Adulthood, Danner Boots, and Quality Notebooks

Things I like about being a grown-ass woman (by “grown-ass” I mean “over 30”):

– eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Get up in the middle of the night and eat pickles; no one dares tell you not to. Miso soup at breakfast at 6 a.m.? No problem. So much of my childhood revolved around me wanting food and it not being time for food. Not criticizing my parents–I think this is how most (privileged) childhoods are, and indeed, should be, as, left to my druthers, I would have eaten constantly and indiscriminately

– way less screaming and fighting in my life than when I was a child of 20. My primary mode used to be “fighting” and that is crazy to me

– can get a dog if I want to. Yes, of course we always had dogs growing up but still

– don’t have to obsessively exercise anymore at my mom’s behest. Thank you mom for implanting (mostly) healthy ideas about diet and exercise in me but I am just not like you; I just don’t want to go for a 20 mile cross-country ski in a blizzard and then two hot yoga classes. Now I don’t have to! Except when I visit. MY HOUSE MY RULES


– not having roommates. This is really number one. NEVER AGAIN. Some sort of bolshevik revolution would have to happen before I’d have a roommate again. I’d rather live in an airstream trailer on the side of the street. I’d rather swim across the English Channel. I’d rather gnaw off my own arm.

– cocktails

– married life

– not being embarrassed to eat alone at a restaurant

– not being embarrassed to go out in public looking seriously like a crazy shut-in

– having a real job I care about

Things I don’t love about being a grown-ass woman:

– impending death

– weird body problems of the perimenopausal

– saying things like “nine o’clock? AT NIGHT? Are you CRAZY” when people invite me to things

– worrying that I may have “corns”; too scared to google

– 2 drink maximum

– boobs sagging–I thought this would be a benefit of being an A cup but alas

– getting creepy “old lady teeth”; buying electric toothbrush

– optometrist saying I’m too old for Lasik

– parents becoming old is very sad

Yesterday we went on a shopping spree. We ordinarily are really grim humorless Marxist intellectuals who spend all our money on books and fancy dog food but every once in awhile we give in to the powerful cultural urges of our time and we drop a bunch of cash on consumer products.

First, though, we met my old college boyfriend and his wife for coffee, which was a delight. In fact I’m going to add to the first list: “hanging out with old boyfriends and talking about the nineties and it being a delight.” He looks exactly the same; I would’ve known him anywhere. Same old cool dude and his nice wife! I was ashamed by how often they go on vacations together. You’d think being an adult would mean going on vacations but all we do on our off time is continue to do our work and talk about how stressed out we are. WE ARE STUPID. GO TO A GODDAMN CABIN AT THE COAST FOR TWO NIGHTS, IT’S BASIC. Or even, I would literally be thrilled by a “staycation” that involved ONLY shutting our computers for 24 hours. To be fair, academia IS one of those jobs that never stops, because most of it happens inside your brain. A very hard job to “leave at the office.” But still. I’m really behind on my contemporary fiction. I want to go to Hawaii and eat a pineapple.

Anyway, we me them downtown because my old man had a date with Katy to go shopping for Danner boots. He first got this idea during Jon Glaser’s Bridgetown set two years ago where he kept doing this running bit about his Danner boots. “It’s a solid boot!” Turns out, this is true, what an incredible boot. Normally I don’t buy new leather because of animal rights but I might make an exception, if Danner makes small enough boots for dwarven lady feet (with corns on them). My old man NEVER buys clothing of any kind. He has three shirts he’s had for years. Every once in awhile he’ll grudgingly let his mom take him to H&M and get him a sweater but that’s pretty much it. This would be fine, except that he also complains ceaselessly about the state of his wardrobe. So I think the experience of spending so much money on such a solid boot really shook off his ascetic Marxist torpor and suddenly he was trying to get me to spend $390 on a casual summer dress in one of these neo-Portland Kinfolk boutiques where there’s like a piece of wood tied to a piece of yarn and the price tag is like “$224” and you’re like “is this a joke” and anyway I was like WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY HUSBAND!

My only point is that he was so exhilarated from the Danner boots that when we passed a sexy underwear store clearly catering solely to attractive young gay men he didn’t hesitate when I said he should go in there and buy some new underwear because they were having a sale. If you saw the state of his underwear you would be APPALLED. I told this also to the foxy young salesman who was telling us about bamboo fiber. I don’t think he understood what I was talking about.

It’s sad that straight women and gay men go out of their way to adorn themselves in fine quality underwears, in order to appeal to the demanding, omnipresent, T.J. Eckleburg-like sexual male gaze of their partners, but, in my experience at least, straight men would as soon wrap their nether regions in an old plastic bag or half a t-shirt as invest one second of time or energy in thinking about getting some nice undies. If we straight women ever want to see a shapely butt or junk encased in attractive boxer briefs we are out of luck, until somebody’s mother finally gets him a 12-pack of Hanes for Christmas. To be fair my own old man is un-moved also by fancy lady underwear and consequently my own underwear situation is nothing I would brag about, BUT, at least there are not huge gaping holes in everything, for Pete’s sake.

