Latest 3 Things

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3 Roads Not Taken

I am no Robert Frost. I am not even really a fan of poetry. I find most of it to be self-indulgent and wildly overrated crap. But when it comes to “The Road Not Taken”, I find a metaphor so pure, so true and so unavoidably relevant that I have to give in to it. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” In our prepackaged, fame-obsessed and vicarious society, so very few of us really make this kind of decision once, let alone with a lifetime of choices. And while I make no other claims to an extraordinary existence, I can say that I have really and truly lived this paradigm - consciously or unconsciously - and to my profoundly undeserving benefit. But as I take stock of all the often ill-advised choices, I also think back on the roads I didn’t take, and how, even in hindsight, I am immensely grateful for taking the path I did - as I see where those other roads might have led, and how glad I am not to be there. So, in celebration of my sometimes crazy life, here are 3 roads not taken, and why I’m happy not to have travelled them:

1. Legally Bland. I knew at a young age that I was going to be a lawyer. And the moment I knew it, I knew I would attend law school at Harvard. For a small town kid from Colorado, the storied Boston campus loomed as large as the government buildings in Washington D.C., the epic New York City skyline and Cat’s Lair on Third Earth (hey, I was a dork, what can I say?). It would be the culmination of an academic career to star in my own Paper Chase; to make good on the promises and sacrifice of a youth spent buried in books rather than well, enjoying it. As I muddled through academic institutions where I didn’t quite ever fit in, I found solace in the idea that once on the Crimson campus, I would finally meet kindred souls and settle into a scholarly Valhalla, where I would be welcomed as a champion of my common roots. But along the way, something had changed. I didn’t escape my roots, I became them. My disdain for the blue-blooded entitlement that I subsequently discovered filling the proverbial halls of Harvard grew with a surprising fervor - as I could never shake how it felt to be a young man in a uniform on the east-coast private school campuses I visited. And as I folded up my Harvard acceptance letter to begin my legal education at Stanford, I knew that if I became any part of the self-righteous old-money bigotry that nests there, I’d hate myself just as much as I hated the smug prep-school, popped-collar clowns that I knew it for. Which is not to say that Stanford was a perfect fit - it wasn’t - but whereas I know only a few truly great people from Stanford’s Law School - I’ve never met one from Harvard’s.

2. It’s Not Just A Job. I graduated high school fifth in my class - with a grand total of one ‘B’ in all of my (albeit public) schooling to that date. I was not an athlete, (inasmuch as I would have been more likely to have been struck by a comet than earn a varsity letter from good ol‘ Centaurus High). I was not a leader, and I was not strong. So when I made the decision to abandon my acceptance at Brown and Duke Universities, and my scholarships at Colorado State and the University of Northern Colorado to join the Navy, you would have found a great deal of company were you to conclude that I had, at best, lost my mind and, at worst, thrown my life away. After all, enlisting in the military was not the most cerebral of activities, and it appeared to demand a physical and mental fortitude that I was not even marginally capable of at that point. And yet, there I was, shipping off to boot camp while my friends shipped off to campus. It’s hard to even begin to recall the inanity of my 18-year-old brain - addled with raging hormones, paralyzing social ineptitude and a wildly unfocused intellect - but I do recall knowing, even back then, that I’d never survive college. I understood my own drastic vulnerability - and knew that were I to head off to state school, I would (a) never escape the low orbit that my tragic high school existence has placed me into and (b) fall victim to the first sufficiently seductive thing that I encountered away from home (e.g. girls, drugs, frat life, alcohol, etc.). The Navy was a reset - a new start on a life where my past not only wouldn't matter, it wouldn't even exist. And while the Navy led me to Annapolis, submarines, and the life I have today, I see, annually, a few friends from back then who never escaped similar orbits - or even worse, who ultimately crash landed as a result of them. There were plenty of people who didn’t need the separation, the structure or the restart that I did - fortunately for me, I didn’t follow them down that road.

