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On a late-night visit to a Los Angeles Whole Foods recently, a strange thing occurred. Bleary-eyed from an early morning flight and working all day, I looked around to find myself surrounded by hobos. I did a double take, rubbed my eyes. Like a zombie movie, I was encircled. They had hands and faces that looked like they were covered in tree sap. There were hobos alone and hobo couples. They all had shopping carts. It was 65 degrees outside, yet they were outfitted in multiple layers, flannel and winter hats.
After checkout, I stuck around to watch a few disperse. One left and began wandering the street. Two others got into Range Rovers and drove away.
I'd like to interrupt here to thank any loyal readers that may exist. Next, I'd like to apologize to those readers for cashing in my yearly rant chip with this column. Here goes.
You want Flock of Seagulls hair? Fine. You want to wear a chainmail cravat and a Choo Choo Charlie hat to that party? OK. You want to show how morose you are by walking like you have scoliosis? We'll accept it. But tell me something, is the Dinty Moore Stew you're eating ironic, or just the thermos from which you're eating it? What about the briefcase you're carrying, or your elf boots, or the tater tot in your hair? And gravy? ... By the way, is that a tater tot with gravy in your hair?
Sometime in the late '90s, grunge and emo had a very ugly bastard child. That baby grew up in a culture based on products, and wherever there was something confusing, it was meant to be mocked. There is no originality in my bewailing the state of hipsterism. I've tried to avoid writing this for about a year now, but just when I thought the trend was ending, it has only gotten more extreme. A few years ago, hipster dudes were just wearing skinny jeans. Now they're wearing their little sister's jeans and their pubes are showing.
I write this with a heavy heart for a couple of reasons. First, I worry what happens when culture goes completely ironic. Hipsters do still believe things because, when they do, we generally believe the same. I truly value the speeches about raising chickens in your backyard; I could just do without the big weird glasses with no lenses and the thrift store smell. We have the same taste in a lot of music and literature; they just appreciate them while wearing a bedazzled Christmas sweatshirt and riding a moped. And though I'm not sure I fully understand the tattoo I saw recently of the chipmunk with the barcode on its stomach, I can appreciate anti-capitalistic/no-logo symbolism as much as the next guy. But what happens when nothing means anything anymore?
The other thing that weighs on me, though, is my guilt. We are the thing we hate and I'm a hypocrite. Was the Moon Pie T-shirt I had in high school ironic? Yes and no. I liked Moon Pies, but I also thought the shirt was funny. Similarly, on a recent trip to Branson, I had to stop myself from buying a "Dixie Stampede" T-shirt. Would I wear it to mock the Stampede or because I liked the horse on it? Also, what was I doing at the Stampede in the first place? Was my entire trip to Branson ironic? All I could feel was anger because I didn't know. I've never known.
I am a product of the generation that ushered in what we're in the middle of now. I too keep the world at a safe distance, full of patronizing sarcasm, free from the need to emotionally engage, because I feel safer there.
But when we lose all that is sacred, we don't just lose the sacred, we also lose what's left to be mocked. And we need irony, for God's sake. Now more than ever. And our kids are going to need it even more than us.
With a handful of exceptions, the hipster extremes haven't reached our fair state. But they will. And soon. Maybe what we're witnessing is a culmination. Hopefully shows like "Portlandia" and websites like LookAtThisFuckingHipster.com are the signs that the trend has reached the mainstream, and what we're seeing are the last, desperate gasps. God willing, all that's left then, in perfect 21st century fashion, is to sit back and laugh as we watch hipsterism disappear like a sperm count in too-tight jeans.