Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I Wore Twenty Years Ago

What I wore twenty years ago was a pair of Duck Head chinos from Britches Great Outdoors, a Brooks Brothers oxford button down shirt over a turtleneck, no socks, and L.L. Bean footwear, either leather bluchers or dirty bucks. I would hold my pants up with a braided leather belt from Jos. Banks; a belt which I still have but which is now unusable because of both condition and size. If the weather was inclement, I'd wear a Bean Baxter State Parka with a tear in the back from when Rich Matic and I went tumbling through a plate glass door in front of New South Dining Hall. This uniform would work for me for about three and a half seasons in D.C. If it was sunny -- in fact, daylight was the real prerequisite, not brightness -- I'd wear a pair of gold Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, but not the kind that Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun. They were more like the glasses Dennis Quaid wore in the "who's the best pilot you ever saw" scene in the Right Stuff, my all time favorite movie.

Ah yes, the Right Stuff, an incredible movie based on an equally incredible book by chronicler of zeitgeist Tom Wolfe. A movie that was meant to be a western with pilots instead of cowboys. Take stock of the Mercury Seven, portrayed with stylized verisimilitude by Scott Glenn (Alan Sheppard), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Fred Ward (Gus Grissom), and Quaid (Gordo Cooper, the best pilot you ever saw). Throw playwright Sam Shepard in as fastest man alive Chuck Yeager, for good measure. These were men who had public personae thrust upon them, when in fact all most of them (save John Glenn and his twerpy sidekick, Scott Carpenter) wanted to do was to navigate the holy coordinates of the fighter jock: flying and drinking and drinking and driving and screwing. How can you do that when you're expected to be Buck Rogers?

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