On Jackets and Dylan and Death and Paisley

By Maddie 

In retrospect, it was an ugly jacket: white with a paisley design, frayed sleeves and hood, silver zipper. I purchased it on sale at Nordstrom (it was the least Nordstrom-y thing they had) in the autumn of 2005, when I was sixteen-years-old. I'd show you a photograph, but I doubt one exists. I didn't have any friends to eat lunch with, let alone to snap pics of me at parties, so a lot of my high school experience went undocumented. While I have my flaws, taking self-pictures has thankfully never been one of them.

My free time that fall was spent doing a variety of productive tasks: reading Rolling Stone magazine, dreaming of being in Rolling Stone magazine, not doing homework. Above all, I was obsessing over all-things-Dylan, and I still can't listen to "Mr. Tambourine Man" without thinking of that jacket and smelling October. Falls in Missouri have a very distinctive odor. This is something I have missed since moving to New York, where all the seasons reek of the same trash and sadness (crushed dreams, Wall Street tears, urine). Back home, fall smells like burning leaves, and, well, sadness (crushed dreams, main street tears, Hollister cologne).

Everyone has a favorite item of clothing -- a tie that holds sentimental value, a shirt that brings out your eyes, a pair of pants that make you look less fat. The paisley jacket was my preferred piece, and it accompanied me everywhere I went. This was the jacket I wore as I secretly-smoked cigarettes bought from one of those dollar machines (are those things still legal? How?), pondering how to get into Rolling Stone magazine (note to sixteen-year-old self: less banjo, more auto-tune) (also note to sixteen-year-old self: have better aspirations). This was the jacket I wore as I walked aimlessly around my neighborhood, listening to Dylan, wasting time as the seasons began to change -- I wore that jacket all the way into December.

The end of autumn was marked by the sudden death of my father: it was winter now, for sure. But when I think back on it, back to when I first heard the news, I feel fall. I think of the jacket and the smell of October and the sound of "Mr. Tambourine Man." It doesn't make any sense, really. He passed away on the 12th of December, and by then "It's Alright, Ma" was on heavy rotation. In our last conversation, I told him he should see Walk the Line, but his departure instead reminds me of the Thumbsucker -- a movie I saw in early November and had been thinking about since. The protagonist was a misunderstood teen who escaped to New York, and the narcissist in me (all of me) could really relate. When we poured his ashes into the Atlantic ocean in January, I was wearing that paisley jacket.

With the new year came an obsession with the Beats, and, naturally, an all-black wardrobe. Hippie-esque overpriced outerwear was shoved to the back of my closet, and that spring I donned a faux leather jacket instead. Like all childhood rooms, mine has since been taken over by a senile great uncle. Clothing I didn't bring to college was either stolen by my little sister or stored under a bed in the guest room. I could look for it when I visit Missouri this fall, but I doubt I will. I think part of me knows that if I see it again, I'll realize just how ugly it truly was. The innocence will be taken away, leaving that god-awful pattern in its wake. I would prefer to remember it -- the paisley, that autumn -- fondly. When I wore that jacket, I felt cool, and that's all that matters when you're sixteen-years-old.


  1. The use of paisley in the title pretty much assures that Prince is going to read this.

    Great article Maddie.

  2. wow - awesome article!

  3. I'm wearing the jacket right now. It's not ugly at all.