Desperate Generation

Desperate Generation

The following is from a feature I did a few years back:

I was either nineteen or twenty years old when I jumped into Dennis McPhail’s mini-truck and headed to California for a couple of weeks. Our objectives were clear and had been planned out for months. McPhail was going to hang out at some famous tattoo parlor to learn the tricks of the trade and I was gonna go on a number of job interviews hoping to land a gig as a designer. In between all of that, we both planned to hit the Rat Fink Reunion.

I had a secret though… Weeks before I had seen a documentary called “Desperate Generation” that featured, among other things, the shenanigans of the Shifters Car Club. To do this day, it remains one of my favorite pieces of “hipster hot rodding” editorial. It’s creator, Emily Dutton, painted a picture of Southern California bliss where hot rodders were friendly outlaws that lived in this sort of deliberate time warp. Their houses were vintage. Their furniture was vintage. Their clothes were vintage. And, of course, their hair was vintage.

Living in Oklahoma, I had never seen anything like it and was completely awe struck by the idea of it all. To me, these guys had life by the balls and were blazing a trail of individualism that absolutely captured my young sensibilities. I had just gotten my undergraduate degree and was, unwittingly, going through the phase of trying to figure out just who in the hell I was and what I wanted to do with myself.

I was searching for cool… And I found the holy grail.

In one segment of the documentary, a club member is being interviewed while getting his hair cut. I remember the barber shop appearing as if it came straight from a Humphrey Bogart movie set – everything was perfectly appointed, even the man with the scissors. And he cut the most perfect of pompadours while smoking a Lucky Strike and using his vintage tools of the trade with a masterful grace that can only come from generations of experience.

So naturally, one of the first things I did when I got to California was have Dennis drop me off for a trim. For an hour I sat in that antique barber chair and stared at myself through the old mirror and watched as the same guy from the documentary transformed me into a cooler version of myself. It was a $20 haircut and I tipped him $10.

When I got back into Dennis’ truck, he smiled ear-to-ear and laughed his words. “Oh my god, you’re a greaser!”

I’ve never felt more insecure in my life and I think Dennis could sense it. He’s nothing if not kind hearted and quickly changed his tune. “Looks good,” he said. “I like it.”

And thus began my greaser phase – one that would last for two, maybe three, years. I don’t know if I grew out of it so much as I just got tired of dealing with the grease stains on my pillow cover… and my couch… and everything else that my head might have come in contact with.

And then there was my girlfriend’s (now my wife) Halloween Party.

“Hey man,” some stranger said with exasperation. “That’s a fucking GREAT James Dean costume!”

You can read the rest here.


Anyway, after finishing up the Super Bowl last night I hit up Amazon Prime to get some inspiration for sleep. That plan went all to hell when I was recommended the very film that inspired the above – “Desperate Generation.” I had no idea that it was on Prime and hadn’t seen the film in years and it took me down a long and curvy road full of memories. I miss the early days of the renaissance so much that I can’t help but feel old, jaded, and pissed off.

If you are up to feeling the same way, stop what you are doing right now. Seriously… And watch what will probably go down as the best period documentary of this thing of ours. If you are a Prime member, you can do so for free here.

You can thank me or hate me later.

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