The return of the green
It wasn’t such a long time ago that we were in the middle of another seemingly endless North Valley summer. A summer so hot that even the dero’s that live under the bridge behind our house had given up and moved north, like confused geese, looking for a more comfortable climate in which to carry out their late night arguments and coughing fits. Their noises reverberate from under the bridge right up into our bedroom window. I had begun to wonder whether I should start some sort of clinic out of my back door providing cough medicine and maps of alternative sleeping options.
We live in Chico, California in a flat above a sewing and alterations shop. It’s the kind of place where brides-to-be go to get their wedding dresses altered for the fifth and (possibly) last time before the big day, burst zippers are taken to die, and guys go to get extra sections and elastic waistbands sewn into their favourite jeans, if they’re lucky enough to have a pair last that long. I have come to the recent realisation that I don’t actually have a favourite pair of jeans? I don’t think jeans are made to last long enough these days to become elevated to the status of “favourite”. It used to take me about five years before I’d even begin thinking about getting a new pair, and then at least another two before the current pair would get to such a state of disrepair that required a clothing intervention by some friend, girlfriend or family member. I have always been a Levis guy. I think that since my Mum relinquished the responsibility of buying my clothes I have always bought Levis. I remember a visit to the Levis store on princess Street in Edinburgh after a fairly long session in the pub with my friends Neil and Wee Andy. On that occasion I actually bought a pair of black women’s ribless corduroys. I think that proves my dedication to the brand. So enamoured with Levis was I that even under the influence of several pints of Edinburgh’s finest, I bought a pair designed for the opposite gender and not some other random brand. I’m not usually a brand person either. Levis are pretty much the only ‘name’ that I will go out of my way to support. Until now.
Since being in the States I have been through three pairs of Levis. That’s more than one pair a year. I still have a pair that I bought in Sydney back in 2002. They’re a little bit under the weather now but they’re still wearable. The first pair I bought here, however, are almost past it. Because I’ve had them less that two and a half years, they still haven’t overtaken the previous pair as my favourite jeans. They just haven’t put in the required amount of hours. I didn’t even need an intervention on this one, they’re gone. So I tried to work out why it was that the jeans were wearing out faster than normal. It’s not like the zips are bursting or the seams are splitting, it’s the fabric that just wears out really fast. My use has stayed pretty much the same. Apart from one incident with an angry goat and a barbed wire fence, they seem to have just worn out. So I thought that there might be different grades of denim for different retailers. I had been buying from one, lower-end chain store and thought that by buying from a store dedicated to workwear and other manly things that the quality would be better. Not so. They are just the same. The only Levis I have found that appear to be made of a higher quality fabric are the shrink-to-fit 501’s, which I’ve never been interested in since I first saw Quadrophenia. So, the end result is that I’m now the proud owner of my first pair of Wranglers. For those of you not familiar with the legend that is Wrangler jeans, and no I’m not talking about Brett Frave’s “Real Comfy Jeans” adverts, I’m talking about the wearing of Wranglers by any self-respecting cowboy, redneck, or tobacco chewing good ‘ole boy. I just don’t know if I’m made of the right stuff to pull that off. I’m almost prepared to carry a tin of mints around in my back pocket to simulate the permanent circle that indicates years of carrying around tins of chew. So unless someone can help me find a pair of Levis that’ll last more than a fortnight, I’m destined to spend the rest of my days wearing jeans that sit somewhere up near my belly button, cutting off the circulation to the vitals, and are a status symbol for America’s greatest modern cultural icon, the redneck.
Sorry, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about the fact that the colour green has once again become a part of my life. The summer in Nor Cal (Northern California) is a golden, dry, and fairly unforgiving place for someone with my skin type, upbringing dampened by rain and general year-round driechness, and subsequently low heat tolerance. So when the Californian summer and its heat fall back and give way to the occasional rain and milder temperatures of Autumn, I’m fairly relieved. It’s not only me that seems relieved at this change in the weather. It is also a time when the hills around us have started to show signs of life. The first few days of rain have given a much-needed dousing of water to the grasslands that surround Chico. It’s like the ground just let out a huge sigh of green after holding its breath for close to six months.
There is also another kind of green whose presence is making itself felt more than normal at the moment. Alexis and I went for a bike ride yesterday and were passed by a truck which was literally bursting with pot plants! The pungent waft of skunk that came after the truck was so strong it almost knocked me off my bike. Harvest time I suppose, no time for cyclists or bothering to even attempt to hide the crop. It’s fall in Nor Cal baby, get used to it!