Monday, June 3, 2013


Last night during the Venture Bros. season premiere, Adult Swim aired a Diet Coke ad with Taylor Swift, and we - those of us who were watching it together - were annoyed.  And we talked about it for the entire commercial break.

We talked about how ridiculous it was that Coca Cola believed that putting T.Swift in an ad about "songwriting" and Diet Coke would make them actually sell Diet Coke, we talked about T.Swift's perception in society within our demographic and others, as a guilty pleasure and an artist, etc. etc. etc.

And then at the end of the commercial break I said, "But see - the ad worked, it doesn't matter if we want a Diet Coke or not.  We just talked about their ideas for five full minutes and tried to make sense of them.  They win."

Whatever we talked about is irrelevant, whoever they put in the ad is irrelevant, whatever the ad portrays is irrelevant.

Our job is not to buy Diet Coke - people are going to do that anyway.  Our job is to give a shit about Diet Coke, our job is to make it relevant to our lives, which we obviously just did by even thinking about it at all to the point where we discussed it for five minutes and I still can't stop thinking about it.  

I mean, I'm not gonna stop buying Diet Coke when I'm hungover just because they put Taylor Swift in a commercial. 


There are certain types of places that I hate spending my free time, but I will inevitably do it anyway because people I love want to spend their time there. 

When I say "places" I mean "bars," really.  Not all bars - some are fortresses of comfort.  I'm talking about plastic bars. 

They're fucking toxic.  They're awful.  I was at one on Friday.

Plastic bars are vast, loud, terribly lit places.  They have obscenely high ceilings, giant bars full of 100 kinds of vodka, black walls.  Bars that have multiple giant rooms.  Bars where you have to yell for the bartender to hear your drink order.  Bars where drinks are expensive and watery, where everyone is dressed the same and you have to wait in a line to go to the bathroom, and it doesn't even matter if you know that the people there are individuals with feelings and thoughts, it doesn't even matter if you care about them because once you get into there you are immediately part of the herd, and your environment is specifically designed to keep you into that herd.

The amenities - beer, food, chairs, tables, dance floor - are designed to keep you in a room, the room is designed to amplify the sound of the music, the music is designed to make you feel a beat, and the beat is designed to make you fall in line with the herd, it's designed to keep everyone feeling the same thing and doing the same thing and drinking the same thing and wearing the same thing.


Temple Grandin.  You know Temple Grandin?  She's amazing. She's an autistic woman that designed the modern slaughterhouse that is specifically designed to make cattle feel safe and part of the herd and not like they're about to be murdered and ground into Whoppers.

That's the kind of bar I'm talking about.


Sure, they think they're retaining their individuality because they're wearing different colors or a different cut, but it's all designed by the same people and part of the same brand and they didn't choose those clothes, no matter what they think - those clothes were designed and marketed to them in a specific way so they would think they had a choice in the first place. That's how branding works.  It creates a herd, gives them infinite choices of the same thing, gives them the allusion of individuality.  But they all have the same goals, the same taste, the same job.  They don't think so, but they do.  And I share a lot in common with them. I know I do.

Most importantly: I don't look down on being part of the herd, even though people think I do.  That's their own insecurity.  It's just another way of being, and as long as you're being something, and you care about it, I think it's rad.

I cannot stress that enough.

Here's what separates me:  I know what's going on and I'm actively trying to not be a part of it.  It's hard.  It's easy to dismiss it, and say "that's the way things are" and just leave it alone and go about my business.  People say I'm overreacting.  That I'm looking to hard for something that isn't there.  I say they're idiots because they're willfully ignoring something in front of their face because they don't want to see it.  But there it is, and I want no part of it.

The herd is not nice to outsiders.

I'm the type of person that people stop on the street and ask for directions.  I'd say this happens to me once a day.  People have yelled at me from their cars and asked for directions.  I don't know why this happens, or what it is about me that makes them choose me - but they do, which means I give off some sort of vibe that either says "I know where I'm going" or, more likely, "I will answer your question." 

On top of that, I give off another vibe: I'm not connected to you.  It will take me awhile to connect with a person.  Like a year.  Or so. Since I don't believe I'm connected - my connection has to grow. 

And people who believe they're connected and a part of things - they cannot understand what it's like to feel disconnected.  They don't understand that it's not something you turn on and off, it's a belief.  I cannot just stop believing something because you think it's a good idea. Welcome to religion.

So back to the herd and the people I know and love that can vibe in the herd: we've already connected, so I don't know if they see the outsider part of me or not.

But strangers can smell it.  They attack and do their best to make me feel uncomfortable.  AND I'M IN MY THIRTIES.  WE ARE ADULTS.  THEY STILL DO THIS.

Again, like the commercial, the details aren't important. The point is that it happened.  It happens.  The point is I'm still thinking about it.

The point is I hate it there.  Everything about it feels wrong to me.  It makes me uncomfortable and angry and sad, it makes me question my existence and my purpose.  An environment that is specifically designed to make me feel one with my surroundings makes me feel lonesome and alien.

The point is that I will keep going back to these places because I don't want to lose the connections I have, but these places stress those connections more than strengthen them.

