Fran and I have a tradition. Once every summer, we go to PALM for the lobster special. As a bonus, we get to see Dennis. Dennis is the restaurant’s longtime waiter, a master at cracking open lobster shells. Dennis has been serving at PALM for 23 years. Dennis, Fran and I are likely the only ones in the restaurant who remember ARTHUR’S STEAK HOUSE. Once — long ago — ARTHUR’S seemed to be the ONLY restaurant in Philadelphia.
After an early dinner, we decided to stop off and see Uncle Nunzio. Uncle doesn’t get out as much as he used to. He spends most of his time these days watching cable news and screaming “Spaccone!” at Trump. “Spaccone” is the Italian word for braggart. Of all the president’s traits, boasting would be far down on MY list of annoyances. But Uncle, being from the old world, prizes modesty more highly than almost anything else.
Thankfully, our arrival distracted Uncle from the live coverage of a Trump rally on TV. The three of us had a very pleasant conversation over an espresso laced with a double-shot of Sambuca. Uncle is a perfect host. Besides which, the charming Fran always brings out the best in him. He claims her presence makes ME more tolerable.
Uncle complimented us on our dressing up for dinner. He seemed surprised that I hadn’t gotten any lobster drippings on my sport coat. Then Uncle abruptly stopped talking. A frown crossed his face as he stared at my bare ankle peeking out below the cuff of my slacks. He muttered something in Italian. The translation into English, thankfully, eluded me. Uncle had noticed that I wasn’t wearing any socks.
As he has aged, Uncle has gotten even more formal in his dress. He always wears a suit and tie in public. The suit may be double-breasted with lapels that seem to almost rival the wingspan on an airplane. The tie is as wide as a Trump tie is long. But there is NO way you will ever see Uncle without socks, even on the beach. I had some explaining to do and, truthfully, I wasn’t feeling up to it. I thought at that point that the charming Fran would jump in and save me. No such luck. Fran continued to sip on her espresso with a beatific smile on her face.
Here’s the truth about me and socks. I tried for a long time not to yield to the sockless look. There was a time when I prided myself on my taste in socks. Those were the days when what we used to call “a good dresser” would not be caught dead without socks. Not only were socks necessary when wearing a suit, a well-dressed man always wore socks up to his knees. Perish the thought if there were any bare skin showing between your socks and your pant cuffs if you happened to cross your legs when sitting. I was proudly one of those “good dressers.” And here’s where I blame the charming Fran. The same charming Fran who was sitting there innocently, sipping her espresso, with little finger bent.
The bare sock thing had already been around for years when Fran implored me to get with the style. She explained how much I needed to ditch the socks when I was wearing my penny loafers or boat shoes. A note about “boat” shoes is in order. Does anyone on a boat ever wear boat shoes? If boat shoes (my wife calls them “docksiders”) are supposed to be worn on boats, how come they’re not waterproof? So I gave in. Stopped wearing socks with loafers and boat shoes. Even my pink crew socks with the polo ponies. Eventually, my fallen arches forced me to give up wearing loafers, but that’s another crisis I choose not to recount at this time.
It didn’t work. Wearing boat shoes without socks. Try as I might to be stylish, my feet got blisters when not wearing socks. Fran told me not to give up hope. Very soon, this no-sock thing started to cause me to lose some of my self-esteem, hard as they might be for you, dear reader, to imagine. Fran said that stores sell tiny little “no-show” socks that make it look as if you aren’t wearing socks at all. I bought some. Apparently, there’s a market out there for guys who get blisters trying to please their wives by not wearing socks.
I was OK for a while. The problem seemed solved. But soon, the no-socks style became extended to dress-up. So, now all my knee-high dress socks had become obsolete. I wasn’t pleased. When I noticed ESPN sports-talk host Tony Kornheiser going sockless, while wearing a suit, I was certain that such a style would not last. Kornheiser is an excellent sports commentator, but you won’t see him on the cover of GQ anytime soon. His lack of wearing socks only adds to his unattractiveness (sorry, Tony). Never mind all that. I caved. Wimped out. Started wearing tiny little socks that make it appear as if I am not wearing socks at all. I try to explain to Uncle why I am not wearing socks, even though I am. Ignoring my anguish, charming Fran sips espresso.
You think Melania is trying to convince Trump not to wear socks?
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