After a Fashion

AT LEAST YOU'RE PAYING ATTENTION So many people, with so much time on their hands... and so much unpleasantness in their little hearts. Last week's "Postmarks" section ran a letter from a disgruntled reader who seemed to be unhappy because The Austin Chronicle is not a democratically run organization with elected officials. He bitched about a general variety of Chronicle-related issues, with particular vitriol for editor Louis Black. It seems that Black's musings about the large number of limousines at the Bruce Springsteen concert set off this diatribe. Gee, I read that same column, and chuckled at the contradiction myself, but tossed the whole thing off as lightweight philosophical meandering. Well, Reader X proves that I was wrong about that. He proves that even in moments of banality, Black has achieved the most desirable journalistic goal: that of provoking thought. Unfortunately, it also seems that dear Reader X has an agenda a mile long, and used Black's innocuous remarks as a springboard from which to dive headfirst into a pool of venom -- which is all neither here nor there to me.

Until, of course, the cretin had the temerity to drag my name into it, that is, and use me as an example of Chronicle favoritism. The implication, of course, is that I could not possibly have gotten this column on my own merits, but only through nepotism. This complaint is a perennial favorite of mine -- and by no means a new one, but it never fails to delight me every time it comes up. Could anyone possibly imagine a connection between me getting this job and the fact that My Sister has worked tirelessly for this publication for almost 19 years, clawing her way up from lowly volunteer to her present luxuriously exalted position as staff writer? Well, imagine anything you want. But the fact of the matter is that, in a double-blind taste test conducted by a team of scientists from a major university, it was determined that what the Chronicle needed most was a clear, concise voice of fashion and style to help guide it into the new millennium. A grueling, secret, international search was undertaken, and hundreds of candidates were considered. But the Chronicle was steadfast in its resolve to only hire the perfect candidate: one who was fresh, yet who possessed a dazzling array of credentials, who had an international viewpoint and keen insight into fashion, along with the ability to transform that insight into entertaining journalism, while relating it to the Austin scene. In short, a virtually impossible order to fill. The search was fruitless. With fears that, without this desperately needed fashion coverage, the Chronicle might collapse under its own leftist leanings and thus deprive my beloved sister of her income, I volunteered for the job. It meant that I would have to give up my flourishing design establishment and relocate to what my sister calls the People's Republic of Austin, but I refused to let that stand in my way -- whatever the Chronicle needed, I would graciously provide. No sacrifice was too great to ensure my sister's well-being. And so here I am, selflessly devoting myself to the pursuit of glamour and good taste in this steamy little hellhole that defies you to wear nice clothes, while you, Reader X, dare to besmirch my name to make your mysterious point. Frankly, your letter has the strange odor of someone who has submitted "work" to the Chronicle and not been published. But if your submissions were as rambling and deluded as your letter, I'm afraid I'd have passed on them, too.

AND AT LEAST HE SIGNED HIS NAME Then there arrives in my mailbox a most peculiar letter, with some sort of weirdness taped to it -- a picture of an Alien, or something, that I guess was supposed to represent me. And it says (sic) "Dear Stephan," (misspelling the addressee's name is such a great way to start a fan letter) "Love your outfit! To bad the Ninja Turtles did it 4 years ago. (Heart) Your audience." As I said, peculiar. But what concerns me most here is the fashion timeline going on in the anonymous writer's head. Let's do a little fashion arithmetic, shall we? Ninja Turtles? Four years ago? Hmmm. I seem to be remembering Ninja Turtles' 15 minutes of fame happening much earlier than that. But what I'm not remembering is any time in which they could have been considered influential in fashion. But, as we know, fashion is a very personal thing, and perhaps the fan behind this letter discovered the Ninja Turtles four years ago and was profoundly moved by them. I don't know, but I'd like to reach out and offer any help I can give to this troubled soul, whose plaintive cries for attention shall not go unheeded. I'm here for you, baby. Tell mama. Tell mama all.

(Confidential to B.E.: If you spent half as much time on your styling as you do on your correspondence, we'd see a vast improvement.)

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