July 19, 2004

Hooked Up Americans With Way Too Much Angst on their Hands

I USED TO BE DISGUSTED BUT NOW I'M JUST AMUSED by the endless inventiveness of my fellow Americans in the realms of body modifications and transgressive fashion and behavior. The latest such item concerns an inordinate fondness for dangling from meat hooks :

Sunday the Monroe County sheriff's office and Coast Guard were called on July 12 to the sandbar off Whale Harbor in Islamorada where locals say wild behavior is becoming a tradition.

They found that five young people had erected a bamboo tripod and hung meat hooks from it. A young woman, her feet brushing the surface of the shallow water, dangled from the frame, hooks embedded firmly in her shoulders.

According to a Coast Guard video, she did not seem to mind the hooks.

Lt. Tom Brazil of the Coast Guard told the Key West Citizen newspaper that a young man, who also had hooks embedded in his heavily pierced and tattooed skin, assured him the group was "just enjoying the afternoon." -- Meat hook dangling craze mystifies police

Well, it may mystify the police but it doesn't mystify me. It fills me with both hope for the future of my daughter and stepson as well as clarity about my own status in America in 2004.

This has to do with demographics, mainly. You see, one of the fears of any

father is that his progeny will not be able to do well in the world; that they will not be successful in life when competing against others. Seen in that light, I think it is safe to say that every American who sports bizarre and large tattoos, permanent facial piercings, slit-lip, nose, ear or other prominent body modifications, or whose hobby is dangling about on a sandbar with meat hooks embedded in their flesh is not, shall we say, likely to compete for high-paying jobs with a clear career path. They have, one and all, taken themselves out of the game. For every person that has made themselves unemployable through conscious intent, that's one more job available to others.

Indeed, it is hard to see what the career path for freaks really is when looking forward to the future. The only profitable work for those who have had a spider's web etched onto their face would seem to be either giving others the same treatment at your local Body "Art" salon, or stirring up a batch of bathtub meth. Either way, it seems to be a path marked only by the Squirrel's motto: "Live fast, die young, leave a flat patch of fur on the highway."

Current fashions involving gangsta looks, stained rags as clothing, and baseball caps worn backwards or to the side, also help in sorting out status in today's America. After all, when you are confronted with a person dressed in such a way, it is axiomatic that only a gun could compel you to listen to them. In every other circumstance, the backwards hat only serves to assure you that such a person is one from whom you will never have to take orders, and certainly not career advice.

I'm well aware of all the excuses for trangressive lifestyles and tattoos -- the "despair" that these things suggest, the lifesong sung in the key of existential distress, the "No Future" graffiti stenciled on the dark gothic walls of their souls, the walking advertisement for a child left behind a long, long time ago. All the old and moldy excuses for not making it combine with the compulsion for outward signs to others that have also not made it, so that they can easily identify similar lost souls and group together. Together on an island of nihilism, darkness, and "No Future" -- when they can all hang together from the meat hooks of this oppressive society that "just doesn't understand," and 'enjoy the afternoon.'

Well, God speed, young hearts ...

Young hearts be free tonight.
Time is on your side,
Don't let them put you down,
don't let 'em push you around,
don't let 'em ever change your point of view.

Keep on hanging out on your hooks. Don't let them change your point of view. At the same time, I certainly hope you never want to get back into the game. First of all, it would be unfair to expect the taxpayers to pay for your tattoo removal treatments and hole closure. Second, there's enough competition in the job market already. Stay on the sandbar on weekends, and use whatever money you make from drug dealing or spreading the pain addiction to get yet more tattoos and piercings. Revel in your freedom and flaunt it.

Just don't come around at age 40 expecting something necessary-- a job. Instead, get back to that sandbar and enjoy the fading afternoon of your earning years.

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Posted by Vanderleun at July 19, 2004 9:42 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

From my list of "Fashion Statements" for undergraduates:

A grown man with a ponytail does not look like a horse's head.

Damn! that was a good rant.

Posted by: slimedog at July 19, 2004 12:59 PM

You are almost completely correct here, except for one thing. I find that wearing a baseball cap backwards keeps my neck from burning when the sun is behind me. It hasn't seemed to have hurt my career path.

You also might want to point out that facial tattoos might also denote someone who probably doesn't have the wherewithall to handle money even if they have it via some non-traditional "career" (see also: Mike Tyson).

Posted by: Strat at July 19, 2004 1:19 PM


Dude, go retro! The Old Farts used to wear hats with a brim that went ALL THE WAY AROUND. How cool is that?

The only credible professional with a backwards ball cap is a catcher (and maybe the home plate ump, but he's not always credible).

Posted by: slimedog at July 19, 2004 4:26 PM

Lileks is right -- this guy is awesome!

Posted by: Novice Chemist at July 19, 2004 9:11 PM
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