Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bowling for Style

As far as surrealists go, I live a pretty good life. My situation is neither so intense nor so horrible that it warrants an explicitly political revolution. Instead, I work toward undermining the boring and banal. And happily I often find myself surrounded by others with exactly the same intent.

A good friend of mine, Tommy Bang Bang, lives in Portland and came into town this week. In order to celebrate her visit, a large group of us decided to go bowling. Since no one seemed confident about their ball hurling, pin crashing skills the object of the game was changed. Tommy decided to introduce us all to Bowling for Style. Now, a few of us did not fully appreciate what this would entail. We obliged the concept with colorful eye makeup, panty hose, and earrings. I wore two sets of leg warmers on my arms but did not take it much further than that. While a vaguely eccentric group of us waited on a porch, enjoying the new Spring weather and waiting for our friends, we saw a neon colored blob appear on the horizon. Our friend from Portland was coming down the street in the most horrendously bright pair of snow pants that this world has ever seen.

To add to the absurdity of the occasion, our bowling alley of choice was in the basement of the Polish Falcon, a bar and community center for old polish people. This is the kind of place that only accepts cash, has a grand total of six lanes, and don’t even think about computerized scoring. Which was probably better since we weren’t scoring based on the number of pins you struck down. Points were awarded based on the overall absurdity of one’s appearance, as well as the gregariousness (and sometimes the lewdness) of the ball throw.

Did I mention there was a family with three young boys on the other side of the room? Needless to say I think we all forgot about them as we screamed vulgarities and exhibited a great deal of intoxicated behavior. To my credit, I only had one beer.

Props were definitely a great asset to those who brought them. A cabbage patch doll, rainbow feather boa, a straw hat, and a catcher’s mitt were all used to assist in the throw. At one point the cabbage patch doll made it halfway down the lane as well.

Needless to say the scrawny old man behind the counter had to come over and begrudgingly dislodge a neon pink ball from our gutter, complaining loudly about our “fooling around” but we never did get kicked out. Still, with 10 people playing, the place closed just as we finished frame 9. I tied for fourth place with Leo Long, who wore a tuxedo coat with tails and added a lot of drama to her throws. Tommy won, of course, since she was probably the most inspired (inebriated) of the bunch.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Under-Appreciated Ironic Accessories

In order to thrift-shop and rummage-sail effectively, it is generally a good idea to have a starting point. For some, this is a color scheme. As they browse through seemingly endless racks of cardigans and t-shirts, it is useful to the brain and eyes to have specific colors to focus onto. A skilled thrifter’s eyes will also begin to search for certain textures, which can indicate fabric type and the amount of wear and tear. But for me, I reached a point where I didn’t need any more pink cotton vintage dresses or silky soft brown t-shirts. My lust for the hunt was still strong, so I turned to collecting other things. The purses were always picked-over and under-inspiring, and socks were rarely worth the effort. When I started giving the accessories a really good look, suspenders were on the verge of coming back in style. The one person I knew who wore them was like a Fashion Goddess to me, and unsurprisingly teen-agers and hipsters quickly followed her example.

Sometime shortly later, I discovered a colorful fifties apron nestled among pillow cases, bath mats, and curtains. I had a few already, given to me by my mother and grandmothers. One was separate from the costumes, being used for its practical purpose in the kitchen.

And recently I added another forgotten wardrobe element to my list of must-haves: clip-on ties. I usually find these among the children’s accessories, since the people in charge of organizing merchandise seem to think nobody wears these except young kids in Sunday School.

Now, I am just as fond as the next person for Bakelite clip-on earrings and aviator sun glasses. And these days it is difficult to name any decade that isn’t being reinterpreted by current fashion trends. Literally anything goes. In many magazines you can see clear evidence of the bottom-up approach: high culture takes what low culture makes and “legitimizes” it with money. So, let’s see some imagination. Let’s push the boundaries of our hyper modern, multi-media culture. Let’s say “take this!” to the man by investing in some ironic, unnecessary accessories. I think Salvador Dali would be proud.