Thursday, May 30, 2013

Out of the closet

I know the title of this column may have you wondering just what it is I plan to announce. But really, it's all about a wedding. And the fact that, as a musician for said joyous nuptials, I am told--by a certain someone--that I am required to wear something absolutely crazy.
Like a suit.
Now, believe it or not, I used to wear them nearly every day. As a copywriter and creative director for a couple of Peoria advertising agencies, I was sometimes asked to explain my often daft ideas to the clients who would ultimately pay for them.  While some of them were willing to accept the appearance of a "creative" individual wearing jeans, t-shirts and worn-out tennis shoes to a business meeting, there were others who were less comfortable with placing their five- and six-figure advertising budgets in the hands of someone who dressed like a nine-year-old. So, while I much preferred the scruffy intellectual look, I was wiling to take one for the team and sometimes wear something more, well, grown up. As a result, I gathered a fair-sized ensemble of suits, sports coats, dress shirts and ties over the years, ultimately almost filling one closet with the proof of my sartorial splendor.
Time passed, and things changed. After a battle with cancer forced me to abandon the long hours and extensive travel my last Peoria job demanded, I ultimately landed on my feet as a part-time sportswriter and columnist for the Star Courier. Now, I'm pretty sure the only time a newspaper guy wears a suit is at a funeral. And that's only if he's the corpse. So the dress-up closet became a place I only visited when there was something really important afoot.
Like a wedding.
"Do you have a suit you can wear?"
As far as I can tell, those are the words that fuel the entire men's clothing industry. Otherwise, I know darn well that most of us guys would happily lounge around in outfits that make us look like someone who has been cleaning the basement all weekend or is just back from a week-long fishing trip. For some guys, those words might necessitate a much-dreaded trip to the mall. In my case, it meant it was time to visit the closet.
As it happens, I've accidently lost a little weight recently. Don't worry, it's nothing serious or permanent, even. It is, I think, the unfortunate byproduct of spending too much one-on-one time with someone who inexplicably does not agree that a quart of chocolate chip ice cream makes for a fine, healthy breakfast. But the temporary decline in my waist size made me hopeful that I'd have a few extra spiffy outfits to choose from. I had looked through the closet just a couple of years ago, culling out what I deemed to be the real bottom feeders in my collection, but I was pretty sure there were still a few natty items awaiting my perusal.
That closet was a veritable museum of dress-up clothing, displaying selections from nearly every decade of my so-called adult life. There were double-breasted suits, single-breasted suits, dark suits, light suits and suits that made me wonder if I had driven one of those little clown cars while wearing them.  I saw and remembered suits purchased at Kirley's and Johnson's Hub in Kewanee. I'm even pretty sure one especially antiquated sports coat came from Johnny Girven's store in Galva which, if memory serves, closed for good over 25 years ago.
After a couple of false starts, I slowly began to sort my wardrobe into three piles: "Fits and wearable," "Doesn't fit anymore," and "Are you kidding?" After all was said and done, there were 25 different suits and sports coats in those piles. The "Fits and wearable" stack was, well, rather modest, while the "Doesn't fit" pile was understandably larger. The "Are you kidding?"  choices towered nearly over my head.
Happily, I found a modest grey suit that fit and passed the close scrutiny of my fashion advisor.  A couple of other things will go back into the closet. Maybe I'll even wear them some day.
The rest will be bundled and bagged and transported to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, where they will await their future fate. You might want to take a look someday. Their prices are always great, and I hear double-breasted suits and wide lapels are coming back.
And besides, it's never too soon to get ready for Halloween.
As for me, I'm just glad to be out of the closet at last.

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