The Social History of a Man’s Tie Rack

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Many of you, my faithful readers and fans, probably assume that I just write a blog and then go off and mow the lawn, fish, read, paint, take Pilates, go to a movie, make a big bowl of popcorn, cook a stack of buttermilk flapjacks, attend a men’s support group, catalogue my moth collection, peruse the internet for Icelandic porn, swiffer the kitchen or polish my Bolivian coin collection.   I’m sure that you think I don’t give a second thought to anything I’ve written and sent out on my WordPress blog platform.

“What does he care,” you say among yourselves.  “He’s said what he wanted to say.  His last few were a bit goofy, but he’s at least trying to please.”

I will have you know, right here and now, that I DO care what my readers think.  In fact, I lose hours of sleep, lying there wondering whether or not The Redheaded Riter liked my latest post, or what Skinnywench thought of it, or what Angie, Lenny, Diane, Madeline, Jim, Donna or Linda had to say about it. [I’m even FB friends with Heidi Fleiss, but she never once wrote anything to me].

But, I do know from reading the comments made in that little box at the end of the post that most of my fans are basically saying the same thing: “You know, he’s written some pretty strange stuff, a lot of it is sad and full of regret and melancholy, loss and rejection.  He writes a lot about his childhood girlfriend, Mary Alice.  She’s probably pretty sick of hearing about obscure stuff that happened 60 years ago.  Yes, he has shared his innermost feelings and worries.  I mean I don’t even know what my wife thinks about Purgatory, but I know what Pat worries about all the time.  But, with all this angst and nostalgia, he’s never, never written about the one thing that we most care about.  He’s never said one thing about his neckties.”

Now, normally, I would consider revealing information about my neckties as a no-no, something like telling someone what your jock strap size happens to be.  Neckties are to be worn only for short periods of time during certain hours of the day…like sock garters.  But, since I am now retired, I feel quite free to tell you a little about how I came about having such an extensive necktie collection…and how they helped me gain a particular sort of fame in the world I lived in…the private schools of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

It began when I first walked into a classroom at the outset of my teaching career.  It was February, 1973.  I was lured out of grad school at S.U.N.Y. Binghamton by the offer of a full-time teaching job in Pennsylvania.  I had enough credits in education to qualify for a provisional certificate.  I had a young daughter and I needed the job.

My first day in the classroom, I was very self-conscious so I wore a thick sweater or vest and almost always a tie.  My first ties were borrowed from my father.  He purchased them from some store in Endicott, NY in the 1940’s.  Kids pointed and made muffled comments, but I didn’t care.

Then I made my first visit to Ireland.  It was “wool heaven” so I bought a few knitted ties and a few woolen numbers that sported strange Irish tartans.  I was pleased with the “professorial” look I worked at putting together.  Tweed jackets with patches on the elbows and woolen ties (with corduroys, of course…all earth tones).  The one item I never wore (and still won’t) were tasselled loafers.

I was cool and I was very “academic.”

Flash forward to the early 1990’s.  I had moved from public to private schools and I had landed a job at a Quaker school in New York City.  It was a very low-key kind of place.  Students called you by your first name.  When I first heard “Hey, Pat, what does this question mean?” I was in a state of shock.

But, something happened on the way to an assembly…something that was said by a student that changed my life (necktie wise).  He didn’t mean to be rude or to hurt my feelings.  He simply looked at my knit tie (that was square at the bottom) and said: “Who cut your tie off?”

SquareTie

That did it.  I put away my old wool and knit ties (remember, I was still self-conscious) and started buying silk ties on the street.  I would get three for $10.00.  I looked for interesting designs…I found them.  Then, it became like an obsession…like an addiction.  It started with cool designs, but that was just a gateway to strange colors and even more bizarre patterns.  I bought then on 23rd Street.  I purchased them on 34th Street.  On Amsterdam Avenue.  In booths near Central Park.  Street Fairs.  Guys with push-carts. Anywhere, anytime.  I would meet guys named Moose or Cal or Tat who had the latest “imports” from China, Korea, Brazil or even, yes, even Paraguay.  Yes, I bought ties made in Paraguay.

At the last school I taught in, I was the 6th grade home room teacher as well as the science guy for 5th and 6th grade.  I began to gain a reputation.

Once, at the end of home room period, one girl said: “I like your tie, Mr. Egan.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Another girl said: “Well, Mr. Egan has always been rather creative with his ties.”

I was the King of the Neckties among the male faculty.  One history teacher from the 7th and 8th grade wing, tried to find ties like mine, but his efforts came to naught.  He tried to usurp me and he failed.  Too bad, I liked the guy.  But there can be only one King in the small world of a small private school.

