Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The Comfort of Old Friends"

This may be an “Old Guy” thing. Or it may be a “cheap” thing. Or, it could be the “perfect storm” confluence of “Old Guy” and cheapness colliding explosively together. It could also be neither.

(Argument for “It could be neither”: I have never used “perfect storm” or “confluence” before, so you can’t say I’m resistant to new things. And I don’t see myself as being cheap, though certain close relatives may disagree. With persuasive examples.)

What I’m talking about is…well, examples abound:

When I go to the gym, which I’ve been doing twice a week for over twenty-five years (since the time I had retina surgery, where the recovery process required me to lie down for six weeks, and when I got up, my legs forgot how to walk) I always bring with me a green nylon tote-bag, containing a bottle of water (all L.A. people carry water, to avoid the possibility of suddenly dying of thirst) and a pair of now-frayed workout gloves, which I wear to protect my delicate hands from developing calluses, as I hoist enormous barbells, weighing up to seven pounds.

I received this tote bag as a, I don’t know, party favor, when I was invited to speak at the prestigious Banff Television Festival, held annually in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The bag was a promotional giveaway from CTV, at the time, Canada’s only independent television network.

My ubiquitous carry-bag is leaf green, with canvas straps. Printed on the side of it are the words, CTV Canada’s Olympics Network. The Olympics referred to are the Summer Olympics of 1988. Meaning,

I’ve been using the same bag for over twenty years.

Why do I still use it? Because it’s not broken. And because it reminds me of a time someone thought I was worth flying somewhere to speak. It also says “me.” To anyone bothering to notice that “That guy’s being using the same gym bag for twenty years.” But, most especially, to me.

It’s my gym bag.

Moving excitingly along…

Last weekend, we took time to cull stacks of unalbumed photographs, many of which included me at a considerably younger age. “Skinnier” and “more hair” are an immediate “given”. More surprising – and considerably more welcome – was another distinguishing identifier:

My leather jacket.

There it was, lustrously shiny, chocolate brown, with greenish, elasticky-type ribbing at the sleeves and around the collar. I still wear that jacket, though the leathery luster is long gone, replaced now by the kind of mottled dullness you might find on the other side of your belt. Or a really old horse.

Photographic evidence proves that I’ve had that jacket for over twenty years. When the zipper broke, I immediately replaced it. When the lining shredded, Dr. M took me to a fabric store, where I chose fabric for a new lining, which we later took to a tailor shop to have sewn in.

A lot of effort? I suppose. But I wanted that jacket around. Why wouldn’t I? It still worked – I mean, the sleeves didn’t fall off. Plus, it reminded me of a moment long ago, when an actress on a show I was running had gazed upon that jacket with covetous eyes. And I was wearing it at the time! That’s a memory worth holding on to, isn’t it?

That was my jacket!

Forging thrillingly ahead…

I have three or four never used wallets, languishing in my night table drawer. Nothing at all wrong with them, they’re perfectly good wallets. I’ve been meaning to switch to one of them, as a replacement for the wallet I’m currently using, for some time. But I can’t do it.

I’ve been using the same wallet for twenty years. It still works – I mean, the money doesn’t fall out of it. Sure, it’s beat up and scratched and mysteriously discolored. Still, you know,

It’s my wallet.

And finally, there’s my car.

A dark green 1992 Lexus SC 400. (They don’t make that model anymore.) I bought the car, which has over a hundred and three thousand miles on it, with part of the money from my last big show business contract. It cost fifty thousand dollars. My hand literally shook when I wrote the check.

Over the years, I’ve spent considerable sums getting the dents hammered out, having it serially repainted, and reupholstering the front seats and the steering wheel. I take it in for regular servicing, where loaner versions of current models leave me thinking, “Wow, these new cars are really good.”

Despite its liabilities – the red dye, or whatever, that illuminates the gas-gauge needle has disappeared, leaving me no way of determining how much gas I have left – I would never consider giving it up.

It’s my car.

I have no similar attachment to clothes. When they wear out, I toss them on the “give-way pile”, destined for Helping Hands for the Blind. The clothes are still usable, and the blind won’t notice they’re worn out. Unless someone tells them. Though who would be that cold-hearted to the blind?

But even with clothes, I retain a nostalgic link. When discarding an item of apparel, I invariably order a fresher version of the exact same garment. The same jeans, the same drawstring pants, the same short sleeved Henleys (cotton sports shirts with no collars). Why?

Because that’s what I wear.

My gym bag, my jacket, my wallet, my car. I’m loyal to them all. I admire that in me. I think it’s commendable. But there’s another, probably truer, reason I hold onto things.

In a world of dizzying change, my longtime possessions reflect a comforting continuity. Times change. I change. My stuff stays the same.

And that’s how I like it.

(And I’m not cheap!)


Jess Kiley said...

I loved that whole piece. You really pulled it together nicely in the end.

YEKIMI said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one that hangs on to things forever. But I gotta hang on to my clothes for as long as I can, since I haven't found a pair of pants sold in any store in the USA where I haven't had to have the length shortened up so they would fit me. [how short? 26" length!]I have to order them off the internet! So if I find a pair of pants or shirts I like, I'll buy two or three of them in case one gets damaged or wears out somewhere down the road. And I'm hanging on to my 1984 Mercury Colony Park, a car so huge it's bigger than three European countries. So what if it guzzles gas like David Hasselhoff drinks alcohol, if someone slams into me I'm going to survive the crash....hopefully.

angel said...

50K for a car in 1992!!!!!!!

Wow...just wow. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've worked in retail all my life and I consider it my patriotic duty to replace my stuff on a regular basis. I'm not extravagant. I'm just doing my small part to keep the economy moving. Maybe we cancel each other out. :)