Is Fatboy Slim still making “triumphant comeback” albums? He was never that good in the first place. Really quite bowdlerized. People were vaguely aware that Techno was “in” during the nineties. There was at least an agreement among white Americans that this should be so but we didn’t really want the full force of being perpetually half-dead on hard drugs and eager to riot that came with real British club culture. Prodigy were where that was at.
The thing about growing up on the edge of nowhere in the nineties was that we didn’t really get all of the Starbucks jokes on TV. It was only on my trips down to Denver, walking through downtown, that I realized that Starbucks was indeed very big but not in the same way as McDonalds. They weren’t trying to put a franchise in every small town that had a halfway major highway junction. Instead they were placing a Starbucks every three or four blocks in dense urban cores for the foot traffic. I could have gone my whole life with the concept of businesses catering to foot traffic remaining ever foreign to me. Once home in NP for a holiday I left my parents house, parked my van at some random spot and walked to a park or something. My aunt saw me walking and called my mom in a panic. My mom in turn called me breathlessly to ask if I was ok. My aunt you see was wholly convinced that choosing to walk when you have a car right there was proof of extreme mental distress, and even my mom remained suspicious that this wasn’t the case.
There is a sincere assumption here that small towns and suburbs are known by universal genetic instinct to be the One True Human Habitat. Their politics run from right-wing to moderate partly because they cannot fathom the city environment where different cultures and lifestyles blend matter-of-factly instead of being gracefully “allowed”. A high degree of common background, life cycle and experience is their honestly lived understanding of How Society Works. When I lived in Chicago and followed the standard practice of going downstairs to the corner grocery everyday for the handful I required for the next meal my mother snarkily asked me if I wished I had a car so I wouldn’t have to do that.
They are mentally aware that there are cities that outpopulate North Platte by 100-to-1 margin but again do not really grasp the implications. In their hearts they are assured that their environment is the universal norm and cities are deviant. Complete with the racial assumption that all big cities are eternally 1990’s Compton or 1970’s Beirut. We would visit my walking-is-madness aunt in Lake Havasu Arizona, a venal orphaned cityless suburb with no sidewalks and an economy based on nothing but its own real estate growth. We would drive straight through for twenty one hours and this was as hellish as it was dangerous. I would occasionally suggest meeting her side of the family halfwayish in Albuquerque but my dad wouldn’t have it. “I refuse to take my family there” he righteously said. Mexicans you see. Gangs and such.
There’s an all-night diner on East Colfax that I adore, and that I also know to be adored by other hipster/bohemians, (just who the hell are my greater in-group anyway?) I should remember its name but I do not. Good biscuits and gravy; coffee middling but more importantly endless. Same as a lot of places. The new popularity of biscuits and gracy among my crowd is a bit jarring. This is my rural mother’s specialty you see. “Good hangover food” she has always said and so it is.
Denver and even Chicago are still small enough to not quite never sleep. They nap between three & six or so on the weeknights. And in these hours with the quiet and the morning nature smells one can sense the layers of modern urbanity stripped away and feel the frontier outposts these places had once been; especially of course in Denver’s case. I loved to step out for coffee in these hours either to a Starbucks or to a local place, keeping up my entrenched old man habit of reading mainstream newspapers hardcopy. Ten minutes or so on the local and another twenty or so on the New York Times. Strong coffee when you’ve been sleepless is like acid and orgasm both at once.
It occurs that the shape and physical size of Lincoln is eerily similar to the eastern half of Denver proper. Replace Salt Creek with the South Platte and then like as like the railyard on the eastern side of the floodplain with downtown and the neighborhoods flowing out from there.
I once had a friend named Gabe who made his living stealing lawn mower engines, garage door openers, things left in unlocked cars etc. He did this both to have money for drugs (All of them) and to drive down to the Denver rave scene every weekend. The first time I went to a party of Gabe’s his new puppy had somehow gotten out and took the underside of my car for a hidey hole. Upon leaving I had crushed it quite to death before knowing it was there. (Though it apparently lingered pointlessly in great pain for some minutes.) I spent the rest of that night drunk-weeping alone in guilt but Gabe forgave me the next day. He was actually a very kindhearted man and never once did he jack any of my family’s shit.
By and by I started going with him on these Denver trips. One Saturday we went to a rave that was pointedly marketed as ‘drug free’ but Gabe bought some E’s for it anyway. He was going to give me some but got accosted by security and had to eat all eight pills on the spot. The security man was no fool and we got kicked out. Gabe took to the wheel of his car as usual; it never occurred to me to take the wheel as it was His Car after all, and we wondered through the northern half of downtown aimlessly for awhile while he attempted to swallow his esophagus and smoke with his left eyeball while insisting that Paul Atreides’ name was “Duke.” The Denver PD inevitably pulled us over. Gabe stuck his entire body out the window said “What no loves?” and asked the police where Nebraska was. The cops laughed, knowing he was driving under the influence of something and not giving a shit. (“Always the Nebraska kids” or something like that they said.) It was white privilege at its most; actually quite fantastically dangerous. The cops pointed us toward the freeway ramp and we eventually found our way to I-76, rolling through the high plains at 110mph sometimes and 25 at others but making it back alive as so we remain. Gabe now teaches boxing in Topeka last that I heard.