Hipsterism, by common definition, is all about irony — establishing preferences only so one can then establish distance from them. But it might be about more than affected cool. Maybe it’s also the yardstick that measures the distance between you and your own memories.
One of my first musical memories is my father listening to Rush’s “Roll the Bones.” The CD spins inside a clunky portable player that feeds into the tape deck of his light blue Mazda pickup truck by way of a cassette adapter.
My legs are curled beneath me, my face pressed up against the herringbone vinyl of the passenger seat, which imprints my cheeks with ruddy crosshatching by the time I wake up. The lights on the Pontchartrain Causeway tigerstripe the concrete.
These lights appear endless. I am told — and I believe — it is the longest bridge in the world.
I drift in and out of sleep. When I wake up, I crane my neck to look out the driver’s side window. The green of the illuminated numbers on the speedometer glows across my father’s stubble.
Before I go to sleep, I see him slapping Neil Peart’s drum fills into the steering wheel with his fingers stretched out straight.
The feeling wafting through the dissolute cloud of my 6-year-old consciousness is trust: deep, pervasive trust. Trust that Dad knew the way. Trust that, somehow, despite laws of nature, it was actually my father generating those drum fills.
Trust that he and that music were the coolest. Trust that we’d get across that infinite bridge, that no matter what the distance between us and home, he would bridge it.
In a world as volatile as ours, irony can be as much life preserver as pose. It becomes a dialect that subtly remaps the mind, enables it to shrink the daily barrage of the absurd, the grotesque, and the banal to scale. I like irony. I need it.
But I would be lying if I told you that sometimes I don’t long for a world where there is no distance between me and my memories because the memories don’t even exist yet.