3. Firmly Wrong. It is the dream of many young law students to begin their practice in a group of tall and shiny buildings on the west side of Los Angeles, known as Century City, where dozens of national and international law firms have offices catering to the business elite of southern California - a stone’s throw from Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, a heartbeat from the Hollywood hills, and in the center of the glamour of L.A. And after an interesting, if not altogether uneventful, stint at law school, I realized this dream. And not long after, I found it to be a nightmare. The real law firm has no more similarity to the law firms you see on television than real hospitals or police forensics labs to their own televised counterparts. Everyone is not beautiful, everyone is not making a mountain of money; and everyone is certainly not doing the type of interesting work they imagined during their law school days. They are, rather, oligarchies - disguised as meritocracies to extract superhuman work efforts from aspiring young attorneys, in the (futile) hope that they might someday become partners. Unfortunately, the business model has become obsolete, and exists mostly now to prolong its own existence. The types of individuals who succeed in a place like this is a type I like to refer to as “grinders” - those folks who will spend 12-16 hours per day slavishly tending to work, who have little concern with significant outside interests, who have mastered the art of being effortlessly obsequious. Two out of every three dollars generated by these highly trained worker bees is not even paid to them, and yet, they gleefully toil away, safe and secure and using fancy letterhead to feel important. As you might expect, I lasted just about as long in this world as I could manage to hold my breath. While an excellent place to learn the real practice of law - I also learned quickly that you’d have a better chance of striking in rich in an actual gold mine than in these churches of greed and pomposity. And if you’re not going to get rich at a job you hate - it’s probably time to go.

* * *

Of course, for every road I’m glad not to have taken, there is one that makes me wonder what might have been. For every retrospective disaster, there is an open possibility. It is human nature to look back and wonder “what if...” Life is not a series of multiple choice questions with one right answer and the rest of them wrong. It is precisely the number of “right” answers to each of the dilemmas with which we are presented that makes the whole thing so intoxicatingly rich to consider - as there are those who have succeeded (and failed) nearly identically to ourselves, while having taken wildly different paths to get there. But while the line between regret and wonder is a thin one, the distinction is vital. Happiness is not found in the certainty that the path you’ve taken through life has been utterly without error, and we’ve begun to see the impact of an entire generation infused (incorrectly) with that very same notion. In a world where it is increasingly demanded of us to keep our eyes looking ahead, Frost reminds us the simple beauty of looking back - as we are as much where we’re going as where we’ve been. But more than that, he beautifully presents the inescapable truth that we are as much defined by the roads we have taken as the ones we have not.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3 Lessons of Love

With over three and a half decades of bachelorhood under my belt, you’d think I’d have it completely down by now. The hook-ups, the break-ups, and all the other ups (and downs) in between. But no matter how many times I’ve been down the road (which seems to be more of a circle), there are still lessons to be learned. Interestingly enough, however, while I take great pride in my ability to learn just about anything (outside of foreign language, chronological histories or any type of cooking that doesn’t involve a microwave), I seem to know only marginally more about relationships with the opposite sex than when I started. For every mistake I commit to avoiding, there are countless others lying in wait; and every can’t-miss strategy I come up with seems as doomed as anything dreamed up by Wile E. Coyote and the ACME Company. But despite my inexplicable amateurism and the wasteland that is my love life - hope springs eternal as winter slowly gives way to warmer weather. So, with Valentine’s Day safely behind us and the next big sucks-to-be-lonely holiday a solid nine months out, now seems an opportune time to pass on a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way, in the hopes and that you and I, both, can make much more interesting mistakes in the future. Here are 3 lessons of love:

