Gerry’s Shirt

This shirt belonged to Gerry– my college logic professor. He would wear it in class and I always admired it– I must have complimented him on it every time he wore the thing- somehow it epitomized the man himself… his stories about taking LSD with Boris, a mathematician friend of his.. the cluttered office he would let  me sit in while he was off teaching classes… or maybe it spoke to the kind of fascinating person I hope to someday become.

On my last day of college classes- in a philosophy exam- another professor handed me a plastic grocery bag from Gerry. I found the shirt inside and put it on. No note. No explanation.

My hope is for someone to wear it so it can be admired somewhere else by someone else. Is that creepy? Maybe just a little…

— mailed from Quebec

Exchange Story

This story resonates with me greatly, because in all my years of schooling, I have been fascinated by the shirts of particularly my male teachers. Perhaps it is because men’s clothing is generally so bland, that even small deviances are more noticeable. I remember the preposterous silk shirts my high school physics teacher from Spain would wear, and the conspicuous wrinkles in my middle school theater teacher’s button-ups (which led me to one of my first insights that teachers were real people too- real people that, like me, sometimes didn’t feel like folding their shirts).
But this shirt is not for me. I would like to request this shirt for my dad- my step-dad, really…but the best dad I have ever had. He is a professor of economics at Northwestern University, and fancies himself to be a sort of oddball loony college professor, a la Gerry. In reality, he is more just a typical dad who fancies himself to be cool, but really just clips coupons and tells the occasional punny joke.
Part of his attempt to be a character as a dad and a professor includes wearing unexpected items of clothing. I try to help him in this endeavor by buying shirts for him at thrift stores. This shirt seems like a great addition to his collection- and I can only imagine that Gerry’s experiences in this shirt will add to its power.

I also think that this project will have some interest for him as an economist. I myself hope to someday be a wacky professor of anthropology, inspiring my students intellectually, and personally. If I make it, perhaps then this shirt can get passed on to me- and maybe I will even use it to teach a lesson in object-ethnography!

Comments

  1. My beautiful daughter Linda gave this shirt to me; her account immediately precedes mine. She is luminous ray of light in my life (and those of many others, I am sure). My life is astoundingly better because of her, and I love her dearly.
    And, as it turns out, today is the perfect day for me to debut the shirt. It is Northwestern’s annual Dillo Day, a free-form festival to celebrate the end of the academic year and to purge the mind of purposive thoughts (in the best possible way). I had decided that I would not attend, but after receiving this wonderful gift just 1 hour ago, how can I not? Besides the mere appearance of this magical shirt, it is also my last year at Northwestern (http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/campus/economics-prof-zelder-talks-family-at-his-last-nu-lecture-1.2741994#.T8E8cuhDy-0), so I will seize the (Dillo) Day.
    But probably the best thing about the shirt is that I am just holding it for Linda for the time being. She has a wonderful future ahead of her, and I would be so proud for her to follow, in her own inimitable way, in my footsteps. I know this about her future because I witness her amazing present–not the shirt, but the sweet, thoughtful, smart, loving person she is right now.

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