Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Number One Shirt
I used to deny it. I used to call myself a connoisseur, but the truth is I am a collector. I collect comic books (more than 3000 of them in 3 different rooms in my house) autographs (almost 1000) magazines, books, (and autographed books, magazines and comics) postcards, bookmarks and literary references to the song "Macarthur Park."
I even collect T-shirts. But they're a bit of a problem to categorize. My credo has always been that the difference between a collection and a conglomeration of junk is organization. And all of my other collections are neatly categorized and cross-referenced, alphabetized and numericized.
But my T-shirt collection is just there in my closet and my dresser. Oh, there's an aborted Excel file in my laptop called "shirts" but breaking them down by color and size (all XL) and theme just seemed too silly even for me. Probably because the only one way to categorize garments is by the story they tell. And I can't figure out how to get Excel to do that.
This is the oldest shirt in my collection.
I got it on June 4th, 1989 at a record store in Knoxville Tennessee, so it's 16 years old and is retired; I no longer wear it although I still love it. I couldn't tell you exactly what day I bought any other shirt I own. The only reason I know this one is because after I got back from purchasing the shirt, I learned that the Chinese Government had decided to massacre the pro-democracy student demonstrators that had been amassing in Tiananmen Square for several weeks. Something like that kinda sticks in a memory even as shoddy as mine.
I've had other Grateful Dead shirts and they've all gotten old and raggy and thrown out, but the reason this one is still occupying a place of honor in my closet is because of the tenacious way this cheap concert shirt held to life even though I wore it frequently and treated it rough. It didn't get holes or rips in it, but it kept fading and fading until you could literally see right through it. My family would tease me when I wore it and tell me to go put on a shirt because the thing was translucent -- and very soft, I've never worn anything softer -- while still maintaining its structural integrity. If you look closely at this picture of my son Dylan wearing the shirt you can see where it became transparent.
Just when I thought it was some kind of magic shirt and I would be able to wear it until it completely disappeared, it started to break down, got some holes in it, and I decided that rather than wear this old warrior to death, I would retire it with honor. Which is what I've done.
This is still my favorite shirt and not just because it's the oldest. I said earlier that shirts should be organized by the story they tell. This shirt tells me a story about how one should grow old. That is why as I age I intend not to break down bit by bit but to slowly become gossamer.