1. The Six Month Rule. You know in six months. You might know in less than six months, but anyone who tells that you don’t know in six months, knows but just doesn’t want to tell you (or is hoping to change their mind). What do you know in six months? You know if it’s serious, if there might be jewelry or children involved, etc. Or more to the point, you know if it’s not any of those things. Because in six months time, you’ve seen a person on their good days, their bad days, and their really, really bad days - and they've seen you on yours. You’ve seen their morning face (and hair), their hangover, and discovered all of their gastrointestinal habits - and they’ve seen and discovered yours. You’ve seen them naked (well, if you haven’t after six months, you should have left a while ago anyways), and every kind of naked - sitting naked, standing naked, scrubbing naked, etc. - as they’ve seen you. You know about their family (including crazy parents, siblings, etc.), their job, and their luggage - and they know about yours. And all along, you’ve had a lot of laughs, cries and generally good times. But in this time, consciously or not, you’ve determined whether your future could involve that person as a permanent fixture. This is true for all ages - the only difference being, the older you get, the less likely you are to want to or be able to stick around once you know and the knowing isn’t good.

2. The Good Break-Up Fantasy. There is no such thing as a good break up. If things were good, you wouldn’t be breaking up. You’re more likely to ride a unicorn to work on a rainbow than “stay friends” with your ex. Spare me your anecdotes - I know that after time exes can be amicable, and even something that looks a whole lot like friends. But there’s always something a little bit different, a little bit weird, etc. Once you’ve slept with someone, there’s something chemically different about how you respond to them - no matter how advanced or mature you are emotionally. If you want to be friends with someone forever, you’ve got two choices: marry them, or don’t ever be intimate with them - and only the second one is foolproof. Outside of Tea Party rallies, mosh pits and Justin Bieber ticket lines, it’s hard to imagine anything more chaotic and utterly without direction as a breakup. No matter how smart you are - a break up will make you retarded. You’ll say things you’d never say; you’ll do things you’d never do. It’s the closest thing to an out-of-body experience you can have without chemical assistance or dying. Break ups are like band-aid removals - they’re going to suck, so just know that and get it over as quickly as possible.

3. Sexy Isn't As Sexy Doesn't. I consider myself, on a very basic level, an intellectual. I’ve always identified myself as more cerebral than physical and I’ve a lifetime of math grades vs. PE grades to prove it. But no matter how much my mind likes someone, if my body doesn’t want them, there’s no point in going any further. I don’t necessarily like this about myself - but I’ve tried it enough times to know: if you don’t want to see your partner naked on a regular basis, you are just friends. The problem is, my mind seems to have a lot easier of a time falling in love than my body. I know, I know, my body should be able to fall in love every 10 yards in places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas - but if you look closely it’s not so easy. You see in the “pretty” capitals of the world, there’s “pretty” everywhere - but it’s the same kind of pretty, and it feels about as genuine as “reality” television does real. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for dying your hair, shooting some Botox or getting a little work done - provided you’re doing it to be a better you. But, I can’t imagine the level of self-loathing required to go to a doctor and pay to actually look like someone else. I’m pretty sure, however, it’s the kind that doesn’t mix well with healthy interpersonal relationships. You can intellectualize it all you want - but if you get to a point with someone that you want to do everything with them except have sex - there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just not really in love.

* * *

Being a romantic is like being a Cubs fan; in that there will be heart-wrenching disappointment so regularly that you’ll begin to wonder if that’s all there is to it. But then there are those sweet, pure moments of jubilation so profound that they make every bit of the heartbreak suddenly and completely worth it. And even if you later lose a great love, you’ll still have that feeling to carry you through it all again, just to have another shot. For what it’s worth, I am actually a Cubs fan and feel fairly confident that I’ll be married with kids before they win the Series again. But in end, as with baseball, our failures in love serve only to make our successes that much sweeter. After all, anyone who plays the game for real knows that you can’t win ‘em all, and no one remembers the ones you lost once you win the big one. Here’s to opening day, on the season of love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

