My Skin is My Sin – The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Exhaustion of This Particular Black Male in America

True story. Short post (not really). I was driving to Taco Bell one evening to order and pick up dinner. I am somewhat of a defensive driver. I barely graze the upper ceiling of speed limits. I am cautious of my surroundings. I respect the rules of the road. I have never been issued a traffic ticket. So, this particular evening was nothing out of the ordinary. I was in the middle turning lane when I realized a dark SUV had suddenly appeared behind me. As I completed my left turn – the light was changing from yellow to red – the SUV sped through the light and closed in tightly to my rear end. It startled me. At first I thought it was just another impatient idiot on the road, and then the police lights flashed brightly in my rear view mirror. Damn. I had absolutely no clue why I was being stopped. Taco Bell is literally 5 minutes from my home. I wasn’t speeding. I had used my turn signal. My plates were legit. I pulled into the Taco Bell parking lot. Suddenly, another SUV appeared out of the darkness.

Now, I have been stopped by police before, so I am not foreign to traffic stops. However, this moment felt different, I had never had 2 police SUVs swoop in with such velocity and basically box me in where I had parked. Lord. Did I fit the description of someone that ignited their aggressive pursuit? Generally, I have a personal protocol that I follow when being stopped by law enforcement. License and registration are already out so I don’t have to reach for anything in the car or on my person. I shut the car off and place the keys on the dashboard. I keep both hands on the steering wheel in clear sight. And I never enter into any excessive banter with the police. They ask a question and I answer. This night I was so shook, I am not even sure if I followed all my own rules. Of course, the police offered the usual line of questioning: Do you know why we stopped you? My reply was an honest no. They performed their due diligence and checked my license and registration. Everything was square. And then the officer offered the reason why I was stopped: He couldn’t read my license plate.

This incident happened months ago, and I have since procured new plates, so I am comfortable showing my old plates above. Take a look. A little worn, but clearly visible – 4FFZ24. I did not argue. I was instructed to buy new plates. I nodded in agreement and we parted ways. I carried on with the original plan and secured my take-out from Taco Bell. On my way back home, I stopped at a well-lit gas station to inspect my license plate. I took a picture, showed it to the gas station attendant, and asked him to repeat the plate numbers/letters back to me. He performed the exercise – surely thinking why am I doing this. I told him I was just stopped by the police because it was allegedly unreadable. He just shook his head in disbelief. I was irritated. I was rattled. But I was alive. Nevertheless, no matter how clean-cut I believe I am, no matter how by-the-book I carry myself; in the back of my mind is that nagging fear – what if I encounter that wrong one? What if on some indiscriminate day, my melanin is justification enough to trigger someone’s racial unconscious bias, leaving in the wake of my death a carousel of anger, anguish, ambivalence, and apathy? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Yet, the stain of black blood on the fabric of America cannot be purged so simply. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Botham Jean.

Once while pulling out of a parking space, an older white woman started screaming that I almost and was trying to hit her with my car. I rolled down my window to see what the commotion was and she started screaming and screaming. I tried to reason with her – that I wasn’t even in the proximity of hitting her. A guy walking by glanced at me and offered a “what is wrong with this lady” look at me. And then she started screaming for help from someone that was out of view. The last thing I needed was someone to appear out of the shadows with guns blazing. I peeled off and got the hell out of there. I have more examples if you have the time. But I digress, don’t mind me. I just needed to write. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m on edge. I can’t begin to put my feelings into words, but I had to try to put my feelings into words. Don’t mind me, I just needed to write.

The Gentleman’s Kitchen – Coronavirus Chronicles: Glorious Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes w/ Homemade Tartar Sauce

As previously documented in my latest Daddy Diary post – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 10 True Confessions of a Parent Working From Home – fulfilling one’s job responsibilities remotely has been quite the challenge. Nevertheless, there have been some surprising, positive consequences as a result from working from home. Under normal circumstances, I would arrive home from work in the evening after the children’s dinner time. However, in the current world of SARS-CoV-2, my work hours have shifted, thus allowing me to enjoy dinner with the family. Also, it affords me the opportunity to cook more meals. It is a great opportunity for the kids to see Dad putting in work and serving up some delicious eats. It’s at the point now that I am receiving special requests, so I guess the hush puppies (Ava) and sweet corn bread (Miles) were a hit. Accompanied by some classic rhythm and blues music (Stevie Wonder Superwoman anyone?) gently playing in the background, the interactive vibe combines two activities that I enjoy – good music and cooking. And bonus: I was able to dust off my Canon Rebel T3i and take some great pictures (a few with my Samsung Galaxy S9 as well). The normal work grind was simply not conducive to that feel-good flow.

