Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

To A Tee

Photo by Pat Soberanis

I love tee shirts. I have loved them since I was a little girl. Now I have to give them up. I don’t have a permanent residence and it makes no sense to pay $70 a month to store tee shirts in a storage unit. But how am I going to be able to part with them? Parting with my books was bad enough – now this. You may look at a pair of pants and remember where you got them, but nothing bring back memories like a 1987 Grateful Dead “Dead in the Heart of the Blue Ridge” tee. And how could I ever sell my 1985 Live Aid tee, purchased in London during the week of that groundbreaking concert?

For the first time, I decided to catalog and count all of my tee shirts. Even before I started going to rock concerts, I bought tee shirts. Back in the ‘70s, every mall had a kiosk that ironed pictures on plain shirts. In 1976, I got an orange tee emblazoned with a picture of Led Zeppelin, the back cover of “Led Zeppelin III.” I wore that shirt until the picture started to peel off. At a drug store in the local mall, I found a “Frampton Comes Alive” tee. I still have both of those shirts. I went to my first hard rock concert in 1985, and of course, I had to get a shirt to commemorate the Deep Purple “Perfect Strangers” tour. From there, the shirts and shows escalated – The Grateful Dead, The Firm, Yes, King’s X, Emerson, Lake and Powell, Badlands, UFO – those are just from the 80s and 90s. Even though I never got to see Led Zeppelin, I have three other shirts besides the vintage orange one, as well as a white Jimmy Page shirt. When I saw Jimmy Page and Robert Plant together in 1995, of course I had to get a shirt. I have three shirts from the local classic rock station and one from another rock station that I got when I won a contest to meet Ozzy Osbourne. I have an Ozzy shirt too, gotten from a co-worker whose husband used to sell bootleg tee shirts that he confiscated from vendors while working security at concert venues. I had a former supervisor get me an Eric Clapton shirt when she went to see him in concert. Thrift Town provided me with a Dave Meniketti shirt, which I wore when I met him at a Y&T show last summer. One Christmas when I didn’t have much money, I bought myself a Metallica shirt at Hot Topic. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like flaming skulls! When I was in London in 1987, I went to the Bass Centre, where I could only afford a tee shirt. When I went in 1993, I got a shirt at Crazy Pig Designs, as I couldn’t afford their expensive jewelry. Between visits, gifts, and thrift stores, I have ten Hard Rock shirts, if you count the one from the Hotel in Las Vegas. A few months ago, I went to a free Oleander show and my friend bought me their tee shirt. After watching a taping of “That Metal Show” in Los Angeles in March 2012, all audience members were given a choice of a black or gray shirt.

But like a lot of people, I have shirts that commemorate events, former employers, colleges, and sports teams. I have several social worker shirts, a shirt from a shelter I used to work at, and several shirts from my two alma maters. I got shirts at the annual AIDS candlelight vigils, when I volunteered at the Amgen Tour of California, and when I went to hear Nelson Mandela speak at Oakland Coliseum in 1990. I have tees for Halloween, Groundhog Day, and Christmas. I don’t have any Steelers shirts (only three sweatshirts), but I have a Penguins and a Pirates shirt to represent my hometown teams. The editor who published my first essay in an anthology sold tee shirts with the book’s cover on the front. I had to get one to celebrate my accomplishment.

I love science and science fiction and I have the shirts to prove it. I ordered a Mars Pathfinder Sojourner shirt from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to commemorate the first Mars Rover. I wish I could get one for the latest one, Curiosity. I have several space shuttle shirts, including one in memory of the Columbia tragedy, which was a gift. Two trips to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas supplied me with a 40th Anniversary shirt listing every episode of all five Star Trek series and all of the movies and a shirt featuring the Enterprise hoveringover the Las Vegas Hilton. I found a Buckaroo Banzai shirt one year. It’s surprising how many people remember that movie. At a science store that used to be at Universal Studios CityWalk in the 90s, I got a Galileo tee shirt. You don’t find those every day.

The more I counted, the more I realized that my tee shirts were physical manifestations of my diaries, detailing my life and interests over the years. How could I give them away or sell them for a dollar each to a stranger at a yard sale? After spending hours going through them, I only put three in my yard sale pile. I have a shirt with a quote from Oscar Wilde on the front – “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Unlike ol’ Oscar, I also have 110 tee shirts. I hope I make $70 at this garage sale…


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