To Get Away or Not to Get Away? That is the Question

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Special thanks to M.A. for writing our first guest blog post. Lord knows we are hungry for content here at Skiinginjeans, so thanks for stepping up M.A.

It starts before school even gets out for summer.  You may be in the pick-up line for preschool, or waiting at the bus stop for your kids, but inevitably you will start to hear variations on the same theme.  Namely, “what are you doing this summer?”  While this may seem like an innocent enough question, just mom-to-mom small talk, the underlying gist, of course, is “where are you going (translation: how much are you spending) on vacation this summer?” and/or “what camps / enrichment activities are your kids enrolled in?”

While much could be said, and many a blog post have already sufficiently skewered, the myriad options for upper middleclass kids these days – from over -the-top sleepaway camps costing upwards of $10,000 per session, intensive sports training camps for kids (meaning, their parents) dreaming of being the next D1 recruit, or even local or town-subisdized day camps that offer impressive field trips, yoga sessions and sushi making classes, little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of what I call “vacationing en masse.”  In other words, spending your vacation with all of the same people that you spend your day-to-day life with, often in a locale that really isn’t all that different from where you live.  Up and down the East coast, from the suburbs of NY (including coastal CT), all the way to Boston, you can’t throw a stone without hitting someone who spends the majority of their summer in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.  In the city (a/k/a Manhattan), it’s the Hamptons or bust.  Sure, some will claim to be cooler or more lowkey by going to Block Island, Shelter Island, or Montauk (which is technically just the Hamptons, but further).   Don’t be fooled:  these are still just summer outposts of the same communities.   And it’s not just an East Coast phenomenon; Midwesterners flock to their Michigan or Lake Geneva “cottages” (often more akin to mansions), southerners to the mountains of North Carolina or the beaches of South Carolina, and Californians, to Malibu.  It’s getting away, without getting away.  Which begs the question, why go at all?

“Jeeves, please arrange a ferry back to deary old Manhattan”

Sure, all of these places are certainly vacation-worthy in a purely objective sense.  They boast beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, gourmet restaurants, a multitude of activities for both the young and the not-so-young.  However, when you consider paying an exorbitant premium for lodging (assuming you were fortuitous enough to book at least 9-12 months in advance), spending hours in gridlock traffic getting there (if, in the case of Nantucket or the Vineyard, you were smart enough to book your ferry well in advance; more on the particular travails of the ferry below), the horrific traffic once you are there, and getting shut out of the aforementioned gourmet restaurants due to the crowds, one starts to wonder what is the point of it all. 

For wardrobe assistance, head to….
https://castawayclothing.com/collections/mens-embroidered-pants

Meet New People?

More than any of this though, the idea of spending precious summer weeks with the same friends and acquaintances you see daily during the other three seasons of the year is mind-boggling.  Maybe it’s because the summer population of these East Coast locales consists largely of finance douches wearing Nantucket red shorts and their Lily Pulitzer clad wives and kids (most of whom are among the most obnoxious residents in my Fairfield County burb), but I cannot fathom the appeal of spending the summer, not to mention tons of money and aggravation, bumping into them left and right on a tiny, congested island or spit of land.  During the summer months, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with posts by local acquaintances vacationing on Nantucket, featuring pictures of fellow acquaintances eating dinner together, having cocktails together, hanging at the beach together, getting coffee together, and well, you get the point.  But I certainly don’t. 

Ferries are Fun

In addition to the bizarre reluctance to congregate with anyone outside of their usual  social and/or professional network or venture beyond the comfort zone of a preppy East Coast environment, Nantucket (and Martha’s Vineyard) summer residents also need to make sure they book their ferry reservation months in advance of their planned travel dates.  Horror stories abound in my town of families whose kids do not make it home for the first day of school in late August or early September, because the ferries are all booked.  They are literally stranded “on island” as they say.  Or, you have booked and paid for your overpriced yet still mildewed-smelling and miniscule rental cottage well in advance (as most rentals will require), but you forgot to book your ferry six months in advance, so your lodging sits empty for a few nights while you wake up at 4 am several days in a row hoping to get on a ferry stand-by. 

