Thursday, June 02, 2005


On the train this morning pondering last night's quick post about tielessness, I did a quick eyeball to see if the naked necks of Koizumi and Toyota had had any effect on the general populace and, using a very complex formula I made up myself from some old Fast-Fourier Transformations I had laying around, I calculated that the tied/tieless ratio was on the order of 50,000:1 (I never wear a tie). So much for revolution of the kind that happened more than a century ago now, when Japanese men and women threw off their kimonos en masse (what a sight!) and donned suits and dresses, mostly respectively.

This trainframe of mind (very history-evoking are trainrides, metaphoring the flow of time as we just sit there passing through) also dredged up my own singular Japan office tie experience, way back when I first began working here after coming from three years of rural freefaring in Spain and ten years of world vagabonding before that, starting from Berkeley in the early 70s, after selling my VW van/house to buy a ticket to the rest of the world.

The first day I came to the office, as I was not dealing with the public, but was working in a back office editing, I’d concluded that I didn’t need a suit or tie - which was one reason I’d chosen the job. I was dressed in my standard vagabonding garb: good boots, sturdy pants, rad but sensible shirt with strong pockets etc. Within a few days, when the folks in the office began to realize I would ALWAYS be coming in like that, the manager took me aside and as if speaking to a social radical (he was a good judge of people; unfortunately he was not such a good judge of himself and was fired a couple of years later) informed me that, as I was now a formal employee of the firm, I would be required to wear a jacket and tie to work.

But by then I’d been around the block a few times, so when I went home I dug into the lower layers of my sartorial history and came up with an heirloom I’d been unable to sell at the Alameda flea market ten years before and subsequently couldn’t part with because of the history it embodied as a relic of freer, less hung-up times: a cherry-red-and-banana-yellow paisley necktie, only eight inches wide at the bottom though it appeared to be much, much wider.

The next day to the office I wore that in a wide double-windsor over my pink shirt under my nicely faded denim jacket that had only a small hole in one elbow from that bike accident in Amsterdam, and with various hallucinogenic shirts for several days thereafter, until the manager took me aside and, cringing before my neckwear, said the only thing his dazzled mind could think of: “Do you make your own ties?”

I left the tie off from the next day on, and nobody ever mentioned the subject again.

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