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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hanger Stories

Working writers often find themselves writing about everyday objects to earn their daily bread. Writing more than 5,600 words about clothes hangers can make a person lose perspective. You could see the copy that the client preferred on major hanger sites. It describes the hangers. What follows are the leftovers--the rejected ideas, take-offs, send-ups and mini-plays--and I think, the real gems in the mine.

Close(t) Encounters of the Alien Kind
The spaceship hovered over the suburban Billings neighborhood so long that people came out of their houses to watch what they thought must be a promotion for a new movie, or a car dealership. When it finally landed in the playground of the school, everyone was there , excited, fearful, filled with hope, to meet the aliens. They descended from the glowing silver hemisphere on a long, inclined ramp, their wheel-like feet rolling smoothly across the platinum surface. They were not little; nor were they green. Pink hair and wide, orange eyes peered out over the tops of violet smocks that covered them from neckless neck to kneeless knee. When they spoke, they sounded like birds singing by a brook. They were lovely.

But their message was strange. After consulting language experts from all over the world and getting nowhere, a noted birdwatcher finally pinpointed their words as a cross between a Frisian dialect and the warbling of the pileated woodpecker. "They want our hangers," announced the birdwatcher, before slumping into a middle-aged faint. He was revived with an espresso and a cinnamon cruller. The translation of the story was continued. The aliens came from a peaceful planet and had no interest in Earth's scientific community, in warfare or finance or in cultural exchange. They stated freely that, as soon as they had what they'd come for, they would return to the home planet and destroy their spacecraft: they didn't want others from their planet to suffer the indignities of space travel.

They lived on cellulose and the extract of the cocoa bean. Their planet's major fuel source was water that had been modified to burn slowly. It gave off great heat at Earth's normal range of room temperature and froze at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. You could heat your house by leaving a pot of water on any surface, and cool your house automatically by running pipes through the areas that gathered the most heat.

They had come to Earth for one reason. Their smocks refused to stand upright, and when they were laid into a drawer or across a chair, they appeared rumpled and untidy. (Attempts to make smocks from more rigid textiles had failed: everyone was allergic to polyester). The aliens were disturbed by this unseemly behavior on the part of their clothing, but no one in their society had adequately addressed the situation. Seems the great minds were engaged in growing beets by ESP or calculating the energy absorption of a baby's cry. They were poets, they declared, not household engineers. They sought Earth technology to help them solve the most pressing problem on their planet.

The linguists tried to ask the aliens how their spaceship ran, how far their planet was from Earth, and how we might solve our problems with solutions they had already found. The aliens did not reply. A woman in the audience understood. She ran back to her house and gathered her favorite hangers: well-built hardwood hangers, space-saving flat bodies, 17" long, and more than a half-inch wide. Finished with velvet flocking, with two notches for smocks with straps, and a polished steel swivel hook.

The aliens bent their heads over the hangers, and the tallest one rolled back to the woman, who had just observed that they exuded the scent of fresh peaches. He handed her a blue stone the size of a small canning jar. It was a sapphire. The aliens moved up the platinum ramp in a smooth procession, nodding and warbling to the Earthbound onlookers. The ramp slid seamlessly into the body of the ship, and the great craft rose into the sky. There it hovered for an instant, then disappeared into the vastness of the Montana sky.


My J. Peterman Copy Style: Subject, Hangers

If Raymond Chandler Had Dealt with Hangers...
He pushed into the room, shouldering aside the reporters, ignoring the appreciative stares of gown-clad, bejeweled women. Reaching the Brazilian mahogany bar, he poured himself a tall glass of iced water and drank it in a gulp. Slamming the glass down on the bar, he turned to face the room, now silent, eager curiosity on every face. When he spoke, his voice was dark and flat. "Get out," he said, and the crowd left without a murmur. Even the bigmouthed guy from the Times went without a word, cowed by the dangerous look in his eyes.

When the door closed behind the last retreating figure, he sighed. He untied the belt of his trenchcoat, pushed the buttons through their holes and strode to the closet. He pulled out a wooden hanger and inspected it. Hard wood, smooth neck, broad, even sides. The trench slid onto that hanger like it fit his very own body: you could almost hear it sigh. He smoothed the fabric with one hand and slid the closet door shut. He flung himself into a leather armchair and broke into a hearty, full-throated laugh.

Our precision crafted Park Avenue Coat and Jacket hangers feature heavy gauge, polished European steel swivel hooks and shoulders of the finest hardwood. Finished with multiple coats of lacquer to prevent splintering, the two-inch wide, contoured shoulders preserve the shape of your jacket or coat, ensuring the long life of your fine garments. Eighteen inches long, two inches wide, with a body curved to fit coats that fit the body. Natural finish for a modern twist on a classic design.


