The Needle

marty reisman

For most Americans, table tennis is a game.  But not for Marty Reisman.  For Reisman, table tennis was much, much more.  Reisman once remarked that he had built a career around a game usually played in the basement next to the clothes dryer. “A funny way to spend a life,” he said. Reisman passed away in 2012, but his style and love of ping-pong live on in PaddleYou, a game improving custom ping-pong paddle service from Table Tennis Nation that is the result of decades of Reisman’s experience and his dream to make more people fall in love with the sport.

It is perhaps fitting that such a unique man should come to his vocation in a unique manner.  Reisman did not begin playing table tennis because he wanted to, but rather because he needed to.  According to Reisman, “I had a nervous breakdown when I was nine years old and ended up in Bellevue Hospital. Ping-Pong was the ultimate escape. My racquet became a sensuous connection between the ball and my brain.”  Soon after he began to play table tennis, it became obvious to everyone that Reisman had a gift for it.  By age 13 he was New York City’s junior champion at 13.  By age 16 he was putting on table tennis exhibitions in England.  But for Reisman, the real point of table tennis was not trophies.  The real point of table tennis was the action.

Where else but the City?

Within a few years of taking up the game, Reisman was making money playing it.  He became a fixture at Lawrence’s, a locale that during Prohibition was a speakeasy run by Legs Diamond.  It was at Lawrence’s that Reisman learned his trade.  There he met the titans of table tennis, played them and eventually bested most of them.  In 1958, Reisman bought the Riverside Table Tennis Courts at 96th Street and Broadway and renamed it “Reisman’s.”  According to Reisman biographer Stefan Kanfer, “Most of the time [Reisman] is not to be found behind the tables of his splendid Manhattan Gothic establishment. Instead, he waits in a little back room, coiling and uncoiling in preparation for the occasional mongoose foolish enough to challenge him.”

For an amazing cast of New Yorkers, Reisman’s was a regular haunt. Dustin Hoffman, Kurt Vonnegut, David Mamet, Bobby Fisher and a group of violinists from the Metropolitan Opera routinely stopped by for a game.  Jackie Mason, who grew up with Reisman the Lower East Side and remained a lifelong friend, was a fixture.  So were hard-core players with names like Freddie the Fence, Herbie the Nuclear Physicist, Betty the Monkey Lady and Tony the Arm.  Several members of Meyer Lansky’s legendary street gang Murder Incorporated also frequented Reisman’s.  Once Reisman’s closed for good in 1981 due to soaring rents in the City, Reisman was forced to less “comfortable” digs.  To wit, the Manhattan Table Tennis Club, where betting on matches is forbidden.  It should be no surprise that the company now bearing the Reisman torch, PaddleYou, set up shop in New York City and is making all of their paddles in New York.

The “Reisman myth”

Reisman became larger than life as a result of his amazing skills with a table tennis paddle and his own considerable efforts at self-promotion.  Reisman’s trademark forehand could hit speeds of 115 miles per hour and table tennis connoisseurs agree that Reisman had the greatest drop shot ever seen on the face of the earth.  Reisman won 22 major table tennis titles from 1946 to 2002, including two United States Opens and a British Open. In 1997, at 67, he became the oldest player to win a national championship in a racket sport by winning the United States National Hardbat Championship.

Reisman’s opponents were routinely thrashed with objects aside from table tennis paddles.  Shoes, frying pans, coke cans, even garbage can lids were lethal when wielded by Reisman.  Depending on the size of the bet, he would play and beat opponents when sitting down or even when blindfolded.  Breaking a cigarette in half from across the table was a Reisman standard.

Reisman was a larger than life figure, both at and away from the table.  He cultivated an eccentric appearance, wearing both Borsalino fedoras and Panama hats.  He loved to hang fashionable, brightly colored clothes over his thin physique; for his whole life he enjoyed the fact that his moniker was “The Needle.”  Before beginning a game, he habitually removed a $100 bill from his roll to measure the net.

Reisman had rules.  Against amateurs, Reisman went out of his way to level the playing field.  He would routinely spot opponents as many as 18 points, and still win the match.  He would play and beat anyone.  Including Montgomery Clift, the President of the Philippines in Manila and the Maharaja of Baroda.  He would go anywhere for the action.  Along with his longtime table-tennis partner, the late Doug Cartland, Reisman circled the globe eight times, several times serving as the opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters.  Cartland and Reisman played together for a crowd of 75,000 spectators at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the biggest recorded live audience for a table-tennis tournament.  But of all of Reisman’s rules, there was one that was paramount: No sponge paddles.

