Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bogani yelled out out the window in Afrikaans, " Dit is vir my , Bogani. Dit is die Amerikaanse ek jou vertel het nie ... moenie skiet." I speak a little of the language, enough to recognize, "don't shoot". The mood quickly eased and the gentlemen lowered their weapons and approached our vehicle. I looked at Bogani and he gave me a wry smile. By now our vehicle had curious faces looking in on me. One of them identified himself in thick English as, Luc. "So, you are the American we have heard so much about?" I didn't bat an eye, but my mind was racing...how much had Alu opened his mouth? "Why do you want to go there?" Luc asked. "A minor loose end I'd like to resolve", I lied. "Hmmm, cost you...". It always does. I pulled out my wallet, hoping what I had there would satisfy them as I was anxious to get moving again, the sweat starting to run from my forehead. A quick hand reached in and snatched the wallet. My new guide took it all and tossed the wallet back in as he turned to walk away. "Hey...I got the better deal" I said, holding up my wallet. He tossed a fifty dollar bill back in and laughed, "You are funny, my American friend". I breathed a sigh, knowing my main cash supply was still safely tucked away. In an instant, we were all back on the road, still heading West. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My internal compass told me we had made a turn to the West, even if my driver didn't tell me. I cracked my left eye open - the one away from Bogani - we definitely weren't headed to Malesbury. The flatlands were covered with low, dry vegetation with mighty hills in the distance. I'd been in this type of situation before and knew I could handle myself. That was, until the vehicle came to a screeching stop  as 3 trucks raced onto the road from behind the brush to stop us. As assortment of vz. 58's made their appearance as a motley group of "gentlemen" exited the trucks. Things had just taken an interesting turn...  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The plane touched down in Cape Town and I chuckled to myself, Alu had thought of everything. I exited near a logistics building rather than the main terminal. Fewer questions that way. A stout young man introduced himself as Bongani and ushered me through a chain link fence gate and towards an old Range Rover...a '67 I guessed. My bags, hastily packed back home were brought up and unceremoniously dumped in the back of the vehicle. I didn't expect anything different. He told me our trip was about 59 klicks north as we started out on the M7. I was excited, but needed to get some shuteye. Bongani wasn't much company as he idly hummed a tune called Sarie_Marais. I pulled my Ball Cap down over my eyes dozed lightly.  


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The phone rang. It was 3am. A raspy voice on the other end that I immediately recognized as Alu, a South African scout I've known for some 20-odd years tells me to get there as soon as I can. I bolted up in bed, my head swimming..."He's found it!", my brain exclaimed. "Gimme 24 hours, maybe a little less", I told him, "People owe me a few favors". I hung up, wasted no time in grabbing a few essentials. Now, somewhere nearing the Equator I have a few minutes to write...my trusty Belem backpack at my feet and my eyes staring out towards what will be Cape Town and touch down...


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Where have we been?

Well, we'd love to share the details with you...but right now, they are still considered *Classified*.
We can tell you that it involved this bad boy...

 ...lots of fast talking, the exchange of currency and a long wait in a small airport hanger that smelled of cigar smoke, perspiration and bad attitudes. Relatively unscathed, a plane touched down on American soil and a much needed decompression period began. Welcome Home.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We're at it again! New stuff! New stuff!

In case you stumble on this entry days after it was originally posted, please take a look at the day it was published before reading any further. Then remember that date should you start asking yourself if we really mean any of this ...

Yes, you read that right: New RDB stuff! Two new products, as daring as anything we've yet dared!

When we introduced our Real Deal Brazil Cuba Libre hat a few months back, followed quickly by our beefy Rio Branco Rucksack, the response to both was even stronger than we'd anticipated (as anyone who got that unfortunate "Item temporarily on backorder" notice when they went to buy one already knows all too well). Which is to say we promptly ran out of both products, and then had to wait on reorders from our sewing team in Brazil! Then, once we got our stock back up, and sales continued to be strong on both items, we started thinking we'd like to try a few more new-item experiments.

That said, it's crazy some of the suggestions we've gotten these last few years, for products we should start making. Most involve clothing items:  duster- and bomber-style jackets, jean-style pants, shirts, vests, even chaps! The problem we run into in all those cases is money, plain and simple: High tarp costs, combined with international shipping fees and all the additional sewing time and resources that would be required of these labor-intensive items, would mean huge up-front expenses that would then translate into what we feel would be exorbitant prices for the finished goods. We're simply not comfortable asking that of our customers. So we've steered clear of making any clothing … until now!

Because it recently struck us: We could fashion a few personal clothes items for those folks who really want to take the Real Deal lifestyle to its fullest extreme, items that would not actually require a great amount of tarp, would involve minimal sewing time and would weigh very little when it came to shipping. Items we could therefore keep relatively inexpensive when it was all said and done!

Items, as it turns out, for the Real Deal boudoir!

So, while we haven't yet established prices on our two as-yet-potential RDB offerings, we have gotten some mockups done, and just shipped to us from Brazil, to share with you, to gauge customer interest before we officially incorporate these products into our lineup. So, Real Deal nation, we present to you our newest planned additions: the Real Deal Brazil Recycled-Tarp Sumo Diaper (first picture, below), and the Real Deal Brazil Recycled-Tarp Battle Thong (second picture, below)! The same rugged heavy-canvas material you expect, with patches, fraying, shifting tarp colors, ink marks, the whole nine (or, more likely, a few inches less, if we're to be realistic here). That same proud Real Deal spirit of balls-out individuality (OK, not balls out, but possibly involving some real cajones, regardless).

