My Versace Belt

I’ve worn the same belt for over 20 years. In October 2019, I finally decided that the wear on it was enough and it was time to consider buying a new belt.

This was no easy decision as I am fascinated with time and highly value items that are sentimental, things that are part of my past. Before I get to the story of my belt, here are some of the things I wear and why I wear them.

I still have one of my watches from high school that I wore for business. That was recently replaced by my late father-in-law’s watch . The fact that his watch is much nicer doesn’t mean anything to me, it is that the sentimental value of it is greater than a watch I wore in high school. Memories of him are more important than faded memories of high school so my high school watch gets put back on the shelf.

The watch for daily wear is a G-Shock given to me by my then girlfriend, now wife back in 2002. I didn’t wear watches because my mobile phone had a clock and could do so much more. Wearing a watch became pointless to me as a cell phone became a mainstay of my pocket, so I just put the watch in a drawer for 16 years until I considered wearing a watch again in 2018. Everyone was wearing Apple watches, fitness trackers and so I gave watches another thought. I would have bought a Samsung Gear until I realized I really don’t need more pings, notifications, alerts in my life . But then I rediscovered my G-Shock watch. That watch had been with me for 16 years and now had heavy sentimental value. It was part of my past so I put it on and have been wearing it ever since.

A few other items were bought new but were popular in the past. These are my Oakley sunglasses, Air Jordan and Reebok Pump shoes and a jean jacket. I don’t wear these all at the same time otherwise I’d look like I was straight out of the late ’80s early ’90s. I don’t have my original jean jacket or shoes anymore but I do have my original Oakleys. They aren’t in great shape so I had to get new ones of those as well.

All the items above hold sentimental value for me so I even wrote posts about them:
1. The G-Shock watch
2. My Oakley sunglasses
3. Shoes of the 90s.

Now, lets finally get to my belt. I bought my Versace belt in Besançon, France in the year 2000. I had never owned a luxury fashion item before and stepping into the small, intimate shop somewhere in a modest French town left a deep impression in both my mind and subconscious. I still remember the 30 something owner reaching out to shake my hand and then gently admonishing me as I reached out with my black leather gloves still on. He told me in French how rude it would be to shake hands keeping my gloves on. I quickly removed them, let out a slightly embarrassed smile and apologized. This seemed to do the trick and I was back in his good graces. I had expected the owner of a high end fashion shop in France to be rude and perhaps think I was not worthy to set foot in his shop. With this gentleman it was the exact opposite and I dare say he liked me. It could have been I was one of the few Americans, if not the only one who spoke passable French or it could have been he was gay and found me attractive? Either way I appreciated the hospitable feeling instead of being looked down upon which is what I had expected.

That is the portion I remember from my waking consciousness but I also say it affected my subconsciousness because just in the past year I had a dream of being in a small, intimate, high-end clothier. It was the kind of shop you’d find in London that had been in the family for generations. It was all solid oak and hand crafted textiles stuffed into a claustrophobic, street level space no bigger than a large family living room. Although the arrangement of the suits seemed suffocating, the feeling of being crowded gave way to an intoxication of sophistication and refinement that has been lost in our modern times. They sold mainly suits with brands that are not familiar to the mainstream but that any 1% ultra rich person would immediately recognize. This dream came to me shortly after deciding to stop wearing my beloved Versace belt. Therefore, there is no doubt it was my subconscious releasing a long fermenting mixture of my experience and feelings of a small shop in France from a vault which had accumulated 20 years of dust.

It is interesting to reflect on why some experiences are locked up into extremely powerful memories and some are not regardless of how strongly they affect our lives. The subconscious has its own way of deciding that isn’t really apparent to our conscious mind. All I did was buy a belt but that memory, although 20 years old and seemingly unimportant, remains powerful and even causes me to have dreams. I can’t even think of a similarly strong memory for the past 10 years! In fact, the past 10 years have been pretty much a blur and if it weren’t for this blog I don’t think I would remember too much of it even though the moments are of great importance since they involve my kids. I remember buying a belt more than I do what happened at my kid’s birthdays, or other important milestones. I remember them because I took pictures and video. I did not take pictures or video of buying a belt yet I remember vividly.

