What I loved this week
Cole Haan Original Grand Ultra.

What I loved this week

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2020 - 12:00am

Let’s call a spade a spade: we Filipinos are a quietly resilient, perpetually optimistic people. But along with the rest of the world, with just two months into this year 2020, it’s already been a tough challenge to keep smiling and think rosier days are just around the corner. No sooner do we put some disaster or tragedy behind us, and some fresh exacerbating situation rears its ugly head and we’re left stupefied, wondering if this year is a box opening — but no one warned us it was Pandora’s Box. It’s like we’re in the middle of an extended mercury retrograde.

It’s times like this when simple joys are what we’re left with, taking pleasure in the mundane, ordinary, and personal. It’s a time for...

Putting your best foot forward

Now, I’m no male version of you-know-who but a nice new pair of shoes is one of my simple, guilty pleasures. So I was happy to discover that for 2020, a brand I’ve had a lengthy relationship with, Cole Haan, had created a new, improved version of its classic Wingtip Oxford, the Original Grand Ultra.

Cole Haan was founded 92 years ago but unlike other brands steeped in tradition and the concomitant conservatism, Cole Haan has been ready to push its brand equity with technology, color, and the vibrant lifestyle. Plus, it helps that it has enjoyed a reputation for producing classic, well-made shoes without the exorbitant price tags of the luxury brands.

And if you peruse the company’s history, from 1988 to 2012, the brand was a subsidiary of Nike. So that’s the period when Nike technology and R&D were blended into the design and manufacture of Cole Haan’s dress shoes and street footwear. Without sacrificing style and design, its street shoes possessed performance capabilities, and long-term comfort. The anatomically cushioned footbed and arch support of its street shoes mimicked the qualities of the Nike sneakers and running trainers.

It’s casual footwear with dashes of color and striking design, yet providing true, unrivaled comfort over extended use. The pair of Original Grand Ultra I eventually gravitated to was the Slate Gray Oxford that had a dash of red in the bottom of the sole. Love the pair and while it’s got the traditional, rather boxy silhouette, I have to admit that it’s been like floating on air.

House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild and The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata

The pleasure of good reads

Two novels brought me great but very different, escapist pleasure over the last two weeks, and I’d like to share them with you.

House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild — Set during the recession Britain of 2008, think of this novel as an updated Downton Abbey, or Upstairs, Downstairs turned upside-down. The story focuses on the Trelawney family of aristocrats who are on the brink of financial ruin; so that while they still possess the stately mansion, it’s crumbling and decrepit. They may be eccentric, even batty, but they no longer have the cash to make the “dirty linen” disappear.

Described as a tale of “old money, new money, and no money,” it’s written like a teleserye. And I literally gladly suffered sleepless nights, as I just had to know what would happen next. And yes, the author is related to the renowned banking family. She’s a well-regarded company director and filmmaker, and in 2015, became the first woman to chair the trustees of the National Gallery. So, she’s not describing some milieu from the outside looking in.

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata — The Lost Book is the debut novel of Michael Zapata, who is the founding editor of MAKE Literary Magazine. If House of Trelawney is guilty pleasure time, this one is the cerebral, thought-provoking one that mixes sci-fi, mythology, and social commentary via a surreal kaleidoscope of parallel universes. And at its core, the novel is about exile, displacement, the yearning to belong, and the failure to connect.

One narrative is set in 1929 New Orleans, where Dominican Republic emigre Adana authors a well-received but little known science fiction novel called Lost City, and then destroys the manuscript of the sequel. The second narrative takes place in 2005 Chicago, where orphan-from-a-tender-age Saul tries to fulfill the wishes of his recently deceased grandfather, and mysteriously ends up with said manuscript. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Saul ends up in New Orleans, where matters are resolved in unexpected ways.

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