Monday, April 11, 2011

Show me the swank!

I was out walking today and wandered into a local antique store.
The 'antiques' racket always seemed like a bit of a scam to me... maybe because I knew a family of dealers when I was a kid and they were one marked card away from being full blown grifters. Like carny folks stuck in one location, hawking useless junk by attaching an air of mystery and history to it... a pack of ghouls who regularly scoured the obituary pages in hopes of locating a cheap source of new old junk they could pawn off on the rubes.

Still, antique stores can be fun as museums... in the manner of the original museums that were less educational display and more like one person's collection of strange and random mementos.

So anyway... this place I visited today was the usual assortment of hoopla and nonsense... mostly knick knacks and gew gaws priced to seem 'valuable'... and as usual when I'm in such a place my eye was drawn to the piles of costume jewelry.
I've got no love of gold or diamonds but I'm fascinated by glitz and swank and ... stuff ordinary people do to look opulent and debonair.
Having lived in Vegas all my life I remember the tail end of the era where Vegas was for adults and people dressed up to go out.
Nowadays they're all dressed like Wal Mart shoppers... shorts, t-shirts and fanny packs are the uniform of the day.
So it's not unexpected that I've got a certain nostalgia those days of... I'm not sure what to call it. 'Glamour' seems too exalted... I'm thinking of my parents putting on their best clothes, making an effort, my mother's collection of cheap shiny baubles, my father's cologne... dragging my mind back to when I was a kid and daydreaming about what 'adults' got up to after we kids were put to bed.
My head was full of strange rituals and nudity and excursions into the wilderness of SEX (I wasn't sure what it was, but the mystery of it was delicious). If I'd known what a Satanic orgy looked like back then that would have fit right in with my fantasies.

Similarly, I've been helping a friend of mine clean out her parents' house lately, they've both got Alzheimers and have moved into a care facility. This involved lugging around decades of these peoples lives... stacking old photos and sorting old clothes. Suits and dresses that would have been reserved for the best occasions... that hadn't been worn since the '70s. Lots and lots of reminders of the 'good old days'... pictures of the happy young couple all done up, out for a night on the town.
It's a melancholy project to be sure.
Again and again I get glimpses of what these people must have been like in the Wayback... the kinds of things they did for fun. It fascinates me to think of them in their best cocktail clothes, sipping drinks from gold-rimmed glasses, laughing at jokes that would soon become 'insensitive', listening to music that would never be hip again.
A total fantasy to be sure... what do you call a Utopia that exists only in rose-colored glasses looking into the past? It's not 'nostalgia' if you were never part of it to begin with.
Still, I want to get dressed up an go out with that crowd, just for a few hours... to wherever their hot night-spots were, bathe in the smokey air and smell of ancient perfume, listen to the unashamed telling of racist/sexist jokes and lewd comments about the waitresses, watch well-dressed clean-cut folks get soused and drive off in pre-MADD chariots of death, soak up all the low-budget fashion of their cheap suits and costume jewelry.
Most of all I want to see if they really sneak off to occult gatherings and wicked affairs that I pictured in my youth. Were they really hedonistic witches, dancing naked and bloody with imps and succubi... or just the same sad people as us, trying to be happy for a couple hours and pretend everything is fine?

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