With newfound freedom to burn in the kitchen, I thought it would be fun to explore some new material here on the site. Because, of all the listed skills that a gentleman should possess, cooking a proper meal should definitely be included on list. My introduction to the kitchen began in college when this brother had to fend for himself. Along with my close friend and roommate, we cooked up some good meals with the means that we possessed. As my cooking evolved, I began to rely on three key components that would result as a delicious dish: time, temperature, and technique. Time is two-fold. Unless a gentleman is a skilled chef competing on Iron Chef; rushing through preparing a meal may not yield the best work. Moreover, a gentleman should grant studious attention to cooking time for his designated items. There can be fine lines that separate perfectly cooked, undercooked, and overcooked. And those three outcomes can hinge on the correct temperature being selected during cooking. Technique is self-explanatory. I enjoy watching videos online; absorbing cooking methods and adding my own variations. For certain, I am not professionally trained in culinary arts, but I am skilled enough to cook an above average meal.

So, during this time of sheltering in place, I have chosen to flex some creativity in the kitchen. One particular entrée that was a hit with the family was a batch of jumbo lump crab cakes that I rolled out of the oven for Mother’s Day. It was only my second time making crab cakes. I wanted to prepare a meal that was simple in execution, yet sophisticated and special. To take it up a notch, I decided to make a homemade tartar sauce to top off those beauties. Now, to achieve a restaurant quality crab cake, a gentleman must embrace two unavoidable starters: 1. It has to be lump crab meat. 2. It can’t be cheap. Apologies (not really), but if you want a flavorful cake that is a mouthful of 98% crab, cutting corners is definitely not an option. I have been posting a few pictures on social media, and I have received positive feedback with some asking for recipes. So, let’s dive into the details of cooking a killer crab cake – straight from the Palmer Kitchen.

 

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes – The Ingredients

  • 1 can of premium lump crab meat – approximately 16 ounces
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley
  • 1/2 lemon (squeezed)
  • 1-2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs – approximate to taste and consistency
  • pinch of salt – approximate to taste
  • pepper – approximate to taste

Okay, now that the ingredients have been listed, lets jump into how we put these bad boys together.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your mayonnaise and egg to a smooth consistency.
  2. Start adding the Worcestershire sauce, thyme, parsley, Dijon mustard, chopped red bell pepper, and chopped green onions. Give it a quick, gentle whisk.
  3. In a small bowl, empty the crab meat and gently sift through the contents to remove any cartilage and shell. Ensure you don’t disturb the lumps of crab and shred them unnecessarily.
  4. Add crab meat to your binding mixture you created in steps 1-2. Add Old Bay seasoning and gently toss so you don’t break up the big lumps of crab meat. Squeeze out juice from 1/2 lemon. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Add breadcrumbs (I used Panko brand) and gently incorporate into your mixture.
  6. Chill in your refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. I push it beyond the 1 hour mark so the crab cakes have a chance to really solidify.
  7. Remove from refrigerator and use an ice cream scooper (or a large spoon) to collect balls of your crab meat to make patties. I like to pat them around in my hands back and forth until I have solid ball that doesn’t fall apart.
  8. Over medium high heat with vegetable oil, place patties in skillet and fry 3-5 minutes each side until golden brown. Finish in oven, heated to 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Alternately, you can skip the skillet, go straight to the oven and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. In this case, I like to broil my crab cakes for 2-3 minutes (no need to flip) to achieve that crispy exterior (this version is the photo at the top).

 

Homemade Tartar Sauce – The Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon – Country Dijon preferred)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped capers
  • sweet pickle relish
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper

After I whipped up this tartar sauce at home, I reserved myself to never purchase tartar sauce in a grocery store again. Making this topping is seriously simple, and of course the measurements can be adjusted depending on personal preference. Tasting along the way, I make adjustments as needed to achieve the right flavor. I prefer tartar sauce with a little zing, so I usually increase the amount of dill and capers. The execution is simple. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate immediately until serving. I like to make the tartar sauce 1-2 hours well in advance of topping the crab cakes, so it is good and creamy for serving.

So, there you have it. Toss some fresh greens (baby spinach was used for this meal) with some olive oil, salt, and pepper; place your juicy crab cake on top and finish with your chilled tartar sauce. Enjoy.

Ready to be cooked.

