A Matt Rhodes Joint
It’s no secret that San Francisco is brimming with learned (two syllables), smug pricks who are certainly smarter than everyone else in the room and the world, present company included. Thanks to the not-so-subtle obnoxiousness of Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, tourists and local masochists alike can now revel deeply in SF’s pernicious pedantry by going to the movies.
See, we know big words.
This fine cinematic yarn alights the reveries of every would-be renaissance man, creating rapid-fire opportunities for us know-it-alls to whisper much insufferable pomposity into our dates’ ears to help them realize just how intelligent we are.
Here are some real examples of not-so-whispers I heard in the wine-serving, reserved-seat theatre:
“Look, it’s Man Ray!”
“I’ve been there!” (about 7,000 times)
“Oh my god, Toulouse-Lautrec! And they found a short guy to play him! He was short! Yes, he’s the one who drew the cat posters in our guest bedroom. God, you’re simple.”
“You’ve never seen The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie?? I can’t believe I’m dating you.”
Apparently the key to winning our little unannounced game of Tool of the Decade was to shout-whisper the identity of the most obscure literary or artistic figure faster than everyone else. Bonus points for the haughtiest chuckles.
Once it became clear to me that 99 percent of the dipshits in the theater didn’t know who Djuna Barnes was or that Owen Wilson said what he said because she’s more famous for being a lesbian than being a writer, my self-assumed superiority was cemented. I mean, people, we have a street named after Alice B. Toklas in San Francisco; you’d think her brief appearance would’ve garnered frantic applause.
Alas, I was surrounded by posers.
I go to a lot of corporate meetings in my real life, so I’ve become a huge fan of knowing the point of something up front. Thusly, the point of this blog post: It’s really hard to be a true intellectual without people hating you.
I consider myself an intellectual. See, you already hate me. But it’s worrisome that I can’t talk to normal people about things like modernism’s role in the development of postwar literary fiction, both because they don’t know what the hell I’m talking about and, rightly, they don’t care. In fact, I’m a colossal dick just for writing that sentence. Please hate me more.
However, some of us are nice people who are just naturally curious about everything in the world and enjoy stimulating conversation about a smattering of subjects. We no longer have salons full of likeminded literary dweebs, a la Gertrude Stein. We have (had?) a website called Salon. We have Facebook, where we can set up groups of Goateed Intellectual Pedants (“GIPs” for short). But we have no real outlet for our basic human need to inform others, especially those hoi polloi who are actually just smart enough to realize how smart we are, how smart we are.
I came away from Midnight in Paris rather pleased with myself. I was able for the majority of the movie to simply silently judge all the smart people who aren’t as smart as they think they are. I laughed along harmlessly with all the other people who thought, “Yes!! That’s exactly what Papa was like!!” I played my role, quiet brilliant dude who is perceived to be a jerk by only the handful of people who know him really well.
Then, at the end, upon seeing the façade of Shakespeare & Company, the finest bookstore in all the world, a haunt of Hemingway’s, Sylvia Beach’s boardinghouse to some of the greatest writer-expats of all time, I had to say it:
“That’s my favorite place on Earth!”
What can I say? It is.