I have already received a number of queries about what I mean by “space nudity” as mentioned in yesterday’s essay. By “space nudity” I mean such nudity as you might encounter, develop, or learn from adventures in space. I had mistaken the term for one being in such common use as to need no further explanation. It turns out to be a term of art within the nude industry, and I should have been more careful with its use. I apologize for the confusion.
There’s a good chance you don’t think much about the history of tying shoes. I don’t blame you. There are so many other things to think about. There’s that odd smell of burning plastic every time you walk past the bathroom between 9 and 10 pm and no other time of day. There’s what to do about the seam line on Saturn’s totally natural “moon” Iapetus. There’s why all those people are setting up a circus tent in your backyard without even asking. But still, tying shoes is something you could be thinking about, and aren’t.
For over 60 percent of human history there wasn’t any tying of shoes. There were many reasons for this. One was that there weren’t shoes. People in these ancient times might talk about tying shoes. But they were laughed down as impractical dreamers. Such is the fate of everyone who sees an obvious problem and fixes it a little too early. Shoes were invented in 1817, after everyone took a good hard look at how lousy the previous year had been on feet. The French Academy offered prizes to anyone who could invent a practical way to cover the foot. And teams across Europe and Asia did, by the simple process of covering it. The invention was a great success and by 1820 everyone agreed they should have been doing this for hundreds of years.
Still, these early shoes were not easy to put on or take off. To get a secure fit, one had to start with a couple pieces of shoe material. Or, as they called it in the trade, “shoeterial”. Then set your foot in the middle of that, take needle and thread, and stitch the shoeterial closed around your foot. Finishing this could take until near enough bedtime. And then there was nothing to do but un-sew it all. This was quicker, as you could use one of those sewing tools you never quite get the name of, but that you remember grandmom being comfortable with. It could undo the stitching in like no time.
So as happy as everyone was with shoes, they also figured, there’s some better way. Union armies experimented during the United States’s Civil War with welding shoes onto soldiers. This resulted in a great many burned ankles, and even more slugged welders. Rivets were tried in Scotland. But this got nowhere fast. The striking action of putting the rivets would cause the iron slugs to become magnetized. So people would walk naturally toward magnetic north, and stop at the shoreline, which isn’t all that far away in Scotland. They would have got farther if the rivets had started in southern England, but not all that much farther. Now, if they had started in Guatemala, that could have got really far. But they didn’t, and that’s just the history we have to live with.
The breakthrough came in 1878, in the Ottoman Empire. One shoemaker for the Sultan said, “What if we punched parallel rows of uniformly spaced holes in the shoes, and then threaded a strong enough string to tie them temporarily together?” Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who was in another room, didn’t hear the suggestion but approved it. When the hole-punching turned out to be a great success he nodded as if that was what he intended all along. But he still ordered an investigation into what was going on with shoes, just in case.
The first attempts at tying used separate laces and loops with each pair of holes. This took forever but you know the late Victorian era and how everything had to be way too decorative for its own good. We’re lucky the shoelaces didn’t come with doilies attached. For all I know they did. To save time people tried lacing only the one pair of holes they liked best, but then their toes would pop out the empty space between the laces. And you did not want to be a late Victorian with exposed toes. Not given the street-cleaning standards of the day, which held that if the street were clean it was jolly well time to tip over some coal sludge and even more unmentionable things.
So the compensation was to try putting the lace through enough holes that toes wouldn’t pop out, but not so many holes that it was too bothersome. and so by 1889, on a Tuesday, we finally had shoes and shoelaces tied in ways that we would recognize even today, on a Friday.
Anyway that’s how I hear. I wear loafers myself.
Some things I couldn’t find any use for writing in January; if you can find a good use for them, please do. I ask only to hear if any of them went on to be happy.
I’m rotten at choosing clothes. You can judge that from the slightly pained but amused look on my love’s face when it becomes obvious that once again I’ve dressed myself. If you can’t see my love’s face, I’m sorry that you’re missing such a fine experience. But instead look at any picture of people from the 70s or 80s and identify the person wearing the most regrettable outfit. I’ve worn that as recently as Tuesday. I don’t care. They’re clothes and I’m happy to wear them. — Cut from some piece or other, I think the one about crafts. Not really relevant to the main point of the article and besides it ended up long enough as is.
