Off the Shelf: Wendell Berry’s ‘The Wild Geese’ From Black Swan Books

Readers of Pinstripe Pulpit well know that I am an admirer of the writing of Wendell Berry, the letterpress printing of Gray Zeitz at Larkspur Press, and the bookselling of Michael Courtney at Black Swan Books. It is always a happy confluence when the three come together.

Wild Geese title

This past year, 2014, was the 30th anniversary of Lexington’s Black Swan Books. I recently wrote a feature article at KYForward about Michael’s commemoration of the event with a new Larkspur Press letterpress printed broadside of a poem by Wendell Berry.

A broadside is a single sheet of paper printed on one side and meant for framing. The anniversary broadside features a poem by Kentucky writer Wendell Berry whose works are a specialty of Courtney. Black Swan’s broadsides are printed using century-old equipment by Gray Zeitz of Larkspur Press in Monterey, Kentucky. The work of Berry and Zeitz is in such demand that half of the copies of the anniversary broadside were sold within the first two weeks.

The broadside edition of ‘The Wild Geese’ is limited to only 150 copies, each of which is signed by Wendell Berry and numbered. Broadsides also serve as celebration of letterpress printing itself. You can see and feel the texture of the mouldmade paper, the bite of the type in the dampened printed paper.

Courtney Wild Geese

And with limited editions printed from handset type, there is a natural scarcity. Like true “first editions” of old, once the type is broken down and returned to its drawer, that exact edition can never be recreated. Thus a moment in time is captured–preserved–but it cannot be remade.

“What we need is here.”

Wild Geese colophon

The Long Passing Away of the Visible: Fred Chappell Limited Edition Letterpress Broadside Available For Sale

Fred Chappell Back in my active letterpress printing days, the details of which I will at some point record here, I was blessed to work with wonderful writers like Wendell Berry, James Still, and Jane Gentry (Vance). The one non-Kentucky poet I worked with was North Carolina legend Fred Chappell, one of my favorite writers and later the poet laureate of North Carolina. (Adela Press was really a cover for me to work with writers I admired. Shhhh–don’t tell anyone.) If you’ve not read his novels I Am One of You Forever and Brighten the Corner Where You Are you should be locked in a room and not released until you finish them.

Fred provided me with an original poem he had written in honor of his late friend Jim Wayne Miller, a North Carolina native who graduated from Kentucky’s Berea College and taught at Western Kentucky University. Both are well known Appalachian writers, and it is fitting that Chappell begins the poem with the image of a mountain.

I handset the poem in Victor Hammer’s Hammer Uncial type, and printed it using a hand-pulled iron Washington press at the University of Kentucky’s King Library Press. The poem was hand inked in three colors and printed in one pull on dampened mould made Hahnemuhle Biblio paper in a numbered edition of 100, each signed by Fred Chappell.

Long Passing - title

It was the last thing I printed, and also the best thing I did in my short letterpress career. Fred Chappell liked it, too, writing in correspondence to me:

“It is lovely, edible, swoon-inducing.”


“I’ve never had such an opulent presentation, I think–in fact, I’ve rarely seen any so well done.”

True or not, I liked hearing it.

As I moved on to other things (probably should have stuck with letterpress) soon thereafter, I’ve ended up with several unsold copies that would be better on your wall than in my storage. So if you’d like to own one of Ol’ Fred’s limited broadsides, I’m offering some for sale. You can contact me via the Contact Page.

$35 each, including shipping in the US. I prefer Paypal.
12″ x 7 7/16″

Long Passing Away broadside

Long Passing colophon

Sartorial Archaelogy: A Robert Talbott Foulard Patch Tie

Some thrifters are simply interested in skimming off the cream of overlooked haute couture offerings, others are interested in digging up a little sartorial history, too. Neckties are way to do this, probably the easiest way. People tended to buy a lot of them, and often they were somewhat lightly worn.

After a decade of thrifting I’ve seen all sorts of oddities, some so odd they never should have been at all. But recently I came across something I had not seen before, a patch silk foulard tie from independent men’s shop stalwart Robert Talbott and its its higher end Best of Class line.

Talbott Patch Foulard

Patch fabrics take cuttings, originally as a way to make economical use of scraps, from usually related fabrics and sew them together. This conveys a bit of a devil-may-care attitude, thus are part of what has traditionally been called a GTH, or “go-to-hell” look. That is to say, the one who wears such a thing really could not care less what you think about it, or him. It originated as a class statement. Men who are able to convey such a notion are those who don’t fear the repercussions of a superior who may not like it.

