Where do people want to live when they retire?
For many, the answer is: Right where I am. No matter the climate, the costs, as long as I can eke out my expenses, I want to live where I know people, where many of my best memories took place, where I already know what to expect from the climate, the traffic, the workmen who come to help solve problems.
Others, though, are eager to get away. "I've had my last Connecticut winter," a friend said, and off she and her husband went to Florida. Winter drives many retired people to migrate south -- perhaps no farther than, say, North Carolina, but often to Arizona or Texas or Florida.
"What about hurricane season?" you might ask the Texas- or Florida-bound, but they'll usually say, "There's always plenty of warning, and if you leave immediately the escaping traffic isn't bad."
Wherever you go, though, there's probably something wrong with the place. Hawaii can seem perfect, if you can afford the high cost of living. If you're on the east side of Oahu, for instance, the scenery is lush and green and dramatic with high cliffs; that greenery comes from the fact that it rains for a few minutes every day. Nobody air-conditions -- or bothers to have solid walls or glass windows, as often as not -- because the prevailing winds cool everything off as long as you let the air into your house.
The air and the lizards, that is; but lizards eat the spiders so they're good companions, and while you're in the room with the lights on, they generally hold still on the walls and look like art.
But then a volcano erupts from time to time and you remember that if it gets really dangerous you're on an island so you can't just drive to safety.
Volcanic eruptions don't have a "season" and volcanos make their own weather -- "hot with intermittent ash" being a common weather report during "volcano season."
Arizona is a mecca for many retirees -- unless you hunger for greenery in your life. When your yard decor consists of gravel with cactus accents, you never have to mow, but there is nothing to refresh the view from the relentless pounding of the sun.
However, most Arizonans never actually experience the hellish summer heat except during the occasional brief dash from a building to a car. And because it's bone-dry desert, the evenings usually cool off quite nicely.
My wife and I expect to be "stay here till they box us up" people -- we have friends in Greensboro, and whenever we think of moving, one thing stops me cold: If we move to this or that place, nobody around us will remember our son Charlie Ben. Then we would truly be strangers in a strange land, among people who know nothing of our life and our family.
Of course, if I actually live long enough, there's the possibility that even by staying here, I'll eventually be among people who never knew our lost boy; but since I expect to be even more forgetful in my eighties and nineties than I already am, I imagine I'll forget that they moved here after Charlie Ben died, so ... I'll think they know my family.
And my wife's other chief argument against retiring somewhere else is, "If we move, I'll have to find a whole new set of 'guys.'"
You know -- the air conditioning guys, who show up almost instantly when our HVAC system breaks down; our brilliant remodeler, who has essentially redone everything in our house over the past 27 years; our electrician, our yard guys, our pond guys, our plumbers -- they're part of our lives now.
Add in our dentist, our doctors, and -- well, no, let's be honest. My dentist for several decades retired a few years back, but his partner is my dentist now, and the practice just took on a new dentist whose wife happens to be one of my favorite actresses from back in the day when I was directing plays. There's often continuity even when there's change.
So just as my retirement plan is WTID -- Work Till I Drop -- we're not expecting to go anywhere in retirement until our children come and take away my car keys and move me to an assisted care facility because I don't remember anybody's name or where anything is, including myself.
My mother's mother's greatest dread was ending her life in an institution. But in the last years of her life, she no longer recognized her eldest daughter, whose home she was living in. She began calling my aunt "matron" because she thought she was in the dreaded institution. And finally, unable to maintain our grandma's safety and health, her surviving children did move her to an assisted-living facility.
They felt so guilty about it, having promised her for decades that they would never do that, but since Grandma already thought she was living in such a place, and didn't know the family members who came to visit, it became the obvious solution to the fact that her children were all becoming old themselves.
Getting old is a miserable business, and when you find that you hear about your friends more often on the obituary page than on Facebook, you begin to realize that maybe all those old connections can be set aside as you choose the climate that allows you to be most comfortable.
And I just spent five days in the best climate available within the borders of the continental United States.