If this sounds like your dream vacation, you are not alone.  In fact, if you live anywhere along the I-95 corridor in the NY tristate area, you will be surrounded by hordes of your neighbors and others exactly like you.  Just be sure to pack your patience along with your Lily Pulitzer, crab-embroidered pants and Nantucket reds. 

For the finishing touch, definitely leave your $150 “Oversand Vehicle Permit” on your car (or, even better, multiple years’ worth stacked on top of each other), so everyone in town knows where you’ve been. 

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Home Gone

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Regret washed over me as I ventured through the front door of my old fraternity.  It was recently rebuilt due to a multiple million-dollar, tax-deductible, alumni fundraiser.  The result of the largest donation of my life was a complete disaster.  A maze of rooms with names like ‘Stank’, ‘Pig’s Nest’, and ‘Icebox’ were replaced with long, sterile hallways and numbered doors.  My brothers of the new generation sat in their rooms playing with their phones instead of congregating in the common areas and destroying each with verbal jabs.  The few brothers who attempted a conversation with me were not impressed of my stories of throwing a couch engulfed in flames off the roof, three-story beer bongs, or firing road-killed squirrels from a balloon launcher at a rival fraternity on Mom’s weekend. 

The new members were sensitive guys.  They spoke of submission to the Greek governing body which sought banishment for drinking on the front porch.  So much for doing a one arm keg stand on the lawn for nostalgia less I risk shutting down the pathetic shell of what was once a venerable landmark.  They told me there was talk of the campus going dry next year, and the brothers were accepting of this hypocrisy.  A college without booze is like high school, and everyone knows high school is as much fun as getting run over by a car.  I couldn’t take the pain any longer.  I drifted down the street lost in my thoughts of yesteryear.

As I wandered, I was almost run over by an Aston Martin DB11.  I knew he was a student because when my head was within inches of his car, I could read his license plate holder “STUDENT AT UNIVERISTY OF…”  As he sped off, he swore at me in a tongue I didn’t understand 

Lusting after the timeless classics of O and O’s, $1 U-Call-It’s, and Strong Island’s, I went to my other sanctuary in college: 

The Bar

“You’re really carding me?” I asked the backward hat wearing frat guy as my grey, thinning hair identified me as relic from the past.  As much as I used to despise cocky, get-laid-all-the-time, guys in way cooler houses than mine, I was overjoyed to find bouncers were of a timeless design.

“$5,” he demanded.  Instinctively, I dropped the name ‘Steel’.  He was the old general manager of this place in my glory days.  Throwing cold water on sleeping bros, taping pledges to flagpoles, and placing cars in perilous situations on top of high porches were things Steel did in grade school.  Steel was a college legend.  Steel dominated college the way Wilt Chamberlain played basketball-by bagging ass.

The Legend

Random hook ups for him were like maintaining a regular heart beat for the rest of us.  One semester in the fraternity house we were short on beds.  Rather than hot bunking or forcing a new member to sleep on the foyer couch, Steel jumped on the grenade- “I’ll just take a closet for some clothes.  Forget the bed,” he announced.  His plan was to test his mettle by hooking up with a random female every night, and in doing so, find a series of warm and adventurous beds to sleep in for the semester.  Only once did I have to step over the kid on the front porch on a morning during finals week.  I’m sure he earned some extra credit during his dalliances securing him an ‘A+’ in the toughest course in college. 

I figured his name still had some pull given his legendary status as the unofficial ambassador to College (note this is a capital ‘C’, like Church).

The drone at the door splayed his fingers in my face.  I relented.  I paid the cover and then full price for a beer.  Gen Zer’s are worse than millennials.  Who can’t respect a solid name drop and a willingness to sell reduced priced alcohol in exchange for an outsized tip?

‘Salt-N-Peppa’ blasted through the speakers, there was an inch of piss and stale beer pooled on the floor, and an overserved kid puked in a garbage can.  The walls still had the same paint.  The only missing element was a fog of cigarette smoking rendering the air unbreathable and requiring all clothes be laundered the following day.  By all measures, I was back.

