Colors

November 2, 2011

Trudging out early this past weekend, I dressed for the morning chill, throwing on comfortable, worn jeans, a heavy, dark blue sweater (which I’m told is actually grey), well broken-in combat boots, and my Belgian army coat.

I didn’t wear a tie, mainly because I don’t own one and the concept puzzles me.

Paloma, who once worked in a fairly posh department store, was pointing out ties on a television program the other day. She wanted me to guess their costs and, each time, my reply was reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman as Rain Man.

“About a hundred dollars.”

To my surprise, I wasn’t far off.

One hundred dollars? For a tie? I could be a land baron in South America for one hundred dollars.

(are other countries still accepting U.S. currency?)

I asked Paloma the purpose that ties serve and was informed that they offer men a way to accessorize.

So, I’m going to choke myself with this cloth noose so that I might have something to bring out the color of my shirt? Who was the sadistic bastard that believed this was a necessity?

If there truly was a need for men to accessorize, why not nail polish? It’s far simpler and non-constrictive.

And colors – I’m not colorblind (I took the test), but Paloma reminds me that the sweater which I mentioned earlier (and have owned for years) is, in fact, not dark blue, but grey.

(if I squint, I see her point)

Of course, it’s probably not grey but slate or something. I suggested to her that colors should have names that are more informative to the average person (or at least entertaining).

What’s a taupe? Is it some kind of fish that is found only near some reef off the coast of Micronesia?

(and are Micronesians really small?)

However, she didn’t seem to think that the color names I suggested were marketable.

I don’t know. I think Pond Scum, Cocoa Puff, Hypothermia, and Open Wound have a certain descriptive quality that taupe lacks.

As for my Belgian Army coat – why do they even have an army?

I’ve never been to Belgium, but I imagine the Belgians to be polite, civilized folks who never squabble (like Flemish-speaking Canadians). Maybe it is to protect the waffles.

I do love waffles, so, perhaps I should enlist. I have one of the coats (it’s green, I think) and I probably wouldn’t have to wear a tie.

Here are four colorful songs…

Aimee Mann – Red Vines
from Bachelor No. 2, or the last remains of the dodo (2000)

Though I loved Voices Carry, ‘Til Tuesday’s Top Ten title hit from their 1985 debut album, I truly came to embrace the band on their next record, Welcome Home. By 1988, the band was essentially down to lead singer Aimee Man on the brilliant swanson Everything’s Different Now.

The group had lost most of their audience, but I eagerly awaited Mann’s solo career which arrived in 1993 with Whatever and was a devoted fan up through Lost In Space almost a decade later.

(I simply never took the time to check out the last few albums)

But the forty or so tracks I own almost always blow me away when one of them shuffles up. Hearing the gorgeous, wistful, melancholic Red Vines is likely going to send me on a ‘Til Tuesday/Aimee Mann listening bender.

(and I couldn’t agree more with this ode to Mann’s greatness from over at the stellar Bottom Of The Glass.

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine
from Revolver (1966)

The Beatles are very, very good.

I’ve come to believe that their existence might be proof of the divine in the universe and that it’s possible that no entity in the history of mankind has brought more joy and happiness to more people than The Beatles.

Tarnation – An Awful Shade Of Blue
from Mirador (1997)

Somehow, with no effort, I came to own a pair of the three albums that the San Francisco, alt-country band Tarnation released. No doubt I snagged them as promos, liked them enough to file away, and promptly forgot about them.

After listening to An Awful Shade Of Blue, I need to revisit them as the song wowed me.

The group issued one album through 4AD and, if you were listening to college radio in the ’80s, you had an idea what to expect when you heard an act signed to the label. An Awful Shade Of Blue features the ethereal vocals of Paula Frazer and a twangy sound that would be ideal for a spaghetti Western.

Hole – Violet
from Live Through This (1994)

I had no interest in Hole in 1994. The sheer drama of Courtney Love exhausted me to the point of disinterest.

But I loved the band’s chainsaw-guitar cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman and, then, Hole released Celebrity Skin, their belated, 1998 follow-up to Live Through This, and I was won over.

The album – what I imagine ’70s Cheap Trick might have sounded like had they been a ’90s alternative rock band fronted by a feral frontwoman – is still one of my favorites from the decade.

Celebrity Skin prompted me to give Live Through This a more openminded listen and, though I still prefer the follow-up, the bracing Violet is a corker of a tune.

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The #1 Pants

July 21, 2011

I suspect I drive Paloma to distraction with my lack of sartorial acumen and interest in such.

Often she will return home with a new shirt or pair of pants for me. I truly feel bad that I cannot participate in her enthusiasm.

Truly, I am.

It’s just that career choices afforded me the ability to dress casually with few restrictions well into my thirties.

(grunge played right to my strengths even if not all of the music associated with that era did)

Of course, during the past half decade or so, I’ve labored under the fashion standards deemed acceptable in the corporate world.

In the civilian world, I opt for simplicity and comfort – a pair of baggy cargo shorts, a well-worn t-shirt with The Who emblazoned across the front.

Two things about cargo shorts appeal to me. One is the loose fit, the free-wheeling vibe of not wearing pants while still wearing pants.

And then there’s the loose, deep pockets.

I have stuff – an iPod, wallet, keys, cigarettes, sunglasses – and that stuff takes up space that my work wordrobe’s meager storage compartments cannot handle comfortably.

(if humans are the most intelligent species on the planet, wouldn’t we have figured out a way to exist without carting so much crap everywhere we go?)

For the work day, I strive for as much comfort as possible knowing that I’ll still feel like fidgeting.

