On The Outside
As The Gazette-Mail’s resident pop culture blogger, I occasionally need to acknowlege my failings as an observer of all things pop culture. There are many, but today I’m just going to run down a few things that place me well outside the mainstream.
I don’t feel that these things disqualify from covering pop culture, rather, they allow me to distance myself from the midst of all that is happening and make objective calls about some things. There are three things that seem to dominate the local pop-culture scene of late which I cannot lay claim to having any interest in whatsoever: Beer, Bacon and Country Music.
Let me address these one by one.
Beer, of course, is an alcoholic beverage. I don’t drink anything with alcohol. I have never wanted to. It’s a matter of taste. I find all alcoholic beverages to be vile-tasting, mediciny concoctions. Add to that the recent discovery that my skin is so alcohol-sensitive that mouthwash can raise a welt, and you can see that I simply have no use for the stuff.
This is not an “I’m better than you” thing with me. It’s simply a matter of taste. The side benefits from this is that I have never been intoxicated in my life. I have no idea what it’s like to be drunk or hungover. From what I hear, I’m not missing much in that regard.
Yet, sometimes I feel a bit left out because I do not drink. It seems that every single event in town, even those that are benefits for charities, has to involve alcohol. What should be family-friendly events like HallowEast get turned into drunken street parties. That’s fine, actually. Even though I don’t drink, I do not wish to take that away from the folks who enjoy drunken street parties. They can be fun to watch, even if you don’t drink.
It just seems like that’s ALL we have in Charleston. It’s “Beer bash this” or “Beer-tasting that.” I realize that the majority of adults drink beer, but still about a third of us don’t. Obviously, the non-drinkers are not a coveted demographic among the folks wanting to raise money for charities.
To many of us non-drinkers, it makes it look like the general population is comprised of a bunch of raging alcholics who can’t be expected to go an hour or two without a drink in their hand. I’m not suggesting that we get rid of the beer bashes. I just think it’d be nice if someone showed a bit more imagination when planning an event and once-in-a-while maybe tried to do something sans the imbibery. It might fail miserably, but it’d be nice to see someone at least try. Beer is easy money, I get that. I just wish everything wasn’t so slanted toward “easy.”
In regards to the recent “Brunch bill,” I’m all for that. I think all blue laws should be wiped from the books because they violate the first amendment of the constitution. I wonder about the estimates of the increased revenue generated by this bill, though. I’ve seen reports that local businesses expect to make an additional $850,000 this year, simply by being able to serve drinks three hours earlier on Sunday. That seems a tad excessive to me. I know that, in recent weeks, area restaurants have been doing brisk business on Sunday mornings, but I have to wonder how long it will be before the novelty (and special prices) wear off.
It just strikes this non-drinker as odd that a person might skip eating altogether because they couldn’t get a mimosa with their French toast. Or that, if they needed a drink that badly, that they couldn’t wait until after 1 PM. Most of the folks I know who drink that heavily don’t wake up before 1 PM on Sunday anyway. But, since I don’t drink, and I don’t think anybody who wants to drink that early should be prevented from doing so, I don’t really have a dog in this fight.
Again, I’ll take responsibility for being the outsider on this. The appeal of alcohol is alien to me. The process of making beer is intriguing and fascinates me. I just can’t stand the taste of the stuff.
Bacon, on the other hand, just mystifies me. Not the appeal of it, but the outright worship of it as some sort of superfood that deserves a special iconic status. It’s fine, if you like that sort of thing, but all it is is greasy, stinky fried meat.
I don’t eat pork, with the exception of heavily-spiced sausage. Again, it’s not a health or religious concern, I just don’t like the taste of it. Ham smells like sweaty human flesh to me and has always turned my stomach. I used to have a take-it-leave-it attitude toward bacon, but as I grew older and my tastes evolved, I came to like it less and less, to the point where I pretty much can’t stand it now.
It seems that, concurrent with bacon becoming less appealing to me, the rest of the world decided to elevate bacon to an almost-holy status among foods. Too damned many restaurants now will ruin a salad by automatically pouring bacon all over it. People have formed bacon clubs. They make bacon-flavored candy and ice cream.
I’m left wondering how the hell bacon–greasy, salty, unhealthy, nasty-tasting bacon–became “cool.”
Apparently the gods of pop culture deemed it so, and now it’s a merchandising bonanza. I don’t get it, but that’s okay. I don’t need to “get” everything. You guys can have my share of bacon. I’ll take an extra serving of spinach.
I realize that I run the risk of getting myself lynched here, but I have never enjoyed Country Music. I can appreciate it. When I hear a local Country artist I suspend my musical tastes and listen to it as a musicologist. We have some incredible Country Music performers in the area, and I do not mean to disparage them. I’ve been happy to feature them on Radio Free Charleston as a vital part of the local music scene. However, when it comes to my personal taste in music, Country Music is not anywhere near the list of things I’ll voluntarily listen to.
There are exceptions. Once every five years or so, I might listen to a few Hank Williams or Johnny Cash tunes, but other than that, ixnay on the untrycay usicmay. Give me The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Oingo Boingo, YES, King Crimson or Kate Bush–artists who speak to my soul.
Growing up in the middle of West Virginia, this has always made me an outsider. In high school, the proper response to “Hey have you heard this Willie Nelson record?” was not “No, but I’ve got this great DEVO album!”
Country music is as pervasive here as beer and bacon. And none of that particular holy trinity does anything for me. And that adds to my feeling of being an outsider.
Like I said earlier, maybe being an outsider is what makes me a good observer of pop culture trends. I don’t get caught up in the excitement over these mainstream things, so I can keep a decent perspective on the whole picture. At the end of the day, talking about the things you don’t like is a fair way to be transparent to your audience, so that you readers can know more about my personal perspective.
It’s also a good way to fill up a column when the book you’d planned to write about got delayed (again). That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for our regular features all week long.