Hipster Hoedown

“Did you think that Andy was a complete jackass last night?” my hipster host friend asked me one day.  She asked this in a manner that suggested that I was there.  I wasn’t.  As with most leading questions, my hipster host friend continued without leaving me the space to answer.  “I wouldn’t call it funny, jackass behavior either.”  This was said, presumably, to cut me off at the pass, as I was usually the one left to inform serious critics of jackass behavior of the idea that the subject of their criticism was trying to be funny.  “I would call it the kind of behavior that no one recovers from, and no one wants to be around again.”  She went into detail to describe some of Andy’s actions, but again, she did so in a manner that suggested that I had intimate familiarity.

Nerds vs. Hipsters
Nerds vs. Hipsters

I didn’t put this altogether at first.  At first, her tone of familiarity had me so wrapped me up in a like-minded cocoon that I was laughing in a manner that suggested that I thought she was hilarious, that she should continue down this road, and that I agreed with everything she said, until it dawned on me that I couldn’t agree with her, because I didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Wait a second … party?” I said.  “What party?”

This was my inadvertent notification that I was no longer a member of the hipster circuit.  Was I upset?  An adamant “No!” would be a lie.  Indignant would be closer to the truth.  Indignation wrapped up in a big, old ball of confusion.  The confusion was based on the idea that I was never sure what landed me in their hipster world in the first place.  I was not their type, and every conversation I had at these hipster hoedowns, only reinforced this idea.

I have been informed, throughout my life, that I have a tendency to over think, and that if I ever want to have any fun in life I would need to learn how to relax.  If I would’ve over thought my inclusion in this group, I might’ve guessed that I was the court jester brought in by the Athenians to provide the party goers some entertainment, I might’ve also believed that there had been a calculated decision made in the high court of hipster hosts that I now belonged among their ilk, but I chose not to over think this matter.  I chose to relax, as prescribed, and enjoy the few parties that I had been invited to attend.  As a result, I never basked in the inclusion, and I wasn’t crushed by the exclusion.  I was left with the conclusion that the whole matter was simply a big old ball of fogginess that I would never be able to understand, because there really wasn’t anything to understand, because the whole selection process was so much more arbitrary than I had ever imagined. I realized that I had fallen prey to that very human belief that beautiful people have a more organized purpose.

This hipster host’s reaction to my “Party?  What party?” query told me all I needed to know, before she said a single word.  Had I walked up and slapped her as hard as I could, I don’t think her reaction would’ve been as revealing.  She was a calm, composed, and confident woman that could approach most otherwise revealing matters without even blinking, but this incident left her naked and exposed to the fact that I had either been “the Andy” of a previous report, or that my name had arbitrarily been taken off the list.  Whatever the case was, the hipster host forgot, for a moment, that I was no longer hipster du jour.

She looked to a friend, a fellow hipster host, searching for rescue.  Her expression suggested that she was pleading with that fellow host for some support, or some out, while affixing a pleasant, composed smile on her face for me.  When no assistance was offered, my hipster host, friend looked back at me with a smile that pleaded with me to just let it go.  I did, because by that point we were both fish flopping on the shore, and I knew that the definition of victory in such a contest is relative.  Before this incident could come to a close, however, I noticed an eavesdropper —an individual that had never been invited to one of these hipster parties— shoot me a “Welcome back to the other side pal” look.

Years later, this hipster host –long past her hipster status— invited me to a party.  We were, by this point, friends on Facebook, or friends that were declared friends for the purpose of showing the world we had friends.  We rarely if ever spoke, and when we spoke it involved recalling days gone by that were probably never as great as the dressed up memories recalled.  I immediately thought this invitation was conciliatory.  “An apology for all those ostracizing years,” is something that should’ve been printed along the masthead of her email invitation.

