Monthly Archives: May 2023

The Jacket Collection

Screenshot 2023-05-20 at 7.21.34 PMLast weekend, seeing this Facebook Memories post from five years ago floored me a little bit. What started as a simple nostalgic attempt to recreated a beloved piece of clothing from my post has now become a vital component to my self-identity. But, first, a little necessary background…

Back in the ‘80s, I was one of those high schoolers who placed pins and patches all over their denim jacket. For this particular teen, it wasn’t just a means of self-expression. It was also a weird form of defiance. Despite getting reasonably along with my peers, I felt very much like a social outcast. Figuring that there was little that could be done to change that, the pins, patches, and the peace symbol bleached into the back of the jacket became a way to proudly proclaim my independence from the high school social order and make the feelings of ostracism my own.

I loved the hell out of that jacket.

However, I retired it upon becoming a college freshman. Stepping foot onto the campus of Drexel University was my big chance to find social acceptance for what felt like the first time ever. I wasn’t going to blow it by flying my weirdo freak flag (the decision was enabled by the fact that the bleached-in peace symbol was starting to fray apart and threatening to put a giant hole in the back of the jacket.) In retrospect, it wasn’t the best decision. In fact, I was doing things backwards – college is the perfect time to fly your freak flag and find the weirdos who get your own eccentricities. I still found a way to express my individuality, but it was certainly a restrained, genteel version of it.

(In retrospect, that wasn’t the only thing I did wrong during college – especially after I transferred to Rutgers-Camden – but since my past experiences and decisions put me where I am today, the lesson of Guster’s “One Man Wrecking Machine” absolutely applies here.)

Growing up in a world dominated by Baby Boomers meant that graduating from college signaled it was time to play by the rules. Student loans needed to be paid, and although the ladders for career advancement held no interest for me, having a stable profession was essential for the kind of middle-class lifestyle that I strived towards. So, dressing my age and cultivating/maintaining a certain kind of appearance were essential components to achieving that particular goal.

After 15+ years of muddling along that path, I started taking advantage of the opportunities presented by a transition to working from home full-time. Rarely needing to appear in the traditional office setting made it easier to unfurl my personal freak flag. It helped immensely that Sally encouraged me to embrace my inner weirdo. Initially, this meant more regularly wearing the kind of geeky t-shirts I loved and building a larger collection of them. Then, in the spring of 2018, I decided that I no longer wanted to continue wearing the kind of boring light spring jackets that were age-appropriate for the middle-aged crowd.

I needed to once again own and regularly wear a denim jacket covered in patches and pins.

After finding an unadorned thrift store jacket that was the same shade of blue as my high school jacket, it was remarkably easy to acquire a combination of patches for it – far easier than it was to do so in my teen years. In fact, it was far too easy to find the kinds of geeky, sociopolitical, and just plain weird that appealed to me. As a result, I quickly accumulated more pins than needed. Didn’t seem like much of an issue, however, as pins could easily be swapped out, replaced, and moved around as the mood struck. The 2018 version of my high school jacket brought large amounts of joy.

The only issue was that I kept finding and acquiring additional pins that just spoke to me. It didn’t take long before I also found myself wanting to purchase additional patches despite the fact that there really wasn’t enough room left on the jacket for them – at least, not without feeling like I had overdecorated the jacket. Yet, I basically resisted and was essentially happy to wear it whenever the mood struck.

Then sometime after the pandemic hit, I simply felt the need to create another one, this time with a different color of denim. Once again, it was far too easy to find sufficient patches and pins to adorn it with. After that, the notion of acquiring multiple jackets in such a manner just felt right. Within relatively short order, I found myself with a large collection of them.

IMG_6672Along the way, the realization hit that the jackets were serving multiple functions for me. As well as providing a means of self-expression, they allowed me to channel my creativity in way not possible with the creations I made using my Lego collection. In addition, the patches and pins themselves became a kind of temporary tattoos, and as the number of jackets grew, I found myself reaching for particular jackets that seemed appropriate for the mood I was experiencing at that time.

Most importantly, though, the jackets had become my armor for navigating a world that seems to be increasingly hostile to my sensibilities. Being a woke, middle-aged, cis, hetero, white male, I am aware of just how much my subset of species collectively has done regards to fostering racism, misogyny, tribalism, homophobia, and a host of other reprehensible sociopathic behaviors. I’m also aware of how much my subset of the species is clearly acting out against and clearly feels threatened by a world that is more open, pluralistic, queer, and not willing to put up with toxic forms of traditional masculinity.

