Welcome to the United States of America
I was born in the United States of America, I was raised there (by house cats, primarily) but, as soon as I could, I left the country and did not come back for a very long time. More than twenty years had passed by the time I flew into Denver and thought I might stay. Naturally I worried a little about how I might feel. But I reckoned the U.S.A. would still feel like home. I’m American, after all. I thought it would seem, you know, normal.
When I admit I’ve been gone a long time, everyone says the same thing. “I thought your accent sounded funny!” Then, they say: “Didn’t you miss American food?!” What am I supposed to say? The truth is, I’ve had a stomach ache since I came home. And my intestines appear to be tangled. All my life the food has gone right on through. Now I fear it’s getting lost somewhere in the middle. Ever since I came back to America, there’s been this really weird knot.
I thought this was a problem because I’d been away so long. Different water, food, bacteria, altitude, whatever. But, no, it turns out that nearly everyone has the same trouble. Bizarro allergies, sensitivities, digestive troubles, cancers. And everyone seems to think it’s quite normal. It is very American to be ill.
Hasids Dressed Down?
As is well-known, Americans are very friendly. Right away I made friends with two men in my neighborhood. I assumed at first they were Hasids, dressed down for some inexplicable reason. I thought beards as voluminous as theirs were worn only by the most gung-ho of monotheists. When they evidenced no religiosity, I thought, “Must be money in jazz nowadays” because, in Tokyo, a beard like that means you’re a musician.
At last I realized that these two gentlemen were examples of what is now called hipsters. Hard as it is to believe, the ‘solitary forest hermit’ look is currently very fashionable. And the hipsters are in fact adorable. No forest hermit’s safe from me! Crash me through the underbrush any day.
When the hipsters invited me to a farmer’s market, I agreed enthusiastically. After all, I grew up on a farm. I looked forward to meeting Colorado farmers and finding affordable sources of fresh local food.
I’m sorry if this sounds naive to the point of idiocy. But this is what a farmer’s market was, back when I left the country.
At the market the hipsters and I moved from one tent to the next. We sampled limoncello poppy seed jam ($15), admired air plants in crystal hangers ($35) and ate biscuits and gravy made with portobella mushrooms ($11, but we didn’t pay it. The hipsters had a connection to the biscuit truck.) The hipsters were especially fond of a bergamot-scented oil with which they anointed their lush and enormous beards. Man Oil, it’s called. ($20)
As this was a farmer’s market, there were also a few cucumbers and eggplants that were organic, special and important. They must have been because they were like a buck apiece. Apiece, you may recall, means for one.
Thus I came to understand that a vegetable that tastes like a vegetable and hasn’t been saturated with poisonous chemicals is now officially a luxury item. You may recall that, as chickens were once a symbol of prosperity, vegetables were once synonymous with poverty. Think of potatoes in Europe or pumpkins in Japan. Nowadays the poor have microwaveable burritos and the Value Menu; if you wish to acquire real non-toxic vegetables you must belong to the Vegetable Class.
It was the Vegetable Class I saw around me now, clutching thirty dollar jars of maple-bourbon beef rub. The men with impeccably groomed beards, the women with gravity-defying breasts, the super-deluxe pets and the children who looked as though they’d been clipped from advertisements, like coupons from the future.
In Defense of Hipsters
As most of my friends are, at mid-life, struggling to remain living indoors, I understand that it is easy to be critical of hipsters, who appear to be living on great rafts constructed entirely of cash.
Just the same, I must insist that hipsters are not all bad. The two I met had many positive qualities. I will assign them some, arbitrarily, just as I do for any person willing to go to bed with me.
(You may wish to keep this in mind. It’s an easy way to acquire positive qualities overnight!)
My hipster friends turned out to be a couple of hunky woodsmen in love. But they weren’t jealous. (Jealousy is now passe, again, at least among persons providing explanations for their behavior.)
“Aren’t I kind of old for you?” I asked.
“We go to bed with plenty of guys older than you,” they said. “It’s the daddy thing. Daddies are in.”
Thus you will understand that I am not saying everything about modern life is bad. Not at all. Honestly I am excited to be alive now, when the very existence of life on the planet is threatened and, as compensation, the hipsters are enlisting me for threesomes.
In fact, there is something quite moving about the hipsters, at least those I have met. There is good reason why they are so self-consciously decorative and avid for rarefied pleasures.
The hipsters understand that they have been given the world for only a very short time. I suspect this is the reason they are able to make love without jealousy -- because they understand that this is most likely the end.
It’s like men have been saying for years: if the world ends in an hour, then let us pray that the stacked blonde executive assistant will permit us to ravish her right there on the Big Boss’ desk!
Let’s have a few more tall glasses of pomegranate juice, a few more nights at the oyster bar and, a few more thirty-eight dollar beard trims. If you’ve got the money in your pocket, why not? What are we saving it for? It is not as if we, are anyone else, will be retiring to Arizona in twenty years.
Do not hate the hipsters. Like young people everywhere, they want to enjoy themselves. And they understand that they do not have much time.