3 Vegas Vacancies

As a city, it’s hard to get a lot more cosmopolitan than Las Vegas. In its iconic skyline alone, you’ve got Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel tower, the Statue of Liberty, a castle, a pirate ship and something that looks a whole lot like the Space Needle, just to name a few. There are now more five star restaurants in Vegas than any other city in the world, and as the entertainment capital of the planet, there a wider variety of things to do here than you can find anywhere else. But despite this panoply of hedonism, recreation and other prurient diversion, there are a few notable exceptions. I know what you’re thinking - there can’t possibly anything worth missing that’s missing from Vegas. And while I have a vested interest in you all believing that Vegas is, in fact, the perfect entertainment destination, I can’t in good conscience omit these precious few vacancies from the Vegas landscape. And so, in the interests of full disclosure, here are 3 things missing from the Las Vegas things-to-do list:

1. Crack Chicken - The variety of food available here in sin city is matched only by the quantity of the same. The birthplace of the all-you-can-eat buffet provides every possible type of cuisine for every possible appetite, and any time you'd like it. There is fast food, slow roast and everything in between. The worlds greatest steaks down the street from hamburgers so bad for you, they’ll inspire a major gastrointestinal event. But there is one chain missing, one gloriously addictive franchise that hasn't found a home in Vegas and probably never will. And thats Chik-Fil-A. Chik-Fil-A is the crack cocaine of chicken. One moment you take a small bite, and the next you've got it smeared all over your face because you couldn’t get it in your mouth fast enough and you’re picking up the remaining crumbs like they’re trying to get away and freebasing waffle fries. And during all this deliciousness all you can think about is when you’re getting your next fix. But aside from brilliant chicken - theres something else Chik-Fil-A is known for, and that's being very religiously conservative. So much so that none of their stores are allowed to be open on Sundays. And while a Chik-Fil-A in Vegas would be a virtual money tree - the “sin” part of Sin-City means you'll never, ever see one here.

2. Crave & Clustered. For a city that makes it's living on people dumping money into machines, there are precious few arcades in Las Vegas. Sure, you can usually find a few video or midway games in a casino’s obligatory family area that seems about as lovingly attended-to as a rest stop bathroom. But in general, unless it spits out money - there just isn't that much video entertainment here. There's GameWorks on the Strip - a Spielberg/Dreamworks backed venture that seemed like a can't miss proposition in the late 90’s when it opened, but has fallen into such obvious disrepair that it makes the buck-fifty per game prices seem like an even worse value proposition than just dumping your money into a video poker machine. What’s more, there are about a half-dozen or so great “family” things to do in Vegas, and outside of that, you’re left to neighborhood playgrounds and movie theaters. For the average teenager, Vegas has about the same number of entertainment options as Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Actually, that’s not true - because Wauwatosa (population 45,599) has a Dave & Busters and Las Vegas doesn’t. Seriously, there hasn’t been something this conspicuously missing since Natalie Holloway. Given the relatively young population of this city, number of young families and dearth of competitive options - this would be the easiest thing to sell here since water. The only thing that Wauwatosa should have that Vegas doesn’t are snow days.

3. Major League Missing. For many, Las Vegas is the sports center of the universe. After all, for many sporting events - especially the currently pending Men’s College Basketball Championships - more people come here than to the actual site of the event. Of course, that’s because it’s one of the very few places where you can bet on those sports to your heart’t content - without dealing with shady bookies, back room betting parlors or off-shore websites. But for all that Vegas means to professional sports, this is the one place you won’t find any major league teams. If you count Henderson, Las Vegas is the largest US city without a “Big 4” sports franchise, and despite the best efforts of local politicians, businessmen and the general population, it looks there isn’t one coming anytime soon. The obvious problem is that these sports, despite its value to them and their fans, do not want to be associated with sports gambling. Point shaving, players and officials on the take and allegations of fixed outcomes have already cast a dark shadow over these sports from time to time - and that’s without a team in Las Vegas. But this ignores the universally accessible truth that is the internet and the fact that you can’t keep gambling out of these arenas unless you expect to keep the fans out, too. When a cesspool of a city like Los Angeles can have five professional teams (and be the only thing I miss about living there) the arguments for not having at least one team in Vegas seem tougher to swallow than an Appleby’s steak.