Each of my jackets contains patches and pins that absolutely engage in virtue signaling. However, the intended audience is not minorities, women, or members of the LGTBQ+ community; the target is other middle-aged, cis, hetero, white males who are trying to stand in the way of what I believe is a better world. I want them to know that while I may look like them, I absolutely want to part of the type of society they are trying to defend and reassert. Wearing these jackets makes me feel more at ease, more secure. Hence, armor.

I am now in the process of decorating my ninth jacket. Amazingly, no two are the same color, and there is very little in the way of using the same patch or pin on multiple jackets. They are significant reason why I feel like I am now living my best life. I also believe that teenage me would be thrilled if could somehow see what I’ve done during my middle-aged years. At that age, even though felt wrong, adopting certain tenants of traditional masculinity seemed essential in order to be socially accepted and draw attention away from my natural non-normative behaviors. These jackets are a part of my openly embracing my weird true self.

And, I couldn’t be happier.

Odds and Ends for May 18, 2023

I actually have two different, completely unrelated, longer pieces I’m currently working on for the blog. Ideally, I would spend this time working on either of them, and I will do so later this evening. However, there are also a few odds and ends I would like to post about. So, without further ado:

  • I still cannot overstate in any fashion how “meh” I feel about my choices of hangout for the times I want to have a drink or two outside the house, reading a book and/or pounding away on my laptop for blogging purposes. I’m currently giving another chance to The Ashburn Bungalow Alehouse, which was the runner-up when I made my decision about where I should spend these interludes, and it is actually making me wish I was currently at my first choice, Finnegan’s, which is actually damning with faint praise.
  • One of the two posts currently underway involves my collection of denim jackets. I bring this only because I am in the process of adding another and decorating yet another one. This one is purple, and the array of pins and patches I’ve ordered from Etsy and other online vendors have already started arriving. It’s yet another reason I wish I could go back in time and simply tell my teenage self that all the angst, anxiety, and depression will be far more than amply compensated for in the middle-aged years.
  • While pounding this all out on the keyboard, I’m actively restraining myself from closing up the laptop, asking for the check, and returning home as quickly as possible. Shortly after arriving here, I received an email stating that my other new clothing purchase has been delivered at the house. I’m never worn this article of clothing before, but now that it’s been quite some time since I reached that stage of my life when there are less than zero fucks left to give, I’m absolutely ready to try it now. More on this soon.
  • Yesterday, I shared this particular Twitter thread to Facebook. I had actually shared it previously, but someone else that I follow on Facebook had reshared it and brought it back to my attention. It’s frequently been rolling around in my head since seeing it again, and it’s made me even happier that I decided to try out a piece of clothing I’ve never worn before. It’s also made me think again about the fact that as a non-normative but otherwise absolutely hetero cis male I absolutely feel a kind of kinship with the LGTBQ+ community.

I think I’ll wrap it up there for now. The last song I selected for to the jukebox is playing now, and I really want to get home to try out my new piece of clothing.

Yet Another Odds and Ends Installment

Another odds and ends post tonight, but something far more substantive should be online this weekend:

  • Because I’m getting my second Shingrix shot tomorrow at lunchtime, I’m sorta-kinda treating tonight as my Friday night. I’m having a couple adult beverages and chips from the comfort of the couch later tonight, seeing as it wouldn’t be a good idea to do so after getting the vaccination. I’m also preparing for the possibility that I’ll feel like crap on Saturday as my body deals with the wonders of modern science.
  • When talking about Staunton in my last post, I neglected to mention that while visiting our favorite antique mall, I stumbled upon other item I can use to decorate my denim jackets: tie clips. Obviously, I’m not using them in the manner that they were designed for, but that’s part of the fun. They also serve another purpose: they serve as a little reminder of Pops, my grandfather, who always used them when wearing a tie. Although, I’m reasonably certain that he wouldn’t use any of the ones I would select. Actually, that’s not 100% true – I actually have one of his old clips, and it will be used one of my jackets.
  • Random thought that occurred to me earlier today: there is a non-trivial chance that the Sixers could make it to the NBA finals this year, which would make them the third Philly team in less than a year to make it to the championship game/series. If they do in fact make it there, I might actually finally jump on the bandwagon and pay proper attention to them. It would be the first time I actually did so since I swore the team off after they traded Charles Barkley over 30 years ago.
  • Thanks to one awesome online friend, we now have all dressed chips in the house again. She IMed me (or, is that “DMed” now? – I’m getting too old to keep up with the hip tech lingo) and let me know that Aldi was carrying an in-house brand of them. Between Sally and myself, we picked up eight bags in order to ensure a stockpile in the almost certain eventuality that they stop stocking them in the not-too-distant future. I’m not exaggerating either – eight bags.
  • Ghost continues to pay dividends as my midlife musical obsession. I’m absolutely loving their cover of “Jesus He Knows Me,” which they awesomely released on Easter.
  • As typical, I don’t have anything decent to end this post with.