A match with Reisman always came with one condition: old school paddles only.  Reisman hated the sponge paddles that were first utilized by the Japanese player Hiroji Satoh when he bested Reisman at the world championship in 1952 in Mumbai.  From that day forward, Reisman crusaded against the sponge paddle.  Unlike Reisman’s “hardbat”, the sponge paddle had smooth, thicker rubber and no pimples.  The paddle propelled the ball at greater speeds than the hardbat, but from a spectator’s standpoint, faster does not mean interesting.  In the professional matches of today, the average rally is less than four times across the net. From Reisman’s perspective, watching two players with sponge paddles do battle was “like watching paint dry.”

The Way Back

In 2010, two years before his death at age 82, Reisman founded Table Tennis Nation, an organization he hoped would help make table tennis fun again.  Table tennis is the most popular sport in the world, but in the US only about 8000 players participate in tournaments and ping-pong events. No one was doing anything to reach the 20 million casual ping-pong players in the US (and even more around the world).  Reisman and his colleagues at Table Tennis Nation wanted to change that.  And they have.

Key to this effort in Reisman’s mind was the resurrection of a version of the old-fashioned paddle.  That paddle is now being manufactured by PaddleYou in the only place a paddle fit for Reisman could be produced: New York City.  The entire PaddleYou production process take place in the City. The new paddle is designed to help the everyday player take advantage of the sport’s technological advances while also making the game easier and improving table tennis. And through a heavy research and development process, now you can customize your own Paddle You paddle using pictures and designs from your facebook, instagram, computer, smartphone, or tablet.

PaddleYou has sold its Made in New York paddle in 22 countries.  Every day, the folks at PaddleYou hear stories from people around the world about why they’re buying a PaddleYou paddle and the reactions they’ve had to the product.  The PaddleYou gallery is full of incredible paddles designed completely by its customers: baby pictures, soldiers abroad, corporate logos, artwork, and everything else you could imagine.

So while you probably will never be 1/100 the player Marty Reisman was, you can now design a PaddleYou paddle that would have made Reisman proud.  Thanks to the generosity of Reisman’s buddies at PaddleYou, five people who design their own paddle after linking to the PaddleYou site from this blog post will be chosen at random and will receive their one of a kind paddle free of charge, in honor of the memory of Marty Reisman, a one of a kind man.

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Out with the old, in with the new



I bought my first pair of KEENs four years ago, about a week before going on the first Brother-in-Laws’ hike. The first Brother-in-Laws’ hike was a five-day march up the Ho River Valley to the Blue Glacier on the backside of Mount Olympus. Just not the Mount Olympus in Greece but rather the Mount Olympus in the Olympic National Park in Washington State. My KEENs held up well and I wore them on many hikes including to the Enchantments in Washington State.

Lake Vivian

Lake Vivian

About three years ago I became very interested in buying more American-made consumer goods. So this summer when my faithful KEENs started looking a little long in the tongue, I figured I’d check out what new KEENs I might purchase. To my delight I discovered KEEN was now making their Durand model of hiking boots in Portland, Oregon. I came up with what I consider a cunning plan. I called the nice people at KEEN and asked them if they’d consider sending me a pair of Durand boots to try out. They graciously agreed and two weeks later a beautiful pair of KEEN Durands arrived on my doorstep. I didn’t feel like I could take my new American made Durands on just any old hike.  A pair of hiking boots built by Americans required an inaugural hike to a truly special destination.  So last Friday I drove from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park, parked my car at the Sunrise Lodge, and headed out to Burroughs Mountain.


There are three little peaks in the “Burroughs Mountain Range.”  I was planning on only going as far as Burroughs Two, but upon arriving at the parking lot a group of hikers urged me to push on with them to Burroughs Three. All the hikers in this group were retired and seemed to hike all the time.  When a bunch of people at least ten years older than I threw down the hiking gauntlet, the challenge simply had to be accepted.


I’m happy to report that my new Durands are awesome. Straight out-of-the-box they were extremely comfortable but also provided ample support for my legendary gimpy right ankle. The distance from the Sunrise Lodge parking lot to Burroughs Three was about 4.2 miles; we hiked over terrain that resembled a lunar landscape. Almost no plants or trees, but one of the most beautiful views available on offer in America.