I looked for the ghosts of college past.  Horse talking to any girl who would talk to him.  Chubby, at the bar, controlling his piss shooter with his left hand while ordering test tube shots with his right hand.  His reasoning was sound, “the bathroom was too far away and there was booze to drink.”  Absent was Shotzy and his crew of pledges holding up placards ranking women with an “8”, “9” or “10” as they walked past their table.  I recognized no one.

I attempted a lap.  When I reached the back of the bar, I was blockaded by wall which was new since the last time I was there.  The main bar had been transformed from an island into a peninsula.  I couldn’t complete the full circle.  I was trapped.  I stood and observed as I forced down my Bud Light.

Tight fitting black bar pants were extinct as were jeans cresting low enough to expose the top inch of a female’s butt crack.  Instead, girls wore jeans with the belt line near their navels insulating them from eye-groping dudes.  Guys dressed no better.  Most of them appeared to wear some type of uniform for the entire semester; class, bar, dinner with the parents.  It was a part of the “college guy outfit in a bag”-get it when you buy your books for the semester, one size fits all.  No returns.

A fear for the future of humanity swept over me as I stared into a sea of asexual coeds.  Guys talked to guys.  Girls talked to girls.  There was no intermingling of the sexes.  How were these young adults going to bang and carry on the human race if they don’t converse?  I was witnessing youth in its purist form-perfect health, excess free time, and a financial stipend from dad.  They were doing more than abusing the gift.  They were blowing it.

I left the bar.  I was more disassociated with the modern collegiate experience than I had been at my most difficult times when I attended the university.  The walk back to my hotel was filled with questions but lacking resolution.  Had my time passed?  Maybe the college was having an off weekend?  Was I too sober?  It couldn’t be me.  When I went here, I was a manifestation of College in the human form.  Constantly drunk, brotherhood, and chasing tail.  Today’s students failed to excel at these life skills.  My legacy was left in the past.

I had my first beer here when it was a bar. Now it is going to be a Costco, Waffle House, or some other corporate giant.

The Return

I picked up the toothpaste my wife requested prior to my campus journey.  The store clerk laughed and called me a “dotard”.  It was nearly midnight when I snuck back into the hotel room and resumed my life as a middle-aged dude.  Early morning soccer, never ending messes around the house, and learning no one is stretched for time until they have kids. 

The realization I couldn’t go back finally took hold sending me into a sleepless night.  My time had passed.  I live for today which, in time, becomes a better yesterday.  Steel will never be reminiscent.  Steel went back, but he also never really left.  He opened a conglomerate of bars in the southwest corner of the USA after graduating.  There he pours ‘O and O’s‘ and canoes porn stars as you read this on your couch while half paying attention to Netflix, in your car on the way to work, or sitting on the toilet ignoring the screams of your kids fighting in the playroom.

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The Mystical Ripping Gap Jeans

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Mr. Art Peck [Gap CEO]-

Like a hostage with Stockholm syndrome I continue to buy your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34.  Maybe I should change brands to Levi’s, 3 x 1 jeans, Polo, Everlane or any of the other jean companies I thought of cc’ing on this letter.  Given I have a “Phi Mu/Phi Kappa Psi Barndance 1997” T-shirt in better condition than your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34 jeans, perhaps I should abandon Gap jeans entirely and go to a leg covering made of khaki, velour, or corduroy?  Elvis wore jump suits and they never failed him.

My conundrum started about five years ago when I needed a new pair of jeans.  I had no brand loyalty when I picked up a pair of your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34. They fit well and seemed durable enough to withstand most common suburban dad situations such as telling kids to turn the lights off when leaving a room, coaching youth baseball, and using “parent” as verb.  Within several months of using your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34, I noticed a hole forming in the crotch area.  I attributed the rip to some externality such as a hooking my pants on a nail while getting the chainsaw out of the shed or some other masculine thing I do around the house to show my worth.  I proceeded to order another pair of your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34 online as a replacement.

