February 18 was Manyu’s and my 27th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we drove to REI in Madison to buy Manyu a pair of light hiking boots. Anyone who does not think that the trip was romantic does not appreciate how excited Manyu gets when she finds shoes that fit her tiny Size 5 feet. Afterwards we stopped at her favorite Asian grocery store on University Avenue. Short of getting on a plane and flying back to Taiwan, I could not have planned a better day.
As long as I was at REI, I wanted to replace a tarp that had more or less disintegrated after years of use. I asked a 20-year kid whether REI carried any tarps made of ripstop nylon, and she did not know what ripstop was. She asked me to give her a minute to find an employee who actually knew something about equipment from the previous century. When a weathered woman with long gray hair came to help me, she wondered aloud when the last time was that I’d purchased a tarp. She knew that it was at least ten years since they’d carried ripstop tarps.
About a year ago I lost my favorite balaclava. When I tried to replace it, I learned that it no longer was being made. Ragg wool and a sturdy brim, it molded exactly to my head after only a few days of wear. It was a piece of sartorial perfection, but still has been replaced by synthetics. I am more than willing to accept that the world is passing me, but I did not think my Luddite ways would extend to my outdoor gear.