October 23, 2003


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The nation’s economy is in the toilet, inflation is up, the dollar is down, pollution is giving us all cancer, there are public water fountains that are taller than our university president … and I don’t care. That’s right, I don’t care. You see, I’ve realized something no one else has. There’s a problem out there so horrific that I’m surprised I’m writing this now and actually scooping both Time and Newsweek. Some happy-hippie singer once posed the question, “where have all the flowers gone.” I ask something in similar fashion:

Where have all the clean clothes gone?

Now I don’t mean “where,” in the sense that clean clothes have vanished on the college campuses of America. Piles of dirty clothes are nothing new at Cornell or anywhere else. After all, for as long as there’s been t-ball, puppy dogs, and big piles of dirt, kids have been getting clothes dirty. That’s why department stores were invented. Recently, however, something has gone horribly wrong. I offer you this sad story for the simple reason that I have no where else to turn.

I spent this summer in Ithaca. It was magnificent, spending afternoons out in the plantations or carousing with friends in the gorges. As my great grandfather Al would have put it, I went “willy-nilly.” Or, at least that’s what I imagine he would have said — I never really met the guy. But I digress … back to the story. One day, I woke up and realized I had worn my last clean t-shirt. Luckily, my friends Rachel and Brian were going to the mall and offered to take me along. I was saved!

Or so I thought.

We entered the mall and Rachel wanted to go look in one of those trendy stores. I wasn’t really interested until I noticed they were having a sale. After all, with the prices of doing laundry in collegetown as high as they are, it’s pretty much cheaper to just buy new clothes. Which is where I entered upon this damning realization. I couldn’t find any. Oh, sure there were plenty of “new” clothes, but not really. I mean, can you call torn and dirty jeans new clothes?

One of the girls we were with came over and mentioned how I would look good in the pair of jeans I was standing in front of. “Good,” I told her. “I’ve already got three pairs that are just as dirty and ripped.” Then that one stereotypical ambiguously gay guy came over to try to sell me the jeans. After calling in the blonde sales associate from behind the counter, his manager, and the national guard, I realized things were getting hairy. (Luckily Rachel was willing to buy flip-flops to difuse the situation. Rachel, I owe you a good $29.95, if not my life.) The situation was not any better at other stores. The clothes appeared dirty, torn, or just plain busted. In the end, I went home, resigned to do the only thing I could: wait until my mother offered to do my laundry over fall break. But here I am. Just weeks after fall break, and almost out of laundry again. I could re-wear clothes and risk drawing the ire of my peers and be condemned as a slob, or I could buy “new” clothes and just actually look like one.

I don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but I will offer this. I will officially wear my last clean pair of pants this Saturday at 8p.m. in Sage Chapel. You see, I’ll be in my last bastion of clean clothes — my tuxedo — for the Glee Club’s Homecoming concert. So if you want to see a tortured young man go mad, or just want some good music, stop by.

Either way, I figure you’ll get one hell of a show.

Archived article by Matt Janiga