Cobb Manor philosophy holds that the harder one tries to hold on to sanity, the less one keeps.
Take my old friend, let’s call him Honest John. The names have been changed to protect the fastidious. HJ loves to berate and belittle me for my Huck Finn ways. HJ has piles of cash and reminds me of that fact with every phone call. He stops just short of announcing his current bank balance.
He loves the fact that I cannot stop buying (used) detective novels from Amazon.com and my walls and floors are lined with the results. He has a better house, better car, better golf clubs, better intellect and, of course, has a much firmer grip on what many people call reality. Just ask him.
The other day HJ called and mentioned that he had cleaned out his closets and divested himself of 20 vintage T-shirts and 20 dress shirts. For those keeping score, I have a dozen (wearable) T-shirts and exactly three dress shirts.
I have one ill-fitting sport jacket and no suit.
For the sake of clarity, HJ has stayed the same size since high school through good genes and a fanatical exercise routine that includes running a few marathons here and there, while I rarely leave the couch only to go on an occasional “geezer walk” with Chief Al, who is getting in shape for Afghanistan or someplace.
I have gained a whopping 10 inches around the waistline since I arrived in Maine and HJ is still wearing shirts from high school.
During this call, I inquired what the latest divestiture has left in his closet.
HJ has 60 suits.
HJ has 150 dress shirts.
HJ has 25 pairs of dress shoes.
HJ has 20 pairs of running shoes.
HJ has 150 ties (estimated).
HJ has 40 belts.
You must understand that each and every shirt, tie and suit jacket was purchased at rock-bottom prices. During his lunch hour and often on weekends, HJ would pore through the sales at area clothing stores. He might wait a week, a month or even a season to buy a particular suit. If you asked him (please don’t) he could tell you the prices of most garments, even the ones that are 20 years old.
The guest rooms in his house are packed with his clothes. The attic in his house is packed with his clothes. The cellar in his house is packed with his clothes. His wife, thank God, thinks the whole thing is amusing. His current wife, thank God, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist.
This is a man who feels compelled to give me virtually daily advice on living my life.
That is not to say that HJ is all bad. He did bring the “hop-turn” dance step to Ozzie’s rock ’n’ roll bar in Fort Myers, Fla. For a skinny guy he can hit that little white ball out of sight (which for me is about 16 feet.) And he can still recall the names of the first three firefighters through the door of the Rockland Coffee Shop when it blew up in February 1976 (Koster, Beal and Dyer).
His claim to fame — the only reason we keep him around — is that he met his beauty queen wife on the stage at the Rockland Lobster Festival when he was a reeling, leering U.S. Navy officer. She left him as soon as she could.
Despite his formidable, if Southern, education, he can be as dumb as a post or even as dumb as me. Once when I was docking the HMS Daybreak in Rockland, HJ was on the dock. I threw him a line. We both started laughing since I had not tied my line to the boat and he had not tied his end to the dock. We both held the line in our hands, laughing as the boat drifted away from the dock.
Some naval officer.
But my longest-lasting memory was the time he tried to take beer out of the refrigerator during a Cobb Manor barbecue. He not only took the beer, but mistakenly dragged out a freshly baked Blue Eyes blueberry pie, my very favorite food in this wide world.
The pie and the glass plate smashed on the floor.
The look on HJ’s face was priceless as the partygoers hooted and laughed.
And he wanted to be my latex salesman. When he gives me life advice, I tell him, when in doubt, go buy another suit — and a few ties to go with them.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.