I know I said a while back that it felt like I had crossed the finish line on wanting stuff. And yet, in the last six months or so I have gone on a truly ridiculous binge. Setting aside the replacement of things under warranty that were no longer working – in some cases on vehicular scale – I have gone out and bought a bunch of things that were on the frivolous list for years, things which might have previously been reconciled to the “maybe if someone gets this for me for Christmas” scale. Things like an Ebbets Field Flannels Vanderbilt jersey, or a pair of LL Bean Chelsea boots, or a couple of Yeti containers. To the point that I don’t think there’s much left on my wish list any more.
I think there are a couple different phenomena at work here. One is the whole notion of “look, we could be nuked tomorrow, why would you defer joy at this point.” I’ve been eyeing the Bean boots in some form or another for almost thirty years, an Ebbets jersey of some sort for twenty-five or more, my first attempt at Birkenstock-a-likes was in Nashville for godsakes. To some extent, going through and checking those things off is a matter of closing the loop, of collecting the trophies of a lifetime of patience and saying “screw it, treat yourself.” Jimmie Rodgers did say that money was no good until after you had spent it, for then it had furnished you and your loved ones with the fine things of life, and it’s hard to quibble with that. (More on him in a while.)
But the other stuff – like an 18 oz Yeti bottle that fits the cupholder and has a bag-safe drinkable lid option, and is dishwasher-safe and features two different California state emblems on its blue surface – feels like an attempt to purchase the artifacts of a life I wish I led and use them to try to obtain that life. I’ve never yet been able to carry a water bottle the way my wife does, but this thing seems to be close. I have a belt holster for it so that I don’t have to carry a bag to make it work, and there’s a bottle-filling fountain down the hall at work on the way into and out of the office. So long as I don’t do anything dumb like fill it with soda and pressurize it shut to the point of being inoperable, it’s good at keeping cold things cold until I drink them. And it serves as a talisman against buying something in a plastic bottle, which in turn cuts down the amount of random soda and bad things I’m likely to buy.
In a way, it feels like I’m whittling back. I have a pile of caps, but I wear maybe three of them. Everything is drunk out of the Yeti bottle or one of the two Yeti tumblers (one of which is devoted solely to coffee because of all the residue that resists any amount of hand scrubbing or dishwasher action). I wear more or less the same two pair of jeans, the same five T-shirts, the same flannel and the same work shirt, and if I could get away with it, the same pair of Birks every day. There’s actually a small pile that needs to go to Goodwill, and I strongly suspect at least half my closet could be dropped on top of it if I took out the stuff I actually wear and the stuff I actually need for future use.
Maybe I’m getting ready for a life where the can’t-part-with keepsakes live in a storage unit and the daily necessities live in a shipping container. But for now, it feels like “don’t shirk from spending the money on the one quality thing you’re going to use every day for three years running.” So bring on the 5.4” iPhone. And maybe some noise-canceling earbuds to go with it.