I came over to a buddy’s apartment one day and noticed a huge paper grocery bag full of designer socks. It was literally stacked to the rim with thin pairs still in their labeled plastic wraps.
“What’s this?” I asked. “You steal these from set?” My buddy was an actor and occasionally actors can get grabby at the end of a shoot, though this would have been a very audacious acquisition.
“Take as many as you want,” he offered, with a generous sweep of the hand, and then went on to tell me the story of the socks. A story in which I found an interesting life lesson. Perhaps you will too.
My friend was dating a widow. She had been married to a very traditional, strict, and dour Japanese businessman. In old-school style she would greet him at the doorway with a deep bow as he came home. She fussed about making sure he was comfortable and served his whims without receiving a modicum of warmth in return. In this regard you and I don’t share much in common with this man, but in one regard we might.
This man had a habit of saving things for “special occasions.” He had a liquor cabinet full of fine whiskeys and wines, but he almost always crushed a few cans of cheap beer because the good stuff was on hold for a future moment. He bought pricey accessories, including a Louis Vuitton man-purse, but never took them out of the home for fear of soiling them in mundane day to day activities. And he had an affinity for buying designer socks with quality thread and stylish patterns, but every morning as he left for the office he’d be clad with the same old ratty pairs.
One day, as he left for work in his run down socks, nursing a cheap beer hangover, he complained to his servile wife about a headache. Hours later he dropped dead at the office from an aneurysm.
A year later this man’s wife was having the most connected sex of her life with my friend, and guess who was drinking his fine whiskey, wearing his designer socks, and (yes) toting around his fancy man-purse? With his hippy dress, bawdy sense of humor, and bohemian lifestyle; my friend would have been the last man on earth to whom the ex-husband would bequeath all this precious possessions. In fact, if it were possible to roll in your grave, this guy was surely spinning like a Pollo Loco rotisserie chicken.
Months later, In Los Angeles, I was coming out of the shower when some buddies rolled through to scoop me for a night out. I hurried into my room to get dressed. Opening the closet I reached out for a shirt I’d bought at a premium price a few months back, but had not yet worn. I pulled the shirt off the rack, took it off the hanger, and paused. This was a 100$ shirt. I was just hanging out with my friends. I’d probably have a few drinks and end up eating a 2AM burrito. I might soil this shirt. I began to switch it out with an older one in the closet when it hit me…. I was waiting for a “special occasion!” Tonight I could very well get run over by that taco truck and then someone else would be rocking my fancy shirt while I pushed up daisies.
The truth is there are no special occasions. Yes, we have collectively allotted an extra amount of value to certain days: Christmas, New Year’s Eve, our birthday, etc. But rarely do these end up being the best moments of our lives. The expectations are built up too high. The same series of events that you might experience on a random Tuesday in February would carry less value on your once a year vacation.
On vacation you have invested in having the time of your life. On that random Tuesday you were just stepping out to have a cup of coffee, but then a group of musicians sat down at your table, you struck up a conversation, and hours later you’re at a concert discovering new music and making new friends. One person in the crowd begins to click with you on that unique vibration. Phone numbers and exchanged and a date is planned. What a night! Lightning can strike at any time, but, like an aneurysm, it usually doesn’t happen when planned.
So I set out that night wearing my 100$ shirt. Everyday above ground and in the company of good friends is a day to embrace. Every moment full of unanticipated possibilities both good and bad. When they come I will be wearing my best shit, including designer Japanese socks.