Through Being Cool
January 27, 2016Richbar News Articles
There comes a time in every man’s life when you figure out how cool you no longer are. For me, it finally happened three weeks ago. More in a moment on that; but first, a bit of background.
I’m 47 so, as a realist, I should have seen this coming for a while. The writing was certainly on the wall. I know because my two teen boys and pop-culture hyperaware 11-year girl keep reading that wall aloud to me as we ride in the car listening to the radio: Me: “Who is this guy that keeps yelling in the middle of everyone else’s songs?” Them: “Dad. Seriously. That’s Pit Bull.” Me: “Pit Bull? So, wait, this is his song?” Them: “No! He’s just featured in it.” When did people start guest starring in other people’s music? Everyone knows guest stars are for TV. Pit Bull is apparently the John Saxon of the new millennium.
Motor vehicles are, I’ve discovered, the very crucible in which we age. Think about it. When you were a kid stuck in the back seat of your parents’ car, you had to listen to whatever boring, old, lame crap they listened to. My father used to drive me around listening to music that made Lawrence Welk sound like speed metal. I couldn’t even believe such a station existed outside of elevators and Buick dealerships, and if I had been big enough to ride in the front seat then I would have grabbed the wheel and swerved us into an electric fence just to make it stop. Not cool. (*But, see endnote, infra.)
When you first start driving for yourself, however, all that changes. The car now becomes the epicenter of all things cool and rebellious. Because when you’re rolling your own bucket, you have the power. You could even impose your tastes on your passengers, thus not only being cool, but actively showing how cool you were to others. “Dude, if you don’t like hearing The Clash turned up to 11 on the Kenwood, get out and walk.” It was a pretty cool time.
But it changes again when you have kids of your own. And not for the better. For starters, it’s just hard to look cool driving a Dodge Grand Caravan. Even if you paint flames on it and blast Wu-Tang Clan. It just looks like you’re trying too hard. You become what my kids would call a “Try-hard” (which sounds like a good thing, but apparently it’s not). Effort is the opposite of cool, which has to look effortless.
Finally now, at my age, the only cool factor left in driving your own car is that no one can see how un-cool your clothes are. But you can’t hide forever. Which brings us back to my moment of realization: The Day I Showed Up for Work in Cargo Shorts. My cool thirty-something paralegal Kristy was first to attack: “Nice cargo shorts. Are you guest-hosting Survivor?” I asked my other paralegal, twenty-something Janel, if something had happened overnight to make cargo shorts uncool. Janel replied tactfully: “Well, it wasn’t actually overnight. It was more like 12 years ago.” Kristy then brought up a pie graph on her computer called “Who Wears Cargo Short?” 92% of wearers were photojournalists. The other 8% were guys like me who didn’t get the memo.
But you know what? I don’t even care. Because Cargo Shorts are USEFUL. You can put your cell phone, your wallet, your keys, and 17 granola bars in them. And useful is cool. You know what else is cool? Effort. Because when bad, lame, terrible things happen (like floods) there’s nothing cooler than being useful to other people. There’s nothing more important than effort. And if we here in Columbia didnít know that before, we know it now, as we joined with people we never knew to work in neighborhoods weíve never been to, amazing people all around the country with how together we can really be despite all of our perceived differences.
So, Iím proud to rock the cargo shorts. Lots of cool guys wore them before me: Sir Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai; some of the commandos in Rat Patrol. Adam Sandler on vacation. More importantly, they look good with rubber boots, and are pretty legit for holding granola bars when youíre shoveling mud. And thatís pretty cool.
*Endnote: my dad is actually really cool; he knows and can play jazz tunes on the piano that I never heard of until I read On the Road. It took me 20 years to figure out he was just torturing me.