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Wing tips on the beach

August 24, 2010 - Mike Donahey

A wedding in Duluth, Minn. brought me to the shores of Lake Superior earlier this month.
And that is where I discovered I had something in common with the late President Richard Nixon.
Wing tips on the beach.
For the uninitiated, wing tips are a men’s dress shoe, usually worn with a suit.
There is more.
“Wing tips on the beach,” was a 1994 essay written by the Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney about the life and career of Nixon on the occasion of the former president’s 80th birthday.
One of the the essay’s themes, as I recall, was that Nixon, a California native (and the first Californian to serve as president) was said to be so regimented, so formal and “un-Californian” that it was believed he would wear wing tips on the beach.
Feeney’s essay received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for feature writing. He didn’t win, but was a finalist. Nonetheless, an impressive accomplishment for those of us who write and report for a living.
And how did it come to be that I wore wing tips and a suit on a Superior Bay beach?
Part of it is just me. That is, I believe in wearing suits to funerals and weddings. Call me old school.
However, I was one of only two male guests out of about 25 wearing a suit. The other males? The groom and groomsmen were wearing tuxedos (but sandals for footwear). A quick look revealed male guests were wearing comfortable khaki’s and nice sports or dress shirts. There were no Tee shirts or shorts. Sandals and loafers were the footwear of the day for men. And no other wing tips I could see but mine.
I have another reason for the formal dress.
In hurriedly reading the wedding invitation, I thought the wedding was going to be in a beach house. So did other guests, who, must have been like me and quickly read their invitation.
The scenario was as follows:
After a trip over the city’s famed suspension bridge, we drove for awhile, easily finding the Park Point Beach House. The Duluth–Superior area is well signed, a credit to the town’s tourism industry.
Upon arrival to the beach house (which would serve as the location for the wedding reception) we were directed about 50 yards away to a spot on the beach. There, comfortable folding chairs had been set up.
The setting was ideal for the wedding. A bright blue sky. Warm temperatures. A cool breeze. Waves gently lapping the shore. A young, handsome couple very much in love. Proud parents.
The ceremony went without a hitch despite two guys in suits and one wearing wing tips on the beach.



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