Sunday, November 27, 2011


Joined Friends and Family in Houston, Texas for the 2011 Thanksgiving Holidays and enjoyed myself immensely. Great company and celebration of life was the obvious highlight with nine week old Charlie the focus of the entire trip. This is a special young man with a bright future. His support mechanism starts with parents without equal and a grandmother who is always there with just the right touch and perfectly timed insight. What a joy to observe

University of Houston mavens Dr. Linda and Dr. Don had already chosen our Thanksgiving Day venue – appropriately the certifiably green Haven Restaurant opened in December 2009 by Executive Chef Randy Evans, late the exec at Brennan’s in Houston. The highly regarded Texas Monthly magazine touts the Texas born and raised Evans as The Chef of The Future though our party would righteously argue that he is already there. In 2010 Esquire magazine acknowledged Chef Evans’ culinary skills by naming the chic, farm-to-table Haven one of the top 20 new restaurants in the U.S.

We didn’t order off the menu, rather opted for their Thanksgiving presentation which included all the traditional offerings mostly locally grown and supported by Evans’ restaurant garden that confirms his pastoral roots and commitment to fresh. Only one of our party chose the free range turkey while others opted for the Gulf flounder, shrimp/crab or even the vegan dish. Me? The Akaushi steak of Kobe fame, red skin mash potatoes all slathered with a red wine jus with mushrooms, country ham and green onions was my choice though I did look longingly at the quail with an enticing jalapeƱo sausage dressing and green tomato golden raisin chutney. I ultimately made the right choice that day and though only a snapshot of Haven’s potential, enjoyed what may have surprisingly been one of my top five dining-out experiences.

Dr. Linda made two outstanding wine selections that pleased everybody’s palate. Following the meal Chef Evans made our dining experience even more memorable by taking his bows and accepting the accolades of our very pleased party. Well done Chef Evans… Server Brad was equally competent.

Now, this post was never intended to be a review of Haven, but this restaurant will please all, even the most discriminating gastronome. Haven won’t hit a home run every time nor will they please everybody all the time, but in my estimation they do have the potential to please most of the people the great majority of the time. There are agenda driven whiners everywhere that seem to grasp even potential negatives and spin that top incessantly. Several reviews pounded Haven for their valet service and their open kitchen environment – ridiculous. Would that we were so lucky to have Haven in Dallas…

So how do you top Haven? Take a daytrip to the absolutely awesome world class Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) punctuated by the ultimate realization that we in Dallas will always be looking up at MFAH. The King Tut exhibition was ongoing with equal attention being paid to the current spectacular presentation of Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection that includes masterworks by Rembrandt, Gerrit Dou, Frans Hals, Willem Claeszoon Heda, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen. This national tour sponsored in part by the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, MA concludes with the current exhibition at MFAH which runs through February 12, 2012 so make your plans to visit Houston, soon. Thank you Peabody Essex Museum who from August 29, 2010 to January 2, 2011 also brought to the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth the very important, “Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea.” We need to pay attention to those folks in Massachusetts who are friendly to our environs.

Having sung some of these well-deserved praises just note that Houston’s roads suck big time and instead of getting better seem to lower the bar each visit. One source described Houston’s roads as “tattered, cracked, patched and pocked washboard.” We think that source didn’t go far enough. No amount of compliments can mask the fact that this city’s transportation infrastructure seems compromised and with no checkbook to fix their city roads most of the money seems tied up in Interstate widening that is off and sometimes on and seems to go on forever resulting in frustrating, dangerous and hours long delays that will cramp the style of even the most patient and ardent.

That said, we will go back and enjoy the nectar of one of the world’s great cities and the great company we keep. It’s worth the hassles and frustrations, especially to lovingly, exuberantly and proudly celebrate the continuing saga of Charlie.

Hope you had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.


GrandNed Buxton

Monday, November 21, 2011


I went through my clothes closet the other morning intent on purging outdated loose or tight fitting clothing that just didn’t make sense anymore (purpose or fashion) and once again was confronted by my neckties. I have three tie hangers that keep my neckties flat, accessible and always at the ready to appropriately adorn my person for any occasion. Even after a Goodwill run some five years ago, I still have one hundred and fourteen (114) neckties including one ascot, three formal bowties dedicated to specific cummerbunds and one bolo tie. Whilst assessing my collection I realized I still had a few favorites from my college years and several screamers from the sixties and seventies and might still be good for a nostalgic event. Yes, I have several Christmas, one St. Valentine’s Day necktie and, vexingly, no Halloween ties.

