Cool with a sense of irony

David Busch

As I turned the corner on the clutter of mud houses that would be my home for the next four months, I spotted Sebastian sitting against a tree, lost in contemplation as he smoked a cigarette and swigged from a bottle of wine. I was instantly intrigued. A Viennese Hipster wandering the holy land.

Later that night, as I shared in another bottle of wine with him, our conversation mingled from literature to history to music. “I tell you, my friend, Jack Kerouac was a smooth cat. Oh, and Neal Cassidy, nothing was ever black and white to him. Nothing was just ordinary,” Sebastian passionately articulated as our conversation landed on the book “On the Road.”

Later that evening, Thomas walked in, his beret tilted slightly to the left, a cigar hanging out of his mouth. An Irish man who didn’t like to drink sipped from his cup of tea as he entered. He brought in a Tom Waits cassette and soon the raspy voice was crawling on the walls of our simple mud house. Thomas directed the conversation to friendship. “The beauty of friendship, Dave, is that when two friends sit down to talk, there aren’t two minds interacting, but one mind thinking.”

The memory of Thomas and Sebastian entered my mind as the keyboardist of Morrison Hotel slammed at the keys for the song “Light My Fire.” I didn’t like the band that much. In fact, I thought they were ruining the legacy of the Doors. This concept — a cover band — was also bothering me. The lead singer, wearing leather pants, a long beard and long hair was desperately trying to be Jim Morrison — when he wasn’t. He was someone else; someone he had yet to define.

Every year there are new television shows, clothing lines, new cars and new music and with each new television show come new lines that catch America’s interest and are heard for weeks to come until it loses all its rhetorical substance. With each new clothing line come new styles that alter one’s individual clothing expression. With each new song comes the same monotonous beat that reverberates through bars and stores. With each new advance in technology come new addictions in the forms of the iPhone and the GPS. Someone without an iPhone seems anachronistic.

We’re a consumer nation. We’re sold on everything — information, comedy and enjoyment. Comedy has conformed to sex jokes; libertarianism is en vogue; and enjoyment seems to be defined by the Friday (or Thursday) happy hours. Purchasing power, sadly, has become intertwined with definitions of freedom and with expression of identity. Although all of us are aware of this reality, as a nation we continue to buy and continue to conform. Of course we do. We want to be “cool.” We want to fit in. It’s cool to have the latest gadgets and to fly to Vegas and act out “The Hangover.”

Cool, though, is something far different than the consumer products of America. Cool is an expression of one’s individual dynamics outside the facade of consumerism. I think about Thomas eating his chips, sandwiches and lounging in his purple pants he bought in India before he teaches his French class in Madagascar. Or I think about Sebastian, playing his Bob Dylan records at a hidden bar in Tel Aviv, his blue-collared shirt he bought at the second hand shop half tucked in. They know what “cool” is. They see it every day. But they live on the outside of that. They live on their individuality, on their own expressions. They’re cool with a sense of irony.

David Busch is a senior psychology and history major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].