Saturday Afternoon with Calvin

Excuse me, but I just have to ask: Are you Calvin Klein?"

In 1993, I was at a sweets shop on Bancroft Avenue, just across from the UC Berkeley campus, buying gifts for people I'd worked with as president of my dormitory that year. Trying to decide between pecan turtles and truffles, I became aware of another customer who had come into the shop and who was patiently waiting for me to make up my mind. I glanced at him, and offered to let him go ahead of me while I made this very important decision.

As I stood in front of the display, considering the merits of mints, I became aware of the flustered countenance of the girl behind the counter. She bagged this other customer's items, and as she rung up his bill she gushed, "Excuse me, but I just have to ask: Are you Calvin Klein?"

At this, of course, my head snapped up, and I turned away from the chocolates to stare at the man I'd let go ahead of me. Instead of replying right away, he turned to meet my gaze and smiled sheepishly. "Why, yes I am," he replied, while looking at me. He then turned back to the shop girl, who by now was visibly vibrating with excitement. He explained that he was in town visiting an aunt who lived up in the Berkeley Hills and that he wanted to bring her something.

Now that he was in profile, I could start to recognize him as the girl started to convey her admiration of his designs, etc.: the high forehead, the fancy haircut, the elegant nose. But I must admit that I wouldn't ever have recognized him on my own.

He stood patiently as the girl praised him; once or twice, he glanced my direction, again with the charmingly shy and wry smile. When he had paid, he nodded once at me and was out the door, leaving me with the raptures of the shop girl among the truffles and turtles.


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