Dec 20, 2023–A hobgoblin is a mythical sprite that plays impish tricks at night, stealing keys, hiding utensils, unraveling seams, and generally making you question your sanity.

My house is infested with them.

In the the past few weeks, many of my precious “tools”–or what my wife inaccurately labels “clutter”–have walked off.

  • my good scissors
  • my flexible plastic ruler
  • my neck pillow
  • my retractable pencil
  • my guitar tuner
  • my good stapler
  • my Magic brand marker

Except for the pillow, I keep most of these items within reach of my work area. It’s amazing how often during writing you need to pick up a ruler. Okay, not that often. But when a story calls for the circumference of a Tootsie Roll Pop, I need that ruler.

But the most egregious example of a missing essential came up while I was getting ready to play a gig. “All black” was the uniform, and luckily, I keep a pair of black pants and a black shirt just for such occasions, and only for those occasions, as for most of the year it is oppressive to wear black in South Texas. As I got dressed an hour before having to leave, I stood in the living room attired in black shirt, black underwear, black socks, and a black expression. “Where,” I asked my giggling wife, “are my black pants?”

She was no help. So I went back to rummage through the laundry, the drawers, the hanging clothes. Aha! Found a pair of black slacks and quickly pulled them on. I went back in the living room and tried to put on my black belt.

There were no belt loops.

My wife started giggling again.

“Those are my pants,” she said.

I looked down. No belt loops. An inadequate zipper. And, horrors, NO POCKETS!

The search for my own pants grew frantic as time clicked away. I tore through all our closets and drawers. I looked in the back seat of my truck (yes, I sometimes carry a change of clothes there, along with a snare drum and bag of sticks–you never know when a gig might break out). All I could figure was that I accidently took them to the thrift shop with that bag of old slacks that had shrunk at the waist.

It was too late to redirect. I put aside the black belt, tucked in my black shirt, slipped into my black oxfords, and tore off to play.

Here, finally, is the entire point of this column. HOW DOES ANYONE FUNCTION WITH NO POCKETS? I felt naked. There was no place to carry my chapstick, my swiss army knife, or my ibuprofen. Wallet? Forget it. Cell phone? Sorry, I don’t wear a double-cupped undergarment. And where do you carry your car keys? I stood in the street for a minute before I tucked them into the top of my sock.

I guess that’s why some of us have a pocket fetish.

It was only the day before I was shooting a catering event, and in the kitchen I gazed enviously at the chef’s shirt. He had a pocket stitched onto each outer sleeve as a place to hold a pencil and meat thermometer. Bloody brilliant. I want that on all my T-shirts.

A handyman can never have too many pockets. That’s why khaki cargo pants were invented and still endure as standard casual Friday office wear. You need insulation stripped off a wire or a package opened? Let me pull out my Leatherman.

Back to those hobgoblins. The next day, I went back to looking for my ebony britches

It was like a Hardy Boys mystery: The Search for the Missing Pants.

Lo, I found them. They were stuffed in a heap at the back corner of my closet. How did they get there? I don’t have hobgoblins. I have grandkids. My closet is their favorite place to hide ‘n’ seek. In one of their dives, they carried along my black pants, along with my Luckenbach shirt and six hangers.

That deep dive also unearthed my other missing knickknacks.

I found my pillow (they had repurposed it as the bed in their fort), scissors, stapler, and marker (for assembling their book, which also used half a ream of my paper), and tuner (for violin practice).

There is no moral to this story. Excuse me while I finish installing a very high shelf in my office. I hope hobgoblins aren’t very good climbers.