As with most clothing from this genre, J. Crew and others got a hold of it, commodified it, and now you can get such pieces ready made for the outlet mall. Patch madras, which I confess to liking, is the most commonly seen patch clothing, usually seen in ties, trousers and shorts, and flat caps. Patch tweeds and tartans are the winter versions.

Patch silk foulard, however, is a rare breed that hearkens back to “authentic” patch meant for the dandy gentleman brave enough to wear it. Foulard itself is that most conservative of ties, typically small repeating patterns or more reserved paisleys and pines. Here the foulard patterns live together in colorway harmony. It is a subtle patch that at least says “gth” in lower case. A quick Internet search only turned up one similar example, also made by Robert Talbott.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 presetI find ties of interest, too, as artifacts of often long gone men’s shops. D.J. Showalter Gentleman’s Clothiers, once in Lexington’s Fayette Mall and the downtown Civic Center, seems to have fought the good fight until the mid-1980s. They sold this tie for $37.50, which is a lot more than many people pay for ties today. Showalter also went by the name “Fox and Hound” as a play to the horsey set. In June 1984 they marked down everything in a bid to stay open. This tie may even date from that sale.

Times, and fashions, inevitably change. Stores come and go. But both sometimes leave clues behind that things were once somewhat different.

Review: Does Lexington’s Tolly-Ho Make Kentucky’s Best Burger?

Tolly Ho burger rings

Founded in 1971, Lexington’s Tolly-Ho Restaurant has long been a burger and shake mecca for University of Kentucky students. I went there myself as a UK student a couple of decades ago back at the old location on the corner of Euclid and Limestone.

Tolly-Ho recently received some great press when The Chive ranked the best burgers in each state, crowning Tolly-Ho as maker of Kentucky’s best hamburger. I figured it was time to revisit Tolly-Ho, after all these years, at its new location on South Broadway.

Tolly Ho door

I ordered the flagship burger, a Tolly-Ho with cheese. With fond memories of their onion rings, I chose rings rather than fries. It’s a good thing that Tolly-Ho makes great shakes because they carry Pepsi products, and, well, nobody wants that (they do have Ale-8-One readily available). I tacked on a strawberry shake.

There certainly is no complaining about the quality of the burger. It’s tasty and moist with the right “burger” taste. I ordered mine with cheddar cheese, and I will say it didn’t have that cheddar bite to it. That quibble aside, it was a solid burger experience. The Tolly Ho is, indeed, a great burger.

Tolly Ho Burger bitten

I am also a big fan of the onion rings. They were as good as I remembered. The serving size was generous (maybe too generous considering how badly I don’t need to eat onion rings). The batter was crisp and not crumbly, avoiding frequent onion ring failings.

My wife ordered the cheddar tots as her side, tater tots with cheddar cheese inside. They were good, but I’m not a big tater tot fan so I’m not the best judge. I think if they’re the sort of thing you like, you will like them.

Tolly Ho shakeI don’t want to fail to mention my strawberry shake. It was rich and thick with real strawberry flavor, not the dreaded Strawberry Quick taste. Some strawberry chunks would be nice, as would a dedicated shake glass or mug rather than the standard plastic Pepsi cups. But get the shake.

It was great being back at Tolly-Ho, although I miss the old location across the street from UK’s Student Center and north dorms, not that those dorms are there anymore. If you’re in Lexington and want to try a classic, stop by Tolly-Ho. Tolly-Ho has a great burger with excellent sides, but for the best burger in Kentucky I’m going to keep looking.

Tolly Ho Restaurant
606 South Broadway
Lexington, Kentucky 40508
Open 24 Hours

Tolly Ho sign fern

Tolly Ho counter


Lexington’s Southland Jamboree, Live Music, & Community

 “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.” – Andrew Lytle

Velvet Blue 01

It’s hard to beat live music, especially summertime outdoor live music. Make it neighborhood summertime outdoor live music and you’ve reached live music nirvana (confession: I never actually saw Nirvana live).

That brings us to Lexington’s Southland Jamboree. During my decade of exile from Kentucky I rarely got to see live Bluegrass music. I was overjoyed to find that in my absence a weekly neighborhood summer Bluegrass concert series had sprung up on Southland Drive. The better news is that’s only a few blocks from our house.