While Greensboro was seething in high heat with high humidity last week, my wife and I were frolicking with grandkids in the perfect climate of San Diego, California.
The high got to 83 degrees one day -- but only briefly, and by late afternoon the sea breeze had cooled us down below 70. With the exception of a few weeks late in summer, it never gets oppressively hot, and the humidity close to the ocean is neither too high nor too low.
It's the ocean that controls the climate in San Diego. In the latitudes of the United States, the prevailing winds are from the west, which is why most of our weather on the East Coast has to come up from Texas or down from the Canadian prairies, except when hurricanes drift north far enough to bother us.
But that weather flow from west to east means that the Atlantic Ocean has far less influence over our weather. And even when it does affect us, the Gulf Stream is always carrying warm water north to make Europe liveable; it's not going to cool us off in the summer!
Whereas all of the Pacific coast of the United States is strongly influenced by the icy Alaska Current. Those prevailing westerly winds plow across that brilliant air-conditioning system and make the coast from Washington to California fairly chilly at night, even in the summer.
Our last night in San Diego, we were eating at Acqua California Bistro (I reviewed it a month or so ago), which has its huge doors open to the terraces so that even inside the restaurant, some of our party were actually getting chilly in the ocean breezes as early as six p.m. (But not cold.)
San Diego is at the same latitude as Algeria, Tunisia, and Baghdad in Iraq. But those places don't have the Alaska Current.
And Paris is at the same latitude as the U.S.-Canada border where North Dakota meets Saskatchewan -- except Paris has the Gulf Stream making its weather way warmer during the winter than it is in the Great White North. That's why Paris has no tradition of spending half the year buried in snow.
(And while we're playing the same-latitude game, let's keep in mind that Greensboro is at about the same latitude as Las Vegas, and a little farther south than Death Valley. But we're a lush garden instead of a savage desert -- because of those prevailing westerly winds that scoop up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and pump the rain to us all spring and summer. It may not keep us cool, but it gives us about as much rainfall as Seattle.)
San Diego has, without doubt, the most mild, pleasant, steady climate, year-round, of any location within the continental United States. While there is earthquake danger, the architecture is largely earthquake resistant.
Unfortunately, scads of people already know how beautiful the climate is in San Diego, and they keep moving there, driving up the real estate prices (raising the cost of everything else) and using up much of the water supply.
But if, during the hot days of summer (or cold days of winter) everywhere else, you want to go vacation in a place where the weather is almost always comfortable, it's San Diego.
There are drawbacks. Unlike Greensboro, San Diego has a real rush hour -- a few hours, morning and evening, when the freeways are jammed with too many people all at once. But if you're on vacation or if you've retired there, the solution is simple: Don't drive anywhere on the freeways during rush hour, because you don't have to.
It's something that my wife and I learned long ago -- you can always get a table at a great restaurant if you think dinner should be served at 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. While other people are wrestling with traffic, we're eating brilliant food at some of California's superb restaurants.
California really does have its own cuisine. While most restaurant food in California is cooked by Hispanic cooks (not necessarily immigrants; please remember that Mexicans first inhabited California when it was still part of Mexico, and when America bullied Mexico into surrendering half its land, the people came with it and became U.S. citizens), California cuisine is only partly "Mexican food."
What sets California cuisine apart is its reliance on fresh farm-to-table food, prepared as lightly as possible, with natural flavors predominating. So even if you're eating at a restaurant that is nominally Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, or, yes, Mexican, it will be different from that cuisine anywhere else because of that light touch on amazingly fresh and flavorful ingredients.
During our five days in San Diego, after a sad little first-night supper at a disappointing hotel restaurant, we ate extravagantly well. We were staying near Old Town, a delightful tourist-trap reconstructed historic neighborhood with lots of shops and nice places to walk.
Not quite in walking distance was an Italian restaurant called Baci, where we dined very well and had some of the most gracious and careful service from a superb waiter. It was the kind of place where he wore a tuxedo but we were still comfortable to be dressed like the tourists we were; and he was very good with our granddaughters (ages 5 and 3) and with the adults with special dietary restrictions.
