Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #76: Stillness is the Move by Dirty Projectors

Hammer pants.  Of course.  If you're going to co-op the best aspects of hip-hop production, why not simultaneously channel the secret shame of the industry.  Sew up some curtains and the rest is smooth sailing.

The early 1990s was clearly the heyday of ridiculous pants.  Parachutes pants may had fallen from grace at that point, but nobody really had time to miss all those zippers.  Instead, society witnessed an epic collision on the x-y axis of fashion when the irresistible force of Hammer pants met head on with the immovable object that was Zubaz, (a company I'm amazed to discover still exists)!  By the time I was in 7th grade, I had a pair of legitimate Notre Dame Zubaz pants, along with an additional pair of Dunham's-style Zubaz knockoffs.  Hammer pants never quite conquered the consumer market; they were more a symbol of what could be attained one day as opposed to a logistical reality for pre-teens of the midwest.

But on an 1992 overnight bus ride in Pennsylvania, I discovered what it was like to witness the majesty of the Hammer pants with my own eyes.
The 8th grade buses were returning from Washington, D.C. to Indy.  I sat wavering in the miserable state between sleep and consciousness for hours, still not fully recovered from an ugly stomach-related illness that befell me at Chuck E. Cheese a couple days previous. It was sometime around 2AM when the bus pulled off the interstate in Wilkes-Barre, PA to gas up at one of the many lovely gas station/convenience store/24-hour diner hybrids that litter the width of the state.  Most kids stayed sleeping on the buses, but a few handfuls filed off to use the bathroom or grab some food.  I ambled off like a zombie just to get some fresh air.

We were milling about outside when the first couple girls came sprinting out the doors.  "MC HAMMER IS INSIDE!"  The high pitched squeals rang through the parking lot as the hopping grew more widespread.  Were I to compile a list of sentences I expected to hear in outside a Pennsylvania diner in the dead of night, MC Hammer's presence likely wouldn't have been a factor in any of those listed declarations.  But he was (supposedly) inside eating dinner at 2AM.  Of course, the rivalry that had formed between the girls and boys buses over the course of the trip made us skeptical of their claims.   A group of guys followed the girls back inside, and I came face to face with the hair guy:

Holy shit.

I would have had no idea that the hair guy existed were it not for the seminal 1991 Taco Bell ad wherein Hammer chastised hair guy for having the audacity to crave a burger, then led his crew to paratroop over a Taco Bell entrance, using their Hammer pants for a smooth landing.  But there in that disgusting diner, I stared directly into the eyes of hair guy as he walked out the bathroom door and right past me.   His majestic Hammer pants silently glided through the stagnant air, his hair stood higher and firmer than I could have ever imagined, and I was frozen in the new hyper-reality we had launched into.

I turned my neck to the left and indeed, Hammer and his crew had stuffed themselves into a couple booths.  The 15 or 20 of us who had left the bus stood along the wall, gawking as if we were at a zoo, staring at a rare species of eagles.  We whispered back and forth, though I can't image what we were discussing.  Finally Lathrop - clearly the most fearless among us - approached the booth.  One of Hammer's bodyguards stood up, as if to protect the grown man from the 13-year-old who might do him harm, but Jeff somehow convinced the hired help that he wasn't a threat, and reached around to shake Hammer's hand.  We stood stunned, as if we had just seen a friend greet the President, or appear on the local news.  Earlier during the field trip, we were chastised for speaking during a ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier, or for not paying attention to our congressman during a meeting at the capital, but HERE?  We stared with rapt attention for about 30 more seconds before one of the chaperones walked inside and screamed at us to get back on the bus.  We boarded the bus and continued the trip home.  Try as I might, I can't recall if I wearing my Zubaz pants at the time.

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