The thing is that gives me the idea to start wondering about something. — Cut from like fourteen pieces because it could go into any of my bits and that’s one of those warning signs I shouldn’t be putting it in any of them. Warning: I might use this to see how long a sentence I could make that doesn’t say anything at all. You’re still free to use it, just, there’s no being sure you’ll have it all to yourself.
If you have that job you either grew up wanting to be someone who makes those little paper flags hung on toothpicks or else your life took turns bringing you to making them. — The thing about my clothes (to get back to them) is that I don’t need to talk about it that much because you’ve seen ugly clothes before. Not necessarily on me, but yeah, on me.
I’m not going to stop making boxed macaroni and cheese wrong because I know it’s easier to keep doing it wrong than to remember to look at the directions and do it right for once. — Also cut from that crafts essay which had more cuts than usual. Also I don’t want to make my clothing problems seem too bad. Like, that look my love gets when noticing I dressed myself? It’s not, like, horrified or anything. It’s like, imagine if you were fixing a car engine. And you called to your dog saying, “Monty! Fetch me the 15 mm socket wrench” and figured you were making a good joke. And the dog was confused but understood there was something about fetching going on there. And the dog came back holding an ice scraper in his mouth. Also the dog’s named Monty. You know the look you’d give the dog, delighted that he was doing his best to do the perfectly hopeless? That’s the look I get when I dress myself. It doesn’t hurt any and I can usually find the socket wrench after that.
“The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic.” — I brought that back from an earlier scraps file because I was sure there was something I could do with that, and there wasn’t. It’s pretty nice as it is, on Wikipedia, but I got nothing.
I remember coloring when I was a kid, and we’d get boxes of crayons from school. There’d be as many as 62 Extremely Dark Colors Equally Likely To be Purple, Black, Navy Blue, Blue, Or Any Other Color You Do Not Want, all with the wrappers peeled off in every box of sixteen crayons. — Cut because my problems with coloring in elementary school weren’t so much about what shade of some extremely dark blue-like-or-black color I had available but more that I was never satisfied with how uniformly a crayon could color things. Also I liked the part where you colored in letters. By you I mean me, or in this context, I. I couldn’t get enough letters to color in like that. So in hindsight, again, I understand why I was treated that way.
And then the person working the Wendy’s counter warned me they were out of potatoes, which means they know me as the guy who comes in like once a month and orders two baked potatoes, so now it’s too emotionally involved going there and I don’t dare visit ever again. — Anyway these days I just wear a solid shirt of one color and pants. Pants of a different color. I learned my lesson the day in grad school when I went out wearing an orange shirt and orange sweatpants and caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door and realized what I was doing. So I have learned to do slightly better, that’s the important thing.
Good luck with February, everyone!
Please, take what you can use. There’s so much more to give.
- Overpants. — Cut because which of the two logical ways do you go from there? A new article of clothing solving some body-hiding problem we didn’t before suspect? Maybe. A method of disguising the United States’s ever-crumbling infrastructure particularly for highway travel? Maybe. Plus there’s probably some obscure article of possible Victorian-era clothing actually called “overpants”. I bet it has a Wikipedia entry that manages somehow to be six hundred words longer than Wikipedia’s entry for the Taiping Rebellion.
- So you could do a story recasting the struggle about bimetallism and the gold standard and all that as a secret history. It’s really the struggle for power and survival between different types of dragons. Like, the silver dragons would be pushing heavily for gold to be the only recognized human specie. That way there’s less demand for their scales as units of trade. They can get used instead as scales. Whereas gold dragons might be well aware there’s no keeping humans off of them. So backing the Populists would at least lessen the demand on their scales. Or make trouble for the silver dragons. Meanwhile I the copper dragons are off to the side grumbling about how everybody is happy to use them and yet nobody respects them. The precious-metal dragons answer hey, who tarnishes beautiful around here? Fractional-reserve fairy folk pushing for a wholly notional medium of exchange could solve the whole problem. But they’re too longwinded and boring to listen to. — Cut because oh good heavens this could be the most anti-commercial story ever. Publishers would line up to gawk at this and ask who, exactly, is the supposed market for a dragon-fantasy story about the 19th century United States specie debate? “Look,” I can see them saying, “you were on to something spectacularly unmarketable with that idea for a 4X video game about standardized time. I mean, or we mean, in unison, you had a perfect capture of a nonexistent market with that. But this, this is just … this could destroy the very concept of money.” Anyway, if you can do anything with the premise go wild. I’m thinking the true secret power behind it all: aluminum dragons trying to destroy the concept of money. I know, there’s no doing anything with this.
