Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Bi-Fold

I had to say goodbye to a dear friend last week. After JB washed my wallet, I held out hope that it could be saved. But after drying it carefully, it soon became apparent by the way it started disintegrating into tiny crumbs of leather that it was a goner.

It took me a long time to find that wallet. I still remember that day three, maybe four years ago, as clearly as if it was yesterday. Absently trolling through the Marshall's bargain bin, I didn't choose my wallet, it chose me. Like a pound puppy.

I'm kind of particular about wallets. And keys. Anything I have to carry in my pockets really. Maybe it's my gay side trying to make sure my jeans look right. I'd rather have visible panty lines than obvious pocket protrusions.

But mostly when I think about pocket cargo, I think about my dad. If I have to share any traits with my father -- and everyone says I do -- it's definitely not going to be this one.

My dad always -- from my earliest memories of him to some of my last -- carried more keys than a janitor. And his keys had more rings than the Olympics. I can still picture him reaching into his pocket, fishing around for the rabbit's foot, and pulling out the endless chain of keys like a campy birthday clown performing a magic trick. I'm guessing there were at least fifty keys in his pocket at any given time. I can't imagine he even had that many locks.

It was easy to get into trouble as a kid, because I could always hear Dad coming. And I could tell from the tone and jingle pattern if he was in a hurry or just strolling casually, allowing me to accurately estimate the urgency required to re-stash his Penthouse or pistol and assume an innocent demeanor.

He carried other things beside keys. There was the "lucky rock" he found in his youth on the shore of Lake Superior. A smooth shiny agate. I don't know if it was smooth and shiny when he found it, or if it turned that way after decades of tumbling in his pants. And always a cigarette lighter. Nothing as sentimental as the rock, just a disposable Bic. A swiss army knife. And a handful of things that served no obvious purpose, but that he knew he'd need the minute he threw them away.

In contrast, I carry the minimal about of keys I need for the current task at hand, adding or removing keys as necessary to the small flexible chain. (A metal keyring doesn't collapse right in the pocket.) I despise today's bulky electronic car keys.

And then there was Dad's wallet. More of a filing cabinet really. I still don't know how he could sit on that thing for so many years without suffering some sort of incapacitating back problem. But I don't think his generation took their posture as seriously as ours, bending over for semiannual scoliosis screenings like it was the gonorrhea of grades K-thru-8.

So now my search begins for a new wallet. My needs are deceptively simple: A bifold (triflolds need not apply) just large enough to fit a few bills of US currency and about six plastic cards, including my driver's license. I don't need a fancy laminated ID flap for my license, I'm not an FBI agent or Doctor Who.

I don't carry photos in my wallet. (And really, who does anymore?) Any sort of photo album had better be removable, because it would go straight in the bin. And please, no zippers, hidden pockets or any other bulk-enhancing fanciness.

Wish me luck.


  1. I didn't choose my wallet, it chose me. Like a pound puppy. I was going to go 'Harry Potter' and say 'the wand chooses the wizard....'.

    A relative of my father always carried a TON of keys. Every key known to mankind. It got to the point my dad called him "Louis, the keymaker", even to his face.