No matter where you are in time and space, your torso will always be nice and toasty.
I was getting The Mystery Wagon washed yesterday afternoon when my friend Denmark called.
“Truman,” he said without hesitation. “What are you doing tonight?”
I shrugged, watching a crack squad of Latino dudes scrub birdshit off my car. “I don’t have any plans yet. Video games and pornography seem pretty likely, though.”
“My friend rented out a bar in Hollywood and she’s throwing a ‘50s theme party tonight. You should come. Dress like it’s the ‘50s.”
I was already waffling. “That sounds fun, but I don’t want to have to dress up like a greaser just to get drunk. I could get drunk in my apartment for free and pretend it's any decade.”
“Just suck it up, get a costume, and come. There’s going to be industry people there. I’ll see you at 8:00.”
Costume parties are difficult for me because I have a really limited wardrobe. I don’t own sweaters, I have no old timey suits, and my only pair of slacks is at the bottom of a box somewhere in my apartment. Just once I’d like to get invited to a costume party where the theme allows me to wear something I’ve already got in the house:
Hey everybody, I’m throwing a high school speech and debate themed party! Everybody dress like you’re at a speech and debate tournament.
Who wants to come to my place Saturday night? I’m throwing a 2011 theme party. Everybody dress like it’s 2011!
It’s Louis CK night here at Shenanigans’ Tavern and Grill! No cover charge if you show up wearing jeans and a black T shirt.
On top of that, I’m not really a fan of the 1950s or the fashions of the time. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of rolling up the sleeves of a white T-shirt and shoving a pack of cigarettes up under one of them – the last thing the world needs to see right now are my upper arms. Take my word for it – it’s all weird tan lines and flab up there.
I was sifting through clothes at a thrift store and wishing that this was an ‘80s theme party when it dawned on me that I could have the best of both worlds: I could dress as Marty McFly from Back To The Future.
“Oh, aren’t you clever?” I muttered to myself in basically the creepiest way possible.
To carry the whole thing off I needed a puffy red vest like the one Michael J. Fox wore in the film. After a look around the thrift store I was able to find a puffy red jacket, and I opted to just buy it and cut the sleeves off, because when the chips are down I’d much rather ruin a perfectly good piece of clothing than spend any extra time shopping.
At home I began haphazardly cutting the sleeves off of the jacket, which I immediately discovered was full of some sort of imitation goosedown that promptly filled my room like an impossible-to-vacuum snowstorm.
Oh, that’s cool, my conscience said. You’re just ruining a perfectly good down jacket so you can be a clever asshole at a party. I’m sure there aren’t any cold homeless people would’ve wanted that.
By the time the deed was done, my room looked like the aftermath of some sort of goose-on-goose fight club. Somewhat surprisingly, though, the jacket now looked one hell of a lot like Marty’s vest. It’s not often that I try something ambitious and succeed – usually I either fail or give up at the first sign of trouble.
I quickly pinned the frayed edges out of view and modeled the vest for myself in the mirror.
The most depressing thing about the phone mirror shot is the loneliness of it all - not only do you not have a real camera, but you don't even have a friend to take your picture for you.
Combined with a white shirt I’d also picked up at the thrift store it looked pretty good, but I was missing the denim jacket Marty wore in the movie. I’m a stickler for details, and I immediately became paranoid that without the denim jacket nobody would ‘get it’ and would assume that I was just some weird puffy vest-wearing guy who showed up without a costume.
It was already 7:40, so my options for denim jackets were limited. I Googled up the nearest Goodwill and called to see if they were still open.
“Yes,” the polite Hispanic woman on the other end said. “But we close in 20 minutes.”
I ran down to The Mystery Wagon, still wearing the vest and shirt, and hit the road as fast as I legally could, cursing every red light and anxiously watching the clock. With less than ten minutes to spare I arrived at Goodwill and pulled into the first vacant parking spot I could find, then sprinted across the vast parking lot to the front doors.
Holy shit. I realized as I ran. You’re dressed as Marty McFly, racing against the clock, running around a mall parking lot in the middle of the night. You don’t need the denim jacket – you already are Marty!
And that was a lucky thing, too, because after all that effort the closest thing Goodwill had to a denim jacket was a women’s denim hoodie, which I almost bought just so I could set it on fire.
I hopped on the Metro and walked the four blocks from the station to the bar, realizing halfway there that wearing red after dark in East Hollywood probably wasn’t a wise move. I crossed my fingers that any nearby gangbangers were cinephiles.
The party turned out to be pretty fun – poodle-skirt clad girls generally didn’t get my costume, but the various Fonzies and Buddy Hollies thought it was pretty funny. For awhile, it was all drinking, laughter, and good wholesome ‘50s fun.*
*Interestingly enough, even though there were probably a hundred people there, none of them were black. I guess black people don’t have as much to be nostalgic about from that time period…
I was talking to Denmark (wearing a cardigan and taped up nerd glasses) when his eyes focused on something behind me and he cracked up. I turned just in time to watch another Marty McFly walk into the bar. We locked eyes, potentially destroying the entire spacetime continuum.
He was too short and had black hair. His vest was a real vest – not a mutilated jacket – but it wasn’t puffy at all. But the motherfucker was wearing a denim jacket.
Before we could say anything, a girl spotted him and shouted, “Hey, it’s Marty McFly!”
She and her friends all squealed and crowded around him, asking for pictures, and I just kept drinking.
Truman Capps will revive this costume when he's rich enough to afford a DeLorean.