- And in your refusal to recognize that fifteen years of demands for ever-more stringent shows of loyalty just might result in one of the people who thought themselves friends expecting the slightest show of consideration from you — Cut from that still-unsent letter because you know, it is getting harder to figure out why I want to save this friendship after all.
- Overwear. — Cut as being just the overpants joke again and no more promising this way.
- Exclamation points are way too much. You can’t go on demanding that sort of attention if you’re an even slightly introverted person like me. And I admit I don’t set records for introversion, but still, an exclamation point is too much. Even a period feels too much like a demand on people’s attention. I’d love to end my sentences with ellipses, since that makes writing look more like it’s from an old comic strip. And it makes sentences look less like I’m committed to them. Except you make ellipses out of three periods. That’s three times as much period as one period would be. It’s even more attention-demanding. We need something for people more reserved. — Cut because while “punctuation for introverts” might be a good idea it’s going to draw out people trying to push interrobangs. Interrobangs aren’t happening, people, and trying to push them is just sad at this point. It’s not as annoying as people trying to push how chickens are dinosaurs. That’s not doing anything to make chickens look better and it’s not doing dinosaurs any favors either.
- Overshirt. — It’s too far away from the overpants concept and is just a hoodie anyway.
- It’s a fine trafficky day. The kind of day that makes you want to surround your car with a fifteen-foot-thick block of not-too-compressible foam. — Cut because it wasn’t all that much of a day. But I bet people would love to ride one of these. Or watch a YouTube video of it. But if the foam block does extend fifteen feet in every direction then you’ll need cars modified to have extremely tall wheels. And if you manage that then the cars will have trouble on the highway by the overpants.
To explain why I discovered only at the end of the day Monday that I was wearing a shirt inside-out I need to give some context. I don’t think I need to explain the wearing of shirts, as that’s been popular nearly my whole adult life, and Monday has been almost perfectly assimilated into American culture since its invention in 1964 as a way to ease the transition from Sunday to Tuesday.
Now, it’s wintertime. It hasn’t been as cruel a winter as last year, but last year’s was exceptionally cruel, frequently using the power of social media to ridicule individuals and harass them in what had been safe social areas. This winter has been much nicer, but it has still been getting cold, and the weather’s been getting bad. My love pointed out there isn’t any such thing as bad weather, only people badly dressed for the weather. I answered this by asking what about when the weather is minus two degrees Fahrenheit, and a heavy, wet snow is coming down so hard you’re on the verge of whiteouts, and it’s about ninety minutes after sunset. My love went “hrm” to this, and I added that you were stuck with a flat tire more than an hour away from home, on a frontage road outside the abandoned scrap metal recycling center, and your cell phone, which you never use and you charge all the time, is out of battery, as it always is, and none of these additions are properly the weather per se but they do help set the scene. My love walked away to ask our pet rabbit if he wanted a raisin, which he does.
Still, the right way to deal with weather like that is layering, which we start doing around November and let up on around March. The principle of layering is simple: you can stay somewhat less cold by, whenever you find an article of clothing, putting it on. Whenever you find an article of clothing. So just strolling around the house I’ll put on underwear, sure, and long underwear, and here’s a t-shirt by the bed, and a regular shirt that was on the dresser, and a dress shirt that was in the bedroom closet, and the soccer shirt from that one time I played soccer in tenth grade, and the novelty “2010” eyeglasses because eyeballs get cold too and what the heck New Year’s Eve might roll around again, and go downstairs and put on the blanket we put over the couch for guests because that’s kind of a dress shirt for furniture, and then put on the reclining chair, and that’s all before I’ve even got to the closet where we keep the jackets.
If it’s done right, by about mid-February you’re basically a gigantic elliptical bundle of flesh and cloth, and it’s not all that cold as you step outside, trip over your six pairs of shoes, and go tumbling down the road. People from warmer climates may believe that mid-Michigan in the upcoming weeks will be a field of spinning balls of population bouncing off one another until they roll into a snowy creek, all the layers keeping folks from freezing to death until the currents can sweep them into the Grand River. This is absurd. Given the plowed streets, people are much more likely to roll down to the strip mall and into the nearest Michael’s, where they bounce into the folks waiting in the line where, even though there’s four registers open and nobody has more than maybe three things to buy and everybody’s paying cash, the line never advances any. The disruption is appreciated since it gives customers the chance to give up on their plans to buy decorative boxes and plastic flowers and run off to the Petco next door and stare at heaps of sleeping ferrets instead.
