America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has had a problem selecting gifts for me, as she will admit, probably because she just can’t manage to master the seating charts at Madison Square Garden or Citifield. This year, she has been especially challenged because my birthday and Valentine’s Day fall very close together. For weeks, she has been asking what I want. I admit, I am hard to shop for, tickets to sporting events and cookies aside. I have a lot of clothes, a lot of books, a lot of recordings. The other day, however, walking to the subway after work on a cold night, I pulled out my cell phone and called her to say that I’d picked a gift.
I’ve always liked those colorful English college scarves with bright stripes running their length. In the early 80s, I had a predominantly maroon scarf with a yellow stripe. I simply don’t recall how I got it or what it represented, but I enjoyed it for years before passing it along to an English-born woman friend/colleague. In the early 90s, Nate Persily, then a distinguished student, now a distinguished professor, brought me a scarf from St. John’s College, Oxford, when he visited to debate at the Oxford Union. This very attractive scarf was black with red and yellow stripes. Once, on Third Avenue at 12th Street, waiting for an uptown bus, an older couple and (apparently) their daughter eyed me for several minutes, before the father figure approached me to tell me with a British accent that he, too, went to St. John’s Oxford. I may have then quoted that immortal adage, “Dress British, Think Yiddish,” but I owned up to having only rowed for CCNY. Years later, I gave up this scarf also.
With the consent of America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, I searched the Internet for “English college scarf” and “English university scarf” with identical results. Nothing at Brooks Bros., Paul Stuart, or J. Press. No British academic institution seemed interested in commercial endeavors and the British retailers confined themselves to their tight little island. However, an outfit called Bridgham & Cook, Ltd showed scarves from 25 different schools, mostly Oxford and Cambridge, in vivid colours. This business happens to be located in Freeport, Maine which is, after all, closer to the United Kingdom than I am in Manhattan. After considering the black, purple and yellow of the London School Economics, the dark blue, red and yellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and the red, white and blue of Balliol College, Oxford (which I never could select because it was the alma mater [nurturing mother] of Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, the worst two-legged roommate I ever had), I picked the wide red and black stripes of Jesus College, Cambridge, two black and one red on one side, two red and one black on the other. The scarf arrived within 48 hours, Praise the Lord!