Back when I was about 10 my family drove into Juarez, Mexico for one of our family vacation adventures. I could tell my parents were unsure exactly how to navigate the place, and the combination of the foreign surroundings and potential danger left me scary memories of Mexico for quite a while. (I returned to Mexico as an adult and realized it was an OK place.) Upon leaving Juarez we stopped at Denny’s for some familiar fare, but that place had its own danger, too. A gang of Hell’s Angels bikers decided to visit that day. To a boy of 10, Hell’s Angels were pretty scary.
Thirty years later the image of a Hell’s Angels biker gang and their Harley Davidson choppers is just a symbol that successful doctors and lawyers use to represent what they wish they were, had they chosen a more irresponsible lifestyle. The image is so changed these days that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone under 40 with a Harley. In fact they’re building a Harley dealership in our neighborhood, a place firmly anchored in the 40-something demographic. The only people who have enough money to buy them are the ultra responsible types anyway. No one who actually lives the image of Harley could afford one.
Last night at Waterford Lakes Mall I saw the same phenomenon, only done by the high school and twenty something crowd. Cathy and I saw “Lady in the Water” (an OK flick), and when we left the theater, around 10 pm, the entire mall area was full of what looked like gangsters. Crooked caps, tattoos, bling bling jewelry, oversized clothes hanging low, everyone looking dangerous. Only there was no danger, just a bunch of kids wanting to look that way.
The night before Audrey and I had watched “Miami Ink“, a show about a south Florida tatto parlor and their clients. Tattoos have been mainstream for years now, but the fact that the Discovery Channel has a show highlighting the tatto lifestyle made me realize things were different back home now.
It all left me a bit unsettled. A 50 year old lawyer on a Harley will probably remain tame, but a sophomore acting like a gangster may not know when to stop pretending. Maybe this is what culture adjustment looks like right now; figuring out who’s safe and who’s not.