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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leather Dreams

At some point in Junior High School I decided I wanted a leather jacket.  Not a black leather biker jacket with metal studs, mind you... just a simple brown leather bomber. 

I haven't the faintest idea where this longing came from.  It certainly didn't fit with my band-geek personality or the somewhat nerdy crowd with which I hung.  At some point in mid-eighth-grade, I just realized I simply had to have a brown leather jacket.

Now, eighth graders are not the most solvent demographic on the planet (to say the least), and as eighth graders go, I was probably less solvent than most.  Oh sure, I mowed the occasional lawn and did odd jobs, but I didn't really have anything approximating regular access to discretionary income until I landed a job flipping pizzas in high school.

Whenever I went to the local mall with my friends, I always slipped away and paid a visit to the big leather store there.  Once inside, I'd check out the heavy leather bomber jackets and imagine that one day I'd be able to have one.  The staff in the store had long since stopped letting me try the jackets on after I'd made the mistake of asking about setting up a three year lay-away plan.  But they never actually banned me from the store.

Even the passage into high school didn't dim my desire for a brown leather jacket.  Again, in my mind, there was no connection between my jones for a leather jacket and the types of people who were actually walking around in them.  If anything, the leather jacket crowd at my high school kind of scared the crap out of me.  But their jackets were a symbol of rebellion.  Mine was a day dream.

But even though I now had at least the possibility of finding the money for a jacket, with the typical high school expenses of socializing, dating, formal dances, class ring, etc., I never quite got around to buying one.

The four years I spent in the navy were tough on me, jacket-wise.  I finally had the means to buy a leather jacket, but brown leather jackets were exclusively in the domain of the 'brown shoe navy' (aviators), and I certainly didn't want to look like a poseur.  So, yet again... my itch for a brown leather jacket went un-scratched.

Years passed, and there was always something more important or more urgent that kept the leather jacket of my dreams out of my closet.  In fact, it wasn't until I was over 40 and Zahava and I were in the preliminary planning stages for our move to Israel that I finally decided it was now or never.  I had no idea if leather jackets were in fashion in Israel (they are... but mostly among Russian immigrants), but I didn't care.  I had waited long enough.  Zahava even encouraged me... making the jacket a gift from her.

But by now the dream had gone unfulfilled for so long that a regular off-the-rack jacket wouldn't do. 

A friend told me about a small custom leather shop in Bridgeport CT that catered mostly to the biker crowd, but which also supplied some of the leather stores around the north east.  The store/workshop is located in a section of Bridgeport which had once been rather upscale, but had become... how to say this delicately... well, to call it 'working class' would be transparent flattery.

The first time I went down to check the place out it was early evening and I was seriously nervous about leaving my car unattended.  Yeah... the neighborhood was that sketchy.  Many of the street lights were broken, and trash collection seemed to be a random thing, at best. 

As I was walking into the shop, I bumped into two guys walking out wearing biker jackets with the 'colors' of a well known Motorcycle 'Club' emblazoned across their enormous backs.  They both politely excused themselves and walked out into the growing darkness.  I suddenly wished I'd had the presence of mind to paste on a few temporary tattoos beforehand.

But the shop itself was well-appointed and the staff immediately made me feel welcome.  They listened carefully to my description of my dream jacket and then began showing me different styles of jacket, types of leather, lining options, pockets, cuffs, collars... you name it!  

Once I'd made all the important decisions, they started measuring my shoulders, arms, neck, chest, waist, back, etc., to make sure the fit would be just right.  Next, they brought out an assortment of leather samples so I could pick exactly what color and texture I wanted.  Lastly, I picked a zipper, cuff closure and a thermal lining that could be removed in warmer weather.

I was about to pay the deposit and leave when a thought occurred to me.  I turned to the burly guy at the counter and said, "Um... would it be possible to add an invisible slit pocket with its entrance just along the zipper in the front for... um, a gun?" 

Maybe it was my middle-class suburban upbringing, but I could feel myself blushing as I asked the question, and fully expected everyone in the store to suddenly fall silent and stare at me like some sort of criminal. 

