An Ode to Blimpcoat

The indispensable blimpcoat

The indispensable blimpcoat

I suspect that most people have a blimpcoat.

Oh, not exactly a *blimpcoat*–they have an article of clothing that they can’t bear to part with because there are times it is indispensable. More than once you toss it in the box for charity, or even into the rag bag.

Later, you retrieve it. Because.

Blimpcoat is like that. I even scrubbed it with a mild soap last year. A friend tells me there’s now a cleaner made for slick-surfaced winter coats and jackets. Can it take off decades of fine grit? Do I want it to? I might look like a tourist in a clean coat.

Longer ago than I like to think, I was on a plane heading for Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It was close to Christmas and the city was experiencing a deep freeze. After living in Texas long enough to get rid of my heaviest gear, I was layered and hopeful. We could survive this trip! Then the extending ramp had a malfunction, and we had to walk down a rolling staircase and across the tarmac to the terminal.

“My nose hairs just froze,” said my companion.

It did not bode well.

Friends picked us up, and we headed for the suburbs. On the way, my astute host stopped by a discount cold weather gear store. My companion found something, but the only thing left in the shop that fit me well was a powder blue full length down coat, its stitching horizontal.

When I looked in the mirror, I looked a lot like the Michelin Man.

I couldn’t do it. We got in the car and continued driving. Twenty minutes into the drive, I knew I had made a mistake. My blood had thinned, as we say–I could no longer handle a Midwestern winter. It might take weeks to build back up to comfort.

During dinner, my host leaned over and said: “They are open tonight.”

We went back to the discount store, and there it hung–blimpcoat. No one else wanted to be the Michelin Man, either. I learned at that moment that I had the seeds of my character Alfreda Sorensson within me. Survive first, worry about how you look later. Blimpcoat left wrapped around my slender form. Amid all the humor, I knew the truth: I was in love with my Michelin Man costume.

By the end of the trip, I grew used to the jokes…and to people trying to crawl into the coat with me. When we left parties, I would have to excavate blimpcoat, because the cats and dogs living in the house would be curled up inside of it. Later when I went to Canada in late October, we used blimpcoat as a blanket on the plane and in the hotel. When I gardened in the winter, it was my go-to coat. Eventually I could not really wear it anymore, so I left blimpcoat open and stacked my clothes beneath it, letting it be the top layer.

Blimpcoat has hung neglected in closets for years. It was wadded up in the bottom of a clothes sack. It even survived the humidity of a Texas summer, forgotten in a garage. I tossed blimpcoat into a washing machine once, desperate to clean it. It survived, shrinking slightly, but the stitching is like iron. I gained new respect for it. Someone had made that coat to last.

My magical blimpcoat fits me again (with less room for layers, thanks to that one washing.) It’s still powder blue with a thin layer of grit where I brushed past dirty cars or carried bags of brush. The tight stitching holds within it feathers old enough to have descendants.

I looked at new coats on sale when I had to go to the Midwest during the Polar Vortex. But I had blimpcoat. Did I want to look like a tourist? So I picked up all the new things required for the neck and extremities, and stepped off the plane looking like I had returned home.

Why, yes, people have offered me money for blimpcoat…usually during a deep freeze.

Are you crazy? I’m the Michelin Woman. How could you find me on the streets of Chicago, if I got a new coat? Besides, as you can see, it doesn’t really hang on a chair–it stands around steel tomato stakes like a wind break. Could I find a new coat that took better care of me than this? Not until blimpcoat is ready to pass on the torch.

I don’t think that will happen any time soon.


About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.


An Ode to Blimpcoat — 22 Comments

  1. I’ve got a seventies shawl like that, which I’ve used as a blanket while traveling. It’s more than forty years old, I seldom use it anymore (especially in this climate) but I can’t discard it.

  2. LOL! Monsieur Bibendum I think … love it! You must not let it go Kathi! I have not one, but two men’s leather coats that homeless people gave to me but they are not so nice as this.

  3. I have a 15-year-old down jacket (that replaced a 35-year-old down jacket that suffered a tear!) and have recently added a down skirt. Love them! Though, I have a woolen coat I call my Chicago coat, which dresses up nicely when I go to Chicago in the winter. (That’s where I’m from, else I’d NEVER go to Chicago in the winter!)

    • I have a twenty year old wool full-length coat with a great hood, but it’s not as warm as blimpcoat, so it is my southern states formal winter coat. I am so lucky to have two!

  4. I have 2 pairs of whimsical striped ankle socks, bought at Nordstrom in 1974, that have yet to show any sign of wear (other than slight pilling). I am postulating they are made of kryptonite?

