The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Fashion Sideways March 31, 2012

I really can’t stand the new trend in eyewear. Fashion is cyclical; it seems the cycle is about twenty-five or thirty years. I was in college back then, or thereabouts, and everyone wore those Blues Brothers style frames – the classic Ray Ban look. I know, I had a pair myself – in fact they had pink lenses, and I loved them for many years. But now, I just can’t go there. Especially because the current interpretation of the look has the frames a bit larger than they were back in the day. Personally, I think the sunglasses that people are wearing these days look ridiculous. Just plain ugly. I don’t friggin care how goddam in they are – I cannot be made to participate in such a look. I do, however, remember feeling the same a few years back at the resurrection of the Jackie O-esque oversized frames, yet I did end up buying several pairs, and found them aesthetically quite acceptable. But to be fair, I chose a more moderate interpretation of the style. There really seems to be no such counterpart in today’s look. Plus the trend is for bright, neon colors. Ich. Everyone’s walking around looking like an extra from Pretty in Pink.

Ok. So that’s my take on the sunglasses. The frames of eyeglasses themselves have me feeling a bit more conflicted. One’s frames – or one’s everyday glasses – are something of a small investment. They can cost many hundreds of dollars, they are intended to last a few years, and so one makes that choice with greater care than when purchasing a pair of sunglasses at the drugstore. So of course some careful consideration goes into the decision. My own ‘everyday’ glasses were once exceedingly hip. A few years ago when the trend was about horizontally-oriented shapes, narrow, trim lenses with an angular feel – I found myself a pair issued by Nascar. (I’d previously had a pair by Harley Davidson – and so thought it was kinda cute that my next pair followed the all-American, motor-driven vehicle theme.) My glasses were – and still are – beautiful. Many have admired them over the years. But I’m afraid they are finally played out. I see myself as outdated as the clerks at Walmart wearing similar shapes themselves. It offers me little consolation to know that at least I’m not wearing some clumsily oversized, un-ironic, low-end frames from twenty years ago. Because I do see a good share of folks out in the world who are clearly still wearing the same glasses they did a quarter of a century ago. And while I admit my snobbery at their seeming cluelessness, I secretly wonder if it’s not simply a matter of economics, as it is with me. Might I also find myself one day in twenty-year-old frames? I suppose that’s all well and good if you cease to care. Part of me really wishes I could just cease caring. But sadly, I can’t. No matter how country and cutoff my life may be, I still wish to represent myself as a relevant, participating member of society. And the glasses have so very much to do with that message. Sigh.

I myself am suddenly feeling quite out of it – and have quite a bit of ambivalence about taking action. Firstly, I can hardly afford glasses. Elihu and I live on about a thousand dollars a month, and there is simply no room for such a purchase. Secondly, I don’t at all like the new style and will go so far as to say I think the look that’s popping up everywhere makes people look kinda silly. I see the rounder, more retro shapes showing up all over – on news anchors, artists, restaurant staff, shop owners and moneyed folks. Even though it looks pretentious and slightly wacky to me, I have to admit that I’m beginning to soften to it. I have a pair of my grandfather’s glasses from the ’30s (yes, my grandfather would be well over one hundred if he were still alive today) and they are classics. Tortoiseshell (probably actual tortoise!) and round, they are one of the original shapes that the new trend refers to. So that gives me a new tenderness for it, and this perspective opens my mind. But regardless of whether I like the look personally or not, I am now beginning to feel the pressure. How long can I wear my current glasses and not feel like an average joe? I don’t so much see the new frame styles in the lower economic strata – and I can guess that’s for reasons much like my own. We need to make sure that’s the direction things are going in for a while before we can make a financial commitment to the look. I wish there were some way for me to make a nod to the rounder, larger lense look, while still keeping to a more reserved size and shape. (Am I thinking about this too much? I don’t think so. It just takes so many words to convey the thought process which happens in the blink of an eye.) And so it seems I’m toying with the idea of making this happen, lest I appear to the world an ignorant dolt.

I’m not dwelling on this for hours each day, but I have spent some time lately thinking about what this means in the larger picture of my life. I’ve seen how the aging process works; I’ve seen people become increasingly oblivious to trends as they grow older. I’ve seen people frozen in a look for decades. As I’ve said before – I wish I could relieve myself of the burden of caring how I appear to others – but I can’t. I don’t want to care, but I do. I want somehow to join in the trend, but I want to do it in a way that represents the uniqueness of me along the way. I just spent a crazy couple hundred dollars on new contacts a few months ago – that was my tactic to relieve myself of the frame dilemma. Turns out I really don’t like the feel of this new brand, plus my need for readers while wearing contacts has become undeniable – and so I end up wearing my once-hip-but-now-not-so-much glasses all over again.

I think the easy solution here is to find some cheapie readers with that new look. There. That should do it. Because I’m not quite ready to look like Sally Jesse Raphael. Not just yet.