The next night we ate at True Food Kitchen, a beautiful, large, open room attached to the Fashion Valley Mall. It was right across from a Cheesecake Factory, but believe me, we made the right choice.
Their vegetable appetizer bowl was not only gorgeous but delicious. And I say this as a man who, in childhood, vowed that as a grownup I would never, never, never eat my vegetables. They had two delicious vegetable dips, and my favorites were the huge radish slices.
Yes, you read that correctly. Radishes, by themselves in paper-thin slices, were delicious.
All the food that night was the epitome of fresh California cuisine and we loved the place. It also cost so little that feeding six of us felt like it was free. And they had some fruit drinks with unheard-of combinations that were ambrosial.
The next night, to my amazement, was every bit as good. The Patio on Lamont was in a series of wide-open rooms, so that even in the parts of the restaurant that had a roof, it felt like we were eating outdoors. The menu was amazing, and they took great care with our younger granddaughter, whose third birthday it was.
The highlight, though, after a great dinner, was that The Patio has a policy of encouraging diners to bring well-behaved dogs with them. They are required by law to remain in the roofless portion of the restaurant, and all of the dogs were placid, lying on the floor beside their human companions' chairs. You can imagine how glorious it was for our dog-loving but petless granddaughters to thread their way among the dogs on their way out to the car.
By the way, at The Patio on Lamont I ran into a new (to me at least) system of handling valet parking. Instead of giving us a ticket stub as a receipt for our car, the valet took down my mobile phone number and then sent me a text telling me what number my car was.
So when I came out to claim my car, I showed the valet the text and zip, he was off to bring me the car in record time. It's a good system and I'm not likely to misplace the valet ticket if it's on my phone.
Our last night in San Diego, I brought my family back to Acqua California Bistro, where I had eaten the month before when I was attending the 25th anniversary celebration of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, one of the great independent bookstores in America.
We had already eaten at three outstanding restaurants -- but I dare to say that from the children on up to this old coot, we all had our best meal of the trip. Acqua California is a hotel restaurant -- but with so many other great restaurants in San Diego, they still need to compete, and believe me, they do.
From the views of the water and a marina to the breezy, open ambience, from brilliant soups to great seafood and steaks and perfect desserts, it became the culinary climax of a week of fine dining.
But lest you think San Diego is all about the food, there are many great things to do without ever having to make the long drive up the coast to Disneyland in Orange County.
For one thing, Old Town had a great chocolate shop where they offered four select dark chocolate Nibbles from Peru, Mozambique, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil.
The Dominican chocolate was billed as having coffee overtones, and since few of us are coffee drinkers, that wasn't a promising come-on. But the others were intense and yet quite different from each other, and each kind of chocolate is sourced not only by country but also by the particular farm where the chocolate is grown. See for yourself: https://www.nibblechocolate.com/
They don't sell bars of this chocolate -- one bite from a bar might stop your heart. Instead, they're sold in boxes or jars of tiny cubes of chocolate, and each one begs to be savored on its own.
Nibble Chocolate is sold only in the San Diego area, and the standalone store where we discovered it is inside a restaurant/market called Fiesta de Reyes. So you think you're entering a Mexican restaurant, but in fact you're entering a village of little shops, of which the finest is Nibble Chocolate.
But only if you have a taste for serious dark chocolate. If you still favor milk chocolate, there's nothing there for you.
Oh, wait. Chocolate is food, too, even though you can't (well, most people can't) make a meal of it. So I'm still talking about food.
So let me mention that San Diego also has a world-famous zoo -- and believe me, with young children you can't possibly see it all in one day, because their legs and attention spans will give out long before the zoo's exhibits do.
Now, our grandchildren's parents had brought along a double stroller, so that when they could not walk any longer, there was relief. But when the bus driver secured the folded-up stroller on the outside of the bus for the ride back to the zoo entrance, something went a bit wrong and the stroller ended up on the road.
Under the bus's wheels.
