My sense of cool is Old School. I don’t even know what cool looks like today. When I was young and cool, things like comic books were the definition of not so cool. Now comic books are IT, man, but you have to call them “graphic novels.” Comic Con is supposedly cool, and yet many of my friends say they go there to “geek out.” The pictures I’ve seen of Comic Con make it look like the height of Geek Civilization.
Cool to me is white T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes (or biker boots). Tattoos add an element of cool, too, although that’s a more recent phenomenon. It wasn’t so cool when the tattoos said, “MOM,” or “Semper Fi” or when they featured images of sea anchors and raunchy, naked women.
I think the image of cool, Old School, is Steve McQueen.
I’ll also throw in Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy, both of whom I consider “Literary Cool.”
And I probably shouldn’t leave out the young Ernest Hemmingway.
Cool has an element of “bad” in it. Bad boys are cool. Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, James Dean. There’s usually an element of danger in the mix. Selfishness, temper, physical strength.
The Fonz was supposed to be cool, but not really. He was “television executive cool” or “Madison Avenue Cool.” Manufactured to appeal to the largest demographics. He was just Henry Winkler, really, a scrawny Jewish kid from New York. That ain’t cool.
Butch and Sundance were cool.
Cigarettes were supposed to be cool, but I never bought into that. If I’d been born a decade or two earlier I would have, though. And, of course, I’d be dead by now.
Oddly, however, cigars are a little cool. I’m not exactly sure why. I think it has something to do with Fidel Castro. Who isn’t exactly cool, but he’s a rebel, which makes me think of Che Guevara. Che must be cool, because he’s on all those T-shirts that cool guys wear with their bluejeans and boots.
Malcolm X seemed pretty cool, yet Martin Luther King was merely kind. He was a great man, yes, but I wouldn’t say he was cool. Mother Teresa and Ghandi weren’t cool, for that matter, either.
Fast cars are cool. They always have been and they always will be cool. Unless the Comicon crowd ends up ruling the world. With their Toyota Priuses. Yeah, I know, it’s responsible, but it ain’t cool. There’s no element of bad in it.
Cool is Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ford Thunderbird, Jaguar…most any car from the ’50s and ’60s. Muscle cars are cool.
So are muscles, in fact. When I was in high school, cool was a young body-builder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before Conan the Barbarian. And Lou Ferrigno, before The Incredible Hulk. Of course, they were all doing steroids, which we ultimately learned was not so cool.
The Matrix is cool. It reeks of cool, and yet it feels organic. It’s cool by design, yes, but it’s designed so well. Pulp Fiction, too, is cool.
Sports figures are almost always cool. In my day, Muhammed Ali was cool. I’m not a big sports fan, so I don’t know all the cool sports figures. They’re mostly football players, basketball players, baseball players, boxers. Maybe Indy car drivers. Testosterone sports. Not a lot of tennis players or golfers on that list.
I’m sure there was a day when Elvis was cool, but to me he was always an advertisement for what people who never knew cool thought cool should be. Just because he did that thing with his hips. Oh, that’s so cool. But cool came before Elvis – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane. Dangerous cats with their reefer ways. My God, you could lose your mind listening to their devil jazz.
The Beatles were cool, for sure. They started off kinda dopey, but they got their shit together as the war dragged on.
And Jim Morrison. Scary cool.
For that matter….Jimi Hendrix. I mean, really. Uber cool. Backed by overwhelming, misunderstood talent. And Janis Joplin. Too bad about all that overdose shit.
Maybe I’m past my expiration date. I’m an old man already. But, old men can be cool, too. Maybe it’s just what they represent. William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, old and still fighting the fight (when they were alive and fighting the fight). They were rebels. Their long lives represented the fuck you I can live my life the way I want to attitude that defines cool.
What’s cool now? Justin Bieber? Really? It can’t be.
Ask your kids, will you? Maybe your grandkids. You gotta tell me what passes for cool these days. I gotta know, because I’m too old to see it.
And, how do you define cool? What is this concept, and why are we drawn to it?
And, dare I try to relate this to novels? What would you consider a cool novel? I consider Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk the ultimate in cool. Or Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Tell me, please. Educate me. Bring me up to speed.
Thank you and now I’ll shut up.