You might think this makes laundry terrible, since there’s so many clothes to wash if you got them all taken off at once. And it’s true that the laundry loads are bigger than summer, but you don’t have to wash all the layers at once. The two great sources of dirtiness, in clothing, are the outside world, and only the outermost layer of clothing ever touches that, and the body, and only the innermost layer touches that. Everything else is just touching other clothes so you can let them slide a while or, if you’re wearing enough layers, let the accumulated fabric pressure crush any dirt that might somehow get through into little bitty lint diamonds, which are good for industrial lint needs.
Anyway, so this all gets back to how I discovered I wore a shirt inside-out on Monday: it was underneath that thing I wear that isn’t a hoodie, I guess, but that I call one because I don’t know what else to call it, and I didn’t discover this until I was getting ready for bed by taking off the outer eighteen layers. I feel kind of silly about it, but, I understand how this sort of thing happens and nobody else noticed.
OK, so, that was a bit of a freak month. October 2014 proved to be my most-read month in the history of the blog. This is largely because of a freak event: the folks at kinkakinks.net noted my blog post mentioning Ray Davies and put it on their news page, and it turns out a lot of Kinks fans will follow a link that doesn’t actually say much about what’s on the other end of the link. I hope they enjoyed it; the first day after the kindakinks link 212 people read mostly that, and another 108 people came the day after. The numbers settled back closer to normal the next day, but still, they settled to the high side of normal.
So. While the blog’s readership has been growing the last several months, October’s total of 1,389 views is anomalously high and I’m all set for disappointment come November unless I do something to attract the interest of a leading Paul McCartney fan site. That’s way up from September’s 827, for example. The number of unique visitors in October was also obviously a record, 895 and don’t think I didn’t notice that’s more unique visitors than I had pages read at all in September. It’s not quite twice the number of unique visitors — 468 — from September but it’s near enough. Obviously the number of people who came to see Ray Davies mentioned and then left distorted the views-per-visitor link; that dropped from 1.77 in September to 1.55, my lowest figure ever, but again, that’s a freak event.
I had a satisfyingly large number of posts get at least twenty viewers this past month. That less-exclusive-than-usual set includes:
- The Secret Life Of Ray Davies, which isn’t anymore (304 views! And that was posted the 23rd of October)
- The Comic Strip Skippy, and Mathematics, mentioning one of the 20th century’s most influential great comic strips you enver heard of.
- Krazy Kat in Love’s Labor Lost, part of my little exploration of the attempts to make a cartoon out of this comic strip.
- I Doubt This Is Star Trek (1)3’s Plot, or, my dreams turning into some oddball fanfic or something.
- Theme Park Flashing from the Dream World, about incidents of imaginary nudity at Great Adventure.
- The Bright Idea, something weird I saw on the way into town.
- Krazy Kat in: Weenie Roast, which lets you see what pretty much every cartoon was like in 1931, all at once.
- Statistics Saturday: What College Football Implies In My Family, which caused my love to ask if it was really true that I just am unmoved by whether the Scarlet Knights do anything on field.
- Math Comics and Dave Barry, which was posted October 8th, which is an important day in Dave Barry-dom.
- Calm Urged As Art Exhibited Publicly, because it’s just pencils and stuff.
- When It Comes Time For The Upgrade, which by the way is pretty much exactly what happened because I finally, finally upgraded to OS X Mavericks and then they put Yosemite out there.
- In Which I Don’t Understand My Wardrobe, but I still wear it.
- Statistics Saturday: My Reactions To Reading The Grimm Fairy Tales, which I mostly enjoyed doing but I did keep hitting moments where I had to wonder what I was looking at exactly.
Now for the popular part: what countries sent me the most and the fewest readers? For yet another month in a row the United States sent me the most, with 1,060 viewers. The United Kingdom sent just 98, which would be impressive for other months but suggests the kindakinks.net readers are more American than British. Australia came in at 25, Germany at 24, Canada at 22, and the Netherlands at 21.