* * *

For the most part, when you’re in Vegas, you’re not going to want for places to go and things to do, especially if you follow the “three-day rule” about visiting the Strip. But, for those who live here, work here, or spend any real time here, the apparently wide variety of entertainment options start to look like a mile-long buffet serving only macaroni & cheese. Come to think of it, that doesn’t really sound so bad... but that notwithstanding, for all the innovation and talent surrounding the entertainment business here, there are far more people willing to simply slightly modify something they’ve already see be successful than actually trying something new. There’s only so much ultra-lounging one can do before wondering where all the real fun has gone. Here’s hoping it finds its way back to southern Nevada, one very big arcade, very good chicken joint or very exciting sports franchise at a time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3 Matters of Faith

As the economy begins its slow turn back towards prosperity and we turn our collective gaze towards a brighter future, we all look for signs of hope, stories of inspiration and ideas to believe in. And despite the incessant fear-mongering that is constantly peddled to us as “news” and the negative commentary and punditry which seems to be shouted from every available media outlet, we are an optimistic bunch. But for all this positive feeling, for every feel-good story of regular people overcoming impossible odds, there always seems to be many more stories, examples, and encounters which not only dispel any notion we might have about social progress, but call into question the viability of our society in general. We clothe ourselves with the notion that we are the most technologically advanced nation that has ever existed - but you have to do little but turn the wrong corner to end up in a Lord of the Flies vignette, where it seems like we have devolved to our most basic instincts - incapable of sustaining even the most basic social constructs. And so, as a counterpoint to all the good you may have been feeling lately, here are 3 places to go to lose whatever faith you have left in humanity:

1. Costco. I’ve never been to Beirut, but I’m fairly certain that the shopping that takes place in its most war-torn streets is the closest thing to the scene at Costco on Sunday afternoon that exists. In case you’re wondering what the battle for food and provisions will be like after a nuclear holocaust and the absence of law and order (the principles, not the TV show, though that will be gone, too - yes, all three of them), you don’t need to go far to see it. Costco reduces shopping to it evolutionary roots, where animals compete with bald self-interest for resources - whether limited or not - neglecting all but the most basic tribal instincts. Because while good manners and even the slightest measure of courtesy are dead at this wholesale hell, the family unit is alive and well. And the larger the family, the more territorial and dismissive they are. Large clans can be seen ambling in an impassible line down limited corridors, pushing along an impossible collection of unhealthy food, and daring the other would-be shoppers to do anything save turn back the way they came. Marginally interested parents shuffle aimlessly down aisles stocked with economy sizes of every possible foodstuff, while their unwashed brood flail and scream around them like spastic little satellites, never once flinching from their lifeless, plaintive stares. Costco isn’t dystopian; it is Dystopia. When the world as we know it comes to an end, I want to be in Costco - because that way, I won’t be able to tell the difference.

2. Airplanes. Normally, when people are forced into tight proximity to one another for common gain, it often brings out the best in them. They are courteous, thoughful, and, sometimes, downright friendly. Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what happens on commercial airline flights. I have written dozens of times about the egregious horrors of airplane behavior, but just when I think I have ranted about every possible transgression, I am confronted by yet another. Loud kids? Loud adults. Elbows on my armrest? Leg fat under my armrest. Body odor guy? Body odor friends. It's as though the price and discomfort associated with air travel has inspired a collective rebellion - collateral damage notwithstanding. I didn’t even believe that noise pollution was a real thing until I started traveling regularly on planes. I have owned the world’s most advanced noise canceling technology, and it’s no more useful against the cacophony of discourteous travelers than sticking my fingers in my ears. I’ve gotten less unwanted contact in a pick-up basketball game than on some flights, and not even constant high-powered ventilation can keep some of the stenches I’ve smelled out of my nose. The availability of air travel to thousands of destinations worldwide represents just how far our society has come, just as the way people conduct themselves in the midst of this luxury represents just how far we haven’t.