Bent, broken, unusable, the stroller had become an example of "found art." The three-year-old carried one detached wheel of the stroller back with her, but we were all glad that this happened on the last full day of the vacation trip, so we had the full use of the stroller for the earlier walkaround activities. (By the way, the zoo has insurance against such accidents and there will be compensation.)
The day before, we had all gone to LegoLand. Like the Disney parks, LegoLand has some cool-looking hotels, and there's certainly enough to do that people who center their whole vacation there won't be disappointed.
I had assumed that LegoLand would be a more-or-less passive display of elaborate Lego constructions -- and that certainly plays an important part in the experience. We loved walking through reproductions of New York, Las Vegas, and other cities, along with iconic structures from many places around the world.
There were delightful Lego figures -- life-sized children, for instance, made of Legos, and a dog that a child can sit on, and dinosaurs and other animals made of Lego bricks.
Our observant 5-year-old granddaughter called her father's attention to a spot that epitomizes both the attention to detail and the whimsical humor of LegoLand. A Lego man sitting on a Lego john in a restroom in Lego Manhattan.
[Insert file LegoLandWaterCloset.jpg near here.]
While preserving the Lego color schemes, however, the park is much more than just looking at cool things the Lego engineers designed and built. And, while you can certainly buy souvenirs and Lego sets at the park, it doesn't feel as if the park's purpose were to sell sell sell.
On the contrary, once you've paid the noticeable admission fee (pay online and bring the receipt -- it saves time at the entrance), you don't have to spend another dime inside the park.
There are rides. Lots of them. Some are there for thrills (i.e., designed to create fear of imminent death), so you have your choice of roller coasters and gravity drops; but most of the rides are comfortable for children who do not wish to taste near-death at this early age.
You can ride in boats. You can rise up in helicopters that are sort of under your (or the child's) control. Children can drive little cars that they steer all by themselves.
The five-year-old was proud to have collided with absolutely nothing during her driving experience, and the ride culminated with her receiving her own "driver's license" -- a delightful touch.
The three-year-old had no idea that avoiding collisions was (a) desirable and (b) achievable. She bumped into everything and had a great time. And, just like in the real world, she also got a driver's license that was just as valid as the license received by her careful-driver sister.
At the more popular rides, LegoLand has signs informing you of how long the wait is -- some were more than an hour. You can reserve a place on such rides for certain times.
But if you have no interest in roller coasters, there's very little waiting at most other rides.
Our longest wait was at the Joust ride, because each child gets to ride her own Lego-style "steed," which rocks in a rocking-horse-like way as it moves around the track.
Eleven-year-old kids looked rather bored, but that's partly because the wait was so long. Our five-year-old was thrilled, and would happily have waited in line all over again in order to repeat the ride. Since no adult was willing to wait with her, that was kiboshed. But the ride was a success.
There are lots of free-play areas, too -- especially a park with slides, mazes, and jungle gyms where kids can frolic and interact with each other on thickly padded ground.
And there are continuously running shows here and there.
At a castle, for instance, there was an extremely unfunny comedy play being enacted, in which a king and queen vied with two goblins for who could give the worst possible delivery of the worst lines ever written. Children were delighted and kept watching, so apparently I was not in the target audience.
Equally, I was not in the audience for the extremely girly "Lego Friends to the Rescue" play, with lots of singing and prancing by five diverse and frantically over-made-up girls who, apparently, kept performing the exact same show on an infinite loop.
Some of the performers gave it their all every time; some of them phoned it in; the audience of children generally couldn't tell the difference, but I sure could.
Our five-year-old couldn't hold still -- in her mind, she was part of the show and one of the Lego Friends, so how could she keep from dancing? So that was a very successful show, for its intended audience.
Since I forgot to bring a hat, and almost everything was outdoors, the tops of my ears and the almost-bald crown of my head were savagely burned, and my Fitbit Ionic watch left a nice band of lily-white wrist amid the red skin of my vividly burned forearms. Sunscreen or clothing, folks; the whole park is in bright sunlight all the time.