Without missing a beat, the guy said, "Sure, no problem.  You a righty or a lefty... and how fast are you gonna need to pull the thing out?". 

I felt like I'd just asked the guy to help me rob a bank... and here he was answering me as casually as if I'd asked him to round the collar points.  I answered his expert questions (I suspect I wasn't the first customer to have asked about accommodating a concealed firearm) , and went on my way. 

A couple of weeks later I got a call telling me my jacket was ready.  I drove down to the shop, tried on the jacket... and fell in love.  Although, I have to admit I was somewhat unprepared for the sheer weight of the jacket.  It was made from a thick, chocolate brown leather that was as soft as a baby's bum... but weighed easily 30 pounds.  But it fit like it had been made just for me (which it had!), and I'm fairly sure I heard angels singing right there in the store.

I've taken you on this stroll down memory lane this morning because, provided it doesn't look like rain today, I think it might finally be cold enough to wear my leather jacket for the first time this season! 

You have to understand, the pleasure I get from wearing this jacket makes me want to grab each and every one of you by the shoulders, shake you vigorously, and shout:

"For heaven's sake, if there is something that you have wanted for a long time, and it will make you truly happy (without putting you in the poor house, of course)... WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!.  Life is much too short to regret setting aside perfectly attainable dreams".

Posted by David Bogner on November 25, 2009 | Permalink

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Your concern about the rain reminds me of this Jerry Seinfeld bit:

I had a leather jacket that got ruined. Now, why does moisture ruin leather? I don't get this. Aren't cows outside most of the time? I don't understand it. When it's raining do cows go up to the farmhouse, "Let us in, we're all wearing leather. Open the door! We're gonna ruin the whole outfit here!" "Is it suede?" "I am suede, the whole thing is suede, I can't have this cleaned. It's all I got!"

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Nov 25, 2009 3:29:52 PM

I love it! David, we're probably about the same age and I love how well you put the longing for a leather jacket into words. Among older teens/young men, The longing for a leather jacket was very common in those years. I had a similar longing, and similarly satisfied it only as an adult with the purchase a black leather jacket (though it is much lighter than 30 pounds!). Of course now that I live in a warm climate, I only wear it about once every 5 years or so. And I almost always decline to take it with me on trips abroad due to the bulk and the weight (and the latest airline luggage rules), and instead opt for the far more practical hooded longer jacket. Yeah, I guess I'm boring :-)

Posted by: Mark | Nov 25, 2009 3:35:51 PM

ROFL Dave!

Posted by: Steven | Nov 25, 2009 3:47:00 PM

David we must be kindred spirits. However, I fulfilled my leather jacket dream just out of the army a couple of decades (and a half) ago. I bought a $100 bargain basement jacket that weighs a ton. It's the best hundred bucks I ever spent. I still wear that jacket, it's well worn and I'm sure that my wife would like to throw it out. If she ever does, it will be grounds for divorce.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Nov 25, 2009 5:05:10 PM

I know the store and have been there. that's how I feel about the bike.

Posted by: dave | Nov 25, 2009 5:47:40 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this beautiful piece. Why is it that one needs to age so much before realizing this truism?

Delayed gratification has it's rewards, but sometimes one should- must- go for the best and fastest way to happy. I grew up with a Midwestern-Lutheran approach that mandated postponing pleasure, and sadly took far too long to outgrow it.

IMHO, sometimes one deserves to splurge, even the object of affection falls outside the usual jewish parameters of value. I'm thinking about a Harley...

Posted by: Yossi Ginzberg | Nov 25, 2009 7:02:08 PM

Although I was going to wear a sports coat at tomorrow`s Thanksgiving Dinner,because of your post I`ve decided to wear my brown leather jacket.Considering this is California,I`ll probably be over dressed!

Posted by: ED | Nov 25, 2009 7:21:33 PM

Great piece, Dave. And I hope should the need arise, you can whip it out fast enough.