Southland Drive 1

The series opened the Tuesday following Memorial Day on a grassy spot behind the bowling alley with the eponymous local band Southland Drive. Last week was the more youthful Velvet Blue (who did not perform a Bluegrass version of ‘Blue Velvet’). Tonight is the band Newtown (see the full summer schedule).

Velvet Blue 02But Bluegrass is not simply a spectator sport. After an hour listening to the evening’s scheduled entertainment, the natives get their turn as audience jamming begins. This is in keeping with Andrew Lytle’s admonition in I’ll Take My Stand, “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.” Sometimes we need the right nudge to do just that.

What are building blocks of community and culture? It’s a complex question, but I would argue that two elements are eating together and making music together. The Bluegrass Jamboree is the sort of local project that promotes local culture and true community. Our folding chairs are in the trunk, and an evening picnic will be ready for tonight’s show.

Southland Jamboree


‘Kentucky’: The New Book of Bluegrass Photographs by Pieter Estersohn

Gainesway Farm, via Garden & Gun

Gainesway Farm, via Garden & Gun

One doesn’t take long in the Bluegrass to recognize so many scenes are picture perfect. That’s clearly what celebrated New York photographer Pieter Estersohn thought when he turned to the Lexington area as the subject of his new book, Kentucky: Historic Homes and Horse Farms of the Bluegrass Region.

There’s been something of a media blitz to promote the book, which provide interesting perspective on the beauty and culture of the Bluegrass from an outsider’s perspective. Sandy Keenan at The New York Times has a brief interview with Estersohn. We learn how the project sent Estersohn to the hospital, and what Bluegrass house Estersohn would like to call home. Keenan also asks him “why Kentucky?”:

For a guy who grew up in Manhattan, California and Paris,  why did you pick Kentucky?

One of my oldest friends, Antony Beck, whose family is in the international business of both horses and wine, lives there with his wife and five children, at Gainesway Farm. He’s the godfather of my 10-year-old son, Elio. So we were always going there to visit, staying in the Norman-style guesthouse. As someone very passionate about history and architecture, I got to experience bluegrass country over time, and the pieces started to fall together. It seemed like a very underrepresented part of the country, which hadn’t been fully fleshed out in a dedicated way.

Keeneland Magazine‘s Debra Gibson Isaacs also features Estersohn in the Spring issue. She writes:

Masterful photography allow readers to see everything from the smallest details in silverware to the normally unseen panoramic views revealed through aerial photographs. In all, there are 150 color photographs. “This is a special and unique American region,” Estersohn said. “I love the history. I love that it was part of Virginia and was English. The whole history of how horse breeding and racing came to the region is fascinating as is the reference to Lexington being the ‘Athens of the West.'”

And don’t miss the Garden & Gun gallery of selected photographs from the book. Even for those of us who live in the Bluegrass, Estersohn opens the door to places that most of us are never able to see.

The Death of the Men’s Store: Lexington’s Graves-Cox Closing After 126 Years

Graves Cox window

The past generation has witnessed the devastation of what was once a stand-by across the nation: the independent men’s shop. The latest victim of the confluence of casual wear, chain stores, and Internet retailers is Lexington’s Graves-Cox & Company.

Graves Cox stirrupStarted in 1888 by Leonard Cox’s grandfather, the market is just no longer viable. “I had already decided to stop carrying suits and sport coats, and only stock blazers,” Cox told me on Thursday. Cox has sold the store to Georgia investors associated with He expects them to go the same casual direction he’s been forced into over the past years. “They won’t carry suits and sport coats at all,” Cox said.

Southwick, Barbour, Pantherella, Smathers & Branson, and Alden are just a few of the classic brands Graves-Cox stocks, and now has on sale. Cox told me he expects the sale to continue through June, but some items such as Alden shoes were already in short supply when the sale started.

My thrifting adventures have led me to a couple of vintage Graves-Cox store branded ties over time, both woven emblematics. The horse tie, appropriate to Lexington, probably dates from the 1970s, evidenced by its wider width. I have been considering having a bow tie made out of it. The older tie, likely dating from the 1950s-60s due to its width and construction, has little Confederate battle flags, reflecting Lexington’s Southerness from a time when folks didn’t get worked up by such things.Graves Cox vintage ties

If you get a chance, stop by Graves-Cox before its doors close for good. Get a deal and look around. Chat with Leonard Cox. You can tell your grandchildren how you once visited an independent men’s store.

