Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"Caesar's Bath"

Matthew Yglesias has passed me the baton (and thank god, unlike in my more athletic high school days, it's only a virtual baton) and I must "list five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over." Narrowing it down to five was tough. Didn't want to be too general (hipsters, the city of Chicago) or too specific (the vegan station at Bartlett). I want to say "iPods," but it's not that I don't get it, so much as that I have yet to, well, get one. Would have liked to include "The Royal Tenenbaums", but Matt's already said what needs to be said on that front. So here goes:

1. North Face: In middle school, wearing a North Face implied that one engaged in certain not-for-family-blog activities on the weekends with guys from the local boys' schools, or that one was friends with people who did, but was too prudish or reasonable to do so one's self. I hung out with the crowd that shopped at Bebe and Club Monaco (and was a better-dressed 13-year-old than 21-year-old), but this was what was said about the North Face crowd, and eighth graders never lie. In high school, North Face had very little meaning, and was even a crossover look, appealing to the moderately cool Asian and white kids alike. But in the city of Chicago, North Face is the law of the land. On a Saturday afternoon, everyone's wearing it. As in, you cannot find a person without that logo. And there's nothing wrong with the logo, or with the clothing itself, but it's just a bit much. I make a point of branching out--Patagonia, EMS--whenever I find myself in need of something (yawn) practical.

2. Cobb Coffee Shop: Come on, people. It's in a basement, smells terrible, the food is bad even by UChicago coffee shop standards, and the people working there are, you know, mean. I think they're trained to act as if, however hip and emaciated a customer might be (and the "emaciated" part's easy if you eat there often), they are to receive a sneer if they are not a fellow Cobb employee or groupie. (And why on earth do people who work in a dingy coffee shop get to have groupies?) And yet many of my friends think it's a perfectly reasonable place to get lunch on campus, so I've had to eat there many times over the years.

3) Famous professors: From what I can tell, sometimes the hype is legit, sometimes not so much. One of my best professors here was a grad student at the time (Hi, Eric Schliesser!), yet, to be fair, many of the big-shots are great teachers. Some, however, are not, and are quite happy with themselves, and this inner joy makes it impossible for them to listen to new ideas, or to anything they themselves are not saying.

4) Bubble tea: This one's a bit old, but during late high school/early college, every time I went back to NYC, my friends from the, uh, institution would insist upon going to a brightly lit place to spend about $4 each on some nasty, artificial-tasting syrup-and-tapioca concoction. It's supposed to be this cute, Asian-philic activity, this bubble-tea-drinking, but I never quite saw the point, and would lobby for a place that served coffee whenever possible. Now that we are all 21, the bubble tea-coffee debate has become something of a non-issue.

5) Blogs: Ha! Just kidding. Blogs are great!

5) Expensive jeans: I do not think less of my friends who spend over $100 on jeans. I spend far too much on silly things myself (cheese, coffee, more cheese, more coffee), so I don't judge. But since this game is about listing instances where you don't see what the fuss is about, well, I don't totally get it. I can tell how expensive a pair of jeans are mainly by how well-off a person appears to be otherwise, or by whether a given individual has mentioned to me where she (occasionally he) has bought them. I am not totally immune, though--I care a bit about how my jeans look--and I should disclose that, while my jeans tend to be in the $30-50 range, I have a special discount designer jeans source (OK, just a store that happens to be near my favorite pastry place, ironically enough) back in NYC. A pair from Barneys looks a bit different from a pair from Old Navy, but when people size one another up, they're looking at the shape, not the denim itself, and a shape that turns heads in a limited-edition pair will likely also get noticed in something from the sale rack at the Gap.

So now the time has come to pass the baton. I now realize, looking at my blogroll, how few people on it are still blogging. Oh well. In the name of gender equity in the blogosphere, and also in the name of keeping things in consecutive alphabetical order, I will ask Jenn, Kei, and Libby to provide such lists, if they're up for it, but would be curious to see other people's lists as well.

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