Calling any party, at this point in our lives, a party is kind a joke, at least when compared to the parties we all knew in our prime drinking years where all of the beautiful people involved did everything they could to control their sexual urges, lest they be the talk of the town the next day at work.  These forty-something parties often involve no one saying anything inappropriate, for at this point in our lives we’ve all learned the lessons from the indiscretion of youth and alcohol that have guilted us into never saying anything inappropriate again.  And these nights turn out to be as memorable as family get-togethers that involve extended family that you’ve never met, with which you have a loose connection that you’re trying to establish for the purpose of having a conversation you really want no part of.  The natural selection process this hipster host once used to determine who would populate her party is gone, and in its place is a desperate procedure devoted more to the quantity that could constitute a proper party than it was the quality of her hipster heyday.

When some confusion came into play regarding the specifics of the party, she asked me asked for a full-fledged commitment regarding whether or not I was actually going to be attending.  Hipster hosts never ask for a full-fledged conviction.  They simply feel sorry for those that decide not to attend.  Her request for commitment sounded a little desperate.  Did she want me at her party, because she loved me so much that she didn’t think it would be a proper party if I didn’t attend, or was she receiving so many vague commitments that she needed one solid one?  I still don’t know the answer to that question, but her desperation made it obvious that her once, much ballyhooed hipster status punch card had been punched.

“My husband and I just thought it might be fun to start a little tradition,” was the almost-apologetic follow up email the hipster host sent to the confirmed attendees.  It asked you not to expect a hip party even though its host was the one that conducted the parties of her era.  This was simply a gathering of people she knew, that almost-apologetic follow up stated, nothing more and nothing less.

When we undesirables got one look at one another, we realized how necessary that follow up call for a full-fledged commitment must have felt to her.  One attendee, a fifty-something, single guy decorated the various corners of my hipster host’s home.  How did this guy get an invitation, I wondered while watching him carry on about an amazing amount of anything he could think of saying, just to say it.  My hipster host friend would’ve been more apt to send this guy a “Don’t come within fifty yards of our party” restraining order for even thinking of nearing one of my hipster host friend’s party a decade ago.  Why was he invited?  Is seven attendees always better than six?  What if someone doesn’t show up?  We may want to invite the overweight, single neighbor we barely know, even if we run the risk of him showing up with dried cheese in his mustache, because seven is better than six.  This man was emblematic of not just a fall from hipster status, but a screaming, mile-long fall at the Grand Canyon.

He was the type that you invite if you feel that you may have too much food.  He dropped the “I came for the free food,” joke on everyone that everyone politely laughs at.  He was the type you invite if you hope to have one of your party goers make a joke about some girl’s tits; he was the type you invite if you fear that you may have bought too much beer; or if you want at least one of your guests fall at one point in the party.  (He did drop the line about food, he did drink at least four beers, he didn’t make the joke about some girl’s tits, but he did fall at one point.)  He was the type you invite if you fear long stretches of silence, because his presence will prompt your guests to keep talking in fear of this man coming up with another Cliff Claven conversation that prompts obnoxious guests that are always looking to say what others are only thinking when they tell him to “Shut UP!”

The other attendees were an invisible couple that had little-to-no apparent ability to start a conversation.  They smiled politely at the conversations of others, and they occasionally giggled.  They had the kind of innocuous, vacant characteristics drug smugglers salivate over in their search for individuals with indefinable characteristics.

I notice these quirky things, and I mentally list the deliciously uncomfortable things that I will say when everyone loosens up, but in the back of my mind I know no one will, and I’ll have to save all of this obnoxiousness for my after-party summation.  Our uncomfortable, prime drinking years that will lead to something obnoxious, are over, and my conversation topics have switched from mentioning the fifty-something, single guy’s abundant nipples, and those innuendo laden comments that gained me some fame in my prime drinking years to conversations that concern how my dog that has trouble eating regularly, and a quirky thing that my child does to provide the room some comfortable titters.

