“So,” she inquires, faintly leaking sarcasm, “were you planning to take the blue blazer?”
At this point, the question is not really a question at all. It is more a ritual, one attached both to my routine of packing for a golf trip and to the sort of schtick shared by a couple who have been together a long time. Because Mercedes knows perfectly well that I will be taking the plain, navy blue blazer on my impending journey. After all, it’s been around the world with me, as much a part of the golf-writer accouterments as the sticks, the passport, the camera. I’d leave home without the American Express card a lot sooner than without the blazer. Indeed, it has been with me even longer than Mercedes has.
She has, at least, been better treated, and my attachment to this piece of clothing is both practical and perverse. In the former category, it looks dressy enough with a pair of grey slacks to be presentable in the dining room of any four-star hotel, even after transcontinental sequestration in the overhead bin. I have worn it during a discussion of arcane, even incomprehensible, membership policy with the secretary of Royal Portrush; and during a midnight ramble through the unlighted streets of St. Petersburg in search of the one Irish bar my traveling companion, also Irish, insists is to be found around the next corner.
The blazer’s all-season weight makes it as comfortable over a floral-pattern shirt in Honolulu as it is over a turtleneck in St. Andrews. And of course it seldom shows stains – a handy attribute, since it has had close encounters with all manner of resort cuisine, not to mention enough ethnic food for a month of street fairs in New York, as well as with Irish stout, Spanish fino, Jamaican rum – well, you get the idea.
Utility aside, though, like a number of familiar travel items the blue blazer has attained a kind of talismanic status. Considering how many hotel closets I’ve left this thing in, it has more lives than a cat. Luckily, like a lot of golf writers, I am whatever is the reverse of fashion-conscious – ‘slovenly’ might describe it – and thus find a weird satisfaction in the evolution of the blazer’s texture from worsted wool to something resembling sharkskin. Inundated by propaganda on improvements in materials and game-improving club-manufacturing technology, I proudly retain my decade-old Ping irons, purchased second-hand from a friend.
Sure, my attitude could be considered simply and abjectly cheap, but I prefer to view it as prudent, and it extends to any number of standard travel accessories. Consider, for example, my $30 Timex “Indiglo” watch, with a plain face that lights up at the touch of a button – a cartoonish, laughable feature until you wake up completely disoriented in, say, a spooky, half-deserted resort on the outskirts of Marrakech.
Then there is my luggage. You would think that a frequent traveler could spend a little more for an item he uses all the time; but it is that sort of reasoning that leads to the plainly erroneous conclusion that it is easier for an airline baggage-handler to set down luggage than to hurl it. Accordingly, my soft-sided, oversize canvas bag was purchased on the streets of Manhattan, from a salesman whose English was marginal but whose logic – “You can’t go wrong for $15” – proved unassailable. It has since logged thousands of miles and never caused its owner to cringe at the accompanying rough treatment.
Ironically, the original, short-lived incarnation of the blue blazer was part of a clothing line carrying the label of a certain very famous golfer. A gift from my parents, it was made almost exclusively from the type of synthetic fiber once considered de rigueur for the right-minded golfer’s wardrobe. (That’s how old this thing is.) Fearing spontaneous combustion or at least gross lack of comfort, I traded it in – and, yes, even paid a little more – for the Burberry that has been with me ever since. It has been re-lined a couple of times and probably constitutes a metaphorical dry cleaner’s IRA, but, with its unflappably medium-width lapels, remains a testament to classic styling and workmanship.
Still, the notion of replacing the blue blazer has reluctantly occurred to me lately. This has more to do with me than with it, however, as the blue blazer has never before shown a tendency to shrink independently in the closet. But details like breathing room notwithstanding, won’t it seem a bit odd to slip an airline ticket and a passport into the pocket of something other than the familiar navy enclosure? Do I risk suddenly finding myself incapacitated walking across the tarmac at some far-flung destination, all because I’m not wearing the blue blazer? Or worse, is my flight preordained to crash without it in the overhead compartment?
“Hey, I know,” offers Mercedes, returning me to earth somewhat less traumatically. “You can pass it along to Jonathan” – my fast-growing nephew – “with a recitation of the places you’ve been, the great hotels you’ve stayed at, the courses you’ve played, some of the best shots you’ve hit on some of world’s most-famous holes.” She pauses while I contemplate this concept.
“Can you imagine how bored he’ll be?”
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