The End of the Cool Ones
There was a time when I knew who the cool people were. Life was clear. The Beatles were cool and Richard Nixon was not. Rock and roll was cool and Vietnam was not. I was around 15 and yet I could see things with a certainty that's gone now. It was ruined by experience. My ability to see clearly has been compromised by knowing too much.
Back then the good stuff used to glow. I could see a force field of magic around it and I moved towards it and away from the bad. That aura has faded from view. If the field was ever there, I can't see it anymore. In short, I grew up.
I actually assumed when my generation took over that everything would finally be great. One thing was obvious: The adults did not get it. I would hear them talk about Richard Nixon and I was baffled. How could they not see what a twisted weirdo this man was? Now I know. The years twist you. Time makes you weird. I still have my moments but I am becoming neutralized by my own thoughts. It's as if life takes place while the illusions about humanity are strong, but when the real data comes back, and the conclusions are reached about who we really are - well, then life begins to end. That's the look you see on old people. It's not that they're feeling poorly. They just get it.
For a longtime I assumed musicians were innately cool. I still feel they have some cool tendencies, but what does it say when so many great bands end up hating each other? How could a band like the Beatles break up? It says a lot about us. You want to see the ugly side of politics? Join a rock band. I still assume that a musician will be progressive and liberal-minding as opposed to Neo-Cons. People like Dick Cheney never are found in rock groups. Please, there are some lines of coolness that will never be crossed.
You know, I was even startled when I found out that one of the Ramones was a complete right-wing conservative. I could understand Ted Nugent. I mean he actually supports my theory that Republicans tap into our Stone Age meanness while Liberals are more about pie-in-the-sky notions of what life could be like. Ted literally dressed as a caveman running around shooting animals with a bow and arrow. It all fit, and made sense, but one of the Ramones being right-wing? A punk rocker? That's weird.
I rarely looked for athletes to be cool. Sure, there were exceptions, but as a group I thought they were too inside the system. They played ball literally. Oh, you'd get an occasional hero like Mohammed Ali, but there were a lot more clowns with crewcuts babbling out cliches we've all heard too often about what Coach said to do.
My fallback group was the comedians. I always assumed that a sense of humor went along with coolness. I mean uptight people got angry and had nasty reactions, while the cool ones kept it light or expressed anger and rage in a funny way. They were rebels with visibility. That's why I admired the comedians so much: These guys proved my point about who the cool ones were.
I still believe most comedians have intrinsic value, but something changed forever this week in my opinion of the group as a whole. This Michael Richards thing really bothered me. I know it's overused to say you're shocked, but I was shocked. I just never in my wildest nightmares could imagine a comedian being that uncool. I still can't. And then to see Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman up there talking with him. That was devastating. That's like talking to the mean sicko in high school. That's like forming a rock band with Dick Cheney and Richard Nixon.
On some level, this was a life-changing event for me. Sure, I responded in standard fashion - writing jokes about it. My joke from an earlier post about him offending Pilgrims on Thanksgiving went on national TV last night. Some others went on the Lars Larson show via my friend Dwight Slade. But I felt like an impostor writing these jokes. It felt as foreign to me as if President Bush had asked me to join his cabinet as the new Secretary of Defense taking Rumsfeld's job. That scenario seems cooler than being associated with comedy this week. What a horror show.
I'm becoming one of those older types with a permanent scowl. I know too much about my species now, and the conclusions have locked up my head. There are no cool ones; just different shades of screwed up. That's what I found out about humanity. The 15-year-old kid I used to be was ignorant but brilliant. Now I know a lot more and it's not helping. Maybe all this life experience is working for you, but as for me? It feels like a lobotomy.