Ten years ago I was in a thrift store in San Juan Capistrano and bought a green, short-sleeved cotton shirt from the Hawkings McGill collection, a collection I was not familiar with then or have seen since.
The cotton was substantial but comfortable, easy on the skin and cool on the hottest of days. The Hawkings McGill was in mint condition and cost $1.
I have worn it hundreds of times for almost every occasion save one that calls for formal wear. The Hawkings McGill has become my favorite shirt.
The shirt has been tested not only by temperature but lunches featuring New York steak and red pasta and dinners including wines so red, they could be mistaken as ink.
I have worn the shirt with impunity, having never stained it or worried about staining it.
Recently, I received a beautiful mint green shirt for my birthday. Although not made from the same crisp material as the San Juan Capistrano special, the Royal Robbins caresses the skin like a cool breeze.
The shirt, fresh out of the gift box and wrapped in diaphanous white tissue paper, took my breath away as a mint green shirt is wont to do, and I pledged to protect the shirt for as long as we both shall live.
The Royal Robbins performed magnificently at its first dinner, successfully navigating both red wine and a frisky vinaigrette dressing.
I had to wear it because you can no more keep a shirt like that in the closet than you can keep a thoroughbred in the barn.
The next morning, in a post-dinner examination, the Royal Robbins was as pristine and mint green as the day it rolled out of the mint green shirt factory.
I wore the Royal Robbins to work a few days later, an experience that did not involve food or a meal. That night, when I hung it up, I noticed two dark stains around the pocket on the left side of the shirt and another one farther down.
My heart sank and I raced downstairs barely touching the floor with the Royal Robbins in tow, squirted Shout stain remover on it and then washed the shirt without any other clothes so a stray article of clothing would not bleed on the shirt.
When the shirt had been washed and dried, I closed my eyes and then opened them, hoping the stain had vanished. It hadn’t. The stains looked like storm clouds rising ominously out of the pocket.
When the person who gave me the mint green shirt asked how I liked it I spilled the sad tale like a man being tortured in a Turkish prison. Neither of us were happy and the future of the Royal Robbins was in jeopardy.
I took it to New City Cleaners and $12 and a week later, I picked up the shirt and the stains were gone.
I learned my lesson. Be careful. Keep your eyes peeled and hands on the steering wheel.
This past Wednesday, I offered the men from Alspaw Tree Service, who were pruning the liquidambars in front of the house, two Coca-Colas made in Mexico with real cane sugar. It was hot and they had done a good job so I gave them Cokes from the fridge in the garage to thank them.
I didn’t have a bottle opener in the garage and rather than walking into the house and using the opener there, I pried off the tops with a small-headed screwdriver.
The screwdriver wasn’t the only thing with a small head because as I eased off the metal cap the soda squirted out of the top as if it had been shaken by a refrigerator monkey and sprayed the front of the beautiful mint green shirt.
At this rate, the Royal Robbins is headed for a thrift shop where some lucky customer will get a beautiful shirt for $1 that will never stain no matter how hard they try.