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Jacket Journey: A Memoir with Fades by Sean G. Meggeson

Updated: Jun 24

When I was a kid on a family trip to Florida, we went shopping at a very nice department store where I saw a jacket. It was on a mannequin in the center of the men’s department. It was a simple beige windbreaker with a stand-up collar. A G9, or a Harrington, I would come to realize years later.

I said to Ma that I really wanted that jacket. I couldn’t say why it was so important to me, but it very much was. I don’t remember exactly what Ma said, but the upshot was, “Not today.”

With that rejection, a life-long process of unresolved grieving and ongoing psycho-

spiritual searching began. A jacket journey, initiated on a sunny Florida day amid the clean, white and pastel luxuries of the super-early 1980’s—a moment in time after the last Sex Pistols concert, and before AIDS, after Bonanza, before Miami Vice.

Despite my Ma’s nope, I tried for what felt like an eternity to convince her to get the jacket for me. To find the same jacket back home, somewhere in Toronto. Anywhere. She was cruelly resolute. I think she either wanted to project her own lack onto me, or teach me a punitive Jewish-Zen lesson that less is more when one is consumed by desire. But any Jew-Zen Master will tell you, desire loves a lack.

My grandmother took mercy on me, eventually getting me a similar jacket, but it just wasn’t the same. The stand-up collar was too tall and the body of the jacket too puffy. Everyone made a big deal out of my finally getting The Jacket. I played along and acted grateful. I wasn’t.

Even as a kid, I knew that jacket represented more than what it was, an interplay between

jacket, body, identity, and self-acceptance.

My jacket, The Jacket, all the jackets. Jaket, jaquet, Jacques, Jake, James, Jimmy.

Jimmy Dean’s red Baracuta G9 in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Rage, passion, gore. If I

were ever lucky enough to drive a ’49 Mercury Coup, I would find me a nice red G9 and

pop the collar.

Jimmy Dean, who perfectly plays tortured Jim Stark, looks viciously stunning in that jacket—his collar is at times spread like winged lips, at other times, the collar masks his own red lips, the viewer’s imagination making them seem somehow more red. But, I’m a bit off track. While I really want my journey to start with the end of what went down at

Griffiths observatory in Rebel, that tragic ending is only a prototype—only a metaphysical preparation.

The Herrington I saw in FLA was placed as a psychic necessity in me by Happy Days character, Arthur Fonzarelli (1974-1984).

The series’ early Fonz is a soft-spoken outsider, elegiac in tone and presence. And he initially wears a beige Harrington jacket, a McGregor Drizzler. No sign of his leather aviator jacket which in later episodes was to take on pseudo-archetypical powers akin to the shield of Achilles.

The early Fonz spoke to something lonely in me. He was a cheeseburger and fries Zen poet greaser who hung out with the nice kids. They idealized him for his prowess with

amorous female acquirement, but they would probably never sit down with him for

Christmas dinner. Sadly, such a Christmas dinner did happen season 2, episode 11! Yup,

Richie Cunningham had to save The Fonz from his loneliness.

What an unstoppable, rigorous sellout The Fonz of the later seasons proved to be,

culminating in the idiotic apotheosis of his jumping the shark. Who can forget the image

of The Fonz, unforgivably shaky and goofy-looking on two water skis, dressed in jeans-

shorts and a waistline life jacket over—dig this—his leather jacket?!

Regardless, I hold onto the early Fonz’s McGregor Drizzler. It was cool and real. It

communicated self-confidence. If only I had been able to channel this kind of confidence

in grade school.

Grade school. That time I was sent to a private “special school,” which in those days, would have been colloquially whispered as “retard school.”

I don’t mind the word “retard” as it literally means “to be delayed,” and I consider such

an evaluation outside the realm of ethical concerns, seeing no need for sensitive nomenclature.

Besides, I couldn’t read or write in grade three, people; I was delayed.

