Disillusioned: Sampling the Menu of Disappointment

The Loch Ness Monster. Sasquatch. Larry King. For centuries people have sought these horrific legendary beasts. Some insist they are merely fantastical, while others maintain they are as real as Jesus's hatred of Buddhists (Are you kidding? Jesus fucking hated Buddhists!) and thus dedicate their lives to pursuing these creatures. For years, I too have been engaged in such a pursuit, and I'm pleased to report I've finally managed to photograph my quarry.

The day was yesterday, January whatever-it-was, and it was about the time of day when most people are thinking about what to have for lunch but extremely lazy people are finally dragging themselves out of bed and into the bathroom to scrub the red wine stains from their lips. I had just scrubbed the red wine stains off my lips, mounted my Scattante, and sallied forth into New York City's hated bicycle infrastructure, when I spotted the fabled rider I had been seeking for years--The Barefoot Bike Salmon of Brooklyn:

Granted, he didn't actually start salmoning until the next intersection, but as you can see he is clearly barefoot:

Also, I know it's The Barefoot Bike Salmon of Brooklyn and not just another random barefoot bicyclist on his way home after a picnic in the park, because this was the weather yesterday and only The Barefoot Bike Salmon of Brooklyn has the formidable foot callouses that permit him to ride a bicycle with metal pedals in the winter while unshod:

Unfortunately however I was unable to capture him, and therefore was also unable to claim the million-dollar bounty that the American Podiatric Medical Association has placed on his head (or, more accurately, his feet). Podiatrists believe that if they can unlock the mystery of his mighty footpads then they will also be able to use this knowledge to cure a host of disorders that have afflicted the human foot since the time we started walking upright, from hallux valgus to the dreaded unguis incarnatus. Sadly though, I will have to continue my search if I am ever to become a member of the 1%.

Still, I was glad I finally saw him, because I was starting to become disillusioned and instead am now filled with hope. I have, however, become quite disillusioned with Australia, which I had previously imagined as a quirky Edenic paradise where the toilets flush backwards and the koalas lovingly pick lice out of your hair while kangaroos box people of note for your amusement. As it turns out though, it's apparently just as awful a place as America is (at least if you ride a bike), and as you may have heard by now some Australian sports douche has attacked a cyclist with his car.

The sports douche is some guy named Shane Warne, and it's a good thing Wikipedia is back online because I was able to find out who he is:

Shane Keith Warne (born 13 September 1969) is a former Australian international cricketer widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game.

I thought bowling was the thing with the alleys and the pins and the funny shoes, so I'm not sure why that has any bearing on his cricket career. Then again, I deeply hate all organized ball sports ("pocket pool" being among the few exceptions) as well as most organized non-ball sports, so I'm probably missing something. I was also surprised to learn that there is apparently doping in cricket, since Shane Warne failed a drug test:

His career was plagued by scandals off the field; these included a ban from cricket for testing positive for a prohibited substance, charges of bringing the game into disrepute through accepting money from bookmakers and marital infidelities.

My surprise was due to the fact that cricket looks about as strenuous as playing croquet, so I wondered what performance-enhancing drug they could possibly be using. Presumably it's just something to keep them awake. I don't mean to single out cricket, by the way. Baseball also looks about as strenuous as playing croquet to me, though I suppose it's a bit harder than cricket since the players also have to do it while being considerably overweight.

Unlike in America, though, the police are taking action against the assailant:

Police spoke to the cyclist and Warne but said there would be no further action.

Oh, sorry, they're not.

By the way, even though America is slipping from its coveted position as Most Awesomest Country in the Whole Wide World, I'd like to think that we're still at least the undisputed global leader in idiotic bicycle-related news article commentary. Unfortunately though I think we've finally lost that as well, since Australians seem to have us beat by a kalometer kolamater Euro-mile:

I'm with Warnie on this one. The guy deserves to have his bike damaged after riding in front of him in an aggressive manner. There should be more of it so thst riders learn their place. They think they have rights, but so do us motorists.

That's some impressive idioting right there. I give that comment five non-opposable thumbs up.

As for Warne, he cut out the middleman and took his idioting straight to his Twitter:

I don't consider myself particularly smart, but I had to watch five hours of quality PBS programming just to get the taste of stupid out of my mouth.

Speaking of disillusionment, you'll be disillusioned to learn that Williamsburg is no longer the hipster capitol of the United States, having in recent years passed that intangible threshold between "youthful exuberance" and "upscale douchery." For example, you used to find the track bikes locked up in front of bars or underneath people trackstanding interminably, but now you find them on the backs of Porsche SUVs instead:

The above photo was taken by a reader, and it's a perfect encapsulation of the evolution of the fixed-gear "culture."

In fact, disillusionment is so widespread these days that Portlanders are even growing disillusioned with Portland, as in this gripping (in that it will grip you with nausea) narrative that was forwarded to me by another reader:

(Portlanders on the loose!)

