Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 2005/ 19 Elul,
Thought I'd go back and expound on a few things from some past columns. A couple of weeks ago I wrote of my jury duty downtown and how I explored the city during my lunch hour. I told of how I walked the city streets around the Los Angeles Times building looking in vain for one of those wonderful old newspaperman hangouts, the kind of place where reporters would go for a hearty lunch or after work for a drink or two. The sort of bar and grill that you might have seen in old movies where a hard-driving, tough newsman (usually played by Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable or James Cagney) drowned his day's problems over a scotch and soda or a shot of bourbon. Joints like that just don't exist anymore.
Well, I figured out why the old newspaper hangouts don't exist anymore it's because the old newspapermen don't exist anymore. Read the newspaper story bylines and you'll get the idea. Check out the names of the people who write for newspapers now. If you expect to see reporters with names like Michael O'Hara or Jack Murphy you're living in the ancient past. More likely the names will be closer to Maria Hernandez and Tan Taikimoto.
Reporters don't look like Pat O'Brien, Thomas Mitchell or even Ed Asner anymore. Number one, most reporters today are women and usually young. Many are fresh out of college and come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The street-smart white male reporter in the snap-brim fedora is an image which lives only in movies from fifty or more years ago. Old Irish reporters would happily hang out at the corner burger and a shot joint; today's "journalist" wouldn't be seen dead at a place like that. Look for them at Quiznos or Starbucks.
In another recent column I bemoaned the way people dress today, or rather don't dress today. I mentioned the widespread popularity of the "athletic shoe" and wondered why folks of all ages, all backgrounds, and all countries have so readily accepted those big soft ugly shoes to wear in place of a real shoe for just about every occasion. Well, I figured out this riddle too. The answer, of course, is that the big soft ugly shoes are much more comfortable.
Now I personally am not all that more comfortable in my Jack Purcell sneakers than I am in my Allen Edmonds lace ups, but that is because my feet are used to wearing real shoes. For the vast majority of people, the running shoe is just about the only shoe they have ever worn (except for flip-flops), so naturally if they tried on a traditional leather shoe, it would feel confining. Also, our traditional custom of dressing for the proper occasion has been lost, so there is no longer any societal stigma attached to wearing sneakers to, say a fancy dinner or to Sunday church services. Any clothes goes.
You would think that at least old people would still be wearing real shoes and clothes, but as far as I've seen, that is not the case. You see seventy and eighty-year olds walking around in those big gummy-looking Nikes as often as you see kids wearing them. I guess the oldsters figure they might as well loosen up right along with the rest of society. Being comfortable has trumped every other reason for wearing the type of clothes people wear. Doesn't matter what the occasion is, or where one is going, as long as everything you put on is comfortable. What's wrong with that, you may ask. What's wrong with it is, for one thing, "being comfortable" seems to translate to "looking sloppy."
And by the way, if it really is all about comfort, then how do you explain those skin-tight tops that the girls are wearing now? And those strapped spiked heels? Not exactly the most comfortable footwear, now are they? What about the big, loose, falling-down gangsta-style pants that drag on the ground, is that "comfortable?" Or wearing a knit wool gangsta-style watch cap pulled down low on your head in ninety-eight degree weather comfortable? No, they would say, but it looks "cool." I want to know why it is cool to wear a heavy knit wool cap in the hottest month of summer. In my day it wasn't considered "cool," it was considered really, really stupid.
I never understood why anyone would want to look like a street thug or convict. Why would anyone want to look low class and unsuccessful? How does looking as if you live in an impoverished neighborhood make you "cool?" I don't get it.
I want to put on my double-breasted suit, my cap-toe lace ups, and my snap-brim fedora and walk over to a great old corner joint, sit at the bar and light a camel and have an ice cold martini. Why isn't THAT
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.