There is also another memory I have of France where I bought a product that I keep to this day. It is my Bvlgari Blue cologne and my mind has also stored this experience in its own locker. My sister had come to Paris to visit me and it was bought at a high end department store. It was winter with Christmas lights up on the trees on the Champs Élysées, a nip in the air and a slight dusting of snow on the ground. I had on a Versace jacket, a scarf which I had bought from an elderly gentleman on the Champs-Élysées and the same gloves I was scolded for wearing when I bought my belt. The smell of the cologne department overwhelmed me with intoxicating luxury. The environment compelled me to buy something; a festive Christmas joy was in the air on a cold December and here I was in Paris, with my sister and able to speak French as I showed her around and we visited the shops and restaurants. I wanted to capture that moment, to bottle it up and keep forever on the shelf of life experience. That experience ended up being stored in bottle of the luxurious, soapy scent of Bvlgari Blue cologne.

I’ve long lost that original bottle but it caught my eye a few years ago and once I sprayed the sample the memory of being in Paris with my sister came rushing back to me. That was the cologne I needed and that I currently wear for work.

I speak of these experiences being 20 years old but just saying the number really doesn’t evoke the weight of two decades that it should. Perhaps some examples would help?

Twenty years ago you could walk right up to the gate of an airline and say goodbye or greet friends as they entered or exited the aircraft, there was no security. Back then nobody you knew had cell phones. The internet was AOL and you had to use a PC that was physically plugged into the wall. E-mail was exciting and you were extremely happy to receive anything at all, even junk e-mail.

As for me personally, I was a college student. I did not have a wife and kids. The future was a vast expanse of endless possibilities depending on the choices I was making at the time. I ended up going to Japan, Vietnam and then the Bay but I could just as easily have ended up living in London, France, Spain, or Korea, Mexico, almost anywhere depending on the choices I made then. At 42 years old the vast expanse of future possibilities, which encompassed thousands of paths are now narrowed by some 95%. Those paths open to me at 20 years old are now lost due to age, family, career, responsibility. An example could be as life as a mold of clay. At 20 years old and making good decisions you can mold your life into whatever you want it to be. At 42 that mold has hardened into your own creation. It can no longer be completely reshaped but perhaps added to in some parts and trimmed in others. Although at this age I hear more stories of divorce and the like which is akin to just smashing the mold on the ground although the pieces still remain.

Backtracking a bit I wanted to mention that although I remember my belt (since I wore it everyday) and my cologne, I had completely forgotten about my Versace jacket until I wrote the paragraph about being in Paris above. I was entirely prepared to say I’ve only owned two luxury fashion items in my life but it is in fact three. As I thought about buying the cologne, I strove to remember details about being in Paris so I could write a better paragraph. I tried to remember what coat I was wearing and my mind took me to a picture with my sister in front of the Louvre. It is thanks to that picture I can remember what coat I was wearing and then remembering it was Versace with a neon green interior! That coat has long been lost both physically and to my memories. I now wonder if perhaps I still have it tucked away somewhere although I can slightly recall it being old, faded and perhaps a zipper broken. Or perhaps these are false memories and I lost it in a bar after drinking too much in Spain? I have no idea, but now I’m intrigued as to what happened to that jacket. I think the chances of remembering are slim and finding it even slimmer but now I want to try.

As I mentioned I was completely prepared to say I have only owned two luxury items but in remember the Versace jacket I remember my Dad also bought me a luxury jacket I found on sale in Beverly Hills while we were there for the Rose Bowl in 1998. That one I know I unfortunately forgot in a bar or taxi. Here in America if you lose something there is a 90% chance you will not get it back. This isn’t Japan. Everyone out for themselves here, it is the American way.

OK, aside from the two jackets I lost, the two luxury items were the belt that I bought and a Prada key ring given to me by my wife. Like many women everywhere, but especially in Asia, she really liked luxury products when she was in her college and just after graduation years so had a few things Prada. Anyway, I’ve never cared much about luxury items except for my belt but my keys were wearing a hole in my suit pants and so she had this old Prada key ring she never used and gave it to me back in 2007. I still use it to this day as old, worn and faded as it is, the important thing is not that it is Prada but that my wife gave it to me in 2007. As long as it serves its purpose I’ll use it and when it doesn’t serve its purpose it will go in my treasure box along with my belt and other precious items from my past.

As I said, I don’t care about luxury items. I feel that people who feel the need to flash their expensive brands for everyone to see are making a silly attempt to establish a social order to everyone they meet. They are in effect asking everyone to show them deference because through their clothes show they have money and having money means being more important than those that do not have money. I think that these brands give them a sort of empty confidence and by trying to elevate themselves also make them look down on others. I went to the Versace store in San Francisco once as my Vietnamese buddy really liked to shop there. I remember seeing a fat, old, white guy decked out in Versace complete with the sweater draped over his shoulders and black sunglasses, just standing there in the middle of the store in self-important glory. I could literally feel him looking down on everyone thanks to all the Versace he was wearing.

