By DAN WHITTLE
Restaurant server Debbie recently shocked me with a request: "Mr. Whittle, since we wear ties as part of my job here at the restaurant, I'd be honored to wear a tie or two that belonged to you!"
Being an anti-tie kind-of-guy, I gladly donated two throat chokers to her.
Since I don't like ties I was more than happy to rummage through my large rack of ties held wastefully hostage in my closet since I no longer report daily to a newsroom that required men to wear dastardly ties.
Since I get a "choking" feeling when I tie one on, I wonder if they're healthy?
Since semi-retirement in 2006 I've worn two ties. I didn't mind those "ties" because attending a funeral for a loved one is already an uncomfortable affair
Having been ordered by some tasteless editor of the past to research "tie history" is partly the reason I'm staunchly anti-tie.
Some of the resulting stupid research indicated ties came when men of aristocratic status back in Eastern Europe began wearing ties in the 1700s to point down in the general direction of their genitals.
Further research showed ties dating back to Europe's Croation soldiers' uniforms of the 1600s. I prefer the military explanation of tie beginnings over the genitalia thing.
When interviewing for my first newspaper job as a teenager back in Missouri, Momma Whittle made a 50-mile round-trip by ferry to cross the Mississippi River to Kentucky, where some store was having a sale on ties and business suits. Thus was born my painful tradition of tie wearing.
CPA Tom Cox was smart in three ways: He married my sister. He was brilliant at doing big bank audits all over the nation. And he taught me how to tie a Windsor knot, which kept me from having to wear those tacky little clip-on ties that were briefly in style during the 1960s.
Ties can be hazardous to one's health in more ways than one.
I learned this on a post-midnight trip to the Purple Crackle Club that operated 24-7 on the almost-lawless Illinois side of the Mississippi across from Cape Girardeau, Mo.
I was there in 1970 as an investigative reporter in the company of two Cape Girardeau detectives also named "Dan" after we had formed our personal "Three Dans' Club." It was about 3 a.m. in the morning when Detective Danny Harmon reached over the table and sliced off my new paisley tie with his pocket knife. I didn't show anger since detectives tote pistols.
Never the bright teenager, it was during another late-night barroom scene on the Missouri side of the river when a stranger came up to our table and grabbed the tie I was wearing after my news-gathering workday had ended.
I realized how defenseless I was as the gent dragged me across the table by pulling on that stupid tie around my now-gasping throat. When he drew back a fist, I warned him that I also had some rough-and-tumble friends and family who would not take kindly to me being roughed up. Thankfully the guy backed off from slugging me.
That was THE LAST TIME I wore a tie in a honky tonk.
I still have one woolen tie worn in 1950 by Daddy Whittle, a farmer who dressed like a dude when he went gambling.
Daddy was also a "hat man," a trait I inherited from him, may the good Lord rest his larger-than-life colorful soul as a part-time riverboat gambler at Cairo, Ill., when not farming.
I do have a favorite modern tie that I never wear. Wife Patricia purchased a St. Louis Cardinals' tie for me when we were back in my native Missouri to witness Mark McGwire hit three drug-enhanced homeruns back in the 1990s. It sports the beautiful logo redbirds on baseball bat.
I laid that tie out for good luck along with my Cards' caps when the mighty Cardinals recently took on the dratted Boston Red Sox in the 2013 World Series.