My mother threw me into the retard bin with all the other retards. There was nothing about the school I liked, except chicken ‘n rice lunches on Thursdays. The teachers were shockingly impatient considering they worked with retards. The other retard kids were cruel. They didn’t like me, and I probably wasn’t all that friendly, being in retard school and all.

One day, I decided to comfort myself by wearing my beloved Happy Days t-shirt. It had a photo of the cast on the front, with the Fonz front-and-center, leaning against his Triumph

Trophy TR5 wearing a McGregor Drizzler with the collar popped up. The best. Well, those kids might not have been too good with basic academics, but they excelled in savaging any sign of weakness or difference in me.

I was in short, ruthless order, bullied and ridiculed—for what? Loving something that mattered to me, which meant it was something they could crap all over.

Sean-the-Pawn (as I was called) didn’t exactly go to school with nothing on, but Sean-the-Pawn never wore, spoke or thought anything Happy Days for a long time to come. The early Fonz, and everything he could have represented to me, was seemingly eradicated. Doubly so, by both the ascension of clown Fonz, and by the sadistic applications of my fellow retards.

This is where time makes a jump in my jacket journey. From Grade 3 onwards, I was clearly PTSDed out of my Happy Days days, and while I (barely) learned to read and write, 20 years flew by without my investing much into any kind of jacket at all. I floated from nothing jacket to nothing jacket. Until 1994, when Pulp Fiction hit cinemas like a wet fist making contact with someone’s self-satisfied, retard face.

To put all this into jacket terms will take some explaining.

No one—not one single character—in Pulp Fiction wears a legitimately cool jacket. Don’t believe me? Go watch it again and take note. In fact, my theory is that Tarantino consciously went out of his way with the costume department to kibosh any kind of jacket that came close to cool. Tellingly, Taratino’s own character, Jimmie, wears a house robe (maybe an homage to the female apron worn over a suit by Jimmie Stark’s father, Frank in Rebel). Tarantino clearly wanted the film’s coolness to come from somewhere more ironic than iconic jacket symbolism. Consequently, it was the absence of the “cool jacket” that made me unaware, thereby prepping me me for an epiphanic moment that comes near the end of the film when Vincent and Jules are held up at the diner by Pumpkin and Yolanda.

We all remember the scene: Jules has Pumpkin under the gun while Yolanda is going ape-

shit. Jules says, “Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We’re gonna be like three Fonzies. And

what’ Fonzie like?” Just like you and I, Yolanda knows what’ Fonzie like, and she says so. Jules affirms Yolanda’s answer with a word everyone knows but no one expected Jules to say: “Correct-amundo!” I didn’t have words for it at the time at 25, but even thinking on it now, 30 years later, that moment brings tears to my eyes. It’s like thinking on reunions of old friends, of lost dogs found.

Remember, Jules has decided at this point in the film to quit working for Marsellus so he can “walk the earth” like Caine in Kung-Fu. Jules, in the process of trying not to get his brains blown out—or to blow out Pumpkin’s brains—references a then-20 year old TV character who, once-cool, became laughable. But to me, the character still unconsciously retained the impact of his original coolness, even if the -amundo was more of a product of the histrionic Fonz, and/or a half-ironic allusion on Taratino’s part whereby the coolness of Jules was intended to re-vitalize the Fonz’s long-lost coolness.

All I needed was some kind of sign to trigger change. We have to keep an eye out for signs, and we also have to interpret them accordingly, personally—and then respond to them. Remember: the Oracle of Delphi is tricky, only does one-third the work. Ask Oedipus. Better yet, ask the Oracle.

That day in 1994, sitting in a mall movie theatre in Denver, I knew it was time to embrace what I lost in grade 3; and, like Caine in Kung Fu, I had been exiled to walk the earth, but as great spiritual seekers like Kwai Chang Caine and Jules Winnfield helped me understand, that walk is not a walk of shame, rather it’s a liberating search for something more, something ineffable.

