Monday, July 25, 2005

The *Real* Traveling Pants

These are trousers that have put in time and effort all around the country. They are genuine, government-issued khaki BDUs (battle dress uniform) in men's size medium. (What, you don't think the Army would actually make clothes to fit women, do you?)

These pants bear the scars of their own, nonviolent battles. The marks are not listed in chronological order.

A spot of burgundy on each knee represents two full days spent crawling around on the ground, painting large, wooden wagon wheels. If you think it is easy to paint something round and full of crannies with a large, flat brush, are mistaken. :) This was one of the projects at TrailBlazers in New Jersey.

The pants are marked in many places with pale blue paint. The number marks the place where a poorly-aimed roller rolled right off the plank I was painting. Oops. The planks were some weird, very heavy material for house siding, which we painted for our sponsors, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bridgeport (Connecticut).

Spots of thick gray paint represent our short sojourn in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. For two weeks, we did almost nothing except paint. As a result, I dreamt of almost nothing but painting. It was so boring that I would not be able to stay asleep. I bored myself awake!
Anyway, the first thing we had to do was scrape off the old, gray, lead paint from the main lodge building. There had to be tarps (old bedsheets) underfoot at all times to catch the flaking chips. After the old stuff was off, we painted a layer of the thick, gray, oil-based paint. That shit does NOT come off easily. We all had to soak our hands in turpentine, and then scrub, to remove it. And even then there was a gray tinge left to the skin.

These markers in two places represent a project with Seattle Works. One marker is at a spot of yellow, in a clear imprint of the end of a paint roller, the other is at a streak of bright green dripping down the leg. There's also a small bit of purple on the other leg that I didn't mark.
This project involved painting the computer lab of a nonprofit. We painted using those three colors they had chosen: a two-foot-wide purple strip running horizontally along two walls, with green below and yellow above. Another whole wall was green, and the last whole wall was yellow. It was an odd combination, but it worked alright.

--Some of the white paint at the bottom is from painting the computer lab at the primary school where we tutored kids in Baltimore.

--Other white paint is from cutting in ceilings while working in Bridgeport.

Now, lest you think that I only did four things while wearing these pants, and they were all painting, oh, just you wait! These pants also bear invisible witness to all kinds of other projects:

--They helped me build things and haul things in all projects.

--The tough material soaked up river water and mud from the Quinnipiac River in Connecticut.

--It absorbed sweat while we built a labyrinth out of gravel and brick.

--It bounced off chips of paint being scraped from a dock and a basement at TrailBlazers.

--The pants kept me warm in the freezing cold of Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut. Often I layered sweatpants or leggings underneath.

--In the same vein, these pants became pajamas in New Jersey when it was too cold to undress. We slept in our uniforms, then worked all day in them, then slept in them, then worked, etc.

--These pants got washed a maximum of once a week. They really became part of me!

--They have protected me from nettles, thorns, and poison ivy while hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey, canoeing the river in Connecticut, and pulling weeds at Magnuson Park in Seattle.

--They protected me from dust and insulation debris while climbing around basements and attics while volunteering with the East King County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

--They protected me from needles and other scary human debris while cleaning a bird park and several city blocks of Baltimore.

--They kept me sweaty while doing disaster work in humid-ass Texas.

--The huge cargo pockets provided space for wallet, book, walkman, snacks, and camera, while traveling by van or by plane. When working, they held water, snacks, gloves, and camera. I loved those damn pockets.

What about the warm, humid summer months, you ask? Well, during that time, the Traveling Pants were replaced by the Traveling Shorts.

These shorts were acquired secondhand, as my issued pair were heavy winter weight material, and huge enough to slide off even fully buttoned and buckled (see the little tab at the upper right corner? that's for cinching them tighter if needed. all the pants and shorts have them).
They came pretty dirty, but I did my part in contributing even more scars of battle.

Our main jobs in New Hampshire and Cape Cod involving painting unit buildings around the camp. We always used the same dark brown paint. As you can see, I was quite often a messy painter; my shorts, shirt, and even bathing suit (what? it was really fucking hot in New Hampshire in July!) got a good coating of the ugly brown stuff.

This gray paint is from the Cape Cod oil painting.

--These shorts also kept me cool while running around doing other projects in New Hampshire, like walking horses, carrying hay, and doing outdoor programs with campers.

--These shorts absorbed sweat and mud in Delaware, when we planted 700 trees in one day at a charter school.

--They helped me help my cousin tape and paint his new apartment this month.

--They helped me gauge my weight: when tight, I knew I had been eating too much lately. When I could tighten the cinches, I knew I was on the slender side.

--They are comfortable and I love them and I often forget that they are covered in paint. Occasionally I walk around in public in them, and I just mentally dare anyone to say something about them.

_ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _

At first glance, these clothes are old, ratty things that should probably be tossed out straightaway. But they hold so much value in their memories, and I will keep them and use them for a long time.
Plus, that shit is built tough. It's freakin' army gear!

So, bloggers, now it's your turn: What clothes of yours hold a story?

1 comment:

Fred said...

Mine would have to be my shoes. Believe it or not, I have a pair that is over 10 years old, and I continue to wear them proudly.

Why? Becasue I hate shoe stores. I'm lousy at buying them, and usually walk out with the wrong size. Even after I've tried them on.

I fear shoe stores. I wonder if there's a name for that?