October 13, 2006

The Sound Of One Hip Clapping

I always thought I'd be the ultimate uber-hip father. You know, the one that introduced his kids to the cool music, that knew all about the latest video games and scored backstage passes to the hippest shows. I would be the coolest father and, hence, my children would be the nicest, most loved kids in all of eternity. Their friends would be practically begging to come over to our house. They'd all be telling their parents how little Zeke's father was the coolest dad ever and asking their father how come they weren't as cool as me.

That's all changed. Now I'm just turning into an old fart like the rest of American men. Which, as it turns out, is probably a good thing.

I worked in the entertainment business for quite awhile. I worked in one of those jobs that many people ignorantly envied. Conversations about my job at cocktail parties would elicit such responses as, wow, that sounds like the best job ever - and - Holy cow, I can't believe you get paid to do that for a living.

You see, for many years it was my job to make sure I knew about the next big thing before anybody knew it was even next, much less a big thing. Large companies would come to me asking for direction on new musical trends. I fancied myself far ahead of the wave and I enjoyed it. At least there were parts of it that I enjoyed. Like all those unique memorable experiences, for instance. I was lucky enough to see Dave Matthews and Radiohead perform in small clubs for only a handful of people years before anybody cared. I stood around until the early morning hours to watch Everclear and Stone Temple Pilots cram out a few songs in empty bars hoping someone somewhere would eventually pay them to make records. I sat in a private room while James Brown and the Four Tops sang and danced for their friends.

Then, of course, I had to deal with all of the other crap that comes with any job. Eventually, all that other crap wore me down.

I'm almost out of the entertainment business now. I'm a regular workin' stiff, I suppose. And the older I get the more my life veers a bit away from the hipster-slash-trendsetter mentality and more into mass culture reality. I used to make fun of my high school and college friends as they continued to bop along to music that was 20 or 30 years old. Hell, I never really liked the Steve Miller Band and Jethro Tull in the first place. Now all of the sudden I've found myself buying a Simon & Garfunkel CD and downloading a Keith Jarrett album for my iPod.

What has become of me?

I was in Starbucks a few weeks ago amid a gaggle of pre-teens during post-school hours. Sitting next to me was this lovely African-American woman who was clearly an actress. She was talking to this dapper looking grey-haired caucasian chap who was clearly a director or casting agent or one of those funny people. I didn't recognize either of them. But when they finished talking and walked outside, all of the sudden the gaggle of pre-teens worked themselves into a frenzy, pointing and screeching and acting just like the kids their parents complain about. Suddenly about 15 of them ran outside and encircled this woman, throwing out pens and papers and other assorted implements of creation for her to autograph. As I gazed out at the adoring throng I couldn't help but wonder, who the hell is that woman and how come I don't recognize her? (As I came to find out it was Regina Hall. See.. you wouldn't recognize her either.)

Fast forward a week or two and I'm out at dinner with a friend of mine at a restaurant on hipper-than-thou Melrose Boulevard. Across the street, parked under a "No Parking" sign, was a superfine white Bentley that costs about as much as the Gross National Product of a small nation. A bunch of homeboys were standing next to the car, at least one of whom was wearing enough gold around his face and hands that one would think he may be able to afford a few of those automobiles. As my friend and I sat around eating, we'd notice random passers-by stopping and getting their picture taken with aforementioned bling-bling fellow.

Who the hell is that guy?! I kept asking my buddy. He, too, had no clue (and he puts on those celebrity red carpet events they talk about on Entertainment Tonight). For over an hour the fellows stood there, next to the Bentley, giving a random "wassup" nod to the star-struck idolizers and jumping into fake-happy smiles for photo-oped vacation visitors. How can somebody be so damn popular and the two of us have no clue who he is? I asked again to no avail.

We never discovered who Mr Bling Bling was, but I can only imagine that he's probably dated Regina Hall at some point in his career. Still, I couldn't help but be a bit flabbergasted at my inability to recognize these people. Sure I didn't have my glasses on and maybe my eyesight is fading faster than my hairline, but that doesn't seem like a good excuse.

But you know what I realized through all of this? (Prepare yourself, here comes the philosophical blather). Life isn't about being cool. That's what I realized. And it's definitely not about trying to impress other people (which, arguably, contradicts the entire blog concept, but that's another topic). Life is about smiling and happiness and love and all those other soft, furry, warm and squishy things.

So who really cares if I can't recognize every single actor or musician in Los Angeles. I'm happy enough to just sit and make fun of them. And as I look back on the fun experiences I've had in the past and the opportunity that awaits me in the future, I suppose there is nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile. And maybe when I have a kid, I won't worry so much about impressing his friends. In fact, maybe he shouldn't worry so much about impressing his friends. Maybe he should focus a bit more on his school work for a change before he gets grounded. In fact, maybe he shouldn't be allowed to play his X-Box so much until he gets better grades. So perhaps I'll just have to take his X-Box away for a little bit of time so he could focus on his school work a bit more. And, you know what, maybe it wouldn't hurt if I just turned on the X-Box every now and then and did a little video gaming myself....