Sore in Windsor

Say it aint so, Joe.
Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Towns called Windsor dot the states, as do a handful in England (in Berkshire, Cornwall and Lincolnshire) where I presume the name originated. The Windsor to which I live closest (besides the replica of Windsor Castle made of wine corks in my neighbor?s garage) is the town of Windsor, CA, which one drives passed on Hwy 101 en route to Healdsburg (the ?New Sonoma? according to the Wine Spectator a couple years ago and to the great chagrin of those from the town of Sonoma).

In recent years, Windsor has endeavored to harness some of that drive-by traffic for more than the former? Windsor Waterworks and Slides, a perennial class field-trip when I was a kid. Though it hasn?t opted for a wine-slide for adults (though it should), the city has invested heavily in bringing its downtown new life and has attracted at least one top-tier restaurant in Mirepoix, which I?ve personally had the pleasure of experiencing (I?m sure there are others that I?ll someday discover). Even the local caf? culture has received a healthy injection of hipness.

That said, let?s examine today?s experience at a coffeehouse I?ll call ?Caf? Purgatorio.? Happily reminiscent of the cafes that first percolated throughout the county during the first era of espresso-consciousness circa the mid-80s (preceding the proliferation of Starbucks by several years), Caf? Purgatorio is a clean, well-lighted place for blokes like me in search of a cuppa and wifi while on assignment.

As I stood and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited for any sign of counter-intelligence to emerge, I finally resorted to calling the caf? on my cell phone to inform whomever might be running the joint that I was waiting to order. I began to feel like a cast reject from something by Beckett. After an inordinate amount of rings, a kid named ?Joe? answered (names have been changed to protect the indolent).

I informed Joe that I had been waiting at the counter. Of course, he didn?t understand, so ill-equipped was he to apprehend that someone might want to purchase, say, a cup of coffee, from a coffee shop. I thought of walking off with the cash drawer, but instead reiterated that I was still waiting at the counter and hung up. A lanky young man finally loped into existence from the kitchen. I asked him what the hell was happening back there and he explained that he had been on the phone, followed by his break. I apologized for interrupting his break, but seeing as he was the only employee in the caf? and I was his only customer, I thought his employers might agree that he had a professional obligation to take my order.

Joe was friendly enough, a stray pup type ? all shag and wagging tail. I asked how he felt about a particular flavor of cream cheese for the asiago-encrusted bagel I very nearly decided to steal. He said he wasn?t much into bagels and wouldn?t know. I risked it and ordered a coffee as well. I asked for the wifi code and proceeded to explain that I would sit as I waited for the order, the subtle suggestion being that he might consider bringing it to me. Why would I expect Joe to go ten feet out of his way? I didn?t. I merely hoped that he might elect to perform a redemptive act of courtesy so I wouldn?t have to leave my laptop unattended to retrieve my order. Of course, this didn?t happen. Twice.

First, I was summoned to retrieve the bagel, then later, mysteriously, the coffee. From his blissful smile, I had concluded that Joe wasn?t evil, just oblivious ? especially when, once I hunkered down to work, he turned up the music. I would have murdered him had the dreary tunes not first inspired me to kill myself.

Everyone is a ?town ambassador? when tourism is part of the local economy. Clearly, Joe was not hip to this nor I suspect, do his employers know the lax way business is conducted in their absence. The net result is an unsatisfying experience that those seeking a reason to stop in Windsor associate with the town as much as the establishment. Am I just a Windsore curmudgeon, or should I just wait for the wine-slide? Discuss.

Closet Case: Andre Benjamin

It's the man that makes the clothes.
It's the man that makes the clothes.

Andre Benjamin, rapper, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor, perhaps best known by his nom-de-music Andre 3000 in the group OutKast, can add a new gig to his resume: fashion designer. Last Fall, Benjamin launched his Benjamin Bixby line, inspired by American college football culture circa 1935. He took a moment to speak editor Daedalus Howell about the nature of fashion, costume and what we might expect from his Spring line.

Daedalus Howell: How is it that you?ve come to arrive, finally, at a branded fashion line? Has this always been part of the career trajectory that you have seen for yourself?? Did you know you were going to experiment with this?

Andre Benjamin: Didn?t know. It didn?t come until becoming the Outkast brand, then that gave me the stage to do shows and tours and things like that, and then people started to pay attention to the styles. That gave me a stage to design, and at that point, I decided to start this company, which is now Benjamin Bixby.