This month’s single-reader countries were Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Viet Nam. Turkey’s the only one that was a single-reader country in September, so, thanks, whoever you are in Turkey, for sticking with me, even though you weren’t sticking much. India had sent me eight readers in September, though, so I’m doing something wrong there.
Among the good search terms that brought people here the past month:
- flashing at theme parks (also theme park flashers and amusment [sic] park flasher so apparently I’m getting a reputation)
- snowflakes that look like bees
- cool facts about turbo movie
- turbo movie facts
- how to develope [sic] a sense of humor
- fan rage statistics
- turbo movie what is it about fact (yes, what is it about fact?)
- ray davies
- king nebus
- an awful terrible romance mark twain
- tea light holder /cartoon bomb
The mysterious thing is only one person searching for “ray davies” got here in October. This is a strange world.
It’s about time for the change of seasons. You probably know which seasons and if you don’t you can pick the ones you like. But for me the big change is that I start wearing this thing over my shirts. I’m not sure what it is, exactly. I call it a hoodie, but it’s more complicated than that, because I’m the kind of person who can make a hoodie complicated somehow. I think I might be overthinking it, but that just feeds the problem.
It reappeared a little over a week ago. I don’t know where the hoodie goes in the summer, but I can’t find it at all during the warmer months, the months I spend wondering if I should find more ways to open windows around the house besides chipping out the painted-shut frames. There were a couple times this summer I could have used it, because we forgot to pay our sun bill and the temperature never rose above 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and that in our toaster oven. I looked all over the house and even tried the mating call of hoodies and other wrap-like garments but nothing doing. It must migrate, though Wikipedia tells me most garments on their own power are able to move no more than about three miles per day at best.
Like I say, I call it a hoodie because I don’t know the names of clothes. I get underwear, T-shirts, regular shirts, sweaters, pants, socks, and hats, and then I freeze up and panic when somebody asks me what you call a T-shirt that hasn’t got any sleeves. It’s a dark gray, because somehow pretty much everything I wear turns out to be dark gray, even the brightly colored stuff. That’s for the best. I’ve tried buying clothes in interesting colors before and you can see the results by looking at any picture of any group of people from the 1970s or 1980s.
You see the outfit that makes you wince and maybe accidentally bite your lip? I used to wear that, and I probably would still except it wore a nontrivial hole in a structurally important place. You know how in life you come to do things you regret and feel shame for? For multiple years in the 1990s and in both New Jersey and New York, I wore orange sweatpants in public. I believe my friends tried to warn me about this, but on approaching me they were overcome with the compulsion to go off in the corner and weep. They were correct.
Anyway, the hoodie or whatever reappeared just as I needed it, as the temperature stays perfectly the same inside the house and every place I go, but somehow it feels colder because it’s colder outside, where I am not. As a child I didn’t understand why the house felt colder when it was winter outside, even though the point of houses is to not be outside, but as an adult I now understand: the world is fundamentally irrational and cannot be understood. Still I can’t see how this thing can be a hoodie, given how it doesn’t have a hood. It doesn’t even have the zipper or something where a removable hood might have gone before the removable hood was taken, or to put it another way, became gone.
Also it zips up, up front, when I’m not sure is proper hoodie behavior, but it’s awfully useful because I can leave it unzipped so as to show off how nicely grey-ish my blue or red or yellow shirt is. I’m looking forward to how in future decades I’ll see pictures of this and wonder why nobody told me how I looked. They have, but see if I listen. Also it’s got pockets. I like pockets. My favorite jacket ever had a little pocket on the inside just the right size for a paperback book. Its lining wore out and it grew holes in it but I liked that pocket so much I’d still be wearing it if not for all my friends tackling me, stripping it from my body, and pitching it into an Icelandic volcano, which devoured the garment in molten flames and blushed, mortified, at having this in it.
I’m not even sure where it came from, but it must have been from somewhere, because at the grocery store I saw another guy wearing what’s clearly the same model non-hoodie. Only on him, it didn’t look like something I’d wear. I have to study this more.
I’ve learned that Comments Of The Week posts are extremely popular, and what the heck, I’m not opposed to doing popular things myself even if I do get kind of suspicious of mass displays of any feeling. Anyway, I can give it a try and see how it works out. So here goes, Comments Of The Week for the week ending the 12th of October, 2014:
- Yes, if you make that out to be the defining characteristic of a V-neck sweater.
