Sunday, December 12, 2010

Barbells and Bow Ties: 24 Hours of Culture With My Wife

I found myself mesmerized by the array of stainless steel shapes arranged on black velvet cards in the display case. A variety of hooks, curlicues, and a style called “barbell”, written on a little tag in a child like hand alongside the rows labeled by sizes, in eighth of an inch increments. I’m glad they told me. I was certainly the neophyte for all this, and I need the education.

In the next case, there were rows and rows of similar shapes, carved from various exotic woods, along with a chessboard array of various ceramic and wooden plugs. This was a piercing shop, mind you, and the various items were the end product of a process conducted in the adjoining room, the doorway covered by a long tie-dyed sheet. Rap music played loudly in the little house, setting the mood for my first time in the Black Hole.

The DJ of our concert was the resident tattooist, lacking a customer for the moment. The piercer (pierctess?) had joined him on the sidewalk outside for a smoke when we walked up. My wife was in need of a repiercing of one of her ears, so she could again wear earrings on both ears. The jewelry shop in the mall had referred us to this place, The Black Hole. Her enthusiasm for “the Hole” was echoed by another customer. Yet, I wondered if the tattooist was part of the Calcutta Connection and the rap music was designed to cover up the screams of the hostages in the back.

So, we ventured forth during rush hour in the rain to this little house two blocks from the heart of downtown Beaverton, which may be another oxymoron in this story. We found the place the new fashioned way, using an app on my iPhone. It was safe to say we hadn’t heard of this place before, not being frequenters of piercing shops or tattoo parlors.

My wife signed the mandatory one page disclaimer, rather skillfully drafted by legal counsel to The Black Hole. I wondered if the attorney’s fee included a tattoo of the scales of justice on the forearm, or a nice black and white portrait of Sandra Day O’Connor, or maybe the text of the Bill of Rights on their back. Or, maybe a nice nose piercing “screw”, that would be the perfect accessory for the lawyer’s black and gray pinstriped suit.

Karen chose the smallest of the “barbells” for her “reholed” ear lobes, as one apparently needs to wear stainless steel for the six weeks of healing, after the needle finds its mark. She’s not one for needles or medical procedures, especially after this week’s adventures with her colonoscopist, which included a complimentary IV apparatus and the “just a little poke” for the “happy drugs”.

The needle lady guided her back behind the tie-dyed door, and I half expected to hear screams. Instead, I was lulled by the again loud rap music to skim through the albums of tattoo pictures on the counter, next to the sign that said “tattoos—cash only”, which was also next to the credit card machine. Hmm, some needle work is chargeable, but the really expensive stuff, with the colored inks and exotic, complicated designs, is cash only. I wondered if they barter.

In a few minutes, the deed had been done, and we left, intact, with our new barbells, and no tattoos. I hadn’t found anything I liked in the books, though the one of Satan on the Cross was, well, a little captivating. How many takers have they had for that design?

And, no barbells in the case seemed to have my name on them, and there didn’t even seem to be any Prince Albert paraphernalia, for the man who really ached to have his penis pierced. Some men do that, you know, and I guess I was just a little disappointed. For a name like the Black Hole, I expected a little more sinisterism, even a little erotic tidbit waiting for me in the display case. For a piercing and tattoo place, this was pretty mild, after all.

The next morning, I found myself at the gym, pumping a little iron. While I was grunting through my weightlifting routine, I hoisted some barbells. Well, not quite the barbells at The Black Hole, but these were the barbells in my life, and I think I wanted to keep it that way. But who knows, maybe the next fad at the Y will not be the three white stripes down the leg Adidas sweatpants that the Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabes are wearing now, but instead, maybe a nice wooden ear plug, or the one inch nipple piercing barbell. Maybe I should be the trend setter, the leader of today's fashion a la mode.