 

Brown each side on the stovetop; finish in the oven.

 

Served on a bed of baby spinach with pan-fried asparagus and bread.

The Standard #53

Despite modern, progressive viewpoints regarding the construct of masculinity here in America; society at large is sometimes guilty of perpetuating and reinforcing stereotypes that it seemingly discourages. It is an interesting bit of hypocrisy. I found it particularly amusing when popular men’s magazines – looking at you GQ – had the temerity to lecture men about the perceived current disrepair of manhood while completely ignoring their culpability and literary sins regarding the topic. It wasn’t long ago that men’s fashion didn’t fawn over the wildly popular show Mad Men and its resident alpha male Don Draper. Mad Men – toxic masculinity personified but stylishly portrayed with critical acclaim. From the appearance of the latest GQ offerings, I surmise that it isn’t trendy anymore. Oh, how soon they forget. Now, I won’t pretend there aren’t bad actors out there that don’t represent the best of the male population. They are great in number. Yet those men have become the archetype for all things toxic, negative, and dysfunctional about men as a whole. Lost in the shuffle of a culture war (waged across social media, television, publications, etc.) revolving around gender roles and expectations; we are ignorant of a sect of regular gentlemen that is perhaps more indicative of manhood than what is portrayed in the mainstream – invisible to the general public.

Sandwiched between two conflicting arguments stands an average gentleman just trying to make the best of life. He hears the competing perspectives, but he cannot relate. It is foreign to him. What are they? Well, he cannot cry because he would be considered weak. And he cannot become frustrated because his exasperation may lead to anger, which may lead to a violent conclusion which men are intimately tied. He cannot be fearful or anxious because that may reflect indecision, and a man should be resolute and certain. Male fragility is not an option. And so we are presented with a how-to guide regarding an evolved masculinity for the modern man. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. Nevertheless, to be quite frank, a gentleman does not need to be more feminine to fulfill his potential as a man. And a gentleman does not have to blanket himself in a facade of machismo to be fully considered a man. It’s all opinion. It’s an attempt to fix what people deemed to be broken. The truth is, the only thing a gentleman requires is the freedom to be human – free of preconditioned judgment and inequitable expectations.

To be sure, emotions are not black & white, no, they are perplexing shades of complicated gray. The current pandemic will definitely tap into every one of those shades. A gentleman must understand that his emotions cannot be dictated by other people. Because the same individual that espouses platitudes about self-esteem and mental health across social media will be the same individual that casts belittling judgment. A gentleman must understand that his emotions are his own and they are valid. Your standing as a man is not predicated on the opinionated whims of the fickle public. Yes, this Fear. Anxiety. Frustration. And yes, a gentleman may be moved to tears. A gentleman should never attempt to meet expectations set forth by an individual that cannot satisfy those same expectations themselves. Reject labels forced upon you that betray your well-being. It can become mentally and emotionally draining. Allow yourself a healthy, confident embrace of your inner emotions; remain true and honest to your identity to achieve a better you.

The Professional – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 5 Ways to Keep a Team Motivated & Engaged While Working From Home

To be absolutely certain, SARS-CoV-2 has altered and disrupted contemporary life as we know it. Our daily routines have been cast into disarray; so we steel ourselves daily with the resolve and steadfastness to answer different challenges we all face. As I stated in my previous post, working remotely from home is not as glamorous as it may appear to the public. Trust, those of us that can work remotely are blessed. However, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored. Locked down utilizing whatever space is available to conduct work efficiently and effectively can be challenging. For example, my role and responsibilities require a consistent carousel of interaction with suppliers, hospital personnel, sales representatives, executive leadership, and fellow colleagues. These tasks are not an issue within the comforting confines of a cubicle or meeting room. Now, at home – not so much. Without a doubt, the concept of work-life balance has been disrupted. Coupled with the elimination of in-person team collaboration and the specter of furlough or termination; the combined stress can deplete what little remains of a worker’s drive and enthusiasm. As leaders, how can we keep a team motivated and engaged when the energy just isn’t there given the current environment? I am not an expert, but I offer 5 tips below that might be helpful.

