And They’re Certainly Not Showing Any Signs That They Are Slowing

Check out my new Experiment Video Blog post over on YourTubes! 

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Cummerbund & Co. represents a very real place that I was taken by a former boss. A place where men of means looked at things that cost multiple thousands of dollars and said words like, “I’ll take this one in every color, plus shoes, belts, ties, socks, etc.” And then other men that looked very much like Comstock would reply, “Certainly, Sir. Are you measurements on file up to date?” And then guys like me would go, “WHAT THE FUCKING SHITFIST IS GOING ON HERE IS THIS THE GODDAMN TWILIGHT ZONE IS EVERYONE CRAZY AM I IN A PLAY THAT I DON’T REMEMBER SIGNING UP FOR WHUUUUUUUUUT ISSSSSS HAAAAPEEEEENNNNNIIIIIIING?!?!?!?” 

It’s little revelations like that, learning that the path you’re on leads to a place you don’t want to go, that can cause you to reevaluate your choices. It is important that I make a distinction here. I am a proponent of following your own passion; doing the thing that you love to the fullest extent you are able to do it for as long as you are able. Some people are passionate about suits. I have friends that are passionate about suits. I do not begrudge them their love of wearing certain kinds of clothing, even extremely expensive, or fancy clothing, any more than I would begrudge a member of the 501st from saving up a couple grand for a super spiffy Storm Trooper outfit. It was the way in which this particular store was arranged, and how the particular people in it were behaving. It was soulless. “That is expensive and has the right label. Give me a bunch of that so I can feel like the kind of guy who wear’s that sort of thing,” was the vibe, and the vibe was gross.

COMMENTERS: Have you ever been to a place (a party, a club, a store, a business) that made every single particle in your body scream “THIS IS WRONG WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!!!” 

I usually feel this way in shops where people with an excess of money are spending that excess on excessively expensive excess-ories. Another boss once took me in a Coach leather store to buy his girlfriend a purse. There were maybe 10 items displayed in an enormous shop, and none of them had price tags. He said something like, “I don’t know, she likes this kind of shit I guess.” I looked out the window of the shop at a woman passing by. She was pushing a stroller. I mouthed the words, “CALLLLL THEEEE POOOOLIIIIIIICE…”


Comments (59)

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UnderTheDark's avatar

UnderTheDark · 85 weeks ago

I have read that fic! Which fic was that? I feel the sudden urge to dig through my AO3 history…
I play with race cars. This requires money (old joke: “How do you make a small fortune in racing? Start with a large fortune”). I don’t have even a small fortune, so mostly I volunteer as a track marshal. This lets me stay involved with racing but without that whole sacrifice-everything-else-in-your-life-including-food-and-basic-shelter-for this vibe.

But my local race track is a country club, except that instead of a golf course, swimming pool full of nubile-but-legal daughters of wealthy members, and tennis courts like a “regular” country club, it has a race track and people wearing Nomex fire suits when they’re not in greasy workin’ on the car clothes. And not so many nubile-but-legal daughters. But that’s okay: by marshaling, I get track time when I need it and sometimes get paid to work events there. But there are two kinds of Premium Members: those who have metric fucktons of money, but you’d never know it except the dinner check disappears in their presence faster than you can reach for it (cool), and those who have metric fucktons of money and want everyone to know it.

The brand-name dropping is CONTINUOUS. “Well, I could buy this quarter-million-dollar McLaren, but then where would I park the Bentley? It’s only a month old. I guess I could let my stripper-girlfriend-assistant drive it.” and “I could get kicked out of the Porsche club if they found out I was even talking to you about that Ferrari!”, pitched loud enough to make sure everyone in the garage heard it.

Meanwhile, I drove there in my 14-year-old truck with 300,000 miles on the odometer (it’s not my newest vehicle. My newest vehicle is exactly 2 weeks newer than the truck and needs a fuel pump before I can drive it again).

You can guess which group of members I’d rather be around. The others, I just want to punch in the nards before running away.

6 replies · active 85 weeks ago

Yeah. That sort of shit.

The two quotes in my post? Real, except substitute “McLaren” for “Ferrari”. The guy has a 911 GT2 RS (one of less than 100 in the US) and the McLaren sales guy was pitching him the MP4-12C.

The guy with the Bentley and the stripper-girlfriend-assistant has a 911 GT3 RS and an older GT3 Cup race car and spent the day with his Nomex suit sleeves tied around his waist, showing his Cool Shirt. The girlfriend-assistant showed up later in a 2-generation-old Benz C-class sedan with a nearly-flat tire and the right side of it scraped off by what looked to be several encounters with a garage door opening. My party decided the Bentley’s half-life in her care was a week.

The guy who organized that particular event makes a good chunk of his money putting evangelical churches on TV. Ah, Texas…

If nothing else, it’s good for a laugh.

