I recently read an interview with Stephen Hawking, considered by many to be the most brilliant man alive. He had just turned 70 and had dedicated his life to, among other things, resolving the Theory of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics into one unified theory. He hasn't quite arrived at that conclusion yet, but he's still working on it.
This got me to thinking and I began to see some parallels in my own greasy universe. Rockabillies are the errant sub-atomic particles of the straight world. Elusive and incompatible with the larger square particles due to their greasy nature, they tend to hang around in each others orbits. They are impossible to recreate in the lab and are understood by only a handful of people. This leads me to a conclusion that I discussed in an older post: it ain't easy being greasy.
I am not implying that we purposely attempt to make every facet of our lives an anachronism, it's just it's kind of difficult to fit in. Not that fitting in is an actual concern, quite the contrary, it's just that it's tedious to have explain one's self. We immerse ourselves in the culture with cool cars, good music and maybe some nice vintage threads, but one can't live inside a microcosm without emerging once in a while. There are certain situations that arise that make it seem like the entire universe is working very hard at squeezing all the grease out of us and eradicating every last trace of Rockabilly particles.
1. Get That Greaser!
As much as we enjoy being who we are, we are sometimes thrust into situations that leave us no choice but to de-grease and just ride it out. The first one that comes to mind would be that most unpleasant of experiences called a job interview.
These unavoidable encounters can be stressful enough for anyone, but it can be a humbling experience for the proud greaser in need of a job. Unless applying for a job that actually requires one to be greasy, like a tattoo parlor, guitar store, or a cool barber shop, the cold hard truth of the matter is that the pomp will have to be modified and somewhat de-greased. You will have to wear somewhat straight clothes. Most of us don't own any and will probably have to go to some geek thrift store to by a shirt and some fugly tie. We probably will have find somebody to help us tie a knot in that ridiculous symbol of conformity.
If you really don't want that crappy, low paying job, grease on my friends, get that pomp as high and greasy as as you can and enjoy the looks of horror from the interviewer. This is akin to showing up to a job interview with a mickey of Vodka and taking large swigs as you are answering questions.
Many greasers (and greaser-ettes as well) have tattoos, some have lots of tattoos and others still have shitloads of tattoos. You're gonna need to hide those I'm sorry to say. There are many prejudices that exist to this day concerning tattoos, and as mainstream as they have become, there seems to be a certain stigma attached to them in the straight world. Although useful for scaring straight people, that low level manager conducting the interview is better off not seeing them. If that guy turns out to be an asshole and you don't want to work there, you can nonchalantly roll up your sleeves and watch the look of horror as he sees engines, hula girls and maybe a couple of pistols.
If you happen to find yourself in a court of law, even for something as innocuous as a parking ticket, you will have to adopt a whole different strategy. When you appear before a judge it is best to look like as much of a goof as you can. If you dress too sharp, say like lawyer, the judge might see this as you thinking you are too smart for your britches. Try to find an ill fitting suit and grease your hair back like a used car salesman. The judge will probably think that you are too dumb to even park your car properly and might let you off the hook. Make sure you have dumb shoes as well, because if you are wearing creepers with a dumb suit, it will be a dead giveaway. Also, don't call the judge " daddy-o".
I have written quite extensively in the past about my disdain for border guards, and by that I mean specifically Canada Border Services. I hate those fuckers with a passion and I suspect that they weren't smart enough to pass the entrance exams for becoming a cop, and got this job instead. Their arrogance is bad enough, but the absolute power and arbitrary decision making that they are endowed with is downright frightening. I attempted to the best of my abilities to downplay my greasiness on many occasions upon my return to Canada but all to no avail. A lone greaser driving a rented Ford Focus means an automatic vehicle search and a visit from the local friendly drug-sniffing dog. It is probably wise to hide your tattoos unless you relish the thought of a full cavity search.
2. High Tech Redneck.
I don't particularly wish that I had lived in fifties. Even though but it seems that life was a little simpler, greasers were probably even more ostracized in a decade that embraced howdy-doody values. This post-war period resulted in some of the squarest values of the century to date and the emerging format of television embraced and glorified these values. The mass appeal of TV, along with the new concept of suburbs firmly entrenched these values and made it the norm. People tend to forgot that Elvis was considered a deviant, a rebel and a sinner who caused a furor when he first exploded onto the scene.
Where I find nostalgia is in the simplicity of the technology. Cars were simple and easy to fix, and most (with a few glaring exceptions) were cool. Some might argue that today's cars run a lot cleaner and are way safer, but the fact of the matter is that there are no cool cars. Some might think that I am spouting heresy, but I think that my greasy brethren will agree; today's cars is just plain ugly. There is a lack of aesthetic appeal and imagination making all cars more or less look alike ( see older post: Douchemobiles).