  1. A leader should offer sincere praise, praise, and even more praise for a job performed well. Sure, a reward with monetary value would definitely be appreciated. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the strength of verbally acknowledging a colleague’s work and work ethic. Moreover, a leader should actively encourage team members to praise one another. A leader should encourage colleagues to share successes with the team and provide positive work-related topics. Welcoming a positive vibe can definitely boost morale. Now, if a leader really wants to add a personal touch of appreciation, a digital gift card from Grubhub is a popular and inexpensive option. Digital greeting cards that express gratitude is also a great option.
  2. During uncertain and worrisome times, it would not be unusual for a colleague to lose connectivity to their purpose. It is important that a leader touch base with their team periodically throughout the week. During these remote meetings, it is vital to incorporate the company’s mission and vision into the team dialogue. I am not suggesting one quote said mission and vision verbatim. A savvy leader should be able to weave a cogent theme that gently reminds the team of its purpose and role. He or she should clearly state attainable goals, identify areas of opportunity, and tie it all back to mission – which should be mirrored by both the company and team. Remind the team what is at stake and why it is important for the sustainability of the business.
  3. Communication. Communication. Communication. Whether a leader is using Cisco Jabber, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts or simply picking up a telephone; maintaining connectivity with one’s colleagues can help facilitate collaboration and teamwork even from afar. A leader should definitely encourage colleagues to contact one another with the tools provided by the company. On a personal note, during a call this week, I was happy to be informed that 2 of my colleagues had set up their own personal, weekly touch base to review work and set goals as they worked collaboratively.
  4. Just stating facts, I would guess that many colleagues do not hold an undying allegiance to their employer. Completely understanding that reality, yet ensuring that the work at hand is performed, I encourage colleagues to focus on the team to achieve job success. Once when the team was inundated with work and the situation appeared hopeless, I bluntly told them that the cavalry was not coming to the rescue, we only had each other. I also encourage colleagues to view their jobs pridefully as a service to their customers or community. The way a colleague performs their duty is a barometer of how well we serve the public.
  5. In this time of uncertainty, it is paramount that a leader never loses grasp of the human element. Work is work. Nevertheless, that work is performed by individuals. And those individuals carry fear, nervousness, anger, anxiety, and much more. I make a genuine effort to ask my colleagues about non-work related topics. It is my belief that fostering sincere camaraderie amongst colleagues can drive them to work harder, again not for the company, but for each other and the community. And it demonstrates an honest attempt to view them more than just a worker – they are a person.

Daddy Diary – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 10 True Confessions of a Parent Working From Home

Perhaps contrary to widespread popular belief, working from home is not as glamorous as may be suspected. Please, do not misunderstand, I am very thankful for the capability to continue my employment remotely. Nevertheless, working remotely does pose unique challenges that cannot be easily dismissed. Every morning I board the struggle bus on the way to work. My patience, energy, and emotions wear critically thin as the day progresses. Sharing a workspace with 2 toddlers and a spouse (also working remotely) while trying to work effectively is truly demanding. And life does not stop simply because your work is now based out of your kitchen nook. One afternoon I was working in the dining room when I heard my daughter call out from upstairs. She was taking a nap and woke up with a nasty nosebleed.

Of course, I had to stop what I was doing and tend to my daughter. First, I stopped her nosebleed. Then I stripped her bed, blotted her mattress cover with hydrogen peroxide, cleaned up the blood that had trickled down the hallway & stairs, stain-treated her Frozen dress and sheets, and laundered both before returning to work at the table. Ah, I forgot, I prepared her afternoon snack after all that was completed. Nevertheless, I was proud to show her that the Frozen dress was clean. Each day presents its own adventure. So yes, working from home is a privilege for which I am truly thankful, but the battle for sanity ensues every time I open my eyes Monday through Friday. Below, you will find 10 “confessions” of a working dad just trying to remain productive in a Brooks Brothers button-up and Goodfellow pajamas from Target.

  1. Scenes from a pandemic – work from home edition.

    As perplexing and strange as it may appear, I confess that I actually miss certain aspects of the workplace. Trust me, I don’t miss the daily Michigan commute or intervening in petty office squabbles. However, I miss the daily soup and chili served in the cafeteria. I miss the adult conversation with a few colleagues, such as opinions about the latest episode of The Walking Dead or what team will reach the NBA Finals. These are conversations that cannot be had with toddlers.

