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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.

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Journal

France – Journal Entry 12.18.2000

 The french trip has finally come to an end.  I now sit in Charles DeGulle Airport waiting for my flight.  I wanted to wait until I was on the plane to write but I’ve become tired of reading the paper and want to listen to my CD’s.  I can’t believe the day has finally come to go home.  It was a wonderful trip and I’m glad to have learned French.  I only wish I could have studied in a place other than Besançon although I did enjoy CLA.  So now I sit in the “satellite” station at the airport and it is cold and not very enjoyable.  The plane leaves in only an hour and a half though so I don’t have to wait much longer. 

   I actually left Besançon over a week ago to meet my sister in Paris and then we went to London. We went around and saw all the touristy things but she seemed rather melancholy the whole time.  I’m not so sure she had a good time here.  I will be glad to leave here soon. 

  So I can’t believe I am going home today. It is going to be like a dream when we finally get there.  I can’t believe I’ve been here for so long already.  It was time to go though because Besançon had become tiring.  It was time for the chapter to end and another chapter to begin.  I must continue with my life and finish my studies.  Only then can I accomplish what I set out to do. 

   I’m glad my computer still works, I put it though the scanner here at the airport.  Twice.   I used to be afraid that it wouldn’t work of one did that but no problem.  

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Journal

France – Journal Entry 12.9.2000

I am now on the train to Paris from Besancon!!  I can’t believe that I will never see that place again.  It went so fast.  Now I am going to Paris and my sister will be there at 11am tomorrow.  We are going to spend some time in London then in Paris. 

Anywho, now I am a little sick I think because of smoking and drinking.  I can’t even keep my thoughts straight now because one, I am sick and two, I can’t believe a chapter of my life has closed.  I came here to study 5 and a half months ago and now it is all over.  I can’t believe how fast it went.  I am a little sad to be leaving but on the other hand it was time.  I was so sick of that place,, the rain, nothing to do, burnt out on French. 

But it was fun.  I got up this morning after a night where I didn’t get much sleep.  I left the fridge open so the ice would melt in the freezer for Birget.  First thing I did was take a shower and start cleaning the room.  I had to pack all my last minute things and make sure I didn’t forget anything.  Then Birget came over with all her stuff and Dustin and Christy helped her.  So I sat in my room and listened to music and wrote two letters,, one to my family and one to Joobin.  I sure miss that girl.  Such a sweetheart she is.  Well, I don’t have much time to write because the stupid battery is running out thanks to this old ass computer.  It was nice listening to music for once on this train.  I still have over an hour left though and my computer will be dead.  Such a shame.  I can’t even think right now very well.  Too many feelings going on…

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Journal

France – Journal Entry 7.18.2000

Last weekend we went to Nice and Monte Carlo.  I had a very good time except for getting there.  Bill and I went to get a bite to eat first and we were supposed to meet the others at the club.  After dinner at Pizza Uno we walked to Le Fish and found the others.  We decided it would be a stupid idea to try and check our luggage in at a club so we just walked until we found a bar near the train station. 

We had the dumb idea to take a 3am train so we had to stay awake until that time.  We left the bar about half an hour early and I slept in the train station for a bit.  It brang back memories of the time during spring break in Spain when I slept in a bus station.  There is nothing worse than sleeping in a bus station!  We finally caught our train and it was really crowded so we ended up sleeping on the floor in a really narrow hallway which was no fun what so ever. 

Finally after a couple of hours some people left the sleeper cars and we were able to catch about 2 hours of sleep.  Then we arrived in Nice and found our hotel after a tiring bus ride.  The hotel was called Mr. Bed City which remained the joke for most of the trip.  The first thing we did was had lunch at an outdoor café because we couldn’t check into our hotel rooms yet. 

When we came back I took a nap for a few hours because I was so exausted from the trip.  When I awoke the others had made plans to go on a boat ride to Cannes to see the fireworks.  It was really amazing and we had a lot of fun.  After that we walked for about 2 miles to a club that was really friggin expensive.  We had a blast there though.  The next day it was off to the beach and we ran into the guys from New Jersey and sat with them a bit.  Then around 5 it was off to Monte Carlo. That place is really amazing because of all the wealth.  We all dressed up in suits and ties and the ladies wore dresses.  We wanted to find a nice place to eat but nobody could decided on where to go so we finally ended up at a modest italian place. 

