Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Your Commander is old enough to admit openly that he has done some really dumb things in his life. Hopefully, it is constructive to openly admit to one’s youthful foolish behavior in the hope that someone can learn a valuable lesson.

Back in the mid-1960’s life was really going well for me having just been promoted to Vice-President of Midwest Sales, and awarded a seat on the company’s Board of Directors. For about ten years I had worked for a company owned and operated by one individual and I aspired to emulate him in many ways. You may remember that I have written about him in a series of stories such as Big Bill from Kansas. He was a most complex individual, but he was a real knockout when it came to his daily dress. Bill always wore beautiful silk Countess Mara ties and I hoped to someday be in a position to acquire some for my own apparel.

On my first real business trip to New York City, I was riding in a taxi into Manhattan from LaGuardia airport. In route through mid-town we were stopped in the usual heavy traffic and I spotted a huge store with the name COUNTESS MARA blazed across its marquee. Immediately I took note of the store’s location with the idea I would get back there while I was in New York sometime during the next few days.

Later in the day there was a break in our business meetings, and I was free for the next two hours before I was to join clients for cocktails at a local watering hole. Off to the Countess Mara store I shot, since it was only a couple of blocks away from company office.

Once in the store I was like a “hog in a pen of grease” with literally thousands of beautiful Countess Mara ties of every color and pattern. I do not remember seeing any price tags, and I selected a beautiful plain gold, a stunning conservative blue with stripes, and a great red patterned stunner. Off to the check-out counter I went, and damn near fell over when the sales clerk told me the total was some $80 dollars. (Today the ties go for $59.90 each or more.)

Being a real rube I’m sure there was an expression of total shock on my face, but I reached into my pocket and paid for the ties without further reaction. Once outside the store with the ties wrapped beautifully in a special Countess Mara bag I realized I only had about twenty dollars left to cover the rest of my out of pocket expenses in New York. Obviously, I should have had the smarts to tell the clerk that I would only take one tie, but I was too embarrassed to admit my foolish extravagance.

You must remember this happened back in the days when there were no sidewalk cash machines, so I was forced to cash a check back at the office much to my chagrin. That is not the end of the story, regretfully.

Remember, I was meeting clients for cocktails and dinner that evening. Returning to my hotel, I shaved and changed my shirt having traveled from Chicago very early that morning. I then decided I would wear one of my new Countess Mara ties to top off my appearance.

Our group gathered at a fancy Park Avenue French Restaurant. After ordering dinner, I excused myself to visit the “facilities”. Returning to the table the waiter had just delivered a beautiful bowl of French Onion Soup, and as I sat down, I proceeded to put the end of my brand new Countess Mara tie into the cheesy onion soup. Everyone at the table got a big laugh out of the situation, but me. All I could do was blot the tie with my napkin. The tie was never worn again, it was a total loss.

I learned two very valuable lessons that day; check the price of anything I intended to purchase, and, more importantly, I learned to be true to myself and not try to emulate someone or something that I was not. The other two ties were never worn by me, but given away as gifts. To this day I do not see a dish of French Onion Soup placed on a dinner table that this entire incident does not come back to mind, and honestly I haven’t ordered French Onion Soup since.

That is just a sample of the many valuable lessons your Commander has learned over the past 77 years. We live and learn. Isn’t life wonderful?



Ensign EP said...

Great story Commander! Haven't we all fallen victim to the appeal of a must-have item...that seems so unnecessary a few months down the road...or in your case, a few hours!

Texas Lieutenant said...

You deserve a bowl of soup! Just don't wear a tie?