3. Small Claims Court. There is perhaps nothing we hold more dear to our sense of the equality of man than our access to justice. No matter the inequities of the marketplace, birthright, or life in general, we are all equal before the law. And there is perhaps no place where this is more obvious than small claims court. In this community tribunal, no lawyers are required (and few are seen), no complex filings are needed, and no knowledge of the law is necessary. With the help of fill-in-the-blank forms and nominal fees, you can appear before a judge and have your grievances heard, no matter how small. Of course, what this universal access intended to be and what it’s turned out to be are two very different things. Instead of a forum for the redress of legitimate grievances, it turns out to be a cesspool of excuses and protest, with little knowledge of the law and a misguided sense that “justice” is whatever means one can pay less than they owe. Waiting in the 2+ hour filing line is an opportunity to hear fringe elements plead their cases to wholly disinterested court clerks and watch all manner of folks try to leverage any technicality to avoid even having to answer a claim. Landlords at their wits end trying to evict non-paying tenants, and contractors trying get any payment on work done. All the while enduring airplane-quality poor manners, and Costco-level toddler tantrums -- it’s enough to make you want to leave the court building and walk straight into traffic.

* * *

Whenever someone tells me “it’s a small world”, I know two things: (1) they haven’t been anywhere near any of the aforementioned locales in recent memory, and (2) I want to hit them with something heavy and sharp. The world is big, and there a lot of people in it. For every great, interesting and thoughtful person you see, there are dozens of mouth-breathing, marginally bathed, poorly-tattooed and ill-mannered miscreants existing for no greater purpose than to be carried along by the tides of polite society. To rise above this rising flood of mediocrity, sloth and dependency requires daily dedication to higher ideals. And those who do deserve our respect just as robustly as those who fail to do deserve our disdain. While watching social decay is initially cause for sadness, it soon turns to perspective and ends up in gratitude - for the wisdom to understand that I have the power and discipline to rise above the noise, the character to have a good laugh at it to save from crying over it, and the good sense to surround myself with like-minded individuals.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

3 Dressy Days Gone By

Of all the trends that have come and gone, and for all the cyclical movements we romanticize with our fatalistic rhetoric only to see them turn around right before our eyes, there is one national movement that is irrefutably spiraling into decline: the casualization of our wardrobes. As the opportunities for increased standards of dress dwindle, so do the occurrences of more gentrified clothing in our closets. The oxfords, slacks, wingtips, dresses and heels of days past have been replaced by t-shirts, jeans, sweatsuits, furry boots and Crocs. We are not only a fatter nation, we are a lazier nation, and the time it takes to don even the simplest items of dress-wear has proven to be a prohibitive inconvenience. Our idyllic visions of recent history are often times no more geniune than the televisions shows from which we derive them - but no matter what the dirty underbelly of our past, we certainly were better dressed. And while there is no shortage of style in modern times (just look at the magazine rack in your local bookstore), there is a shortage of places to acceptably exercise it. In light of that, I present three occasions that need re-dressed:

1. The Sloppy Skies. As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when air travel was considered a luxury, and people actually dressed up to fly. Airports looked more like churches than bus terminals, and the pilots and air crew were not the best dressed people on the plane. But as the prices of air travel have fallen to the point of nearly ubiquitous access, the proletariat brought more than simply their money and travel plans to the airport, they brought their clothes, too. Today, not even the feeblest attempt at dressing up is made, and the modern day air terminal houses the greatest collection of leisure wear available since the death of disco. Honestly, I think the entire couture sweatsuit industry is being propped up by female air travelers. It’s as though there has been some kind of collective failure to notice that the airport is actually a public place. It’s just house-shoes and bathrobes away from everyone walking around as though it's Sunday morning in their own home. Listen, I know that coach seating is far from opulent, but it’s also not so agonizingly uncomfortable that it obviates the need for just the smallest measure of decorum when picking your clothes. Trust me, if I want to know what you wear around the house, I’ll stop by. In the meantime, stick with pants that don’t have elastic anywhere in them.

