Pockets, part five

Yes, yes, this series is getting too long. I should realize that I am the only person in the world as interested in pockets as I am. However, with one more post we can bring it all up-to-date and cease (for now).

Bright and early in the 21st century, as the Banana Republic vest that I showed you earlier begin to die, I went on the Internet to see what was available when you searched “photojournalist’s vest.” I was delighted to discover a variety of options. A little searching, a little thinking, and I came up with a possible alternative to my old standby. And they ran about half or even one-third the price!

the original gray Fox Outdoor vest — I hope you all enjoy the various bookshelves I hung these vests upon, or that I will, looking back in future years, enjoy peering at the books

Several Internet sales sites featured vests that turned out to come from a manufacturer called Fox Outdoor and varied in price from $29-$45 (while the Banana Republic vests cost about $100). These even came in various colors, not just khaki (which is a color, younger generation, not a description or style!). Naturally, I went for the cheap end, choosing some cornily named Texas vendor (First Army?)—of probably deviously deep right-wing, gun-toting sympathies, as most of these outdoorsy joints are (and I am not exaggerating: I have shopped around in my PocketQuest where I was clearly unwelcome—that bullyingly violent, KKK-standard in-group exclusivity being one of the truly less endearing, omnipresent qualities of the neo-Right myrmidons of moral doom). However, being relatively anonymous on the internet, I ordered First Army’s photojournalist’s vest in gray. (Creating the link, I remember why they hadn’t gotten my business most recently—prices have hiked.)

I felt nervous about this Internet order, although I don’t know why I should have. Unlike my Banana Republic catalog days, I was looking at a photograph of the vest, not a drawing. The little JPEG from the website was nowhere near as clear as the catalog pictures from TravelSmith, but it still showed what I was after, and the description sounded a lot like a traditional photojournalist’s vest.

When it arrived, although the vest looked a bit olive-green to my eye (rather than true gray), Janet to the contrary to this day after many washings in the meantime, it was wonderful—just what I wanted. All the pockets were there, every one of them! It fit a little smaller (or shorter, really) than the Banana Republic version, but that actually made it feel more lightweight in the summertime. I wore it nonstop for five years, and it’s still in pretty good shape (the rear inside pocket has ripped out the “waterproof” lining long since, but that is the worst problem). I still wear it often.

black Fox Outdoor vest (the first of two) — note the expected sagging left pocket for books and notebook

Pretty quickly after getting that first one, I saved and followed up with two more—one in black and one in khaki. I was a little disappointed to discover that the pocket sizing had something to do with the dye batches, as both the black and khaki vests had various inadequacies in their smaller pockets (the three “shotgun-shell” pockets on the lower left and the pen pocket on the left bellows pocket above) so my Swiss Army knife no longer fit easily in place beside the highlighter and the Chapstick. But I adjusted.

And these babies are pretty sturdy. Both the black and original gray ones are still going (so is the khaki; I just don’t choose it as often). I wore the gray one pretty exclusively through 2006, keeping the black mostly for “dress” (Janet is writhing at that notion) until about 2004-05, since when it has become my everyday wear. I like the black (and the gray) because the colors seems less thoroughly geeky (I am wrong about that, I realize, but it’s how I feel). Both colors show wear, and for Prague I dragged out a stockpiled black vest I had bought since (summertime 2009) so I would look a little nicer. I still try to restrict the Prague vest for “good” although right now that newer one is the vest with the stuff actually stuffed into it (I must have thought I was dressing up sometime a while back, or at least decided to wash the older black one).

Thus, wherever I go, not only do I embarrass my wife (actually Janet has accustomed herself to my oddities pretty well for the most part) in public, but I can carry just about everything I want or should acquire while out and about. Pockets: they’re a splendid invention (and exploring that history might be the one last “pockets” post I have in me to present, especially since the Wikipedia article on the subject is so poor).

