His leather jacket hung loose from his shoulders, just below the sneer on his face, staring at a makeshift unicorn horn I'd purchased at a Spacewalker show.
"Why would I?" I replied back, shaking my head to intentionally rattle the loosely-fitting modified party-hat that was attached to my skull. The look on his face that followed was, to say the least, sheer and beautiful confusion.
Flashback to few months ago. It'd occurred to me, while sitting at this same bar full of men wearing flannel and long beanies, faking their way through yet another half-informed political discussion mixed with name-dropping local music heroes, that Sacramento has fallen victim to a horrible theft of its magic.
The tragic truth is: we've all become so desperate to "look cool" that we've forgotten how to just have fun and be ourselves - no matter how weird that self may be.
Think about it. Every new business catering to us preaches the same thing. They all want to be the “new cool thing” - which translates as “they want to offer an experience that is just artistic enough to be unique, but not so artistic that it could be deemed ‘weird’.” It is within this inoffensively-tasteful realm of quirky-sameness that we find the crux of the issue.
If you are an artist in this city, you are pressured to not be too much of an artist. You must always wink and nod to the proverbial camera. You must always let the audience know they need not worry - you are not actually a strange human being. In fact, you are quite normal and just like everyone else. You are relate-able. Sellable. You can be commodified and put on display for a business without driving off any of the usual clients.
In short, we are often guilty of losing our sense of wonder; far too often we choose abandon it.
Yes, you could argue we have our Art Hotel, our Art Street, our-
The examples end there, really. Those are the only events, that come to mind, which truly broke the realm of normal expectation. Even then, they only just-breached the surface of possibility from what would happen if we were to truly lean into our sense of weird and let it fly.
This city reeks of “god forbid.” God forbid you ever seem like you're enjoying yourself while doing something truly unique for half-a-moment, because some ass is going to walk up and try to tell you to take your unicorn horn off.
Some guy is going to tell you that you aren't "cool".
God forbid you aren’t “cool”. But, on my end, that moment - his cool rejection - is fast-becoming my new metric for if I’m on the right track - whenever some hipster tells me I look stupid, I push further. And, so far, it’s been everything I want. And what I want is simple: we don't have nearly enough unfiltered, unpretentious expression in these city limits. Everyone fancies themselves a deity of artistic expression, or wants to claim to be running some “revolution”.
There is no revolution. There are no gods of expression. I don’t care their age - if someone tells you you can’t do something, tell them to shove it and find your own avenue. It’s your expression. Everyone who stops your vision - including you, yourself - with no logical reason is a gatekeeper and, thus, not worth listening to.
There is a benefit of being weird. With weird comes new ideas, fresh art that doesn't feel forced, and - the most prized of all things an artist could hope to make - a truly unique experience or art piece in both its creation and viewership that cannot be replicated.
I say all of that to say this:
I joined a cult, once.
Not a religious cult, but a cult dedicated solely to the premise of breaking reality. Shaking things up. Making this world feel more magical than it had, before. Offering unique experiences, based in fun, for others in the form of public activations. But that's a subject for another day.
The point is: it opened my eyes to just how bleak our streets are. We are so eager to be cool, and never seem foolish, that we've forgotten what it's like to just be who we are. And it's dangerous, putting your locus of control in the hands of passing judgments. Being "cool" isn't something you have any say in - it's based solely in others' perceptions.
I, for one, say fuck that noise.
Wear the horn. Create a world of magic around you. Don't be a faerie or a mermaid because being a faerie or a mermaid is the "in" thing to be. Be a centaur, because you don’t feel like a faerie but love fantasy creatures. Be your own made-up superhero, because nothing else makes sense. Hell, just dress up in a way that actually makes you comfortable and inspires you to create. Wear a loud scarf and a spirit hood.
If you go the centaur route, do us all a favor: buy a full centaur outfit and call the downtown grid your personal labyrinth. Hide treasure in the alleyways.
Commit, dammit. Commit to the bit. I see far too many “faeries” not throwing glitter and granting wishes, and far too few mermaids actively seeking water so their fish-half doesn’t live.
All I can ask is: whatever you do, and whatever label you wear, just commit to the damn thing. I’m sick of people passing half-assed attempts off as the real deal.
Be free. Have fun.
And, seriously: don’t be that guy. Find your magic. Let others have it.
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