I started to wax nostalgic about the ties including a few that once belonged to iconic good Friend and Mentor though now departed Bob Swanson, three 78th Fraser Highlander regimental ties and several that hail the cardinal red (Harvard) and navy blue (Yale) of Ole Miss. Most of those ties have great meaning to me and so I will stand pat, at least for a few more years.

While assessing my collection of neckwear I contemplated the state of the noble cravat and wonder how much longer this tradition can hold out. With assurances from and the urging of notable haberdashers Jos.A Bank, Brooks Brothers and others of that ilk, the tie and traditional clothing will seemingly prevail. Howard Duvall, rest in peace

Some versions of neckwear seem to have been around even since ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Roman times and we all remember from our history books paintings of Gentle Men and Gentle Ladies in big ruffled collars (the Elizabethan Ruff) of the mid 1500's to 1600's. Seems that so many aspects of our lives start modestly and then grow to exaggerated (Aye, foolish) caricature status. The Ruffs appeared to be poor bibs, had to be grossly uncomfortable and were a pain to maintain. Among others, we can thank England and Ireland’s King James I, a Scot, who opted for a more extravagant life style in England (“the Land of Promise”) for getting rid of this monstrosity. Perhaps it was James’ promise to parliament to curb some of his more excessive spending habits or maybe Elizabeth’s passing was enough. At any rate it was the end of an era.

Fast forward to the 1630s, where “unusual and picturesque” scarves worn by thousands of Croatian soldiers and knights, mercenaries to Louis XIII in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) became the new fashion in France. Seems that the girlfriends or wives (maybe both) of Croat soldiers would give their beloveds a narrow scarf to wear around their necks to remind them of their love. This romantic tradition was noted by none other than French king Louis XIII who caught sight of these dashing neckerchiefs, started wearing one himself and eventually adopted them into acceptable, even preferable, French formal attire. Voila, a new fashion accessory was born. This, the cravat, ladies and gentlemen was the direct ancestor of the modern necktie and far more comfortable that the huge white starched collars and large silk maroon bowties we wore as choristers at St. Dunstan’s in Providence, RI.

Charles II brought this new neck fashion with him when he returned from exile in France to England in May of 1660. Over the next ten years, the use of the cravat spread across Europe and eventually across the pond to the American colonies. The cravat soon proved itself to be an essential part of a gentleman’s wardrobe and even to some historians, “a symbol of loyalty” to the restored English monarchy. Aye, the necktie not just as fashion but as a political statement… This neck adornment with high collars and bows like the ruff before it became more and more elaborate and impractical as members of the English court tried to outdo each other and reflect their status and wealth. These cravats soon joined the ruff on the junk heap of fashion history.

By the early 1800's, the cravat became known as a "tie" and then evolved to pretty much what we know today and was/is tied in a number of different ways/styles, according to the preference, formality and upbringing of the wearer. Options include the four-in-hand knot, the half-Windsor knot, the Windsor knot and the “reversed” Pratt knot, among others. No, we are not going to talk about colors or patterns though you may want to research the very interesting origins of regimental and club ties.

Then, of course, we have that odd though convenient bolo or bola tie that has now become the official neckwear of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas and appears to be fast coming the new/old symbol of the American West. We suspect that like former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson before him we will see Texas Governor Rick Perry wearing some in his cross country Presidential-seeking sorties.

Bolo aside, some folks (especially my Mother) insist that there is a proper and not so proper way to tie a necktie. While Mother wouldn’t not let the three Buxton Boys (Ned, John and Seabury) venture forth to church, school or any other formal function without the proper full Windsor knot, we are not so inflexible here. If you have to wear a tie, do what you like and feels good though understand that (however preposterous it sounds) in some circles someone may be watching. The point is you/we always have the opportunity to impress – or not.

In a world dominated by “Business Casual” most of the younger generation don’t know how to tie a necktie and probably don’t care. For those folks that have no aspirations beyond digging ditches, cutting grass or plowing snow, then this advice probably won’t benefit them though they wouldn’t be reading this post anyway. Just note that we still have business, social and religious events where the wearing of a tie may be appropriate and even required.

