Symbols of Individuality

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I’m old enough to remember when Nicolas Cage made movies that weren’t terrible. Leaving Las Vegas, Valley Girl, and Raising Arizona are all tremendous. One of my favorites is the 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart.

This black comedy stars Cage as Sailor Ripley, “a kind of romantic Southern Outlaw.” The plot revolves around his release from prison and romantic reunion with his highly sexual and confident lover, Lula Pace Fortune. This movie had a major influence on what I thought love was supposed to be.

There’s a lot more that could be said about Wild at Heart, but I’ve been thinking about one scene in particular. When Lula picks Sailor up from prison in her convertible Thunderbird, she brings along his snakeskin jacket, the “symbol of his individuality.” Here’s the scene I’m talking about.

One of the things I really appreciated about living in New Orleans is how legitimately unique the people are there. My friend Eric Santana and the crew he ran around with in the late 90s were phenomenal characters with their own styles, which I always greatly admired.

To this day Eric has great style. The last time I saw him he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with black jeans and cowboy boots. The best part of his ensemble was the ever present police issue Glock. It just lets you know what’s up.

For some reason, I was never that comfortable going my own way. There was a summer where I started wearing these weird thrift store lounge suits, but I never really had the confidence to pull it off. So I just went for off the shelf goth/punk. It wasn’t quite Hot Topic shit, but it wasn’t too far. I think the only thing that saved me from going full Juggalo was the influence of my friend who owned a great vintage store on Magazine St. called Ragin’ Daisy.

It’s a strange impulse to crave individuality. It seems like all the anthropologists and biologists lean towards us being social animals in need of tight communities where we fit in. Being too eccentric marks you as an outsider, which can be isolating, unless you’re a witch doctor or something. But we don’t seem to have much need for those types anymore.

Lately the people I’ve been admiring and inspired by the most are true weirdos, especially musicians. There’s this guy called MonoNeon I just discovered who’s a perfect example. He’s a bass player who wears these crazy bright colors and plays a left handed bass, strung upside down, with the strings going the “wrong” way. Here he is in this video (on the right).

These odd play alongs are sort of what got him attention on the internet, but he’s an absolute savage on the bass. I’ve been listening to his oddball music a lot lately. His strange rhythm and cosmically funky tone just puts me in a different headspace than the usual shit I listen to. It’s almost like escaping the mundanity of 4/4 timing’s fascist beat forces you to have a different experience with the world.

While his sartorial expression is not my cup of tea, his reason for wearing loud, non-ignorable hues (to make people feel a certain way) has me seriously considering a break from my bleak drone uniform: black T-shirts and jeans.

I’ve dressed this way for as long as I’ve been riding vintage motorcycles that break down all the time and bartending. It’s utilitarian, fits the requirements of most bar work, and hides stains. But I don’t bartend or ride vintage bikes anymore, so what’s the point?

It may be true that clothes make the man and I am in danger of becoming calcified. Hopefully it hasn’t hit my pineal gland because of all that fucking extra fluoride toothpaste I use (just kidding, that shit is dumb. Maybe.). Anyway, I tried wearing no black clothes for a few days in a row, and I think it may have had an effect. Not so much on me, but on other people.

Black is the classic color of someone who doesn’t want to talk to anyone. My jeans and hoodie have essentially become the symbol of the techie, who know one really wants to talk to.

And lately, I’ve really been into talking to people. That’s what the podcast is and I’ve even been having random conversations with a lot of strangers in cafes and such. I’m a fairly heavy social media user and that’s all about conversation, too. Pretty much anytime I post I’m hoping to get into a funny conversation with someone. I’ve “met” a bunch of people online in the last year who’ve really got me thinking about new things. That’s a total win as far as I’m concerned. If you’re looking for novelty in your life, strike up a conversation with a stranger.

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