That afternoon, I finally showered, and donned the most formal attire in my closet, a black suit and a pleated white shirt, set off with the only bow tie I have ever owned, satiny black. It has an elastic strap and a little hook, so I don’t have to learn how to tie one of these every year for the one time I wear it. Still, the white pleats down the front and the bow tie brings a flash of elegance to my wardrobe, which focuses entirely too much on the ensembles a man in high standing in rural Oregon seeks to attain in the world of fashion. My Carhartt overalls and my Wal-Mart jeans were left on the floor, and we strolled out to the limo for an afternoon on the town.

Our first stop was the Christmas Tea at the local tea shop. It really is an elegant event, and certainly the high point in our holiday festivities. The place is decorated to the hilt with all the Christmas d├ęcor one could hope to ever accumulate. We ate our dainty sandwiches and noshed on miniature tablespoon sized cups of tomato soup and sorbet, sipping our English tea from flowered china cups. I even raised my pinkie each time I took a dainty sip of tea, with one lump of sugar and a spot of milk, just like my English great grandmother was prone to do. Large tea pots, tied up with “tea cozies” festooned the table, as we chatted with friends about holiday events and our New Year’s plans.

The afternoon ended, finally, after two pots of tea and enough sugar and fat to exceed my diet for an entire week. We were headed for the movies, and the early starting time didn’t allow me to return to my estate and don the more common movie going attire in Tillamook of jeans and hiking boots. After all, this is December, and the rain was falling at about an inch an hour and the wind was blowing sideways. I didn’t want to get my bow tie wet, you know.

So, off to the theatre we went. We certainly stood out to the popcorn lady, who remarked that she hadn’t seen anyone ever wear tuxedo attire into the movies before. I just grinned, acting as if I always wore my tux to the Tillamook theatre, took my popcorn and headed in to watch Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren machine gun the Secret Service.

We finally exited that high cultural event about eight o’clock, an hour perilously close to our bed time, and certainly past the hour that we fashionably don our “lounge pants”, which is the new term for what I used to call PJs. Lounge pants seem to be the attire of the evening these winter nights, especially when the rain is cascading down the roof and nearly filling the eaves troughs. My social companions, the cats, don’t seem to mind, as long as they get a bit of time stretched out on my lap catching up on their beauty sleep, and the treat bowl gets filled at least once.

We needed to get a bottle of wine for the next day’s cultural event, a brunch. Safeway was a block away, and my wife, who I realized may not get out as much as she should, wondered if they were still open. Well, it is eight o’clock, but some folks may grocery shop, or need a case of beer in this town after dinner. It is Saturday night, after all, and Safeway probably offers more possibilities of a good time in this town than most establishments. By the looks of downtown, Safeway, the second showing of our cultural film classic, and the two downtown bars were about all that the county seat offered this late on a Saturday night.

So, we stroll into Safeway, Karen still attired in her black dress with black sequins, and the new stainless steel barbells, and me in my black suit, pleated white shirt, and bow tie. We peruse the wine section, along with the wino looking for a cheap bottle of red and a bag of potato chips. He looks like he’s just trying to get his second or third bottle for the day, and looks at me with a half sloshed look of disbelief. Or, maybe he was just an admirer of how the bow tie looked against the pleats of my shirt, on Saturday night in the big city. I bet on the latter opinion of my fashionable taste this fine evening out.

We hit the checkout stand, manned by a friend of ours who grinned when he espied the bow tie, the pleated shirt, and my wife’s sparkly dress. He murmured that we might be overdressed, just a wee bit. But, then, he’s used to see me standing in his line after I’ve sweated through a T shirt at the Y, or in my usual winter storm attire of Gortex and a flannel shirt.

We headed home through the rain, wind pushing our car sideways a bit, and head inside. The cats yawn as we burst in, a fresh gust of ocean air and slanted rain catching the door. The bow tie and the suit coat soon end up back in the closet, and my cat refrained from commenting on how classy I looked when I came home. Apparently, my black and white tuxedo cat is not terribly impressed with my attempt to look as classy as he. But, I still won. Unlike him, I have a bow tie.

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