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Nov 25, 2009 8:36:15 PM

I bought an off the rack one. Forgive me. But one thing I've noticed about leather jackets: they're not for the young. I'd estimate that half the leather jackets I see are on people 55+.

Posted by: soccer dad | Nov 25, 2009 10:18:34 PM

I bought my husband a brown leather jacket for his birthday several years ago. He didn't realize how much he wanted one until I gave it to him.

And I know this is really going to sound corny, but the last line you shout at us in this post?--that is why we made Aliya when we did.

Posted by: Baila | Nov 26, 2009 12:42:51 AM

I truly wish I still had my beloved brown leather bomber style jacket, from Grais leather, which I got in 8th grade. I think the rest of a typical outfit included a straight skirt; a full-fashioned cardigan buttoned up the back; a peter pan collar or small neck scarf; penny loafers (possibly white buck); a charm bracelet; a silver mezuzah on a chain; and triple roll bobby sox. Does anyone else remember this fashionable look?

Posted by: LYNNE | Nov 26, 2009 1:55:02 AM

So do you have a picture of yourself in this jacket to post for us? I have a motorcycle leather jacket that I enjoy wearing on occasion. (No studs, I go for functionality, like vents, longer sleeves to accommodate my riding position, inside pockets, etc.) Now I mostly wear textile jackets when I ride (better armor, and waterproof for the times I get caught in the rain), but once in a while, just for kicks, I'll bring out the leather jacket for a ride. Just feels right.

Posted by: JDMDad | Nov 26, 2009 2:55:53 AM

Plus you forgot to mention that it gives you +7 to defense and stamina

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Nov 26, 2009 3:54:39 AM

PS I felt the same way when I finally screwed up the courage to visit the local gun shop a real hole-in-the-wall, to buy my 1st firearm: a Ruger 10-22 rifle. I suppose I never would have gone into that joint, except two good friends (both older and wiser) said it was a great place. It was. But still. Walking in that first time felt -- strange. Like I was in a strange new place.

I guess a biker bar should be next on my list of new worlds...

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Nov 26, 2009 3:58:29 AM

I probably would not mind a good jacket but I can't bring myself to prioritize the purchase on the top of the list. For the last several years I had be wearing a 'hand me up' - a jacket of my younger brother that ended up with several large tears and eventually was large enough to fit my youngest child inside the coat. My wife and one of our good friends finally shamed me into getting a new coat ($75) - it may not be leather but at least it fits!

Yom Hodu Sameach and Aliza should be landing around noon today :)

Posted by: Aharon Fischman | Nov 26, 2009 2:16:01 PM

I'd be a lot less comfortable without my brownish-black leather jacket...

Can't help but think about that scene in Annie Hall in which the adult Alvy Singer is back in his own elementary school classroom. He asks the kids what they're doing today, i.e., as grownups... and one little girl says, "I'm into leather."

Somehow, I don't think she means tefillin.

Posted by: Elisson | Nov 26, 2009 3:54:45 PM

I'd be a lot less comfortable without my brownish-black leather jacket...

Can't help but think about that scene in Annie Hall in which the adult Alvy Singer is back in his own elementary school classroom. He asks the kids what they're doing today, i.e., as grownups... and one little girl says, "I'm into leather."

Somehow, I don't think she means tefillin.

Posted by: Elisson | Nov 26, 2009 3:54:45 PM

OMG -- can I just share that my dream was a light brown leather or suede jacket with fringes!

When I finally had enough money to purchase such a coat, I was a tried and true vegetarian and would NEVER wear leather!!

For years after I gave up vegetarianism, I still couldn't bring myself to actually wear something from an animal. I think I have passed that stage. But I am not sure if I actually have the nerve to wear all those fringes anymore. I think I'd feel like a wannabe hippie, which I guess I still am....

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Nov 29, 2009 1:28:15 AM

My trip to India was definitely a brown leather jacket for me (real brown leather jackets do nothing for me, sorry). Only the trip didn't really solve anything, it just created a new craving :-).

I really really hope to go again some time soon.

Posted by: Imshin | Dec 5, 2009 6:55:18 PM

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