I can’t believe it’s already Thursday and almost the weekend. It feels like last weekend ended yesterday!
Of all the things that happened last weekend, trying to explain something that’s just beyond me was one of the most entertaining. It went like this:
It’s Saturday night, and Callaghan’s out of town. My friend Tara and I walk into a bar. (Yeah, two chicks walk into a bar. No, this is not a joke.)
It’s a fun, cozy little dive bar, one of those that’s been there forever, and it is, shall we say – to borrow a term from popular culture – The Bar That Must Not Be Named. (Also, to maintain the anonymity of the strangers inside said anonymous bar, I later asked Callaghan to place a respectful black mask over everyone’s eyes in the pictures I took, as you will see.)
Tara and I went out representing varying degrees of sub-rock dwelling over the last few years. Her background: during the 90’s, she clocked in most of her days and nights working in bars, then gradually spent less and less time in them as her life shifted and she changed careers.
On my part, I’d been away from The Valley (Phoenix Metro Area) for over three years.
We start out at Club Red to catch some local metal bands; The Bar That Must Not Be Named is our second stop. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been there, and Tara had never been there at all. We get our drinks, meander into the live music side of the establishment and find a place to sit in the back, near the back door. The bar is doing a lively business typical of a Saturday night, and we want to be as far away from the band as possible, so we can talk. We spend a few minutes taking in the scenery.
“Is that… wow, I’ve never seen so many lottery tickets being sold at a bar,” Tara says, gesturing at the bulky multi-ticket lottery ticket dispenser thing behind the bar. It looks like a slot machine. I check it out with equal curiosity, but something in her voice makes me look at her. I see confusion clouding over her face.
Switching mental gears, I study the room from end to end, observing the environment through her eyes – the eyes of someone who hadn’t been out in years. Lots of flannel. Lots of carefree facial hair. An inordinate number of eyeglasses that resemble BCGs… and many, many cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). I, myself, am surprised. When did this place become a hipster watering hole?
The cans are literally everywhere you look. Our eyes simultaneously land on the one sitting right next to us…
…and Tara blurts out, “What’s with all the crappy cheap-ass beer everyone’s drinking out the can?”
Suddenly, it hits me. She has no idea about hipsters. She has emerged, and now, it’s on me to try to explain it.
“It’s the hipsters,” I say tentatively. “That’s their drink of choice. PBR, out of the can.” So they can be identified as hipsters by other hipsters, I mentally add in my head.
“NO! Ugh. Seriously?” Tara is perplexed. “But… why?”
“I’m not sure,” I answer honestly. I’m kind of at a loss. We’d just spent almost two hours at a local metal band fest at the first club, then driving around in her Corvette blasting Korn’s cover of Cameo’s “Word Up.” We’re on the same wavelength… a wavelength that captures a wide range of interests and tastes, but not the ironic frequencies of hipsterdom. (Though, ironically, I’m a poet and a writer and a person who’s been issued real BCGs, and I’ve been mistaken for a hipster without the dubious advantage of a can of PBR in my hand.)
Now we’ve unwittingly landed on Planet Hipster, and I have to draw on my rudimentary understanding of its denizens to make sense of them to someone who had no understanding of them at all.
I fill her in to the best of my ability, striving to be as impartial as possible. I have nothing against hipsters. She should take the info I give her and form her own opinions.
“THE ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT?” She practically has to shout to be heard over the live music. “That’s so weak, like, while you’re on your iPhone in your flannels from Abercrombie that cost like… oh, the IRONY!”
“Yes! You got it! It’s all about irony.”
But my Hipster 101 crash course has left her even more bewildered.
“People are actually drinking out of cans in a bar!”
“Yes. They’re drinking out of cans in a bar.”
I’m dying. We’re both dying. We turn our backs to the room and put our heads together so we can laugh without looking like we’re laughing at anyone. I can’t help myself, though, and I take a few pictures, exercising as much discretion as possible. Tara’s still going on in disbelief.
“I couldn’t figure out what it was, at first… I thought it was just the lottery tickets… but then I saw it, people drinking out of cans, and I knew something was weird.”
“It’s true… PBR is everywhere you look!”
“People weren’t drinking out of cans the last time I was in a bar! WTF and it’s this cheap-ass beer that I was pretty sure died in 1985. I mean, who ARE these people drinking these crappy 16-oz beers?”
I’m wiping tears from the corners of my eyes when she leans in and says, “Hey, I wonder if that guy is going to order one! I bet he will.”
I glance at the bearded gentleman sitting alone at the end of the bar. Sure enough, the bartender sets a PBR in front of him.
“I remember when a can used to mean that they brought it in themselves!” Tara laughs, referring back to her bar-working days.
Some jostling starts up behind me as someone’s clumsily coming in through the back door. I turn around and start to wonder if we’ve accidentally crashed a Saturday Night Live skit about hipsters, because right on cue, enter an employee (stage left!) hauling in three more cases of PBR. He hefts them up to the bar for the bartender to manage, right in front of us.
“They actually can’t keep enough of it behind the bar!” Tara says. “They’re bringing it in from outside.”
Later, on the phone, she remarks, “I’m sorry I didn’t order one and ask them for a glass to pour it in.”
Thanks to Tara for contributing to this post!