So he bought an expensive pair of underwear made from beechwood pulp or something. He said the men working in there must have thought we were idiots and I think this is probably true, but another thing to put in the first list up there is “not really caring very often if a young stranger thinks you’re an idiot”

It is crazy what clothing costs. You get so used to Goodwill and H&M you forget. How dare you charge $190 for this wholly unremarkable shirt. In the catalogue even it’s just called “SHIRT.” It’s one thing if it’s some handmade nonsense created in a medieval Italian village by the twelfth generation of artisan who makes that kind of fiber but give me a break, this is Banana Republic, you know a robot made this shit, or some sort of sweatshop orphan. Don’t act like this shit is such high quality!! You know you can only wear it like 6 times before it starts unravelling or gets all pilled or you spill chocolate all over it!!!!!!!!

Then there is this other level of clothing, like a Danner boot, that is a lifetime purchase, though, which makes its price tag reasonable. I fully expect my old man to still be wearing these boots when he is all gnarled and hunched over and I have to pluck long white hairs from his ears every morning to make him presentable. This kind of product is a product from another age, where workers were actually invested in and proud of the outcome of their labor. Henry Ford, what an asshole! Wartime productivity my butt. People used to pass boots down from generation to generation! You can’t do that with a pair of Payless boots, first of all, but you ALSO can’t do that with, I don’t know, a pair of manolo blahniks, because even if they are higher-quality in terms of manufacturing (which I somewhat doubt, anyway, frankly), they are products that exist in that dominating sphere of contemporary production that is solely based in fashion, which, under our current cultural regime, means turnover is getting faster and faster. So your granddaughter will find those manolo blahniks hilarious because there’ve been approximately 10,000,000 dramatic changes in fashion between their time and hers. A Danner boot is relatively timeless–look at their main style today and compare it to a vintage pair from 1970 and you will not see much difference, certainly not aesthetically. It’s of a different production model, a pre-Fordist one I would argue. So for a Danner boot to cost that much seems fully reasonable. The kind of boot that has a lifetime warranty. Yes, that should be an expensive boot. Whereas there is no way I’m gonna be handing down my J Crew herringbone slacks to my granddaughter. Goddamn, now I’m mad

Along these same lines (shopping spree; quality vs. crap products and their relationship to our cultural moment), we also went to Powells where a few weeks ago my old man had seen the most spectacular notebook ever made, and we each bought two of them.

A word on academic life, with regard to notebook usage. I can’t speak for everyone, but in this household, I swear we go through notebooks, pens, and post-its like a Mormon family goes through cartons of milk. And the thing is, when you’re writing in notebooks with pens for so much of your life, it actually makes a big difference in terms of your enjoyment of that activity if the pens and notebooks are classy. You try to inject some aesthetic, sensual pleasure into an ephemeral intellectual practice, because you aren’t a monster, you want to enjoy your life. For a long time I had a good thing going with these Uniball roller pens, medium-point, blue ink, real heavy in the hand. They were expensive but it was really worth it. And for notebooks my jam was a 5-subject full-size Mead deal, very cheap but aesthetically exactly what I wanted. But then somewhere along the line in the mid 2000s, notebook companies all started perforating their pages as a given, and you can no longer really find a decent non-perforated standard school-supply-style notebook. I dislike perforated pages for a couple of reasons:
– I am VERY HARD on my notebooks; they go everywhere with me; they get jammed down in various bags; I never close them–they’re always just open to whatever page I’m working on. This means that when said notebook has perforated pages, basically all the pages get torn out during the notebook’s lifetime
– adding the perforation adds a not-insignificant fraction of an inch to the width of the notebook, which is just enough to make it unwieldy and floppy in a way that I don’t like

So my Mead notebooks were discontinued, and then my Uniballs were discontinued!! This is something to put in list #2, above: “you finally settle on a product you like and then it gets discontinued.” This, as I mentioned above, is a feature of life in postmodern neoliberalism, where everybody needs to “innovate” all the time. Like it’s lame or a marker of an inability to flexibly adapt if you just keep making the same goddamn pen for 50 years. Whereas in my opinion a far preferable way of organizing production is the “if it ain’t broke” model. I was born in the wrong age, I swear.

So now for a couple of years I’ve been adrift, without my box of good pens and my stack of reliable notebooks, and I really think I’ve become more disorganized as a result.

Now that I’ve been an academic for nine years (!!) a new problem has reared its head, which is that you fill up these notebooks and then you have no real way of remembering what’s in all of them. Now you have 20 notebooks on your shelf, each of them filled with a variety of things–syllabus notes; reading notes; conference notes; revision notes; reading notes split up over multiple notebooks because it’s taking you so long to get through Capital; etc. Confronted with an undifferentiated row of spiral-bound notebooks, one quickly loses one’s courage when it comes to finding something you vaguely remember writing down four years ago.

