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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Two Books, Hip Place, Old Hippie

The dictionary defines the slang use of the word hip as "familiar with the latest styles, ideas, etc." So, in order to be hip a person must pay close attention to those styles and ideas, right? And, what about that pesky "etc." in the definition? What's included there? And, most pertinently to this reflection, can a place or something not the "latest" be hip?

Apparently, a place can be hip. Finding myself sitting alone in a NYC bar that markets itself as a "hip hangout" recently, that branding initially made me hesitate before engaging the young couple seated next to me, especially with the ski jacket I had on, surely ten years older than either of them. Would these folks in this hip place talk to an unhip geezer?

I learned where they went to college, what each did for a living, a little about how they met, the usual. When the young man told me his family was from the Dominican Republic, I asked if he'd read "The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao" (2007) by Junot Diaz. Unhip ski jacket, hip hangout, my nearby notebook and pen, their I-phones - all irrelevant. My connection to the young man was cemented when he said "I'm getting goosebumps thinking about how great that book is." The story gets better; you tell me if it's hipper. 

The young woman lit up to see her beau so animated by a brief discussion about a book, although she first thought we were saying "Oscar Wilde" not Oscar Wao. Stay with me now. After she said something like "I love his book about that bridge!", I asked "Are you thinking of 'The Bridge Of San Luis Rey' (1927) by Thornton Wilder?", another - like "...Oscar Wao" - of my favorite novels. Now it was her beau's turn to light up as he realized she and I had also had a mind-meld moment about a book, even if we'd gotten there via a more circuitous route and the books each of them cherished were published eighty years apart. 

The next time I noticed three hours had gone by. I won't share any personal information I learned about Jorge and Jordan - from Brooklyn & Baltimore , respectively - but moments of connection like this, however ephemeral, are one of life's greatest gifts, hip or otherwise.

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