How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hipsters

street-art-599761_1280How does one define a hipster? Is there even such a thing? Is it a style of dress, a hairstyle? an attitude? Skinny jeans and gauged ears? Plastic framed glasses? As sometimes happens, fashions from the scene have begun to blend into the mainstream, and so we’ve all become a little more hipster. And yet, there is still such a thing as a hipster. An ur-hipster, if you will. The eternal hipster. Hipsters are like pornography: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

God knows, it’s fun to hate on the hipsters. And there are some people who make it awfully easy. I suppose it doesn’t matter which scene you’re dealing with, there are those who take it too far. Try taking a walk down the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon sometime, and see if you don’t at least once roll your eyes and say, “Oh my god, look at that hipster.” But then, drive out of the city a little bit and you’ll be rolling your eyes and saying, “Oh my god, look at that redneck.” Wherever you go, there’s always that guy.

I’m guilty of making hipster jokes. But lately I’ve been realizing that it’s a lazy, knee-jerk response. “Oh my god, look at that hipster, riding his fixie bike,wearing skinny jeans and a vest. Look at that hipster, with a vegan tattoo and a v-neck shirt. Look at that hipster, opening an artisanal cheese shop. Dur-hur-hur, fucking hipsters.”

So yeah, it’s easy to make fun of the guy opening an artisanal cheese shop. The thing is, it’s damned good cheese.

Does Portland (and most other cities) have lots of hipsters? Yes. Are some of them insufferably douchey? Yes indeed. But you know what else Portland has lots of? Fun bars. Great coffee. Microbrews. Bands. Bakeries. Restaurants. Free concerts. Farmer’s markets. And it’s all because of the hipsters.

I suppose it’s a double edged sword. The tragically hip fashion victims get annoying, as does the attitude from the hipper-than-thou girl in the plastic framed eyeglasses at the used bookstore. But the good things and the bad things spring from the same root, the same youthful energy and creative spirit.

hipster.jpgIt’s important to realize that it’s not about the fashion. Every subculture has its fashions, and many of them look pretty goofy to outsiders, but that’s just a look. People have been coming up with weird fashions since the beginning of time. Beyond the sea-captain beards and the ironic tee shirts, you’ll find people who are trying to do something new. Who are trying to create the world they want to live in. People who’d rather take the considerable risk of opening a coffee shop or a gluten-free bakery or a microbrewery than have a normal job with a suit and tie, and they’re making the world a better place for it. Because, dammit, I like good coffee and unique microbrews and fresh baked goods. If you think these people are doing it to get rich, you must be high. Probably on legal Oregonian weed.

There’s definitely some similarities to the hippie movement of the sixties and seventies. Then as now, you had a subculture of people saying, I don’t agree with the current system, it has nothing to offer me, and so I’m going to stop chasing the carrot on the stick, and I’m going to create my own system. And frankly, they’re doing a better job than the hippies did. When you see somebody riding their bike to their coffee shop, buying locally sourced organic vegetables, teaching free yoga in the park, they’re living with the courage of their convictions, and still managing to more or less live as functional members of society.

hipster-beard-and-bikeAgain, it’s fun to make fun. Like artisanal pencil sharpening. It’s clever, yes. It’s all in good fun. But when we make fun of somebody for, oh, lets say, opening an artisanal cheese shop, what we’re really saying is, “Look at this jerk, trying to make a living doing something he’s passionate about. Who does he think he is, trying to master a craft, trying to share his passion with the world, trying to make himself a life he enjoys. Doesn’t he know that the world doesn’t work that way? Go get yourself a meaningless job you hate like the rest of us miserable assholes.”

So, maybe my resistance to this scene, my brain’s former refusal to open up and try to understand what these folks are doing, what they’re really about, is the first step of my descent into fossilhood, and the next thing I know I’ll be sitting on my front porch with my pants up to my armpits, yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

And frankly, that scares the hell out of me. So, yeah, I think I’ll just lighten up and enjoy the microbrews and the coffee and the music.

The Perks of Being a Bookworm


I was generally a pretty good kid. Generally. Mostly, because almost every time I’d try doing something bad, the universe would rain down massive, fiery karmic retaliation upon me. In other words, I’d get caught. But one time I got away with it, because I was a giant nerd.