So, upon realizing this, I switched to this cheap sketchbook I get at Blick, which is hard-bound and thus has a spine where presumably one could put a masking tape title when one had filled up the notebook. So at least some general parameters of what’s in said notebook could be indicated. But the Blick spine is all nobbly and tape won’t stick to it, so I’m back to square one, EXCEPT one thing the Blick move helped me realize is that I prefer a blank page rather than a lined page, because I draw a lot of arrows and boxes and I also just like the way a blank page feels.

Keep in mind during all these years my old man is going through his own notebook drama. His needs and desires are different from mine (he likes a lined page; he likes a cheapo ballpoint (although excuse me but I keep finding my good pens squirreled away in his desk); he needs a different notebook for taking notes on films) but at bottom we both have the same need, which is to find a reliable, pleasurable notebook situation that makes us feel secure in the knowledge that we can find shit years down the line if we need to, and that also satisfies our desire to still have aesthetic, sensual pleasure in our work.

The notebook he saw at Powells is OF COURSE made by a German company (or Swiss, I actually forget, either way those people know how to make a nice product), called Leuchtturm 1917. It’s got a medium-thick cover, in between hard- and soft-bound, like a Moleskine. At 249 pages, it’s slightly thinner than I would like but I am fine with it. It’s thread-bound, which means it opens FLAT–crucial for reading notes! Its paper is classy so you can use your good wet pen and it won’t bleed through. And it has a little pocket where you can stash your post-its. But check this out:
– comes with stickers for labeling the spine and cover once you’ve filled it up
– NUMBERED PAGES!!! Just a few weeks ago I tweeted asking if anyone knew of a blank notebook with numbered pages, now here one falls into my damn lap from the bounty of Powells. Many’s the time I’ve been 130 pages into a notebook and wanted to refer back to something from page 34 or whatever, and been unable, and unwilling to write in my own page numbers, plus that looks sloppy
– and finally, it has a TABLE OF CONTENTS in the front, so when you’ve filled it up you can go back and actually indicate what notes can be found where, thanks to page numbers

When my old man first came home with the wild tale of this notebook, I asked him, “is there a blank version that still has the page numbers and everything?” He said he didn’t know, because, as previously noted, he prefers lined. Yesterday, after the joy of investing in a solid pair of Danner boots, we went to Powells to pick up a supply of these notebooks, and discovered that YES, THEY DO MAKE A BLANK ONE.

It is so satisfying to discover a company that has actually thought about the experience of using its product, instead of just churning some random shit out based solely on cost-benefits analysis or like, hey, we have this sodium sludge byproduct left over from making some other product, and the FDA says it’s safe to eat, lets invent Cheetohs or Triscuits or whatever and sell them to these stupid idiots who are our consumers. The people who designed this goddamn notebook actually thought about what someone might plausibly want to use the notebook for, and all the tiny yet crucial details that would put this notebook above the competition. Who would ever imagine needing page numbers and a table of contents in a blank book?? Most blank books, I wager, are purchased for half-hearted use as dream journals. But this company thought beyond those horizons.

It is no accident that both Danner and Leuchtturm are ancient companies by today’s standards. Danner was founded in 1932 and Leuchtturm, as its new name suggests, in 1917. Danner still makes the boot that was its very first product line. Before World War II! Notions of quality and of products standing the test of time seem to prevail in these little pockets of corporate capitalism and to them I say: good show!

Now to fill this thing up with ramblings about postmodernism. “Honey where did I write down that thing about high modernism’s co-optation by fascist myth-making?”

You know what else? This summer it only took me 3 days to realize I need to take a break before digging into my to-do list or else I will get depressed and time will be wasted. Last summer it took A MONTH. So I am learning. In conclusion, I am not wearing a bra and I am going to band practice and I am not doing any work.

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5 Responses to Adulthood, Danner Boots, and Quality Notebooks

  1. dv says:

    Oh God. Roommates. I would sooner have the government ration one meal and one bottle of water to me per day than live with roommates again. It’s one of my biggest worries, that we’ll end up unable to make mortgage payments and have to move a roommate into our house :( PLEASE NO.

    I laughed out loud so hard when you said he got the idea for buying Danner boots from Jon Glaser’s set, because it was a very funny set and also because it was like two years ago, so it’s hilarious to think about it sitting around in his mind for that long. Just every few days, a thought bubble with Danner boots appearing over his head for a moment. It must have felt like a real accomplishment to manifest them.

    • Yours Truly says:

      ha ha ha!!!!! I know, it’s so true. Danner boots would come up periodically over the past 2 years (always followed by exclamations of “It’s a solid boot!”) but just recently he decided to make it manifest. The waters of our consciousnesses are deep and tricksy

  2. Mary R says:

    True analogy with Mormons and their milk. Bravo.

  3. Rebo says:

    I love UnderU4Men! Last year, they had a booth at the Pride festival with lots of stuff on sale.

  4. Drea says:

    I would like to add that gay women also exist, and often wear spectacularly attractive undergarments.

    Also, I bought a Leuchtturm notebook in Berlin and I love it!

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