Commonplace

“I used to work with a bulldog of a reporter who once tried to sneak into a hospital ER—a homicide scene—wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard. He was thrown out almost immediately, but it scored big A-for-effort points with the bosses and people called him ‘doctor’ for a while afterward. It’s funny how disguises work: Badly, most of the time. You can go to the uniform-supply store and stock up, but you almost always get important details wrong. You forget the way nurses put stickers on their name tags. You wear the wrong shoes. (Maybe you’ve been watching House and assume all female physicians wear stilettos and plunging necklines, like Dr. Cuddy.) You forget to erase the expression from your face and give off a nervous vibe. There’s a reason good actors make good money. A believable impersonation is no small achievement.

“That this ridiculous caper was attempted in the company of the son of a U.S. attorney only makes it funnier. Things may look grim for Democrats in 2010, but as long as there are young men like James O’Keefe in the world, we’ll always have entertainment.

“A tangent, but it just popped into my head: I remem¬ber, in the film Crumb, a scene where Robert Crumb goes out making sketches of the little infrastructure details in American cities. He was about to move to France, and wanted to get them down so he wouldn’t for¬get to put them in the backgrounds of his drawings—high-tension wires, street lights, fire hydrants, concrete blocks at the end of parking places, all visual clutter we see-but-don’t, and only notice when they’re missing. That’s what people forget when they’re trying to be someone else.

“A few years ago, I looked up from my desk in the newsroom to see Sen. Evan Bayh walking past, en route to a meeting with the editorial board. He is exactly what he appears to be in his photos—tall, slim, blandly hand¬some in that vote-for-me kind of way. His suit fit him well without being overly European. If Hoosiers can be Brahmins, that’s what he looked like. Behind him scurried a number of aides, the lead one carrying all the hardware; his pants sagged from the weight of the multiple cell-phone holsters, pagers and PDAs he carried, this being before the era of consolidation in a single device. The way his navy-blue blazer stuck out at strange angles at his waist—that was the detail a cos¬tume designer trying to duplicate the look for a movie would struggle with. But it was the detail that established his station in life, the way Bayh’s slim weightlessness distinguished his own.”

—Nancy Nall, “Costume Party

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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