Upon reaching Burroughs Three, I understood what my retired companions were raving about.  The view was simply spectacular.


My new KEENs are off to a great start.  I look forward to years of comfortable hiking as a result of the commitment to quality of the members of our extended American family making KEEN boots in Portland, Oregon.  Next month I will get an opportunity to meet some of those “makers” when I visit the KEEN facility in Portland.

KeenDurand portland

Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post on my visit to KEEN’s Portland facility and also keep an eye out for photos of me and my new KEEN Durands at a myriad of National Parks around this amazing country of ours over the coming months.


Now get hiking!

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Bow down to ice cold beverages!

husky tailgate

I am a proud University of Washington Husky alum and back in the day, I used to tailgate in the North lot of Husky Stadium pictured above.  As anyone who has ever tailgated knows, the cooler is integral to a positive tailgating experience.  So with the football and tailgating season upon us, I thought I would let you know about a myriad of coolers that are manufactured by members of our extended American tailgating family.  What could be more American than cooling your beverages of choice in a cooler made on our shores?  Nothing I say!  So here we go.

Brute Coolers

Brute Coolers are manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas.  It gets really hot there, so they value a good cooler.  Contact Brute on getting a deal on their baby, mamma and papa set of coolers.



The Granddaddy of American made Coolers, the Coleman® 54 Quart Red Steel Belted® Cooler is totally old school, can accommodate 85 cans of your favorite beverages and is made in Wichita, Kansas.

coleman cooler Igloo

Over 850 members of our extended American family manufacture over 19 million hard sided coolers each year at Igloo’s 1.4 million square foot facility located in Katy, Texas.

The Igloo Yukon™ 250 would keep your beers cool for two weeks in a row if you required that.  That could come in handy if you were on a two-week road trip to follow your team.

yukon cooler


Esky Coolers

Esky Coolers are made by Coleman, and come in the 55, 85, 135 and 205 quart sizes.  If you have nothing better to do, you can equip your Esky cooler like these guys in Australia did.

esky coolers

Grizzly Coolers

Grizzly Coolers are manufactured in Decorah, IA and are very popular with the fishing and hunting crowd as well as tailgaters.  All Grizzly Coolers come with a lifetime warranty.  The Grizzly 75 would be perfect for tailgating.

Grizzly75 cooler


Icehole coolers are made in Kerrville, Texas by an American business that for over 35 years has been supplying the U.S. Military with products and accessories for a broad array of combat vehicles and equipment.

icehole cooler


K-2 coolers have been made in Lafayette, Louisiana since 2011.  Your K-2 cooler will keep your beer cool while you fish for crayfish and then keep your crayfish cool after you catch them.

k2 cooler

Orca Coolers

Jim Ford and Cliff Walker are the founders and owners of Orca Coolers.  Jim, Cliff and the members of our extended American family that work at Orca produce their coolers in Franklin, Tennessee.  Orca coolers appear to be bear proof.


Pelican Coolers

Pelican makes cases all sorts of things, but also make a wide range of coolers.  Their elite coolers come in sizes from 20 quarts to 250 quarts.  Pelican coolers are guaranteed for life and have an integrated Fish Scale on the lid.  Pelican coolers are made in Torrance, California.



Yeti Coolers

Yeti Coolers makes about eight different types of coolers.  Yeti was founded by two brothers, Roy and Ryan Seider.  The Seider boys make their coolers in Austin, Texas.  Yeti has lots of coolers already decked out with your college colors.  Whether you love to hook some horns,

texas yeti

eat some corn,

nebraska Yeti

or wrestle gators,

florida yeti


Yeti has a cooler for you.

So the next time you need to keep beverages or food cold for an extended period of time, buy one of the ten coolers featured above.  You will get a great cooler, and the members of our extended American family who make your cooler will receive an honest wage.

Now get shopping!

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American made for the 1%



I’ll admit it.  I am cheap.  People who have never met me know how cheap I am.  So it is unlikely that I will ever buy any of the products featured on this post.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  They are all made by members of our extended American family and they all are amazing products.



My buddy’s wife recently purchased a Tesla model S and she absolutely raves about it.  She is not alone.  Its pluses are its made by Americans for Americans, it is electric and it is an absolute hoot to drive.  Its main negative is its monthly payment, which approaches my mortgage payment.

