Essay: Goodbye, Cool Kids

There are no more cool kids in San Jose.  I'm not shocked by this, and there's no reason you should be, either.  I know I'm pointing out the obvious.  But sometimes I'm slow to realize the obvious.  

When I was younger, there were bad kids, good kids, boring kids, athletes, and aesthetes.  Now teens all look exactly the same.  They all wear the same clothes because they shop at the same malls; they all listen to the same music because there are no more music "scenes" or subcultures.

In suburbia - and San Jose is nothing if not pure, unadulterated suburbia - this flattening of the cultural landscape is especially clear.  The suburbs have always suffered from a dearth of imagination, and when you see a girl wearing thigh-high boots, you take note.  More recently, the occasional teenager wearing totally thrashed denim, a cartoonish hat, or a dangerously low-cut top, is all but invisible.  

There are no more cool kids.  Tattoos are scarce.  Vandalism is at an all-time low.  Music is sugary-rich with over-produced harmonies.  Everything is sweet as ice cream and safe as houses.

When I was a teenager in San Jose, there was Cafe Matisse downtown or Leviticus on The Alameda.  The Towne Theater used to show off-the-beaten-path movies from France or the silent era.  There were bowling alleys and weird little shops; openings at art gallerys and tons of rock and punk shows at The Cactus Club and other venues downtown.

Now, we have hundreds of Starbucks and a few Peet's stores.

Now, we have The Blank Club, a half-assed rock venue that has virtually the same lineup every month.

Now, although we still have the Camera Cinemas, their repertory programming is zilch, and the Towne is, depressingly, a Bollywood-only house.

I am glad I grew up when I did.  I wasn't a cool kid then, but at least there were cool kids.  You knew there was danger.  Now, everyone's listening to Vampire Weekend and pretending they have it tough.  It was the '90s that did it.  It wasn't conformity that shotgunned the cool kids - it was money.

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