Post Cinco de Mayo Odds & Ends

Sally is working today, and I’m left to my own devices until 2:00, when I’m going to meet on old friend. So, until then, I’m hanging out in downtown Frederick (where I’m meeting said friend) and finding myself feeling ridiculously nostalgic for my teen years – which is rather amusing given how eager I was to flee this town upon graduation from high school.

Reminiscing about my youth, however, is not what I really wanted to do before opening up my laptop. Maybe I’ll do some of that once I’ve finished with some other ruminations currently bouncing around in my head:

  • I’ve started selling off pieces from my baseball card collection again. It’s now been eight years since I left the hobby, and that amount of time has made deciding what to keep and what to sell remarkably painless. Unfortunately, this process will likely take years. The easiest thing to do would be to simply select what I want to keep, and then accept the offer from the dealer who would give me the most money for the remainder. However, I just can’t bring myself to do that, knowing how much the collection’s actual value and what the likely range of offers would be. I figure that will be a point in the future where selling it piecemeal just isn’t worth the effort to me anymore. Until then, the money is going to shore up the back account (a necessity following the purchase of a new water heater back in March and some other looming, necessary home maintenance) and towards the purchasing of some of the newer Lego sets that have caught my eye.
  • In addition to the baseball cards, I’m also eventually going to post some other items of value to eBay – in particular Lego sets I no longer want or need. The fact is that my Lego collection now takes up a frightening amount of space. If I want to keep buying interesting new sets, I’m going to need to start making the space for them
  • Sally and I spent this past Sunday-Tuesday in Staunton. Originally, our trip there included seeing Nickel Creek in concert in Charlottesville on Monday night, but a few days before the weekend started, Nickel Creek announced that a postponement due to illness. In place of the concert, we instead saw Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in a downtown movie theater. I didn’t do this simply to make Sally happy – she had been looking forward to its release since first hearing that it was in production – I genuinely wanted to see it as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The number of attempts by misogynistic Bible-thumpers over the past five years speaks volumes about how bugfuck insane, closed-minded, and authoritarian they are. (I didn’t actually need to see the movie to know this, but Sally says the movie was a faithful adaptation of the book, and that’s all the additional information I needed.)
  • While in Staunton, an individual approached me with questions about the decorated denim jacket I chose to wear that day and then proceed to ask if I was interested in selling it. I immediately and emphatically stated that I wasn’t interested in doing so, and then left it at that. In retrospect, it might have been interesting to have stated what I would’ve felt was a fair price. The actual cost of one of my jackets, once all pins and patches are purchased and applied, is around $300-$325. Add what seems to be a fair markup for my time and effort acquiring those materials and then properly putting it all together, it seems to me that $450 would have been a fair starting point for negotiation. (Though, there wouldn’t be much wiggle room below that price.)
  • One of the long-term, seemingly never-ending, projects in our home is getting the entirety of our music collection imported onto the Apple Mini that is wired into our home entertainment system and creating a large variety of playlists to suit either or both of our various musical moods. One of the more recent playlist creations, and a current favorite, is one I titled “This Dance Mix Is a Little Bit Off.” The list is so-named because the majority of the music contains some element of darkness (musically and/or lyrically.) As a result, there’s a lot of Depeche Mode and ‘80s New Wave and alternative. In addition, there are “Weird” Al parodies of songs you might hear on a dance floor – such as “Word Crimes,” his take on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” – and other interesting little tidbits like Cookie Monster’s “Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco” and the disco cover mashup of music from the original Star Wars. I make no apologies for anything in it.

It’s actually getting rather close to 2:00 now. If there is any musings about my nostalgia regarding late ‘80s Frederick, it’s going to have to be in a future post.