Believe it or not, I do remember the moment I read the April 1997 issue of the Rolling Stone magazine. I was traveling on business – if you consider government employees’ travel as business – in Newfoundland in Canada. I had just checked in at my hotel in St. John’s and hadn’t had time to finish reading the article on the plane so fighting off the jetlag, I picked up the magazine again.
And this is what I remember: MTV’s trend watchers said that the next big thing would be “good”. Not just a good thing, but that being good, instead of bad, would be the next megatrend in pop. They said they could see signs of the pendulum going from the dangerous Madonnas, and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” towards artists and movies that represented goodness.
I remember it because it surprised me and because I hoped it to be true. Because I considered myself a good guy, a nice guy, and for once, I also wanted that to mean that I was cool as well.
I became a self-taught shaver one summer’s day at the tender age of fifteen when I took a disposable yellow Bic razor and shaved the hair on my upper lip. It had grown to the point where it was no longer cool. Oddly enough, I don’t remember how often I actually shaved going through high school, but I do remember the cool summer breeze hitting my lip when I rode my bike downtown later that day.
I didn’t use any shaving cream, or foam, or gel – I’m fairly confident gel didn’t even exist then – or even soap, and neither did I use any aftershave.
Not even Dad’s Old Spice.
I’m a simple man with simple dreams. I don’t generally think the universe owes me much, and I have no demands to make. And because I think my wishes are small, there’s no need for them to not come true. I’m the kind of guy who’s happy to have just enough milk in the carton for his cappuccino, just enough sunshine to ride my bike into town (and then sit outside for a while), and a decent WiFi connection.
Oh, and the hand.
I do want to see the hand.
You know the hand, it’s the one you see in the car in front you when they’ve passed you on a highway, and the hand you see in your rearview mirror when you’ve passed another car on a highway. The hand that waves at you when you meet a car on a narrow dirt road in the bush, and you let the other car pass first.
I’m not much of an inventor, but I’ve always admired inventors, ever since my first glue experiments as a five-year-old. The purpose of the experiment was to see which one of three glues dried up the fastest, and I remember how carefully I held the piece of paper with the samples on my lap on the back seat of our car, on our way to my grandparents’ place, and the playhouse that was my laboratory.
I took the glue samples in, and then promptly forgot about them when I got excited about other things. Such as a football.
A few years later, I carried with me a red hardcover Gyro Gearloose’s Guidebook everywhere, whenever I wasn’t sitting on our balcony with Mom’s old typewriter, copying passages of the guidebook into a book of my own. Turns out I didn’t get any inventions into my brain that way, but it may have put me in a writer’s frame of mind. Also, it was nice out there on the balcony.
Fact: I can’t build anything, and I can’t fix anything. I don’t understand how an engine works, and I don’t know how you can build a bridge across deep waters (although that’s never stopped me from writing about those things) but the desire to invent something is still inside me.
He didn’t know which one of them was the first to not see the other one. One of them had to have seen the other one first because their eyes had never met, which would have been the case had they seen each other exactly the same time.
But they hadn’t.
Now, he had seen him clean the counter of the fast food place, and maybe he had been so focused on his work that he had missed the face of the first customer in line, or maybe he’d seen so many faces that day alone that they all looked sort of the same. And to stand out, it was probably best not to be a middle-aged white male.
He parked his small white car by the side of the road right outside the front door. Or at least as close to the door as it was possible, so close to the two old barrels that now were flowerbeds that he couldn’t have opened the passenger’s door of his small car. But he didn’t have to, because he was alone in the car, and was just going to make a quick stop at Grandma’s to say hello.
It was one of those perfect summer nights. You know the kind. It’s the time of the year when the nights are still warm and it’s the time of the day when you’re not sure if the sun has gone down yet, or if you can still sort of see it in the horizon.
I had just sat down at the table to ask Wife about something when the man came rushing to our table and also sat down. His face looked familiar, but so did dozens of other’s and just like all of them, I couldn’t put together a name and a face, let alone figure out how the man was related to Wife.
It was my third time at Wife’s family reunion on her father’s side, and with the reunions being arranged every three years, and us missing one, I’ve been going to them almost ten years now. But I’m still an outside looking in, which is fine. The family is organized like the Mafia in that everybody knows his or her close family, and how people are related, but very few have the big picture.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I was in the kitchen making a cappuccino when a theory started to form in my brain. A Theory of Cool, to be exact. The part of the theory that was most unclear was its name, because while it is a theory, it might be best formulated as a law instead. The Law of Cool.
But in short, this is my epiphany:
“The things you think are cool by the time you turn 17 will always be cool to you.”
It doesn’t mean that you want to wear the same clothes and listen to the same music or try to walk just like your favorite Phys Ed teacher – who does that? – your entire life, it just means that deep down, your definition of cool doesn’t change that much after you turn 18.
In the summer of 1983, everybody I knew bought the same two albums. One of them was Police’s “Synchronicity”, the other David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. “Every Breath You Take” was playing everywhere, as was the title song of the Bowie album, and by “everywhere” I mean the EF disco in downtown Oxford every Wednesday.
I spent a month in Oxford that summer, learning English and learning to be English. My English was pretty good before the trip, but it did improve there as well, and as far as being English goes, I did my best and watched Wimbledon and cricket with Jim, the father of my host family.
He was in his 70s, and nothing could make him leave his TV chair during cricket.
OULU – Sometimes you can’t get enough of a good thing. Last season, Finnish hockey fans got to enjoy an exciting final that went all the way to Game 7, and overtime, before Kärpät’s Juhamatti Aaltonen scored the game’s lone goal and won the game against Tappara Tampere.
So this year, they got some more of that candy.