Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When I look back on now, I can see some of the flaws in my logic, I guess. But, at that moment, somewhere in the hazy miasma that was the late 70s, it made perfect sense to purchase a burnished leather watchband the width of a baby's chest.

I've never really been much of a fashion plate, or even a fashion saucer. My wardrobe runs to the functional. While I pride myself on not necessarily looking like an old guy (you know, suspenders, plaid shirt, monkeyshit-brown Sans-a-Belt slacks), I'll never be mistaken for Clinton the Hot Gay Dude on "What Not to Wear." For this reason, my apparel purchases tend to take on a life of their own. When I spend money on stuff to wear, I want to make it sure it's a sound purchase.

When I was in grad school, I had a friend named Trey. His real name was Tommy Coble Ishee III, but he was a good southern boy and good southern boys use "Trey" when they're the third in line. While the rest of us were wearing tshirts and Birkenstocks, Trey would come to school decked out in a just-right jacket and tie. He just KNEW what people should wear. If a professor had the bad sense to wear something that Trey judged unfashionable, he'd lean over to me and purr, sotto-voce "that shirt is wearin' HIM" in his Coke-syrup accent. Trey knew.

I was clueless.

I always had been been clueless. Always. When other babies were wearing "Spit Happens" bibs, my clothes were protected with an old diaper. I caught disapproving glances in third grade because my glasses frames were wrong. My mom cut my hair. I never bought a leisure suit, even though my pal Jim Morris had a powder-blue polyester matchy-match ruffled-collar rain-beading beauty that made the rest of us weep with jealous grief. The only reason I had puka shells was because I had found some in the garbage at the donut store. To this day, everyone thinks they were given to me by a girl.

As you can see, my hesitation at the watchband purchase was understandable. My best friend Ben and I had gone shopping with our Christmas money. He blew all his at Rare Earth, the record-store/head-shop that had claimed the bulk of our disposable income ever since we had fallen into the Way of the Stoner. Ben bought a beautiful 3-foot-tall bong with a turret bowl that could hold 6 one-hit loads. It was a technological marvel, no doubt designed by a failed pothead engineer who had been kicked out of the space program for his lack of a sense of urgency. (Side note: you do not want a stoner designing rockets).

As there was no Rare Earth bag big enough to hold the 3-foot glass beauty, he stuffed it into the sleeve of his shirt and spent the next couple of hours making robotic faux-Nazi salutes. He'd bid an emotional farewell to his old bong that morning before we'd left on our shopping spree, and was baked enough to not really feel anything remotely resembling self-consciousness.

I was done with Rare Earth. I had in mind a transcendent purchase - the acquisition of a fashion statement so bold that the babes would be all over me, regardless of the fact that I had no car, no job, and lived in my mom's basement in a room that smelled suspiciously like spilled bong water. I'd seen the watchband in the display window of Nimbus, a little boutique on the main drag. Surprisingly, Nimbus is still a fixture in Ashland to this very day, catering to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who clamor to spend their spare money before the Shakespeare theater opens for the evening. Nimbus is happy to provide them the opportunity to do just that.

Ben rolled his red little beady eyes at me with the disdain that can only come with a certainty that your friend is about to make a stupid mistake. We headed up the street to the store. To my astonishment, The Band was still there, unclaimed by another paragon of taste and style. It was the most amazing piece of wrist-wear ever. Dark brown leather, stamped with an illegible pattern (Sanskrit? Hieroglyphics? Drunk leathersmith?) and festooned with silver rings. Looking back, I'm suddenly wondering if this was a piece of bondage gear, indiscernible to my naive eye. Had I bought some sort of signal? Is that why those guys at the park followed me around that afternoon?

It's all starting to make sense now.

The remainder of the day, and indeed the month, was anticlimactic. I didn't get immediately laid. No one paid a compliment. Some looked, likely to try and see whether I was suffering an unchecked, runaway case of psoriasis. I wore the band for a couple of days, took it back to the store and got my money back.

We used the money to stuff Ben's high-tech bong for a week. In our stupor, looking at each other across the room, we were certain that we were the two most fashionable guys on the planet at that particular time.


  1. My Gawd.....the cost of an armband fills up a bong for a week..............................those were the days!

  2. Sands in the hour glass captured in script. Very nice, Jeff