Journal Uncategorized

Prom Gown Shopping For Men

I don't know any of these kids--it's just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.
I don’t know any of these kids–it’s just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.

When I realized that the day of shopping for prom gowns my wife had scheduled with my daughters was not a much-anticipated day of mother-daughter bonding, but a drudgery to which my wife was looking forward with all the eagerness of shoeless pilgrim standing before a road of broken glass, I grimaced and stepped into the breech.  Maybe it had something to do with the disgust in her eye when I presumed I wouldn’t be part of the expedition–or maybe I’m just a great husband and dad.  Pfft.

“Of course I’ll go with you,” I said, my soul sighing miserably from the depths of each individual cell.  She brightened considerably not, I suspect, with glee for the chance to spend a few hours in my delightful company, but at the prospect of sharing the pain.

This would be no quick jaunt down the block.  We would be embarking on a 2-hour drive to the dismal, post-industrial remnants of the town of Sharon, PA–a once vibrant steel town ln062997bthat is, well, surviving “despite all that.”  Our particular destination; a store called “The Winner,” a three-story former department store filled with tens of thousands of dresses that bills itself as “The world’s largest off-price fashion store.”  I don’t think they’re exaggerating, at 75,000 square feet of historic charm, the place was a bit overwhelming.

I have to admit that I was dubious about the whole endeavor.  It sounded too good to be true–a treasure trove of deeply discounted formal gowns set a city for which the term “post industrial wasteland” is a compliment?  Have you seen that movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?”  Well, welcome to the Thunderdome.  The last time we’d been through Sharon they had been using stop signs wired to barrels in the center of the downtown as substitutes for broken traffic signals, and while the lights had been fixed this time around, we found that the streets had been only partially cleared of snow after a storm several days before, and had become uneven obstacle courses of packed ice and slush. I expected to see a sign on the outskirts of town that said: Welcome To Sharon. We’re Well Past Trying.

The sidewalks in the business district were no better–some were clear and some were treacherous.  Nevertheless, we reluctantly parked our new car on the streets–would it be there when we returned?–and found our way to the store.  It wasn’t difficult to find–along with the well-kept diner next door, and a dodgy-looking Army Navy store, there’s just not anything else going on in the downtown.  It’s got the feel of a place where folks have just given up.On our last visit there had been a decent used book store, but it was gone, replaced by some sort of off-brand tax preparation storefront.

Special-Occasion-Dresses-The-WinnerInside The Winner, however I began to be convinced.  You walk inside and the first thing you see is a vintage Jaguar E-type that belonged to the owner of the store, in front of which is stationed a genteel matron at a small desk who welcomed us and politely explained the layout of the store.  And what a good thing that was: the place is huge, filled to the gills with thousands upon thousands of gowns.  I followed my kids around for about twenty minutes before I ambled back over to the lady by the Jag and cracked a joke at one of the clerks, “you guys should open a sports bar next door, you’d make a killing.”

The pleasant, distinguished woman leaned in close and said, “haven’t you visited our men’s lounge adjacent to the fitting rooms?”

Why no, I hadn’t.

I glanced at my wife, who nodded indulgently.  I’d already become an anchor despite my good intentions, and both she and my daughters were eager to have me out of their hair.  With some trepidation I found my way down a narrow hall, past a knot of women outside the fitting rooms, and around a corner.  I half-expected to find a door with of those little slide-open peepholes like you see in speakeasies in the movies, but what I found instead was brotherhood.  Well, maybe not brotherhood–but there was a TV set to ESPN, a half dozen la-z-boy recliners, a sofa, and one of those cute “theater style” popcorn cart poppers and…a keg of Rolling Rock on tap.

Genius.  Free beer and popcorn!  I settled in to watch Tennessee versus Auburn, but soon enough a bunch of us–mostly dads but also a fiance, two boyfriends, and a “family friend.”  Given the date and location (western PA, the day before the superbowl) we talked a lot about football, but also a little about shopping,  a bit about women, and–to my surprise and delight–our mutual admiration for regional hero rogers_esquireFred “Mister” Rogers, which was unanimous. 

Of course, it’s not uncommon for even the hardest among us to wax misty-eyed over Mister Rogers–there’s a true Pittsburgh story, in fact, about how Rogers’ car was stolen from outside the WQED studio.  The story was quickly reported on the local news, and the car showed up back in front of the studio in short order, with a note on the dash that said something like “If I’d known this was your car I never would have taken it.”

But I digress. My children are smart, efficient shoppers–they found beautiful dresses in little more than two hours, for a grand total of about $300 (if you’ve shopped for these formal gowns, you know we got off light).  I bid my compadres a reluctant adieu, lingering in the main gallery to listen to the pianist stroking the keys of baby grand piano–talk about atmosphere!–and we were gone, with a brief stop at a local hand-made candy shop.

On the drive home, my wife decided she had a hankering for a Primanti Brothers sandwich, so that was dinner, a satisfying end to a relatively painless day.  Heck, I didn’t even have to drive, with two learner’s permits in the family: one daughter drove north in the morning, one drove south in the evening–all in all a painless day.