In it, two people find themselves experiencing the sort of vague dissatisfaction you can only feel if you've never, ever had a moment of adversity in your entire life, and so they decide to leave the safety of the "hipster belt" and work for free:

Jenne and I were both raised in Seattle, we began dating in Brooklyn, N.Y., and we moved together to Portland. We had been born and bred in blue America. Our parents held college degrees, professional jobs and predictable points of view on issues like reproductive rights, marriage equality and preemptively launched wars. We were raised to believe in recycling, temperance and respecting other people’s differences.

Recently, however, we had begun to feel a little disillusioned with the culture. The brew pubs and brunch spots. The high-class cafes and cheapo burrito shops. The happy hours and house pets and crass condo construction. We were tired of the hipsters, with their gaudy mustaches and flannel shirts, unimpressed with the environmentalists, with their blinkered social concern and preening sense of self-righteousness, disgusted by the corporate shills, with their shimmering cocktails and newly minted lofts, and put off by the housewives piling their shopping carts high.

After 25 years surrounded by such people, we were looking for something new. Farming provided us with a point of departure.

So essentially what's happening here is that the cultural phenomenon that is "hipsterism" is now in the process of doubling over on itself and is seeking an alternative to its own alternative. Also, in true spoiled child fashion, now that people in places like Brooklyn and Portland have every single toy they ever wanted they apparently don't want to play with them anymore. Of course, when actual spoiled children lose interest in their toys they decide they want to play with forbidden things, like glass and pieces of scrap metal. But when adult children tire of their toys they become fascinated by forbidden people, like "hicks" and "rednecks" and "conservatives."

And so our heroes restyle themselves as hipster migrant workers and go to work on organic farms in the south:

Jenne and I mostly work the weeds.

I bet you do.

They also have thrilling brushes with danger, like actually meeting people who tuck their shirts in and who vote differently from them:

Mark and Lindsay hardly look like volunteer farmers: He has bright blond hair sculpted in the military style and a stiff collared shirt tucked into blue jeans, while his wife wears a shy smile and a skirt covering her knees....

After the conversation turns to politics, Mark expresses regret about John McCain’s recent electoral defeat, while Lindsay professes to liking Ron Paul. Neither has even heard of our favored choice, Dennis Kucinich.

Amazingly, they not only survive this encounter, but also learn that uncool people actually have feelings too:

After we discover Mark has suffered a recent death in his family, as I have in mine, we talk grief, loss and the protracted process of healing.

"Wait, when someone in your family died you got upset? Me too, I totally hate that!," I can hear the narrator saying. I'm sure Mark felt validated when the Portlanders actually condescended to acknowledge his humanity.

But they're not out of danger yet, and soon they fall victim to a cruel Dickensian mistress:

It doesn’t take much to recognize the woman is having a hard time. She is moody, self-absorbed and difficult to communicate with. (“You ask too many questions,” she admonishes after Jenne attempts to clarify an instruction.) She feeds us inorganically and sometimes not enough. (Dinner the first two nights consists of corn dogs and potato chips.) Our sleeping area, which doubles as the packing room for her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture: a subscription program by which farmers provide produce to urban consumers), is open to the public, not to mention cramped and hot.

You may scoff at the notion that feeding someone inorganic food is tantamount to cruelty, but you have to understand that sheltered hipsters like this are simply unable to process the food additives that the rest of us consume so easily. See, we take the ability to occasionally eat diner food and deli sandwiches for granted, but a simple side of inorganic cole slaw is enough to send these people into anaphylactic shock. Incidentally, if you're ever traveling with a sheltered hipster and he has a bad reaction to a corn chip or a turkey sandwich, simply pass a locally-foraged truffle under his nose so that he can smell "the intoxicating smell of semen that the tubers emit--known to foodies as the truffle umami." It's the "woosie" equivalent of an epinephrine shot.

Anyway, I suspect that by feeding them corn dogs the Dickensian farmer just enjoyed watching them squirm. I also suspect she called the next farmer and told them how funny it was because he just fed them cat food:

We eat even worse with Joe than we did in Texas. Hot dogs and TV dinners, packaged ham and cups of noodles, canned vegetables and canned meat: The man’s diet runs the gamut of cheap, mass-produced quasi-edibles. One night, the roast beef rolled into my tortilla tastes suspiciously like cat food.

Incidentally, the reason he knows what cat food tastes like is because food trucks for pets are all the rage in Portland and it's easy to get confused.

But while it may seem like all these wayward Portlanders did was alternately do some gardening and complain about the food, the truth is they learned profound lessons about life:

But our trip was about more than just farming. It was about pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, shedding some of our prejudices about what makes a life worth living, and opening to another way.

In some small way, it was about growing up.

Of course it was. They did fail to learn one lesson though, which is that if they wanted to eat processed foods while mingling with people who are broke and lack fashion sense, then they could have saved themselves a lot of time and just gone to the nearest Walmart.

By the way, if you want to know more about the author, here's his bio:

Alex Gallo-Brown's essays have appeared in Bookslut, The Rumpus, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Collagist, among other publications. He is currently working on a manuscript of poems about grief.

I'm really hoping there's a poem in there called "They Made Us Eat Cat Food."

If not, I'll be deeply disillusioned.
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