Once again, the jeans performed as advertised until a similar hole formed near the seat of my pants.  Maybe this pair was faulty.  I bought another pair your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34.  I wish I could say I buy them as a value play even if they have to be replaced every few months, but the truth is I’m pretty lazy.  It is really easy to go online and order a pair of your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34 while watching Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey for the tenth time than driving over to the local mall, walking into a Gap competitor, and finding a pair of jeans which will last longer than six months without ripping.

Since my 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34 buying spree started, with my first of at least six pairs, your stock price has fallen from $40 to $25 a share.  Meanwhile the S and P 500 has gained 52% and the Spider S and P Consumer Discretionary ETF [XLY] has gained 75% in the same period.  Selling multiple pairs of defective jeans to the same customer is not the answer to running a successful business.  I’m sure you can find reasons to blame Amazon, bitcoin, Trump winning the election, the 2017 solar eclipse, floss dance, the rise of Justin Bieber, NFL players kneeling, Zika virus, Fortnite, Ariana Grande/Pete Davidson’s breakup, Daddy’s Home movie franchise, the fall of Justin Bieber, and the Cubs winning the World Series for why your stock price dropped, but I’m sticking with poorly manufactured jeans.

I have enclosed a picture of four pairs of ripped jeans.  If you would like to examine them in your office with a crack team of your jean coroners so they can identify the source of these tears to prevent further dissatisfied customers of your 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34, please send me a self-addressed stamped box and I will return them to you.  I would give them to Goodwill, but if you were Goodwill, would you accept them as a donation? 

Sincerely,

Dude just looking for a pair of tear-proof 1969 Boot Cut jeans size 36×34

Enclosure

Holes in jeans were cool in the ’80’s. Not now.

About a week after mailing this letter, I received a mysterious email from Gap. It looked more like an email from a Nigerian prince requesting $50,000 than from a Fortune 500 company. Gap credited my credit card for a pair of jeans. I guess it is better than nothing, but I would have appreciated a personalized letter over some form email. Just a hunch here based on the response from Gap, but I’m guessing a lot of customers have problems with Gap jeans.

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Generational Icon: Dylan McKay

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I’m not one to heed reflection for celebrity deaths, but Luke Perry sort of got to me.  I didn’t get carried away with mailing roses to his house or dropping a “R.I.P Dylan McKay” on People magazine’s Facebook page, but I did craft this blog post which took way more time than any of the aforementioned acts of eulogy.

If you went through adolescence in a middle to upper class family in the 1990’s, you wanted to be Dylan McKay.  The guy was a stud.

Luke Perry was Synonymous with Dylan McKay  

 

Playing the rich vagabond, who drove a 356 Porsche Speedster, Luke Perry made the show and took cool to height unseen in almost two generations.  Girls wanted to bed him and guys wanted to be like him to pick up his rejects and sloppy seconds.  His icy defiance on screen led to comparisons of James Dean, but you could also see glimpses of other loaners in fiction such as Jay Gastby, Dean Moriarity, and most Hunter S. Thompson characters.  He didn’t have any memorable lines but his presence, and sideburns, dominated the show.

The man.
The man

Until this week, I have not thought much of Dylan McKay since my wife had me binge watch the final season in 2010 (show ran from 1990-2000).  She missed the original airing while studying aboard.  I wish I could say the show withstood the test of time.   Even though 90210 will live on in syndication, box sets, reboots, you can’t replace the impact the show had on teenagers of our era in its first run.  We will remember tuning into the new Fox station Thursdays, and later on Wednesdays, to watch eight kids navigate high school in one of the wealthiest zip codes in America.  The show captured youth in the 1990’s before social media, instant communication and hypersensitivity overtook society.

The Show Should Have Been Named: Dylan McKay and Some Other Kids Living in 90210

 

It was like Saved By The Bell (1987-1994 including Miss Bliss and College Years) but with more night scenes, audacious subject matter, and no laugh track.  The writers started to stretch for story lines by season two or three after covering topics of the new kid in school, suicide, drinking, virginity, wealth disparity, and drug abuse.  Shortly thereafter it lost its mass appeal and the ratings slipped, but the show had already cemented its place in pop culture.