In the midst of my search for some fun topics to discuss, I recall a day when I brought a fifteen-foot inflatable Shrek on stage at a friend’s rock concert and danced with it. ‘This is one of the most obnoxious –and perhaps most hilarious– things I’ve ever done,’ I thought with this inflatable blocking my view of the audience.  You know when you are engaged in epic hilarity.  You feel that chill of impulsive artistic ingenuity.  You know that someone, somewhere will remember this for a generation.  You wonder how you are going to characterize this, and you are already pondering how you’re going to answer all those questions –in between the laughter– regarding why you did something so out of character.  You know that your friends will be on the edge of their seat waiting for the conclusion of your recap, until you look out into the audience and realize these people are not paying any attention to you.  They’re dancing, sure, but they’re dancing with the same amount of apathy they danced with throughout the show.  In desperation, you look back to those that know you, and you see that they’ve returned to their conversations, and you’re just a little bit older than you were before your last vestiges of youth drove you into doing something this hilarious.

I silently recall that night, and a handful of other nights, when my impulses drove me to do something epic and obnoxious and hilarious, and how it probably wasn’t any of the three.  I recall how I cashed in on almost all of them, and I do not do so in the manner a Spartan may his conquests on the battlefield.  I see nothing but regret laced with shame, and remorse for those times when I should have remained in the customary role of anonymity for which I’m better-suited.  This is age creeping up you, a like-minded listener may comment when I’ve concluded my story, and how I came to be a man that looks to his past more than his present or future.

Age has you regretting your past, coupled with the desire to relive it without that sense of regret.  Age has you examining your present state with a desire to live it with twenty years removed from your odometer.  But does it necessarily mean attending parties with no sexual tension, no beautiful people, and a sense of boredom among your new crowd of ostracized people that only feels bona fide through quantity over the quality.

A half-hour in the hipster host’s home recalls those extended family reunions where everyone involved struggles to find conversation topics among those they barely know, but should know by blood.  When they speak about their dog’s stubborn inability to eat on a regular schedule, you look over to the fifty-something, single guy in the corner hoping that he’ll say something about food or someone’s tits to make everyone uncomfortable.  When the invisible couple says something about their quirky baby, you realize that this is not going to happen.  You know that even the obnoxious guy has enough decorum to avoid interrupting that moment when they take out the phone and reveal the pictures of their newborn.  You notice how many times the otherwise invisible wife, and mother of the baby, has sipped on her hot tea while she speaks.  You hear the cartoons in the background that the hipster host was congenial enough to dial up for your child.  You see people tell innocuous stories with the kind of excitement, and edge-of-your-seat laughter that used to accompany dangerous, innuendo-laden stories that would embarrass the storyteller when they woke up the next morning, and your reactive laughter is so polite, it feels regurgitated.

The hipster host and I could’ve been an item, and I recall that window in time when she speaks.  Regret is inevitable when one calculates her ‘beautiful people’ score, but the polar opposite of everything she is –coupled with an equal measure of physical beauty– makes me happier than I’ve ever been.  The hipster host is the typical, beautiful person that defines herself by those things beautiful.  Ask her who her favorite actor is, way back in her hipster host days, and she’ll ruminate over the exploits of Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, the elf from Lord of the Rings, and on and on.  In the course of redirect, when you inform her that their acting ability is either suspect, or inconsequential, in their otherwise, innocuous movies, she would’ve spat, “Who gives a bit, he’s hot,” and you would’ve felt stupid for not recognizing that while immersed in her beautiful world.

Lying on the opposite, “You can’t be serious” pole of that discussion are Tim Conway and Don Knotts.  Two largely forgettable actors in a serious conversation about movies, that had the simple goal of making people laugh.  There was nothing glitzy, or glamorous about anything those two comedic actors did, and the mere mention of their name in such a discussion, would probably land one the same expression the paparazzi would give Tim Conway and Don Knotts if they ever deigned to step foot on a red carpet.

What does it mean that one person loves Don Knotts and Tim Conway, thirty to forty years past their prime, while another stays hip with those that exude sexuality?  No one knows.  No one knows why one thinks it’s a little endearing that a person wants to watch movies with “Who gives a bit, they’re hot” actors in it, and to be bluntly honest few care about the differences.  Those that do, know that it matters, but they don’t know why either.

It was her party, and for everything her forty-something party lacked, it still had an amiable host that was willing to do whatever it took to remind you why she was considered the host of her era.  Her sense of humor was still cutting edge, in a forty-something vein, her conversation topics were wide-ranging and provocative, and when she was afforded center stage there was never a lull.  It made this attendee remember a life that was, versus a life that is, and in every other sense, is as it should be.