It is not easy – despite Paloma’s well-intended efforts – for new items to move into the rotation. I go for veterans that I know, through experience, will enable me to attain the greatest state of clothing Zen.

It must be the heat – what’s here and what is forecast as impending – but I feel compelled to announce that a new pair of khakis has ascended to the top of the heap in trousers.

Well done, pants.

Well done, Paloma.

I truly have no idea what kind of music best captures this event. I simply have few “pants” songs.

Here are four songs that pulled up scrolling through my 97X playlist on the iPod…

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures

I could imagine that Talking Heads could have written an awesome song about pants. In fact, I’m probably blanking on some song in their quirky catalog celebrating clothing.

But, there is the band’s jaunty ode to levitation And She Was which has charmed me from the first time I heard Little Creatures. I used to hear it now and then on some of our more mainstream rock stations, and it even became one of the few songs by The Heads to make the Hot 100.

The Cult – Rain
from Love

The recorded output of The Cult is a bit uneven to me and, despite its success, I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric was an overrated yawn aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

However, Love, Electric‘s predecessor, is a classic from the time and the driving Rain – with lead singer Ian Astbury’s howling to the heavens – is appropriate today.

Timbuk3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
from Greetings From Timbuk 3

Well, another song suitable for the occasion pops up because a man with new trousers is a force to be reckoned with in the corporate America workplace.

Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!
from The Flat Earth

Thomas Dolby is an A-list act in our household and, like Talking Head David Byrne, I have absolute faith that he would succeed smashingly if I could commission him to write a song about my new pants.

(note to self: get mega-wealthy, commission Thomas Dolby to write pants song)


A Fistful Of Quarters From A Grown Man In His Underwear

April 21, 2010

The end of the school year is within the distance of one well-spat loogie for the age appropriate. As a kid, it was the annual re-opening of the campground down the road that was a tangible sign that summer break was close.

Before we were old enough to drive, the campground also served as somewhere to waste the little money we had on things like miniature golf and video games.

At that time, our town was still a couple of years away from having an actual arcade and Atari game consoles were not yet in all our homes. The campground game room was one of the few places to play video games.

Of course, there were three, maybe four games and they were always well behind the times with the selection – Space Invaders when Pac-Man was the rage, Galaga instead of Defender.

Asteroids was a hip as it got.

The couple that ran the campground was on the staff of our high school.

He was a burly fellow, taught shop, and was known to all as Bandsaw Bob.

She was on the bony side, was the school nurse, and seemed to be going for some Jackie Kennedy vibe.

I don’t believe that I ever saw him without a tooth pick lodged in his teeth.

I couldn’t say the same for her.

The game room was downstairs from the gift shop/concierge desk/campground office which was usually our first stop to exchange a few dollars for quarters.

Several friends and I entered one afternoon and found the gift shop vacant. We stood at the counter, growing impatient to blast space bugs and such.

A door behind the counter of the gift shop led to the proprietor’s home and, as our conversation grew louder, we heard stirring from the adjacent dwelling (which was our objective).

Through the door lumbered Bob, muttering about “nobody minding the store” and “been out digging up a stump.”

There he stood, his large, round face flushed and beads of sweat trickling from his forehead met his flat top.

He was wearing nothing but his underwear.

And he had his tooth pick.

“You kids need quarters?” he asked jovially. He was a jovial fellow.

Before we could offer an affirmative, wife Jackie burst through the doorway. “Bob,” she barked. “Go take a shower and get cleaned up for dinner.”

He shrugged. “You all have seen a man in his underwear before.”

We’d seen pictures of Ted Nugent in a loin cloth in music magazines. And now, we had seen our high school’s shop teacher in his underwear.

Of course, in retrospect, I realize that, had this event – which became an oft-recounted part of me and my friends childhood lore – taken place in 2010 instead of 1980, Bob might have found himself in trouble, but there was nothing dodgy.

When you grow up in a small town, everyone knows everyone else fairly well, certainly well enough to know that sometimes a man in his underwear is just a man in his underwear.

Here are four songs that might have provided some clothing suggestions…

Sparks – Angst In My Pants
from Valley Girl soundtrack

Though they never got radio airplay where I lived, I had seen Sparks duet with The Go-Go’s Jane Weidlin on Cool Places in ‘82 on Solid Gold. And, my friend Streuss owned several of their cassettes like In Space, Whomp That Sucker, and Angst In My Pants.

Quirky and amusing, Sparks often had an uncanny knack for getting to the heart of life’s truths amidst all of the melodic musical insanity.

Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
from The Red Shoes

I fell hard for Kate Bush when I discovered her music. It was, like many listeners here in the States, with The Hounds Of Love. I’d read about her and was intrigued, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to check out her prior albums.

Of course, subsequent albums were slow to arrive but worth the wait.

Haircut 100 – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) (extended version)

I didn’t like Haircut 100 back in the day. Of course, they weren’t around very long and I never heard their lone hit, Love Plus One, on the radio much.

It was years later – when the song kept popping up on ’80s compilations – that I grew fond of Love Plus One. I finally snagged a copy of Pelican West on vinyl a year or so ago and it was underwhelming.

Favourite Shirts is more manic than Love Plus One and manic Haircut 100 doesn’t have the same charm to me (but I didn’t have a lot of “shirt” songs).

Bob Dylan – Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
from Blonde On Blonde

I hadn’t heard Bob Dylan in 1980. I wouldn’t begin a relationship with Dylan for a few more years.

Sartorially speaking, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat would have been a fitting suggestion for Bandsaw’s wife. She did have the Jackie Kennedy thing about her.