Friday, April 18, 2014

I'm finally cutting edge. Or, maybe, a joke.

I've got an office now. Well, really it's more of a cell, in which I can get down to the monastic task of writing. Not very glamorous, although it is, a.) not in my home, and b.) behind a dance studio in KC's trendy/arty Crossroads district.

The other day, I rode my bicycle in to work. I hadn't shaved, and I was wearing a bib-overall style lycra winter cycling outfit, with a motorcycle shop t-shirt under it, and a collared short sleeve Harley-Davidson work shirt over that; a spiff from the Road America launch of the ill-fated XR1200x model. Over that, I wore a bright yellow winter cycling jacket. Proper cycling cleats hurt my wonky knee, so I pedal in very old, black, Vans sneakers.

I actually do have a pair of trousers and a clean shirt at work, but since I had no one to impress, I didn't bother changing. I worked at the computer all morning, and at lunch I walked down the street to Mildred's, a hangout for local ad agency & production types, and the local digerati. I stood out like a wart on a porn star's perfectly waxed genitals. I don't think I was imagining things when it seemed that a few of the aspirational-one-percenters in there looked down their noses at me.

The thing is, I'm actually ahead of them on the hipness curve. Beards? Tatts? Cafe'd-out KZ650s? Home-made artisanal pickles? Those are so 2012. I'm 'normcore'.

Yes, for the first time ever I'm officially beyond merely hip. Check it out, it's a real thing.

Or, normcore may be a joke being played by a handful of bleeding-edge fashion bloggers, no one is quite sure. The word was coined by the accidentally-almost-perfectly-named trend forecasting group K-hole, in NYC. Basically, if you believe those K-holes , the ├╝ber-hip have embraced mediocrity, to enjoy the simple pleasure of belonging. Or they're finally exhausted by the constant effort expended on dismissing anything that anyone else likes.

I was normcore before it was... well, I was going to say 'cool' but whatever it is, it isn't cool. Anyway, about three years ago, I (briefly) had a real job, at Trader Joe's. Since regular work outside the home meant I was going to have to commute right through a Kansas City winter, often going to work at 5 a.m., I needed an enclosed, four-wheeled vehicle. Of course, at first I looked for something cool, like a Ranchero or at least a '70s vintage C10.

What I quickly learned was that anything that I could afford, that had any kind of cool factor at all, was a complete piece of shit that I could in no way count on actually starting at below-zero temps or getting me all the way to the store. After finally test driving an F-100 that the CL seller described as a daily driver, and which in fact had brakes on only one wheel, I admitted to myself that I was not destined to be cool. In fact, I took the opposite approach; I started scouring CL for vans that had absolutely no cool factor whatsoever.

I settled on a 15 year old Plymouth Voyager, which I found in fully driveable condition for $1,500. It looked like a very large, burgundy-colored suppository. Basically it was the sort of vehicle some Republican bought for his suburban wife/soccer mom. She drove it for years, until her last kid was going off to college. Then, when that kid needed a car, Mom said, "Take the Voyager," and the kid chose, instead, to use public transit.

The thing was, I loved it. I became a totally different person driving it; that guy traveling infuriatingly slowly in the right lane, listening to NPR while watching the gas gauge. It always started; it got me to Trader Joe's whenever it was too cold or icy to ride. Then came some fateful night when I had a bunch of stuff to unload from the van. After schlepping back and forth a few trips, I got inside and kicked off my shoes, and wondered, Did I lock it?

I told myself no one would steal such a bland vehicle anyway, but the next morning it was gone. It wasn't stolen for resale; when it was found later, smashed into a guardrail, it was obvious that it had been used as a rolling meth lab.

I was crestfallen, but I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. Thieves had already smashed off the ignition of my Triumph in an attempt to steal it, and it's a piece of shit, too. You might surmise that I don't exactly live in a gated community.

Anyway, I started taking more precautions with the bikes; the Triumph, my non-running Honda Dream, and the only really good vehicle I own(ed)... my Yamaha Vino scooter. I bought a long, heavy cable to connect all three bikes, a decent padlock, and kept them all covered. That was vainglorious; the scooter was stolen last fall.

So basically, for every year I've lived here, someone's attempted to steal one of my vehicles; twice, they've been successful. Some day, I'll dedicate a whole post to describing just how completely nonplussed the Kansas City Police Department is, on the subject of vehicle theft.

Anyway, now that it's spring again, I really could use another scooter, but as long as I live here, I know that it has to be something so uncool that, a.) hipsters haven't driven the prices up on it, and b.) thieves won't target it.

I was having coffee with a local motorcyclist/friend the other day, who was aghast when I told him I was thinking about putting in an offer on a Honda Helix--arguably the homeliest Honda ever, although like the Voyager, a remarkably functional vehicle.

At first I fantasized about customizing it somehow; yarn-bombing it, or hand-beating alloy bodywork with steampunk brass hardware; maybe just doing an elaborate, trompe-l'oeuil paint job of rust, dirt and dents so that any thief would reject it out of hand. Then I realized that I don't need to do anything to it. The Helix is already beyond hip; it's normcore for motorcycles.


Seriously: Do a Google image search for "Honda Helix" and just look at the owners proudly posing with their Helixes (Helii?) They are so normcore it hurts.

Now that's my style.

1 comment:

  1. Odd how fashionable we all are at some point as the train both catches us and passes us by without us ever realizing it. Good that you got to ride the train for short distance to at least realize you were right there on the bleeding edge.

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