Introduction Part One
Sweatpants Wedding is the most storied piece of unfinished writing in Trop history. It’s been in the works for nearly a decade now, since well before Trop even existed, and as of my last correspondence with Stephan McCormick, the guy who’s actually writing the thing (I’ll be responsible for the meta aspect—more on that in a minute), Act II will be ready “tonight.”
“Tonight,” however, has long since passed, as have many other nights, and Act II is still nowhere to be seen. Could Stephan be fine-tuning the chorus, in which… well… in which what? What happens in the chorus? The answer is I have no idea, because I’ve never seen Act II, and I can’t remember what it was supposed to be about because we planned this thing three years ago.
So I don’t know what Act II is about. But, I’m impatient, and I think this thing is good to go anyway. We do, after all, have an Act I (out of… was it seven you had planned, Stephan? Eight?), and Stephan’s recorded a handful of really slick songs about getting married in sweatpants. No, we don’t have much of a plot. And no, we don’t have much of a script to fill out the space between the songs. But, at this point, there is one thing we have plenty of, and that’s backstory we’re going to call The Making of Sweatpants Wedding.
What we’re going to do here in this series for The Weather is blend the two together. I’ll write The Making of Sweatpants Wedding, Stephan will write Sweatpants Wedding Itself, and combined together, the two will magically form Sweatpants Wedding Without Any Qualifiers, or, The Sweatpants Without Qualities, and that’s what you’ll read here.
Introduction Part Two
In the summer of 2004, fresh out of college, living with my parents in the Bay Area, not diabetic yet, eating lots of snack food and indulging bad ideas, I scribbled down a few scenes for a musical about the most scandalous wedding of all time—a wedding between the heiress to the Gushers fruit snacks fortune (the daughter of Gordon Gusher) and a guy wearing sweatpants. As I wrote these scenes, the pen danced as if it had a mind of its own; the pen made that brushing sound on the page, the kind that sticks in your ears later on down the road, the kind that you strain to recall as if remembering it will deliver you back to the brilliance you once knew and, inexplicably, decided to abandon. Why would you abandon your most brilliant moment of writing? You have no idea, but you remember that pen gliding across the page, the heel of your hand nudging its way rightward, the cathartic folding sound of the paper you’ve tucked behind your legal pad.
Flash forward seven years.
Having decided that San Francisco was lame on account of how annoying it was to listen to tech industry people tell me about how whatever they were working on was going to revolutionize my life, I moved to the thriving metropolis of Milledgeville, Georgia. There, I met a fellow transplant (from South Carolina by way of Atlanta) named Stephan McCormick. Stephan was a curious guy, the kind of guy I had questions for. Questions like: Why do you drink chocolate milk when you’re hungover? And: Do you want to go to wing night? And: She’s nice. Do you usually tend to prefer the scholastic look?
What fun we had! Yes, Stephan and I got along well, and we started to bond. And so, as with all bonding, we began to plumb each other’s pasts. I learned that he’d once been an athlete. And he learned that I was now going into my seventh year of talking about a play I had worked on for one transcendent afternoon between stints on Craigslist looking for jobs, a play called Sweatpants Wedding.
“What’s the hold up?” Stephan asked.
“It has to be a musical,” I said. “This play needs song and dance. But song and dance are outside my skillset, and I lack the wherewithal for self-improvement.”
“Ah, now I know why we’re friends! The wherewithal for self-improvement is something I lack as well. No, I’m content with who I am.”
“I appreciate your attitude there. It’s contagious. Maybe I should just be happy with my life as a song-and-dance-writing-skills-free man and just let Sweatpants Wedding live on as the perfect memory that it already is.”
I took a sip of my Michelob Ultra and became drunk. Later, back at my apartment, Stephan and I would make a quiche. My roommate Tina Tifton worked on a farm and brought home more kale than we could eat. The only way I knew how to manage kale was to drown it in eggs and cheese.
Kale’s not too good!
Anyway, we were sitting around eating kale quiche. Tina Tifton was asleep because it was really late at night, but we’d managed to steal her dog from her room. So Stephan was sitting there drinking a vodka and chocolate milk, petting the dachshund, Ginger, while I beat the eggs. It was a really nice time. Then we ate the quiche, got full, got less drunk, and became… I don’t know… forlorn?
“We’re still young,” he said. “Do you think that moving to a small town where you know nobody so that you can live cheaply without having much in the way of a job or social expectations before the age of thirty is kind of like, well, giving up?”
“You’re making me nervous,” I said.
“Hear me out,” he said.
Stephan refreshed his vodka choco.
“I mean. Most self-improvement happens, like, when you’re seventeen or so, but don’t you think we could give it another go?”
“You mean… life itself?”
“Yeah… like… do you think we could give life itself another go, and actually give self-improvement a try?”
“I just wish that all of life, like, the whole thing, were available without all the self-improvement. I mean, I don’t like jogging. I don’t like kale. I don’t like weightlifting. I don’t like most people. I don’t even like music anymore.”
“Music? You don’t even like music?”
It was around then that Stephan realized that I had major psychological hang-ups, and that all of them came back not to my mother, but to my aborted opus, Sweatpants Wedding.
It was also around then that Stephan revealed that back at Marietta High School, he’d been considered a musical genius.
When he showed me the photos he carried in his wallet of himself with his guitar, I believed him.
“Wait a second, Stephan. Do you want to cooperate?”
“Like, work together?”
“Yeah. Like, on Sweatpants Wedding.”
“Do you think that, if we worked together, we could pull it off?”
I don’t remember how I answered Stephan’s question that night, but the answer, in time, would prove itself to be no.
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.