David Coggins | A Continuous Lean.

Direct Line: Marc Newson and the Montblanc M

Sep 2nd, 2015 | Categories: David Coggins, Gear, Writing Instruments | by David Coggins


What we carry everyday inspires devotion. That’s why people obsess over watches and bags, and know their phones’ width and weight and texture without even looking. Not many set out with a fountain pen, but those who do leave an impression. This group of hearty souls has feelings, some quite strong, about all details of their pens. And that’s a good thing—it’s refreshing to know there are still people who obsess over the width of a nib. (We see you Big Apple Pen Club.)

So it was natural that when Montblanc approached Marc Newson to design a pen, it made an impact. Both are defining names in their fields. Newson, of course, is the industrial designer who’s rumored to take over at Apple when Jony Ive moves on. He’s worked with everybody from Jaeger Le Coultre to Heineken, designing furniture, airplanes, backpacks—it’s not uncommon to see his work at Gagosian gallery or setting records at auction houses. Montblanc of course needs no introduction, they’ve been making pens since 1906, in their Hamburg factory (they’re German, not Swiss, despite the name). The company’s line has expanded to include finely made watches, bags and leather accessories. But the fountain pen still represents the soul of the company.

Montblanc had never worked with a designer outside the company. They turned to Newson, who draws regularly, and gave him free rein. The result is the new Montblanc M. It’s singular and elegant, something you want to look at and want to use. The cap snaps shut with a satisfying click, and an internal magnet aligns it with the base of the pen. It has a perfectly measured weight and writes beautifully (even for those of us who are left-handed, and notoriously struggle with fountain pens).

Florence End to End

Aug 28th, 2015 | Categories: David Coggins, Italy, Travel | by David Coggins

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Florence is a reassuring city. You go there for stone walls, old frescoes and steaks as thick as a reference book. They love their country clothes there (it’s a surprisingly good place to get a second-hand Barbour). You see hunting dogs, tweeds in winter, and it feels perfectly natural when an old man bicycles down the street smoking a pipe. All bets are off when Pitti Uomo arrives with its parade of clowns, though most of the year the calculation remains the same. But there are still surprising ways to visit the city on the Arno and remake the classic equation.

Consider Villa La Massa, your dream of the Italian countryside made real. This 16th Century Medici Villa was converted into a hotel in 1948 and then renovated in 1998 by the owners of the renowned Villa d’Este. It’s set right on a bend in the river, across from fields and gentle hills. It’s about a twenty minute drive from town and they have a shuttle that regularly drops you near the Ponte Vecchio.

You can take your café or aperitif next to pool, there’s a small but elegant spa, and walking paths through a 22-acre garden, with rosemary, irises and pear trees. This is a much less formal affair than Villa d’Este (coats are not required for dinner, but you are in Italy, so why not?). It’s a low-key pastoral setting that’s intimate, handsome and contemplative.
Villa La Massa succeeds beyond its setting: You can attend cooking classes, wine tastings, eat white truffles in October or head out to visit distinguished towns and churches around Tuscany. But it doesn’t make you do more than you want to: You can sit by the river, read a book and drink your Negroni. Villa La Massa understands that you want to travel on your own terms. And in this setting, those terms are always good.

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The Villa la Massa.

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Al Fresco Dining

As it Happened | Eaux Claires

Jul 30th, 2015 | Categories: As it happened, David Coggins, Midbest | by David Coggins

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The Scene at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival. Photo: CJ Foeckler.

With the exception of Newport Folk Festival, we’re not too hot on music festivals. You know the reasons: sweaty crowds, mediocre sound, endless lines for beer, girls dressed like fairies twirling glow sticks. But when Eaux Claires was announced, a two-day celebration on the banks of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, courtesy Aaron Dessner of The National, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, we started to get a certain promising feeling.

That optimism turned out to be entirely justified. Who could object to straightforward music in an easygoing Midwest setting, with plenty of Leinenkugel’s to go around? For this native Minnesotan (whose cabin is less than hour from Eau Claire), it was a welcome combination of good bands, positive vibrations and lack of ironic t-shirts.

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Mr. Midwest: Justin Vernon. Photo: CJ Foeckler.

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Eternity now. Photo: CJ Foeckler.

