Sunday, February 10, 2013

North Face Gang | A Symbol of Success

We have this joke, called the North Face Gang. Using ASL (American Sign Language), several of my friends have adapted the "N" and "F" to symbols for this cheeky club. It's amazing how none of us noticed it before, but once you start looking for it, you're going to see it everywhere: North Face products. They're taking over this world. In fact, if you don't own at least one North Face Item, you're a completely loser, incapable of anything, and unlikely to ever amount to anything in this world.

Think I'm lying? Try this: the next time you're in a restaurant or a public place, start looking around, and count the North Face apparel. I think you'll be very astonished by how many people are adorned with this symbol of capitalism: a  form of fashion called wilderness chic.

I first became aware of the phenomenon in Belgium, travelling with about twenty Americans all from much more expensive U.S. Universities than I arrived from. I'm standing their in the frigidness of Europe with a micro-thin cotton jacket from Family Dollar while each of them wore (what I later learned) was a $150-$200 fleece, and very warm, North Face jacket. I was familiar with the name prior, I knew it was for "hikers, etc."- but why were they wearing them? Well the answer is, to be cool, to fit in.

When I flew back to the States and went out for beer with friends, I explained this phenomenon, and then we together, began this game of counting the number of drinkers entering the bar with North Face. By the end of the night, 90% of the patrons were wearing the garb and accessories made for braving the wilderness, in the ironically moderate climate of NC. "Never Stop Exploring" my rear, the only thing they were exploring was a menu of beer. We turned it into a drinking game, whereby every time you spot a North Face Jacket, you're forced to take a shot. Needless to say we were all drunk by the end of the night.

If you know me, I'm as anti-capitalist as they come. I don't give into trends, and I rarely buy name brand clothing. But I wondered, could simply owning a status symbol, something that immediately says to others "I'm in your club", open doors for me? So I decided, especially since I needed one anyways, and since I was trying to re-conform to American culture, to buy a North Face backpack for school. The cost? A staggering $99. I could hear my coupon-clipping father cursing in my head as I swiped my card through the reader.  Did it change my life? Probably.

Let me give you an example. The other day, I was walking to E-Lot from UNCG. E-lot is about 1k from the school, through a rather shady part of town on Lee Street. Though I never try to judge the characters I see on the street, on this one occasion I witnessed a young woman randomly talking to herself, acting a bit rabid. At first I was cautious of her as I approached, but then I saw she was wearing a North Face back-pack, and instantly realized that this woman wasn't going to rob me, (though there is what they call the North Face Mafia gang) -no clearly, she has enough money to own North Face, to be a part of the club, she was okay. Suddenly everything was fine, and we had an unspoken understanding as we passed each other, and I flipped her my N.F. gang sign.

As with almost every cultural observation I ever write about, I like to research stuff before I write about it. Rarely am I the only one who thinks about these things. Sure enough, I find an article on CNN about the same phenomenon in Korea. The title of the paragraph: Losers and back-breakers:

North Face jacket wearers can be immediately classified according to the type of North Face jacket they wear. This is apparently a common phenomenon in elementary and middle schools in particular, where the jackets are so popular they have been dubbed "the uniform worn over the uniform," or "back-breakers," 

So for God's sake, if you live in America and have children in school... buy them a North Face Jacket or they will never amount to anything. On the other hand, if you're too cheap or poor, you can subsequently buy a knock-off embroidered patch from Spain on Ebay and have Granny sew it on to your Wal-Mart Jacket. If you're even more of a anti-establishment sort of person, there's the (now defunct) South Butt (or Butt Face) line of clothing, which is, a pun of the N.F. brand. This of course, unless your school has ban the brand because of the theft, and violence associated with it (it has happened).

Oh if I didn't mention, there are only two types of people in this world. The Wal-Mart Gang, and the North Face Gang.  Social economic status has never been easier to understand in America. Don't dress Wal-Mart in a North Face World.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Greensbroken in E Lot

Lee Street hole to where? Occasionally someone will try to
put a stick over it, to save someone from some expensive
emergency health-care, but no one seems to want to fix it.
E Lot. Students fear it, and I haven't figured it out. I love it. I get a nice walk, cheap parking, and never have to circle a stall like a vulture and its prey. They pile into the UNCG Chariots (The intra UNCG public transportation system) like cattle leaving for market. It's truthfully only two blocks from school, and the idea of the cost of the vehicles, drivers, gas, and upkeep on the system (which is all GPS tracked) seems mind-boggling expensive to me (no wonder our parking costs rival tuition of some schools). There's a lovely side-walk but no one uses it. It really makes no sense to me. I can't be the only one who likes to walk it, can I?

