I have a white sweater. It's cotton. I paid a buck for it.I bought it 12 years ago in a thrift shop in San Juan Capistrano. Most of us get one deal like this. A smoking purchase that we had not planned for but in which we are delighted.

I mention the white cotton sweater for a couple of reasons, but mainly in the context of a pair of khakis that I bought this month.

I am not in the habit of spending real money on khakis, but this time I did because a friend recommended them and said they were the best pair of pants he'd ever owned. When a pant expert makes that sort of claim, it makes sense to fall in line.

These khakis were expensive. The opposite of the white cotton sweater. If you added the two together and divided by two in order to figure the average, it would be more than I normally spend on pants.

Already, I have begun to worry about the khakis that are in fact comfortable, well-fitted and -- although I didn't receive a compliment from my wife (though I fished for it) -- look good on me. I think.

Recently, I rode my bike to work, and, in order to protect the pants, I pulled my socks over the cuffs, then fastened a plastic orange Velcro strap over both to keep them from absorbing road dirt or flecks of grease, should they inadvertently become separated from the chain.

When I stepped off the bike, I noticed some blue dots on the khakis and thought I had stained them. I hadn't; the dots were the equivalent of blue floaters. I made a note not to ride to work in the pants from now on, but I knew it didn't matter because this is where the law of things you care about takes over.

I have worn the white cotton sweater more than 100 times. I have eaten linguini with clams at Luigi's, drunk coffee at Dagny's and worn it while nibbling on a bag of Cheetos in the car.

I cannot stain that sweater. Not even a splash of red wine. That sweater is as virgin white today as it was when I picked it off the shelf in San Juan Capistrano and was rung up by a delightful older lady.

There is a great scene in "Groundhog Day," one of the wisest movies ever made. Bill Murray, a weather man, is sent to Punxsutawney, Penn., in order to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. Murray, who is egotistical and a bad sport about his assignment, discovers that he is destined to live the same day over and over again until he changes and becomes a better person.

He seduces women, becomes a thief, drives recklessly, is thrown in jail, kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil and, after a police chase, drives into a quarry, presumably killing both himself and the groundhog.

However, nothing sticks, and he wakes up the next day with a clean slate, albeit a bad attitude, too.

The white cotton sweater is the clothing equivalent of Murray. Nothing can touch it. My sense is that if I threw the sweater in a cement mixer, it might come out whiter.

The khakis and sweater are on different paths. One is destined to stay pristine and the other is not. Divide by two and it's almost a break-even.

These are the opinions of Herb Benham, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com.

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