Priscilla's World | A $3.00 Tux for New Years
A $3.00 Tux for New Years

Rodney tuxAs New Year’s Eve approaches, our friend Martin suggests to his buddies Don and Rodney, “Let’s take the nice ladies to a nice place to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.”

A flurry of planning fills the next few days. Martin insists that a celebration can’t be complete if the men don’t wear tuxes.

My husband, Rodney objects, “I don’t own a tux.”

Martin is impervious to his objections. “Go buy one.”

Rodney and I don’t want to hurt Martin’s feelings, but we don’t see how we can spend money on clothes we don’t need. We ponder what to do. Rodney talks with Don who comes to the rescue with a brilliant suggestion, “I know where we can find a tux for you cheap.”

A couple of days later Don picks up Rodney and drives to an unfamiliar crowded street on Chicago’s near north side. A line of ratty little stores come into view. They enter a rather dirty looking second hand clothing store. Don explains, “This is where my son, Moff and his actor friends buy clothes they need for a play. All the theater guys and gals come here.”

As the men enter the store, musty, stale air accosts them. Don describes what they need and the owner takes them to a big box of jumbled clothing in the back of the store. Rodney shoves down a queasy feeling as he paws through the unbelievable mix of this and that. It is obviously all men’s clothing, but it’s hard to see what some of the pieces are. Finally, he pulls up a wrinkled black wad…a tuxedo. Feeling slightly squeamish, he tries it on; it fits. “How much?” he asks.

“I can let you have that for $3.00,” the storeowner says.

“Great. But I probably need a tux shirt also.”

“Here is a pile of shirts.”

It takes a while, but the pile of shirts finally reveals a wadded up, dirty tux shirt. Rodney says, “This looks like it has been worn to at least ten Polish weddings…you know those events where everyone enthusiastically enjoys the music and dancing. How much do you want for the shirt?”

“I can let you have it for $15.00.”

Rodney, gulping at this high price says, “OK, I’ll take the tux, shirt and I need a cummerbund.”

Next stop, the cleaners.

New Year’s Eve arrives. Betty, Mary Warren and I are dressed in our finest party dresses. But the three men in their tuxes are the elegant stars of the evening. The six of us have reservations for dinner at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Cafe on Lake Michigan.

The building, deliciously pink, with cakelike adornments, was part of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, built in the 20’s and torn down in 1967. The apartment building was spared. The roaring twenties are still evident in the art deco lobby with high ceilings, chandelier and ornate woodwork. As we walk toward the café the pink-striped wallpaper and mauve carpet make the hallway pop.

The maître de escorts us across the elegant room with its dark wood accents setting off the white tablecloths and soft lighting. I can see how appropriate the tuxes are.

We relax in an atmosphere that recalls a time long past. Mary Warren asks the men to select the wine. I feel over-whelmed by the menu with its offering of French-inspired dishes.

Rodney and I both chose the escargots and roasted duck. As we enjoy our scrumptious dinner I mention my grandmother’s admonition which added the frosting to the cake. I think she said this every time we ate with her. “When you have something very good to eat, remember to eat as slowly as you can. You want that enjoyment to last a long time.”