Explaining Hipsters (“working title” intended!)

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…


No point in trying to protect its privacy, but we thought it would be fun to try.

No point in trying to protect its privacy, but we thought it would be fun to try.


…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.


Tara and me at Club Red, first stop of the night.

Tara and me at Club Red, first stop of the night.


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.”


PBR - Cans in a Bar

PBR – 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!

Birth Control Glasses… Classic!

Yeah, we all know my inner girly parts have left the party, so no need for birth control anything, but I’m getting these glasses, anyway.

Let me explain. See, I have an appointment at the Eye Clinic at the Veteran’s Outpatient Clinic in the first week of September. I’m going to get glasses there because I can, and I need them – not 24/7, but for watching movies and staring at computer screens for long periods of time, which I do (ahem) kind of a lot, being both a movie fanatic and a writer. My current state of “glasseslessness,” shall we say, has gone on long enough. I do have a pair at the moment, but the right-side lens is flawed… it fogs up spontaneously while I’m wearing them, so they’re pretty much useless. Has anyone else experienced this problem with their glasses?

Anyhow, I wasn’t even aware that I was eligible to get glasses from the V.A. until I attended the New Patient Orientation last month, and the presenter covered that topic as he navigated down through his informative Power-Point presentation. I almost missed it, because the subject came up while I was only listening with one ear. (My other ear was momentarily tuned in to my inner voice, which was busy wondering what we were going to have for lunch. I was hungry.)

I heard the venerable older Vet utter the words “eye exam,” and the word “glasses.” And then, as he casually continued on, he used a term I hadn’t heard in many years: “BCGs.”

It took a second for it to come back to me, but once it hit, I started laughing. I couldn’t contain it, and I instantly felt like a Bad Person for interrupting him. He paused… glanced my way… and burst out in laughter, as well! BCGs. Damn! I hadn’t thought of them in so long.

“You’re a Stormer, right?” he asked me, verifying that I was the Gulf War vet on his roster.

“Yes,” I said. The connection was made. Mutual laughter is a wonderful thing.

The military has acronyms for everything, and everything you need is provided as standard military-issue. If you need glasses, you’re issued glasses, and those glasses are known by the acronym “BCGs.” Birth Control Glasses.

The idea is that the glasses are so ugly, you won’t be able to get laid if you’re wearing them. It’s a joke, but “BCGs” is seriously what everyone in the Army calls them. It’s practically their official name, and that’s what’s so funny about it. All soldiers know what BCGs are… at least, they did during my time. I’m sure it’s still the case today. The Army is fairly change-resistant in many ways.

Depending on the era, BCG frames can be horn-rimmed or slightly squared-off, but they’re always large, thick and dark (either black or brown).

Callaghan was sitting there with me, and he was confused. Being French, he was thinking of tuberculosis. In French, “BCG” is the term for the tuberculosis vaccine (Le vaccin bilié de Calmette et Guérin).


French tuberculosis vaccine on the left, American military standard-issue glasses on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

French tuberculosis vaccine on the left, American military standard-issue glasses on the right. NOT UNLIKE.


In the civilian world, hipsters have now made BCGs a part of their basic everyday uniform. See how that works? Military HAS to wear them. Hipsters WANT to wear them. (Come to think of it, civilians also like to wear camo print and combat boots. Solider fashion, always in fashion! It’s a classic… never goes out of style. Hmm….)

And so it is that I shall obtain a pair of glasses from the V.A., and I’m grateful for it. When we wandered into the glasses area while we were down there last week, I saw that there’s a plethora of available frame styles, and some of them are quite attractive… so the glasses I get don’t have to be actual BCGs, unless I choose them with the civilian hipness factor in mind. Still, the idea of glasses from the V.A amuses me.

Now for the obvious question: If these glasses are perched on the favorable end of the desirability scale in civilian hipsterdom, what would that make them, in that case? “PGs” – Pregnancy Glasses? “GLGs” – Get Laid Glasses? Parents of hipster kids, lock up those glasses!