I am sitting here feeling downcast and lonely and thumbing through a book of blessings, trying to accept what is about to be a monumental loss in my life. My Levis are dying.
Actually, it isn't a book of blessings but the index to a book of blessings furnished by a priest who has wisely asked that I not use his name. A Secret Priest.
My Levis are as old and worn as a rebel flag, and I have decided, under pressure, to get rid of them. I feel as though I am shooting my horse.
As I study the index, my wife, Cinelli, enters the room. She watches for a moment and then says, "You are actually going to try and get your pants blessed?" She shakes her head. "What next, bronzing your shorts?"
As she leaves the room, she says, "You make fun of Catholic blessings and you'll assure yourself a room in hell!"
"I didn't know hell had rooms," I say. "Are they anything like the rooms at the Madonna Inn?"
My Levis are on their way to denim heaven and I am seeking a decent way of sending them on their journey. Cinelli is no help. When I asked whether she felt I ought to cremate or bury them, she said, "Why don't you just eat them?"
Women don't understand the bond between a man and his jeans. It is a mother-and-child relationship. It is a boy and his dog, an octogenarian and his Viagra, an actor and his crack cocaine.
"If the cat died," Cinelli says, "you'd just dump the poor beast into a garbage can. So dump the ragged jeans, Chico."
No way, Jose.
My Levis and I have been as one for more than a dozen years. We have visited China together and Greece too. I have worn them while writing books and columns and running to the store.
"Dear," Cinelli will say, "would you and your Levis run to the store for a pound of butter? Your favorite cookies need lots of butter."
Why are men always expected to run to the store?
"I'm not running anywhere," I say in defiance.
She says, "No butter, no cookies." I love cookies almost as much as I love the Playboy Channel. So me and my Levis run to the store.
They are made of stretch denim, designated by the number 540. They stretch at the waist as the man grows. We have grown soft and loose together over the years and, well, maybe a little ragged.
I remember the first time she suggested I get rid of the jeans. "You look like a bum," she said. It was in the autumn of 1997. We were standing in line to see "The English Patient." It was 3:15 p.m. on a Thursday. Funny how one recalls precisely what one was doing at the moment of shattering events.
"When the jeans go, I go," I said bravely.
"Adios," she said.
As the seasons rolled through many autumns, the Levis aged more quickly and Cinelli became more insistent that I give up what she called my rags. At first, she said she wouldn't be seen in public with them. Then it was she wouldn't be seen in private with them.
"The Levis or your wife," she finally said. "Choose."
It does no good to argue that threadbare jeans are haute couture among certain rock stars and low-IQ actresses. Downward chic. "They pay big bucks for rags at Louis Vuitton," I say. I don't really know that, but simply invoking the name of Vuitton gives any clothing argument credibility.
She says, "Buy some new ones. They'll be rags before you know it anyhow and you can send them to Britney Spears."
It's not that easy. You can't find 540s anymore. They are as rare as virgins in Hollywood. I had to telephone Levi, Strauss & Co. in San Francisco. They referred me to a warehouse in Virginia. The warehouse tender searched through dusty stacks of jeans and found me a pair.
That was years ago, and now it's decision time. My Levis or my wife. Insiders say that Tom and Nicole split over a pair of ragged jeans. I won't let that happen. But at least I can give mine a decent funeral. I call the Secret Priest and he sends me the index to the book of blessings.
"You'll get him excommunicated," Cinelli warns.
"Then I'll hire someone to recommunicate him," I say.
I saw a priest bless a pizza oven once, so I figure why not a blessing for jeans? But there isn't one. There is a blessing for buses, gymnasiums, fishing gear, doors and even for drinks (the blessed martini?), but none for clothing.
Then, as I am almost finished going through long lists of blessings, I come across "Blessings to be used in various circumstances." Thank, God. A generic blessing.
My Secret Priest declines an invitation to participate. So I bless my Levis into their future by playing "Taps" on the harmonica. And then I take them to Goodwill, where a kind of afterlife begins. Someday I am sure they will grace the nubile body of a fat little rockin' nymphet. And even though they're no longer mine, I will be proud. I will have found them a cozy little heaven. Amen.
Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org.