  2. And speaking of toddlers, if you see my mouth moving on a video conference call, yet no sound is detected, the mute button is not unintentional. Most likely I am bellowing instructions at my children for quiet or attempting to quell a potential sibling fracas. Also, if my fingers are interlocked and positioned in front of my mouth in a thoughtful pose; you guessed correctly, I am bellowing instructions at my children for quiet or attempting to quell a potential sibling fracas. I just try to look intelligent doing it.
  3. If at any time my computer screen goes unexpectedly “dark” during a video conference call; the bald eagle is on the move. Whether it is preparing lunch for the children, breaking up a fight already in progress, or tending to a toilet clogged with Charmin Ultra Soft – some situations require hands-on attention. Generally, I have my mobile phone in tow so I can keep up with the group conversation and chime in when needed.
  4. Cisco Jabber is a vital tool for communicating at my job. Cisco Jabber is an application that provides instant messaging, conferencing, voice messaging, and desktop sharing. When utilizing the instant message function, there are various statuses that can be displayed to designate a user’s current condition. Now, when my status transitions from “available” to “away”, nature is probably calling and I have to settle a bit of business. And no, my mobile phone is not in tow. A brother has to set some boundaries.
  5. True, I write about style and dress for gentlemen, but working from home has changed up everything regarding dress code. To state that the dress code is relaxed in my home office would be an understatement. Yeah, you may see my rocking a sport shirt during a video conference call, but a brother is sporting pajama bottoms – clear out of sight of the camera. Now, my director did surprise one afternoon with a video call. He caught me wrapped up in a blanket. Look damn it, Michigan decided to pretend it was early February, and it was cold in my basement! At least it wasn’t a Snuggie.
  6. Sometimes I skip showers. There I said it. I literally roll out of bed and log in. And I do not care. For years now, I would awaken at the crack of dawn and perform the following duties: get both children showered & clothed, prepare their breakfast, pack their lunch, get myself showered and clothed, drive them to school, and then continue my commute to work. Now mornings are not as hectic. I can multitask better. So, yeah, sometimes I may not hit the shower until late afternoon or evening. And I seriously don’t give a damn. Nope. And I can’t be shower-shamed either.
  7. Prior to video conference calls, I ensure my background is painfully plain. Just because I’m rocking pajama bottoms and won’t shower until 5pm, it doesn’t mean I want people to spy random items strewn around the house. I always do a quick room check before turning on the camera.
  8. I desperately attempt to find areas of isolation to work undisturbed, but there aren’t many viable locations in my home. My children always find me. Of course, they have no idea that Daddy is on a video call, so they will casually stroll into the room behind me doing kid stuff – like having a dance party. As you can see in one of the pictures above, my daughter decided to whip out her sleeping bag and set up a spot to chill behind me.
  9. With my office setup essentially in my basement, sometimes it is hard to disconnect from work. Sometimes I find myself logging back in after my family has retired for the night. So generally, I am the last person to go to bed, but one of the first up – Ava usually beats me by a few minutes. She is even so kind as to wander to my side of the bed and hand me my glasses. That’s her way of telling me to get up and get going.
  10. All things considered, there has been a benefit that I admit has been welcome. I am not eating fast food because I don’t drive anywhere. I am saving a lot of money on gasoline. Since school has been canceled, I have received a temporary reprieve from school tuition. And even though they drive me up the wall, I am spending more time with the kids since I am not getting home late from work. Sure, I am slowly losing my grip on reality, but there are some positives to glean from the experience.

Gentlemen’s Review – Harry’s – Harry’s Bar Soap

Life has been so surreal. At the start of the new year, I decided to slow my pace of writing. Previously, last autumn, I had decided to ramp up my blogging after months of intermittent activity. So I started fast and furious, but I needed to find some balance. There was absolutely no way, given the array of daily responsibilities, that I could maintain a writing pace that echoed my initial years of blogging. So I pumped the brakes. And then all hell broke loose in the form of a novel coronavirus and subsequent disease COVID-19. Everything was turned upon its head. I stopped blogging briefly. Life has been an adjustment. My employment is essential, and thankfully, I am able to work at home. My wife is in a similar position. School is canceled. So, we’re all sheltering in place at home. And of course, Michigan weather, as per normal, decided to dip into the high 30s with the occasional snow flurry in April. It has been hectic and challenging. Nevertheless, we are making it work the best that we can at the moment. And so, I am trying to incorporate a little normalcy back into my life by writing again.

So, gentlemen, let us talk about body bar soap. Weird timing right? Nonetheless, I’ve had this soap for weeks now, so now appeared to be a good time for a review. Now, many of you might be familiar with the brand Harry’s because of their shaving products. Well, for a few years now, you might have noticed that their line of gentleman’s grooming products has expanded beyond razors and shave cream. Bar soap and body washes are now a component of their grooming & hygiene catalog. During one of my supply runs to Target, I purchased a few bars out of curiosity. Given the price, it seems to be targeted toward the average gentleman that can appreciate finer grooming products but does not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on said finer product. How does Harry’s bar soap perform? Please continue reading below.