What about food? LegoLand offers a decent range of eating opportunities, and they seem to care about quality.
At the hamburger stand where we got lunch, the well-designed cheeseburgers were already cooked and waiting. When we got them to our table, they were still warm ... but not exactly hot. But the fries were excellent and they stayed hot far better than the burgers did.
Later, I saw a pizza place and a hot dog stand, both of which seemed to be offering edible and tasty options. And in one dining area, there was a rooster clock which, every fifteen minutes, burst into raucous old-time rock-n-roll, as if it had grown up in a barnyard in 1958.
LegoLand was the central event of the vacation, and it was worth the time and the money. Everybody was satisfied, and, unlike the zoo, LegoLand didn't crush the stroller.
However, the mazelike plan of the park meant that even if we skipped large areas -- we had no interest in the water park that day, for instance, and nobody cared about the Ninjago section -- we still had to retrace our entire route, all the ups and downs, all the backtracking, in order to return to the entrance.
But it was worth the walking. And it was way more enjoyable than Disney World or Disneyland, in my opinion, because the whole attitude at LegoLand is more laid back, more relaxed, and you can have a lot of fun without spending more than ten minutes in any line.
(For those who care about such things, the Lego people always capitalize LEGO, and so LegoLand is always shouted: LEGOLAND. But I refuse to capitulate to institutional screaming, so I have decided that for legibility and good manners, the name, in this column, is LegoLand.)
There were many other wonderful features of San Diego. Near Old Town, there was Heritage Park, a small neighborhood of preserved Victorian houses. Even though you had to walk straight up a cliff from Old Town, it was a pleasure to walk among glorious old houses from an era when people tried to create houses that were a gift to the street.
Not the same street, mind you -- the houses were all moved from their original sites to share this new neighborhood. https://hiddensandiego.net/victorian-village.php
And because it's still a very new project, only a couple of the structures allow you to enter -- including a tea shop and another house that contains the public restrooms. (Traveling with two young children and two elderly people, we knew the locations of restrooms everywhere. LegoLand, fyi, keeps theirs very clean and well-supplied.)
My wife and I are both trying to take long walks every day. Since my wife is a couple of years into walking every trail in Guilford County (she's pretty much accomplished that) she is way ahead of me in speed and stamina, but I'm working on it, and I had some very good walking days in that lovely climate.
Unlike the American South, California got the memo that "civilization" includes "sidewalks." There are sidewalks on both sides of nearly every street, with crosswalks and protected crossings.
When I was growing up in the Bay Area of California, it was the law that pedestrians always had the right of way, even if they were jaywalking. That law has since changed, but California drivers are unusually deferent to pedestrians, skaters, cyclists, and scooter-riders.
In other words, you can walk through the city neighborhoods without having to share the road with homicidal drivers, the way we must in most of Greensboro's neighborhoods. If I were ever to run for mayor of Greensboro (I'm not going to, because I'm still mostly in my right mind), my whole platform would be: Sidewalks and Crosswalks Everywhere!
If you want to know why, drive along Pisgah Church Road in Greensboro and notice that while most of the road has a sidewalk on one side, it keeps switching sides without warning and without crosswalks, so if you're trying to propel a stroller or wheelchair along that road, to remain on sidewalks you will constantly have to jaywalk.
And at Elm and Pisgah Church, you can cross on crosswalks from the southwest corner either north or east -- but there are no crosswalks connecting to the northeast corner, and therefore no Walk/Don't Walk signals. Only the brave can walk to any of the businesses on that block.
Someone designed this intersection -- and quite possibly still has a job. Go figure.
Such problems are rare in San Diego -- or any major California city, as far as I can tell. Someday this perquisite of civilization will penetrate the southern states and creep into Greensboro.
But for now, we push our runners, bikers, walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, and wandering children either into driving lanes on busy streets, or muddy weedy uneven clumpy wet unpaved shoulders.
So yes, another benefit of visiting San Diego is that you can find out what it's like to live in a place where the government thinks that it's a good idea to make it possible for people to walk safely from one place in the city to another.
