Hipster Dude

The thirty-something man wore those mid-60s glasses that only looked cool when Malcolm X wore them,a too-tight thriftshop orange knit shirt,a brown soul patch on his chin,and a bored expression.

I sat a across from him at a writing workshop,where people are supposed to participate and say what they like about the writing others share. Although there was ample opportunity,he said nothing,didn’t even smile or give someone an encouraging nod. Maybe he was so used to being ironic and sarcastic that the idea of providing positive feedback was alien to him. Maybe he was too busy thinking about zombie vampires–he mentioned vampires twice when he read aloud–to tune into regular people.

I thought about what he’d look like if it really were the mid-60s. If he were a company man,he’d be clean shaven and neatly groomed,wearing a dark suit and white shirt like all the other middle-class,middle-management men with whom he worked. No doubt he’d have a pocket protector and a white handkerchief. He’d shine his black shoes regularly. He’d be mildly polite but condescending to the secretaries in his office,even though they were the ones who did most of the work. He’d come home to his wife,2 children,a dog,the evening paper, and a martini with a green olive.

If he were a beatnik,he’d have a goatee,and perhaps a black turtleneck and black pants. He wouldn’t be bland like Company Man; he’d have an opinion on everything from West Side Story to Dr.Strangelove,from Under Milk wood to On the Road. Beatnik Cat would be ready to discuss Ginsberg or Rimbaud or Sartre,would gladly attend a Brecht play,and could tell you what Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement were up to. His circle of friends would be other non-conformist white men like himself,and maybe a woman who wore a black leoptard,admired his poetry, had a rent-controlled pad,and could play chess like a man. They’d go to jazz clubs,discuss records they read about in High Fidelity,and talk contemptuously of conformist Company Men.

So 21st Century Hipster Dude: wake up and smell the soy caramel latte. Get away from your laptop and zombie vampires. Have real conversations with people. Ask questions. Read books by Howard Zinn and Alice Walker. Listen to Democracy Now! Develop a passion for something,and maybe you’ll learn something,and not be so bored with life.

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