Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nurse the Hate: "Modern Rustic"

The home remodelers spoke of their upcoming project proudly.  They stood in front of the group showing slides of the plans.  Big plans.  The goal was to strip the house down to the very basics, and replace all the exisiting amenities with very modern plumbing and lighting fixtures.  The house would be transformed from a traditional country home where Tim Allen movies are always on the TV and pot pies bubble in the oven to one where Moby played assertively from the in house speaker system.  Mountain Dew would be replaced with bottle aged Loire and Vouvrey.  The broken grandfather clock was out.  A distant blonde woman would now speak dismissively of art galleries from a designer chair so uncomfortable no guest would ever sit in it.  This was a complete transformation.  The man was very proud of this plan and waited to deliver the knock out punch in his presentation.  “We call this Modern Rustic”.   Ye Gods.

I may be the only person that was annoyed by this. Everyone else in the room during the Modern Rustic presentation nodded knowingly, but I have a suspicion that was because they were afraid that if they asked the logical question of "If it is rustic, doesn't that by definition mean it is old and not modern?", that they would appear like fools. I didn't say anything because I felt like once I got started in my confrontational aggressive tone, the room would have turned on me. No one wants to be maced in the face at a public relations event. Certainly not over a concrete sink with illogical steel fixtures or an unbelievably weathered cabinet. In this sense, I became part of the problem and not part of the solution.

I thought it was an isolated event, but it was not.  I was recently in San Francisco and made a reservation at the hot new restaurant.  Having spent the day wandering around the city, I was dressed casually in jeans and rumpled shirt.  California is tough when it comes to dress code.  Normally people are dressed down, but in a manner that shows taste.  It’s sort of like how Johnny Depp always looks like Keith Richards dressed him in the dark, but the weather beaten boots he’s wearing cost $1600.  It's confusing.  The people with the most money and power in California look like bike messengers while in New York only bike messengers look like bike messengers.  Still, there is a decorum at a “see and be seen” restaurant.  I didn’t want to look like the Midwestern Rube I normally look like (and am), so I called to get a feel for what was appropriate attire.

The very effeminate man that answered the phone was so over the top I was concerned glitter was going to explode out of my cellphone.  I asked what sort of attire would work for dinner.  “Oh!  We really go for a formal casual look here!”   I have no idea what the fuck that meant, and I know he didn't either.  It just sounded marvelous.   

The "formal casual" thing I couldn't let pass. At first I thought I heard it incorrectly and asked him to repeat it. Formal casual? Would that be like those free t-shirts with a tuxedo print on them that were given out free to kids for prom rentals? Would I wear ripped cargo shorts with patent leather shoes? A thrift store purchased Pavement concert t-shirt with a top hat? A pressed white dress shirt with a bathing suit and flip flops?  What exactly is "formal casual"? My conversation with Michael Fabulous yielded nothing. "Whatever people want to wear that makes them look and feel good!"  He was very excited.  I stuck with the jeans and changed my shirt. I was underdressed. That son of a bitch.

Do the meaning of words now no longer matter?  Have we run out of language that expresses what should be simple concepts?  “I’d like to start with the hot cold soup and then have the steak.  Could you make that rare well done?”  I think that the goal is to appear so cutting edge and trendy that what is possible is redefined.  The key is to ignore logic.  “Modern Rustic?  Oh, it’s like a log cabin, but at the same time is like a German model's Berlin apartment!  It’s changed EVERYTHING!  Let me hop into my moccasins/coonskin cap and take my jet pack to the formal casual restaurant!”   The pressing need to make what is actually very simple seem very complicated runs these people's lives.  "We are re-doing this house by ripping out the old shit and making the interior modern and minimal."  Gotcha.  "It's a half step above casual, but no one will freak out if you aren't in a collared shirt."  Oh, I understand.

Maybe I'm the one that doesn't understand.  Perhaps everything has been done and it is now just about placing a new label on the familiar.  It's an Emporer Has No Clothes situation, and the only one not in on it is me.  Maybe I need to write some slow uptempo neo-cowpunktry songs, have an ice cold warm beer, and relax in my formal casual clothes in a modern rustic chair.



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