2001 Frank Funaro

Macy's was having one of those one-day sales that they have every now and then, and I felt the need for a new pair of jeans, so I went. Normally, like most guys, I avoid department stores like the plague, except Christmas season, more specifically Christmas Eve, when the places are swarming with frantic, sweaty men trying desperately to remember what their wives/girlfriends/mothers asked for the day after Thanksgiving (the official start of the gift-requesting season, although lately, it seems like retail stores start putting up Christmas decorations in August).

Well, around this time of year, (the month of March, which comes in like a pit-bull, and goes out like a slightly less angry pit-bull), these department stores are hurting, and last night was no exception. Looked like something out of one of those sci-fi movies where aliens unleash some weird virus/bacteria thingy that not only kills people by the score, but also inexplicably makes them vacate metropolitan areas. Once every hundred yards or so you would see an employee straightening up a pile of shirts, but otherwise, the store seemed to be devoid of human life. I went to find the Levi's display, and was gratified to see a sale price of $29.99, which, considering the fact that New York State has done away with tax on clothing (under $100) was pretty damn fair.

So, having the place to myself (and probably a couple of bored security guys napping in front of a bank of closed circuit televisions in an office somewhere), I proceeded to root thru the shelves for my size.

A word about Levi's here. Try as I may, I just can't seem to get the hang of dressing up on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong, wearing a suit is kinda fun once in awhile, and I certainly like to look sharp at my day job (drumming for Cracker), but when I'm just bumming around NY, going out shopping for groceries, running down to the check cashing place to pay bills, or going down to the local off-track betting establishment (which can be sorta similar to paying bills when I'm having a bad day), I usually default to good old blue jeans. When going out to eat at restaurants, I will wear what I call my "dress jeans", which people have tried to tell me is an oxymoron, but really are just the newest pair I currently own. Maybe dinner in a really fancy place (with cloth napkins) will inspire me to wear black jeans, but, nonetheless, blue jeans (otherwise known as "dungarees", a word that seems to have fallen out of useage, and comes from the Latin, "to shit around in") are my automatic choice of uniform.

When it comes to denim, Levi's are the only brand I really like. When you find a good pair, they just fit so well, it's like a second skin, (a phrase I dislike, or, rather, am confused by, Dr. Lecter), but there's only one problem. Finding my exact size. They came out with a loose-fitting variation (called, I believe, "Loose Fit") about a decade ago to cater to those people who insist on wearing their pants baggy and hanging off their asses, a style that baffles me as much as some of the stuff I used to wear baffled my parents. Hey, I may have had an afro in high school, and a pair of platform shoes (don't laugh) but at least I had the good sense to pick out clothing that fit me. Now, if you are carrying a sawed off shotgun down one leg of your pants for protection in the ghetto/barrio/junior high, I can see the need for the extra room. It forces you to walk funny, but in this circumstance, I can understand the practicality of extra fabric. While, conversely, a pair of correctly fitting pants could lead to embarrassing exchanges with the local constables... ("You have the right to remain silent... or are you just happy to see me?")

So, they have the loose style, and the button fly style, (don't get me started. Buttons belong on SHIRTS, not on pants, except for those little extra buttons they put on the inside of dress pants, which, if you've been paying attention, I hardly ever wear.) And then they have these pre-faded things, which I abhor since they last approximately a month before they start to fall apart, being pre-aged by about a year in the process of being "distressed". And they have a handful of other types that I don't even know about, since companies need to diversify if they want to stay in business, and Levi's, being no exception to that rule, have felt the need to put tits on the proverbial bull, and have come up with all sorts of "improvements" on something that didn't actually even need improving.

This is something I would like to call, here and now, the "peach iced-tea" factor. (After one of the more vile examples in the history of mankind of "fixing something that wasn't broken in the first place".) And, speaking of the aforementioned tits, that's yet another example of "fucking with the formula". Let's get one thing straight here. If God had intended women to put silicone in their bodies, he would have put squeaky screen doors on them. Thank God there's now a magazine out called "Real Ones", to cater to us mother nature fans who don't fancy un-natural additions to the female anatomy... I was beginning to despair of ever seeing another set of real breasts in a magazine again. (ahem)

And, while we're on the subject of tits and bulls, let's not forget the "New Coke" debacle, although, to be perfectly fair to the conspiracy theorists among us, that could have been a scam cooked up by the Coca-Cola company to get us all to remember how good their product was in the first place, kind of a big reverse psychology experiment to see how angry people would be if they woke up one day and the sky was green. Or, maybe it was just a corporate tantrum... "You don't want to play this new game I made up by my rules, I'm taking the ball and going home." Or, more succinctly, "You don't want to play this new game by MY rules, I am going to let all the air out of the ball and re-fill it with sour piss." (A redundancy that was just too good to pass up.) Well, hey, the proletariat rose up in righteous indignation, and, lo and behold... The trembling mucky-mucks in the ivory tower capitulated and returned our sacred elixer in it's original form. Or, something like that.

