If I'm not mistaken, I think it was June of 1983. It was nice out. That I do remember. The sky had that magical blue color that you might see once or twice a month. The air was crisp. Not cold crisp. Clean crisp. And I was wandering up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on my way to a company I had never heard of before. I was in search of a job. This is what you do when in the throes of unemployment.
I was wearing a three piece suit, black with just a trace of white pinstripes. And a red power tie. Ties came in two colors: red and yellow. Supposedly, they oozed power. Not on me so much because in general, I'm what you might call a lost cause when it comes to that stuff. I liked the three pieces though. It made me feel kind of successful, even though I was a far cry from successful. I mean after all, I had just left Arizona, my wife, my financial equity, and my beagle, Parker. And let's not forget, the reason I'm walking like a smartly attired penguin in search of krill, is because I have no job.
But I felt successful.
Now although this particular suit—my lawyer suit—had the right pizazz, it didn't quite fit right. None of my suits ever quite fit right. They were always off the rack, and even though Macy's had a tailor on hand to take them in here and let them out there, they just never flowed. It might have been my body type. I don't really know what the problem was, but my go-to black pinstripes, which hadn't seen the light of day the three years I lived in Scottsdale, felt unusually tight in the butt and tight in the shoulders.
I'm telling you all this because it was that nagging tightness in the rump and stretching in the shoulders that had me all preoccupied, as I dodged and weaved through the masses known as pedestrian traffic. There I was trying my level best to feel successful and all I felt was the sad thickness of my buttocks and the stiffness of my arms.
As I was trying to stretch the material by curling my shoulders and widening my gate, I pulled over to the pedestrian slow lane, fearing I might get mowed over by the mindless mob I had become a part of. It's true about those walkers in New York City. They'll trample the weak and sick. So if you know anything about the street, you know enough to pull over when you are as burdened as I was with those freakin success pants of mine.
Man, all I needed was a simple adjustment. One that would require stopping for a damn second and sticking my hands in my front pockets, making a fist and pushing outward with increased pressure. That's all I needed to do.
So I stopped. In front of a big plate glass window. Those goddam pants. And I have my fists all made and I'm pushing out, when I finally look through the plate glass window.
And there they were. Right in front of me. At first I couldn't be sure because there were all these bright lights beaming down and stuff, and it's not exactly something you expect when you're trying to walk all successful. But holy shit! It was them! Sitting right in front of me at a window booth! Dustin Hoffman on one side! Meryl Streep on the other!
I couldn't believe it! Dustin Hoffman. Dustin God Damn Hoffman. The Graduate. The first movie that gave me a bona fide boner from that Mrs. Robinson "help me get out of my clothes" scene. I say bona fide because I don't count the one from Zulu when I saw all those bobbing breasts. I was only thirteen and didn't really know what was going on. But The Graduate. That was a whole other ball of wax.
And like a kid right off a Nebraskan corn field who was in the Big Apple for the first time, I started to point and yell, "Hey look! It's Dustin Hoffman! He's right there! Dustin Hoffman! Holy Cow!" And I continued to point and carry on almost uncontrollably, when I started to catch wind of screaming coming from the direction of the street.
"Hey you! Keep moving! You in the tight pants and dumb suit! Keep moving! Shit! Cut! Cut! Cut, God damn it!"
As I turned to look at the street—my fists all balled up in my pants pockets, my shoulders all curled in—I remember barely mouthing, "But it's Dustin Hoff—".
My words trailed off into the crisp, blue air, as I became acutely aware of the cameras mounted along the street's gutter, maybe fifteen, twenty people standing there. Most with hands on hips just shaking their heads. One flailing his arms with saliva and stuff flying out his wide open mouth I couldn't hear a word he was saying. My ears were blocking out all sound at this point. I knew what I had done, and could not undo it.
I turned one last time to see good old Dustin Hoffman. He was just staring at me, as only he could do. As for Meryl? Well Meryl, she was leaning back on the padded booth seat, her eyes staring at the ceiling, breathing through her mouth as if she was blowing out a birthday candle.
As I regrouped and returned to sauntering up the sidewalk in the slow lane, I pleaded a "sorry" to the street that was never so empty of sincerity.
Yup, I sure did do it that day. I had brought the production of Kramer vs. Kramer to a standstill.
Possibly one of my greatest moments in a sick sort of way.
Needless to say, that was the last time I ever wore that suit.
I got the job.