News From Home 16, Part I
8/24/2004 (updated 8/24/2004)

I return to the Trellises after a long absence, to find things subtly changed. The weather is all one would expect, the air shimmering as the sun climbs over the yardarm; the neighbourhood looking chocolate-box as usual, with the unfortunate exception of Mr. Alphonso’s hideous paint job on the house next door; but wander these leafy suburban streets for a spell, and you might imagine you have slipped through a crack in the time/space continuum, and into another century. I don’t know if it started with Madonna’s latest look, but it was in full flow at Keanu and Brandi’s party, and now everyone between the ages of 10 and 30 are sporting clothes loosely based on the fashions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Talk about connected to the zeitgeist – I was only dreaming the other day of an ultraviolet-resistant wig, and lo! It has appeared. Not the scratchy old thing Dr. Johnson used to sweat under, but a lightweight, polyweave, pre-powdered masterpiece of wiggery, SPF 50 and recommended by dermatologists. This is, of course, nothing to do with the strange animal that perches on top of the insecure bald gentleman like a sedate Pekingese; this is the glorious wig of history, as worn by Washington, Pepys, Moliere, and hanging judges through the ages. Wig emporia have sprung up all over town. Our local skate shop, ‘Skatz ‘n’ Boardz’, where Honourable Number Three Son can be found spending his paltry argent de poche, is now renamed ‘Wigz, Skatz ‘n’ Boardz’, and features a fine selection of headgear, including the ‘Jefferson’ the ‘King Louis’ and the ‘Marie Antoinette’. Our own beloved niece, Brandi, has quit her job in Dental Hygiene, and is coining it hand over fist in her new shop, ‘Assumed Mane’, just off the High Street. Other local outlets, (and I must stress that this really is a local phenomenon, probably restricted to a five mile radius) include:

Wigz ‘r’ Us
Wigz ‘n’ Thingz
Hair Apparent
Ye Olde Village Wiggerie
Keep Your Hair On! (Wig Support Products)

Knee britches are now the norm for young gentlemen, but oddly not often worn with hose and buckled shoes, bare calves and sneakers being a more practical alternative. Frock coats make an occasional appearance, along with frilly shirts and snuff boxes. For women, the impracticality of 17 layers of petticoats means the full look is rarely employed at the beach, but is popular as evening wear, or as an après-swim cover-up. Fans are hugely in vogue, and since nobody smokes any more, it gives the girls something expressive to do with their hands. One excellent knock-on effect of all this has been the closure of our local Starbucks, to be replaced by ‘Ye Drury Lane Coffee Shoppe’, where folk with an Eighteenth Century bent can gather to discuss the affairs of the day, read a little poetry to each other, and delight in a cup of beverage. Here, the smoking ban means that the clay pipe is more of a fashion accessory, and some smart local entrepreneur is manufacturing them out of soybean, licorice, or rocky road flavours for later consumption. Indeed, the language itself seems to be changing – a common greeting between young folk is a hearty ‘Good Morrow!’ or ‘Good day to you Sir!’ with an inquiry of ‘What ails thee, Jack?’ or “What o’clock is it?” not seeming out of place.

Back to the more mundane world of the soccer field…yes, mundane, for I and all the boys are now completely blasé about the presence of the State Governor as our assistant coach, and his Pomp-Rock-style coming and going now causes no more than a flutter and yawn from the team – we are playing well, and have made it to the finals. Arnie has told me in no uncertain terms that a win next Saturday is essential – indeed, failure will not be countenanced, and our best guarantee of success is to play Wolfgang as lone striker. He emphasized the need to be more economical in defence. I asked him if, on the subject of economy, he would consider selling off a few of his fleet of eight HUMVs, in these times of soaring fuel costs, and all, just as an example to the constituents. He said he would certainly consider it.

I’m worried about Witherstock. She has now taken to making doom-laden pronouncements, often at inopportune moments, and is casting a pall over the happiness of the household. I can’t fault her tidiness and work rate, but her mutterings are scaring the kids. “It will all end in tears”, she’ll say, or “It’s like there’s a curse on us all!” while staring through an unseen portal into the future. Why, just the other day, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind putting the vegetable scraps that were no good for animal feed onto the compost heap in the back corner of the garden. “I cannot go to that God-forsaken spot!” she exclaimed, giving a theatrical shudder and turning back to her ironing. And when Honourable Number Two Son came in with another scraped elbow from falling off his skateboard, Witherstock remarked that it was as if Fate had marked him out for special punishment. I told her scarred knees and elbows were really very par for the course in Southern California, but when she gets that distant look in her eyes, words just don’t seem to get through. I’m sorry now that I borrowed Cedric’s cricket bat; I should have guessed that a forty-year-old Gun and Moore County Special would probably be a bit brittle in the glue department – the handle disengaged with the very first square cut I attempted off the bowling of Honourable Number One Son, and the bat portion went flying over the fence into next door. They are away at Club Med for two weeks, so I must remember to retrieve the bits, and glue it all back together, and try to return it with nonchalance.