Observations

  • The offering from Harry’s in the bar soap market is very impressive. It is just as thick and robust as its luxury counterparts – clocking in at 5.0 ounces – at only a fraction of the cost of more expensive options. At a local retailer, a gentleman can expect to pay approximately $3.99 per bar soap. Sure, standard multi-box options (Dove, Lever 2000, Zest, etc.) will present more affordability. However, Harry’s bar soap strikes a sweet spot between budget and luxury.
  • In regards to my experience with expensive bar soaps, I have noticed that the lather is noticeably thicker than budget options. With Harry’s, despite the lower cost compared to high-end brands, the integrity of its lather is not sacrificed. The production of the lather is swift and considerably rich. A few rotations in your washcloth with some water will produce the desired results. One good lather will last the entirety of a shower. The bar soap itself has a soft, milky texture when exposed to water. The overall washing experience is pleasant.
  • Granted everyday usage, a single bar should endure for the length of an entire month. After a week of use, I could still discern “Harry’s” etched across the soap. There is a slight drying effect, so a gentleman should employ a good body lotion after showering.
  • Harry’s bar soap is truly formulated to use on your body. Trust me, the scent is fantastic. However, as it is refreshing and energetic, it is definitely too strong to use on your face. And as strong as the scent presents itself; it washes away cleanly as a gentleman rinses and exits the shower. So you need not worry about any strong lingering scents that might clash with your favorite cologne.
  • Harry’s bar soap is aimed at the average gentleman that doesn’t visit high-end retail locations regularly but desires an above-average showering experience. Harry’s bar soap delivers that experience at a fraction of the cost of more expensive options. A gentleman can expect to extract service for nearly a month before reloading with a new bar. Minimal water is required to generate a thick, generous lather. It removes dirt well with minimal dryness that can be resolved with a good body moisturizer.
  •  Harry’s bar soap retails for approximately $3.99 for a 5.0-ounce body bar. Harry’s website does offer a value, variety pack of 4 bars; thus slightly reducing the price to $3.75 per bar. Available scents: Stone, Fig, Shiso, and Redwood.
    Gentlemen’s Standard Approved
    Disclosure: TGS was not financially compensated for this post. Item was purchased for personal use. The opinions expressed are completely my own based on my experience.

Standard #1

An honorable gentleman fully comprehends the concept of exhibiting class, sympathy, and compassion. During episodes of great tragedy or human misery, the humane gentleman believes in charity and generosity. It is second nature. The considerate gentleman does not greedily seize upon the opportunity to criticize, politicize, or monetize unfortunate realities. His moral fiber is fortified with virtue and humility. He understands that the weight of life may prove too great for some individuals to bear. Alas, he has been blessed with robust shoulders that can bear life’s burdens, and that fact is not lost on him. He is blessed to be a blessing to those in need. Because, benevolence is a character trait that is not foreign to him, nor is it casually minimized. It is far too easy, agonizingly too simple to take what life has pleasantly afforded us for granted. Sometimes, perspective becomes distorted when the lens has become clouded with prosperity. Allow your wisdom to correct your focus. Your current situation could be dramatically different-and not in a good way. Be thankful. And always remember to assist others who may be in need. It could be you that requires the empathetic generosity of a stranger one day.

Style & Substance – Polo Ralph Lauren – Quilted Field Gloves

Regarding Michigan weather during prime winter months of December through March, I am unapologetically serious about my outerwear and accessories. When the temperatures begin to steadily plummet and the wind chill makes it feel unbearably lower than the reported forecast, common sense drives me to retrieve the warmest apparel from my closet. So unlike some of my brethren than prefer a light coat, no hat, and no gloves – I definitely fully equip myself to battle Old Man Winter. Especially when my vehicle or home needs clearing of heavy snow, I require suitable protection from potential frostbite. Over the years, I have amassed a varied collection of gloves to shield my hands from harmful exposure. And perhaps my warmest pair is pictured above – the Polo Ralph Lauren Quilted Field Glove. For a mere $68.00, I found a surprisingly warm pair of gloves that have provided cozy service through some very frigid days. Seriously, their appearance belies the warmth and insulation provided when the cold outside makes naked hands almost unbearable. The quilted back is polyester while the palm is a decent grade of leather. The lining is polyester and olefin, which greatly contributes to its insulating qualities. There is ribbed hem around the wrist along with a discreet  button closure. They are very lightweight and fit perfectly. I’ve owned my pair for a few months now, and after withstanding the rigors of shoveling snow or brushing my car off, they have maintained good integrity. If you are a gentleman in the market for a good winter glove, this offering from Ralph Lauren is a tremendous bargain.

