[Cue the Frank Sinatra music to go with the home movie footage of hip white guys hanging at the Sands or the Pink Flamingo or Caesar's, ca. 1971.]
[Imagine a black and white photograph] This is my dad, Frank, a first-generation American born in Colorado of all places, in the mid 1920s. Here he is walking the Vegas Strip with his friends, a bunch of other "goombas" that he's known practically since birth. Although they're of all shapes, sizes, and incomes, they pretty much all have one thing in common besides their Italian-American heritage: Their pants.
[Pan down] Note the multi-colored offering of polyester pants, which by the way, are a real bitch to crease down the front like that. (I ironed my dad's pants once a week from 1991-1993.) They aren't just any polyester pants, however. First off, as my friend and fashion guru, Suzy Ten Bears says, "They're not even really pants. I find myself wanting to call them 'slacks.'" And she's right, they are more like slacks than anything else. They're Sans-a-belt slacks.
Thirty years later, you could still see my dad, and most of his friends, wearing the same pants, by which I mean the exact same pants. Not a new pair of the same style of pants, but the very pants they'd been wearing all along. (For those of you who rage against the half-life of plastic grocery bags, please add Sans-a-Belt pants to your list of Things That Last Four Thousand Years in a Landfill.)
They wear them to the bocce courts, and to lunch, and to card games. They wear them to do all the same stuff they've always done, like stand around telling stories and gambling on...everything. Dad's got grungy pairs he puts aside for doing things like disassembling the sprinkler system in his yard, and digging up the flower beds. Shoveling snow, and what have you. He's probably got nicer pairs that he wears to tournaments and Olive Garden, and in-between pairs that he wears for watching Antiques Roadshow. He's an older guy now, my dad, which means that his favorite slacks are getting old, too.
And here we are: No matter how well you take care of a garment, it's bound to forsake you. It's going to wear out at some point. I think Shakespeare may have been hanging out with my dad and talking about slacks the day he walked home from Ye Olde Olive Garden and wrote, "therein lies the rub."
Dad's been troubled by all this, I hear. I can relate. The expiration of my favorite things is often cause for reflection, and reflection isn't always comfortable. There's the nostalgia. The stories. The history. I imagine dad patting one leg of his trousers and saying, "Before deciding that blankets were more appealing, the government approached me about using these pants to introduce smallpox to the Native Americans, but I would have no part of it."
Mom says that San-a-Belt
My mom, a woman who still has the red hounds tooth polyester pantsuit uniform she wore every day of her career as a reservations agent for Western Airlines (from 1865 until I graduated high school), had finally had enough. She thinks it's time to move on. I kind of agree, although this probably means that Dad's only alternatives are jogging suits or Dockers separates, or cheap jeans from COSTCO. Really, it doesn't matter. Whatever's comfy enough to watch Matlock in while you openly discuss your bowels.
But take heart from physics, friends, because matter is neither created nor destroyed. There is, somewhere in the cosmos, little pieces of Sans-a-Belt pants swirling and mingling with other materials, becoming reincarnated--with divine guidance, no doubt--into something new. Something wonderful. And for those of us who fear change, who deny death its right to a speedy trial, for those of us who would forget that the world is an impermanent place, I say simply this: Dillards. I called, and while the news is not great, "I have only a very few pieces of them," they do exist in the here and now. For now.
So go on, take an opportunity to grab a piece of history. You can someday set a pair next to your piece of the Berlin Wall, your autographed picture taken with the drummer from Def Leppard back when he had both arms. Put them in your time capsule. And wait for it, the dawning of a new age.