My wife and I are not planning to move anywhere to retire. We love Greensboro -- even without sidewalks in our neighborhood. And we have no interest in moving to be closer to our children and grandchildren in Seattle and Los Angeles because as soon as we moved there, their jobs would surely require them to move somewhere else.
Besides, if they wanted us to live close by, they wouldn't have moved as far from North Carolina as they could get without having to leave the 48 states.
If we had to move away from Greensboro, with our astonishingly beautiful seasons and a city full of year-round gardens, I think that the perfect amiable climate of San Diego would be at the top of our list.
Even if you don't want to live there, it's a wonderful place to visit.
Except during ComiCon. Do not for any reason allow yourself to be trapped in San Diego during ComiCon. It's like trying to find a rental car or hotel room or restaurant reservation in Greensboro during Furniture Market -- times 100.
Ever since cargo pants were invented, I have bought them and worn them. I know that fashions have changed many times over, and now it's one of the markers of old men that we wear cargo pants and cargo shorts. But there's a sound reason for it.
The many pockets in my cargo pants functioned like a purse. Wallet, keys, coin purse, yes -- but also tissues, pens, notebooks, flashdrives, extra credit cards and insurance cards and frequent flier and hotel cards, a mobile phone or two, glasses cleaners, a few emergency supplies -- in other words, the contents of a small purse.
Few women would dream of changing purses as often as I change pants, however; even when carrying a tiny purse as an accessory, there's no way you try to move everything from the main purse to the little toy purse that you wear to go out.
But I bore with the necessity of unpocketing and repocketing everything when I changed from one pair of trousers to another (clean) pair.
Until I was in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, doing a lot of walking.
Manhattan has sidewalks everywhere -- though they're often blocked off by construction -- and they also have an amazing system of crosswalks, in which pedestrians and bicycle messengers and taxis and ubers and limos and delivery trucks constantly negotiate with each other, with little regard to traffic signals.
This means that on any long walk -- say, from Macy's to Central Park -- you have to be ready to run for your life at any point when you're crossing a street.
Running in cargo pants that are being used as a purse is highly likely to lead to (a) the weight in your pockets dragging your pants down around your ankles, or (b) having stuff fly out of your pockets as you run, forcing you to either say good-bye to your possessions or further risk your life by going back to pick them up.
After a couple of days of this, we happened to stop at Macy's on the way back to our hotel from a lunch with good friends. My wife had just discovered a tear in the fabric of her current Main Purse, and so we spent a while looking for the exact right purse in Macy's.
She didn't find it, but she found a might-be-good-enough purse and, at my urging, she bought it. (For what it's worth, she's still not sure about it.)
Then we wandered near the Men's Department, where by corporate rule they never carry anything in my size, and I happened to notice a display of Tumi luggage that included a rack with a small black canvas bag called -- get this -- the Tumi Small Pocket Bag With Crossbody Strap.
I opened the zippers. I saw that I could make the strap long enough for the bag to ride at my waist while hanging on the opposite shoulder. It was Tumi, so it would be well-made and long-lasting. And it was the cheapest bag in the Tumi section in Macy's.
Specifically, it was cheaper than the bag my wife had just bought.
So I decided it was time for me to unload my cargo pockets and carry a purse.
Cross-body strappage meant that it would not slide down off my shoulder. It also meant that it might press against my neck, but the solution to that was to keep the bag light.
So when I got the bag back to the hotel, I unloaded my pockets and put everything in my new purse -- I mean, Pocket Bag Small -- except my wallet and car keys.
When I flew home, it meant that instead of having to unload my pockets at the TSA checkpoint, I could lay my purse down on the conveyor belt and only put my wallet and keys into their little dogdish.
And I could run across streets without anything flying out of my pockets and without the weight of those objects pulling my pants down.
Moreover, my mobile phone is now far more convenient for me to reach. And I have enough leftover room to carry a folded-up cap or a Kindle Oasis or my iPod Nano or a small packet of meds or a small purchase. Or, on one occasion, all of the above.
In short, it's a real purse.
