Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Clothes

This morning, I made another ever-dangerous pass at mowing our front yard with our riding mower (aka "The Mangler vs. Children of the Corn"). Since my back injury in May (not related to "The Great Crash of Early Last Month", but adding to the suffering), I haven't been able to keep up with it the way it needs it (blood sacrifice, moonlight curses, binding pentagrams burned into it with napalm), and as a result, small families of pygmies have moved into the denser growths closer to the woods.

Because it is so thick, I can't even get close to the actual wooded part, and I'm going to have to get a neighbor down with one of their industrial machines to recarve the path that goes around our property. I own 30 acres but can only traverse fifteen feet. The rest is jungle.

I got best results this morning by driving to the top of the front hill, releasing the clutch and letting gravity bring the mower down in a less-than-graceful arc, braking just before I leap the cliff and hit the paved road beyond. This helped prevent the mower from stalling and kept me from further straining my injuries through such strenuous activies as steering. Now I have a deep and roiling sea of mulched cuttings to deal with.

And, of course, as I was doing this, I was thinking about my recent shopping excursions.

With the Land of the Dead premiere tomorrow, Amy and I decided to splurge just a little and update our waredrobes. She only ever buys clothes for conventions these days. I only get new clothes when someone in the family dies. Or I see a t-shirt I like at the aforementioned conventions. As a result, I still wear things I wore religiously in college.

So I was bound and determined to buy a new dress shirt and a new pair of pants. Hell, I might even buy two dress shirts.

Now, having finally accomplished these tasks, I am left to wonder why the hell women enjoy shopping so much.

For one thing, two dress shirts and a new pair of slacks set me back $70.

For the second, the two shirts I bought, when I got home, were magically transformed into "things I actually did not want, nor, I'm certain, did I buy". Actually, the correct "for the second" was the actual buying process.

To purchase these shirts, I had to venture into department stores usually reserved for cutting through on my way from the parking lot to Suncoast. Department stores that are vast mazes of ugly clothing and uglier people, who would be indistinguishable from the multitude of manniquins if not for the rippling texture of their skin. Normally, the amount of time I spend in stores such as these are proportionate to the ease at which I find the doors opening into the mall proper. In short: very little at all.

But I was forced, in the name of "updating my waredrobe", to venture into the depths of these consumer hearts of darkness in search of a pair of coverings that cannot be found at Wal-Mart. To get to them, I had to frequently dodge the hunchbacked elderly who cluster like molecules around random fabrics alledging to be "housecoats", keeping the grandma haute couture alive for future generations (or rather, future past generations).

I had to travel deep, fighting my way through a gauntlet of parfum-iers, who alternately spritz you with toxic clouds of fragrance or try to lance your jugular with little scented razor-edged wedges of cardboard.

And finally, upon reaching the ludicrously-titled "Men's Section", had to dive deep into the dregs of so-called fashion to find a mere two shirts that my body will not reject like a tainted liver.

Racks upon endless racks of hideous and over-priced jackets, pants, and ties enscribed with seizure-enducing patterns. It was there, this very weekend, that I learned that 70s porno-collars were back in style, with horizon-line points and a width equal to a wedge of the finest Pepperidge Farm cheese. I also learned that the salespeople that work there do not necessarily shop there.

And there are clothes out there made from fabrics that are not found in nature and are not, I believe, actually created by man, either. And these fabrics have names like "Sateen". I never once wanted to own anything made of "Sateen", but I had to admit, I liked the look.

Finding two shirts in the same style, of the same cloth, in the exact size I took, was a task worthy of Heracles. One that I promptly failed at, as I discovered upon returning home. Somehow, on my way back from these textile torture gardens, my "Sateen" shirts had undergone a transmogrification: one grew a full size too large and the other evolved into a cloth wholly unlike the "Sateen" tag that it boasted. This non-"Sateen" cloth could be used to cut diamonds. The too-large genuine "Sateen" shirt could be used to house a family of four.

I discovered this, of course, after I had finally disassembled the shirts from their packages, removing countless pins, folds, tags and bits of cardboard and plastic that held them together in a dense and symetrical origami that made them resemble doorstops rather than actual dress shirts. This ordeal took roughly three hours and a team of four strong men.

And I was stricken with the Lovecraftian horror of having to journey back to the store to exchange them.

Which I did.

But this time, a salesman was eager to help me. Very eager. Not only did he grow up out of the floorboards behind me, fluttering around to assist in my plight, but I think he wet himself during the transaction.

He measured me, to get the exact fit of shirt required. Back and front. Including the inseam.

And then he dove into the myriad racks of what were, to my eye, identical shirts arranged in identical configurations separated only by their prices and the logos of their incestuous creators: "Geoffrey Beane" on one side "Calvin Klein" on the other. House payment on one side, car payment on the other.

The impeccable salesman was muttering as he went about painting the roses red -- "16 neck... 16 neck, oh dear... Not sure I have the black in "Sateen", but let's look, shall we? ... Yes, 32-34, perfect length if I ever saw one... Arrow-brand? How did this get here? I'll have to look into that little faux pas..."

And he was not speaking to me.

Finally, my shirts were located. The colors I wanted. The desired "Sateen". In my size. Obviously, the man was an expert.

The dreaded "return" part of the transaction arrived, and I sat in dread as he sifted through the tags rescued from the trash; I watched, perspiration dripping, as he sorted the individual bags, and scanned my receipt. I was certain that the entire event would be rejected at the last by my omission of some vital piece of cardboard found beneath the collar at the back.

But it went through. And I walked out of that store a poorer man, but the proud owner of two shirts that would not only fit, but would somehow disguise the fact that I am more of a t-shirt-and-jeans kinda guy and that I can dress like this at will and comfortably.

The shirts are not comfortable. Nor are the pants. I look in the mirror and am reminded of the time I wore a suit to Horrorfind, in anticipation of a business meeting taking place that afternoon. A friend remarked, "Why all the trouble? Did you see how they" [meaning the producers I was meeting] "dress?"

"Yes," I replied, "but they're not trying to impress me."

So all the time I spent, growing up, rebelling against my parents world and their desires for me to wear a necktie to "look professional" are finally bearing down upon me, worming into my conscious and sub-conscious like Ceti eels. I have become a "business-casual" man.

And I don't like it one bit.

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