It's probably a lot easier to get a date or get together with friends because everyone is connected;all the time. It might have sucked trying to reach someone in fifties, hell answering machines hadn't even been invented, but I think that sometimes we are too connected. As recently as 10 years ago, a lot of my friends didn't even have cell phones. A certain local bar had Rockabilly nights every Saturday, and people would just show up, proving that there is something said about spontaneity. I do like my cell phone, because it used to be a real pain in the ass looking for phone booths. When you did find one it was either broken or you had no change. Texting one letter at a time is almost as much of a pain in the ass(don't ask).
Had computers never come into mainstream usage, I would not be writing this right now. We are surround by useful technology, but it can sometimes overwhelm us. I really don't need to know how most of this shit works, and in the instances when I do, I find it difficult to learn.
Therein lies the simple elegance of greasiness; the appreciation of a simpler music that had the raw energy rarely found today; driving a car that would work well and could be repaired without the need of an engineering degree; quality of products and clothing that could (and still do) last for decades.
I find simplicity in drinking cheap beer, cursing and belching with my buddies and eschewing political correctness of any kind. Oh yeah, cursing like a sailor is cathartic.... I mean cussing is a shitload of fucking fun.
3. Let's Jam.
I think that the central ethos that attract people from all walks of life to this lifestyle is the music. A large proportion of greasers actually play music and many of those play in a band on a regular basis. I myself have been involved in music on and off for many years and still am. Some people will assume that I play music just from the way that I look, or I might casually mention in passing that I play. This often followed by an enthusiastic invitation to " jam some time".
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years, it is to not go to jams; especially jams where people haven't even heard of Rockabilly. These directionless gatherings with their rag-tag assembly of musicians of various ilks can only end badly, and possibly erupt into a fist fight. Most times however, when you have a bunch of guys in a living room who have no understanding of the musical language of Rockabilly or Country, the jam will devolve into some real bad Blues, the real crappy white boy blues. If some of those cats have been smoking pot it will eventually deteriorate into a 20 minute version of Mustang Sally or ( horror of horrors) a reggae jam!
I've been to some jams that I knew were gonna suck when I spotted the instruments that were lying around. If there are classical guitars, djembes , lutes and other obscure instruments that you can't readily identify, the jam is sure to suck real hard. Throw in a bunch of alcohol and the ensuing mayhem is sure to make dogs howl and small children cry.
I often wonder why complete strangers, who upon finding out that I play music, will automatically want to jam. I'm sure they don't know any of my songs and I sure as hell don't want to know any of theirs. If they really wanted to bond, they would buy me a bunch of beers and leave it at that. The fact that we both own a guitar doesn't automatically make us buddies. Some of these guys evoke a desire in me to punch them in the face, so why the hell would I want to jam with them? I don't even have to go to their places to know that their taste in music sucks.
There are some social situations where the greaser unintentionally finds himself. Whatever set of circumstances led him there, he will find that he is the lone greaser there. This can cause discomfort for both the squares in attendance and the greaser, The inevitable questions about choice of hairstyle and taste in music will arise. Then something occurs which I call "the performing seal syndrome". One of the squares will produce a guitar, thrust it in the greaser's hand and demand that he "play something". I usually refuse, but can sometimes be persuaded if there is enough free booze on hand. Later on in the evening in a free-booze induced haze, I contemplate getting big floppy shoes and wig and go join a circus, because I end up feeling like a clown.
Another musical abomination that I avoid are open mikes. I see no point playing on a stage with an acoustic guitar trying to rock the room with a few Rockabilly tunes which will end up falling on mostly deaf ears. A few times someone managed to drag me to one of these were futile exercises in spending to much money on booze and listening to way too much bad music. These evenings are usually filled with eager wannabes desperately waiting for their turn up on the stage. There is always one dude playing the prerequisite Johnny Cash song who will then proceed to mangle it badly. Then there is the array of earnest hippie chicks playing "meaningful" songs in a falsetto voices and that's when I usually leave.
4. Cold Weather
Nothing messes with cool as what mother nature has to throw at us. Rockabillies living in northern latitudes are presented with some challenging obstacles. The very simple fact of walking around in 30 below temperature without a hat is that your ears may actually fall off. Nothing messes with a pomp like a big winter hat. It's also difficult to find warm jackets that don't make you look like an arctic explorer, so most of us are just freezing our asses off. Same goes for winter boots, so must of us will end up slipping and falling on our asses at least once during the winter . (What could blow your cool more than falling on your ass in public?)
The Rockabilly gals are even tougher than the dudes; they brave the cold weather while wearing a dress and high heels. They pull it off with poise, and manage to never slide around in those high heels. When it's really cold, they will wisely choose to wear boots and carry their high heels in bags specifically designed for that purpose. When they get to the bar or the social gathering, they will proceed to change footwear. Meanwhile the guys are shivering in their unlined leather jackets and Converse ( take a wild guess who is smarter).
It's January and we only have few more months of cold weather. As I look out my window I see some snow on the ground and realize that I am out of beer . Maybe if I run real fast to the liquor store I won't freeze my toes and hopefully nobody will recognize me under that dumb hat.