Getting event-dressed last week I flipped through my tie box looking for a reasonable choice. In the lead sentence you should have suspected from “event” that dress was not informal and flip flops would not be involved unless for a beach or bathroom event where tie wearing wouldn’t fit, would it? (While I’m there I may as well comment a moment on so many contemporary clothing choices being made on default by footwear. Even dazzling-new out of the box yellow and black trainers would be ill topped by a three piece. Most men are particularly bad at working out these combinations, and curiously women are only a little bit better or they’ll come off much worse if they get it wrong.)

The upper layer of my tie collection gets the most use. Way at the bottom, for example, are the period ties used when I did Mark Twain talks. The upper level holds my favorites and standbys. But instead of wading I went a little deeper and pulled up a worthy choice that took me back fifty years. (OK, I tend to hang onto things and have a hell of a tough time parting with some clothing. When my favorite Madras shirt finally became unwearable I considered hiring a cathedral for a funeral service to solemnize the sad day.) From midway came a navy blue, gold, black stripe tie bought at Bourgin’s in Virginia. Bear in mind I wasn’t an especially fashion conscious youth, but at some point in the early-on a young man might feel it his duty, destiny, or fate to impregnate a lot or as much of humanity as he can lay hands on. To successfully accomplish this he knows he has to look good going in. It was something along that line that got me (aided by Bourgin’s) into the short lived fad of charcoal gray and pink. As I understood things as a long limbed adolescent hormone factory by starting out with suitable clothing I’d make the unwrapping process that was presumed to come later an interesting rather than humorous event. To be honest, I never really got any of it to work out particularly well on any level. I’d start out looking passable enough but always concluded in a bundle of sweaty nerves.

MM, getting back on track, there I was with a fifty year old tie in hand when the thought hit like a sniper round arriving between the blades. What is/was the meaning in hanging onto a rarely worn tie for half a century? I quickly discarded any motive connected with the charcoal gray and pink era. If a randy human drive could not be blamed or credited then what was behind saving a tie I might never have used again? Well certainly a person has to have enough stability over half a century to make the act possible. That’s a major factor. If I’d been required to move every few years and crunch down belongings to a minimum there’d very likely be no tie to talk about. The tie would have gone the way of old crew socks and belted swim trunks. Anyway, and don’t ask how I take off down unclear paths, I started to mull over the ways in which things we DO come to stand as indicators of what we are or aspire to be.

Look at the question this way. Set aside any title of job or standing and with it put away the justifying talk people buffer themselves with as defensive pillows. What do you know of that the person actually does? When I was growing up I was told to respect people many of whom I saw as useless. One of these “successes” was continually critical of his wife and bullied his kids, but he came reliably to work and afterward was known to make a good martini. He knew how to nag, to drive, mix a martini, and twice a year go fishing with the guys. Well no wonder he was an unhappy nag; he wasn’t doing anything. You know people I’m sure who talk a wonderful good politic, social or faith path to a glorious future. But having the talk down is no better than the guy in the above sketch. What is the human being like to be or live with? What do they actually do? Does the person leave the bathroom a mess of discard clothes and bunched towels? Can the person be relied on to rinse a cup and place it in the sink or do the same with a plate into a dishwasher? The acts a person performs as part of her or his daily life says considerably more about their place in humanity than does the amount they spend or their spiel.

Having gone down this tangent I wonder what it says, and I puzzle as well over how it gets me to an apprehension I much overwork about becoming a “picture window” or “magic wand” type. In the past the scenic North Shore has seen more than its share of picture window devotees who love to look but avoid like Ebola getting out on the chop. Humans rarely fail to disappoint in the irony area so that the “picture window” group has a corollary in a more active form of viewing I call “bath tub toys.” The bath tub group shares a picture window stance, but sees Lake Superior as a place to bring bright colored plastic toys to play. It’s quite cute (a sign of summer imported) seeing them arrive in flocks of smallish cars topped with high visibility hulls to distinguish one brand of flock from another. A savvy watcher should take advantage of glasses to catch sight of the wonderfully appropriate wear that goes with this form of recreation. Well, if you’re going to do something quite superfluous and impractical you may as well go the extra expense and effort to look the part.  Many pics will be sent to show the smiling success of the do nothing adventure. In any case I’m more at peace now feeling less peculiar saving a tie for fifty years.