- Maybe they’re a band that just supports the concept of ‘girl’?
- He’s been trying to gain fraudulent renown for his ability to see lighthouses?
- I understand your objections to the gazelle speech.
- Plainly we don’t agree what we mean by “Earth’s sun” in this context.
- Yeah, so, me and some of the gang and everybody else in the world were talking and we decided we like the name brontosaurus a lot better, so, you can go on using apatosaurus as a synonym if that makes you happy, but if you’re going to keep on telling us we’re wrong for calling them brontosauruses every time we mention them and you aren’t going to talk about brontosauruses instead of commanding us not to say “brontosaurus” then all that’s really going to do is make us stop talking about brontosauruses with you and if that’s what you really want, all right, but is that what you really want? Just asking.
- People saying “gamification” make my teeth hurt.
Please feel free to use these or any other comments wherever on the Internet you happen to be.
So I’ve been reading Maury Klein’s A Call To Arms, which is about how the United States managed to produce all the stuff needed to win World War II. It’s a great story, the kind you just don’t get from picking up on flipping through the mysterious boring numbers on the cable box until you find a documentary, where apparently World War II consisted of magician Jasper Maskelyne pulling pranks on Rommel in 1940, and then the landings at Normandy.
But really important were industry’s production numbers. For example, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company — before and after the war a leading maker of roller coaster train cars — astounded the world by converting to war needs and making 12,172, which it turned over to Archibald MacLeish, head of the Office of Facts and Figures, on the 14th of May, 1942. The 12,172 toured the nation to cheering crowds, though it came under increasing fire from Republican leaders as an attempt to force the New Deal down the throats of the public and destroy even the idea of ever having an economy, a job, or any nice things ever after. To bury the controversy, seven weeks before the midterm elections the 12,172 was sent as a fact-finding expedition to Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces in China. I wonder how that expedition is going. You’d think it would have reported back by now.
But all this production couldn’t be done without some missteps and there’s one that apparently really happened that’s caught my imagination. From the chapter “Making Haste Slowly” — page 121 in the copy I have — is this:
Some of the army’s outmoded procurement efforts became a joke. One recent order called for $300,000 worth of 1917-type underwear that could not be made on 1940 machines.
And I have to trust that this happened because it’s got a citation number — 53 — and everything; Klein even figured in the back of the book to follow it up with “53. Time, December 23, 1940 (14-15), Newsweek, December 23, 1940, 31-33, 35”. If that isn’t proof the thing happened exactly as described, what is?
If that isn’t the most imagination-capturing item about the underwear of 1917 you’ve read in the past month I’m afraid you and I live in very different worlds. I mean, just think of it: what were they doing with underwear in 1917 that they could not make it anymore on the machines of 1940? That’s equivalent to saying there was underwear in 1991 that we’ve lost the ability to make today, and I can’t even think what that means. I could understand the other way around, with 1991 machinery unable to make 2014 underwear. Modern underwear includes astounding features of both technology — don’t think I’ve overlooked the USB plugs or the Bing search engine in my latest set of BVD’s — and comfort — such as the layer of plastic microbeads included just so they can leak into the water supply and finally finish choking off the fish population. But that’s the wrong way around, timewise, and besides in 1940 the Bing search engine was a spare New York Bell time-and-weather operator whose station was disconnected. If anyone had suggested linking her to men’s underwear there would have been a scandal and they’d have fired her three times over just for having anyone suggest it of her.
Clearly what we’re seeing is a side effect of the revolution in clothing after 1917, when people wore way too many things. Women’s clothing before World War I could require up to two weeks to put on or take off, and the underwear alone required the help of three friends and a horse or strong mule. Men’s clothing was less challenging, requiring at most ten days and a supportive goat, but it was still an era when people dressed more formally to ride a roller coaster than they do today when presenting their credentials as Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. But then came the 30s, when people couldn’t afford so many clothes, and besides there was the Summer of Nudity when guys who’d been watching Tarzan movies started walking out on the Jersey Shore beaches without even wearing shirts, which sounds hilarious until you realize that was Grandpop, and which you’re now going to look up and find out I didn’t even make up.