We would, of course, be offering each of these in several sizes. We ask only that you would then be realistic in ordering, particularly you male customers, cuz there won't be much we can do with these if you return them should they not, y'know, fit. Seriously. That's just gross to even think about.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get a single person here to model either of these new items in the way they're meant to be worn, so we were forced, in the case of the Sumo Diaper, to create a simple graphic representation, since that item doesn't really look like much all by itself. The point is, it takes a big personality to pull this off, and if there's one thing our fans have, it's personality, for days!

The Battle Thong pictured here is the actual item. Our RDB designer's kind of a geek, but once we saw the finished product, we thought the Star Wars rebel insignia was an inspired touch (until Disney shows up to tell us differently, of course). We told our designer he needed to model it for us; he told us to go to hell. Some rebel he turned out to be.

Frank: "Not just no. HELL no!"
We even tried our PR Guy, Frank, who's usually so lacking in good sense that he'll do anything we ask. But even he drew the line on stripping down and Real Dealing up, falling back on the fact that we don't even pay him. Of course, that all may be a very lucky thing, in afterthought: We're not sure the world is ready for so much of him suddenly so very visible. We honestly shudder to think of it.

So let us know what you think! And if we add these two items, and you one day buy either or both for yourself, you really don't need to send us pictures, at least not if you look anything like Frank. Seriously. Please don't.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes, It Can Really Get a Bit Too Real ...

It’s easy to understand people thinking the story we tell of how and where our tarp products are made is embellished, or exaggerated. Great PR, yada, yada, yada, but hardly real, no matter what our name might suggest.
But nope. It’s all real, all right. And sometimes, like right now, even a bit too real.
Right around two weeks ago, our pending shipment of hats and several bag styles had begun its journey out of the remote little equatorial town where Real Deal Brazil products are handmade. Our stuff was crammed onto a little bus that typically leaves town about every two weeks to take local craftspeople and traders to a bustling Friday-night market in one of the big cities along Brazil’s booming coast. And when we have hat orders leaving the town, the bus carries those, too.
By about 5 a.m. on the day in question, the small bus, with its total of 10 passengers, had already traveled about 30 miles out of town, along terrible roads. And then things went all to hell.
Bandits. Real live ones. Four of them. With guns.
Their car, coming seemingly from out of nowhere, pulled up alongside the bus, the armed men yelling at the driver to stop. Instead, the young driver, an off-duty policeman, sped up in an attempt to outrun his pursuers. At least one of the bandits began firing at the bus, and after a couple shotgun blasts hit a side door, the driver pulled over.
The thieves beat the young man severely, in front of his mother, who was a passenger on the bus.
In a frantic note, Sharon A., who helps coordinate transport for us in Brazil, filled in some of the blanks for us on what happened next. Her English is pretty solid, but not perfect.
“The driver's mother was terrified because her son is a policeman who makes these trips on his day off,” Sharon writes, “and if the thieves discovered [that he was a policeman, they would likely have killed] the boy, it is common this happens.”
The gunmen next forced the wounded driver to maneuver the little bus to a nearby gravel road where they again pulled the bus over, this time into the woods. Another car, with another gunman, was waiting for them there.
“Then,” Sharon writes us, “they began to torture and steal everything of the people with threats of death if they did not give everything they had.”
The thieves yanked open a number of the Real Deal Brazil shipping boxes, stealing what hats and bags they could carry off in their cars, and leaving many of our products strewn in the sand. They also took passengers’ cell phones, wallets, purses, credit cards, personal documents and luggage, plus some other products being transported to the market for sale or barter. Sharon puts the total value of stolen items at 50,000 real (the Brazilian currency), or roughly $20,000.
Keep in mind that in this remote part of Brazil, most people are barely making a living. This was surely a devastating loss.
“After the raid, they arrested all people inside the van and took the key,” Sharon writes, meaning the gunmen locked everyone inside the van and then left them there. Fortunately, the driver’s mother had a spare key tucked in her clothes, and after the passengers had waited a few hours to make sure their assailants weren’t coming back, the frightened group ventured back out onto the road, seeking help. They didn’t ever find any.
“The police is on strike in their State,” Sharon writes, “and everything [there] is slow and difficult.”
Since day one of getting into this business, we’d heard how unsafe the roads in that part of the country can be, and that bandits were out there, and something like this could always happen, at any time. But in the more than five years we've been doing this, it never had. And after a while, we perhaps stopped thinking it ever would.
It’s a horrible reminder for us of the kinds of problems that can spring up out of nowhere in getting our products from Brazil to you, made better in this case only in that no one got irreparably hurt, at least not physically. It’s shaken us all up a bit, as you’d guess. And it leaves our current Brazilian transport setup in a very uncertain position at the moment.
So if you buy a Real Deal Brazil hat or bag in the next week or two and discover a little sand in it, consider it perhaps a kind of trophy, showing that your new RDB product has lived an even more exciting life than our products usually do.
Beyond that, we thank you for your patience if we're again temporarily out of stock on what you were hoping to buy.