And that brings the history of pockets, with appropriate digressions and rants on the side, up to date. Tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day, and we shall have to see what I come up with for that holy day.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Pockets, part four

Is everybody tired of pockets yet? I think I may be forcing the subject myself. On the other hand I’ve enjoyed all the rambles on which the basic topic has taken me off  into the ether—both visibly here in print and in the more ethereal realms of my mind. (I like that gliding of ether into ethereal, myself…).

And all my tightie-Rightie friends should note how superbly I have supported our American capitalists in my adult life, even to the extent of purchasing hugely overpriced items that I lusted to possess. But that’s getting ahead of myself somewhat…

We left off on Friday with my acquisition of a series of Banana Republic photojournalist’s vests. I even forced myself on topic sufficiently to describe the 22 pockets in a typical photojournalist’s vest.

the embarrassingly too-large (especially for a retired guy) collection of dress jackets—only some of which are TravelSmith or Orivs, some derive from second-hand stores for $5.00!, and some are thirty years old

I had bought some items that weren’t vests, including the shirts and shorts I had already mentioned. I even got a safari jacket and pocket pants (which look kind of Eighties nowadays), although I was disappointed that the safari jacket only featured the four exterior pockets. But the company got bought up, things changed, the sales weren’t very good any longer, and the company seemed to focus on women and fashion too much for me.

So Banana Republic began to suck. (Sorry, Gap, Inc., but it’s true: your high-end stores sell overpriced excessively fancy-dancy junk that I just don’t want. Besides, you stopped selling the photojournalist’s vest.) I had a stockpile of two or three of their vests by the mid-Nineties, but the quality wasn’t what it had been, and I knew they would wear out.

And then a new travel clothing catalog arrived in the mail. It was a new company (to me), TravelSmith, and they had all kinds of clothing with pockets! They were just as expensive as (Gap, Inc.’s) Banana Republic, but they also had great sales (not quite as good as some items I had gotten from BR). They sold cool travel dress suits with fifteen pockets, and I soon acquired two—one in blue and one in olive green, both great and both still going strong for me twenty years on, and their multitudinous pockets worked great (although Janet pointed out that I bulged frequently in odd places with the items I had crammed into my jacket). I gradually accumulated an embarrassingly large collection of TravelSmith suit jackets, which I wore regularly as my school clothes and which made dressing up on vacation nice for me. The company also featured some very nice shirts and pants with secret pockets, which I also liked. (I also own a TravelSmith safari jacket, fitted oddly, I admit, but with interior pockets!)

The exterior zip pocket and patch pocket from TravelSmith

I only learned who their real competition might be from some of TravelSmith’s own advertising, but when I checked on the company mentioned as a provider of travelgear—including vests (actually outdoorsy stuff and hunting gear for rich executives, like Janet’s boss), Orvis—I realized I was out of my league (although Orvis also features deep sales to clear backstock, especially their Tent Sales, and I have picked up a jacket, a couple of pairs of pants and some shirts from Orvis). Overall, although I was aging into their evident target audience, TravelSmith had a more elite and successful clientele than I qualified as (meaning the stuff was/is just too expensive). Still, I supported them, sometimes a bit beyond my means, but almost exclusively from their sale pages (both physical in the old days and on their website more recently).

TravelSmith jacket—three interior pockets on the left

TravelSmith’s “Patented Pocket System” is illustrated in these pictures from a single suit jacket. Often on the left is a large in-the-lining zippered pocket on the outside, just above the normal patch pocket. Several coats, like this one, also feature handwarmer pockets concealed behind the patch ones. Inside on the left are three pockets, with another two—high and low—on the right. The chest one on one side or the other zips closed to hold your wallet, while the other side buttons—making it easy to store pens on the button side (since the zipper makes clipping the pen awkward). Of course, some of their coats feature special little pen pockets inside, usually just wide enough to hold the black and blue Zebra F-301s that I carry. Pockets galore, and the company was proud to advertise these features. Thus I had been lured into a whole new world of travel dress clothes.

