It figures, of course, that the one time I go abroad and pack light is the one time when I actually would have used all of the other crap that I usually over-pack. Like that polka-dot dress that I brought to Ireland and never wore? Or the denim vest that I only ever wear to punk concerts and 80s nights? Yea, both of those were sorely missed last night.
I’ve found that my best friends tend to be the ones that get ridiculously excited about the same silly things I do, or at least those who can appreciate my excitement, even if they don’t share it. So you can imagine how I felt when we found out that one of our Tico friend’s cousin’s Rockabilly band was playing on Friday night and my friend Dominique goes “I want big teased hair, all up like this.” And I said, (trying desperately to keep the hopeful tone out of my voice) “wait, are we dressing up?” And she looked at me as if I were crazy and said “Of course. Oh! And if you need something to wear, I have that hot pink, high-waisted skirt that I wore the other night and a bunch of other stuff to choose from.”
Flash forward to Friday night. I’m sitting on the edge of my bed and staring forlornly at my closet on the edge of despair. WHERE ARE ALL OF MY CLOTHES??? There’s a grand total of 7 hangers in my closet. The clothes that hang from them are looking limp and sad and had been mentally discarded long ago. All of my jeans are too baggy or “relaxed” to be considered adequate. I pull out my stack of shirts. T-shirt, t-shirt, hippie shirt, t-shirt, too contemporary, too girly, too bright, hippie shirt, too fancy, too flowy, hippie shirt, print, too bright… Eventually I was left with one black wife-beater with “Jack Daniels” stamped across the front which is actually rather perfect and a denim skirt that was too big to even pretend to be a pencil skirt. Pitiful. At least borrowing shoes would be no problem, which is the only thing that kept me from pining for my black heels which I also left at home. (Oh they would have been perfect – peep-toe sling backs) I throw all of my make up into a bag, gel, hairbrush, bobby pins, bandanas and trot out to the waiting taxi, thoroughly displeased with my makeshift outfit and my general lack of preparedness for situations like this. Again, pitiful.
You see, if there’s one thing I do, its costume. My Halloween costumes are always extravagant, varied, and plentiful. I have specific clothes for specific occasions – the red and white striped sweater for the Christmas season, white pants and navy shirts for summers on the Cape, rust colored scarves and sweaters for late autumn academia. Even day – to –day I dress myself according to a mood and a costume. Some days I’m feeling more artsy to I wear off-the shoulder shirts and put my hair up in a clip. Other days I’m feeling tomboyish, so it’s white t-shirts, relaxed jeans and my converse, sometimes pigtails if I’m feeling youthful too. On days in which I’ve got the wanderlust coursing through my veins again and I wear all my cloth and leather bracelets, interesting earrings and hippie shirts. I costume. It’s what I do.
So the idea of not having the ability to put together a satisfactory costume drove me to distraction. I set myself firmly to making it up to myself by making-up my friends perfectly – cat-eyes and red lipstick., victory curls and twists done up in bandanas, flowers and feathers and plastic jewels.
Sitting in the taxi, no one wanted to admit it, but we were all just a little nervous that maybe we went a little too far…
Suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of the California District, in leopard print and high-waisted skirts, just a smidge too vintage to go unnoticed in the sea of punk muttering distractedly that for all they know, we could dress like this every day. Maybe we were just THAT type of person, you know? The Amy Winehouse meets Katy Perry look. Maybe we always look like this, for all they know…
You see, today’s Rockabilly is a revival of 1950’s rock and roll (or of the original rockabilly style) in a modern punk context. It’s the roots movement of punk rock, if you will. The genres, all though distinct, definitely mingle. It’s when punk kids wear bowling shirts and wifebeaters, pompadours instead of Mohawks, and completely un-distressed leather jackets. In the back of my mind I questioned the commitment to rockabilly that we may find in Costa Rica, so I tried my best to make sure the punk part of it was emphasized. Black tank, denim. Black, red and white. Plaid. Converse with floral. Exaggerated cat-eyes. It’s usually fairly easy to blend Rockabilly with Punk and go unnoticed. But the absolute vintage glory of our hair-dos kept us from any sort of blending in. (That and the fact that we were 5 gringas who were not only obvious, but obviously uncertain about where we were).
But stepping inside that bar, when we finally found it, was like stepping back in time, and ceremoniously stepping up on a dais. The place was packed and the crowd was mostly punk, but it was obvious that here, Rockabilly reigned supreme. Greaseres leaned against the walls. The tables were filled with punk kids with a hints of 40’s and 50’s – up-dos, cat-eye glasses, and even some bowling shirts and argyle. We still stuck out, but this time in a rather awe-some way.
And then commenced the night of skanking and twisting. The bands were crazy. The music was fast and boppin’ and at one point the bass player jumped up onto his bass and played crouched over like some sort of cat, ready to spring. By the end of the night, when the surf-rock band had set up their little antenna contraption that makes those alien-like sounds that are so, SO essential to that classic surf-rock sound, the floor was packed and bouncing. I spent most of my time fighting off cramps from twisting too much – fully committed to my persona for the night, I wanted it to look like I always spent the night doing the twist.
At one point Dominique and I pulled away to the bar to grab a drink and catch our breaths, and chatted with our friend, Alvaro, and his cousin, the drummer for the first band. He wore a broad-shouldered black suit with a yellow tie, a fedora and wingtips and had three tattoos of Frank Sinatra on one arm, one of Johnny Cash on the other and the Beatles across his chest (supposedly). Alvaro leaned over the music and shouted “He says you ladies look like pin-up girls!”
In writing it sounds sleazy, and as Dominique later pointed out, anything else would have been. But being compared to a pin-up girl by the drummer of the rockabilly band not only realized my intention and hard work, but absolutely made the night complete. It was the highest compliment we could have possibly been paid.
At 1am we retired to the nearest Taco Bell (yes, Taco Bell) and discussed plans for more Rockabilly adventures, both here and back in the States. And I reveled to once again be getting weird looks for being outlandish, rather than for being gringa.