Saturday, January 23, 2010

Optional Clothing

People dress up. Pretty simple statement, but it’s true. People dress up for work, even in 2010. Kids dress up for school, particularly the first day each fall. And adults dress up for wherever they’re headed, especially for parties, but even for the gym, the movies, a day of errands, whathaveyou.

I was brought back to this seemingly obvious point today at a high school wrestling match, of all places.

So stay with me for a minute as we peruse my memory of clothing and appearances from a moment that has stuck with me for a long time.

I was fortunate enough to attend the U.S. Tennis Open back in 1980, when Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe had one of their famous finals. I was struck by the quality of tennis displayed, but the lingering memory has less to do with those stars, and their play in the old Louis Armstrong stadium, than what people wore and how they looked that day.

By then I had been to plenty of sporting event. I had been to each of the four major team sports in New York, plenty of times to see the Yankees and Mets, a few times to see hockey with the Rangers and even the Islanders, once to a Knick game, and once to a football game with the Jets. Hell, I had even been to a Cosmos soccer game at the old Yankee stadium.

And while people would wear team and sports apparel at each of these places, hockey jerseys, or t-shirts with their favorite player, they wouldn’t come dressed as if they were ready to compete.

That’s what struck me about the U.S. Open. The fans showed up in their tennis best, perhaps hoping that Borg would pull up with an injury, and tap the overweight tax lawyer in the third row to take off his Ellesse sweats, pull back on his Fred Perry shirt, and hit the court on behalf of team Borg.

It doesn’t work that way. The fans stay on one side of the arena, and the athletes get to compete on that other side. Clothing and appearances notwithstanding. At a baseball game you know the difference. The guy with the Yankee 27 World Championships sweatshirt is not gonna want to be in the game. So why does the professional out on a Thursday afternoon at the National Tennis Center feel compelled to show off his designer tennis duds?

Just doesn’t make sense. It’s one thing to wear team colors, or show your support by purchasing an overpriced authentic item, or even a reasonably priced knock-off. It’s quite another to come fully dressed to play, from head to toe, hoping security will think you’re a top ranked tennis stud. I’ve never gone to a hockey game with my skates, let alone pads or a stick. So why go to the Open in full regalia?
Which, believe it or not, brings me to today. This afternoon was spent on the bleachers of a suburban Washington high school watching teenage boys grasp at each other in a sport many call wrestling. To me it just appears to be an attempt at bad teen sex with too many poorly colored tights. Whatever it is to you, it surprised me to see many parents from another school at the match wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts and other outer garments with the name of their child’s high school.

To me it’s nice to support your kids, to offer them suggestions and the benefits you can provide from your years of living on this earth. But what the hell does it mean to wear a shirt, clearly designed for an adult, given the lettering and the style, with a high school name and logo? Were these people regressing? Were they desperate to show some love? Were they searching? Did they lose a bet? Were they playing Candid Camera, or some variation?

Sure, there are some things I just don’t get. Actually, there are many things I just don’t get. If you know me, and I’m going beyond my stellar Facebook list of dear friends here, I’m sure you’ve already thought of a handful of things.

Regardless, it’s just plain odd to see a middle aged woman squeezed into a designer shirt festooned with a high school name, in a cursive writing akin to the old ‘Juicy’ logo of the last decade. And fathers wearing shirts from matches their kids participated in. Perhaps it’s the logical progression from those stickers you see on the back windows of SUVs documenting the size of the family, down to the furry pets. Maybe it’s a self identification thing, and not a clothing thing.

Either way, whether you’re wearing tennis whites at the Open, or high school shirts at your kid’s sporting event, it suggests something else going on in that brain, and for the life of me, I can’t quite figure what it is. And I’m not sure I even want to know.

Let’s see if I’m inspired to talk about face painting and tattoos and sporting events. Now that could be interesting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm Back

Well, here we are again. Almost a month has passed since the last posting, light years in the realm of the internets. But I'm here. It's not as though I left, or actually went anywhere. It was more an inertia, a disinclination to blog, or even microblog. So while I wasn't here, I wasn't there, either. You follow.

It's interesting to see what you can do when you don't blog.

You can read books. Plural. Yes, books.

You can fix things. Well, they have to be broken in the first place, but I'm sure there's something around that's broken and in need of a fix.

You can work harder at things than you might have before.

You can multi-task a little more smoothly, a requirement for today's independent professional.

And you can plan, or even think, and begin to see where it's all going. Hopefully it's all going forward, though you never can know for sure.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Audio Voyeurism

Initial thoughts for a new year following an old habit.
There needs to be a better term for this, for overhearing the conversations of others. Sometimes they are intended to be heard. Other times, they are not. And they span the range of talk.
They include the argument b/t long married couples in line at an airport security check.
They are what you hear passing by people on escalators headed in different directions.
They involve families debating life options while waiting to board a flight.
Or individuals talking with friends on a subway, questioning choices and decisions, some made long ago, even evaluating the alternatives.
Yes, you can hear them talk about what it was like before they were married. Before children. Before the baggage, or the layers, or however they refer to them.
But how is it that we hear these conversations?
Are our eared perked by certain words, by the appearance of certain individuals, by the look and image presented by some people, by boredom, by intrigue, by the surreptitious nature of the information acquired?
What makes these overheard conversations so interesting?
And, here’s the money question. Is it just me, or are they interesting to others?
Years ago a cartoonist made them into a series that ran in New York’s Village Voice. Mark Alan Stamaty’s stuff was just great, and was advertised as ‘guaranteed overheard’ so that the equivalent of this good housekeeping seal conveyed greater legitimacy than just ‘overheard.’ And it made a difference, as unlike the snippets of conversation we occasionally pick up, he documented complete dialogue, complete with arcs, or punch lines. And they were funny, enhanced by Stamaty’s creative mind, and cartoon images, reinforcing the odd reference made by one of the featured individuals.
So I visualize cartoon balloons above people’s head when I hear these conversations, trip over their words, or quietly slide in to a moment of their lives, their public displays of private communication. And it provides grounding, after all.
So unlike overseas travel, where conversations are little more than white noise, if I hear you on a plane, on the subway, or on the street, I’ll be listening.
Just one request. Make it interesting.