Now, because I've never carried a purse before, I have to be watched over like a nine-year-old girl getting used to her first practice purse. In other words, I am likely to forget I have it and leave it behind.
I can't hang it on my chair in a restaurant because I'll leave it behind -- thank you, waitress at Southern Lights, who ran after me to return it the other night.
In fact, I have eaten several meals while still wearing the purse strapped across my body because it is so small and light that it doesn't get in my way while I'm eating. If I never take it off, I can't leave it behind.
So I am now free to buy non-cargo pants from Orvis -- the only clothing retailer whose pants are generally sized so grown-up men with aging bodies can wear them comfortably. Soon I shall see if I can go back to wearing trousers with only four pockets in them.
Of course, I gave up on back pockets long ago -- my pants have them, but I never use them. Instead, I carry a front-pocket wallet, thus sparing myself the literal pain-in-the-butt caused by back-pocket wallets. https://www.rogue-industries.com/collections/front-pocket-wallets/mens
Wearing non-cargo pants will make it so there's one old-man stereotype that will no longer apply to me.
In order to remain true to myself, I may have to find a really good pocket protector for my shirt. Just so my children will have something to make fun of me for.
Yes, they still make them pocket protectors: https://www.amazon.com/QPEY-Pocket-Protector-Classic-Transparent/dp/B004ZUQVXG/ref=zg_bs_490682011_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=ZJ2ZK36DK0Y3CPHYV4CV
My dad wore a pocket protector in the 1950s, so when I started carrying pens around with me (fourth grade, I believe) I talked my dad into getting me one, and I continued to wear them all through high school.
Even in the early 1960s, before coolness was a requirement of teenage life, I was taunted by other kids for wearing pocket protectors. Being me, however, the ridicule only made me more certain that I would wear pocket protectors every day for the rest of my life.
That resolve finally relaxed when I was old enough that my peers began to let up on the open mockery, and when I realized that I had never had a pen spring a leak, so why not carry pens in my front pants pocket?
Since then I have had various leaks. So now my copious pen collection -- I need all the colors to draw maps of imaginary places when I'm forced to attend a really boring meeting -- goes into my purse.
Unless I go back to the pocket protector.
Meanwhile, you'll notice that I have called my new crossbody small pocket bag a "purse."
Not a man-purse. Just a purse.
Because it's fairly recent for "purse" to be something that only women carry. In fact, in the middle ages, it was men that carried purses, while women were more likely to stash useful objects in their sleeves or in other hard-to-access places on their person.
And I loathe any construction that uses the word "man" as a prefix. I'm not so insecure in my masculinity that I have to label my purse a "man-purse" so that you'll know that, even with a purse, I'm still a man.
My wife, however, is bothered by my calling it a purse, so she calls it a "satchel." That stretches the definition of satchel a little, but not by much, and, thanks to a certain great ballplayer named Satchel Paige, the word "satchel" has total credibility as a masculine accoutrement, despite the fact that "satchel" is one common design for women's purses, which are usually much larger than my purse.
Do I recommend that other men switch to carrying a purse? Of course not. Carrying a purse is annoying and burdensome. The ideal solution is the one I saw Bob Guccione use: He had a fulltime employee who accompanied him and paid for everything, so that as far as I could tell, Mr. Guccione didn't even carry a wallet.
However, I can't afford to have a fulltime employee to carry my stuff any more than I can afford to have a fulltime chauffeur so I can sleep or play computer games during long drives.
So I carry a purse, which, though somewhat burdensome, is more convenient, for me, at this point in my life, than cargo pants with full pockets.
And, just as with my school-days pocket protector, I don't care whether any of my friends carry a purse or not. For the time being, I carry one and I'm glad of it.
And if I ever decide I need to carry an umbrella or a pistol, then I'll get a bigger purse.
Or a shoulder holster. Or a saddlebag and a horse. So many solutions ...
on the art and business of science fiction writing.
Over five hours of insight and advice.
Recorded live at Uncle Orson's Writing Class in Greensboro, NC.
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