  5. Congratulations on your blimpcoat; I love the cheery color – most winterclothes are dark and drab, and this light color improves your visibility in traffic in gloomy winterdark conditions as well as being nice (blue is my favorite). See, practical all around!
    I was lucky enough to have a coat like that, in forest green and one ‘tire’ shorter, for my teenage years when we had the coldest winter of my lifetime, with temperatures down to -18 and -20 degrees centigrade at night, and -12 / -15 during the day (not counting windchill). It kept me warm biking 7 kilometers to school in the dark. There’s nothing better, in such a situation!
    Alas, it got a tear, and when the patch on that started coming loose it got thrown out. I’ve never found a better coat for cold, wet and windy weather.

    PS I loved Alfreda and all three books and the short story about her, her family and her friends. I hope you might want to write more about her as I’d love to read more!

    • Oh, your coat sounded marvelous, I am sorry you lost it! There is a pinhole in blimpcoat–its years may be numbered.

      So glad that you enjoy Alfreda. I have an Allie short story I’m working on, and I’m about to start a new novel, the second of her “city” explorations (plus the west) so if I have anything to say about it, there will be more Alfreda. Keep an eye out!

      • Your blimpcoat looks fantastic. I have been recommending the Allie books to my friends, and I am so happy to learn that more of her adventures are forthcoming! Can you tell us whether the short story is bound for an anthology or magazine?

        • I am not sure what I will do with this story. Originally I wanted to do an anthology of the quarter days, since this takes place at CandleMas. But it takes place twenty years after Spiral Path. It will give a few things away. But the reader will not know *how* those things came about, only that they do.

          So–do you want to jump around in time will Allie, or wait?

          • Lovely! I’m so glad you are writing in Ally’s world and giving us a glimpse of what’s going on with her some time later.

            I’m the sort of reader who doesn’t mind “spoilers” at all, and will even read the ending before reading the book, to check things end up fairly positive, if I don’t trust the writer yet not to let the book end on a negative note or a cliffhanger; or sometimes if I expect the book will be very full of peril that won’t be resolved until the end, if I want to be able to put it down and get some sleep.
            For me, knowing how some things will turn out is not a bad thing and can sometimes heighten my enjoyment of the journey to that resolution.
            So for me, if the stories become available out-of-sequence I will buy and read them as soon as they are available.
            For new readers who might be pulled in by the new story and want to get the earlier books, a small note at the end regarding the timeline should be enough to prepare them.
            I think that for the very spoiler-averse readers following Allie’s life stories, it will probably be important to know before they start reading that this new story is not a direct sequel but a vignette from later in her life.
            I always love those glimpses into what happens after the big adventure, how people continue with their lives, and considering what I read about the popularity of the Gratuitous Epilogue to Andrea K. Host’s Touchstone trilogy I’m clearly not the only one.
            An article I read recently talked about the rise of novellas being read as ebooks, so if you don’t sell it to a magazine you could publish the stories separately as e-novellas first, then collect them into one collection/anthology (paper and ebook) when you’ve finished several, if your publisher would be willing.

            • That was actually the original thought, put out a collection of the pagan holidays as short stories, maybe release each for .99 if they were long enough. Book View Cafe would bring them out. It can still happen. I am just in a place that is hampering writing. When you don’t make a living at fiction, other things sometimes demand the front row attention!

              • I wish you the best, and hooe whatever is troubling you in life may be resolved to your satisfaction.
                If living your life means writing has to take the back seat for a while, it might take a while to write enough short stories to interest Ally’s paperback publisher to print a short story collection. In that case, I think I’d go with the 99 cents idea, even for the really short stories. Considering the trouble and expense I found it worthwhile to go to, to get the chapbook with your two short stories sent all the way to Holland, I guess there will be quite a few Alfreda fans out there who will love to buy a shortshort story for 99 cents. That way any story you finish can start earning a bit of money for you, without having to wait a long time to have enough written for a publisher’s contract.

                I do hope, even if it has to go slowly or pause for a while, that you won’t give up on the writing. I love reading what you write.

          • Either! Like Hanneke, I don’t mind spoilers and often enjoy re-reading more than the initial read.

  6. Yes, I have hoarded certain items of clothing that occasionally just fit the bill perfectly. Poor Thor, who would love it if some boxes disappeared from the basement…. I love your blimpcoat!

    • I would imagine that you guys have some longtime hiking clothes that are perfect for certain times of the year–and you just cannot let them go, and haven’t found a suitable replacement.

      With all the different terrain you cover, I could see that problem. My sealed rain jacket for mountain hiking died last year. Sadness.

      • Yes, I do have quite an assortment of outdoor gear and clothing. Plus several boxes full of costume pieces that I most likely won’t use again. And I probably should get rid of such things as my outdated scuba gear and old wetsuit, since I do have a new one…. (Signed: The Packrat Ripe for a Garage Sale)