TravelSmith jacket—two pockets inside on the right

There was only one problem: no photojournalist vests. Perhaps BR held a trademark on the notion or as Janet noted, maybe TravelSmith had better taste in clothing, although she never wanted anything from either company, except TravelSmith’s famous Little Black Dress (or I lacked the insight to investigate elsewhere on my own), but except for a couple of lapses, TS clothing remains more in the realm of her boss’s purchases than mine (although I just now got tempted once again among their men’s sale items). Janet bought a Field & Stream vest that TS was reselling (if that is the right term) for an anniversary present once, and although I have worn it, the vest remains in fairly immaculate shape because it just isn’t quite right (my most-used pockets are shades too small for say, paperbacks and my notebook).

Thus, although I had some dressy stuff that could hold more items than Janet was comfortable realizing I had sneaked along for a visit to her family or a weekend away on our own (or than I actually needed during a day at school), as the new century dawned, I was going to need a new travel vest supply.

So I went on the ’Net. (Maybe someday I should write a post on my internet shopping experiences; I never realized it at the time, but I was almost an Early Adopter of the commercial internet lifestyle). Looking back today, it seems surprising that it should have taken me so long to make that adjustment, but I think, as I have tried to show in this little series of posts, that my enjoyment (okay, love) of the rugged travel gear I liked from first Banana Republic and then TravelSmith instilled a powerful brand loyalty in me (that I still must feel somehow, or I wouldn’t fulminate so strongly against the contemporary BR or even be telling you about TravelSmith). However, I broke the box some time around the turn of the millennium and tried to find photojournalist’s vests on the internet. And succeeded.

But that development should, I think, comprise one final post in this series. Enough for today. Tomorrow is another break from the pocket packet of posts, as I have gotten annoyed at the semi-literacy of some of my internet friends.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Pockets (maybe, sort of)

my Yuppie hell—Gap-era Banana Republic

Strange to admit, I used to look forward to the arrival of the old Banana Republic catalogs. Remember, this was back in the Eighties, before/as the Zieglers sold the name to Old Navy and Banana Republic degenerated into the overpriced urban fluff it is today (and in my experience not very well manufactured fluff at that, although I gave up on them a long while back, perhaps about ‘93 when I tried looking for a vest in the downtown Chicago store [not the main one, three floors right on the street, but the one in Water Tower Place] and was carefully avoided for being probably too old and too bald and too Iowan by their hip, urban metrosexual—although that term was still at least a decade into the future—carefully coiffed and manicured twenty-something staff).

But I Digress…

—Wow, some sentence there. Sorry. I guess you can tell: I don’t care much for the direction the Gap, Inc. (actual owners of Banana Republic and Old Navy) headed the brand once they acquired it. Ah yes, American capitalism, realm of the woefully mediocre (and so hugely supported by us corporate serfs with our hard-earned bucks). —One Gap-era Banana Republic vest I purchased started unravelling at the seams within a week (sure, it was on sale—that’s about the only way I ever bought anything at Banana Republic), and several shirts and shorts of the later era barely survived a year, if that; and none of them had pockets (the really useful kind).

Early on the new ownership stuck to the same stuff the Zieglers had sold. When Janet and I were in Honolulu in about ‘85 or ‘86, I bought a pair of button-fly canvas-khaki pants for five dollars (on sale, of course; if you used to shop at BR, you know about the sales area hidden away toward the rear of their stores) that I love, even though they were size 36+ at the waist (useful for me in these later years…). In Carmel in the mid-Eighties I picked up cotton pocket-Tees in about three earth-tone of colors (later augmented with blues and purple and green…), all of which are still sturdy and still worn, although the green one, on which I dropped a cigarette while running lights for Peace Pipe Players at Kirchhoff Theatre about ‘88, has become the “clean, smooth cloth” I use to wipe my glasses around the house—since it hangs so nicely on the knob of a door for easy access, much to Janet’s chagrin, I am sure). But possibly we should return to the subject, the Zeiglers’ memorable catalogs…

