Friday, March 28, 2008

Making a spectacle of myself

It's rather ironic that while growing up I actually DESPISED having to wear glasses. I was never so happy when I was fitted with contact lenses after several horrendous years in high school wearing big ugly frames with coke bottle lenses. When you grow up in a small town and your parents take you to the local eye doctor, you pretty much take what you can get and you have a choice of maybe five different frames.

Like mother, like son. Also, from 1979:

Once while visiting my grandmother in the D/FW area during the summer, I remember the bright Texas sun was making me squint with my contact lenses and I snapped at my grandma for suggesting that I get some sunglasses. My logic was that I spent money on contacts so I wouldn't have to wear glasses, so why would I wear sunglasses? It made no sense and I was infuriated at her suggestion.

It wasn't until around 1991 when I got a job in Santa Monica in the advertising business that I discovered a world of eyewear I never knew existed. Just down the street from my agency was an optometrist who carried an extraordinary selection of the coolest frames I'd ever seen. I selected a pair of Kata frames.

I'll admit they weren't necessarily the best fit for my face but rounder frames were "in" back then.

This gave birth to an infatuation which lives on to this very day. Some people have a shoe fetish. My fetish is eyewear.

These are the first high-end pair I bought in Santa Monica. I have no idea what I paid for them back then. I figure it was probably in the low $300 range. It seemed like a big splurge back then.

When I moved to Austin I needed new glasses and I found the perfect vendor for high-end frames -- Bellingrath Optics. When I got new glasses I managed to recycle my old ones by having the non-prescription sunglass lenses put in them for when I was wearing contact lenses. Here they are. You probably cannot see the detail in the frames but it was exquisite. Even the frame around the lenses themselves had delicate etching.

When I got to Austin, I fell in love with two pairs of frames at Bellingrath Optics and ended up purchasing both of them. You always need a spare pair, right?

The ones you see me in now are my favorites. They are Okio frames and it was the first time I discovered that a frame more square than round actually suited my face better. At least in my mind. Feel free to disagree. You may have seen this picture here.

At the same time I ordered these frames, my backup 2nd pair was a lovely pair by Sama, and while they had rounder lenses, I hadn't quite grasped at the time that round lenses don't really do it for me. I was pretty much in love with the frames more than the lenses anyway.

Come on! Tell me those aren't hot! They don't look so hot on me, but it was hard not to fall in love with the frames.

Some of my frame fetish has rubbed off on txrad through the years. He never needed glasses until 2001 when he found a pair at the same vendor where I got my recent pair. His were by Beausoleil - Made in France! They looked great on him.

Alas, old age catches up with all of us and when he last got an exam in 2007, he needed bifocals which he got in November. It took him awhile to adjust but damn those frames looked even better on him. What a major load of suckage that we had that unfortunate incident at the beginning of March in which he lost them.

I've been going insane for the past few weeks trying to read the morning paper and any other fine print. I desperately need bifocals and have finally begun searching for new spectacles. I figured I should do this on a budget for a change so I went to Lenscrafters and got an eye exam and checked out a few frames there. I picked out 3 pairs I liked although only two of them was I seriously going to consider since the 3rd pair were made in China. I may be desperate but I'm not THAT desperate.

Before purchasing I decided to pay a visit to Bellingrath Optics again just to see what I was sacrificing. They were phasing out the line of Okio frames. That was sad and I really didn't see any there I liked. In fact, I really only saw one pair of anything I liked and it was a pair by Sama -- big heavy acetate frames, very much unlike what I'm used to, but stylish nonetheless.

The were brownish on the outside with a deep blue tint on the inside of the frames. I really like the daring colors but I didn't feel as if these were 100% me. I decided to think it over. I also wasn't thrilled that the store kept all their frames locked away in display cases and I had to have the clerk unlock anything I wanted to view.

Today I decided to make one last attempt to find a store with something a bit different. We went to Austin Vision Center, located in Tarrytown, just west of downtown Austin in a shopping center owned by a vegan who refuses to rent to tenants who serve any meat products. A branch of my liquor store is located there and I'd heard they were not allowed to sell beef jerky. There was also a very interesting Asian-influenced vegetarian restaurant in the center which we tried once but has since closed down.

As I walked in the door of this place today I really didn't know if this was going to be worth my effort, but immediately I realized I had stumbled upon eyewear heaven. Not only did I see a vast assortment of frames to my liking, I quickly realized they carried a line of Kata frames which I have not seen since I worked in Santa Monica.

The very first pair I tried on really tugged at my heart. They are very similar to what I'm wearing now, but with a twist. Literally.

This is the best picture I could find online and it's not very good. The pair I selected are almost a mocha black.

I also found a pair of frames by Bevel which are similar to the acetate frames by Sama two photos up, but far more suited to my face, in my opinion. The are blue on the outside of the frames with a nice cream color on the outer rim and inside of the frames.

I believe this is the basic shape and look, just not the same color.

I honestly could not decide and as before, I'm tempted to buy two pair. Call me a polygamist. I have two loves. I really wish I had snapped pictures today but if they are open this weekend, I'll go back, get pictures, and add them to this post.

Then, you can vote. But I may have already decided.

I love Austin Vision Center. Unlike Bellingrath Optics, most of their frames were on shelves, not locked behind glass, and the clerk in the store left me alone to try on frames for as long as I wanted and I was there for at least an hour. I was in heaven. I felt like I had the place to myself and I was like a kid in a toy store.

I'll admit, this is a fetish. But damn it's fun.

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