It's inevitable that someone is going to tell me to stop caring what people think. No.  You aren't paying attention.  That's all there is.  All I am is the people I care about, and what they think is important to me.  Whether we agree is irrelevant.  The point is not that our thoughts and feelings are the same, the point is that we care in the fucking first place.

I am a paradox.



Rassles said...

Is it better for me to suck it up and go and try to have fun, or is it better for me to avoid environments that put me in terrible head space? Am I learning something or strengthening myself by going, or is this hurtful in the long run? I mean, every single time I go to one of these bars I inevitably fight or cry because they make me so incredibly uncomfortable.

buttercup27 said...

You're going for the right reasons and I'm sure your friends love you for it. They know that it's not your idea of fun, but you're a good friend for going where they like. It's always a give and take to determine what to do to be with friends and be a part of their lives when it isn't what feels good for you. Putting up with a little bit of crap from each other is a big part of life. I'm rambling. Excellent. But I feel ya. I do.

David Oliver said...

I wanted to comment and say something clever or profound or funny but for some reason all I have are random thoughts about Temple Grandin, a Judas cow and how my cat likes to be squeezed tightly.

People are always wanting you to do things you don't want to do. It's okay as long as they don't try to make you feel guilty for not doing it. If they do play the guilt card, I'd suggest squeezing them tightly and then lining them up behind the Judas cow.

jon said...

Gah! Flashbacks of John Barleycorn. Places like that make me feel horrified and terrified of all the sex-crazed animals around me and wanting to order the strongest drinks possible to numb myself to the surroundings, as there is no quiet corner to slink off to. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good business model.

As I'm a whole different person when I'm scared, I don't go to those places anymore.

Chris said...

I suspect the vibe you give off is, "I am present." Which could explain all of the rest, including your sensitivity to paradox, and discomfort in the herd. I wrote a poem about paradox once. It wasn't very good.

Kono said...

Fuck the herd, they are not terribly nice to outsiders, they are confounded by them, i deal with the herd all the time, i smile and i'm pleasant and i know i confuse them, of course this it suburban herd and not the god-awful upwardly mobile club herd, that herd i'd fucking lead to the slaughterhouse like Willy Wonka herding kids to candy, of course i don't have any friends who'd take me to such a place or the ones that would know not to, remember that story about me tripping in the swanky restuarant bar and providing my own umbrella's for drinks? all you need to know, or maybe i don't have any friends? well not many at least, you get old you cut back on alot of things, fuck i'm stoned, i'm gonna eat a bowl of cereal

Kono said...

And where ya been Razz, i was in Chi-town a while back, someday i might post about it, went to Nelson Alrgre's old neighborhood and saw some of his old hangouts, i know you'll hate me for this but i quite liked the Rainbo Club, of course it was 5pm and empty but the vinyl was good and the beer was cheap and i'm sure it was quite like the place i drink at home once the crowd rolled in, which has both it's good and it's bad, another herd with different spots or stripes if you will...

daisyfae said...

i'm not comfortable in plastic bars either. one subset of friends likes to do the occasional happy hour at such a place - i ask if we can sit on the patio. i do it to stay connected to these ladies... but i've started inviting them to my dive bars and holes-in-the-wall places. i figure if they start to get less afraid of the vibe in my places - and start to appreciate the generous pour of a good goddamned bartender who isn't expected to measure drinks - then maybe i can get them to change the venue every now and then.

chris is right. you are 'present'. and very self-aware.

buttercup27 said...

This may explain things...

Rassles said...

Buttercup, thanks. It's tricksome. I'm always stuck in a week-long funk after nights like that.

David, see, that's the thing! They never make me feel guilty. Which gives me intense guilt. GAHH. Oh well. Does that make ME the Judas cow? No, because I'm not leading my friends into darkness. I AM FOLLOWING THEM, THOUGH. Shit, I'm going to lose my soul out there somewhere.

Jon, for fucking serious. John Barleycorn is like hell. Wrigleyville is like hell. Honestly, I used to love baseball and follow it and everything, and then I moved to the city and I went to Wrigleyville. Just for fun, one day. It ruined everything for me.

Chris, did it go like this:
There once was a girl from Nantucket
Who wrote a poem about a paradox
Shit, those don't rhyme
This limerick's a crime
Writing poetry is hard

Kono. My friend. I live in Algre's old neighborhood. I've been here for seven goddamn years. Just west of Rainbo. When I first moved to Chi I went there constantly, but it was never really my thing. It's more my thing than the plastic bars, definitely, but to me Rainbo has always been a place to be seen instead of a place to go. You dick, YOU WERE RIGHT IN MY HOOD. Also, it's bonkers to me how all of these famous people all traveled in the same circles and then just, like, made each other relevant to the world.

Daisy, my friends are pretty much down to do absolutely anything, and they really don't give a shit where they are as long as we're together. This, of course, is the mentality that I've been trying to have for about, oh, twelve years now? It's not working.

Buttercup, love.

Not Afraid To Use It said...

Interesting observations. I, too, hate going places I can't stand just to keepmthose connections. But I do it not only for those connections, but because otherwise it would be easy to underappreciate how much I love the comfortable areas of my life.

Erin said...

I love arriving home after going to those bars. They make my back hurt. I don't know why. Every muscle relaxes when I get home. It feels so good.