Driving Jersey: Lord Whimsy: New Egypt, NJ

I received an email that suggested if I was interested in meeting the "gentlemen protector of the Pine Barrens," I should check out a man named Lord Whimsy, central Jersey's resident arbiter and author of all things dandy. I was intrigued. And I said as much when I wrote back to the anonymous emailer. I asked what the emailer's connection was to Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy. The response was as simple and as intriguing as the first letter. It read:

"I first met him while studying marine biology. He also appeared in my art classes. He wooed me, and I became his wife. Regards, Lady Pinkwater."

I ordered his book, The Affected Provincial's Companion, straight away. I visited the official Lord Whimsy website. Wearing fine suits and possessing a devilish handle-bar mustache, the man looked noble enough. His site was replete with dense and detailed information of the life and ways of Whimsy. Its language, sown together, it seemed, by

Shakespeare's American tailor, was pretty, but complicated. Its tone was playful but simultaneously exacting, with short chapters on the ways and means of proper and exquisite living, with admonishments for the common, the oaf, the dude.

Whimsy describes clipping flowers from his garden on warm summer nights to fasten to his lapel, to complete his ensemble, his look. He details the necessity of such, as well as proper boutonniere etiquette. Chance one displays an improper boutonnière on his lapel in the presence of Whimsy, it was clear, you may be met with much scorn and laughter. All I had on the lapel of my famous brown corduroy jacket was a coffee stain, flavored coffee, but still just a stain.

Reading, understanding and even, perhaps, applying his rigid attention to the delicate detail of more refined times was essential for me, I figured, in preparing to meet the lord. For starters his book came late. Rerouted from a bookseller in New Jersey, to New York, to Denver and back to New Jersey, the beautiful harlequin-green hard cover looked like it had been dragged from Colorado back east. Apparently there is no gentility in the service of the post.

I read the book. It was every bit the same in tone, language and theme as his site. "The book," Whimsy writes is a "distillation…of the notions and fancies born out of my daily life. It's a collection of fragments that together constitute an artifact: a sort of 'personal folklore,' if you will."

Whimsy describes himself and his aire as combining the qualities of the "naturalist, philomath, dandy and aesthete."

Whimsy and Lady Pinkwater live in New Egypt, a small farm town in south western Jersey. Old modest houses cluster tight together on the streets of his town. There are some little markets, a couple of restaurants, a shop or three and then woods and pick-your-own farms. "Look for the house with the lilac colored Whimsyshire flag," Pinkwater said.

Whimsy introduced himself as Allen, Allen Crawford and Pinkwater as Susan. When our AD Ryan Bott walked in and said "hey, Lord Whimsy, I'm Ryan," He smirked charmingly and said, "you can call me Allen." He is indeed as noble looking in person as he is in photographs, yet in the flesh he comes off more as a cross between Wallace Shawn and Kermit the Frog.

As Crawford was wired for the shoot, he admitted that he wasn't exactly looking forward to touring bookstores with his newly released book. "I hate them," he said of public appearances, not bookstores, "I'm not used to being in front of people. I'm getting better at it, but it still isn't the easiest thing." And I suddenly felt completely at ease with the interview, the conversation, the afternoon. I suppose I was psyched out by the Whimsy projection and happy to know that Allen as an artist, writer and auteur was accessible and humble, and maybe even a little timid. I always prefer my geniuses that way.