In times where jobs are scarce (especially for recent college graduates) the job interview is the one opportunity to create that positive first impression with the interviewer who may make the final hiring decision. If you dress inappropriately, say casually for a sales job or a position with a bank or law firm, the interviewer may think that you aren’t taking the interview process seriously, aren’t motivated to pursue that position or worse yet, you don’t have the social, communication, consensus building or collaborative skills necessary to be productive in today’s workplace. The way you dress reflects who you are and can positively influence those gauging your abilities. Many times the centerpiece of correct dress is the necktie.

And that’s the conundrum we face – it’s all about perception and aside from fashion or keeping our shirt clean or wiping your nose – the tie has no real purpose, save adornment. It is a “convention in search of a reason.” At least with the bolo tie you can tie something up if need be like the now mostly ceremonial French-inspired aiguillette.

In my lifetime neckties have become shorter then longer, wider then narrower, colors and patterns bolder and then more subtle and then back again (save your old ties). Neckwear has passed through the full range of fashion, manipulated to the varigies of that industry and pursuit of the diminishing though still almighty dollar and what is in and what is not. For all that I frankly (my dear) don’t give a damn. I’ll wear what I like and what seemingly goes with what I’m wearing – or not. My advice to those otherwise mired in dismal lives - wear a tie with color and style and see what happens…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Every Sunday for the last umpteen years I’ve always gotten up early to watch my favorite TV show CBS’s Sunday Morning. With a cup of coffee and scone I could enjoy an hour and a half of interesting and well-presented stories. Some of my mega heroes including the current host Charles Osgood along with storied traveler Charles Kuralt and occasionally my ultimate champion and king of opinion and curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, would appear. That said, Andy was mostly the indispensable fixture and last word on television's favorite newsmagazine, CBS’s 60 Minutes where he regularly ran sweep for 33 years. No football game or other event (including sleeping) could keep me away from either show when Rooney was on.

Aside from speaking for me most of the time and being the voice of and for millions of Americans, Andy, first and foremost, was a great writer. In style and technique he was everything I want to be, and more. Where I am verbose and tend to wander, Andy was always concise; making his point with brief and succinct verbiage packaged in that always believable, unpretentious natural delivery from his always cluttered office. Andy was pre-tech armed with wry opinion, the keenest wit and his manual Underwood typewriter. Though he would prefer that image, he grudgingly used a computer sometimes pointing out its foibles and faults all the while admitting to its efficiency.

Andy wasn’t afraid of anybody or anything, disdained celebrity, coveted his private life and refused to give autographs. To the end he always wondered, “What kind of an idiot wants my name on a piece of paper” and held those that did in contempt. A good Friend who met him several years ago and later was commenting on the short stature of a nearby Rooney, “He’s so little.” The mostly charming though always cantankerous Rooney acknowledged the remark, “I heard that.” Then even with apologies and assurances of no ill intent the predictable response, “Yes, you did mean it…” with Andy probably relishing that moment.

Andy Rooney was a regular guy many times with tongue in cheek questioning from the trenches everything in our lives from the trivial and mundane to the most significant. He was always entertaining and like one Friend opined while paraphrasing the late Caskie Stinnett, “Andy could tell you to go to hell and you’d look forward to the trip.”

While Rooney mostly made sense to this writer he lobbed an occasional out of synch and inappropriate hand grenade that spoke to his humanity and made him even more endearing. In our sanitized politically correct world he saw his truth and to the delight of millions, offered coherent rationale for his perspectives which included a, “delicious hatred for prejudice and hypocrisy.”

Rick Cohen of the The Nonprofit Quarterly commented the other day, “Andy Rooney was idiosyncratic, argumentative, and sometimes ornery, but his grouchy commentaries were worth listening to. That we will never hear another from Rooney reminds us of the dwindling quality of public discourse in American journalism.” Would that Congress had an Andy Rooney…

Scott Pelley, CBS Evening News anchor and correspondent for 60 Minutes remarked on Andy’s passing, “The Romans had Cicero. The English had Dickens. America had Andy. He hid a philosopher’s genius behind the honest prose of Everyman. Apparently, God needed a writer.”

In his final appearance on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago Andy Rooney commented that he'd lived a life luckier than most and wished he "could do this forever." We do too Andy…..

Job well done.


Ned Buxton