Hanger in the City
Gerald started in the newspaper business as a delivery boy, but he always knew he'd be a journalist someday. When I met him, he was taking the midnight shift at the police station. If a mobster took a dislike to another mobster, Gerry heard about it first. The beatings, the robbings, the killings, all the gritty, dirty little things that happened in the big city after dark, those were his working world.

But if you met the man in the daytime, when he wasn't chasing ambulances or smoking, looking off in remembered amazement at the things that happened in the night, you'd have thought he was a teacher or an accountant. Maybe a banker, even; the man was that squared away. Crisp, white shirts, tweed coats and dark pants, perfectly-knotted ties that never went askew, that were never spilled on.

I visited Gerry's place, a small, spare apartment near the newspaper office. There were two armchairs, a coffee table, a Murphy bed. Tiny kitchen, but Gerry didn't care: he was single and ate at a cafeteria just down the block. Coffee pot on a hotplate, a couple of day-old donuts in a paper sack.

But Gerry's closet was another matter. Long, it took up the whole length of the apartment. Well-lit, with a wall switch on the outside. Filled with class; suits, coats, of good wool, sweaters, a row of sparkling white shirts and another of light blue ones. Egyptian cotton, Gerry said, from days on a Fullbright in Cairo. Women with dark, haunted eyes who lounged on cushions and fed you figs, and never cared to talk. Hot, bright days and sultry nights, and an old tailor a few blocks away who made custom-fit, pure cotton shirts for three dollars apiece. He still did, and when Gerry got ahead on his salary, he'd send the tailor fifty bucks and get another batch of fresh shirts.

"What do you do with the old ones?" He laughed. "Give them away. Throw them away. Who cares? Want some?"

He undraped them from the hangers, and handed me three. Then he threw in a navy-blue linen coat.

Our Park Avenue Suit Hangers are precision crafted from the finest hardwood. Heavy-gauge polished brass European swivel hook. The dark, walnut-finish hardwood is smoothed with multiple coatings of lacquer prevents splintering. Two-inch wide contoured shoulders will preserve the shape of any jacket or coat and will extend the lifetime of your garment.

Love and Hangers
Eloping is a serious matter, particularly when the lady in question has a jealous would-be lover pacing on the porch. A ladder to the top window, scurrying and whispering from best friend and sister, and the love of your life, descending like a trembling moth, in a white nightgown. Her sister pitches the small suitcase nearly onto your head and you drive away, just as the porch-bound Lothario breaks down the door. Thank goodness you wore your best Brooks Brothers coat: you can never go back.

Eloping from a small town or job-hunting in the big city, you're going to need something to keep that coat looking neat. Our elegant hand-crafted car coat hanger attaches to the back of a seat by means of a fabric strap that slides over the seat back. There's no hook to get in your way: just slip the garment off and place it on your own shoulders as you run up the steps to wake the Justice of the Peace. Our eighteen-inch-long hardwood hanger sports shoulders a roomy two inches wide, to keep coats hanging free and flat. The walnut finish contributes to the look of solid respectability, combined with strong fashion sense.


Ten Things You Can Do with Clothes Hangers Besides Hanging Clothes on Them

1. Stake cherry tomatoes. Stand a metal or plastic hanger on one curved end. Bury it in the ground, up to the neck, so that half the hanger is out of the ground.. Tie your small tomato plants to the hanger to keep them upright.

2. Store hair clips. In drawers or bags, your plastic hair clips can wind up with broken tines. Instead, place your clips around the circumference of a clothes hanger for handy storage.

3. Dry pasta. When you make linguini or spaghetti from scratch, hang a clothing hanger from a cabinet door and drape the noodles over it to dry.

4. Remove onion smell from hands by rubbing them across the steel top of a clothes hanger under running water.

5. Keep scarves fresh and easy-to-reach. Instead of leaving them wadded in a drawer, loosely knot your scarves around a clothes hanger. Use clothespins to clip small bags of lavender to each end of the hanger for added fragrance.

6. On the road, "iron" clothes by hanging them (on hangers, of course) in the bathroom, then run a steamy shower for fifteen minutes. Smooth wrinkles out with your hands after the first few minutes.

7. On hot, sunny days, crisp your linen shirts by hanging them damp from the wash in a bright, breezy window.

8. Bundle garden herbs and tie their tops with twine or string. Tie them on varying lengths of twine (so they hang unevenly and dry faster), and hang them from a clothes hanger that you've placed in a shady, airy room. Keep out of sunlight (it weakens the herbs natural oils), and leave the herbs until they are completely dry. Place in plastic tubs or glass jars and store in the freezer until use.

9. Make a mobile by using decorative thumbtacks to attach fishing line to a wooden hanger. Attach ten or twelve pieces of line, making sure they are equal in length. (Don't tie them too tight: you'll want to adjust the spacing later.) Next, tie the bottom of each piece of line around small glass rings or metal tubes (you can find them at your local crafts store). Tie the glass or metal evenly on the lines and adjust the lines' spacing so they'll clank together.

