Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Affect Effect

During my senior year in college I tended bar at Sutter's Mill. The head bartender was a guy named Mike. He was a 6'5" tall skinny black guy who had a swagger about him that made him untouchable. That, and a crew of hulking bouncers who guarded the staff from the nightly melee.

But in retrospect Mike could have, and should have, been the target of much mockery.

You see, Mike wore a silly cowboy hat. A huge leather Stetson that looked like it had been retrieved from the 1870's. The hat was complemented by snakeskin boots. Mike wore the cowboy hat and cowboy boots everywhere he went. And in Syracuse, NY where the temperature can dip into the minus twenties, that's not always the most suitable attire.

It was odd, to say the least. And not because of his race. I know from my 11th grade history class there were plenty of black cowboys. But Mike was from Scarsdale, in Westchester county. On the spectrum of people who might be mistaken for a cowboy I was closer to the real deal than Mike. (My father regularly took me to Cherry Lane Stables to retrieve horse shit for our garden.)

It's clear that the cowboy hat and the cowboy boots were Mike's affectation, which the dictionary tells us is a habit, as of speech or dress, or behavior, adopted to give a false impression.

I live in Los Angeles now, a city consumed by affectations. And because of social media I am now privy to  the affectations of friends, family and former colleagues. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Prized collections of antique salt and pepper shakers.

I don't have any of that. Basically I'm not out to impress anyone. In fact, the 600 or so entries in this blog that detail my shortcomings, my failures and my neuroses, seem to indicate I'm more interested in doing the opposite.

I know nothing of retro-cool 1950's era patio furniture.
I don't smoke a pipe or a hookah.
I don't collect clown paintings or glass eyeballs.
I'm not versed in the lore of the Rat Pack.
I didn't name my children after any weather phenomena or an obscure font or any 17th century poets.
(Hell, I barely know any famous poets and that's only because it's a popular category on Jeopardy)
I don't have a cat named Leica, because they make the best camera lenses.
I don't sleep on a bed frame carved from hand-selected Peruvian teak.
I don't drink bourbon that's been exclusively aged in artisan-crafted Hungarian oak barrels.
I don't buy my groceries from a co-op because they offer their employees full dental coverage and aroma therapies.
I don't drive a vintage car, wear vintage clothing or even own anything vintage. If I do own something vintage, it's only because I haven't thrown it out yet.

I simply am without any affectations. And living here in Southern California, that's quite rare.

Maybe having no affectations is my affectation?

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