Monday, August 10, 2009

Suits Me

The second floor of the Columbus Circle mall doubles as a gallery space. I’m not sure if anyone ever buys the sculptures or photos or paintings under or behind the sturdy plastic cases. I do know that whenever I’m there (usually after plodding behind Lindsay as she peruses the inventory at J. Crew) I at least glance at what’s being displayed.

Yesterday I spotted a blown-up picture of Frank Sinatra making his way down a boardwalk. Surrounding him are several people we in the post-HBO world would recognize as his entourage. But what first caught the eye (after Sinatra) was the man walking next to him. He was dressed in identical clothing. Seersucker suit, leather shoes, shirt, tie. Even his hair was the same. Turns out this was Sinatra’s stunt double on whatever movie he was shooting at the time (he looked a little pudgy but only sort of old; I’m guessing late 1960s).

But even more interesting than the two dressed-alike men were the other people on the boardwalk. They wore swimsuits, mostly, with a few shorts or shirts thrown in here and there. And they were all staring at Sinatra. Or the double. Hard to tell exactly. So I started to wonder: were they staring because this was a major movie star? (That’s the chief attribute of a movie star, by the way. Forget acting. Stars are stars because people want to look at them. They’re just so watchable.) Celebrity seems like the most obvious reason. I have a competing theory, though. If you’ll allow:

Our building has a common outdoor area with, among other things, grills and a swimming pool. We have to reserve a grill in order to use one. On weekends, the building guy in charge of these reservations sits at the pool with the lifeguards. So if one wanted to reserve a grill for use on, say, a Sunday evening, and it was already, say, Sunday afternoon, one would have to go to the pool area and ask the aforementioned guy.

So I did this. I walked into the pool area and strode confidently toward the lifeguards and the building guy. I had to walk around the pool, past sunbathers and swimmers wearing swimsuits, mostly, with a few shorts or shirts thrown in here and there. As I passed them I noticed something: they were all staring at me. After a second I knew why. I was wearing a suit.

It was all quite simple. See, since it was Sunday, we had just come home from church. I wanted to get the grill reserved as soon as possible, so instead of going upstairs and changing first, I stopped at the pool on my way up to our apartment. That I happened to be wearing a suit had nothing to do with the pool or the grill. It just worked out that way.

That’s not what it looked like to everyone else, though. They saw a man in a suit. They saw a man on a mission. They saw a shirt with buttons all the way down, plus full-length pants, plus shoes, plus a bona fide jacket over it all. Plus (Italian street vendor knock-off) Ray-Bans as the cherry on top.

When I reached the lifeguards and the building guy, their conversation ground to a halt. Their heads snapped up, faces expectant. I could have said anything.

“I’d like to reserve a grill. 5pm work?”

Of course 5pm worked. I was wearing power. It’s true. Suits give anyone an air of purpose, an aura of ambition. Were those 1960s boardwalk people staring at Frank and his double because they were movie stars? Probably. But even money says it had something to do with those seersuckers.

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