For the most part, I just read a lot. Hard to get in much trouble when you’ve got your head buried in a book. Lunches, recesses, classtimes, on the bus, I’d be reading. I’d sit in the back of class, pretending to be paying attention or doing schoolwork, all the while with a book on my lap. Most of my teachers, bless their hearts, pretended like they didn’t notice. I thought I was pretty sneaky at the time, but in retrospect I think they were just glad somebody was reading. So, I had a well-deserved reputation as something of a bookworm.

But every once in a while, I’d get a crazy idea in my head. I’d sow my oats. I’d really cut loose and do something wild.

Like flipping the bird to a road construction worker.

Party animal, right? Of course, this was in the second grade, when living dangerously meant sneaking your vegetables off your plate and feeding them to the dog.

But anyway, I was riding the school bus home, one fine day, and we passed by a group of county workers in reflective vests and hard hats, doing some road maintenance. My friend (whose name I forget, but let’s call him John) and I thought, for second-grader reasons, that it would be the coolest thing in the world if we flipped off these grown-ass men who were out doing their jobs. But, criminal masterminds that we were, we would hide our faces by crouching down below the level of the bus window, and hold our hands above our heads, middle fingers raised, like some kind of obscene puppeteers.

And so we did. The bus approached the road construction. We scrunched down in our seats and raised our little hands aloft, flipping the unicorn at these poor unsuspecting schlubs who were just out doing their jobs, who hadn’t done anything to warrant being disrespected by two nerdy eight year olds at three fifteen on a Tuesday afternoon.

We waved our digitorum impudens around, giggling all the while, until the bus moved past. A clean getaway. The perfect crime. We were so cool.

I should have known, there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. There we were, sitting on those smelly green vinyl bus seats, when a white county truck pulled up behind the bus, flashing its yellow light bar. My friend and I exchanged panicked looks.

The bus screeched to a stop. The hydraulic bus door honked open. And then, clomp, clomp, clomp, a great big angry grownup in a hard hat climbed up the bus steps and stared coolly up and down the aisles of the school bus.

To the bus driver, he said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but we were just working by the side of the road, and when you drove by, some kids on this bus flipped us off.”

I took a deep breath and reminded myself: we’d taken precautions for just this sort of situations. We’d scrunched down. We were criminal masterminds. Nothing to worry about.

“Whoever did it was scrunched down in their seats,” said the road worker, “so I couldn’t see their faces. But I saw the top of one head, and it looked just…like…him.”

A great big meaty calloused old grownup finger pointed directly at me.

My sphincter clenched tighter than a submarine door. I broke out into a flop sweat. I trembled. I gazed back at that finger like I was staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun.

I should point out that at this point in my life I had what could kindly be described as a flattop. I thought it made me look like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. In retrospect, I looked more like a bucktoothed hedgehog. In any case, it was a pretty distinctive haircut. Certainly nobody else on the bus had the same cut. It was just the sort of thing that would make the top three inches of someone’s head immediately identifiable.

The moment stretched out forever. I’m busted, I thought, boned, hosed. The jig is up. I’m going up the river. I hear if you just confess they’ll be lenient. I can cop a plea. Maybe I can turn in my accomplice for a reduced sentence. I wonder what prison food tastes like.

And then the bus driver let out an incredulous laugh. “Matt?” she said, “You’ve got to be mistaken. It couldn’t have been Matt. He just sits there and reads all day.”

“Not Matt,” said Heather, the girl across the aisle from me, “he’s a bookworm.”

“He just has his face buried in a book all day.” added David, sitting next to Heather.

“All that dork does is read,” called out Travis, from the back of the bus.

The entire bus rose to my defense, declaring that I was such a nerdy little bookworm that there’s no way I could have ever committed the crime of which I’d been accused.

I just sat there and tried to look angelic.

His confidence shaken, the road worker looked around at the other faces on the bus. “Well…” he said, “then I’m not sure.” He’d lost his momentum. He looked up and down the aisles one more time, mumbled something about respect, and then left the bus.

And I got away scott-free. What’s the moral of the story? I don’t know, maybe: Don’t flip off total strangers. Or maybe, the moral is that you don’t know what kind of black and twisted criminal heart beats within the chest of a nerdy goody two-shoes bookworm. Or maybe it’s that if you’re going to be guilty, it’s a good idea to look innocent.