Fisher Voyage Bags

fisher voyage

If a fella wants to buy a very snazzy and completely American made bag and money is no object, than the Fisher Voyage bag is for you.  It is completely made in America with American made components down to the thread.  But it also costs almost 10 grand.  Should anyone own a bag that costs ten Gs?  Only you can make that call.

RGM Watches

I currently don’t sport a watch, but I have been thinking I need to get one.  I came across RGM Watches a while back, but I am afraid their prices are a little rich for my blood.  But man, are their watches beautiful!  How about the Caliber 20?


A steal at $27,500 for stainless steel.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph makes a small percentage of his stuff on our shores, though it tends to be higher end things.  For the ladies, might I suggest the Black Label Sherling Pacey Coat?

Ralph Lauren shearling-pacey-coat

Very nice and only five grand.  Or the beaded Danielson Evening Gown.  It really is very beautiful but rather expensive.  $9000

rl dress

Ralph hasn’t forgotten us fellas and really, the prices for some of his men’s apparel isn’t that out of line at all.  Ralph’s Polo Olive sports coat is very stylish and not that expensive at $895.  And Ralph’s Faded Penny Loafer in green or tan are currently on sale for only $119, which is a steal for a pair of leather shoes made by members of our extended American family.

rl penny loafer

Though I think I will take a pass on the $145 t-shirt.

rl tshirt

Now if you don’t have enough lolly to buy a Testla or a Fisher Voyage bag for your weekend getaways, don’t despair.  Over the last three years I have featured 100s of products on my blog that are made by members of our extended American family, but are far more reasonably priced then the items depicted above.  So just type in the American product you want to buy in the search function on the right hand side of my blog page, and you will probably find what you need.  Whether you are in the 1% or the 99%, you can join in an effort to rebuild the American middle class by simply purchasing the things are already being made on our shores.

Now get shopping!

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One tough bird

hardwick clothes

American legacy firms are amazing.  I have written posts on a bunch of them.  Hart Schaffner Marx, Allen Edmonds, Wigwam, Crane and Lamson Goodnow to name a few.  Well I just found out about another member of this elite club of American manufacturers.  Hardwick Clothes.

Hardwick Clothes has been making amazing blazers, sports coats, pants and suits in Cleveland, Tennessee for almost 135 years.  The company, which was originally named Cleveland Woolen Mills, was founded by local businessman C.L. Hardwick.  Hardwick was a big wheel in Cleveland, so he put his son, George L. Hardwick, in charge of running the mill.  In 1925, Cleveland Woolen Mills became Hardwick Woolen Mills.  Hardwick Woolen Mills was vertically integrated.  Hardwick employees at one end of the factory wove the wool yarn while Hardwick employees at the other end of the factory cut and sewed the firm’s wide range of garments.  And what a killer motto Hardwick came up with: “From the sheep’s back to the clothing rack.”  Nice.

After struggling through the depression, Hardwick Woolen Mills came roaring back in the 1940s and did their bit in WWII, manufacturing uniforms for our men serving in the armed forces.  As American men began their love affair with cheap suits sewn in the Middle Kingdom and other dreary third world locales in the 1980s, Hardwick’s fortunes began to suffer.  Eventually, the Hopper family, who at that time owned Hardwick Clothes, was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in 2013.  But from that nadir, Hardwick Clothes has rallied in an impressive manner.

Three months ago, Cleveland, Tn., entrepreneur Allan Jones acquired Hardwick Clothes.  Jones shrugged off the thought that the bankruptcy process would hold Hardwick back, noting that “Hardwick has been through two fires, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and leisure suits.” Under Jones leadership, Hardwick is on the rebound.  The firm launched a new website and brought in Bruce Bellusci as Hardwick’s new chief operating office and Jeffery Diduch as Hardwick’s new clothing designer.  Both Bellusci and Diduch had formerly worked at Hart Schaffner Marx.

Hardwick’s clothing looks really impressive.  I might have to snag a Hardwick Bristol sports coat; it looks very snazzy.

hardwick bristol sports coat

Also on my wishlist are several pairs of Hardwick’s Parker Men’s Pants in Tropical Wool.  They are available in navy, charcoal, black, British tan, and olive.  I am not aware of any other American firm making wool dress pants that aren’t the lower part of a suit.  Pretty nice don’t you think?

