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Falling Apart at the Seams
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Falling Apart at the Seams
On the morning of my last day in LA, in June, I discovered that my suitcase was coming apart; the stitching that secured the zipper had come undone on one corner.
With only a few minutes to spare before I had to leave for the airport, my dad’s brother Bill hurried to his garage to get the duct tape he was sure was in there (it’s one of those garages that draws the ire of a spouse but does indeed hold many useful items … and many impractical ones). We taped up the corner of the suitcase and after verbally consenting to release Southwest Airlines from liability regarding any unfortunate mishaps my taped-together bag might encounter on its way home, my bag and I made it to Tulsa, no worse for wear.
I’m tempted to digress here and ponder the metaphorical similarities between my bag falling apart and the fact that I seem to often feel like I’m falling apart. The bag lasted four years before coming apart at the seams, hopefully I have a few more years before I unravel all the way. Neither the bag nor I have lifetime warranties, alas…
I figured that the bag had come to the end of its life, bummed that it lived for only four years. Maybe that’s all you can you expect these days—cheap materials, cheap labor, cheap bags. Limited life span. I started searching online for a new bag.
But Marcus took a closer look at the suitcase and announced he could fix it. Today he put on his most powerful readers, pulled the lamp over, and stitched up the corner of the bag where the upholstery (try writing that three times fast, sheesh!) thread had come undone. It’s as good as new, except for the goo left by the duct tape.
For the price of an “upholstery repair kit” on the Zon and a sub sandwich as a thank you to Marcus, I avoided buying a $200 travel accessory.
Marcus likes doing things like this. Mostly because he hates to throw anything away (see: our garage). If he can save something from a landfill, he considers life a success.
Not unlike someone else who had been in my life till last year.
You should have seen my dad’s garage.
My dad. The man who tore cheap napkins into four squares. The man who used the same bulk peppercorns that he purchased in 1972. The man who could memorize the Super King sale circular every week.
Not only did he save things, but he liked thrift shopping, and even better he loved finding things for free. A few years back, I started a website for humorous writing, and I got my dad to contribute a few articles, under the column title, “The Art of the Deal.” They were priceless, so to speak.
Right now I’m really aware of being in Oklahoma. For the last two summers I was “stuck” in SoCal taking care of my dad. Now I’m not. It’s nice to be home and have all my stuff and be with Marcus and not live out of a suitcase, but it also feels not quite right. Like I shouldn’t be here.
But I’m here, enjoying the flowers in the garden (and I saw Junior Catbird last week!), the thunderstorms, hanging out with Marcus. The hot days not so much, but oh well. And somehow, the fixing of the suitcase and remembering my dad’s art of finding the deal, and that weird adage that we seem to marry our parents, and the birds in the birdbath, and everything else about right now—sweet, bittersweet, and sour—seems just right. Like, how could it be any other way?
Besides, in less than two weeks I’m off again. Five weeks in Hawaii, two in SoCal. This time it’s all for pleasure. But I guess I've gotten used to wandering away from home.
As an extra bonus, please enjoy this installment of The Art of the Deal by Michael A. Neil. Complete with pictures! The 3,400-mile road trip he’s refering to is when he drove his motorcycle, solo, to Oklahoma for my birthday in 2013. He was 78.
The Art of the Deal: Black Boots
By Michael A. Neil
I’ve been riding motorcycles now for 66 years.
Over the course of those years I’ve taken a couple of “professional” rider’s courses (as well as a couple of unprofessional spills). One of the things that is always stressed in those courses is the importance of wearing boots that come above the ankles when riding a motorcycle. My past spills have painfully validated this basic tenet. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say that for two of my mishaps I was wearing sandals (real sandals, not flip-flops – that would be crazy), and both times the results were not pretty.
During the years since the last painful reminder, I have been riding wearing running shoes, still not having purchased practical boots that come above my ankles. However all this time I have been dreaming of real boots, ones that simply pull on, and that come above my ankles. While I do have a pair of boots, they are lace-ups requiring so much time and effort to put on that I never wear them except recently when I took a 3,400 mile motorcycle road trip.
Finally, I recently decided it was time to get serious about this boot business, and I started by going online and looking at what was out there, checking prices and quality. It was depressing. The prices that is. (Otherwise there are some fine boots available out there.)
Then I began going to thrift stores looking for boots. I was certainly not going to pay retail price for a pair of medium quality riding boots. I wanted to go for The Deal. I might be willing to pay $20.00 for a good used pair of boots.
For several weeks, I regularly checked out the Goodwill store in Glendale, the Salvation Army in Pasadena, The Bargain Box in La Canada and the Sun Thrift Store in Sunland. One week Sun Thrift had a nice pair of boots for $15.00, but they were too big – so big that both my feet fit in one boot. I thought about it. They were cheap enough, but I couldn’t figure out how to straddle my bike if I had both feet in one boot. If I had been able to come up with a way to make it work, the pair would last twice as long, making them an Excellent Deal.
As I said, I made a concerted search for several weeks, but each time, I came home empty handed.
Then one Thursday, coming home from an unsuccessful visit to Sun Thrift, I had just ridden up onto the eastbound I-210, when I saw a black boot on the shoulder of the road. And a moment latter, a second. And lastly, I passed one white sock.
I stopped the motorcycle in less than 100 yards, set the side stand, and walked back to check out my find, as big 18-wheelers streaked by. Gathering the two boots together, I found they were a pair! I had found a pair of calf high, pull-on, black leather boots that were “like new.” Or close enough.
The toe of the left one had apparently seen the underside of an 18-wheeler’s rear tire, as it was kind of smashed in. But otherwise, the pair was in perfect condition. I looked inside the boots in case there was anything written there and I might have to try to find the owner, but there was no name or address. The boots were mine. I took them and got back on the motorcycle. As I merged back into traffic, I left the white sock where it lay on the shoulder, as a sort of memorial.
Back at home, I checked out the boots. Genuine Justin Work Boots! Then I pulled them on. Well, the right one fit nicely, but the left one seemed a little large. Examining that boot more closely, I noticed it didn’t have a factory insole, apparently another unnoticed casualty of time spent on the freeway. Perhaps it went the way of the other white sock.
So, I needed a new insole. I found the Justin Boots web site online, and emailed them saying that when I got my pair of Justin boots, the left one didn’t have an insole. Could they please send me one, a left foot insole, size 9? When, a month later, I got back from a trip abroad, there in my mail box was not one, but a pair of brand new, size 9, factory insoles, sent at no cost.
Now, when I go riding any farther than to a thrift store, I put on my new Justin, over the calf, pull-on black riding boots, fully appreciating The Freeway Store, and thinking that I look very smart. The Deal is the very best when it’s free, and the Art is in keeping one’s eyes open.
Thanks for reading The Thing About That Thing.