“So, I wrote a blog post yesterday,” I said, “sort of a comedy erotica thing. It was just a generic love scene where I replaced all the dirty words with made up words like ‘wangdoodle’ or ‘pickle-pocket.'”

We were at a round metal table outside a Starbucks in a generic California strip-mall. There was a Noah’s bagels on one side, and an empty space that used to be a book store on the other. I pulled my croissant apart while Rachel sat down across from me, setting down her cup of coffee.

“Yeah, I read it,” said Rachel. “It was hilarious. Kind of hot though. Really weird.”

I smiled and shrugged. “Hilarious, kind of hot, really weird. Just like me.”

She snorted over her coffee and rolled her eyes. “Weird, anyway.”

I sipped at my grande Pike’s Place roast. “So, yeah. It was just this goofball thing I wrote. But it was really popular. It got more than twice as many views as any of my other posts. I’m not really sure how to feel about that.”

“Maybe you’ve got a gift for writing erotica.”

“I know, right? Maybe I should just go all in and write erotica for a living.”

Rachel smiled. “But it has to be comedy erotica.”

“I’m not sure if I could keep that up,” I said. I paused for a bite of croissant. “No pun intended. I mean, it’s kind of a one-trick pony. How many gibberish words can I make up to describe sex acts? But what if that’s all people want? What if I try to write something else, and people are just like, ‘when are you going to write more of that funny sex stuff?'”

“Oh my god,” said Rachel, her face deadpan, “what if you got Shatnered?”

“Shatnered? Is that a sex word I made up?”

“No, I mean like William Shatner.”

I cocked my head. “I don’t follow.” I raised one eyebrow. “Am I going to have to start…talking with overly…long dramatic pauses?”

Rachel rolled her eyes again. “What I mean is, what do you think of when you think of William Shatner?”

“Star Trek, I guess.”

She rapped her fist on the table. “Exactly. He hasn’t been in a Star Trek movie in twenty years. He’s an accomplished producer, writer and director. He’s had literally hundreds of roles throughout a successful fifty-year career. And yet, what’s the first thing people think when they hear William Shatner? James T. Kirk.”

“So, I’m going to be the comedy sex guy? No matter what I do, no matter what I accomplish, when people hear ‘Matt Kincade’ twenty years from now, they’re going to think, ‘Oh, he’s that guy who writes the weird comedy sex stuff with made up words?’ That’s my future?”

She nodded sadly. “‘Fraid so.”

I stared down at my coffee cup. “Jesus. That’s terrifying. How can I stop this?”

“You can’t. Many have tried. Shatner. Mark Hamill. Sean Connery. Leonard Nimoy. It happened to all of them. I mean, it’ll be great, at first. You’ll be famous. You’ll have nubile college girls wanting you to sign their cleavage, giggling and asking you to squibble their jibbles or whatever. You’ll be on top of the world. There’ll be money, women, drugs, you name it.” Rachel sipped her coffee. “But then, it’ll get old. You’ll want to move on to other things. Only the world won’t let you. Pretty soon, you’ll cringe every time you see someone approach you in the street with a pen and a notebook. You’ll probably scream at some fan who interrupts you while you’re trying to have a nice dinner with your family. You’ll flip over a table, throw a bottle of champagne at the wall. Somebody will call the cops.”

“My god.”

“Oh yeah, it’s bad.” Rachel made a sympathetic face. “And that’s the start of your downward spiral. Your cocaine habit will get out of control. You’ll spend all your famous author money on hookers. You’ll wind up living in your car, offering to schlibble dibbles for five dollars so you can buy a crack rock.”

“I always wondered what rock bottom was going to look like for me.”

“Well, that’s it. You can’t get any lower. Then you’ll have your moment of clarity. You’ll probably find Jesus. You’ll accept your place in life as the comedy sex writer guy. You’ll start accepting appearances on television shows, parodying yourself. You’ll realize that some people would do anything for the fame that you’ve spent years running from. You’ll start to understand that everything your fans do, they do out of love. You’ll find balance. You’ll find peace. Are you going to finish that croissant?”

“You know what? You can have it. Suddenly I’m not hungry.”



