Having spent most of my life living in cities, moving to a small, largely rural island in the Pacific Northwest has required certain adjustments. Consider, for example, the simple matter of mail delivery.
Most people on this island have mail boxes set up along the road near their houses, except, of course, when fun-loving teenagers ride by in cars in the night and knock them over with baseball bats, a popular island sport. Under normal circumstances, however, a U.S. Postal Service truck comes by daily and places your mail in said box…if it has survived. This is called “Rural Free Delivery” and it has been in existence in this country since the late nineteenth century. But, for whatever reason, the mail truck does not come to the lane where I live and I therefore have no mailbox. Instead, I have a box in the tiny branch post office in the hamlet where I live. This is where the “adjustment” part kicks in: The U.S. Postal Service, using their own truck and their own gasoline, mind you, will deliver mail to your curbside mailbox for free. But if you, using your own car and buying your own gasoline, go to the post office to collect your mail from your post box, they charge you an annual fee. You’ll pardon me if I don’t quite get the logic. This may explain a lot about how deep in debt the U.S. Postal Service is…
There have been other adjustments as well. For example, in my previous career I had need of suits and ties. This need was simplified greatly by the fact that I had a friend who was the designer Ralph Lauren’s right-hand woman. I acquired superlative suits far below manufacturer’s cost. Draped elegantly in, say, a dark navy wool flannel suit with a faint white chalk stripe, or a subtle dark charcoal herringbone weave with matching vest, I managed to cut a splendid figure in Washington, D.C., where I then worked, despite my plentitude of other shortcomings. (I think it was the great French designer, Coco Chanel, who once observed: “Illusion, illusion; all is illusion…”)
But the only person who wears a suit on this island is the guy who comes from the mainland to audit the bank. And even then, he loosens his silk tie. So one day I took my beautiful suits to our charity shop and slunk away before the suits could comprehend what had happened. Not that anyone here would want them. I still have bad dreams about this.
But I haven’t relinquished my tuxedo. Oh no. Like the suits, my life once required a tuxedo. I own one designed by Bill Blass. It was custom tailored for me. Naturally, I also had all the usual accompaniments: front-pleated wing-collar white shirt, mother-of-pearl studs and cufflinks, hand-tied bow tie, and black cummerbund—which somehow made you feel like a Spanish bullfighter about to be terminally gored.
Bill Blass died in 2002, by which time my tux was already into its second decade. Ever since, it has languished in the back of my closet because, frankly, it would take an army of seamstresses—and possibly a battalion of engineers—to get me into that tux again. But have I abandoned it? Of course not. I figure there’s a chance that any day now I will come down with some terrible wasting disease and, having wasted away sufficiently, I will look absolutely spiffing in my coffin in that gorgeous tux.
Islanders visiting the funeral parlor and expecting, at best, a stiff in a flannel shirt and Carhartt overalls, will be gobsmacked.
Will North is the author of eighteen books, the last four of which are Amazon 4.5- star-rated novels. Check them out at www.willnorthonline.com.