 

Like A Rhinestone October 25, 2011

I’ve had a long-term ear worm the past month. Through the ether this little gem reached me, inspired by what I cannot tell. That I even know the song is somewhat of a mystery; I was after all I was just about eleven or so when it came out. While I do have memories of sitting in the back seat of our Plymouth station wagon, hanging my chin over the front bench seat and begging my mother to please turn on the radio, I don’t think I encountered the song there. At school, perhaps? On the playground? Did my hip-looking fourth grade teacher play it for us in our progressive, 70s classroom? These were the days when music was an elusive treasure; a pre-walkman, pre-ipod culture, so the sources were few. Ah, perhaps I heard it first on my yellow, doughnut-shaped AM wrist radio… yes, that might be it. Imagine this simple little melody, absolutely fixed in my brain after all these years. Well, Glen, kudos to you; you chose to record one sticky little tune.

In an effort to exorcise the nugget from my head I awake early and pull out my tether to the world – my now rather ancient, yet essential G4 I Book – and I cast my line out into the ocean of information. What will I find? My friend Joan told me recently that he doesn’t look so good these days. I’m emotionally prepared. How old must he be? My mom’s age? Hmm… Then there it is. A page of head shots past and present. First, my eyes are drawn to the Glen Campbell I remember, the helmet of perfectly feathered hair, the cleft chin – the classic 70s handsome good guy look shared by the likes of Mac Davis and Bobby Sherman. This wasn’t the type I had gone for back then. I preferred the curling, long black hair of Donovan and Marc Bolan (so much so that decades later I crafted my own look to resemble Marc’s as closely as possible). Then there are the full body shots. The iconic belt buckle, long thin legs, cowboy boots, thumbs hooked onto belt loops with one hip cocked to the side. One groovy, sexy silhouette. I continue my quest. Just what is he up to these days? Soon I begin to collect a tidy list of tidbits on the man. I realize that I know very little of the guy.

My first impression upon seeing the first photo that comes up on his website is that he looks a little Sting-like, only with a wider nose. In the next shot he evokes a little Willy Nelson. All in all, not bad for a fellow who’s been around so long. I learn he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has recorded his latest record “Ghost on the Canvas” and plans to do a farewell tour. Sort of. He doesn’t commit to this, but for the time being it appears this is the plan. I look elsewhere and learn that he played rhythm guitar as a sideman on Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Strangers In The Night”. Apparently, he was starstruck and admitted to the producer that it was the reason he kept staring at the maestro. Irked at young Glen’s stares (also perhaps at the session itself as later Frank called the single ‘a piece of shit’) the crooner asked his producer ‘who is that fag guitar player?’ and told him he’d slap Glen if he did it again. Love it. I move on…

I am taken on a brief detour as I chase a link to Anne Murray – and discover that she is probably aging the very best of her generation. She looks gorgeous. After a quick foray into her history and current life I wander back to my man. I visit You Tube and find his song covered by school-age kids in Thailand, in a David Hasselhoff concert in Germany, by a homeless guy in the States and a marching flute band in Ireland. Nuff said. This is an earworm shared by a worldwide family. Lest I make the mistake that I disdain in so many and assume that he himself wrote it, I wonder: who really did write this song? I admit that I was quick to assume that Glen himself did, yet a quick check shows that is not the case. I must remember that the time in which this song was recorded was one in which performers themselves were not necessarily songwriters. This era was on the cusp of change; until that time singers had recorded and performed material created by folks whose sole job was that of songwriter. Even more specifically music and lyrics were two separate occupations. Although the music world was certainly changing by that time, the old architecture still existed; songwriters wrote, managers assisted the artists in choosing material and anonymous session musicians played on the tracks.

Larry Weiss of Newark, New Jersey wrote it. And poor guy, while he’s had a long and varied career since then, he has ultimately hung his hat on that one little song, and is even still actively wresting the life out of it in his current work on the theme for Broadway. Sheesh. But then again, if ‘Mama Mia’, why not ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’? Give the people what they want – redo your kitchen and buy a new car while the iron’s still hot. Why not? I would. I still love my old band The Aluminum Group’s ‘Chocolates’ and never minded playing it at every single show. I admit I was never sorely tested on that front; I really do wonder how folks are able to play their hits night after night after night and still bring it the life their audience deserves. Could I? Don’t know. That Larry and Glen continue to have an interested audience, and that they and thousands more can still make an income off that one two-minute song impresses me.

My tappy-tap tap sounds from the keyboard awaken my son. I greet him with the first line of the song. He finishes it. I guess I’ve been singing it around the house this past week more than I’d thought. He likes the song too. I’m surprised to learn he knows just about all of it. Elihu has a nice singing voice, I get a kick out of hearing him. It gives me an idea. I suggest he might want to sing it at this year’s Talent Show. He laughs and says he’d love to. I can play the piano for him… yes, and he can wear a big belt buckle… I’m getting excited now. Maybe this will be what clears my head of the hit. Hair of the dog, right?

We finish our breakfast and head to the school bus singing. The bus arrives, and my little cowboy rides off to his star-spangled rodeo.