Sunday, July 12, 2009
It was 1987 when I took our Chevy truck into downtown Sudbury and parked it outside one of the premier (the only?) menswear stores in town. I was flush with cash thanks to a terrific summer job that put me through university without incurring a penny of debt and I walked into the shop with the intention of buying not one, but two, shirts.
Anyone who knows me would know that this is a big deal. I wear shorts and sandals to work and pretty well every other waking moment. I own one pair of pants that is not denim. I have a suit that is a nice suit but only sees the light of day for weddings, wakes and funerals. Two years ago when we were on the Island for a wedding I wore it four times in six days, which is four times more than I have worn it in the past eighteen months. A few weeks ago the boy saw it hanging in the closet and asked me 'what is that thing?'
When my wife met me for the first time two thoughts ran through her head:
What's with his hair?
Why isn't he wearing a belt?
I own a belt now and I actually wear it sometimes meaning it has been removed from the list of items that I never have on my person. That list still includes a watch, an umbrella and a cellphone.
I have a lot of friends who have nice clothes and some of them are men although in my heart of hearts I think that they are probably all quite quite gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
If you were to ask people who know me about my fashion sense you would get a blank look or a snicker and then you might get references to corduroy coats, dead guy shoes and the going out shirt, both modern and classic versions.
(As an aside I just finished another of Bidini's books and will soon pass on a terrific story about Steve Larmer - apparently he is cut from the same sartorial cloth as me. Good read.)
You get the point.
So it was on that fateful day twenty two years ago when a young handsome man dropped fifty dollars (!) on two cotton mock turtlenecks, one a dark wine colour, the second more of a classic reddish hue.
They were too heavy and too fancy for summer wear but for years when I wanted to impress or was feeling especially well heeled I broke one or the other out to hit the town. As time wore on it was the red version that became my primary choice, my go-to guy as it were. And the best thing about the shirt (other than the fact that it is softer than my wife's sweet ass, I kid you not) is that as it began to wear a little at the sleeves and the neck and as it faded quietly and slowly it became more truly me than when it was in its fresh bright newborn state. Pictures of me with ragged jeans and swirling giant hair and dusty sandals, cigarette in one hand, beer in another, are completed quite nicely by this splendid hall of fame mock.
When we began to date, my one day to be wife made it pretty clear that she wasn't so impressed by tattered dress and so Going Out Shirt (as he was now known) was retired in favour of a new shirt, soon to be called Going Out Shirt.
I never said I was that imaginative now, did I?
But for trips to my local or to the Communist Bar or for nights out in the Market, Going Out Shirt Classic emerges from his drawer, once more to roam the city streets to be admired by the ladies and envied by the fellows. Even the gay ones.
A whole lot to talk about now that I have returned from the glorious southern shore of this Island. Old churches and crumbling rusty cliffs, coffee with Baileys on freezing mornings and forgotten red clay roads that disappear into lost forests, red wine and cold beer and skin taut with the sun and salt of the sea and Nova Scotia's ruggedness through the mist.
And the Oilers, in doing nothing still, saying a lot really and giving us a lot to talk about.
But first I wanted to say a quick farewell to Joe Sakic who retired last week while I was away.
Sakic was the premier Canadian offensive player of his generation, the one between the Oilers/Yzerman/Lemieux cluster and the next terrific generation led by Joe Thornton. His greatest years came when the other top players seemed to be Russian or Czech, Swedish or American, and Canada's stars were either between the pipes or on the blueline. Sakic's peers were guys like Nolan and Linden, Shanahan and Primeau, Fleury and Nieuwendyk and Lindros. A lot of quality to be sure and a lot of guys who could help win you hockey games but none at the level of Joe Sakic.
Two Stanley Cups and a performance for the ages in Salt Lake City and I suspect if he had been on the ice instead of in the stands against Dom Hasek and the Czechs in Nagano then that might have had a different ending written as well.
Bruce McCurdy sums it all up here and I would not argue with a word he says. The worst thing you could say about Joe Sakic was that he wasn't colourful off the ice (Quoteless Joe, as the wags called him) but there was not a dull thing about how he played the game, which is what counts, of course. He put up some ridiculous numbers over the years, all the more impressive considering the era he played in.
One of the greatest offensive players of all time. A classic.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:00 AM