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No band out there right now can musically recreate the disaffected feeling of the city-dweller quite like Interpol. There seems to be the very essence of the metropolitan streets in Paul Banks' nasal singing and Daniel Kessler's sweeping guitar.
Listening to Interpol while walking down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago and watching two young men, probably in their mid-twenties, wearing cowboy hats and tight jeans (could they be Wranglers? is that too perfect?) go on opposite ends of a revolving door and push in opposite directions, so the door doesn't move at all, reminds me of something I've known pretty much all my life: I belong in a city.
My natural habitat is paved in concrete and surrounded by skyscrapers. I'm not really being myself if I'm not able to walk down the street, witness a scene like this that is so pungent with the smell of "aw, shucks, look how crazy it is in this here city," then roll my eyes at it all and sneer with smug self-satisfaction.
It's nothing personal towards these guys - I'm sure they'd feel the exact same way if they saw me out in someplace like Oklahoma trying to ride a horse or operate a farm implement of some kind. People are who they are. Some people take a lot of pride in being the down-home, simple life type. There are those that find themselves happiest when they are caring for their lawn, or fixing some part of their home, or wandering the aisles of the Home Depot. They see a car and the first thing they think, "Man, I wonder what's under the hood."
Me, though, I fashion myself a member of the urban elite. Knowledgeable of politics and world affairs. Musical taste refined. Only going to see important films, only drinking expensive vodka, never dining at a chain restaurant, and utterly unable to explain the sudden massive rise in the popularity of NASCAR.
You know - a smartass. A snob.
But is it such a bad thing that I'm a snob? Does it make me less of a real person to openly admit that what I like isn't always going to appeal to the masses? Am I somehow tricking myself to into believing that I actually prefer things that are new, unusual, and unexpected? Is my world-weariness just an act?
Well, I don't think so, no, no, and not really, no. I personally feel just as uncomfortable around farms and garages and power tools as these guys in the cowboy hats pushing the revolving doors the wrong way would feel in an indie record store or French restaurant. I don't think that makes me fake or untrue to myself or less than a man - but I also don't think it makes me better than they are - just different.
And I like that we're different - as I'm sure these guys do, too. They no more want to be the guy with Interpol blasting on an iPod than I would want to be found walking the streets un-ironically wearing a cowboy hat. How boring would the world be if everyone was exactly alike? If we all agreed about everything, we would lose the undeniable pleasure of the heated debate. If all tastes were the same, then we would be unable to derive joy from feeling superior to other people because of what we like. If there was nothing and no one to make fun of, well, how dull would that be?
Make no mistake; we all derive pleasure from our differences, not just the urban snobs. Everyone likes to feel good about who they are. We all want to be confident about what we know - whether it's how to choose a wine with dinner or how to rebuild a carburetor.
This is one of the most beautiful things about living in America - that we can all revel in who we are, and all be gloriously unlike one another. That is the basic ideal our society was founded on - people came here to be who they wanted to be, because they weren't allowed to back where they originally came from. It is also a truly American ideal that, once we get here and do what we want, we ruthlessly make fun of everyone else for not doing it our way. Our country's motto could be "You can do it that way, but I don't see why you'd ever want to. To each his own, stupid."
As I'm listening to a cool and disaffected band and watching a couple of country boys act the fool in my city, I do get a sense of smug self-satisfaction. So what? I embrace my own snobbishness - it is truly who I am. I am an American snob. God bless me.
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.
See other articles by Dan Filowitz.
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