I learned long ago that true confidence comes from the inside not the outside. Confidence drawn from clothing, the type of car driven and so on crumbles very quickly against even the slightest opposition. The reason is those people expect to be treated extra well because they believe they are better than those they interact with and their clothing should clearly communicate that. So when they face the slightest challenge or criticism most will completely crumble. This is in contrast to one who has true confidence that comes from within. Any criticism or challenge to those with true confidence has the same effect as throwing a pebble at a suit of armor.

As for me my confidence came in waves. In high school it was thanks to wresting. In college and through my 20s and 30s it was being able to speak foreign languages and my world travels. At 42 confidence comes from a life of good choices, being able to provide for my family, having a career I really like and from my experience of speaking with people on a daily basis and being able to relate to almost anyone. Yes, I do still draw confidence from being worldly, speaking languages and yes, even karate but that is because these are things others respect, not necessarily because I’m overly proud of the achievements.

One of the best benefits of having confidence is it allows you to be kind to people even when they are not kind to you. Everyone is trying to make it through this life and I’ve been very fortunate to have the confidence I do. So when I can spread a little cheer simply by calling people by their name, or making small jokes which makes them laugh we are both made happier.

I’ve gone off on a tangent. This post is about my belt and my belt is being retired. Over the years I’ve had the buckle replaced with a cheap one as the original broke and I’ve had it polished a few times by a cobbler. Yes, shoe cobblers still exist and they know how to work with belts as well. But given the wear to the inside where the holes are located I think it is time to move on. Thank you belt for 20 years of holding up my pants and shorts. You have earned your place in the treasure chest.

Journal Entry – 2.24.19 – Second Post

Immediately after finishing my previous post I put on my Oculus VR, opened up the meditation app and found myself sitting in a grass field.  My favorite meditation practice is Zen, where the goal is to have a clear mind like the sky and to just ‘be.’  Thoughts are like white clouds that arrive out of nowhere and you let them just pass on through neither fixating on them nor hindering them.

Well, one of those thoughts that came out of nowhere was a kid a few years older than me from the same neighborhood of Golfview woods.  Like all older kids I never had much interaction with him since you tended to stick with your own age group.  I remember he took my neighbor Terra to prom and she was a senior when I was a freshman so, a pretty big age gap there.  But then one day he started working at Raymond Golf Course doing maintenance the same as me!  I almost didn’t recognize him because he seemed so much smaller than I remembered.  In fact, I think he was the same size as me.  Usually the older kids were much bigger.  But here he was, a guy who formerly had seemed like an adult was the same size as me and we could connect and chat easily.  Unfortunately I cannot remember his name but I’m sure it will come eventually.

Anyway, this thought lead to another which is simply the memory of going to school in the morning.  The second thought is a part these mornings and tie in a bit to my point on the previous post of losing social skills as you get older.

In grade school my sister and I would walk out our door and head to the end of our court which served as a bus stop.  For the fall and spring the weather would usually be cool but you could get away with shorts and a light jacket, mine being a jean jacket in grade school.  We would stop by our next door neighbors who had kids younger than us, ring the bell and walk with them to the end of the court.

I had a friend who lived in the last house there on the corner named Matt McElheny – who I’ve mentioned before in this blog – and he started school later than us.  He would often open up his window from his bedroom and we would chat until the bus came.  I do not remember the subjects of these morning chats but like most of my vivid memories remember the ambiance and feelings that came with them.  It was on cool mornings with dew on the grass.  The birds would be singing and light would turn from dawn to the sunrise and the first few golden rays on that grass.  I wasn’t too enthusiastic about getting on that bus day after day and would have much rather spent the day playing with Matt and going on all the adventures we could have had.  It was especially hard just after summer had ended when those days of complete freedom and adventure came to an abrupt end.  Collecting golf balls from woods on or near the course and walking on the railroad tracks was replaced by sitting in chairs and having to open up books called “phonics” or having to learn long division.

As this blog attests, I enjoy looking back on my life, rediscovering old memories and of course keeping a record of it!  Well, I remembered Matt and found him on Facebook.  Now I use a pseudonym on Facebook so I could always attribute it to that when someone doesn’t accept my friend request.  They simply didn’t know it was me!  But I had our mutual friend Terry send him a friend request and he didn’t accept that either.

Perhaps he is no longer that little boy who would open up his window and chat with me?  Would he would not only keep the window shut but also close the blinds?  Well, I hope that one day we could reconnect because as I’ve said many times, I remember my past very vividly but have learned that this is a rare talent.  He was a good friend and maybe one day we’ll reconnect.