Wednesday Words Of Wisdom: Mark Twain

220px-Beckwith_Mark_Twain_PortraitTwain could be the King of Wednesday Words–we could make this exclusively about him, put him in here every Wednesday, but this is one of my favorites.

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser, and he can sleep until noon every day.”
–Mark Twain



Craw-Stuck By Netanyahu Visit

Not awestruck, but craw, as in “stuck in my….”

netanyahuJudging from my personal Facebook page, there is a loudly enthusiastic minority of Americans who have whipped themselves into feverish, Dervish-like fervor over the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his address to Congress. Not coincidentally, I noticed a flush of fawning articles on fly-by-night propaganda sites with names like–well, I’m not going to give them a single direct click to grab hits, but they’ve all got jingoistic titles and make references to “patriotism” early and often.  The kind of shit sites the links to which your brother-in-law keeps forwarding you, unsolicited.

All share a glowing reverence for Mr. Netanyahu in the vein of “now THIS is a REAL leader,” leaving us little to wonder about who is not a “real” leader, in their eyes.*  Many feature photos of this fellow in his youthful incarnation as a soldier–the word “badass,” one of my favorite modifiers, is bandied about shamelessly, an echo of the awed salivating over Jordan’s King Abdullah which followed that bold leader’s justifiably furious response to the ISIS execution by immolation of Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh.  No small irony there.

For all I know, Mr. Netanyahu is indeed a badass.  He’s certainly a savvy politician, as his recent, controversial visit to Congress has proven.  There’s an election coming up in a few weeks in Israel, something most articles about this visit fail to mention, but you can be damned sure the Israeli leader’s timing was carefully calculated.  There’s no doubt that flying across the sea to give his country’s patron nation the what for has played well with the Likud hardliners back in Tel Aviv. He’s doing his job and doing it well.

It takes a special kind of leader to spit in the eye of the hand that feeds you.  Aside from Afganistan, which is largely an American puppet state, Israel tops the list of foreign aid recipients by a considerable margin (the next being Iraq, yet another nation we pounded into dust).  We pay a great number of nations to either favor us over our enemies or to not be our enemies themselves, but we pay Israel just to be our friend.
Foreign Aid

Indeed, I must admit that I am honestly impressed by the weight of his balls, for lack of a better metaphor, although the crassness seems fitting in the context of a foreign leader who visited our country, stood before our leadership, and proceeded to lecture us on history, critique our diplomacy, dictate to us what our foreign policy should be, and directly insult the intelligence of a sitting President.  To put this chart in perspective, the $3.1 billion per year given to Israel annually could be spent alternatively by providing over $200,000 to EVERY one of the nearly 15,000 school districts in the USA. (More if leave out Wisconsin, whose governor says they already spend too much on education.)

Again, this isn’t about Netanyahu. He’s accomplishing his agenda willfully and effectively.  I can’t say the same for the Congressional Toads who kowtowed to him for no other reason than to agitate the Executive Branch.  If it were the leader of any other nation I’d feel the same way.  Hell, it pisses me off when that old Irish turd Bono finds his way to DC to lecture our leaders: you may be right, but it’s not for you to say so butt the hell out.

bull mooseNow, before you get all huffy and finger-pointy and start calling me bad words like “liberal,” let me tell you that you would be wrong. I’m about as non-partisan as you can imagine.  The only political party I fit into fell into history when Charles Evans Hughes lost the Presidential election to Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

I don’t trust Iran any more than Netanyahu does, but I don’t trust Israel either.  Why should I?  They have their own agenda, and despite their reliance on American tax dollars, they’ve never been shy about doing what they feel they need to do, regardless of it’s effect on us.

That doesn’t mean that I have to accept a foreign leader–ANY foreign leader–coming to Washington DC to loudly and disrespectfully shame and bully our government.  It is fine for me to do that, but I’m an American. It’s my yard, my dog can shit wherever it wants–but your dog..? No way.  And for the sake of argument, imagine if Democrats brought in French President Francois Hollande to give our Congress a piece of his mind!  Or Germany’s Angela Merkel?  The outrage would be thicker than Newt Gingrich’s iron hide.

John Boehner :: JamesonThe most shame goes to John Boehner, (my auto-correct desperately wants me to change that name to “Boner” and I’m just juvenile enough that sooner or later I’m going to do it) for being complicit to Netanyahu’s political stunt and inviting this outsider to raise his voice in what, by all accounts, is a family fight.  And shame on the media for reporting on the hissy fits and posturing while ignoring the finer details of this whole business–but then, if they can’t reduce it to a 90 second bit then they’d rather ignore it all together.

There has been precious little to respect about the Democrats lately, but I’m with them on this one.  And that sticks in my craw just as much as all the the rest of it.

 *The USA had a bona fide, decorated soldier who enlisted then volunteered for exceptionally hazardous duty, and was a documented killer as a potential President not all that long ago, but his service was slandered and his record largely disregarded by the same partisans who fetishsize Netanyahu, so the argument carries little weight.



Tunesday: Talking Heads Life During Wartime

This one still gets me jumping around the room…



What are you doing on this cold winter’s night?  I’ll be making sure my ears ring in the morning.



Photo I Like

Mad About Nimoy

One more.  I can’t help myself.kirk__spock__and_mad