Richter12x2's avatar

Richter12x2 · 85 weeks ago

He can’t be real money, then. Everyone knows te MP4-12C is the poor man’s McLaren.
They had one to demo. The P1s haven’t hit yet. 🙂
That’s an interesting perspective. If the thing you love is a thing that ONLY comes in Expensive, REALLY Expensive and Unobtainable flavors it has to be hard to find your place within the culture that surrounds it.
There’s always the 24 Hours of LeMons crapcan racers. (There’s a rival series, ChumpCar, with similar rules but lacking the whimsy of LeMons.) $500 cars (exclusive of safety equipment), with oddball/obscure makes strongly encouraged, ill-advised engine swaps recommended, and bribing of the series officials with booze and goodies almost mandatory. The people at all levels are delightfully crazy. I worked a 24-hour race with them last month. Exhausting but tons of fun.

My race car is cheap (it’s a prepped ’97 Dodge Neon I got at a fire-sale price), but the expense comes from the cost of entry into the races with the club I run with (SCCA) — I can drop close to $500 just on an entry fee, and all told, that weekend will run me $800-1500 depending on whether or not I need to buy tires.

I got my start in, and still do when I can, a cheap(er) form of motorsport called autocross. It’s not wheel-to-wheel, but time-trials around tight courses set up with cones in big parking lots/airport aprons, that kind of thing. Entry: $25-40. And I can run most of a year on one set of tires. Still a lot of fun, because of the people.

The tribe of turn marshals is an entity unto itself. We look after the drivers, sure, but we look after each other first and foremost. Because of the danger (I’m sure some here saw the big crash at the Houston Indy Car race earlier in the month. That started about 10 feet from me & my team. I’m the Really Big Guy in white in many of the fan videos that litter YouTube and the official TV coverage), one of the highest compliments a marshal can give is “I trust that person to watch my back.”

It’s a lot like going to a con: we’ll share rooms, rides, resources, plan group trips to certain races, put up traveling marshals in our homes for local races, etc. One of my guys at Houston was part of a contingent of folks from San Francisco who came out for our race; and I put a friend from Tulsa up in my guest bedroom ’cause he’s out of work right now but wanted to come help (and he’s really good at it).

Which reminds me: I’ve got to email my pal B to let him know the extra bed in my room for the Formula 1 race in Austin is his if he wants it. My friends from Florida aren’t able to come this year.

Orf's avatar

Orf · 85 weeks ago

I feel this every time I visit my brother in Manhattan. Everything from the cabs “WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL US OH GOD NO HELP ME OH THIS IS OUR STOP HERE’S A TIP” to the constant stream of humanity that never ends “OH GOD WHY ARE YOU STANDING THERE” makes me feel like the slow-walking, Western (US) outsider that I am. I got a coffee at a corner deli and they gave it to me in a paper bag LIKE THAT WASN’T TOTALLY FUCKING WEIRD! Anyway, Manhattan is a land of contrasts.

4 replies · active 84 weeks ago

Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

I’m definitely a country boy, I feel anxious anywhere more crowded than the non-downtown parts of Portland.
Manhattan is super weird, but it’s the kind of weird that I enjoy visiting. It’s like taking a short trip to another planet in another dimension. Knowing I get to go home eventually allows me to enjoy the oddities. The idea of living there; raising a kid there terrifies me.
Tom's avatar

Tom · 85 weeks ago

Living in Manhattan (or in my case, Brooklyn just one subway stop away from Manhattan) is actually pretty awesome, at least when you’re single or married but childless. My wife and I are having a great time. But I totally agree on the idea of raising a kid here. We’re getting the hell out before that happens.
Junkyard's avatar

Junkyard · 85 weeks ago

“Comstock” is a sufficiently rare name that I can’t hear it without thinking of crazy preachers.

1 reply · active 85 weeks ago


I think of pie filling.


My (limited) experience of expensive restaurants and hotels suggest to me that there are 2 types of them: “wannabe” establishments, which want to be seen as upper-class and exclusive, and therefore look down their nose at anyone who seems to fail to meet their standards of dress/money/etc, and “authentic” establishments, who are sufficiently secure in their own identity that they happily accept anyone, regardless of their appearance, and make everyone feel welcome.

3 replies · active 85 weeks ago


One of the amusements of living in Houston is that you can’t really tell if that guy driving the white F350 is a lowly oilfield roughneck living in a trailer or the wildcatter/rancher living in a gated mansion. The result, however, is that I can walk into one of the most highly-regarded restaurants in the country in my work polo and Levis and be treated with the same courtesy as the guy in the suit at the next table. Yes, there are some “traditional” fancy places (notably some of the old-school steakhouses) were you need to dress accordingly, but there are more and more places here where that’s gone out the window because the owners of those places, typically younger themselves, would rather make good food (or sell you that Lamborghini) than be caught up in pretense.

Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

I grew up just outside Santa Fe, and it was almost creepy. You go from the main town to the “old town” tourist areas and it turned into a parody of itself. In some cases it wasn’t much of a visual change but everyone just seemed to be trying harder to be laid-back and southwestern.
Las Vegas is that taken to an extreme. It’s a plastic scale model of parts of the real world, carefully assembled into a machine dedicated to separating tourists from their money. Whenever I’m there, I keep waiting for one of the locals to spot me, drop his human guise, and talk into his watch: “We’ve got one who can see!”
42C's avatar

42C · 85 weeks ago

Somehow I found myself involved in choosing between to major software systems for our company. The 10 hour sales pitches and demos nearly made me reconsider my carreer path entirely. The most awkward part were the fancy meals with the sales people. Sitting at wearing my Kohls brand shirt and tie with a bunch of old men wearing expensive suits eating $250+ meals was way outside my comfort zone. The dinner conversation was prorbably the worst, listening to a bunch of rich white men talk politics when they don’t think anyone not “like them” is around can get pretty sickening. In truth it wasn’t all bad but the idea that I was on the fast track to becoming a part of that bunch was a little frightening.

I have since moved on to world without suits and ties with a much more interesting and diverse group of people. I’m not entirely sure if I made the right decision but not being creeped out by who I’m becoming is definitely a perk.

I feel that way about spas. Spas totally creep me out. From the ridiculous array of totally organic chemicals designed to make you naturally look like nothing nature intended to a bevy of people who get paid to touch you in ways that make you feel good but totally aren’t borderline prostitutes.

I have tried to do the spa thing a few times. If other people are willing to spend goo gobs of money on this stuff, it must have some redeeming value, right? I mean, I have learned that expensive suits are worth the money, if you put value on looks and comfort. But I still can’t get comfortable with anything resembling a spa.

2 replies · active 85 weeks ago

supercalisto's avatar

supercalisto · 85 weeks ago

Ha! That’s funny as I work in a spa at the front desk. Most of the money your paying for at the spa is for the skill of a good therapist (most of our services are massages) and that’s nothing to do with making you look good but making you feel good. In Canada we can claim massages on our health insurance so most people don’t end up paying crazy money because they just claim it back. The only thin close to what you describe above could be facials, but other then cleaning, scrubbing your skin I wouldn’t say it make you look unnatural. Makes me wonder what the hell kinda spa you’ve been to.

Personally I hate clubs I’ve been twice in the my lie and the music and type of people and their behavior made me hate it so much and I cant understand how anyone enjoys it.

Im the opposite. I LOVE spas. Were I wealthy that is probably the one “pampering” type thing that I would pay for with reckless abandon.
A friend of mine was looking to buy a club chair. We walked into a furniture store on the main road and went inside for a look. Right as we entered the store they had a club chair next to the front door. We looked at the price and said “Ops! Wrong store.” And walked out. The chair was over $1000 and we didn’t even like it before looking at the price.

2 replies · active 85 weeks ago

My wife and I have done that dance before. The problem is that good furniture, stuff that will last for more than a few years just IS expensive. $1000 for a chair is a lot, but $500? If it lasts for 10+ years that’s super reasonable. The living room furniture we spent $1500 on almost 8 years ago is just now starting to fall apart.
Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

I got to go furniture shopping with my dad when they moved this year. Went to an Amish furniture store. The prices were high, but the last Amish table they had still has my teethmarks from 30 years ago.
stand's avatar

stand · 85 weeks ago

I get that feeling in Las Vegas. The airport, the casinos, restaurants, clubs, pretty much anywhere. It’s filled with people like that. Everyone tries to project this image of being really important. I can’t understand why anyone thinks of that as fun.

1 reply · active 85 weeks ago

The Unknown FB's avatar

The Unknown FB · 85 weeks ago

It’s much like Chris Hardwick says: “As a sober adult, Vegas from far away looks like a glittery stripper pole, but when you see it close up you just see a stripper pole covered in tears and feces.”
Allen's avatar

Allen · 85 weeks ago

They mean stock portfolios.
I bet he knew that.
Ceri's avatar

Ceri · 85 weeks ago

When I was in Rome on a two-week language course in my *mumblecough*th year at uni, some of my housemates talked me into going clubbing with them. I was about 10 years older than most of them at the time, and the last time I had been to a club was in high school. We ended up in the queue outside a dark door guarded by velvet ropes and a massive, bulldog-faced bouncer. All around us were tall, skinny, barely dressed Italian tween girls. I was wearing my least scruffy t-shirt and jeans and suddenly became extremely aware their sneers at my overweight-and-old-ness. I had to get out of there STAT.