Hardwick parker pant

So I urge you, the next time you need new slacks, blazers or a new suit, head to Hardwick’s website and make your purchase.  It will be a twofer.  You will get a handsome, handmade product that will make you look sharp and will give you years of wear.  And you will provide employment for the wonderful members of our extended American family working at the Hardwick facility in Cleveland, Tennessee.  What could be better than that?


Now get shopping!


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Ya gotta start somewhere


brooks brothers

Three years ago I bought three Brooks Brothers Oxford dress shirts like the one pictured above.  A white one, a blue one and a blue striped one.  I bought the three for $140 during the Brooks Brothers Spring sale.  I love them because I don’t have to have them laundered; they are easy to iron even for an ironing challenged fella like myself.

Two years ago, I repeated the exercise and once again spent $140 and bought three Brooks Brothers Oxford dress shirts, a white one, a blue one and a blue striped one, during the Brooks Brothers Spring sale.   I didn’t repeat that exercise this year.  Want to know why?  Well I will tell you.

The reason I didn’t buy any Brooks Brothers shirts this year is because the original three I bought three years ago and wear to work once a week are still going strong.  Only the blue one is beginning to some slight fraying at the cuff, the place where all dress shirts first throw in the towel.  My second three Brooks Brothers Oxford shirts are still waiting their turn to move into the Briggs’ shirt rotation.  Given the amazing quality of my Brooks Brothers shirts made by members of our extended American family, they may be waiting quite awhile.

You and I, just by changing some of our buying habits, literally have the power to change an American’s life.  If you decided, starting today, that you would buy an American made shirt, skirt, tie, or hat the next time you went to the mall, you might be the reason that Brooks Brothers, Hart Schaffner Marx, Wigwam, Allen Edmonds, or Karen Kane decided they needed to hire a new worker.  A new worker who would have a paycheck to support their family.  Who would have the money in their pocket to go out and buy goods made by their American sisters and brothers.  And so on and so on.  So join me and millions of other Americans who are deciding that they will make American made goods their first choice when they go shopping.

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It’s that time of year again!

school bus

As a child, the last week of August was always rather depressing.  Sure I wasn’t in school, but I would be soon.  I would go through the motions of enjoying my last week of whatever camp I was attending, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I knew what was just around the corner.  But before I marched off to school like the brave young members of our extended American family pictured above, there was a depressing outing to be endured.  The school supply shopping excursion.  You remember them.  Being asked by your mum whether you wanted blue or black ink pens.  Like I cared.  And there was always a lot of other products to be purchased.  Notebooks.  Dividers. Binders. Labels.  The list went on and on.

Thankfully, those trips are a thing of the past for me, but my son Benjamin is still is in the market for such things since he is a sophomore in college.  So we will be buying school supplies for him in the next few weeks, but we are making sure that the aforementioned products we are buying him will be providing jobs to members of their extended American family.  I urge you to do the same.  And it couldn’t be easier.  All you have to know to send you kiddo back to school with American made school supplies, whatever his or her age, is one word.  Guided.

Guided makes lots of products that any student of any age would need to shine at school.  All of their products are made from recycled materials.  And they are made in Kent, Washington, a small city to the south of my big city of Seattle.  Guided has three levels of binders, but their original binder is fine for students.

rebinder original binder

If your child is enamored with say, unicorns, you can order custom Guided Rebinder binders with a badass unicorn on them that would allow your child’s binders to declare, “Yeah, my owner loves unicorns, and she is not ashamed to declare said allegiance on her binders!  Ya got a problem with that?”

goth unicorn

After you have the goth unicorn binders in hand, you are going to need dividers and divider labels of course.  Guided has you covered there as well, though I might forego the custom goth unicorn design on the dividers.


When it comes to notebooks, Guided has many options to offer.  Field trip in November to some swamp to observe salamander mating rituals?  How about the Guided Rite in the Rain All Weather Universal Field Book?

rite in the rain notebook

A series of trips to dusty old museums on the schedule?  I suggest Guided’s ReWrite 8″ x 10″ Recycled Notebooks (3 Pack).

rewrite 3 pack

So if you want to equip yourself or your kiddo with school supplies made by members of our extended American family from recycled materials, you need look no farther than Guided.  So get shopping!!!!

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