Of course there are a few problems along the way. Bare wiring hanging from telephone poles, and open holes in the side-walk that would definitely give you a nasty ankle break if you didn't know it's there. Sure they're building another new parking lot on Aycock, which has subsequently dug up the sidewalk, and I always seem to get nasty looks and honks when I cross the road. "I'm sorry you have to wait in your SUV with its climatization as I TRY TO WALK to school!!!" For some reason I recall, learning as a child, that pedestrians have the right-away? No, you wouldn't know it around here. A sense of entitlement from those addicted to their gross-polluters, and cup holders filled with Mountain Dew and vodka. I'm sorry you have problem, but me and the other three people of UNCG who actually use the side-walks would like to request your sorry ass wait a few extra seconds, perhaps burning a calorie, while pressing on the brake pedal.
You know what I'd love. If they'd finally shut Spring Garden Street down
to pedestrians only on-campus. Oh and a few repairs here.

Of course, I think they should do away with all the Chariots, minus one, for the handicap and the fat people who pretend to be. People should have to walk. My rule is, if you can see it, you can walk to it. We make it far to easy in this country, in Greensboro, for people to ruin it for others. I don't want to breath your smog, I don't want your parking-lot taking up room on campus where we could have another building, and I certainly don't want your pretentious road repairs to take precedence over a simple sidewalk that remains broken just like our inability to enable eco-green, happy citizens, who would rather dance down side-walks that be filled with bitter road-rage behind their Chevrolet Tahoe that seats 8, but carries a lone passenger as they run  me down in the intersection.

E-Lot, I freaking love E-lot.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bill's Pizza Pub

The architecture: part horror house, part-British pub.
 Last time I went to Bill's was somewhere around 1989. Back then, pizza was a different animal. Just the idea of having a pizza restaurant within driving distance, for most of North Carolina, was to say the least, a luxury. Most venues followed the typical Pizza Hut concept of the time which involved dark dining-rooms, 45-60 minute waits for food, and a juke box in some corner. A lot has changed since then, and now the companies which set the standard for Friday nights and families getting together to talk about their week, have become the take-out $10 mediocrity which patrons scurry off in their SUVs with, to hide behind their big-screens. Where are the old-fashioned Pizza restaurants? The truth, they're in the middle of no where.

For $30, I would have preferred to see the pizza fill that pan.
Bill's Pizza Pub, a literal public house that at one time did serve alcohol (but no longer does) is located on Randleman Road just outside of Greensboro. It's located in this pizza purgatory between Greensboro and Randleman, and the property resembles a cross between Boss Hogg's Boar's Nest and a Cold-War brick built knock off of an English style pub. There's absolutely nothing you can possibly say to describe this place. It's both warm and friendly, but frighteningly dark and isolated. The service is kind and quick, and the pizza deliciously fantastic.

Inside the building, Bill's is composed of "chambers", or rooms where the doors have been removed. Each room has a different flavor, decorated uniquely, as if to suit the eater in both seating and toppings. Some rooms are quaint with two tables, while others are more like a normal restaurant dining room. If the power were to go out, you'd think you were in a horror house, but when dimly lit and filled with the laughter of pizza eating customers- it's quite charming.
Is that the after-life in there, or just really good pizza?

The pizza, is very similar to Sir Pizza, (square cut and insanely addictive) though the portions seem smaller, and the cost more expensive. What you trade in quantity you gain in diversity. Try a macaroni and hot-dog pizza, or a baked potato pizza, or one of their famous taco pizzas with lettuce, tomato, aged-cheddar, and sour cream on it.

We grabbed Bill's Pub Special, a typically sized large pizza with the usual southern foray of imitation meats and veggies piled on a thin manufactured crust with tons of cheese. What might seem like a un-inspired, overtly processed pizza is now niche southern style delicacy that's been lost among the now modern day artisan efforts of main-stream American chains. It's delicious, horrible for your health, and uniquely a countrified incarnation of a Italian food it no longer resembles except in name.

It's in that sense, I've got to say, Bill's Pizza Pub has a unique product that while lost among most modern chains, is a nostalgic, unique bite, of sensationally different pizza ingredients and southern hospitality that's survived the evolution its genre.

For one of the most interesting dining experiences in all of Greensboro, double-back to the past with some 1980's pizza at Bill's Pizza Pub.