Anyway, before I digress (even more) into the subject of how many ways you can re-invent (read: fuck up) a perfectly good cup of coffee, back to the subject at hand. (FAT BASTID) The evolution of denim jeans.

These "improvements" I ignore passionately, because, being a creature of habit, I like my jeans to be jeans, not some hybrid fashion statement, and, as a matter of fact, if you ever come across those stiff-as-burlap, dark-blue old-school Levi's, please email me and let me know where I can get them. Now, THOSE were pants... And, they have the added benefit of being able to outlast cockroaches in the event of nuclear war. Those are pants you can hand down to your grandchildren.

So, I'm flipping thru the racks looking for my size, and I'm coming across all sorts of combinations of waist/leg sizes, but not mine. Some of these combinations are truly scary, like the 28 waist, 38 length variety, or the 46 waist, 27 length ones... Hey, far be it from me to mock the bodily measurements of another; "whatever fits your ass", as they say in the sweatshops where they make bridesmaids gowns. But, now I'm getting aggravated. I'm not that strange of a size, but the way I figure it, I'm not so universal as to be shopping for something that consistantly sells out due to immense popularity either. I'm a 33 waist, 32 length, which it suddenly dawns on me, is one of my very reasons I'm relating this tale. Chances are that a good rule of thumb is: when your waistline starts to exceed your leg length, it's time to put the Twinkies down and do a sit-up. (You FAT BASTID.)

It dawns on me as I peruse the racks for a pair of (FAT BASTID) pants, the last time I bought a pair of jeans, I bought a 32, and it was a mild case of (FAT BASTID) wishful thinking. Upon further examination of my memory, I realize with dawning horror, that THE LAST FEW TIMES I BOUGHT PANTS, I BOUGHT A SUCCESSIVELY LARGER SIZE!!!

I'm exaggerating here a bit, but in actuality, over the years, I have been slowly expanding into larger and larger pants. I used to be a RAIL. Of course, that was a long time ago, when exercising consisted of carrying kegs of beer into suburban houses at 9PM on a friday night, but heck! It's official... I'M A FAT BASTID!!! I've got what they call six-pack abs... the abs you get when you drink a six pack at a time. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen an ab in years!

Here's my problem with all this. I'm kind of slim, overall. My body type is probably classified as ECTOMORPH, so, when a slim guy gets what could probably be described as a "beer belly", it is none too attractive. As a matter of fact, the concept reminds me of a snake that's swallowed a bowling ball. Not pretty.

Finally, after making a mess out of the thousands of pairs of neatly folded Levi's on the display, I find the only pair of jeans in the entire store that are my size, and head for the register. On my way there, I have a sudden fit of good sense, and decide to try them on before buying them, even though I know damn well that the pants tagged "Regular Fit" (did I hear someone say, "Classic Coke"?) can be counted on to fit just like I want them to, Levi's being one of them old school, reliable companies, "Wide Leg" notwithstanding.

So, I decide to go into the fitting room to make sure that my pants will fit, even if I wash them in hot water and put them in the dryer. (Pre-shrunk my ASS. I buy that one like I buy the one about conditioner getting into the hair shaft.) I spot a girl tidying up a display of sweaters, and, immediately assuming she's not some weird customer with OCD who spends her evenings straightening out displays in department stores, I approach her to ask where the fitting room is. The girl, (I'll call her Susan, since that's what was printed on her name tag), wordlessly pointed across the men's department to the fitting room sign, and off I went, my jeans over my arm.

I hate fitting rooms. I'm always afraid I'm going to get a discarded pin thru my foot, even though, to the best of my recollection, that has never happened to me or anyone I know. After a quick check for the hidden internet cam, I pull the new jeans on, and...

NO! This can't be right. Someone has mislabelled these! There's no way in hell these are a 33. Someone (FAT BASTID) call the Better Business Bureau. I demand a recount! Needless to say, alas and alack, they are a 33, and I don't fit in them anymore. (Insert weeping sound here.)

Even if I suck in my gut, it's a chore to button the (only permissable) button and zip up the zipper. I realize with a sense of resignation, in the famous last words of General Custer, "This ain't gonna work". I reluctantly pull 'em back down and put my old, distressed (by me) Levi's back on.