Jen was really unhappy because she was cold and wanted to go somewhere nicer and it started to rain and we were outside.  I let her wear my jacket and I ordered some wine and things started to get better.  After that we went to the casinos but some people couldn’t get in because of the age restriction so it was just Bill, Jen and I.  I won four hundred francs and had a good time. Well I’ll finish the story later because I need a shower and better get to bed.

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Journal

France – First journal entry

So here I am in France!  I can’t believe it!!  Well actually it hasn’t sunk in yet.  The trip here sucked!!  I was at the airport for  2 hours.  We were supposed to be there at 1:pm but we didn’t leave until 3.  I was there for the entire time.  After we finally left the airport it took six hours to get to Paris and then we had to take numerous metros and buses to get to Lyon.  We finally got there at 10am the following morning.  Then we had to take a train to Lyon .  I never went to bed until about 12 the following night.  We finally got to the hotel and then we rested a bit.  I woke up and we went out to eat. 

I started drinking beers and convinced a few people to go out with me to a bar.  We ended up at an Irish pub then an English pub.  We had to get back to the metro before 12 because it was going to close.  We made it back and I woke up about 9am the next day.  I decided I didn’t want to get up so I ended up sleeping until 2:30 that day.  I really didn’t have anything to do because I didn’t know where anyone’s room was so I just ended up studying a bit for the exam the next day.  I met some people for the group meeting but it was pointless and we didn’t learn anything new.. Oh actually before the meeting we went to the pool with a few people but it was nothing special.  I didn’t go out that night and studied a bit for my French test. 

Today.. actually this morning we had the placement for the French program.  I did as well as could  be expected.   I placed in the 5th group which is basically where I am at.  It would have taken a lot of studying to place any higher which I could have done but wouldn’t have been comfortable with.  I am were I should be. 

So anyway we had the test this morning and we had about a 2 hour break and we just sat at a café and I got a little more confident with my French talking with the locals.  We had breakfast/ lunch then went back to the school to figure out what group we were in.  After that was done (which took forever) we had a two hour break before our class.  I rested on the floor and talked with an Italian, a Korean and an Japanese in French before I passed out for a moment. 

Afterwards we had to split up to translate our own language into French.  There were about 5 people in our group and I was in the upper half because it was a combo of groups 4 and 5 and I was 5.  It was difficult but I did OK.  I was also pretty attracted to the teacher with her short skirt and little frenchie attitude.  I think I’m going to like French.  She was really cool but it’s hard to think about the language when you’re thinking about sex all the time. 

After that, I finally made it back to the residence, and we made spaghetti about 10 of  us.  We bought plenty of wine and had plenty of spaghetti and had a good time.  We ended up playing cards in Jen’s room and talking about everything.  Things are going well, but it’s still early for me to  be comparing anything to Spain!!  Viva Espana… I’m trying so hard to not compare but it’s hard.    I love Spain and even want to start crying when I think about it.  But I’m here now and have to concentrate on the here and now.  I’m learning French and am going to get in contact with Renne and Annabelle soon.  It’s so amazing, that I was so bored in the US and here I am in France all of a sudden and don’t know what to do with myself.  Things just go by so quickly!!!  

This journal is going to be my best friend for the next few months because it is the same one I used in Spain and now I’m all alone with it again.  Life just goes so quick.  I’m so blessed to be doing this yet I miss my Spain!!!  I’m not going to think about it though.  I’m going to give this a chance before I start to cry remembering the best time of my life.  This is a new best time of my life and I’m not going to let it slip by.  Spain was so fucking awesome though.   I’m not thinking about that right now.  I’m in the here and now and don’t live in the past!!!  Well It’s late and I really don’t have much else to say. I’m going to smoke a cigarette and listen to my music for a bit.  I already miss my cozy apartment and life already..  It was so easy there yet I was bored.  Now everything is flipped turned upside down and I’m in a new world!!!  It’s amazing.. Vive le France….  Ouiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee…