This guest post is by my former co-blogger at Commonwealth and Commonwealth, Captain Colossal.
I have always wanted to be cool. I will always want to be cool. I’m in my late thirties now, and I am confident that if I live to eighty I will still want, in some shadowy recess of my mind, to be cool.
I grew up in a neighborhood that turned out, when I was around twenty, to be very cool. You understand, I didn’t know when I was growing up there that it was cool. It was only later, when the newspaper wrote a story about it and celebrities started relocating there, that I learned that it was cool. But it was cool while I was growing up there, cooler in some ways than it is now, I just didn’t know it. I wasn’t tapped into it. Lucinda Williams was writing music off in the hills and all kinds of people were doing crazy interesting things and I was wandering around in my own little world.
I went away and then later I moved back there. When I moved back there I knew it was cool. I lived there and I was pretty unhappy for reasons that had little to do with coolness. And then I moved away again. Last week, I was listening to a band that is now moderately famous. They lived in that neighborhood and played music there during that second time that I was living there, and they weren’t famous then (I didn’t know anything about them) but now they are, a bit. I always think about that when I listen to their music. And I always think that I should have befriended them then, on the same principle that I should have invested my $27.65 in savings in Google in 1993.
And then I remember what going to parties and bars and online dating in this widely-recognized-to-be-cool neighborhood was like. I would be in a place, thinking I was pretty cute with my Budweiser and my Marlboros and my line of patter. And there would be these people with important haircuts and cool clothes and I would look at them and I would think, these people are too cool to want to hang out with me. My mind could not formulate any points of common humanity between me and them. If I look at pictures of this band and try to imagine them as people rather than members of a moderately famous band, I realize that I would never have felt comfortable talking to them.
In fact, it’s them being famous that creates a relationship between me and them. Relationship is not the right word, but it kind of is. I have a way of relating to them: I appreciate what they do. They make music and I like it. They don’t have a relationship with me in particular, but they have a general relationship with me as one of the people appreciating them and maybe spending money on their music or buying a t-shirt as a show of support. If I wanted to say something to the people in this band I could write them a letter and say, I think your music is great. But if I were able to travel back in time to the era when I lived in the same place as them and were able to be at the same party or bar or whatever, I would have nothing to say. There would be no bridge between me and them. Which I guess means that people are not really that much like Google stock.
When I was seventeen I thought the coolest thing in the entire world would be to be a surfer and I didn’t do anything about it except look at the pictures of the vast blue ocean in the one surfing magazine that I bought for myself in an airport. And then when I was in my late twenties it hit me again that surfing was the coolest thing in the world and I kicked myself for not having taken those seventeen-year old impulses seriously, for lacking follow through. Then I took a surfing lesson and the ocean rolled me around in my wetsuit and I thought, I can’t do this. None of the qualities that surfing required were qualities that I had. Upper body strength, balance, physical courage -- I lacked them all. And so I gave up on surfing. But sometimes I still look out at the vast blue ocean and think that maybe if I tried again, everything would be different. In the same way, that urge, to sidle up to the source of things I like, to buy coolness low and sell high, hits me in the stomach every now and then. I just try to let it wash over me.