Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

The Topcoat

by Al Levenson

Almost fifty years ago I bought a topcoat with half of my first paycheck from a job that began in a Boston February. The black square coat had a purple label the size of a postcard that read "100% Cashmere." I bought the label. Had I been a hundred pounds heavier, with a foot-long cigar as fat as a baby's arm and a black fedora, I could have passed for a gansta.

The coat served me well for two winters. The following August I got an invite to a place where winter, unwelcome, never visits. Before Boston saw its first snow flurry, I was living on St. Thomas island when she was still a virgin.

I did not part with that black cashmere topcoat. I still had a room with a closet in my parents' home in Jersey, where the coat would await my Thanksgiving weekend visits.

A dozen years later, I moved to Florida, the most tropical mainland state. I bought a house with closets and herded my scattered goods home and hung the coat in a clothes bag with little round white marbles lethal to moths and foolish small mammals.

The ‘70s and ‘80s rolled by and around the coat's twenty-fifth birthday, we moved to the Bay Area, where I often needed, but never wore, my coat. The Bay Area pretends to be subtropical—but planting a few palm trees does not a tropic isle make. However, no one wears a topcoat. I don't know what the coat was doing alone in the dark. I suspect something kinky, absent a better explanation, for who else sired hundreds of wire coat hangers and orphan socks.

Two years shy of the coat's 50th birthday, I have acquired a motorhome and am packing and planning for a nomadic year on the road. Until he was the last soldier standing, Coat watched his closet comrades volunteer for duty or discharge, half reenlisting to hang in the narrow motorhome closet, half shipping out to Goodwill.

His fate still undecided, I took him from his varnished hardwood hanger and discoverd he'd been hiding his cousin, the tuxedo.

The tux joined me since I arrived in the Bay Area, its lapels, polished like a hearse's fenders, match with the seams of the pants.

I had about decided to part with these veterans of Boston winters and Bay Area balls, when someone said in an otherwise casual email, "You don't know where you might light; you might need them."

I might need them? The devil's own mantra. Four words that stalled my mid-life sort-out, throw-out, downsize, and simplify process. Four words scratching at my brain as I agonize over bones of precious memories. Downsizing and simplifying require ruthless resolve. Yet, my mortal enemies, Doubt and Indecision, perch on either shoulder.

So I found a quiet nook in the motorhome for my most enduring travel companion and his friend.

AL Levenson is giving himself a year on the road wandering the back roads of the U.S. in a 28' motorhome. His mind wanders even further off beaten paths. He writes about whatever comes to mind in his blog at http://.allevenson.wordpress.com

Twenty-third Flash

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