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The Masters: Maintaining the Mystique.

Apr 8th, 2015 | Categories: David Coggins, Golf | by David Coggins


Baseball and Negronis are gifts that arrive with spring and keep on giving all summer long. The Masters, on the other hand, enters our lives and just as quickly departs, leaving us with just the sound of Jim Nantz’s ingratiating voice echoing in our ears. Brace yourself for the tinkling of the piano keys—the familiar theme is written by a certain Dave Loggins (which I really wish was my pen name).

Yes, bless us all, tomorrow the Masters is back.

If you think the reverential tone of the announcers is just for show recall that Gary McCord once told the television audience the putting greens were so fast they seemed “bikini waxed.” That was it for Gary—he was not given a mulligan—he was simply not asked back, cast into vulgar metaphor purgatory. You don’t mess with the Masters.

It casts its hold on many of us who are not golfers or even, for that matter, really golf fans. What captivates us with the fervor usually reserved for Beyoncé acolytes? Well, the atmosphere, singular course and remarkable drama all create, as they say, “a tradition unlike any other.” Think of the Masters as a natural high that oscillates between low key whispering and acute drama.

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Arnold Palmer considers his options.

At Home in the Natural World: Yellowstone in October

Oct 28th, 2014 | Categories: Americana, David Coggins, Fishing | by David Coggins

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Yellowstone National Park is stunning all summer, but in October it’s even more stark and striking. The grass becomes the color of straw, the bison get frost in their fleece and mist rises off the rivers in the cold. Most of the crowds have gone—though there are still knowing visitors—and snow dusts the mountaintops.

Then there’s the Madison River, the main attraction for anglers making their late-season pilgrimage to the Park. Brown trout head into the river to spawn, their color bolder, deeper red and gold. Following the fish are people who wake up early in the freezing dark to go stand in the water. In feels foolish at times, but when it all comes together it’s clear that it’s the right thing to do.

Dublin, Jameson and St. Patrick: The Classic Combination.

Mar 24th, 2014 | Categories: David Coggins, Drinking | by David Coggins

Ger the Cooper

Heading to Dublin with the good people of Jameson for the definitive Irish holiday rightfully makes you a bit nervous. It threatens to be too much of a good thing. Dublin, like New Orleans, has a powerful effect on the imbiber’s imagination. You suddenly hear yourself saying, Yes I’ll have a Guinness at 11am, and it feels perfectly natural. It recalls a line from a novel by the great Irish writer John Banville. Two men walk into a pub before it’s opened and one says innocently: “We were passing by and to our surprise discovered we had a thirst.”

By now, Jameson is so familiar that it’s easy to forget it was founded in 1780. When you wonder why these companies endure, look no further than Ger Buckley, their master cooper who’s worked there for decades. Coopers, of course, build barrels and casks (the original Kennedys—yes, those Kennedys—who immigrated to America were coopers). We watched Ger demonstrate how to assemble one of the barrels that ages the whiskey. It’s a demanding process that Ger made look easy, like an expert fly caster, but of course you know it’s not. The barrels are made of charred white oak from Kentucky, using the same essential technology the Romans invented two thousand years ago. Why change a good thing?

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Best in Show: The Case for Westminster.

Feb 10th, 2014 | Categories: David Coggins, Dog, New York City | by David Coggins

Stump The Westminster Kennel Club has awarded Best in Show since 1877, making it America’s longest continuously held sporting event, with the exception of the Kentucky Derby. And we always look forward to the big show, which begins Monday at Madison Square Garden. Everybody has their cherished memories—who can forget when announcer Joe Garagiola cheerfully remarked about a female dog trotting by, “look at that sprightly little bitch”? That’s a moment that just doesn’t comes along very often.

There are always controversies and curiosities and intriguing new breeds (this year we welcome the Rat Terrier). There are favorite dogs denied glory (Cinders, the dignified wire-haired Dachshund, was runner-up a few years back to a possibly alien Pomeranian). There are also, of course, unworthy victors (the infamous Banana Jack, from last year, may be the most upsetting winner in the history of organized sport). Then there are beloved legends, (Josh, the Newfoundland, Stump, the Sussex Spaniel, Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound) . These dogs are remembered longer than most NBC sitcoms.