In the Dog House – Snoop’s Toxic Response to Gayle King and the Enduring Gender Conflict Within the Black Community

Generally, I don’t venture out into the treacherous waters of controversial current events, but my social media outlets have exploded over the very public furor revolving around Gayle King and Snoop Dogg. If you are unaware of the situation, I will present to you the CliffsNotes version. During an interview, Gayle King delivered what many interpret as a disrespectful series of questions to Lisa Leslie regarding the legacy of the late Kobe Bryant and rape allegations from 2003. Much to the dismay of Ms. King, CBS released this salacious snippet to the public. Cue predictable fecal storm across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Snoop Dogg then lashed out at King via Instagram with some choice expletives and a thinly veiled threat. Gayle King proceeded to get dragged across all of social media, death threats followed, and close friend Oprah Winfrey offered an emotional defense of King. The Internet continued to blow up as everyone from Stephen Jackson to Susan Rice offered a viewpoint. Hell, even Bill Cosby weighed in via Twitter as Pro-Snoop. Wait – didn’t he write a book and go on a tour denouncing such disrespectful behavior from our black men. I guess that follows the mantra: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Misogyny loves Cue massive eye-roll.

First and foremost, I did not like Gayle King’s questions and follow-up questions. Now, King contends that the clip posted by CBS was aired without any context. And I believe that to be true. As a viewer, we do not possess any idea of what led to that moment during the interview. Nevertheless, Lisa Leslie was visibly uncomfortable with where the interview was going, and a stoic King continued with a soft-spoken badgering that felt cold and opportunistic. Displaying some emotional intelligence would have gone a long way. Now, if the 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant required a journalistic dissection regarding his legacy, a better time would have been during or shortly after his retirement. It has not even been two weeks since his death; his family and friends are still grieving the untimely deaths of Bryant AND his daughter. Simply, it was not the time or place for the line of questioning that Leslie respectfully and adroitly handled.

Now, that brings me to Snoop Dogg. Brother, you’re too damn old for these shenanigans. Now, before I offer my view regarding his response to King, allow me to preface my statement with a short story about myself. Approximately 20 years ago, I landed a job at a laboratory in Farmington Hills, Michigan – a suburb just outside of Detroit. I did not own a car at the time, so I woke up at 5 a.m. every day for my long commute by way of two buses. During that time, a coworker that also lived in Detroit offered to pick me up on his way to the lab. He was an older gentleman, and he appeared to be a nice guy. Soon, I learned he was very much angry and bitter. I am not exactly sure why he was angry, and I did not have the stomach to question him. Every morning, I listened to various diatribes regarding gender and race. Soon, I opted to return to my 2 bus commute until I procured a car. Much like those uncomfortable morning commutes, I cringed as I listened to Snoop Dogg’s profanity-laced rebuttal. I understand the reason behind the anger, but the violent expression of that anger, teeming with racial conspiracy theories wrapped in male chauvinism and misogyny, wasn’t constructive at all.

The progression of time and age should be accompanied by the procurement of wisdom, knowledge and a definitive level of maturity. To be perfectly clear, there is a dignified way to deliver fair and nuanced criticism, and Gayle King should not be immune to said criticism. However, the level of attacks on King by some prominent celebrities has lacked that intellectual nuance. Truth be told, I am not surprised by Snoop’s reaction, as he hasn’t exactly been a paragon of righteousness and virtue. Wait – didn’t he drop a gospel album? Nevertheless, I have not been too surprised by celebrity behavior so outlandish that I have been desensitized to the point of quiet complicity. Snoop Dogg’s juvenile response was profane, reckless, hateful, and brazenly disrespectful. Listen – we bemoan the dog-whistle politics of Donald Trump, as we rightfully fear his inflammatory rhetoric could agitate an unhinged individual toward violent action. Yet, when Snoop Dog barks, “Respect the family and back off, b*tch, before we come get you“, he is hypocritically granted a pass. If Trump employs a dog-whistle, then Snoop used a bullhorn. He has since issued a clarification, contending he wasn’t threatening King. Yeah…okay Snoop.