Esoteric Man

It would’ve been difficult for me to evaluate the advertising executive trying to sell my wife on radio ad space in a normal manner, because he dressed like every guy I hated in high school. I knew I was being unfair, but as Anaïs Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Certain aspects of the way things are, are complicated by the way things were, in other words, and we cannot escape those influences.

The guy’s checkered pants reminded me of one of my many arch rivals in high school. The checkers were multi-colored, of course, but some of those colors were pink, and my arch rivals wore pink. I hated this ad exec. I hated him in the same manner I hated my arch rivals. The ad exec wore sensible shoes, chic eyeglasses, and he wore his hair in a messy coif. He was also a people person that knew how to relate to the folks, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with him before he said twenty words.

“I don’t even have cable!” was the most memorable thing this nouveau hipster said to punctuate the fact that he didn’t watch TV. “I only have Netflix, because my kid enjoys some show, but that’s the only reason.”

“Wow!” is what we were supposed to say in the space he provided. “You’re so esoteric, and philosophical! You’re what they call ‘a with’ it dude!” The hipster mentioned the name of the show his kid enjoyed, but it was as irrelevant to him as it was us. He didn’t want us to know anything about his kid. He wanted us focused on him and his preferences. 

He was a flood of useless information about himself. He was on the edge of his seat wondering what he was going to say next. He was a serious man who didn’t take himself too seriously, but he could get out of control at times too, and he knew that I knew that’s just the way he was, even though I never met him before.

“I don’t drink soda! It’s gross!” he said to initiate another preferences portion of our conversation, so that our sales meeting could be delightfully informal. He found his preferences to be very esoteric and philosophical, and he found that if he added a personal touch to his conversation it would culminate in a sale. This portion of the conversation gave schlubs like us a point where we could all relate to this salesman. He was being real for us to sell himself in the manner all salesmen know is fundamental to obligating customers to fork over a dollar.

As the two of us listened to this man, he presumably decided he was losing me at one point in our conversation, so he decided to focus his energy on me. He directed his energy at talking more often, when his focus should’ve been on talking less. This esoteric ad exec struck me as the type who has always been able to talk himself out of a pickle. His modus operandi (M.O.), I can only assume, was focused on creating more chaos in the minds of his clients, so that they didn’t have time to consider if a sale would be beneficial to them or not. I think he watched the tactics that law enforcement officials use in a drug bust. Break in, crash things, smash things, and scream a bunch of things at high volume to dismantle the central nervous system of the alleged perpetrators, so they don’t know what is going on, until the scene is secure.

I’m not sure, if this ad exec decided to disregard transitions in his stories, or if he wasn’t a fella that employed transitions, but his stories began to arrive in such a flurry that I lost my place in his stories a number of times, and I ended up forgetting almost everything he said. He was turning red at various points, and he began yawning in others. This suggested to me that his brain wasn’t receiving enough oxygen, but it was obvious that he preferred an oxygen depleted brain to a lost sale.

“Wow! You must really be smart,” those without control of their sardonic nature would say to the list of this man’s preferences. This is the type of response that an esoteric man expects from a TV watching, soda drinking, Neanderthal. He didn’t get it, this time. This time, he got a guy who stared at him with silent ambivalence, waiting for him to get back to the whole reason we came to him for in the first place.

“You know?” was the only transition that this man didn’t completely abdicate. It was the only form of punctuation this man had left to let his listener know that a sentence was complete. He mixed in a couple “You know what I’m saying?” questions to prevent losing me with redundancies, but that was the extent of his variation.

“Yes!” I replied to put a verbal foot on the floor and keep his transitions from spinning out of control. I almost screamed it once, but the parental, patience practice of counting to ten was all that prevented the outburst.

