That Black Trench Coat
The late 1910s. Grandpa Vuolo wore it on those cold days when he looked for work. It was black wool, fine as camel hair, with a raised collar and large button; the coat easily reached his knees. It also had a curious angle pocket near the left collar. Many days he would brush the falling snow from it as he entered his room, after another day of ignoring the shouted “Guinee go home!” and the endless jobs for which he was not hired. Working—living—alone, he tried saving enough to eventually bring over his family.
On some cold nights, he may have fallen asleep atop his bed with it still buttoned.
snow at sunset
even his footprints
fade from view
The late 1970s. My father inherited the coat. He strode into Fiorella’s Café—across from Lincoln Center—with it open, revealing his latest suit. Quickly hanging it up, he would check the floor to see how the shift manager had everything in order.
Bill Beutel, the long-time ABC news anchor, would arrive sometime during the day and ask Dad for “that bottle of Crown Royale.” Sometime after, Dad would walk past Al Pacino, who sat nestled in a corner, embraced by his own, brown trench coat and fedora, and desperate for anonymity.
echoes of steps
and car horns
The early 1990s. I wore the coat over a flannel shirt and a bright-orange, psychedelic, tie-dye t-shirt. Faded jeans, Italian leather ankle boots and a “Crocodile Dundee” brimmed hat completed my attire. None of it worked without the trench coat.
Jaime nearly died when I picked him up. But as we made our way south from Binghamton in a seriously used 1984 Honda Prelude, he got used to it. Good thing, too: I never took it off!
covered in crows
a bare tree
Photo by Library of Congress