Suze Orman is whispering in my ear.
“If you invested that money at a return of eight percent per year, do you know how much you’d have at 65?”
We’ve driven by Austin many times thinking, one day, we’ll get a load here. We’ll eat TexMex, listen to live music and watch everyone two-step. Finally that day arrived. The customer where we delivered had some open space and let us leave the tractor and trailer for the weekend. Truckers reading this will drool. Don’t let the boots and hats fool you, Austin is City Slicker Texas, it is not big truck friendly. The closest truck stops are 30 miles north.
Parked under security’s watchful gaze, we pulled out our bicycles, packed a small bag and called a taxi. In 20 minutes we were surveying Austin from the 24th floor of the Hilton. Austin is shorter than we thought. There are some towers, 25-to-30 floor range downtown, but there are many one, two and three-story buildings.
We justified the Hilton stay, the second in July, by recognizing that July 29th was our ninth wedding anniversary, 20 years together, but only nine married. Mostly our anniversary is another day — we told our mothers only Greg must remember — without celebrations or gifts. We laugh about how time flies, comment on our growing stack of eyeglasses and wrinkles, which mercifully fade in a blur when the glasses are removed and that we have attained a new category in officialdom. Our hair color, according to Homeland Security, is now “partially gray.”
But since this year is 20 years together, I thought there’d be a present in there somewhere. MacGyver doesn’t give gifts based on a calendar, attempting to give a great gift two or three times a year like clockwork, anniversary, birthday, Christmas is a fool’s game. I believe in gifts as consumables, anything that can be consumed in 24 hours, particularly champagne and cash, is a great gift.
But my husband is Michelangelo MacGyver and he likes things. He is interested in gifts that he thinks I will, or should, love. Or he realizes that I really want something, but he has a better eye. And he loves to research. Above all, it must be beautiful, either handmade or well-designed or best-of-breed. Or a great experience.
There have been six gifts, presents I wasn’t expecting, surprises like, some would say, a garbage can.
The surprise gifts include two by Westcoast British Columbia First Nations artists, a gold and silver eagle and whale cuff and a glass serving plate with a sandblasted double eagle. There’s the Bolivian alpaca shawl with the hand-knotted fringe; twelve, garnet-red toothbrushes, each one attached to a long-stemmed red rose; a surprise trip, First Class on Virgin Atlantic to the United Kingdom, to Sheffield, to see my favorite band EVER! Boy on a Dolphin. And the garbage can.
Not just any garbage can, a Simple Human kitchen garbage can with a hydraulic lid that closes with a hooowooooosh. Not the clatter of aluminum dropping onto more cheap aluminum.
Before trucking, I cooked everything from scratch just like my mother, every meal, every day. We almost never ate out in expensive New York City. We had other plans for our money, like travel. That lid was going up and down a dozen times a day. Bang, bang, bang! It was such a great gift that he did it two years in a row when we moved, and the first garbage can no longer fit in the kitchen.
This weekend we added to the tally, visiting Allen’s Boots on South Congress in Austin where we met sales superstar, Lace Puryear (pronounced Lay-Cee). She’s fantastic. Patient, full of information about boots, Austin and Texas, music and bars and did I say patient. Really patient.
We’ve been chewing over the idea of buying cowboy boots, even though the thought of MacGyver, who favors his Merrell “urban workboots” with his classic Columbia Titaniun foreign correspondent uniform or his Dickies coveralls, wandering around in elephant skin or shark skin boots makes me snicker. But when you’ve logged as many miles as we have across Texas, you start to think maybe you’re a distant relative, and well, the boots, seem, like necessary.
Unleashed in Allen’s, the DSW of cowboy boots, the first pair off the shelf — anyone who has known me five minutes can guess — yes, the red ones. Not just any red ones, the most expensive red ones, the red Iguana Lucchese boots.
I wish I could say they slipped on like a pair of luxurious gloves, but cowboy boots aren’t like that, you put your index finger in the little loops on each side and pull and push, your foot presses past the stovepipe and lands with a little thump on the sole on the boot.