DH: Yeah, and that?s a really cool name. I like the line, too.

AB: Thank you, thank you. I?m glad you like it.

DH: Where does the line get drawn between costume and fashion? In many ways, it seems that you evolved from costume into fashion.

AB: Right, right. Once again, it?s the story. When I?m designing, I?m designing for a character. So, a lot of times, these pieces, they may end up looking like a costume from that movie, that I?m designing. But I do expect the Benjamin Bixby customer to mix and match. I wouldn?t expect you to wear the complete outfit. You may find a sweater, I mean, somebody could pull it off, but when I look internationally, what we?re seeing from the Lookbook and that kind of thing, we want to do a strong, strong, strong image. We went extreme with it. So we may look custom, but when you break it down to the separates, you can pair it with whatever.

DH: Still, you can tell that it?s a Benjamin Bixby piece of apparel. It is that distinct no matter what you mix it with.

AB: Right.

DH: It seems that you focused right into 1935, sort of the collegiate look, or East Coast. What drove you to that particular style? It?s very distinct.

AB: Pictures, and me knowing that I would be hitting stores for fall/winter collections. I?m a huge football fan, for one. Doing my research, I?d see these pictures of these early 1900s Notre Dame pictures, and I was like, ?I?ve never seen anybody design these football jerseys.? I want this, but I can?t buy it. So I want to design it. I want to make it, make it my own. That was one of the first pieces, so you build around this character. What would this character wear on the football field? What would he wear off the field? What would he wear in the dorm room? What would his coach wear? So you kind of build this little adventure. So, it came from a lot of pictures, pictures in books.

DH: So you visualize a character, and then you see their attire and sort of project an era.

AB: A character, or just a story. What would you be wearing for different events in this story? Going for different scenes, basically. To me, it?s an experience company. I want to be able to tell stories, because I believe that is our fashion. I?m not in fashion in the sense of ?high fashion,? like a guy who would design a shirt sleeve longer than the other [laughs]. I respect it, I really do, but I?m based on the classics. So, my thing that changes every season is these adventures, these stories, these characters.

DH: I get accused of having what?s been called an ?action-figure outfit? because I generally have on a blazer and jeans, or some permutation, so if I was going to be an action-figure, I?d probably have to have that kind of get-up.

AB: [laughing)] I?ve never heard of that!

DH: Well, I mean everybody kind of has an action-figure outfit.

AB: Yeah, that?s true. I mean, that?s your style, your personal style.

DH: So, would the Benjamin Bixby line be your action-figure style?

[pause]

AB: No, because it changes. I mean, my action figure would come with the whole closet. [both laugh] It would look different, you know? That?s the thing. I want people to come and look at the Benjamin Bixby stage almost like Benjamin Bixby was a movie director. Some people are in to Steven Spielberg. What he puts out, they come, and I want people to come to the Benjamin Bixby show to see what?s coming season to season, and if you can buy your Star Wars shirt from George Lucas, that?s like our movie. This is the story we?re telling. One time, I was actually thinking about making the labels where it was ?Benjamin Bixby, Directed By.? So it was like these little movies, but there?s just too many f—ing syallables. [both laugh] The label was just too long.

DH: That?s a nice way to extend a metaphor throughout the entire thing. It gives you a real sense of what you?re trying to achieve by giving people the means to sort of explore aspects of themselves by being a character. Some people need the freedom to be a certain way.

AB: Everybody, well, I won?t say everybody, but most people dream about something else. Even if it?s intangible things like women dreaming of being a princess, or some dude might dream of being a f—ing pirate.

DH: Or a princess.

AB: [laughter] Some men do, but imagine if you could go to a movie and you saw something in a movie and you said, ?Man, that sweater is dope.? Then you leave the movie theater and go to a store and you find that sweater.

DH: Right, and take a little bit with you. Dude, when I saw that last James Bond movie, I hadn?t been affected by a movie like that since I was a kid, and I said, ?I want to get a tux.? [laugh]

AB: Right! See? It?s that thing, man. You know, we dream, man, and that?s what it?s all about. Dreaming and adventure, and I just want to make theses little stories and I want to know what it?s like. I?ve never ever been to India, but for spring/summer, it?s this colonial Indian thing. What would you wear? So that?s the thing.