Thursday, February 29, 2024
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The Long Way Home

Sometimes, the best column ideas come from a trip to the transfer station.

Before dumping our trash last week, I went to the office to pay the $8 disposal fee. I opened the door on Miss Daisy, the family car, and fought gravity to stand up. As always, I tugged on my jeans to bring them up to where I was comfortable and strode through the door.

From behind, I heard a woman say, “Need help pulling up those pants?” Followed by a sinister laugh.

Turning to see who the brazen hussy might be, I saw a friend of mine, a sometime read­er of this column, and I realized she wasn’t a hussy at all. We both laughed then.

This tic of mine, pulling up my pants before walking away from the car or just standing up, is quite common among men, especially those of a certain age. I thought I was the only one.

As we discussed this topic with the young lady at the cash register, I began questioning my relationship with pants. The two gentle­women proposed that men’s pockets are too full of stuff because they don’t carry purses. There was a time in the not-distant past when men had purses, at least those leading fashion trends.

I explained to my rapt listeners that I wore suspenders attached to my jeans. My friend then said perhaps they weren’t doing a good enough job keeping my pants up. Or maybe my pants might be a size or two too big. Both observations had a grain of truth.

I inventoried my pants pockets later. My front pockets held a wallet, some loose change, a key fob for the car, and a Leatherman on the left side. On the right were two Bic lighters, a pipe tool, a foreign coin for luck, and a small rock I picked up somewhere. The back pock­ets held my tobacco pouch, a small number of business cards, and a handkerchief. This mess must weigh nearly a pound, if not more. A purse may help.

I discovered suspenders in the 1980s when my clothier (yes, I had a clothier) suggested them to complement my professional attire, tailored suits, and custom shirts. I looked like a character in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” He called them braces back then.

I forgot about suspenders (braces) when I gave up the high life.

Six or seven years ago, I worked at the lo­cal Ace Hardware store, charming customers and stocking shelves. Bending over constantly to pick up totes and put brass fittings in their bins near the floor saw my pants falling be­low a substantial belly, leaving me with the dreaded plumber crack for all to see. I bought a pair of Carhartt suspenders, and my crack problem disappeared. I only wore a belt when I wasn’t working.

Five years ago, a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic gave me my quality of life back. In doing so, he left me wearing a piece of so-called dura­ble medical equipment that rests just below the waist. I can’t wear a belt even if I want to now. So, suspenders it is.

A quick Google search of the pulling up the pants issue reveals that it is a common enough action for older men. The reasons some pro­posed for it made me laugh.

As I pull up my pants when I stand today, I’ll never carry a purse. And to the other older men in the falling pants world, be aware that someone is always watching.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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