Anyway, I have to guess that what happened is underwear-makers forgot how complicated underwear could be, and this in 1940 caused the Army’s procurement division to get made fun of a little bit in Time and/or Newsweek. And for some reason the World War II channel on cable is always going on about Rommel at Tobruk and the landings in Normandy, leaving the Army’s underwear uncovered.
Here are some of the things you missed at the fast food place during lunch:
Karen-with-a-y (we don’t know either), the cashier, is explaining the new Reuben sandwich to Craig, who’s never liked Reubens, although not to such an extent that he’d volunteer to jump into an alternate timeline where he sandwich was never invented. Actually, sometimes he gets a Reuben just because he enjoys how much he doesn’t like the taste or the texture or anything about it, especially grilled. Karen-with-a-y is explaining that their particular Reuben substitutes a chicken-based bologna-like substance for the corned beef, and uses cheddar in place of Swiss cheese, and the sauerkraut is replaced with a very dry cole slaw, and they’re making it with bleu cheese dressing. At this point Craig is just dragging out questions about what else is substituted because as far as he can tell the only actual part of the Reuben left is the rye bread, and he’s about to learn they’re serving it on a kaiser roll instead. Neither knows why the billboard out front spells the sandwich “Rueben”.
Underneath the ventilation system pumping enough heat to melt the styrofoam cups, the Books We Were Supposed To Read In School literary society is going over this month’s text, E M Foster’s Howards End, to correctly rank the order in which each character needs to be punched senseless. Mary-Lane, trying desperately to remember any of the characters from the book she’s spent the last two weeks reading, nominates “the fellow who’s starting a little automobile factory”, which draws general support as definitely deserving to be in the top five at least. A careful examination would reveal that they seem to be bringing a character from Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons into the book, and not really fairly at that, but then Helen-with-an-e (no idea) is still sufficiently angry at Alec Clare from back in Tess of the d’Urbervilles that this drives the entire conversation, and everybody agrees he’s the most punchable character even in the eight books they’ve read since that one. While agreed to this point, Jack finds he is completely unable to deploy the trivia he found instead of reading the last quarter of the book, that the words “here”, “our”, “thought”, “through”, “Tibby”, and “why” all appear in the book 126 times each. James-with-a-j (as you’d expect) meant to agree to all this more prominently but found that a little too much work and settled for putting slices of lemon in his Diet Coke.
Carol is repeating to her group the story of how she went out of her way to warn the person watching over the self-service check-outs at the supermarket that someone, not her, abandoned a bag of frozen shrimp by the start of the check-out lane, and something should be done about that. She expects her friends to be more in agreement that the ages she spent at this — others would estimate it at about ten seconds — are probably why she’s been running behind schedule all month. While her heroic acclaim is slow to come everyone does agree that the shrimp shouldn’t have been abandoned like that and certainly somebody ought to have done something about that.
Vladimir, who had been staring at an empty table with a pile of napkins atop, has noticed that a button’s popped off his winter jacket. He’s never buttoned his jacket, not even when he tried the jacket on in the store, because he’s always afraid of buttons popping off and now to have it just come off by itself feels like a particularly unnecessary insult on the jacket’s part. He buries the loose button in the jacket pocket, which he never uses because he’s always sure he’ll forget whatever he’s put in there, and discovers the button that came off the other side of the jacket last winter that he resolved to get sewn back on just as soon as he thought of it. On reflection, he can’t figure where either button should go.
Pamela, taking her order out, crossed the street not because she needed to but because cars in both lanes of the road opposite saw her and came to a full stop. Given this attention it was too embarrassing to keep going where she actually meant to be.
Overall it was probably less awkward to bring lunch today.
I admire the work that the mighty Land’s End Catalogue Company has put into finding ways to sell me pants. It’s been mostly sending me catalogues showing that there are pants, leaving it to me to conclude that I could if I so wished buy them, but I admit I don’t have many better ideas. If they tried, say, chasing me down and holding pants up to me so I could kind of see how they’d look on me if I were flat, that wouldn’t entice me to buy more. This is why I’m not an important pants marketer. I presume they want me to wear them, but they should know that once I’ve bought them, the pants are wholly my concern and it’s none of their affair what I do with them.
This is another slice from Robert Benchley’s Of All Things, from among a set of very short pieces gathered under the general heading of “Tabloid Editions”, little things which ran in The Saturday Evening Post, or Harper’s Magazine or The American Magazine, and which strike me as representative of routine Benchley. This is an example of what feels to me like Benchley proving he could write as much of his kind of stuff as needed, even if the subject didn’t inspire lines that’d be quoted decades hence.
