Building the Future, One Accident at a Time

1940s wool knit swimming trunks with adjustable herringbone pattern belt. (

If necessity is the mother of invention, then who’s the father?

I’m taking a stab here, but I’m guessing it’s the accident. Food scientists postulate that the first cheese was made by a thirsty traveler 10,000 years ago when he used a cow stomach for a thermos and walked to the next town. He arrived, not with milk, but with ricotta. And of course there’s Christopher Columbus, who was looking for India. And then, there is the Swim Jammie. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We were speaking of fathers. Mine calls himself The Guru. As he is a 72-year old white male born in Fort Lee, New Jersey, whose only forays to foreign lands involve a fishing rod and knee-deep water the temperature of freshly peed-in pants, one might assume that when he uses this moniker, he is making fun of himself.

Close observation has led me to conclude that, while he knows this should be the case, it is not actually so.

The Guru considers himself an unassailable expert on fashion, food, child-rearing, how the world should be, and New England racing schooners of the early twentieth century. He is right about the last one. I also hear that, before retirement, he did a mean aortic graft.

About the first few things, though, other family members would undoubtedly be more willing to embrace his Guru-osity if evidence existed that he knew the difference between gray and green, if he didn’t avoid all dishes containing onions, garlic, or cheese, if he had done actual child-rearing, and if he didn’t depend on my mother to interact with the world on his behalf. No one knows exactly when or where the term “The Guru” originated, in reference to my father, but we do know that, when family members use it other than The Guru himself, we are, without exception, making fun of him.

He takes this well because he knows we are wrong.

It should be stated that my family is fortunate in that we have no early onset Alzheimer’s in the bloodline. And so we all could—and did—laugh without underlying nervousness when, a few weeks ago while on vacation in Hawaii, The Guru got half way to the beach wearing his beach shirt, his flip-flops, and his pajama bottoms. He only noticed when my mother wanted to put a key in his pocket, and found there was only one pocket, and that it already had something in it. He took the elevator back up to the fifth floor to change. When my mother told me the story, she could barely speak between howls of mirth.

Upstairs, my sister greeted him at the door. She immediately saw the reason for his premature return. My father had trouble getting past her body, which, in her account, was lying fetal on the entryway floor in spasms of hilarity.

Now is the time to bring on the excuses: The pajama bottoms were shorts-like. Not so different from a pair of swim trunks. That’s as far as The Guru got with the excuses. There just weren’t any more.

anti-sag wool knit one-piece, 1930s(

This week, to recreate the warm feelings of the moment, my sister is making him, for his birthday on Friday, a pair of Swim Jammies. A comfortable and fashionable multi-use garment that goes from bed to beach with the flair your old-fashioned swim trunks only wish they had. In our family mythology, we imagine there might be a future in them. Certain styles, perhaps something in a manly yet floral short-nap velour, may yet make it all the way through Happy Hour and back to bed again. After all, The Guru Knows.

We laugh, but just think….My mother marvels at how her mother would never have thought of going out in public wearing pants instead of a skirt. She marveled at her own daring self when she put on that leotard for the first time (see Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston). Perhaps, in spite of all the heckling he gets, The Guru might be on to something. My only reservation is that he might be too far ahead of his time. The world might not yet be ready for the Swim Jammie. Such a bold statement of leisure, adaptability, and confidence may not work in fashion for another decade or two. To make this one fly, we would have to send Jake Gyllenhaal free samples and hope he wears them in his next film.

1970s British men's swimwear (

Perhaps it’s premature to reserve a week of production time at Ningbo Yinzhou Headway Stationery Co., Ltd., in Zhejiang, China, the home turf of Fall Apart Chubby (Post #2, 9/14/11), although apparel is slightly out of their specialty range of erasers and ball point pens anyway. But if a phone can show movies, pajamas might swim. And if Jake likes  ’em, phones might show movies of pajamas that swim.

Long live The Guru.

What’s your invention, accidental or non?

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