This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.
When Jim Nantz picks up his dry cleaning for the Masters, there’s an amen on every corner.
The hot hiss of a steaming iron. The rhythmic murmur of a sewing machine. The fragrant pink blossoms of the azalea bush I pull around town with me on this little wagon.
This fleeting springtime moment marks the renewal of a timeless ritual… one man striving amid the shadows of yesteryear to complete an epic quest that will echo through history until he stands upon the dew-dappled shoulders of eternity.
The prize? A triumph for the ages! A date with destiny! An emotional reunion with his best pair of slacks!
Let the ghosts of ancient blazers awake: It’s Tuesday afternoon at Mel’s Dry Cleaning and Alterations!
[Nantz takes out his phone and turns on a bird-chirp sound app.]
The sartorial revolution of the 19th century freed gentlemen from the embroidered and bejewelled garments of their forebears. Later, a Regency dandy named Beau Brummell set man inexorably on a path toward the peerless comfort of trousers. But one question would be whispered softly across the sands of time: Who shall clean our pantaloons?
Into the grim struggle of a Depression-era family was born Mel Karpis, a devoted son to a father with a dream—a dream about the dreams that fathers have about sons. Think of it as kind of an Inception thing.
In the late 1950s, Mel filled a vacancy in a strip mall in Augusta, Ga., with a dry cleaning shop. In turn, the dry cleaning shop filled the vacancy… in his heart.
Since that day, men have come to this place to retrieve not only their finery, but the essence of their humanity. They have come to nurture not only their wardrobes, but their souls. And they have come to etch their names into the firmament of Mel’s monthly draw for one free duvet cleaning.
[The clerk takes Nantz’s ticket and walks to the back.]
A furtive glance across the parking lot imbues the eye with a wondrous moment of assurance—Baskin-Robbins is still open! History shall soon beckon one man’s tongue to embark on a solitary journey across the luscious contours of a double scoop of Snacknado…
[The clerk returns.]
The conclusion of this iconic transaction approaches. This arduous quest will soon be imbued with the solemn imprimatur of closure. The coveted CBS jacket, the pressed pants, the timeless dress shirt—each now in hand, waiting to take its place in the vanguard of legends and, before that, the backseat of my rental car.
But a solitary query echoes across the expanse of time and the width of this countertop: Hey, where are my socks? My iconic dry-cleaning order was definitely imbued with a pair of black dress socks.
Well, can you maybe TRIPLE-CHECK??
Sorry for raising my voice. I guess I’m imbued with being a little pissed off right now, friend. Over the course of decades, through the mists of time, men have been coming to this place inspired by a belief—the belief that some idiot won’t lose their goddamn socks.
You know what? Forget it. I’ll steal Faldo’s.
And now the climactic moment is upon us. Green symbols flash as the cash register works its numeric magic—and displays… whoa, seriously? OK, uh… hang on, I’ve got to come up with something for this.
Um… it displays a sum as great in stature as a stately Georgia pine? Whatever. Is it really $67? I guess that’s fine since I’ve got a—
[There is a pause as Nantz searches his pockets.]
And for one solitary man, led here by the fates and a Hertz GPS, a sense of hope gives way to the dawning realization that his 20-percent-off coupon remains in place on his iconic hotel nightstand.
He will be paying full price. He will be leaving without his socks. Yet still, standing here in a place that blurs the memory of time itself, he consoles himself with the knowledge that the future holds—SONOFA… Baskin-Robbins just closed!
That’s just great, friend. That’s just imbued with great.