That proverbial bullhorn symbolized a problematic attitude toward black women by some black men here in America. Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Nothing appears to have changed since his death. Some individuals may argue that it has gotten worse. In the arenas of love, work, finances, marriage, parenthood, etc.; there has been an ongoing tension between black men and women that have been festering for decades. However, now with the omnipresent influence of social media, celebrity and common man alike have the platform to spew hate. And to be fair, the hate cuts both ways. Black women are conniving b*tches hell-bent on castrating black men emotionally, mentally, and financially. Black men are damaged beyond salvaging, forever avoiding life’s responsibilities while remaining perpetually toxic to everyone. And somewhere behind the curtain is a white man controlling it all and pitting us against one another. This madness has to end. Snoop Dogg’s response is just a symptom of a bigger problem.

Sometimes the resolution to a big problem boils down to a simple remedy – communication. Even when we vehemently disagree with one another, as black men, we cannot be reduced to visceral, debased conduct. We have to be accountable. And it starts in our homes. We have to identify and recognize our own toxic behavior and move with a purpose toward self-improvement. We have to do a better job of raising our children. We have to educate our daughters regarding how they should be treated as women. And we should definitely educate our sons regarding how they should treat women. That education should not come from media and entertainment. We need to correct and speak out against misogynistic and sexist behavior from our fellow men. Twenty years ago, I did not have the voice, nor the platform. But I do now. Black men – we have to do better. It starts with a meaningful and substantive conversation amongst us all.

Standard Recommendations – Uncle Jimmy Beard Growth Oil

Hello everyone, my extended holiday hiatus has come to a close, and I am ready to start writing again. Today, I wanted to spotlight an item I discovered in the men’s grooming aisle at Target – Uncle Jimmy Beard Growth Oil. Currently, as an owner of a full beard, it might be hard to imagine that many years ago, I was incapable of growing any facial hair at all. I actually started getting meaningful growth during my first year in college. Fast-forward to the current day;  I am able to grow a full beard without any issues. Now, a full beard requires the appropriate, required maintenance because a dry, scratchy beard can be quite problematic. I am always willing to experiment with a new product, so I decided to purchase Uncle Jimmy Beard Growth Oil while I was shopping. My wife noticed the bottle and wondered aloud why I needed help growing my beard. I explained it was more for maintenance, and if a fuller beard was also a consequence, then that would be an added benefit.

Observations

  • Uncle Jimmy Beard Growth Oil has a mildly aromatic, fruity fragrance. The scent is sensibly light, and it generally fades away within the first hour or so. Still, it smells great as it is applied to your face.
  • The product is moderately oily, but your facial hair and skin will definitely absorb the product quickly; leaving no greasy residue behind. A gentleman will definitely feel a difference in beard texture with consistent usage.
  • Depending on the thickness of your beard, I would estimate that 3-5 pumps should supply a sufficient amount of beard oil to satisfy a gentleman’s needs. I purchased a 2.0 ounce bottle, and with continuous usage everyday, I have nearly half a bottle left after three months.
  • I’ve never had a patchy beard, but there were a few small areas that required some reinforcement. I did notice some improvement in those areas. Generally, I never grow my beard beyond my jawline. However, I was able to achieve significant below my jawline and midway down my throat. My beard was always moisturized and soft.
  • Uncle Jimmy Beard Growth Oil retails for approximately $10.99 at local store chains such as Target. Overall, I think this is a great price with respect to the product. A bottle should render months of dedicated service, your beard with definitely be softer, and you should observe some good growth after a month or more.

The Standard #31

It is wise for a gentleman to avoid an ascension that leaves him amongst mountains of hubris; an ascension that betrays his remembrance of the ever distant valleys beneath his feet. Gentlemen, be not thoughtlessly mistaken, your climb towards success does not preclude the possibility of an agonizing fall. Depending upon the heights that one rises, arrogance may silently corrupt your character, and thus the descent could be resolutely sharp, steep and abrupt. This is not to say that a gentleman should not achieve or strive for the greatest heights of success or prosperity. To be certain, a gentleman can certainly ride amongst the highest clouds of accomplishment, and yet remain grounded in modesty and humility. It is the appreciation of the valleys that makes the view from above that much more beautiful. It is the appreciation of the valleys that assuage any fear of falling. Because, if a gentleman so finds himself in the midst of a certain plunge, his spirit is steeled with the knowledge that he will rise again. Conversely, a successful gentleman may never experience any affecting gravity upon his achievements. Nonetheless, the underlying message is consistent – never lose sight of your origins and appreciate the valleys of one’s life that have transformed into triumph. And if you are not there yet, don’t worry, you will be. See you at the top.

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