I was 9 years old then. Â The film, Dick Tracy, had been out for about a year, but it was fresh on my mind. Â I visited Montgomery Ward with my father one Saturday afternoon. Â Something there would allow me to actualize any fantasies I had of becoming a great detective, just like Dick. Â In the boy’s section, amid the Bugle Boy pants and silk shirts, I found it. Â It was a beige London Fog trench coat.
“Can I have it, Dad?”
I imagined all the adventures I’d have while wearing this thing. Â Solving mysteries, saving damsels in distress, narrowing down suspects and putting them away: that was the only way to go. Â I had a book at home called Nate the Great. Â It was a children’s book about an egotistical little boy detective. Â He had a trench coat, a Sherlock Holmes hat, and a magnifying glass. Â I had a magnifying glass already. Â I’d had it for years. Â Never solved a mystery with it, but I had burned plenty of ants and pieces of wood. Â That was gonna change.
We had a coat rack next to the front door. Â It would be pretty exhilarating to rush out the door after snatching that thing down from the coat rack and throwing it over myself. Â A sense of urgency and purpose should always be accompanied by donning on a uniform. Â It does something to cement the gravity of the moment.
Here’s the rub. Â I imagined walking to school and being recognized as the go-to guy for adventure and mystery. Â I would be the boy Sam Spade, the child Eddie Valiant. Â However, when I rolled up to school wearing this thing, it was all pretty anti-climactic. Â A few people said, “Hey, you look like a detective.” But that was about it. Â On top of that, I actually felt kind of stupid and a little silly. Â I just couldn’t relax and be matter-of-fact while wearing this trench coat. Â I was too self-conscious, and the novelty had worn off quickly. Â The bloody thing ended up folded (actually scrunched up) and placed in my backpack.
Son, you’ve only worn your jacket twice.
Upon another visit to a store, I came across something that really got me going. Â It was a nice hat: an off-white fedora. Â Yellow would have been better, but this would do. Â I thought about the hat taking residence above my trusty London Fog on the coat rack. Â It looked beautiful.
“Can I have it, Dad?”
He held it. Â Looked it over. Â ”This is nice.” Â The price tag? 80 dollars. Â I’ll never forget the transformation on his face. Â For half a second, he thought about buying it, but then he was struck by something. Â That was epiphany giving him an open-handed slap to the face, like it does to parents lucky enough to experience clarity. Â ”Wait a second, are you trying to look like Dick Tracy?” Â I didn’t really have a chance to answer because the thought of his 9 year old son almost duping him into throwing a lot of money away on a Dick Tracy get-up made him crack up. Â It made him crack the hell up!
I never wore that coat again. Â It was handed down to some other little boy. Â Maybe he wore it once or twice. Â Maybe he had better sense, or a really nice fedora. Â Till this day, my dad still brings up the time I wanted to look like Dick Tracy.
Some things are better left fantasized about.