That one time when I almost died in a fiery explosion

I was a real hell-raiser as a kid. A really exciting Friday night for me was going over to my friend Pete’s house, then we’d get in his Mustang and drive from our shitty little town to a shitty medium-size town that had a Blockbuster Video. We’d pick out a few movies on VHS, load up on candy and soda, maybe get a pizza, then drive back to Pete’s house. Then we’d eat junk food and watch bad movies on Pete’s tiny TV, the TV and the VCR sitting on the floor in Pete’s room and us sitting on the floor in front of it. Good times. No, really. Those were some good times.

Something something 90s kids.

Sometimes I get nostalgic about Blockbuster and I regret their demise. But then I remember the time when they sent me to collections over a twelve dollar late fee, and I realize that the jerks probably had it coming.

But anyway, back to the part where I almost died. We’d just left Pete’s house, him driving his Mustang, (just to correct your mental picture here, this was The Worst Mustang Ever Created, an anemic mid-80s shoebox-on-wheels, white with red vinyl upholstery) pulling onto the freeway. He was trying to get his car up to speed, but the car (probably a minivan; Pete hated and still hates minivans) in front of us put on its brakes. “What the crap!” said Pete, and swerved into the fast lane to pass the offending vehicle.

But then the minivan swerved into the fast lane, nearly clipping Pete. “Asshole!” he yelled, and swerved back into the slow lane.

And there, in the middle of the lane, was a shiny red gas can. Obviously, in retrospect, what the minivan was swerving to avoid.

The helpful co-driver that I am, I pointed and screamed, “Gas can!”

It was too late to do anything. Wham! Crunch! The metal gas can disappeared under Pete’s car. It caught on the undercarriage, and we could hear it scraping against the pavement. Font of wisdom that I am, I screamed, “Stop stop stop!”

LPT: Don’t run these over. It sucks.

Pete merged over to the center median and stopped the car. I got out and went to take a look. The metal gas can was hopelessly mangled, folded up under the car and wedged there. Friction from being dragged over asphalt at freeway speed had ground the corner off, and I saw a trail of gasoline following us down the median and across the freeway to where the collision had occurred.

And then came one of those moments that if I’d seen it in a movie, I would have called it too unrealistic. I don’t know if it was the exhaust from the car, a spark from a passing semi, or simply the puckish sense of humor of a bored god, but at that moment the trail of gasoline ignited. I watched in horror while this tongue of flame crept towards Pete’s Mustang and the gas can wedged underneath it.

“Go go go!” I screamed, always full of good advice.

Pete floored it. Which didn’t do much in his Mustang, but still. The car surged forward, the gas can still grinding on the pavement, the advancing trail of flaming gasoline just feet from his back bumper. Meanwhile, I danced around frantically, trying to stomp out the flames, or to rub away enough fuel to interrupt the makeshift fuse following Pete’s car down the shoulder of the highway. It didn’t work, and I kept running ahead a few more feet to get in front of the flames.

I wish I had a better ending for the story. Something involving heroics. An immense fireball. A fistfight. Paratroopers. A moment of truth where our protagonists rise above their problems and save the day. But no. The gas can ran out of gas, and the trail of gasoline ran dry. At that same moment, some good Samaritan pulled his car over and jumped out with a fire extinguisher. We, and the Mustang, were safe.

We pried the gas can out from under the car. It looked like a smashed beer can. We took a moment to compose ourselves, then we went to Blockbuster and rented Hell Comes to Frogtown and Big Trouble in Little China. We stopped at the Safeway and picked up a half pound of sour gummy worms and some potato chips. Then we went home and watched some movies.

Good times.

In defense of my really long showers

My dad was a shower Nazi.

In his defense, I suppose hot water is expensive. He wasn’t a rich man, money doesn’t grow on trees, and all that. And maybe I’ve always liked a nice long shower. But my father, by some arcane mathematical formula, determined that seven minutes was the absolute maximum amount of time that any person would ever need to spend cleaning themselves. And so throughout my teenage years, every time I’d get ready to take a shower he’d literally grab his stopwatch. I’d get a polite warning knock at five minutes or so. Then more frequent, louder knocks, all the way up to the seven minute mark.

When I, in my—justifiably, I think—righteous indignation would simply ignore his ever more angry banging on the wall, the old man would resort to going outside to the water Continue reading