Inkspots: Gifted with twin boxes of life and pain
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jun 01, 2014 | 684 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.”

— G. Bruce Boyer

Journalist and fashion editor

(b. 1941)


Newspaper editors who spend too many hours in a cluttered office, miss too many deadlines, forget to forgive reporters who miss their deadlines and stare irritatedly at ringing telephones sometimes do strange ... things, for lack of a better word.

One such action by this editor came recently.

It involved neckties.

Yes, neckties.

No, I did not write my congressman asking for their ban from American soil. I am told such action could be unconstitutional ... though why, I cannot possibly fathom ... and that besides, Washington, D.C., has more important matters to resolve. Just a few might include, though not be limited to, a $2.7 trillion national debt, Ukraine, the potential shutdown of our country’s space program, hunger, disease, political unrest, war, the Redskins nickname ... and so forth and so on.

No, I did not publicly incinerate my own collection of colorful nooses in rusting metal drums in a violent protest on the Courthouse Square similar to the Women’s Libbers who burned their undergarments and the anti-Vietnam War contingent who burned their draft cards, both movements of which came in those volatile 1960s.

No, I did not lay my neckties end to end to end to measure the length of a man’s misery.

No, I did not contact foreign governments in Beijing, Vietnam, Thailand and the Dominican Republic asking that they stop importing their troubles to my country ... though, I did briefly consider asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to add neckties to the terrorist watch list.

And no, I did not dust off my job description in a futile attempt to find a loophole out of wearing such useless apparel. By the same token, my boss will probably suggest I dust off my job description anyway, as a reminder of newsroom obligations should I persist in this one-man war on collar pain.

But what I did do is this. I accepted two cardboard boxes stuffed with abandoned neckties. Not that they are no longer loved, they are simply no longer needed.

Left to my own insights, the boxes would have been dropped off at the front step of a necktie control shelter for redeployment and humanitarian infusion into another city whose No Kill mindset toward such a societal outcast is admirable at best.

But in spite of my disdain for neckties, I can’t say “no” to a friend.

The boxes were delivered to my office by Larry Bowers, a longtime and now retired newspaperman who worked half-a-century for about 17 newspapers throughout the Southeast — including our own — as reporter and editor. During his career, he probably held as many titles as he wore neckties. Larry was the outgoing editor when I came aboard four years ago.

Unlike me, Larry didn’t hate his neckties. He embraced them. The guy collected them. He once told me his favorite place to buy these narrow ropes of death was Goodwill, yard sales and sometimes he even received them as gifts. One necktie that had the name “Larry” dyed into it must have come along at Christmas or on Father’s Day when the evil of ties yielded to the good in giving.

Like an old soldier who’s looking to fade away, Larry has reached a time in life when he doesn’t need 4,000 neckties. So, he simplified his lifestyle recently by boxing up about three-fourths of his life and delivering them to my doorstep.

Such action is not unprecedented.

Earlier in his career and upon his first retirement ... I think there were three or four before he finally hung it up for good about a year ago ... Larry gifted former managing editor and good friend David Davis with a box of these blessings. David kept them at his corner desk for morning emergencies spawned by the occasional sudden reality that he had left home without one dangling loosely across his shoulders.

At David’s retirement last October, he bequeathed the same box to the rest of the guys in the newsroom. Like a rummage sale for the legally insane, we elbowed our way into the container and liberated the captives of David’s displeasure. He too is no fan of these fashion statements.

I suppose if neckties could talk, then The Bowers Collection would speak volumes. Some may have interviewed presidents. Others likely investigated secret scandals of public wrongdoing. Still others might have come face to face with war heroes, sports superstars and Hollywood celebrities whose reputations were as colorful as the neckties of the writer who wrote about them.

No doubt, Larry loved his ties ... maybe not with the same compassion that he holds for his little dog and cat back home or his grandsons in upper East Tennessee, but with a healthy degree of professional respect.

To surrender the rewards of years of collecting could not have been easy for the seasoned newspaperman whose blood runs as dark as the ink that first stained it so many decades ago. But sometimes in life, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And that includes the liquidation of necktie overload.

With David and Larry, I’ve now seen twice a previously unseen benefit of retirement. Giving away old neckties, I figure, is a rite of passage for weary, grizzled editors who are leaving one life and entering another.

I envy them both.

As for Larry’s twin boxes of Chokers R Us, I’ll fill you in next week on what I did with them, why and other people’s reactions to both.