Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ties That Bind

A month or so ago, while standing on line at a CVS waiting to fill a prescription, I bumped into my old boss, the one assigned to fire me several years ago.

He didn’t say “we’ve arranged for you to spend more time with your family” or “the timing is perfect for a transition; you’re going to get to take on some new challenges.”

They save that for corner C-Suites and the Oval Office. He just said, “The company has eliminated your job. Curtain. A year later they got him.

So there we were, waiting on line.  He’s a Crestor man, while I favor Lipitor.

Turns out we clog pretty much the same.


It used to be that every once in a while I liked to tie one on. I’m going through a period now of wanting to tie one on every day. I’m talking about ties, of course, les cravates as the French say, not the two martini lunch.

I’ve got a closet full of ties and shoeboxes full of them in the basement. Why let them go to waste?

When I was a young man, my grandmother used to claim with some certainty that the world had gone completely crazy ever since we landed on the moon. With the experience of age, I now know exactly what she meant. The world has gone to lunacy ever since we developed an aversion to wearing ties.

So, I’m on a tie campaign. It’s Monday morning and I’m wearing a tie. This particular one, my wife the DG * bought for me at a flea market in Milan for lots of lira – but few dollars – just before we were married, which means I’ve had it for over thirty years.

Classic style is never out of “fashion;” it is always “now.” This tie is thin enough and long enough to look as though it just arrived in a J.Crew box, yet its “rep” stripes might also say JPress circa 1956. Or, Milan, 1982.

My old boss looked as though he was spending way too much time at home. He had gained weight and hadn’t worked steadily in several years. In our brief conversation, he did not seem bitter exactly, but he clearly wasn’t so happy. Things hadn’t gone his way. Maybe he was still wondering when those challenges were going to kick or when his family would appreciate the extra time he was spending with them.

We agreed to meet for lunch soon. Parting, I mentioned that I had to get going because I had to deliver papers –which we do every issue on the little paper where I work. I realized later that he thought that I’d fallen pretty far to have taken on a paper route.

Standing there in the parking lot, I had a “Groundhog Day” moment*. It seemed as if we were still having the same conversation from seven years ago, except there was no desk between us. We were just two guys stuck in time chatting in a parking lot.

Not long after that encounter, the DG** and I went to see “Le Weekend” in a nearly empty theatre (appropriately called Bow Tie Cinema). It’s a story about a British couple on their thirtieth anniversary trip to Paris.

Their initial hotel room, booked by the husband is a tiny walk-up-a-narrow-staircase type of thing. His disappointed wife icily bolts in a taxi, with the man barely catching up.

That little room looked exactly like the one I booked for our own twenty-fifth anniversary in Paris; only we stayed for a cozy two nights before moving to better digs.

The movie’s couple, Meg and Nick, wind up in a suite that they can ill-afford at the Plaza Athénée with a balcony view of Tour Eiffel. Talk about style! It may be the exact room we stayed in on another of our trips to Paris.

At lunch in one of those little Parisian places, Nick finally confesses that he’s just been sacked by his university, and it also becomes clear that they’re pretty much broke.

Sound dreadful? Despite instances of discomfort, it is not, especially since it all ends with a whimsical, hopeful moment, an improvised dance scene borrowed from an old Godard film. At least it struck me as whimsical.

Not so for the woman across the aisle in the theatre who pronounced the end “stupid” to the man next to her, presumably her husband. While storming out, leaving the husband in his seat to read the credits,
she looked straight at me and said “awful film.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was my second time seeing it.

The DG and I headed home after the movie to watch the Yankees beat the Red Sox together.

Postscript: A couple of weeks after writing this, I had a cordial breakfast with my old boss. He was becoming involved in a wind power business and I connected him to a friend who happens to own one. 

* "Groundhog Day:" if you have not seen this Bill Murray movie, you must do so.
** "Darling Girl," for those few who might not know.

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