TOTTENHAM CORNER

TOTTENHAM CORNER

Dinner with the Beardos

I found myself at a dinner gathering attended by CalArts graduates. Weak-witted art-damaged blather drizzled around the table. A bearded young man sitting opposite me adopted a tone of authority as he held forth on the subject of Chris Marker, explaining who he was to the others, who had never heard of him. When I asked the beardo to pass the salt he didn’t look at me; he didn’t look at me at all, not once. Perhaps, after a quick glance, he had immediately dismissed me owing to my age and appearance. If somebody in this town has reached my advanced age and is not successful, then there is something questionable about them, and it is a question most people do not want to ask or hear the answer to. But how can you be so rudely oblivious to somebody—especially me—when that person is sitting a few feet away from you across a dinner table? I was hardly oblivious to his presence: I had to forcibly restrain myself from reaching across the table and throttling him.

This hirsute young dilettante was a liberal abuser of empty intensifiers and couldn’t complete a sentence without resorting to “like.” Yet he is, apparently, a writer: He has a blog. He also has a dog… and a wife… and a house. One of those people who claim to be—or can afford to be—artists, but who in every other respect live bourgeois existences, and embrace such existences as early as possible, without even a youthful period of spirited experimentation to back up their subsequent complacency. In modern parlance I believe this genus are known as BoBos, which is short for Bourgeois Bohemians. In the current tonsorial climate it might be fitting, if it wasn’t so unwieldy, to coin the term BeBoBos: Bearded Bourgeois Bohemians. The habitats of this unfortunately proliferating breed include expensive coffee houses, dog parks and renovated “dive bars.”

Were young people comparably insipid in my day? Did I incur the animosity of my elders in like manner? Yes, now I come to think of it, I did. I have been both the embittered middle-aged bestower of hateful looks and the cowering recipient of them as a feckless youth. I recall having been on the receiving end of a particularly ferocious and relentless visual assault at a party celebrating my graduation from art school many years ago, courtesy of a visiting artist whose work I admired; he clearly resented the attention I was getting from young women, while he, an established artist and gentleman at large, was ignored and unknown in a crowd of young people. He must have (mis)taken me for the kind of irritating young drip I now catch myself gazing balefully at, transfixed with wonder by their undeserving ease, their softness, their smugness, and the fundamental frivolousness of their lack of commitment to a rite of passage that for me long ago turned into a deeply unrewarding way of life.

Back then, I wanted to prove to my simmering antagonists that they were mistaken, that I was just as appalled by what that they (mis)took me for as they were. But my resentment lacked seasoning then; it was more an aspiring resentment by which I hoped to define my evolving self, not the helpless resentment that I now have to fight off in order to stop it from suffocating me.

But perhaps one is too quick to be dismissive of people who might not be as conveniently insufferable as one would like to imagine. It is very easy to be gracious if one receives the right kind of attention, and just as easy to fall into bitterness if one feels unfairly neglected. I am very shallow. I am inclined to like almost anybody who is nice to me, and if this pampered little turd had shown a little respect or curiosity, I might fairly have melted with gratitude.