Birthday Cake for Breakfast

Wednesday, the day before my birthday but a day the world still remembers and cherishes as the day both Richard Nixon and Elvis arrived to help to make being a Capricorn kind of lame, I was busy wondering if the $275 Cherbourg coat I'd tried on at J. Crew while Christmas shopping and looked like a million bucks in had yet gone on sale.

I do have a thing about coats. The other day Jack opened the hall closet and said, "When was the last time you wore any of these jackets?" and I flung myself in front of them and tearfully responded, "I wear them . . . ALL . . . THE . . . TIME!" Which of course I don't. I live a pitifully jacket-free existence in this goddamned California climate. I jump at the chance to take the dogs out to pee at night, just so I can put on my heavy leather motorcycle jacket and revel in its breeze-blocking magnificence.

Occasionally, though, I try to cull the collection. A couple of years ago when I was unloading a lot of clothes to Goodwill, I e-mailed Maggie to see if she'd like to take a couple of my mother's perfect and tasteful old coats. I only knew Maggie from her web site and I didn't have a clue what size she wore, but she seemed like someone to whom I could entrust two beautiful, sentimental items, rather than just leaving them in a garbage bag on a loading dock for some boring needy person to look fantastic in and wear to her interview and totally get the job that changed her life.

Maggie e-mailed me back, saying that I had intuited correctly, she adored vintage coats but she had so many that she'd had to promise her husband that she wouldn't accumulate any more until she'd gotten rid of an equal amount from her closet. It may have been a brilliantly diplomatic way of declining two items that weren't to her taste, and that's fine, ignorance is bliss, we've since become friends (and I eventually became the lucky recipient of one of Maggie's fine cast-offs).

The point is, I wanted the damned J. Crew coat I'd tried on before Christmas. I checked online: it hadn't gone on sale yet. I checked eBay: there was one going for $150 but it was three sizes too small. I Googled the coat (my god I must have been bored) and found a blogger who was announcing to the world that if you went to the J. Crew store you would find the coat for half price. Holy stem cell research, you should have seen me jump for the phone. I called, they had my size, they set it aside, I grabbed my Christmas money and the ugly bracelet I needed to return there, threw the dogs in the car, and discovered I was out of gas.

Eventually, with the return credit and my Christmas money, the coat cost me $30. I don't know if I'd have bothered to write all this if it hadn't. Surely there's nothing more shameful than paying full price.

I wore it out to dinner last night with my red shoes. Jack wore a suit and Jackson wore a jacket and tie and ordered frog's legs and escargot. As we were leaving Petit Valentien a guy unloading his backpack on a bench turned to watch us walk by, and then he said, "You guys don't dress like Santa Barbara people. You three look great!" Which prompted Jack to say, "We need to go out more often."