I was recently wandering through Fells Point, a Baltimore neighborhood nestled staunchly between past and present, thinking about how old becomes new. I stayed at the Four Seasons and I was wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. I was too punk for my hotel, and too yuppie for my t-shirt or the grittier, not-yet-gentrified corners of the neighborhood. I felt like a fraud. My t-shirt is a recent reissue; a real tech hipster would have paid 90 bucks on eBay for the original, preferably one doused with Henry Rollins’s spit from a Flag show in the 1980’s.
As an outsider, Baltimore looked pretty cool to me. Nifty old buildings on the water, the ballpark that launched the resurgence of many beleaguered downtowns, good coffee, great seafood–what’s not to love? I was doing business with a local, who confirmed that it is a pretty cool place except for the riots and general lack of safety. Other than that…
Yet my newly stoked passion for this burgeoning burg was undiminished. I have the uncanny ability to imagine myself living anywhere, elsewhere, constantly. It’s hard-wired within me; I would always rather be somewhere rather than here. This desire to consistently temporarily escape my worries and explore new worlds is far cheaper than talk therapy, and it works.
Fortunately, my job keeps me on the road, enabling me to kill two ravens with one crabcake. As much as I’d like to trade in my Silicon Valley lifestyle for the off-the-grid tranquility of, say, rural Vermont, I need money for old punk records and refurbished milk bottles. These bottles hold antique pieces of broken glass, which could have come from somewhere important! I need these old expensive authentic things to start conversations with my friends when they finally tire of talking about their kids. They hate their kids.
Plus, in Vermont sugar comes right out of the trees. Slake my cavernous thirst, oh beautiful sugar trees!
I suppose it’s not ironic that the least authentic among us (i.e., me and others of my pseudo-hipster ilk) need the most authentic old crap to fill some vacancy in our souls. I need an old house and new kids. I can’t wait to put my old Ozzy t-shirt on my little girl named Gertie. She will be so poorly adjusted, but she will clearly reflect my inauthentic self. That shirt is old (smell it!), but I bought it at Spencer’s Gifts, not an Ozzy show.
I drifted by a boutique dive bar; it literally billed itself as such. Inauthenticity dripped from the rafters of this poser pub. But what is authenticity? Why is it important, and who am I to judge it?
I’m noodling on authenticity because it’s a buzzword du jour given we’re enduring a ponderous presidential race (aren’t we always?). Politically, we are faced with impossible incompetence. A brain surgeon who doesn’t understand words. A really rich guy drenched in unearned hubris. That relatively qualified Democrat lady you want to root for but can’t. And Bernie! Feel it! I can’t wait until he gets elected and personally stops by to take all my money to fix frost heaves in Vermont. Man, I love Vermont. It is so old and refurbished.
We’re all terrified that we might have to vote for someone who is not qualified to run the free world or, worse, someone with whom we’d never want to enjoy coffee and a scone. Someone inauthentic, according to our stilted and ever-morphing interpretation of exactly what that means.
People and ideas don’t fit into neat little boxes. Things come in spectrums. The Trumpster and Hillary are allowed to change their minds, and we’re allowed to unjustifiably and indignantly judge them for it. We could even vote for an independent or Green Party candidate to thumb our noses at a broken system that attracts broken people. But then our spouses would yell at us (true story).
As I marched home toward my luxurious temporary digs, hoping to outrun an impending storm, I saw a young woman walking her dog. She wore a Misfits hoodie (looked authentic) near an old church in a new aging neighborhood, and I decided to call it life.