Category Archives: Fashion

Journal of the Plague Year: #21

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, has made an executive order that as of July 1st, all Oregonians must wear face masks in indoor public places, or outdoors whenever there are concentrations of people and 6 foot distancing cannot be maintained. As if on cue, my DEVO face masks were in the mailbox the day that order was announced. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had face masks for the better part of a month or two now already, and I have been wearing them, long before the governor’s call, religiously in public places. But those were not DEVO masks. I understand that I am now part of the movement, inevitable, towards the protective-mask-against-the-coronavirus as fashion accessory. I have no problem with this. If we have to do this awkward, uncomfortable thing in the name of public health, we might as well have some fun with it. Yes? No? Yes! I’ve seen some pretty stellar designs. And like the concert t-shirt, a mask with a favorite artist, writer, or band might be a cool way to wave your freak flag, to announce your fan loyalty, to promote your favorite thing. I love DEVO, I have loved DEVO for a number of decades now, and even though they are not my favorite band of all time, they were the first cool band, at least on my radar, to merchandise protective masks. So I got them. Meanwhile, it’s safe to conclude that any individual who believes that a face mask is an affront to their civil liberties is just a very stupid person. You’ve seen the videos of these people throwing tantrums in grocery stores. I have never seen such idiocy. One might conclude, as I do, that in strange and trying times, we see the worst in people come crawling to the surface. I think the opposite is true, as well. We are seeing heroism of all stripes on a daily basis as folks decide to do the right thing in the face of the pandemic and in the face of racial injustice.

It’s a strange time. Things start to loosen up and reopen. While you can’t go to a movie or see a concert, and live music seems to have completely died, you can get your haircut. You can eat at a restaurant serving clients at half capacity. You can go to your massage therapist. Most businesses are reopening to a degree. But in the world of the virus, things are not improving; in fact, they are getting terrifyingly worse. There are states in the union that ignored the virus altogether or that opened up early, and those places are paying the piper. There are only 14 states in the union, the last I heard, where the curve is flattening. I understand that Oregon is one of these, but it doesn’t seem to square with our stats that indicate a significant uptick of cases. And, of course, tragically, the country’s death toll has reached about 130,000, more than twice the casualties of the American War in Vietnam. And while all of this is happening, there are young people playing a game whereby huge parties are thrown and the winner is the first to contract COVID-19. There are folks who argue that the mask protocol is a devilish conspiracy and a violation of their civil liberties. There’s a president holding a 4th of July event at Mt. Rushmore and refusing to mandate mask-wearing for attendees. A former candidate for the President of the United States, who has been squarely anti-mask, is in the hospital with the virus. A republican member of the senate actually advocated the dissolution of the team of experts who are charged with informing the public about how to stay safe because their advice runs counter to “what the president wants.” The stupidity is astounding.

There is something uniquely American about this catastrophe. We seem to be, or many of us seem to be, so short-sighted and selfish, so unwilling to be inconvenienced, so entitled, and so resistant to facts that butt up against our personal wishes and desire for liberty, that we would willingly sacrifice our safety and the safety of our most vulnerable citizens in order to have that party on the beach, to go to that club, to go to that church, to attend that rally, or to shop without a mask. And I say it is uniquely American, especially in the Age of The Donald, because the same thing is happening nowhere else in the world, certainly, not in first world economies. It boggles the mind. I just thought of that Guided by Voices tune–“Everybody’s got a hold on hope/It’s the last thing that’s holding me.” Really, it just popped into my head. I think it might be easy and understandable to fall into despair during this time, 2020, the year that has proven to be such a suck festival. But if we look around and pay special attention, we might find lots of reasons to be hopeful. Maybe it might be good to make a list of the things, globally, socially, and personally that don’t suck. That’s your homework assignment. And here’s another lyric from Father John Misty’s “Pure Comedy” album, a lyric and a melody that chokes me up every time, one that, invariably reminds me that there are always places to find hope and joy, in a drink, a friend that you love, a Talking Heads tune; even the end of the world is no competition:

And, oh, I read somewhere
That in twenty years
More or less
This human experiment will reach its violent end
But I look at you
As our second drinks arrive
The piano player’s playing “This Must Be the Place”
And it’s a miracle to be alive
One more time
There’s nothing to fear
There’s nothing to fear
There’s nothing to fear


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Filed under Culture, Fashion, Reportage, The Plague Year

Of Smoking Jackets and Product Endorsement


Okay, so, here I am wearing what they call a smoking jacket, and I don’t smoke. Maybe it’s a drinking jacket.  I do drink, but that’s not a real drink.  Actually, it is a real drink, I’m just not drinking it, because, first, it was a family photo shoot before the noon hour, and second, there were dead bugs in the glass, fruit flies that had somehow found themselves drinking too much and drowning too much in a bottle of Jameson months or even years before.  I know, it’s terrible, a terrible loss of Jameson.  Let me give you a second to collect yourself.  I appear to be modeling either for the drink or for the jacket, and since there are dead bugs in the drink, it must be about the coat.  And that’s true.  If I upload this photo to the website that belongs to the company that makes this jacket, they’ll give me a discount on my next purchase.  I’m a total whore.

I have never been very much into clothes.  When I was young, I suppose I cared about fashion a little bit.  As a musician it was prerequisite to put some thought into what you wore, even if it looked terrible or you’d never wear it anywhere else but on a stage.  And that was my modus operandi.  I wore bow ties and yellow jackets, yellow pants, Converse high tops, and in the late 80’s even a little bit of eye make-up.  This seems so stupid to me now, but I thought it was pretty great in my 20s.  As I matured, I started to care less and less about clothes, even for performing.  Any new clothes that came into my wardrobe got there by mysterious means.  I think there may have been someone else in the household making all of my clothing purchases.

And then I discovered the smoking jacket. Well, first I discovered pants.  I was simply being practical, hoping to find a pair of pants I could bicycle in and also teach in–no more changing of clothes once I got to work–a painful process that added a whole 5 minutes to the time I spent at work not working.  I must have googled something–yes, that’s it, I googled “bike to work pants” and immediately I discovered this company in San Francisco making a line of pants called, you guessed it, “bike-to-work pants.” I’m wearing them right now.  I’m always wearing my bike-to-work pants because they’re very nice pants.  And when I’m biking I can roll up my pant leg a few inches and suddenly I’ve got reflective bands around my legs, and, if I want to be a little bit more visible, I can turn my back pockets inside out and display reflective flags from my backside.

The bike-to-work pants people also make smoking jackets, and while I fell immediately in love, it took me a year and a half to save the money  and then build up the courage to buy one.  It’s a very strange thing, suitable for very few occasions–but it’s reversible!  On the other side from the side you see in this picture it’s very formal, snazzy, corduroy gray, and, well, normal.  So it’s kind of like a Jekyll and Hyde jacket. When I’m feeling crazy or mad, like I was for this photo shoot, or when it’s New Year’s Eve, I’ll turn this baby around and grab a glass.  This company also makes hoodies that look like pinstripe suits or cardigan sweaters, disco ball pants and hats and jackets, voodoo dolls, horizontal corduroy, their website features the funniest, wackiest ad copy I’ve ever seen, and, if you buy their stuff, upload a picture of yourself wearing their stuff, they’ll give you a discount.  I’m a sucker, and I’m a fan, and they should be paying me a handsome fee for this blog entry, but they’re not.  Bastards.

photo by Erin Fitzpatrick-Bjorn at Kidding Around Photography


Filed under Culture, Fashion