2. The Show’s Clothes Just Gone. Theater used to be a magical experience. Whether live or on-screen, we would enter into these elaborately-decorated shrines of seated comfort and dim lighting to be wholly, and utterly without distraction, entertained. And for this privilege, we would dress to match the fanciful nature of these accommodations. Even as styles changed, going to see the show was always an opportunity to look our best - even though we’d be sitting in the dark amongst strangers and all staring in the same direction. The staff of these dedicated show halls were similarly buttoned up - often in something drastically more elaborate than anything the patrons would wear. And even though these same staff members have been reduced to ill-fitting pants and seldom-washed (and never pressed) polo shirts, they are, unfortunately, still the best-dressed people in the joint. The distressingly poor fashion sense of teenagers notwithstanding (certainly a whole separate discussion), if I didn’t know any better I’d think that the front doors to these theaters connected directly to a Wal-Mart (more on that later). It’s as though the predominance of home movies has convinced everyone to dress as though they’re on their own living room couch, and adopted clothing that will accommodate any bodily expansion provided by the livestock-sized portions offered up at the modern concession stands. If sitting for two hours is too painful to endure in anything but pajamas - perhaps it's better you stay home anyways.

3. Shopping Gall. I’ve looked at shopping as a particularly difficult task. Of course, I’m not counting (a) getting anywhere near a shopping mall during the holidays; (b) even thinking about about a warehouse store on a weekend or (c) grocery shopping mid-week. But while those retail occasions are entirely unpleasant - the whole point of me avoiding them if at all possible - they certainly aren’t physically demanding. You know, the sort of demanding that would obviate a desire to dress like an adult - with clothes that button rather than tie-on? It seems, however, that the shopping public at-large finds this otherwise pleasurable retail exercise daunting enough to dress as though they shopped entirely out of the “free” box at a garage sale, a thrift store, or with a $5 maximum clothing budget - per outfit. I remember actually getting dressed up to go to the mall. After all, people were going to see me. Okay, girls were going to see me. Okay, in fairness, girls weren’t going to look at me if I ran by them literally on fire - but hey, I wanted to be ready if lightning were to strike. But now I see people wearing things I wouldn’t even dream of wearing on a late-night prove-how-much-I-care tampon run to the drug store - let alone to a multi-acre, multi-level shopping mall in the middle of the day. It makes me wonder if someone forgot to tell them that these places are, in fact, open to the public. And yes, that’s me laughing at you in your XXL Tony Steward t-shirt and Crocs while you window shop the Gap.

* * *

There is no greater evidence that the primary social casualty or our time is shame than looking at what people wear. We have infused an entire culture with the mantra “who cares what other people think?” And look where it’s gotten us - we’ve turned every public space into a trailer home living room, complete with nearly disposable lounge-wear, a complete disregard for the visual health of others, and our dignity sacrificed so profoundly that the Mayans would be jealous. Comfortism has replaced hedonism as the primary pursuit in our most selfish moments, peddled to us by rock-hard models who we are led to believe spend all their time simply lazing about - rather than spending 6 hours in the gym it takes to get abs you can cut paper with. The comfortistic movement has created the greatest fashion crisis since - well, the currently concluding douchebag era - but hey, it’s still bad. Don’t me wrong, I don’t think one’s clothes should hurt - but when our public paradigms for how we present ourselves become identical to our private ones, the one thing you can count on is a whole lot of uncomfortable.