Permanent Resolutions

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I recognize that New Year’s Resolutions are contrived, often bound to fail, and to the extent they’re valuable should not be limited to a once-a-year endeavor. Why not start them in March or June or on a random Thursday in October? Just like a date to meet for coffee can be replaced by going somewhere and just eating a bunch of caramels, there’s nothing magical about January 1.

Nevertheless, being a good lemming, I’ll go along with the rest of you and start fresh for 2019. No, it won’t be going to the gym more, or eating better, or working diligently for world peace. I typically come up with both serious and semi-serious goals that are more distinctively my own. As you may recall, in past years I’ve vowed to “watch more tv” and “lose friends” and “be more present,” and I’ve been semi-successful at all of them (including one of the NSFW vows that I referenced at the end of 2016). It’s not always complete or immediate, but I have worked at all of them — even last year’s promise to get better with my electronics.

Usually my goal reflects either some past failure, or some realization about the year gone by. This time, it’s the residue of crass consumerism.

If you’ve met me or seen me, you probably know that fashion is not high on my list of priorities. While I’ll spend lots of money on a new rainsuit or pair of boots to keep my feet warm, that reflects my preference for function over frills. I have dozens of shirts, hats and jackets, most of them free, and I get my pants at the outlet stores, Wall-Mark or the Red Dot Boutique. When I have to buy a suit or tie for work, the expenditure gives me no pleasure at all. While I’d like to say my wardrobe demonstrates my thriftiness and lack of pretense, I’m sad to say that it also reflects a sense of disposability. When you can get a shirt or a pair of socks for only a few bucks, there’s no inherent value in them.

Tear your shirt? Put it in the rag pile.

Socks get a hole in them? Throw ‘em out.

If items start at a low price and then get devalued with age, there’s even less incentive to keep them around, and I fear that this attitude infects other aspects of our lives. It’s not just possessions that become disposable, but also feelings, morals and people (see, “lose friends,” above).

That’s why my most important purchase of 2018 was not a fishing lure, or my new boat, or a tie, but rather my Filson Tin Cloth jacket. I’d wanted one for decades, but couldn’t pull the trigger given what seemed to be an exorbitant price. Then I found myself in Seattle in September and made a trip to the Filson factory and flagship store. I knew what I wanted, and despite hesitating for a brief moment once again due to the price tag, I quickly told the clerk to ring it up, wrap it and ship it.

The ease of that decision was facilitated by the fact that they made the jackets right there – in the United States, in the same city where they’ve been operating since 1897, by craftsmen (not 8-year-olds in third world countries with a needle and thread). If you’re there during business hours, you can even watch your garment or bag being made to know that no corners were cut. The relationship between the goods I buy and the people who make them is usually far more attenuated than that.

An even bigger selling point is that the jacket is expected to get better with age. It’s made of abrasion-resistant oil-finished canvas. That makes it fairly stiff when first purchased, but it virtually molds to your body the longer you wear it. In fact, one review that I read suggested sleeping in your Tin Cloth Jacket for a few nights to fully break it in.

Since most items that I buy seem to get worse with age, it was enlightening to realize that the opposite can be true. Accordingly, going forward I look to invest my time, energy and money in people, processes and goods that are likely to improve and bloom as a result of that investment.

Note: This resolution does not apply to Senkos and plastic worms. I’m still going to add those suckers to the dead soldiers pile the moment they no longer look perfect on the hook. A cast is too valuable to waste.