Graves Cox door Graves Cox Smathers - Branson

Graves Cox store

Lexington: Where Ramsey’s Isn’t (& Chatham’s May Be Soon)

Woodland-High work

Readers will know that the Hight Street/Woodland corner location of Ramsey’s Diner is my favorite place to eat in the world. Or it was until Ramsey’s suddenly closed the location and moved to Zandale on Nicholasville Road earlier this year. I’ve not eaten at the new Ramsey’s yet (look for thoughts here soon), but I was encouraged to see men working on the building yesterday. Ramsey’s decision to leave was reportedly based largely on inattention to the building by the owner. A new restaurant called Chatham’s, focusing on lowcountry Southern food (think shrimp & grits), is supposed to open this summer.

I still love Ramsey’s, but leaving their original location was a real blow. I hope Chatham’s keeps the spirit alive in the old place.

[Read my review of Chatham’s at]

A Spring Visit to Lexington Cemetery

Woman statue 2

One of the most beautiful sights in the world is the explosion of blooming dogwoods and red buds in the Kentucky Bluegrass in April. And one of the best places to witness that is in the historic Lexington Cemetery. With the blooms passing their prime, I hurried to take my family to see the beauty before it passes for another year.

Dogwood drive

Dating from 1849, the cemetery is the final resting place of governors, vice-presidents, soldiers, preachers. Henry Clay, the most famous Kentucky politician, is interred there, and his statue towers above all.

Henry Clay

While the cemetery is always a beautiful place to drive through, the dogwoods are fading quickly. Don’t delay.

CSA soldier

Breck 1 Breck 2


Woman statue 1

Lexington BBQ: Blue Door Smokehouse

Blue Door frontAlways on the hunt for good barbecue, I was game when my lunch appointment suggested a newer place in Lexington called Blue Door Smokehouse. Now “smokehouse” makes a positive assertion that I appreciate. A growing number of places are using gas on their meat, and it’s just not the same. I commend Blue Door for putting the smoke on display.

Blue Door Smoke

Central Kentucky is a tough place for barbecue. There hasn’t been a strong barbecue culture here, a fact confirmed by signs like “Texas BBQ” in the window. One wouldn’t go to a place in Memphis that said “Kansas City BBQ.” I recognize the marketing aspect (many places do this), but I suppose my gripe is that if you’re going to do barbecue, take a stand that it’s your barbecue.

Blue Door is a friendly place, with patient, but prompt, service. They have a nice offering of meats and sides. I chose brisket and baby back pork ribs. I added sides of ranch beans and potato salad.

The meat at Blue Door is good, well cooked and flavorful. It has a nice crust, but isn’t tough. I liked the brisket a little better than the ribs. I would be glad to have either again.

Blue Door plate

I have to admit I was disappointed with my side choices. I was warned the ranch beans wouldn’t be sweet like standard baked beans, which I was fine with. My beau ideal barbecue shack Oklahoma Joe’s serves a version of ranch beans, in fact. I found these just a little too harsh, however.

The potato salad just wasn’t to my taste at all. While I found the beans too harsh, the potato salad was bland. It needed some flavor kick. My friend let me try her collard greens, and they were quite tasty. I would recommend trying those. I almost ordered the vinegar slaw, and wish I had. I think it would have been more to my liking. If worse comes to worse, they do have Grippo’s chips.

Blue Door offers three sauces on the table: sweet, spicy, and tangy. I always try the meat first without sauce, but then I like to test out whatever they have. It wasn’t long before I found that my sauce of choice was the tangy, which is a vinegar based sauce of the same style as Alabama’s Dreamland Bar-B-Que. Blue Door’s tangy doesn’t have quite the flavor depth as Dreamland, but it’s quite good if you like a vinegar based sauce. The other sauces were also good, but I mostly stuck with tangy after I found it.

Blue Door sauces

So as my Lexington barbecue adventure begins, Blue Door Smokehouse was a good start. It’s solid barbecue, that doesn’t reach the level of greatness. Still, I hope to return and recommend you stop by.

Blue Door BBQ
226 Walton Avenue
Lexington, KY 40502
Monday-Thursday 11 am – 3 pm
Friday-Saturday 11 am – 9 pm
Closed Sunday