What Were We Talking About? Oh, yes, Catalogs…

my own still-extant copy of the de Camps’ book, purchased in Des Moines, at Reader’s World on 13 June 1975; I assume I bought it to celebrate my college graduation a month earlier and the beginning of my new adult life

Those catalogs were a trip into adventure (before adventure and eco-tourism became jargon) in strange and distant, exotic lands I would like to but probably will never be able to afford to visit. The Zieglers even went to Macchu Picchu! (And that was before it became the overrun site my sister Margaret and brother David tell me it is today.) Ever since I read about the Andean ruins in high school (complete with cover photo on L. Sprague and Catherine C. de Camp’s long-forgotten Ballantine Books paperback Citadels of Mystery, originally entitled Ancient Ruins and Archaeology. (There’s a lengthy and unfavorable review of the book available if you click on the scanned image.) I had received de Camp’s Lost Continents as a graduation gift a month earlier from the then-girlfriend (thanks still, Ruthie—a great gift, recently reread) and had begun a lifelong quest for de Camp’s science writing and his historical novels.

the mountains of the Macchu Picchu region is the rear-cover photo

Archaeology and distant places have haunted my imagination and my life before and since. One of the first books I spent a whole night reading as an adult (I’d done that with ERB and other wild fiction as a kid too many times to recount) was the American heritage Discovery of Lost Worlds (and later two companion, and very similar, volumes) that same summer of 1975 in Ft. Madison, in the spaceship-over-the-city upstairs apartment on Avenue D. From all that came purchases of the Time-Life Emergence of Man series (all nineteen volumes), Golden Books’ Echoes of an Ancient World series (nine volumes), most of the Facts on File Atlas of.. series (i.e. Atlas of the Jewish World—currently consulted for my Sepharad heroic fantasy story/series—and Atlas of Mesopotamia, Atlas of China, Atlas of North American Indians…) and through the Nineties Time-Life’s What Life Was Like series (eighteen volumes) and… Not to mention the science-in-general stuff and subscribing to far too many magazines (including Archaeology—I even joined the Archaeological Institute of America as a full member for thirty years) for most of my life.

I think the archaeology interest began with Indians/Native Americans, all the way back in elementary with the Fleetfoot character I told you about before and other nonfiction kid-books I acquired at the Rock Island Public Library to which I clearly recall biking on summer days and awkwardly returning, laden with books (but also including a fondly remembered book on Old Ironsides and a novel about the Mongols invading everywhere and butchering everybody that I first encountered read-aloud in fourth grade,and another book I wish I could still find among my possessions about lone man adventuring against evil Communists in the Himalayas, in which I first encountered the words “jerry-can” and “petrol”…) and possibly almost-infant memories of Mesa Verde with my family. Strange how it all connects and intersects in one’s mind and personality…

But Isn’t the Real Subject Pockets?

—Ummm, I guess you can see that the Banana Republic catalogs fit into an already established interest. Janet arriving in my life in 1981 provided the impetus to travel and begin to see at least some of those faraway lands and lost cities (although none of de Camp’s… yet). I first flew in an airplane with her to Texas to stay for several days on vacation with friends in Brownsville, and although our Bermuda honeymoon the next year evaporated into a week in Minneapolis (a lovely week, never forgotten), we started real travel in 1983 with three weeks in Europe. (Is there are series of posts ahead on our travels? Hmmm…) —And he’s off on a tangent again!

So back to pockets (supposedly our topic for the day and yesterday and the day before).

the embarrassingly worn-out Banana Republic vest —I provided a hideously large JPEG so if you wish you can click on it and examine some of the books on one bookshelf…

Banana Republic photojournalist’s vests vanished for me by the early Nineties. But fortunately, two factors kept me in pockets and travel gear (although Janet might not agree about how fortunate it all was). I can still wear one of the second-generation BR vests today because I stockpiled them, and one is still in decent shape. The one I wore through the late Eighties and into the Nineties, however, although I will throw it on to carry stuff (like a notebook or a wallet or some books or a camera or whatever; perhaps those ors should be ands) when I go out on my bike, is in pretty poor shape. Note the picture. Can you see the collar with the white padding material hanging out? Fans of the blue denim vest should appreciate the baggy left, lower pocket(s) where paperback and my smaller notebooks resided.