They fit like a glove, and twinkled, accentuating my slender foot. Laughing, I spun around and headed for the mirror. The pointed toe, the horizontal ridges of the iguana hide. Goat leather on the stovepipe, turquoise and pumpkin stitching. I flipped over the price tag, $449.
“You’ll faint Greg,” I called. I could feel our musician friend Andy Schneider, a tall, lanky Iowa boy, who is all Texan, based in Marfa and drives a 40-year-old International pickup truck, breaking out in a sweat.
“When I recommended Lucchese,” I could hear his soft drawl mixing Texas and farm boy. “I didn’t say red Iguana, especially not at retail.”
Lucchese boots are made from the Italian tradition. Before Lucchese — a cobbler who emigrated to the US, settling in Texas, but couldn’t sell a pair of shoes — cowboy boots had no left or right foot, the foot decided. Lucchese brought shoemaking know-how to the industry, going into business in 1883 specializing in cowboy boots.
MacGyver wants distressed, lived-in, been around boots. I want shiny, bright, look-at-me boots. We will have to pay for his dirtied-look because cowboy boots with smooth leather soles are not compatible with
big trucks and greasy, oily, slippery diesel. He tried on several pointy toe versions that made him look like he was wearing girl’s shoes, or maybe it was the Columbia Titanium uniform. In the end, he was interested in a pair of dark brown elephant skin Lucchese boots, with an overlay of black, for the distressed look, and burgundy, saffron and green stitching on the stovepipe.
But he was torn by bootmakers. In his research, he discovered Heritage Boots, a block away from Allen’s, highly recommended by a Forbes writer in New York, who loves cowboy boots. Handmade in Mexico, Heritage Boots are amazing. Intricately cut leather, inlay patterns. They are beautiful. They are art. But they didn’t appeal to me. There are no red boots, but there is Jezebel, which is red and black, but I say go big or go home in cowboy boots and I wanted red, all red.
MacGyver found his way to Heritage Boots’
French toe, slightly rounded and still square-ish, in shark skin, with similar colorful stitching as the Lucchese boots. But in the end, he couldn’t decide. Besides he had already ordered $900 tickets for the 2012 Montreal Grand Prix — which will be paid in cash Suze — so he didn’t have a pressing need for an anniversary present for himself.
It was at this point, wobbling on the purchase, that I said “they are expensive. We’ve taken a lot of time off this year, Argentina, Thailand maybe we should wait.”
“The boots look great on you, he said. “I want you to get them.”
“If this was a segment of Suze Orman,” I replied, “she’d say that we couldn’t afford it, that at my age, even though we have no debt, we need more money in our retirement account.”
“Are we on track for the IRA savings?” he asked. “Yes, of course,” I said, bristling at the mere suggestion I am not taking my job of saving seriously.
“Then you should get the boots,” he said. “They look great.”
So after another hour of walking up and down the aisles of Allen’s boots in the size nine and the 9.5 with heavy socks and dress socks, to assure myself that the boots were indeed the right size, MacGyver flipped out his Amex card.
Not even the admiring looks and comments from the 1,500 woman-strong Delta Sygma Theta conference — their signature color is my crimson red — at the the Austin Hilton could squelch my nagging buyer’s remorse.
The following morning I emailed my friend Salena of the Daily Rant about the purchase.
“We bought the damn boots,” I wrote. “I tried to get out of them. Suze Orman would probably say, given the size of my retirement account, more than some, less than others, and my age that, I am ‘denied, denied, deeeeeNIED.’”
But Greg said: “Do it, do it, do it. He was like a little devil. So, the red Iguana Lucchese’s are on the top bunk.”
“Who cares if Suze Orman wouldn’t approve,” Salena replied. “If you become homeless, at least people will be able to identify you. ‘She lives under the bridge on Ninth Street. You can’t miss her. She’s the one with the red cowboy boots.’”