In high school the routine changed and I found I was all alone that freshman year in the mornings.  The bus stop changed from being at the corner to just down the sidewalk.  I was the oldest of all the kids waiting at the grade school bus stop so this meant I was waiting for the bus all alone that first day of high school.  Luckily I had older neighbors:  Terra who I mentioned above was a senior and her sister Jeanna was a junior!  They were getting into their car and asked if I wanted a ride since we were attending the same high school.

I was overjoyed!  I got to ride with upperclassmen to high school instead of taking the nerdy bus!  I accepted and they ended up giving me rides all year long.  So my mornings were now cutting through the dewy grass towards their place and trying not to get my shoes overly wet.  There were no morning chats with my neighbor Matt but instead I’d ring Terra and Jeanna’s doorbell and their dog Benji would bark crazily.  They’d let me in as I was always prompt but they were always running behind.  I learned senior and junior high school girls take a very long time to get ready as morning sounds were no longer birds singing but that of blow dryers, makeup opening and closing, and general shuffling around in a chaotic sort of way.

I would sit at the kitchen table petting Benji who would be quiet while I was petting him but bark wildly whenever I got up.  He never got used to me and barked at me every morning.

After that first week Terra also started to pick up her classmate Aaron Forester who needed a ride.  So there I was with three upper classmen on the way to school.  I felt so cool!

There was a problem however and that was we were always late for first period.  Now the upper classmen can get away with that but me as a freshman could not.  I racked up 7 tardy slips and even got a Saturday detention for all the tardiness.  My mom was livid and threatened to make me take the bus.  Ninety percent of the time, parents cannot understand the world of their kids and are blind to so many things.  Yes, tardiness is bad, but taking the bus is even worse!  My life was so much better by being able to ride with Terra and Jeanna to school and I would have happily gone to Saturday school every other week if it meant I didn’t have to take the bus.

I forget how it was resolved but I never had to take the bus:  I think Terra and Jeanna just learned how to get ready a tad bit more quickly.

I do remember they almost got a speeding ticket once.  We were pulled over and the cop asked for license and registration.  Terra pulled out the, “Do you know my Dad?”  He was also a police officer and really nice guy.  The cop said no and Terra let him know he was also a cop and so the cop that had pulled us over checked it out.  When he came back he let us off with a warning and that he would be informing her Dad of what had transpired.  That was fantastic!

Well, good memories and I’m glad I’ve got it written down.  I miss mornings in Golfview Woods in late autumn and spring.  The weather is cool, dew is on the grass, the robins are singing and the sky goes from a pale pinkish color to golden yellow as that first morning sun peaks over the trees.

Now, I have an ocean view but it doesn’t hold the same magic for me.  I think part of it is because I’m not a kid anymore.  But another big part of it is we either have gray or blue skies, there are no birds singing, there are no beautifully cut lawns flush with grass, the weather is always cold and the sun rises in the front of the house instead of the back where we usually are found.  Adventures have been replaced by routines, I’m not calling up friends but instead making sure to do something my kids enjoy and the feeling of a neighborhood crush or crushes has long since died.

Life is very good, I do enjoy it.  But a free day doesn’t hold the same excitement and thrill that it did when I was a kid living in Golfview Woods.

So what will we do today?  As I mentioned previously we’ll get those pumpkin seeds planted and I’m thinking we should take a trip either to the park or Fitzgerald Marine reserve.  It has been a while since we looked at the tide pools and I’d also like to use my new 360 degree camera to take a few pictures to put on Google Street View.

The time is now 7:55 AM and the rest of the house should be down in 30 minutes or so.  My morning serenity has ended and it is time to start the day.


Dragon’s Lair

I was watching Stranger Things and they had a quick cut to this old game from 1983.  This is why that show appeals to people my age (41), it reminds them of their youth.  I had forgotten all about Dragon’s Lair but was immediately transported back to the old arcade at putt-putt golf and games as well as Wyandot Lake, now Zoombezi Bay in Columbus, Ohio.  It was the first arcade game I had seen that looked so realistic, just like a cartoon!  I was captivated but at costing a dollar to play I could never spend the money.

Well, just this evening while putting away the Nintendo Switch I saw it was available as a download!  So while everyone else were brushing their teeth I used my coins which reduced the price from $20 to $10 and I bought it.  I bought it because it brings back memories and because I’m a collector of things from my past.  The wife might protest if I had asked but at $10 I’m sure I won’t get into too much trouble.

As for Wyandot Lake I have so many fond memories of that place.  At 14 years old and being too young to work my mom bought me a pass and would drop my friend Ryan and I off at Wyandot Lake all by ourselves.  It was wonderful.  We would walk around together, looking at all the girls in their swimsuits, playing arcade games, going on rides and playing putt-putt golf.  It was a magical time indeed.