Oh, the second factor is the subject of our next pockets post—another travel-gear company arriving just in time in the early to mid-Nineties: TravelSmith.

The Twenty-Two Pockets: an annotated and analytical listing

The Banana Republic original vest had a plastic window on the upper right side, where you can see two D-rings hanging in the picture to the left. That pocket was divided into two, a front area (for the journalist ID and a rear area for stuff (like a packet of Kleenex, which is still what I put in the newer version of that pocket). On the pictured vest, that pocket is one, large expandable container. I nowadays keep my tissue packet (infrequently used), a small pocket calculator and a plastic holder for a spectacles cloth and whatever business cards I collect (they make great bookmarks). Beside that one, right on the lapel is a zippered pocket extending underneath and down into the lining that usually goes empty but on vacations holds our passports and other vital documents or stuff like foreign cash. Below the Kleenex pocket are three velcro-topped pockets, one on top of another, the lowest fronted with mesh. Intended for film and lenses, I store a baggy of aspirin in one, packets of lens-cleaning wipes in another, and in the mesh Listerine pocket packs of dissolving mint papers and a flash drive (you never know…).

Below those is a horizontal zipper into a hidden side pocket (sometimes used for books, sometimes for something valuable; usually empty). In front of that pocket are two expandable pockets covered by a shared flap closed by separate velcro snaps. One often holds my checkbook while the other always contains my sunglasses (or the regular ones if I’m wearing the sunglasses, pretty obviously).

my notebook—from Harrods in 2002—which contains the complete handwritten original version of “Underground” as well as a new Tourist story, the Villon text, notes and reminders, blood pressure records (ah, getting old sucks), extra papers and loose notes, sticky notes, a London Underground map glued in the back cover (for reference for “Underground”) and even some poems and blank pages yet

On the left side (your right in the picture, of course) at the top is a zippered pocket with a key ring hanging out in the picture. My digital camera can fit there along with other not-too-bulky smaller item (a deck of cards, not usually carried by me, would be the ideal size). Below it is a large bellows pocket that can hold pretty big items, if I wish (like a couple of paperbacks or souvenirs bought on vacation). On its lower right side of the big expandable pocket is a long, thin pen pocket (it can actually hold three pens and usually does for me—a black ballpoint, a blue ballpoint and a fine-line felt-tip). Toward the bottom is a complicated arrangement of six pockets—a book-sized large bellows pocket closed with a velcroed flap (normally empty except sometimes on vacation) in front of two open-topped pockets of the same size (into which go my notebook and a paperback novel normally). Three small narrow pockets sewn on the front of the bellows pocket (which reveal the vest’s origin as a hunting vest—those would be where shotgun shells went) always hold: a highlighter, two Chapstick (one on top of the other) and my Swiss Army knife.

This is a scan rather than a photo; yes, I was having some fun with the digital contraptions

Right side interior pocket; you can see what I had in mind in Book of Seasons for the two, deep interior pockets—Banana Republic got it exactly right!

There are two long inner pockets on each side, like in a man’s suit jacket, only larger, that work well for a variety of books and other things. I usually carry a volume of poetry on one side (currently the Bonnard dual-language translation of François Villon’s complete verse; I am trying to work on a novel about Villon) and some days another novel (just for variety/avoidance-of-boredom’s sake).

Inside and outside of the lower back of the vest are two wide and deep horizontal pockets. The outer one closes with snaps, while the interior one, which can only be accessed from the inside of the vest, is zippered. I keep a cloth bag (compressed into itself and zipped up as a small square) and two cheap plastic rain ponchos inside, while the outer one works well for extra travel guides on vacation (the most used travel guides go in the lower left book pocket and one or both of the interior pockets while vacationing with too many guidebooks).

