When I was 18 I was down the Jersey shore and walked by this ridiculous airbrushed T-shirt of Gene Simmons of Kiss, all made up with a silly tongue that extended down and twisted around like a pretzel. It was $40, which was a fortune for a T-shirt to a high school senior in 1991.
After staring at it for a few minutes, my friend Adam said to me, “Buy it. If you don’t get it now, you’ll always wish you had.”
So I bought it; spent the forty bucks and worried the heck out of myself whenever I put it on. I’ve worn it a total of three times in 13 years.
The most recent time I wore it was to a Kiss meet-and-greet at a club in Manhattan in 1997. Each member of the band stood in a row onstage, and fans got to walk down the row and shake hands with the band members. The rules were strict: keep the line moving, no posing for photos around the back of the podium, autographs on albums and papers only.
Every member of the band loved my shirt. Paul Stanley: “Nice shirt!” Eric Singer: “Great shirt, man.” Bruce Kulick: “Love that shirt,” then, turning to Gene Simmons: “Hey, Gene, check out this guy’s shirt.”
When I got to Gene he gave me a great you-and-me-pal smile. He pulled me aside, leaned in close, autographed the shirt in permanent marker and gave me a firm handshake, nodding knowingly.
I’m not that star-struck but that’s about as fun as music fandom has ever gotten for me. I came home, sprayed the shirt with some sealing solution, and haven’t worn it since. It took six years for it to pay off, but in the end, my decisiveness led me to a singular event with a unique memento.
Any time I’m on the fence about something I think about that shirt, and how my greatest wisdom is often the one in my gut.