10. Impress stucco. Use clothes hangers to make marks in wet plaster for added texture on interior or exterior walls.

Motel Madness: The Case of the Theft-Free Hangers
2. He scooped up the shower cap and two bars of soap as she folded the thick, Turkish terry-cloth towels into her leather suitcase. "Did you get the remote?" he asked, giving the shower rod a yank that brought the curtain sliding onto the bathroom floor.

"Got it," she answered, "and the Bible, too."

There was knocking on the door. He cursed under his breath. "You get it," he said. She went to the door and opened it a crack. "We're not ready for housekeeping," he heard her say. "Ten more minutes, okay? Dias? Okay, 'bye." He heard the maid's trolley thumping on to the next room.

"We're nearly done," she said through the bathroom door. He emerged with the damp shower curtain tucked under his arm and saw her standing by the open closet. She had finished packing their jackets; now she was tugging on the first of the hangers.

"I...can't...get...it...off," she said through clenched teeth. "It...won't...come..off."

He finished shoving the shower curtain into his tote bag and came over to her. "Here, I'll get it," he said, reaching into the closet. But the hangers were too secure. Sure, they looked easy, straight metal necks twisting lightly in the holding bar. The slight curve of the polished wooden shoulders were like the sloped shoulders of a lovely woman, he thought, closing his finders around a hanger and pulling hard. Nothing happened.

His wife was standing beside him. "Let's just get out of here, Jim," she said, wrapping a light bulb in toilet paper and stashing it in her purse.

"What, and leave these hangers? No way," he said. He stuck his head into the closet, looking for an angle. His motto had always been, if there's a way in, there's a way out. "There's gotta be a way..." he muttered. "If I could just pry it apart..." He called to his wife, "Get me a hanger, willya?"

She snorted. "Good one," she said.

The maid knocked again. "It's checking-out time," she called through the door. The woman opened it a crack: the maid could see the man's back end sticking out of the closet. "My husband lost something," the woman said, and shut the door. The maid sighed and turned away.

He tried prying the hangers away from the groove that held them. He ripped his hands open trying to yank them out. They dangled, alluring, moving in the shaft of sunlight that caught their steel and hardwood curves. He could not leave without them.

They sat on the bed. His head was in his hands. She was in tears. In the closet, the hangers shifted easily in the metal groove that secured them, dancing in the slight breeze from the open widow.

(Jim was defeated by the Solid Anti-Theft Metal A-ring, used in combination with a nail hook, a smart idea for places where people tend to want to take things home.)


Lingerie and Hangers
Jeannette was a willowy blond: the most attractive woman in town. She also happened to be very a nice person. So when Caroline's husband of seven years stopped being attentive, she went to visit--and to get some advice. They had tea and cookies, and Jeannette showed her the rose garden. When the conversation became more familiar, Caroline broached the subject of her marriage.

"It's Jack," she said. "He's just not, not..."

Jeannette nodded. "They all get that way after awhile, it's part of the masculine mystique. A man gets married, gets a little older, he starts to want his newspaper and his slippers."

"And I want," said Caroline, "I want..."

"Romance," said Jeannette. "Excitement."

"Dancing and sweet talk," added Caroline.

"Tell me," said Jeannette, "What are you doing to encourage his interest?"

"What do you mean?" asked Caroline.

"What do you wear to sleep in?"

"Oh, my flannel pajamas, or a T-shirt and shorts," answered Caroline.

"Come with me."

Jeannette's closet was divided into sections for day dresses, beach outfits, evening wear. She pushed back the sliding door to reveal nightgowns of every color. Silk, satin and lace frothed out of the closet in a sea of lingerie. Jeannette's laugh was husky.

"Flannel and T-shirts are fine when you're sleeping alone," she said. "But if you want to wake your husband from his middle-aged inertia, I'd recommend something a little less subtle. You meet him at the door in something the color and transparency of seafoam. See how that works."

Caroline smiled. "I think I'm starting to see what you mean."

And one more thing."

"Perfume, heels?"

"Hangers: look at this." Jeannette shook a piece of diaphanous blue stuff onto the bed and exhibited the padded, pink satin hanger.

"When you hang your lingerie on a regular hanger, you're cheating yourself . Lingerie needs softness, delicacy. You can't get that with wood or metal. Satin's the thing. And nightgowns, slips, teddies, they need to be held safely, so they can't slip off; that's what the padding is for. See? You've got substance, but with perfect style. Now, when you're choosing your nightie, you're starting off right. Mood is everything, you know."

Our satin hangers are elegant, featuring a flat, space-saving body and an elegant satin bow at the neck. A brass ball on each shoulder keeps the most delicate straps in place. The swivel hook is made of polished brass. Your clothes will keep their shape and last beautifully when placed on our satin hangers. Available in ivory, pink or black. Also available in children's sizes for christening gowns, party dresses and other fancy clothing.

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