Finally, two handwarmer pockets fit underneath the other pockets on the lower right and left, and my hands go in them often. (I think I remembered to mention all of the pockets.)

The zippered pockets are lined with a silky waterproof material, as is the lower left-side bellows pocket, and that waterproof-lining has been of value often (and explains why I put the passports where I usually do).

On the later versions of the BR vests, I guess considering that we consumers are idiots (which is of course how corporations treat us), the company printed on the interior pockets maps of the pockets with suggested uses, as you can see in the pictures.  People other than me get fascinated by the instructions.

And we have exceeded 2000 words for today. Sorry about that. I got excited, I suppose. I have later vests and other stories of pockets to discuss, but later. This weekend you get more (if not all the rest) of The Book of Seasons draft, meaning chapter 4. Will you ever read more of “Mantorville” (I really don’t like that title—thanks for nothing, folks)? I have been writing my first Sepharad story mostly of late, but I do have at least one post almost done extending the story of Quetzal County past Frank Long’s football “accident.”

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Pockets, continued

I fear my glorious content for this post may have been somewhat anticipated by my friend Colleen’s enthusiastic comment to yesterday’s segment. (Go back and read what she had to say; she expresses the wonder for an innocent Iowan of the original Banana Republic’s exotic gallery of travel couture exquisitely.)

I, too, somehow received a catalog from the original Banana Republic some time in the middle or late Eighties, and like Colleen something about the drawn images of their products combined with the really interesting anecdotes of the Zieglers’ travel experiences (was this the company being satirized by Elaine’s self-important boss J. Peterman on Seinfeld? —No, the real J. Peterman ripped off the Zeiglers) gripped me with excitement. That and the fact that all their men’s clothing featured plenty of pockets…

It was in the pages of that catalog that I first encountered a photojournalist’s vest, and my destiny, as I am sure multitudes of students have mocked me for ever since, arrived. Unfortunately for me, the photojournalist’s vest was really rather expensive, up toward one hundred dollars! I really couldn’t afford that. Still it looked wonderful, and I knew I had seen its like on actual journalists on the evening news, usually in places like Africa, Afghanistan, Nicaragua or Southeast Asia. I know Dan Rather wore one when he sneaked into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion that provided the Regan-era CIA opportunity to train and arm the Taliban, including Osama bin Laden. (Oh, the irony, the genuine sorrow. And we couldn’t even learn the lesson of history from the Soviet experience, or possibly in our arrogance we believe their humiliation in Afghanistan was entirely our doing. Regardless it has all come home to roost, sadly.) My fantasies of an exciting alternative career aside, I really wanted a photojournalist’s vest. I just couldn’t afford one.

Eventually, however the lure of Banana Republic’s exotic and practical travel garments overwhelmed my caution at ordering through the mail clothing I had never actually seen even in a photograph, and I determined to buy something. Fortunately, when the next catalog arrived a sale was occurring. I found an interesting olive-green pair of traveler’s shorts, which were only about $25 and featured—excitement of excitements—two large button-down pockets on the outside of each leg. I know that such things have become really popular since, but back in 1985-6-7 or whenever, I hadn’t seen the like. When the shorts arrived just ten days later, I was delighted at how well they fit (then, they are a size 34 waist) and how practical I thought those pockets on the sides were. We were off to Hawaii that year, I think, and I dreamed of jamming those pockets with all sorts of wondrous things. In truth, they’ve only been used a few times, but I still love that pair of shorts. And I still own them all these years later, dreaming of someday being able to fit back into them. Unfortunately that dream day is not yet today.