He engaged in an “aren’t we guys stupid?” chat that everyone considers harmless fun. When that didn’t achieve the desired result from me, he flipped to the “we’re all really stupid anyway” pop psychology, gender neutral nuggets, and the two of us were supposed to laugh heartily at those stories, because we could both relate to dumb people humor. It reminded me of a heavy metal band’s lead singer attempt to reach his audience by mentioning the fact that he actually rode in a motorized vehicle on the paved roads of my hometown. “Today as we were driving down MAIN STREET…” YEAH!

He was a nicknames feller. Even though he didn’t apply such nicknames to me, I’m quite sure that he calls more than one male in his life “dawg”. He probably also calls a couple of them “Bra!” and he bumps fists with them as he works his way past their cubicle. I don’t know if he has any authority in his place of work. If he does, I’m sure he asks all his peeps to call him by his first name, because he’s an informal fella who wants informal relationships with all of his peeps. I’m sure he has an open-door policy, and that all his top performers are “rock stars!” He’s a people person who’s not afraid to let his hair down. If one of his peeps has a name that begins with a B, I’m sure he calls them ‘B’, or ‘J Dawg’ if their name starts with a J. He’s also the esoteric guy in the office that conforms to group thought when called upon to do so. I’ve been around his type so often that I can pick them out of a closet from fifty yards away. They all have nihilist beliefs in private, and they don’t bow to the man, until that man is in the room, and then they turn around to insult “the dude” the moment after he leaves the room and they hear the click of the door closing.

We didn’t talk politics, but I’d be willing to wax Brazilian if it’s revealed to me that we see eye to eye on anything. He’s the type who seeks “a third way” of governing. He strives to avoid labeling. He prefers the open-minded perception. He pities those simpletons conditioned to believe that there are actually very few forms of government from which to choose, and that there are only two viable political parties in this country to run it. Their type knows of another way. They don’t have specifics, but they feel sorry for those of us that have bought into the system. They are open-minded. They are extraordinarily intelligent, and they equate their intelligence with their morality. They are thoughtful, and they are wonderful. We are wrong. We attach these labels to them, and they are “truly” so much more.

When he eventually swerves into the whole reason we came to see him in the first place, I’m gone. I’m beyond listening. He thinks he’s warmed me up with his ‘look at me’ chatter, that he considers good bedside manner, but in reality I’ve begun to feel so sorry for him, and his pointless attempts to sound interesting, hip, funny, likable, intelligent, esoteric, philosophical, and personable, were so overwhelming that I shut down and missed the first two minutes of his sales presentation when he finally started it.

“We guys don’t seek medical attention.” He smiled after that one. He thought that was polite guy, fun chatter. He surveyed my reaction. He told me he enjoyed sports, and then he asked me if the San Diego Chargers were still in existence. I normally would’ve enjoyed such ignorance of my arena, but I realized that I didn’t care if he knew anything about the Chargers, the NFL, sports in general, or anything else. This was a huge accomplishment for this guy, whether he knows it or not, for as anyone who knows me knows, I get off on personal preferences. I want to know what books a person reads, what movies they like, what music they enjoy, and what restaurants they frequent. I love top ten lists, the reasons behind why another’s rankings. Some have informed me that this is one of my more annoying attributes. This esoteric ad exec didn’t have to face any of my more annoying attributes, because he managed to achieve a nearly unprecedented place of me trying to avoid the subject of personal preferences. I just wanted him to stop talking.

The quiet types have something to hide, is a description we’ve all come to accept in one form or another. It could be true, in some cases, but I’ve experienced a number of quiet types who simply don’t know what to say or when to say it. I’ve met other quiet types who have been slapped back for saying what they think so often that when they have a thought on a particular matter, they’re frozen by the fear that you’ll uncover something about them if they voice their opinion, so they usually find it more comfortable to say nothing. When a person talks and talks, we naturally assume they are as advertised. We assume that they’re the “open book” they’ve told us they are so many times that they can only be trying to convince themselves. They are extroverts who are conversant on so many topics that we can’t think of anything that they could possibly be hiding, until we walk away from them with the realization that they didn’t say anything. They just said a whole lot of nothing on nothing topics. We might label that obfuscation and misdirection. We might consider that an art form normally associated with magicians, but talkers can display a talent for this art form too. They just don’t use their hands … as often.