2 replies · active 85 weeks ago

I have extremely limited experience with “clubs” but I’m positive I would react the same way. The only exceptions are when the club or club-type environment is filled with people who are all there for the same reason. Once was on JoCo Cruise Crazy 3, and again was during the Cyanide And Happiness Banana Bar Crawl in Toronto. When everyone is there to have one, no one is trying to get laid by a stranger and everyone shares a common interest, it’s much easier to let go and have fun.
The Unknown FB's avatar

The Unknown FB · 85 weeks ago

And, it’s probably better than the gay model of going to bars to S&M: Stand & Model.
I’m sure straight people have scenes like that as well. 😎
Bemmie 's avatar

Bemmie · 85 weeks ago

I was recently in Paris, the homeless people made me feel underdressed and out of place… Was ordering dinner and after ordering food and drinks was asked, “and for wine?” I said no wine thanks, after that I’m not sure if she was looking at me or a cat who had vomited up something and died,

Never felt more like I didn’t belong, in a few cafés it was fine… Maybe in 50-60 years when I can afford to go again, we’ll go outside Paris…

HikingViking's avatar

HikingViking · 85 weeks ago

Growing up in Orange County, CA felt like that. I can relate to your story about the excessive-ness of a store. But imagine this Joel: when you leave that store, you’re still in a land of excess. You might think, “Oh, I just need to get out of this overpriced shopping center with faux Spanish roofs. Maybe once I get on the road I’ll feel better.” But you’d be wrong. Instead, you’d be in traffic, stuck behind hundreds of the newest cars leased by people who feel the great need to show them off. Maybe you’d stop for lunch. You’d try to find a low-key place, but no matter how low-key you went, someone would be talking very loudly about INSERT BIG NAME HERE. And it would go on…and on. Until you left Orange County.

4 replies · active 85 weeks ago

Rheinman's avatar

Rheinman · 85 weeks ago

I’m guessing those half circle red terra cotta tiles that figure prominenetly in the Taco Bell school of architecture
Dallas is actually a lot like that, only more spread out and no one is talking about Hollywood like they’re “in the biz.” There’s still an obscene amount of money down here and people do seem to enjoy flaunting it.
Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

I used to like Whole Foods and their quality, back when my mom was paying for it (and deciding where we go, I wasn’t some whiny kid throwing a tantrum about organic produce). These days Safeway is fine, and less painful.
Steve's avatar

Steve · 85 weeks ago

Once when I was younger, I was at an area mall. Despite the fact that it was one of the last malls in a hundred mile radius to boast an arcade, I still felt ill at ease there. I seldom go back, though the feelings of dread are replaced by sorrow that the place’s anchor store is a Hobby Lobby.
Fengor's avatar

Fengor · 85 weeks ago

My mother and I went to London this past summer on a shoe string budget,and one of the things she really wanted to see was Harrod’s department store. Not only was this place like the Wonka Factory of malls (sadly I did not see any Oompa Loompas) but every store, every freaking store, made you feel poorer than the last.

Their collection of every Lego set ever made, was alone enough to make me realize that this was not a store where the common folk made purchases.

4 replies · active 85 weeks ago

Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

Once visiting my grandparents in Chicago we went to an FAO Schwartz. It felt like a toy store for the rich and famous who would never even think of doing something so crass as playing with their toys.
HAH! I know EXACTLY what you mean. There’s almost nothing there an actual person could even purchase. $5000 stuffed elephants and $2000 Powerwheels cars. Who is that stuff even for? You can’t play with a 15 ft tall stuffed animal.
Fengor's avatar

Fengor · 85 weeks ago

Well…I can think of a few things one could do with a 15ft tall stuffed animal, and most of them are creepy or illegal.
Steve's avatar

Steve · 85 weeks ago

Miley Cyrus beat you to many of them.

…ooooo, too soon.

If you’re going to work to earn all this money, you might as well use it to enjoy yourself in the limited time you have.
Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

For me it’s restaurants. My brain goes along the lines of “25 bucks for a steak dinner? I could buy for meals’ worth of steak and potatoes for that much. Granted since I’m a fat bastard it would last me about two meals but the point still stands!”

2 replies · active 85 weeks ago

I’d say above $25 a head for a “special occasion” is where my comfort zone ends. Otherwise I want to feed my family of 3 for $35 with tip.
Bruceski's avatar

Bruceski · 85 weeks ago

Yeah. I pulled the price off of when we were celebrating my cousin getting a college professor job. Delicious steak, but my personal quality/price scale tends to steer me toward “as long as it’s edible and doesn’t actually taste BAD.”
For a variety of reasons, last year I let a younger friend drag me to a college party. I discovered that although I’m still firmly in the middle range of 20’s, I am too damn old for that nonsense. Although, much like any club I’ve ever briefly gone to, I was never much of a fan in the first place.
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