The Tree of Life — The Emanations of the Deity, according to the Lurianic Kabbalah

But visions of that wonderful, exciting photojournalist’s vest tickled my mind and troubled my imagination. I began saving. Eventually, maybe a year later, I placed my order. My delight with the shorts paled to insignificance when the vest arrived. Although that original item passed long ago as an honor to a fellow director in Peace Pipe Players who at least said she believed my constantly worn vest was the mark of a true director, the garment lives forever in my memory. It had at least 15 pockets (contemporary versions from other companies have even more today), and I found a use for every one. Even for the little plastic upper chest pocket, clear in front to hold my press pass (what a joke), where I secured a laminated copy of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, I guess as my unique insignia.

I wore that vest constantly and everywhere. Except during the day at school. Students got to know it very well, however, as I always donned it for play practice. It went to the mall, it went on vacation, it never hung in a closet. I kept that same vest for five or six years, as I gradually acquired other Banana Republic garments. And I don’t exaggerate: every pocket was filled. I could carry more than one paperback book, more than one notebook for writing or notes or addresses, my Swiss Army knife, a highlighter, Chapstick, Kleenex, a calculator, extra strings or pieces of rope to tie big things to myself… I forget all the things I carried in that first vest.

Eventually, perhaps predictably after the constant wear, it started to wear out. So I saved again and ordered a new vest; it was somewhat different from the original, lacking in particular the plastic pocket for my identification. But that was actually a relief: more than once even I was a bit embarrassed at the attention my Kabbalistic insignia attracted. Once at the Minnesota Renaissance Fair it seemed as though every person among the thousands when we passed or bumped into kept staring at the tiny black-and-white Tree of Life. I think perhaps the only person who really appreciated the emblem was beloved brother-in-law Brian, about whom I told you earlier. It certainly wasn’t my much-beleaguered but long-suffering, beloved wife, Janet, who’s been gracious enough to tolerate the vests for 25 years.

But I’m afraid I shall have to extend this entirely too long disquisition on garments with pockets for yet another day. I got the opportunity to substitute at Andrew again on Tuesday, and once I got home, a strong, weary exhaustion or lethargy overwhelmed me for the rest of the evening, and I got absolutely nothing accomplished—definitely no worthwhile writing, not even a start on today’s blog. Then on Wednesday, as the house was getting cleaned, I had to clear out for my now-usual biweekly lunch in Dubuque with Janet. I still didn’t feel particularly well, and upon returning home and trying to write this post through dictation, the damned MacSpeech Dictate software insisted on mishearing nearly half of what I would say repeatedly, particularly the word vest, which it interpreted as fast, best, past, over and over with other exotic inappropriacies injected. To get these thousand words as accurate (or inaccurate) as they are took more time and energy than I wished. So the saga will continue, probably tomorrow.

I know I already riffed on politics inappropriately above, but in working out the links I got to thinking about the wonders of capitalism (oops, pardon me—how wongheadedly “liberal” to use that perfectly correct word, according to the nut-hut Right and Fox News; I mean “free-enterprise” system—talk about jaw-crunching jargon!). A true capitalist (like the Zieglers) invents something new, interesting and worth buying; but the way the system really works is: others and more others imitate and get imitated. Little or no originality or invention or commercial value (thus the need to endlessly advertise). And what’s worth buying then?

Much does remain to get off my chest, clearly — freedom, the wacko Right and its dupes and stooges (and its hidden Masters unseen behind the scenes, dishing out the cash), capitalism, how it’s our government since we chose them (not our enemy, regardless what the wacko Right believes), group identity (and how that’s not freedom), the pointlessly strident polarization of American political thought…

All to come. Later. Pockets are so much more pleasant.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Pockets, part one

I had so much fun free-associating yesterday that I was very tempted to simply find another poem I could release my mind to fly on. However, I have had a topic in mind for some time that I haven’t fully developed yet. The title says it all: “Pockets.”

