The Weather

Club Monaco Man: Part Four

Jonathan Franzen writes novels of the world. David Foster Wallace, novels of the self. And in this, the fourth and final installment of Roger Sollenberger’s interview with Club Monaco Man Tom Dibblee, Roger and Tom discover the self of the pants.

How’s it going this morning, thread-wise?

Right now I am wearing size thirty-three Nantucket red shorts and no shirt. And if you read the second installment of this interview on why Club Monaco is the most perfect clothing store for me, and what’s more, the most perfect expression of my inner self, you’ll know that the type of shorts I’m wearing now, while not Club Monaco brand, represent a vast improvement over what I was wearing yesterday. Yes, interviews facilitate learning. Yesterday I wore no shirt with a bathing suit with that meshy underwear inside it and boxer shorts clumped up awkwardly inside said mesh. But then, I told you about it, so I had to acknowledge the absurdity of my uniform. So today, in my too-hot apartment, with my shirt off, I am wearing proper shorts. And have I spoken better for it? You tell me.

I’m more interested in those Nantucket reds.

That’s lucky for you, because on the topic of reds, I’m all set to deliver a mountain of insight.

This better not be a limerick…

Come on, Roger. Give me the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who knows anything knows that Nantucket reds signify status, not poetry. The other day, at the Bourgeois Pig, the barista said to me, “I saw you on the street and I thought you were wearing pink shorts, but now I see they’re salmon. That makes more sense. Salmon’s more masculine than pink.”

And what did I do? I bit my tongue, because to say to her, “These are Nantucket reds,” would be an act of terrible snobbery and condescension, even if—or especially because—chances are she’d have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’d be forced to say, “These are shorts to be found only on the best island in all of the United States, and if I have them, it means I’ve been there, and that I am one of the best of all the American people.”

Roger, you have a choice right now, because I see three possible directions I could run with on the reds: the shirt I typically wear with these shorts here in Los Angeles and the way in which this city turns all clothing into costume; the fact that I’ve been to Nantucket only once but that once was enough to place me in the ranks of the greatest Americans born of all time; Wasp culture in Los Angeles, a place where the Nantucket red reference is lost, and the way in which Wasps go bananas here when you do acknowledge their reference points, because they’ve fought so hard, but so often, in this town, their reference points are useless.

Direction one?

The shirt I wear with my Nantucket reds here in East Hollywood is a blue t-shirt with white writing, like the “COLLEGE” shirt Belushi wears in Animal House, except that, rather than spelling out “COLLEGE,” it spells out “Boarding School.” Obviously this is completely hilarious. But you see how this is a costume rather than clothing. It is me both being preppy and teasing myself for being preppy. This is the Hollywood way. One cannot leave the house here without dressing oneself in the self-commentary essential to a way of life in which one is completely free to define who one is, due to a total lack of social order: Here, outwardly, there is little difference between the rich and the wannabes, and there are few rungs on the ladder between them either. Ascendency, here, is like a quest for wormholes, like playing Mario Brothers but refusing to advance to higher levels through methods aside from warp zones.

About this costuming. Is all, or most of, Hollywood in costume by necessity? What about continuity? Doesn’t character derive from continuity? That must be difficult and stressful, and I thought California was the relaxed, “dude” state. So would it be fair for me to derive from all of this that there are often disruptions in costume continuity from day to day among Los Angelenos who tend to, by dint of the Hollywood way, let things slide? And what might these burps in costume say about the nature and dependability of character, from person to person, whether genuine or assumed? Is character a day-to-day, unpredictable and shifty quality, like the weather for the rest of the country? I would guess character doesn’t matter much in a land where the consistency of costumes is uncertain, always a little bit in doubt. Is this part of what’s at the root of what much of the US perceives as LA’s general flakiness? Also. How is this different from boarding school costumes? Could you compare and contrast your experience of the social orders of a sprawling coastal cosmopolis with a small and highly reputable East Coast boarding school?

That question required a serious amount of listening, Roger. If you’re asking whether or not costumery itself comprises a form of character, then I’ll answer yes. If you’re asking whether or not I change my form of costumery on a near daily basis, then I’ll answer yes to that too. If you’re asking whether or not, underneath my daily costume of flux, I remain the same person, I’ll answer yes and no. But if you’re asking anything else, I’ll ask that you wait until we’re done with this here and let me interview you about your own particular niche as a clothing-bedecked man. I’ve been waiting to become a Monaco Man for a while now, and I don’t want you to steal my spotlight.

Let’s move on to direction two.

Thank you. Direction two is the least exciting of all the directions. I’m sorry I mentioned it. Yes, I’ve been to Nantucket only once, for my brother’s wedding. His wife goes there. My dad insisted on buying me the shorts. I didn’t see the need but now I’m glad I have them. This obviously would make for an extremely boring direction to take any further.

You have a good sense of boundaries, Kappa pants crotch hole digression notwithstanding. Direction three?

Yes, direction three, Wasp culture in Los Angeles. Frankly, if I stick around here long enough, this could quite well become a book, so I don’t want to cash in too much right now in the Club Monaco Man series of infinite length. But suffice it to say, if you so much as mention Nantucket in the right company in this town, they go bananas just because they’re glad that at least one person here is equipped to recognize their own prestige. It’s as if Wasps here are walking around with wads of cash in a town that accepts only plastic, and when you show up with reds on, they’ve got something to spend it on.

Does Club Monaco have an actual club, like, by the beach, where you can carouse with other Monaco Men and Women?

Not that I know of. As far as I know, I’m the only man known to refer to himself as a Monaco Man. It’s a lonely, life, Roger, being well-dressed and willing to talk about it.

But you’re willing to live it. You’re willing to do it.

Of course I am, Roger. When one finds the pants he’s been looking for, one has no choice but to abide them. You’ll recall that I declared myself a Monaco Man while in the company of a beautiful woman, under the watch of the foamy surf. And you’ll recall that she warned me never to confess my identity ever again. And what was the subtext here, Roger? The subtext was that being a Monaco Man carries risks. Women don’t trust men who talk about their pants the way I do. You put the pants on and they quiver, you talk the pants up and they flee. It’s a paradox, Roger. But, I’ve never feared paradoxes. I’m loyal to truth, beauty, and paradoxes, all at the same time. That’s how it is for me. Now you know. Now you know the truth. And I know where to buy pants. We’re men, Roger. We’re men.

 …

To start the Club Monaco Man series at the beginning, click here.

Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.

Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.