It was just a few weeks ago that I got my Pandemic Haircut. My almost-shoulder-length gray locks fell unceremoniously to the floor with the skilled snip of scissors, each snip sapping me of whatever strength I might have had, vis a vis Samson.
The untamed hair bodes ill of me. And not to slip too far into the grips of the Diogenes Syndrome, I realized that some new clothes might be in order. Although I wasn’t refusing food or sleeping under staircases, for the last three years I have worn three sweatshirts in rotation. Hardly stylish, I should note.
I am not a fan of fashion as it carries in its meaning a sense of fleeting. I am a fan of style, however, most of it as defined by its lasting nature. I doubt that a blue blazer and khakis, blue shirt and club tie, will ever fall out of favor with men not wishing to attract much attention to their wardrobe.
Working as a writer at a large marketing firm in Los Angeles, I once wore the above outfit. It was on a Friday, though casual Friday had to become a thing. Rather, it was just a sartorial change from the previous four days of wearing three-piece suits. My boss greeted me that morning with “Going yachting, are we?”
I played music professionally from an early age and by the time I was a sophomore in high school I had outgrown four tuxedos. Later, I went to a small college where we were required to wear a jacket and tie, which we found to be a challenge to wear in outrageous combinations. When we closed the college down in 1970, it was de rigueur to wear jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts to all of our pre-revolution events.
My seventeen years in Los Angeles were my suit years. Day-in and day-out, I donned some really nice suits, and I didn’t mind in the least to do so. It was curious, however, that the suitcoat would be worn from front door to the car, where it would be removed for the drive across town. Then it would be worn from the parking garage to the office, where it would hang over the back of a chair until it was time to go home. No wonder there was a time when suits came with two pairs of pants.
Among my dozen or so suits, I had two favorites. One was forest green; the other a rumpled khaki that I fancied made me look like a tall, blond Peter Falk.
Moving to Montana thirty years ago ushered in a middle age- and dotage-satisfying wardrobe of jeans and whatever might go with them, depending mostly on the weather. During the twelve years of owning my restaurant, Adagio, I rented my clothes.
This past week or so, I thought it was time for a change.
I spend my days at a desk, and I thought it would be nice to emulate Philip Rahv, whose picture in The New York Times before his death in 1973 has remained clearly in my mind. An American literary critic and essayist, the Ukraine-born Rahv co-founded Partisan Review, one of the most influential literary periodicals in the first half of the twentieth century. He is something of my literary hero and the picture of him at his desk wearing a dress shirt with rolled up sleeves and a loosened necktie seems perfect.
I have an assortment of ties, although I doubt if I’ll wear any of them for my days at my home office. But, I discovered, I have no dress shirts.
My search for dress shirts online was less than satisfying. There are about a million sources for dress shirts on the internet, ranging in price from steep to steeper. There are more choices than I remember: button-down, flared collar, slim-fit, full-fit, regular, neck and sleeve sizes to meet the needs of any man. And colors. Lots of colors and patterns.
From what I remember, we had button-down shirts in regular or husky, in white, blue or yellow. Nobody complained that I know of.
A trip to the big city the other day gave me a wide selection of shirts. They all cost in the neighborhood of $60, although there were $200 models. Nothing will convince me how one shirt could be worth $140 more. And I’m barely convinced that a shirt should cost $60.
But then again, I noticed a pair of pre-torn blue jeans priced at $79.99. For that kind of money I’d like to make my own holes.
Because buying clothing online doesn’t offer any tactile sense, the manufacturers are left to claims created by ad agencies or marketing firms. A pair of $170 jeans becomes “legendary,” as they seem to throw down the consumer gauntlet to buy those pants and become a legend.
Another challenge, this time for an expensive shirt, is multifaceted: “Make a statement in this pure cotton shirt that is both trendy and masculine. Enjoy this blend of versatile and cool! [It is the] sexy boyfriend shirt.”
Back at the department store, I splurged and settled on three, Oxford cloth dress shirts that are nice looking without suggesting my being a slave to fashion. They are still in the bag unopened, their pins and thin strips of cardboard neatly in place.
Meanwhile, I’m wearing a sweatshirt.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
While not a dish for everyone (a diner at my restaurant once found the dish to be “disturbing”) marrow is delicious, especially adorned with the parsley salad.
8 center-cut beef marrow bones, 3 inches long
1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp. capers
1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Coarse sea salt
Thick slices of crusty bread, toasted
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone, about 15 minutes. (Stop cooking before marrow begins to drizzle out.)
Meanwhile, combine parsley, shallots and capers in small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just coated. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on a large plate.
To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.