I had a Halloween tie I thought was spooky, until the school cancelled that holiday due to parents complaints.  I had a nice snowman tie, but Christmas became confused with other holidays and I gave up wearing it.  I had an Einstein tie that I always wore to the Science Fair Night that I directed.  I left it in the taxi on the way home.  I told my classes the next day and three days later, I had four new Einstein ties given to me.  The parents went online to get me a new one.  As you look at the photos of ties below, find the one of the Empire State Building.  My colleague told me the first time I wore it that it was too phallic.  I stopped wearing it.

 TiesOnRailing

 

I don’t wear my ties anymore, except for weddings and funerals.  I tried to pass them onto my son, who works mostly without ties.  He said thanks, but he had no room in his closet.  I caught him rolling his eyes at his girlfriend after he checked my collection.

I remember, when I was a teenager, my brother and I would find my father’s ties (that he bought in the 1930’s) and we would make fun of how weird they were.

So, now my son was doing the same thing.

Is this some kind of “Circle of Life” thing?

If you see anything that interests you, email me…we can work something out.

 

 

The Skeleton in the Taxi

The Division Head in the private school where I taught was very adamant.

“All this stuff has to go, Pat.  Everything you don’t use in a year should be cleaned out.”

I looked around the Middle School lab and began to make mental notes of what needed to be tossed.  The chemicals, of course, had to be disposed of in Hazardous Waste bags.  The old equipment that had been sitting in the cabinets before I came to join the faculty was outdated and clearly obsolete.  Technology had changed the nature of a school science lab in just a few years.  Sure, we would always use test tubes and beakers, but old dusty kits of projects whose educational value was obscure, had to go.

It was then that my eyes fell on Seymour.  He hung, silently, on a metal rack facing the student tables.  I felt sorry for Seymour, he had his own special corner of the lab to himself for decades.  He had to go.  His educational potential was spent.  For years, the students (mostly 8th grade boys) would abuse him.  And, he was helpless to prevent this bullying.  Someone stuck his thin finger into his nose.  Another someone placed his hand over his pubic area.  His toes and feet had suffered being stepped upon by the passing students for years. More than once he was found by me to have something between his teeth that was either obscene or downright goofy.  Sometimes, I thought it was funny, but other times I would just shake my head and return his hands to his original position…by his side, like a doorman of an apartment building of this wealthy part of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Seymour, you see, was a skeleton.  Not a real skeleton, mind you, but a plastic model colored to look real.

But, he had to go.

I just couldn’t see myself putting Seymour out with the rest of the detritus.  No, I had formed an attachment of sorts with him and I couldn’t put him curbside like so many girlfriends had done to me.  He deserved better.  I went to the Division Head and asked if she would approve the purchase of a new skeleton.  She agreed.  I then popped the question.

“Could I have Seymour?”

“Whatever,” she said, not looking up from her paperwork.

I called my wife and broached the subject.  She asked, rather directly, if I thought we had room in our one bedroom apartment for a life-sized skeleton.  I thought about it.  She was right.  On the one hand, it would be an interesting conversational piece over wine and cheese.  On the other hand, once the conservation ended, having the likeness of a dead person standing quietly in the corner could be a little off-putting.

Now, my son, Brian, lived in Binghamton.  He was in sixth grade and attended a public school.  I knew public schools were always having budget issues and within minutes I had a plan to have Seymour continue to “live” on in upstate New York.

I called Brian and asked him to check with his science teacher to find out if he would appreciate such a donation.  He did and the teacher did so it was a done deal.

Now the problem was to get Seymour out of the school and across town to our apartment for the eventual trip to Binghamton.

I hailed a taxi and told the driver to hold at the front door while I went back into school to fetch the bones.  I came out the front door pulling Seymour like a prom date on an IV drip.  I placed him next to me on the rear seat.  No trunk for Seymour.  That was a little to “mob” like for an educational tool.

The driver kept eyeing me through his rear view mirror.

“So, whose your friend, pal?” he asked with a smirk.

“Seymour,” I said.

“Hey, Seymour,” he said.  “Had a bad day, I see.”

I pushed the plexiglass sliding door closed.  I didn’t want Seymour to have to deal with off-handed remarks from a cabbie from Queens.  Knowing that my boney friend only had a view of the East River and the north tip of Roosevelt Island for many years, I decided to point out some of the interesting sights on the way home.  It’s about time he saw the city.

“Look, guy, there’s the Metropolitan Museum, this is Fifth Avenue.  Remember the song, “On The Avenue, Fifth Avenue?”.

Somewhere halfway across Central Park, he nodded off.

Seymour’s head tilted to my shoulder.  I put my arm around his bony back and held him tight so he would survive the sharp turns of the taxi.

The driver turned his radio volume up.

Harry Nilsson was singing “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me.”

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