The quest to be cool is never quite cool

I hadn’t seen him in years, maybe two or three bars ago. If it is true that change is the only constant, then someone should let him know.

“I hear that you write a little thing for the paper now,” he said in a way that acknowledges yet diminishes at the same time.

“Yep,” I said, knowing better than to give him more ammunition.

“I never read it.”

“That’s nice, Matt.”

Some things, and some people, don’t change.

He was one of those guys who had plenty of money but for some reason or another could not self-generate worth. He spent his time chasing after what other people thought was cool, or denigrating the efforts of others.

And in industry that is so dependent on trends, or zeitgeist, or whatever it’s called, he felt right at home in a bar.

Matt always drank or ate what was considered cool at that particular moment. The interesting thing is that he always thought he was ahead of the game, when in fact he was always painfully behind.

He worked in analytics or finance or some other job where the appearance of knowledge can pass for actual knowledge. He always spoke in sound bites and clichés.

A casual observer wouldn’t notice, but once you were around him long enough it became apparent that he really didn’t know what he was talking about no matter what it was about.

Sure he could name drop wineries or restaurants, but he never actually went to any of them. He could talk about chefs as if he was on a first-name basis with them, when in fact he had never met them.

Often he sought me out, partly because I worked down the street from where he lived and partly because back then I worked almost every night.

He asked a lot of questions, but not in a fashion that indicated that he had any real interest in the subject matter. It felt as if he was amassing talking points. And it wasn’t just about the restaurant business. When the local football team did well, he asked pointed questions about their success. It was the same with the local baseball team and with everything that other people seemed to be interested in.

“I have tickets to the Warriors game.”.

Of course he did. Since he had money he had access to many things. When that football team made the playoffs he bought tickets. He didn’t know anything about them but there he was, in the front row. When highly allocated wines became available he bought as much as he could. Whiskey, beer, cars — whatever was cool he was right there front and center.

For collectors these are the people who drive you crazy. There comes a point where a market will just take off outrageously, pricing out the very people who created the market in the first place.

Some years back I was exposed to a whiskey that I thought was simply sublime. It had been made in Pennsylvania by a small distiller that subsequently went out of business. Another company bought its holdings (including its barreled whiskies) and transported the whole lot to Kentucky, where it sat in barrels for 16 years, a ridiculously long time for straight bourbon (which only needs to be aged for two years). As a result it was delicious and smooth, if not well known.

The first time a liquor rep brought it by for me to taste I bought four bottles, two for the restaurant and two for me. It was $65 a bottle, which seemed ridiculous at the time, but I had been born in Pennsylvania and it was quite good so why not? The whiskey received great ratings and since it was a finite product (the original company was out of business) the price gradually increased as it became scarcer. About five years ago prices soared. Last time I checked it was selling for $2,000 a bottle.

“So what was that whiskey you used to like so much?” Matt asked after a time.

I looked at him for a moment, thought of the $2,000, and then thought of the basketball games I can no longer afford to go to. I answered the only way I thought prudent.

“I don’t remember.”

Leaving me with these thoughts:

– That whiskey tastes so much better now.

-I can hardly wait for the valet to repeat back to me something I told Matt, as if it had been Matt’s very own idea.

-Go Warriors!