I spent all night looking for this photo. It’s one of the most amazing denim jackets I’ve ever seen and my mom wore it without even being conscious of how niiiiiice it was. She wore it to the Ranch 99. She wore it to the TK Noodle. She even wore it to the hospital on the day that one of my brothers nearly bled himself to because of two-week long ulcer. She wore it on the morning that her and my dad drove out to Marin County to pick me up after I totaled my car and myself in the process. This denim jacket, I will remember forever. Look at that thing.
Growing up, I never paid attention to my parent’s sartorial choices except to feel embarrassed about them. It’s FOB fashion at its finest right? Thinking about how they’ve aged at the same time that I’ve been aging (on a relative scale, but in a lot of ways, in the same way), these denim jackets, these Pooh corduroy shirts, and completely fit-for-the-occasion urban safari outfits, somehow gain new meaning.
Besides being ahead of their time, which they always are, what I used to feel embarrassed about (I grew up in a predominantly white upper middle-class suburb, until white-flight happened, with its own sartorial codes that dictated your rank and position in the community, which is brought to bare in the looks that other parents and classmates give you when said parents roll up to the sidewalk to pick your ass up from school) is actually a testament to their willful ignorance (and not only being aware of their willfulness but also standing on it) of the various wants and desires that make wrinkled women drop tens of thousands on a Botox plan with a clutch on the side, make grown men cry because the stitching’s not right on the passenger seat of their Bimmer, and of their kids (who my brothers and I wished to be in their family, for a time). Because they had to be willful.
Because they had to. And they did it. And that’s what they prided themselves on. There’s a beauty in work and making do against the odds. There’s a beauty in the want to work. And I don’t mean the “beauty” that’s reserved for talking about the human conditions of the slum squalid (because that is the only condition that we should concern ourselves with, or so they say from their position of sentimental economic distance), but an aesthetic beauty. Take this denim jacket for instance, when worn by mom, who is doing dishes. You want to talk about swag. You want to talk about who owns cultural capital.
So when I see gramps in Chinatown with silk on silk on silk. It’s because she had to. She willfully layers silk on silk on silk, despite of it all. Don’t ask her why she doesn’t find it as special you do. What a question to ask: how do you feel lacking appreciation for yourself?
So while I was gone, trying to tell them about finding myself and all this talk about the beauty of the world and its art and cinema, going to see about a girl and all that, they didn’t really find that, that special either. But they let me do it anyway because they knew all about what it meant to be willful.
Received a long but candid and thoughtful email from a friend who disappeared out of the blue long ago. Sometimes, I wonder about the people who’ve fallen through the cracks of my life, for no reason at all, as I’m pushing up 30. You valued them when they were around during your formative and self-discovery years and when they weren’t, things carried on as if you never came across them. But when I saw that name in my inbox, talking about how they couldn’t stand Ira Glass, as if the years had not past at all, I felt strangely elated. And when I read about the things that were experienced in the years of that unknown life, I was glad for their disappearing, in a good way. Yet, at the same time, I realized how such an abrupt appearance from an absence like that, can really make you realize how you may have missed someone without knowing it, and how easy it is to ignore their presence when being in their presence.
“You are not an ugly person all the time; you are not an ugly person ordinarily; you are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and lie, dismayed and puzzled at how alone you can feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved, even as you are surrounded by more people than you could possibly get to know in a lifetime that lasted for millennia and then out of the corner of your eye you see someone looking at you and absolute pleasure is written all over the person’s face, and then you realize that you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are. And so, ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people, a person at home in your own skin: a person at home in your own house, with its nice backyard, at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends - you are a whole person.”
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place