Let's get one thing straight here. I am NOT in waist size denial. Well, sort of, but with age comes wisdom, and I have long since given up buying clothes that are too small, with the (FAT BASTID) intention of finally putting down the Warsteiner and pasta and getting up off my ass and exercising. Why plan on slimming down to being a smaller size to fit into shit you bought that's too small? That's kinda puttin' the cart before the chicken, now isn't it?

And then, there are the guys who insist on buying the same waist size they wore in their junior year of high school, even though they just turned 42. This type of guy usually grows up to be a rock n roll bus driver, or a trucker, and, no, that humongous belt buckle of Texas ISN'T slimming. Now, pass the mashed potatoes.

No, I have a kinder, gentler version of the Oprah Winfrey disease. You know, the fluctuating girth factor. My stomach seems to be tracking the Nasdaq, but I could be wrong. I fall into the groove (rut) of eating bad, not exercising, and ignoring the salad bar for, oh, a year and a half or so, then I panic when the tops of my shoes start receding from view, and I get on some sort of a program.

Last time I did that, I really got into running. Seriously. After about a month of applying myself, it began to actually feel good, not like some sort of medieval torture. As a matter of fact, just to prove to myself that I wouldn't wimp out at the first sign of adverse weather, I started running in October, just so I would be forced to face the cold, a true test of any serious runners resolve. (Any excuse will do, actually. You'd be surprised how quickly a swarm of locusts will discourage you from outdoor activity. Raining frogs also have a way of putting me on the couch with the remote in my hand. Law and Order is surely on somewhere...) It was kinda cool, being such a fanatic for something that was good for me. I even got up Christmas morning ('99) at 6 AM to run in 20 degree weather. And I LOVED it!

I was up to 3 miles a day, rain, shine, frogs or snow, and I had never felt better, more invigorated. (With my clothes on, that is.) Then, disaster. I pulled something in my groinal area. It was that stringy muscle that connects your quadriceps, (the largest muscle in the body), to your hip. It became super painful to run. Talk about your deterrents, pain is right up there. I decided to let it rest for awhile, but the pain never completely went away. I reasoned with myself that this is what athletes go thru, that it was all part of the program, but that wasn't cuttin' it. This hurt.

I started doing some research, and I found out these three things:

  • 1) If you are going to run 3 miles a day on a track, reverse direction once in awhile. My constant, counter-clockwise running motion eventually put repetitive fatigue on that muscle.
  • 2) Take a day off every few days. At one point, I had run twenty, count 'em, twenty days in a ROW. There's a very thin line between devotion and obsession. And,
  • 3) I'm a fat bastid.

So, out the window went THAT flirtation with exercise. Don't even suggest a stair master. If I'm gonna exercise, I want to feel like there's a sporting contest going on. I want to hear the cheers of my imaginary Olympic stadium fans, as I strain to shave that extra tenth of a second off the world record. I want to push myself like Jerry Rice, a most extraordinarily gifted athlete who decided that coasting on raw talent is NOT ok. I want to feel like a competitor, an athlete, a CHAMPION!!! I do NOT want to feel like a hamster on a wheel.

Now, to add insult to injury, (a concept I hate), a new wrinkle. The plot thickens. Literally. I go to the doctor (another concept I hate) to get a checkup, just kinda check out how everything's working, see if I need one of those 3000 mile oil changes, rotate the tires, whatever. I'm not really too keen on going to the doctor, because I always suspect they're going to find some new problem to diagnose me with, PMDD or something, so they can prescribe me the latest flavor of pharmaceutical, from some drug company that wants to jump start sales and coincidentally stumbles across a new acronym in their quest to root out every single possible problem they can address (make money from). (But, that's another rant) Everything checks out fine, blood pressure is good, blood sugar is good, but my cholesterol is what they call "borderline high". (FAT BASTID) Aside from the fact that I like cheese with every meal, eat eggs about four times a week, and get no exercise other than playing 100 Flower Power Maximum at Cracker shows, how did this happen?

So, to make a long story short, I wound up capitulating to the 34 waist, and, with a resigned sigh, brought it up to the counter, paid for it and waddled on out the door. Guess I'm going to have to get on the stick (yet another concept I hate, as well as one of those baffling idioms that make you say, "Where the hell did they come up with that???) and eat some vegetables and get off my ass, do some crunches, maybe lace up the old running shoes. I really don't want to die of a heart attack. Besides, it would be nice to be able to start tucking my shirts in again.