wars are waged on several fronts. Here's the news you can expect this month.

Tuesday, August 14
I'll post the results of a top secret attack on a dream that's defeated me for far too long. I'll go up in flames or prevail. Enough said.

Sunday-Monday, August 19-20
The first phase of a Kindle Countdown will offer 5 of my best books for $.99 for two days. Four of the five have new covers.

Friday, August 31
This is the Do By date I've set to land a non retail job for more money and all weekends and major holidays off. Several things have gone done where I work now that led to this decision. And I've gone into action mode. Enough said again. Must avoid Lady Jinx.

See you all on the 10th!