Friday, August 19, 2011

The Last Wallet

One of my favorite scenes from the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is when the main character is sitting on the curb outside his recently blown up apartment. Lamenting the loss of all of his stuff he says:
"You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled."

While I don’t think that I am ready to get rid of all my worldly possessions and start fighting underground, I am pleased to report that it appears that I've finally gotten a handle on my wallet issue.

For the last 15 years my wallet has been some P.O.S. counter item that I purchased at Banana Republic while still in high school. This little single-fold cardholder has served me well in the intervening years, but it has seen better days. Honestly for the last couple of years to call it a wallet would be fairly inaccurate, seeing as the two halves have long since disconnected. It could probably be more aptly described as a card-packed leather cash-sandwich. Surprisingly enough, despite the sorry sorry state of my leather pocket-wad, I haven’t been able to get rid of it due to some emotional compulsion (insanity?). It could be part sentimentality, part superstition, and part security blanket, but I haven’t been able to give the sucker up. To be perfectly honest, despite my psychological hang-ups, I haven’t really been able to find a suitable replacement either. All the wallets that I’ve seen in stores (or have been gifted) over the years were either too big, to elaborate, or too flimsy. I wanted something super simple and durable. I consider a wallet an intimate item and mine had to be just right. Up until two weeks ago nothing seemed to fit the bill (pun fully intended)!

Well, that all changed last month when I took a trip up to Maine to visit some friends and to attended the annual Lie-Nielsen Toolworks open house (more about that in the next post). For two nights I was the guest my friend Josie’s father, Robin Lawlor. As it turns out Robin is a master bootmaker and leatherworker with over 30 years experience in the craft. Robin’s work was incredibly impressive and he generously shared his shops and discussed his process. At some point, he caught sight of my pathetic little wallet and said he might be able to do something about it. On the last day, as I pack up to leave, he presented me with a brand new wallet made from leftovers from his various projects. He told me it was made from the finest harness leather and should hold up for a very very long time. I graciously accepted the lovely gift and instantly my attachment to my sweat-soaked billfold disappeared. This for certain was the perfect wallet! It was by someone I know, in this country, and using quality materials that were essentially pre-consumer waste. 

My new wallet took a little getting used to. It was slightly larger and thicker than my old wallet-shaped object and it was much more rigid. At first, getting cards in and out was a bit of a hassle and it felt a bit squarish in my pocket. But like the Brooks saddle on my bike, it would only get better and better with time and use. After only several weeks, the sturdy leather feels buttery soft and has contoured to both its contents and the shape of my butt. 

Comparing the new and the old, I think this wallet won't suffer the same fate as its predecessor. Looking at at the construction of my old wallet, I get the sense that this was designed to be cheap and disposable. The leather used is perhaps a quarter of the thickness of my new wallet, it's failure was inevitable and most likely intended. It has all the hallmarks of lack of quality that I have come to expect from our mass-manufactures globally-sourced goods. uggh.

On the bright side, I have every confidence that unless it is lost or stolen, this might be the last wallet I ever will need. That’s a pretty satisfying feeling.

Now if I could only say the same for my sofa.


Ben said...

Re: OWS (Old Wallet Sloth) I'm with you. Although there is a blurry line between sloth and fortitude:
A few years ago I (stupidly) snatched my "card-packed leather cash-sandwich" out of the hand of a mugger.

Later I tried an upgrade; Prada, you can have your sandwich back.

Congrats on the rad money holster.

nielscosman said...

hahaha. Fine line indeed. Considering that I still cant actually throw away my butt-sweat-soaked wallet scraps, I'm not sure which side of of the line I am on. I feel like I need to make a reliquary (coffin?).

leather cash-sandwich thug fight- the sport of kings!