Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obit for the Metro Man

A local real estate developer, politician named Robert Barnstone committed suicide this week. He was 61. His wife of 40 years was an editor of Texas Monthly and he counted many fine writers as good friend. Consequently, I was looking forward to his obituary and it did not disappoint.


Without quoting too much from it, let me say that it captured the essence of the Austin Metro Man. The kind of guy who in a less enlightened time would have been presumed gay because his taste was so good. The kind of guy who lived for high rise condos and was an expert in musical theatre and archery. But the most compelling part of the obituary referred to his sartorial splendor. Here, I will quote, because the prose deserves to be remembered.


“His sartorial experiments-vintage Boy Scout campaign hats, black velvet sports jackets, fashion forward clodhoppers, and disposable Japanese jeans-were noted less for their success than for their exuberance.”


Now Barnstone was about 5 foot 2 in a pair of “clodhoppers”, fashionable or otherwise. I have been trying to imagine him walking down Congress Avenue wearing a vintage Boy Scout Campaign hat and black velvet sports jacket. It would probably not be the best image for the Boy Scouts of America. But then again, I never understood the lure of those round broad brimmed hats that make every Scout Master a human reminder of Smokey the Bear.


As I have explained in these pages before, my obituary is very important to me. Sort of a last shot that less prescient people than myself often forget to take. Reading the Barnstone obit amused me in that I wondered what anyone would chose to write about my particular sartorial splendor. I think that the following might be used.


“ His sartorial style was known more for its terrifying redundancy than for its distinction. He  owned  twenty five pairs of Academy walking shorts, of which he wore the same two every day of his life. His dress shirts were an amazing array of white with small red spots which had been transferred there through over exuberant experiences with Pico de Gallo and pasta sauces. He had over 20 suits, of which no more than three fit at any particular time in his life. As casual wear he preferred to don golf shirts from different time share resorts he had obligingly purchased from Rumanian salesmen over the course of his legal career. The T-shirts which he wore each morning to walk his beloved dog Amber were known and admired all around the block for their faded humorous statements( “Old guys rule “ ) and stretches around the mid-section. He never went to a ball  park without buying a cap, and he never wore the purchased cap again unless he found it rummaging through the trunk of his car and managed to bend it back into good enough shape to fit on his pointy gray head. Like the pig of song and lore, his shoes were a “terrible disgrace” and his woven belts were each frayed to perfection at points where they could almost, but not quite, be hidden behind the belt loops of his pants. His penchant for wearing a pair of socks each day, one black and one navy blue ,was a tribute not only to his poor eye sight, but to his refusal to be hemmed in by fashion’s dictates, need for peer approval, or even good common sense. He will be missed by all whom he made feel better about their shoe shine each and every day. “


That’s how I want to be remembered.


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