As I said I couldn’t afford to play Dragon’s Lair so my favorite game was Paper Boy.  It had bicycle handles where you would steer the paper boy on his bike and deliver the paper to houses which had a subscription.  If that ever comes out on the switch I might have to do another secret purchase.

But for now, I’m finally going to get to play Dragon’s Lair to my heart’s content.  Or at least late at night when I have the Switch all to myself.

Categorized as Memories

Journal Entry – Karate and Wrestling

It is 5:51 AM and I’m up later than usual.  Yesterday I had two karate sessions making four for the past two days and I’m battered and bruised.  Surprisingly, it isn’t as bad as I had thought.  When I first began I was afraid of getting punched, kicked and fighting in class.  That fear has has decreased considerably as I’ve grown accustomed to it and my confidence has risen.  I’ve also learned that a wrestling background really helps even if it was a lifetime ago.  Seems like riding a bike to me as you never forget the basics.  We cannot use throws or grabs – which I’ve done a couple of times when a partner gets too close to the surprise of a few black belts -but it helps maintain balance, my body moves naturally and it gives a lot of confidence.

It is just by a stroke of fortune that I even began wrestling.  I had wanted to play basketball and tried out for the team in high school.  At the same time our physical education coach was having us do a week of wrestling in gym class; the physical education teacher was also the wrestling coach.  Well, it turned out that I was very good at wrestling winning all my matches except one.  I even wrote about it here in this post from 1991.  I really didn’t enjoy wrestling in gym class at all.  It was very tiring and you sweat a lot.  Well, gym was my first class of the day which meant I had to go through the rest of the day with dried sweat on me and feeling dirty.

A kid named Kalen was an upperclassman and helped Mickey our gym teacher/wrestling coach.  I remember him coming to sit by me whilst we did our sit ups in gym encouraging me to join the wrestling team.  I really didn’t want to and told him I was trying out for basketball.  He asked if I would join wrestling if I didn’t make the basketball team and I told him I’d think about it just to make him go away.  Well, I got cut and was pressured into wrestling.  That freshman year wrestling was one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through mentally.  I’ve never been a very intense, mentally tough person when it comes to physical exercise – I am much more so now but then mental toughness was non-existent.

I got through freshman wrestling with the best record and really didn’t enjoy a minute of it.  So the next year I only did a week or so then quit.  The coach and my Dad were very upset with me but I really just didn’t want to suffer another whole year.  So I spent my sophomore year hanging out with kids that didn’t do sports and that meant smoking cigarettes, playing pool, driving to scary parts of Columbus such as old graveyards in the middle of woods and things like that.  I went back to wrestling the following year as I knew it would be good for me and I realized that sports help tremendously with social standing.  Usually stories like these one is disappointed in the ‘year wasted’ but actually it was nice to rebel for a little and experience something different than just sports all the time.  My only regret was losing one year of wrestling means I ended up missing the state tournament my senior year by two points.  If I hadn’t skipped sophomore year wrestling I would have been good enough to go pretty far in the state tournament my senior year.  So yes, it would have been nice to say I made the state tournament in high school instead of losing missing it by two points but that’s life.

And so here I am, at forty years old doing something almost as strenuous as wrestling.  I never stopped lifting weights since high school (I’ve never been very intense about it either) and this pays off tremendously in karate.  It makes me feel confident, happy and young again like I did in high school.  I also love that it is something I can do with my sons and that it fits so well with who they are; this karate training is and will be part of their actual identity as it is part of their heritage; a Japanese style, in Japanese for half Japanese kids.  I love that it will give them the same confidence that I felt being being a wrestler in high school.  Hell, it gives me confidence as an adult.

Adults are supposed to be confident, have their acts together and know everything.  Well, I’m now almost 40 and I can tell you they most certainly do not!  I wrote about this too in a post back in 2004.  Many insecurities and characteristics one feels in high school just do not go away because they get older.  I thought that once you hit a magical age you become a true *adult* that is as solid and stable as a rock.  Well, there is no magical date.

For me personally the only thing that really gives me angst or wonder if I could have done better is with work.  Should I have risen higher on the corporate ladder by now or not?  Should I put more effort into that treadmill that is corporate America?  By doing karate that is answered for me and that answer is definitely not!  I get to bond with my kid, get in shape and do something I’ve always wanted to do!  It puts me in a very positive mindset and I know that whatever work situation I find myself in things will be good so long as I keep that positive mindset.

One of the meanings of life is to have experiences and trading time constantly working for more money in the belief that great experiences can be bought later is the wrong way to go about it.