edwin deboise

A Visit To My Tailor

My first memories from that September day in 2001 as I drove along the Charles was how crisp the air, how clear and azure the skies, and how once again the reliable cycle of another splendid New England Autumn was underway.  Later that morning, a member of my staff entered unannounced into a strategy meeting that I was leading to inform all of us that an airplane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  

We sat unanimated for a few moments of dumbounded silence.  We adjourned to withstand a dark day together—like so many others—being distant, frustrated witnesses to events horrifying and tragic.

Shortly after, civilian air travel resumed.  I had an appointment to see my tailor, Edwin DeBoise of Steed, in New York for forward fittings on two new suits.  Edwin had not yet started traveling to Boston to see me.  

The early intervening days since September 11 had been unsettling in Boston as elsewhere, of course, but the mood among my countrymen had quickly transformed into one of determination and of unassuming patriotism.  Not a block, not a building, not house, not a car in Boston: none failed to display the American flag.  Mine, too.

Flights had resumed between Boston and New York.  Nevertheless, my fiancée had some apprehension about me flying that brief, seventy-five minutes flight.  We both smiled about that apprehension…such silliness!..nonetheless, I took the train down to Manhattan.  This was in the years before the “high speed” Acela, so the winding trip down would be luxuriously slow, without the pretense of hurry.

I would see my tailor.  I would have cocktails and lunch.  I would see a Broadway show.  It would be a defiantly normal Manhattan day.  Those were my thoughts, at any rate.

My train emerged from the East River tunnels.  Manhattan was laid across the river in its march of skycrapers along the spine of the island.  It was another magnificent Autumn morning.  Edwin greeted me with utmost goodwill, solidarity, and due care, an American flag pin in his lapel.  The suits were great.  We shook hands.

I then had cocktails and lunch at 21.  It was so reassuringly familiar.  I wanted to keep things traditional.  (For years therafter, 21 would still require coat and tie for men.  That era is now lost, but it lived still on that day.)  Afterward, I went to go see The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.  They were terrific.

The time was nearing to catch my return train to Boston.  I had, however, a vague impulse that swam up into my mind from the deep.  I told my driver to take me Downtown.

As we drove South, life seemed to drain away progressively from the sidewalks and the avenues.  I think we made it to about Chambers Street before seeing barricades.  I told my driver to wait.  I got out of the car to see what could be observed with my own eyes.

Not a soul was around. Dust and debris was everywhere. The acrid smell of smothered electrical fires hung heavy and insistent.  I had thought that there would be soldiers guarding the streets, like a war zone, but in fact, there were few people of any type to be found that afternoon in that place of witness. I spent every last second that I had left before I needed to return to the train station walking those pavements.

My driver then took me to Penn station.  The train’s bell clanged, and I was away back home to Boston, back to the Hub of the Universe (we say jokingly, but not entirely jokingly.)

About three months later, I opened a wonderful package from Steed Bespoke Tailors.