RECORD STORE TALES #1038: Cool
Recently I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “cool”. I certainly do not feel “cool”. I have certainly pretended to be cool. I had many phases of attempts at being cool. They were mostly spectacular failures with a few notable successes. Yet only rarely and sporadically did I ever actually feel “cool”.
As a young misfit kid with only a few close friends, I was a loner at school. I was more interested in reading books while listening to John Williams soundtracks than hockey. There’s a line in a Tragically Hip song called “Fireworks” that sort of outlines what it was like to have no interest in hockey. “You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey, and I never saw someone say that before.” The kids at school teased me because I didn’t know who any of the Maple Leafs were and I certainly had no interest in skating. It was just something I had to do. My mother made me take hockey lessons and I hated the way those skates made my feet ache. I just couldn’t wait to get off the ice where my dad would buy me a Mountain Dew. I could barely skate and still can’t. My mom told me that “every good Canadian should know how to skate.” I just wanted to go home and play with my beloved Star Wars guys. My Luke, Han, Darth, and Stormtrooper figures were always a comfort at home. I was not cool.
Along came music and I was still not cool. The other kids had Duran Duran and Mr. Mister while I discovered the back catalogue of a dinosaur rock band called Kiss. I made a pathetic attempt at growing my hair. To the other kids at school, I was the nerd who wore the Han Solo shirt a couple years ago, and was now decked out in a Judas Priest shirt that said “Rock Hard Ride Free”. I was not cool.
I sat in my basement with my VCR, and I watched and rewatched Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored and studied Paul Stanley. He obviously had no problem being cool. All he had to do was tell a story about his Love Gun and he had women throwing their underwear at him. He looked so cool when he danced on stage. He had these tassels on his pants that twirled when he did these spinning kick moves. I would get a tennis racket and try doing the same moves in the street in front of my house. I felt cool. I imagined the music behind me. I imagined it was a real guitar in my arms, and tassels on my pants. I felt cool…but I was not cool.
Highschool came and went, and I had a pretty low profile. Girls didn’t know my name and I didn’t raise my hand in class. I wanted to be cool but anonymity was OK too. I didn’t have the baggage of my nerdy Star Wars past so I established myself as a rocker from day one. That didn’t really make me cool; the majority of kids were short-hairs who liked music I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. I got by, but I was not cool.
University came and went with the same anonymity, but the very foundations on which I had built my persona were crumbling. In 1991 Kurt Cobain made greasy hair and ratty sweaters the new cool, and I was left behind in the dust. It took two years, but in 1993 I finally cut my hair. I went with a short hair and bearded look. I didn’t even feel cool anymore. I was not cool.
I don’t think I really felt a smidgen cool until I started working at the record store in 1994. Then I had something I could boast about. It was a cool job. I felt a bit like an imposter, that I was not cool enough for that job, but I sure made people know I worked in a record store. Grunge was popular, nu-metal was on its way, and I was still stuck in the 70s and 80s. I really struggled with a persona during the record store years. I had a variety of hair styles and colours. I bought a pair of Doc Marten boots. I got a whole bunch of piercings. At this point, I started to become a little bit more successful in my dating life. The ladies seemed to like the spiky blonde hair and the piercings. I may have looked cool, but in hindsight it was just another attempt at being cool. I was not cool.
I quit the record store, and I got married. For the first time in my life, I started to feel a little cool. I had a good job, the most amazing wife, and I had a killer wedding. Awesome music. We were told by mulitple guests from all age groups that it was the best, most fun wedding, they’d ever been to. I felt awesome. After marriage, Jen and I threw a number of killer house parties. I did multiple studio appearances on radio. I felt cool and I think for a little while, for a change, I was cool.
Age started creeping up on me and the years started taking their toll. I began to take more value in how comfortable things were, rather than how cool they looked. I had new priorities in life, like maintaining a house and taking care of a sick wife. The things that used to matter more were trivial now. I had to appear somewhat professional at work and be prepared to put on steel toe boots and a helmet. Carefully crafted hair and flashy shoes had no place anymore. I was not cool.
Yet the definitions of cool have once again changed. Have they moved in a direction more to my favour this time? I don’t know, but suddenly Star Wars is popular again and old rock bands pull in crowds of all ages when they embark on the second-last ever farewell tours. Older guys with grey hair seem to be popular — looking at you Anson Mount (and Tim Durling). Is it possible…that the time has come that I’m cool again?
I wear Crocs. In fact now I wear Crocs with freakin’ headlights on them. People know this. They are aware of it. Yet some of the coolest people in the world that I know…tell me I’m cool?
You can imagine why I’m skeptical.
I don’t think I’ll ever really feel cool. Do you? Have you felt cool in your life? What did it feel like, and what did it do for your life? I think when I feel cool, I feel more confident. Confidence is important in moderation. It won’t be long before I used to be with “it”, but then they changed what”it” was. Then what I’m with isn’t “it” anymore and what’s “it” seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!