Friday, June 15, 2012

Living in the Past Is a Full-Time Gig

MICHAEL ARENELLA is at an open-air flea market in Lambertville, N.J., his fedora-topped head leaning over a gramophone. He winds the crank, lifts the arm and places the needle on a 78. Out of the old oak box comes a voice from the past: Arthur Fields singing “In My Tippy Canoe” in 1921. Mr. Arenella stands silently, hands in his pockets, taking in every crackly note.

Other shoppers stop to figure out where the music is coming from. To their delighted surprise, they see Mr. Arenella, a 34-year-old jazz musician and bandleader from Brooklyn who looks as if he had stepped through some wormhole in the space-time continuum. He is 6-foot-1 and dressed in windowpane-checked pants, a blue paisley ascot, a red-and-white checked shirt, a herringbone vest, a blazer with a blue pocket handkerchief, cap-toe faux-crocodile ankle boots, a pinkie ring and a brown fedora. A few people wander over to check him — and the gramophone — out. But most just stare, smile and walk on, this vision of the ’20s brightening a mundane, modern New Jersey day.
Read the rest here.

Reminds me in some ways of friend of the blog The Young Fogey, though I believe his preference is for the 50's and 60's. But seriously, who can blame him? If you had access to a time machine, would you not at least be tempted to ditch this rather miserable and coarse age we live in? Of course one needs to be careful about looking at the past through rose colored glasses. I love the 20's. But they had their problems. Racism was rampant. Prohibition (which we tend to overly romanticize) was in effect. There was no social safety net, so if you were down on your luck you had to depend on family or charity, or you starved. And of course the 20's were followed by the 30's.

Still, if anyone has a time machine I can borrow drop me a line. I will take Calvin Coolidge over Barack Obama and a Pierce Arrow over a Ford F150 any day. Just gotta remember to sell that RCA stock no later than September of '29.


Eurasleep said...

I hear you loud and clear! I have always maintained that I was born 50 years too late. Gone are the days of feminine women in sun dresses instead of baggy grunge clothes, or gentlemen in fedoras and good manners instead of gangsta rappers.
Have you checked out the Fedora Lounge Forum? Here's the link:

I suppose anyone today can dress any way they want, including rockabilly tough guy from the 50s. You'll just get laughed though. I hear from youngish American girls who try to wear nice dresses or skirts to go around shopping for example, and other American women just stare at them. Perhaps our society has become so overrun by the uncouth and disheveled that we're stunned, when we see people dressed well.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

The Fedora Lounge is a great site. I have had it linked in the side bar for a couple of years.

LV said...

Eurasleep, you should visit Mississippi. We still have pretty dresses and a few manners left. Just don't go in that big blue W store - ours are as bad as anybody else's.
And you might not want to come in the summer.

Anaxagoras said...

Women still have some options if they want to dress like that. My wife particularly likes the dresses from a site called modcloth. It's marketed as "retro," but we both think it just looks like nice, feminine clothing.