Various factors have got me thinking about this peculiar subject, both personally and historically. I would hope that faithful readers recall in The Book of Seasons, when Durwood Wakdjunkaga magically arrived in the  Hotel Allison on a late autumn evening in 1974 (geez, if you talk and think about this stuff enough, and lived through the real events that inspired your imagination, you can almost begin to think it was all real—not), he was wearing a strange vest unfamiliar to the pompous and naïve narrator. If you can’t remember, the descriptive passage went like this: “His clothing surprised me. He was wearing a brown polo shirt, blue denim jeans, a green vest-like garment which hung as long as a sports coat with several pockets in it, and red tennis shoes. His costume, for it certainly did not suit his age, distinguished him in my mind from the Allison. …The vest had six pockets in all: two at chest level in front, two side pockets, and within two deep inner compartments.” I knew clearly just what that vest should look like when I wrote those words, even though it did not exist nor had not ever, to my knowledge. And not because I have such a vivid and creative imagination (I begin to fear that I do not—on either adjectival count).

a blue chore coat from Theisen’s: it’s about 35 years old now… Notice the left side pocket bagged out from carrying paperbacks.

Back in college I had worn several Army-green cloth coats that hung the length I described that eventually I cut the sleeves from for summer wear late in college. (Yes, we are the witless slaves of fashion in every era, and it is always so embarrassing later, albeit I think the kids of the Eighties are going to writhe in humiliation a lot more, assuming they/you all have the necessary sensitivity and personal awkwardness to suffer such pangs, and for much longer than my generation—although I still blush to even think of my pompous, self-important high school senior photo in a military-style coat with my “Think Peace” button added without my parents’—especially my mother’s—knoweldge once I got to the photographer’s studio. Strange to think: we used to just take about five or ten possible shots and pick just one.)  Later, I acquired a couple of blue-denim chore coats at Theisen’s once I moved here to Maquoketa. One or more of them suffered the same descent into vestness, but I recently discovered I still had a complete one. Notice the photo. At least by this draft of The Book of Seasons which I have transcribed for the blog the vest had become a formal imitation of what I haphazardly created, although I kept the vest green as originally invented.

Why did I like these garments? I wanted pockets, places to put things so I would have them with me, what the Seinfeld program suggested by the term “man-purse.” Except I wasn’t carrying no darned purse! Even today, I feel uncomfortable carrying my cloth bag to the grocery store.

So Wakdjunkaga’s vest helps him to carry all the items of his magical existence. I suppose it’s another way that he is me, except there’s nothing particularly magical about my possessions. (I know, grammatically that should be “he is I.”) What it really shows is the importance of pockets. And, as Janet will quickly assert, pockets are important to me.

I was still wearing the blue chore coats when we met and got married. She did try to lure me off those, and she had a good chance because of one issue—they didn’t have enough pockets. You can see all the pockets they have in the photo: four. I always wanted to sew extra material inside each lapel to create those two extra “deep, inner pockets” that Wakdjunkaga has.

In 1984 or ‘85 I did create some inner pockets with my own stitchery on a lightweight gray windbreaker/cloth jacket I bought the summer we went to Fiji. Janet made me toss that to Maquoketa Community Services last summer or earlier, or I’d show you a picture of it. It was made with tons of extra material flapping on the inside from the zippers, so I just sewed those loose, four- or five-inch wide interior lapels (what would you call it?) across in several places and created two (weirdly shaped) pockets on each side—four total interior pockets. My creation worked not very great for our seventeen-hour flight across the Pacific and back for that ideal vacation. (Sorrowfully, Fiji got hammered last week by typhoon winds and rains, horrible.)

I tried wearing that coat, but all the self-created pockets were almost uselessly awkward, especially for holding books (my principal stuff to carry, although sometime in the mid or late Eighties I bought a Walkman for portable music, which I also wanted to carry in some pockets). So I remained frustrated…

This post topped 800 words a while ago, so I think I will break what I had imagined as one post into at least two, and tell you (too much) more about my PocketQuest tomorrow.

For then I discover Banana Republic! (No, the original California company before the owners sold it to Old Navy or whoever owns those hoity-toity urban metrosexual Banana Republic worthless joints now.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.