When do we finally embrace this authenticity, this elusive more-ness? Vincent asks how long Jules will walk the earth, Jules says, “If it takes forever, I’ll wait forever.”

So, a confluence of connections brought me back to something that mattered to me since

grade 3. A jacket journey that allowed me to grieve, grow and live life more fully, and at times, more lightly. At times, with a lot less alcohol and self-destructiveness.

I believe there is something archetypal to the human need for just-right duds that relates

to self-identity and spiritual being. In this sense, the jacket is innately interwoven with our psycho-geo-spiritual-social existence. No one really ever feels right in their body, but don’t tell me we can’t feel a little better about ourselves wearing the right jacket? Don’t tell me you never wanted to find that perfect leather jacket. Maybe a broken-in biker number, like the one Max Rockatansky wears fighting off bikers in Mad Max (1979), or the fragmented version of the same jacket he wears in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) where he’s in the post apocalyptic badlands running from The Humungus. Don’t tell me that such a jacket isn’t part-and-parcel of your archetypal ascension into the drifting sands of Valhalla.

So, if you agree with me, go ahead, start searching for your perfect jacket. Not easy. I mean, to find that just-right jacket to help you on your finally feels-like-I-have-an-integrated-self kinda way. We need a certain type of jacket as a kid, we don’t get it, and then become compelled to search for it the rest of our lives.

We need that search. We lose ourselves, like Jules knew, if we don’t search. It’s not a

frivolous search motivated by commercialism, but a legit search for authenticity. I intuited this at 16 when I wrote my first consciously creative words, a poem that ended with something like: “…and we’re finally dressed in the clothes we like…” The “finally,” I know now, never really comes, and accepting—and living with it—is the only way to go.

A little advice I wish someone had told me when I was 16: living in-your-self is like monkey-hanging from the jungle-gym—hang on long as you can. You’ll eventually begin to slip, and you will lose it.

But, jump up, kid. Try again.

Coda—A Panegyric to Denim Jackets

My devotion to denim has to do with teleological questions. Denim is a living, beautifully

fading, beautifully dying thing. As we wear it to death, we too have to come to terms with

our own death. There is something downright mystical about having a long-term relationship with a pair of, say, Iron Heart 25oz selvedge denim straight cut jeans, seeing and feeling them form, fade, and breakdown. There are international contests that seek the perfect fade. Maybe one day there will be funeral rites for denim, too.

The denim jacket is an essential outcropping of my jacket journey. How much time have I spent sun-fading my Iron Heart 21 oz Japanese selvedge type III 1946 Rider’s Jacket? How much desire have I directed toward the softening of the front pleats of my Mister Freedom SC66 denim Ranch Blouse?

Even as I write this, I am about to go out and walk the early summer shores of Lake Huron in my TCB Jeans S40’s jacket, a Japanese re-creation of the original classic. It’s handmade by Hajime Inoue who describes the S40 as being “full of sketchy work and far from perfect finish but […] full of history and story behind [sic].” Perfect imperfection. Let the fades behind begin.

Walking around in my TCB, I’m present and calm today. Just a passing thought: I could really die in this jacket today.

The waves are slow; it’s warming up.

I look around and can see the common grackle is predominant here on the south-east part

of Lake Huron. It’s a bit of a bully with the other birds, but its handsome, black body with iridescently blue-not-blue-amethyst-black-blue head is mesmerizing, always changing. Depends on the light.

This morning, there’s lots of it.

Bluewater, Ontario
Author Sean G. Meggeson

Sean G. Meggeson lives in Toronto, Canada, where he works as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He has written and lectured on such topics as Lacan; James Joyce, neurodiversity, and interspecies

intersubjectivity. Sean has poems in A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Blaze Vox, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, and others. Poems forthcoming in Misery Tourism, June, 2024. He wishes he had a crisper moustache.


X: @lippykookpoetry


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