Things My Father Taught Me: Max Wastler
Waiting for everyone to unravel the red box, they began to lay into their approximation of the Old Spice theme: a series of “dunhs” which warbled into a version of “The Scottish Hymn” that was as rank as their after shave.
My grandmother, Grandma Kay, was blessed with four boys, the second of whom was my father, Brad. Every Christmas until she died three years ago, she bought her sons and her two daughters’ husbands a bottle of Old Spice. Some of my first memories are of sitting in a pile of wrapping paper, wearing an itchy reindeer sweater, wide-eyed, gazing towards the sky as my dad and his brothers hoisted the white glass bottles high in the air chanting in unison.
He calls it a medicine kit. My dad’s Dopp kit has remains relatively unchanged. Brown leather, with a zipper down the middle, it’s stocked with Old Spice, Noxzema Aloe & Lanolin Shaving Cream, Unscented Speed Stick by Mennen, a Gillette Mach 3, a styptic pencil for cuts, Band-Aids and Neosporin for the big booboos, a zippered nail kit with scissors, toe and fingernail clippers, and a file. He’ll use Dove soap until he dies. He jokes that he only has four hairs, so I never paid much attention to his shampoo. Although, I remember thinking to myself as a teenager, “Don’t use Nexxus. Dad uses Nexxus, and he only has four hairs.”
In our house, Saturday and Sunday breakfast were dad’s domain. Oscar Mayer Bacon and eggs over easy, buttered toast and short glasses of OJ were de rigueur. Countless weekends, I’d crumble at just how delicious something so simple could taste. No matter my attire, a Kermit ringer, Smurf footies, or Days of Thunder, yes Days of Thunder pajamas, my father was forever clad in plaid. A Pendleton robe and Wicked Good slippers.
In college, my dad drove with some friends from Quincy, Illinois to Golden, Colorado to buy a case of Coors, because, at the time, that was the only place you could buy it. In college, I told that story to some friends, and we commemorated the trip with a short jaunt of our own to buy Fat Tire, at the time, not available east of the Mississippi. As was most likely the case with my dad and his friends, we figured it was as a good a bonding experience as any – the ritual roadtrip.
He builds things. From fences to forts, canvas canoes to cherry red sports cars, he’s a master craftsman. I’ve seen him do things with wallpaper that would make your head spin. Wallpaper.Some families have a boat. Some have camper. Ours had an unhealthy obsession with Breckenridge, Colorado. I was surprised looking back at the photos from my life, because from the time I was born, the word “Breckenridge” or one of its marvelous peaks pops up in a photo at least once a year.
We’re skiers. I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to learn to ski. My father is an outdoorsman. He raised a pair of naturalists. At one time, he aspired to be a park ranger. I think he’s happiest exploring the highs of the wild. Some of my fondest memories are of our yearly ski trips. My dad wore red, occasionally blue, usually Patagonia. In eighth grade, he pulled me out of school for a week to go skiing in Breckenridge. On a small hill, Duke’s Run, my dad tore his ACL. I still get a pang in my heart when I think about how scared I was riding the chairlift to retrieve him.
“Hey, Bud.” He would say that.
“Oh, I’m ok.” He’d say that, too.
I very nearly had to drive us home from the airport. Still wish I had.
Along with a deep appreciation of the Rocky Mountains, he saddled me with a fascination of the lyric and lore of the American Wild West. From the time I was just a cowpoke, I have loved to read, write, and listen to stories of cowboys. A child of the 50s, somewhere in the family archives, there’s a great photo of my dad, five years old, in full cowboy regalia with the simple inscription, “Buckshot,” an apparent nickname.
Hats have always been a big deal to me. I don’t know why, really. Whether it’s a 4X Beaver or a corduroy snap back, I know a good hat when I see one. I stole the hat in the photo below from the hallway closet before going to a middle school mixer, and it was such a hit with the girls that night that I never gave it back. Since the mixer, that green corduroy hat made its way into my college trunk, the knapsack I carried across Europe, and it even made its way into a screenplay. No joke. Among my closest friends, it’s come to be known as “Oh. That hat.” No one likes it. When he saw this photo, I think he called it, “That awful hat.” I hope never to part with this awful hat.
I thought it was a cool tie. It looked like an abstract oil painting. It’s a Colours by Alexander Julian tie. On the first day of seventh grade, my dad taught me how to tie that tie. Half Windsor. It’s how I tie my tie to this day. Twelfth Grade. Same conference room. Different tie. That’s still the blazer I wear at least once a week. He’s wearing the same suit in both photos. He’s probably wearing the same pair of Allen Edmonds tassel loafers, repaired at least once in that time.
“Good as new,” he’d say, nearly bragging as he pulled them from the cardboard box fresh from the Allen Edmonds’ repair shop. If nothing else, my father instilled in his sons the importance of a quality investment.
Investments of any kind, should be ones you’re prepared to make for a lifetime. My dad taught me that. Nurture and when necessary mend relationships with family and friends potential clients and longtime customers, and you’ll find they will be the most rewarding of your life. Investing in long-term winners is a safer, smarter bet than putting your money on a hotshot holy-roller. He let me make the mistake of buying cheap junk a number of times before I learned, all on my own, to buy things that are well-made and well-priced, and take good care of them.
All of this week’s evidence to the contrary, I’d still be hard-pressed to find a better man, a better investor, than my dad.
– Max Wastler, all plaidout