The chance visitor to Fall River may be said, like the old fisherman in Bartholomew Fair, to have “seen half the world, without tasting its savour.” Wandering down the Main Street, with its clanging trolley-cars and noisy drays, one wonders (as, indeed, one may well wonder) if all this is a manifestation so much of Fall River as it is of that for which Fall River stands.
Frankly, I do not know.
But there is something in the air, something ineffable in the swirl of the smoke from the towering stacks, which sings, to the rhythm of the clashing shuttles and humming looms, of a day when old gentlemen in belted raglans and cloth-topped boots strolled through these streets, bearing with them the legend of mutability. Perhaps “mutability” is too strong a word. Fall Riverians would think so.
And the old Fall River Line! What memories does that name not awaken in the minds of globetrotters? Or, rather, what memories does it awaken? William Lloyd Garrison is said to have remarked upon one occasion to Benjamin Butler that one of the most grateful features of Fall River was the night-boat for New York. To which Butler is reported to have replied : “But, my dear Lloyd, there is no night-boat to New York, and there won’t be until along about 1875 or even later. So your funny crack, in its essential detail, falls flat.”
But, regardless of all this, the fact remains that Fall River is Fall River, and that it is within easy motoring distance of Newport, which offers our art department countless opportunities for charming illustrations.
So I realized I could use a little more income, at least for a couple of months. My first instinct naturally was to set a little money trap on the lawn, but our pet rabbit said I looked like an idiot holding a string tied to a stick that propped open a little box and that anyway I didn’t even know how to bait a money trap. I thought seat cushions would do it for sure, but all I did get were the peanut sprinkles from the tops of doughnuts. This lead me to the alternative route of consulting.
Consulting, I learned from my father, is pretty sweet work. The core of it is to find a company that wants to do a thing, walk around their offices while wearing a suit and nodding grimly, and then handing out a thick set of binders and tell them to go ahead with whatever they wanted to do, and then submit an invoice. It’s a toss-up which is the harder part, the nodding grimly or the suit-wearing, because I have these weird mutant feet that curve way too far to fit in any shoes. If I fit my heels into the shoe heels, my toes rip through the front of the shoes, and vice-versa; I’ve lost many heels to a stubborn shoe. The last comfortable pair of dress shoes I had featured a little sidecar shoe for my heels, causing people to stare at my feet and then sidle away. This was fine when I was someplace as an employee and not responsible for my presence or appearance, but it won’t do when I’m representing myself. I set out wearing the shoe boxes as camouflage.
Continuing my thoughts about fashion, though, men’s dress socks are interesting, shut up, they are too, because as far as I can tell they’re the only articles of clothing men routinely buy that are deliberately meant to feel good when they’re put on. I don’t mean other stuff men wear is designed to feel bad, just that the skin feel isn’t considered. If a T-shirt had a couple poisoned metal spikes woven into the cloth, or a jacket happened to contain a spring-loaded bear trap, that’d be something guys would pretty much take it as that’s the sort of thing that’ll happen and you kind of like it when you get used to it. Not with dress socks; they just feel really good.
The trade-off dress socks have is they’re all very slightly different colors and they mutate between when you put them on and when you go out in public, so there’s never a risk of putting on a pair. Many’s the time I slipped on what looked to me like two black high-cut socks which, when I got into the sun, I found were one medium-length navy blue sock and one speckled trout who was angry but surprisingly reasonable given the circumstance. More reasonable than I’d be. It’s enough to drive a guy to tube socks.
I don’t want to sound too much the Beau Brummel, but I’d like to point out that I now have the same shirt in four slightly different shades of blue. This is a big improvement on my old wardrobe, which had the same shirt in several different colors none of which seem to have been actually made by any shirt-making company on purpose (“Is that an off-grey?” “I think so”). I’m not really bad at dressing myself, in that I nearly always get the shirt and the pants on the correct body (mine), but selecting what to wear has been a problem. My Dearly Beloved has this very kind amused expression on noticing I’ve dressed myself, kind of the one you might give a Labrador retriever who’s just turned in a calculus final. Anyway, Brummel died penniless and insane and played cricket, so I’m ahead on those counts too.