When you dig into it, Dylan McKay made the show.  Steve was a whiny, failed child actor, the Walsh kids didn’t belong in the same state, let alone the same zip code, as the rest of the characters, the news girl annoyed everyone, the nerd turned DJ should have been written out after season one, Kelly and Donna had more issues than they needed, but Dylan was why you watched.

The man emitted cool with his pompadour hairstyle and cold stares.  He also had a vulnerable, yet relatable, side.  He had a tumultuous relationship with a parent, a fear of not being accepted by his friends, a lack of self-esteem masked with grandiose actions, and he had a need to fit in while carving his own slice in the world.

You watched because there was a little bit of Dylan McKay in all of us.

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The Birthday Purity Challenge

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“You’re half done,” my father noted to me on my 39th birthday.  It was not presented as a philosophical talking point like a glass half full/empty conundrum, but as an observation.

Now, as I approach 40, will my childlike inquisitiveness transition to old man irascibility?  If this is to be the case, I want to go into the back half of my life with a renewed body and mind so I can become obsessed with over manicured lawns and warehousing newspapers in case the library needs a replacement of a lost edition.  For one month, I will be giving up the following items so I can start the next decade anew:

  • Added Sugar
  • Alcohol

Glucose and socially acceptable levels of drinking are my biggest vises in four decades of living?  Mundanity and caution are more appropriate items to be deleted.  To retrospectively make myself seem cooler, I will be eliminating the following, albeit non-existent, actions/items from my life:

  • Using hard Drugs
  • Womanizing
  • Gambling
  • Smoking
  • McDonald’s
  • Speeding
  • Easy drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Medical physicals
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Playing video games

Now it feels like I’m creating a Facebook worthy vomit post to show everyone how I’ve seen the light as well as providing inspiration for others.

With all my ills and negative influences removed, it is time to do some good in the world.  I will become a self-appointed member of the following groups:

  • PETA (no dog fighting or buying a pet goldfish)
  • Greenpeace (no recreational whale hunting)
  • Diamond Development Initiative (no purchasing or using blood diamonds)

In times of introspection, one often arises to the conclusion he should plan for the future.  Here is a canned list of bucket list items procured from a series of Google searches:

  • Read a book from start to finish (Done-I read 1-2 books a month already)
  • Restore a bicycle (Done)
  • Run a marathon (Done-Did this in my 20’s)
  • Learn to blow glass (sorry, I refuse to learn a useless skill)
  • Go to Europe (Done-Don’t eighth graders do this for their spring break trip instead of DC?)
  • Build a coffee table from raw wood (Done)
  • Dominate spring break in Mexico (Done)
  • Create a blog with zero to few dedicated readers (Done)
  • Drive a 50-year-old car (Done)
  • Watch the running of the bulls—on TV (Done)
  • Own land (Done)
  • Beat a man in fisticuffs (Done—it was sanctioned match with a referee)
  • Shop at Walmart without feeling superior to the other customers in the store (Impossible)

The bucket list was a fairly useless exercise, but I do get a sense of accomplishment knowing I can die tomorrow having done all there is do in life.

Untitled

This month of purity has really started to take shape, but to further inspire others, I will add on a series of motivational quotes which sound great, but provide no value in becoming a better person.

  • “Money can’t buy happiness”—No, but it helps.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again” —Two words: Restraining order.
  • “Live everyday likes it’s your last”—What do you do when you wake up the next day?
  • “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” —Russian Roulette doesn’t have long term positive expected outcome
  • “Hold my beer”/”You gotta get drunk”
  • “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed” —Is this motivation or a fact?

This life reorientation exercise provided no value to me and showed that periodically hitting the “Reset” button on life yields nothing more than hindsight depression while breeding anxiety of the future.

Thank you for reading and I apologize for wasting your time.

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