I am old. This should come as no surprise to anyone, since I’m always angry about something. This is a trait common to us elderly. And by elderly, I mean those in our late 30s, which is pretty much knocking on death’s door where twenty-somethings are concerned. And that’s probably how it should be.
Still, the annoying thing about youth is it always thinks it’s doing something new and that it got there first. But it didn’t. It’s just making newer versions of older mistakes and thinking itself clever in the process. And it hates old people, because they just don’t get it. Which is also probably how it should be.
But it still annoys me. Heck, twenty-somethings bothered me when I was a twenty-something. I’m just wired for annoyance. It’s in my blood. Or possibly my spleen. Maybe the pancreas. I don’t know; I’m not a doctor. I just know people piss me off, and I can’t ever keep my mouth shut about it. And that’s just how it is.
The latest bee in my bonnet, if I wore bonnets and had a habit of letting bees infest my headwear, is this little number calling me out personally, over on Cat 5, the local paper’s local blog of the local paper’s local free paper about local culture. And by culture, I mean bars, nightclubs, and food trucks. With some “fashion” thrown in, for good measure. It’s the Hearst Corporation’s Beaumont version of the Los Angeles FREEP or New York’s Village Voice, only with less (read: any at all) news of interest or items of importance, and more OMG! TOATS HASHTAG THOSE SHOES, BECKY!
But it’s not really trying to be an edgy underground paper, with alternative news and information to engage a young adult readership. It’s a corporate glad rag, where every bartender is a shiny, happy person. Every food truck offers unique local flavors, usually with the word “fusion” thrown in somewhere for reasons. Every local band should be headlining at the hottest venues across the country if only someone would recognize their talent. That sort of thing. Fluff. It’s a free handout paper along the lines of the Thrifty Nickel, if the Nickel was less concerned with helping people sell sofas and more obsessed with whatever hip hipster fad is fashionable at the moment. Craft beers, the aforementioned food trucks, local art, etc…
And all of that is fine. Nothing wrong with it. It helps local businesses and lends some semblance of an air of culture to Southeast Texas that is very much welcome. I have no problem with Cat 5. (The name comes from…well, they’ll tell you it comes from cleverly evoking a Category 5 hurricane. However, it’s actually just the result of copying Houston. Specifically, another Hearst paper, The Houston Chronicle. Because Beaumont desperately wants to be Houston, even if it’ll never talk to it at parties.) The Chron has (or had; I can’t keep up with the rise and fall of blogs) a similar blog called, 29-95, which the Powers That Be in Corporate Cleverness Land devised after whatever the last big hurricane was, being as Houston lies at 29° North / 95° West, which was apparently on the news a lot back when people did weird things with maps and tracking charts and pencils. They thought it was catchy.
But anyway, that’s the point. Beaumont hates Houston. Always has, always will. But it desperately wants to be Houston. It hates Houston in the same way that you hate that one girl in middle school you really wish would go out with you. But she won’t, so you make fun of her. Same sort of thing here, really.
Beaumont wants to be a big metropolis like Houston, filled with commerce and art and culture and industry, instead of what it actually is and always will be: a mid-sized city based on the petrochemical industry. That means lots of refineries, air that smells (and feels, thanks to the humidity) like wet fart, and a lot of old money in the hands of a few powerful families. It’s kind of like what the mafia would be if they were less concerned with whacking people and running drugs, and more worried about things like the Neches River Festival and Cotillion.
So that’s Beaumont. And the youth of Beaumont have always hated that they live in Beaumont, which is why every generation has always tried its best to make it better. But they always try in the wrong ways, only worrying about things that matter to them. Namely, that they’re bored. There’s very little to do in Southeast Texas, so they come up with things to do. And they always think they’re the first ones who have been clever enough to do so. They think they’re doing something new. It’s cute, really.
But the thing is, bars aren’t new. Art isn’t new. Nightclubs aren’t new. Food trucks are kind of new, but only in the sense that they’re called Food Trucks now and not Creepy Dude Selling Wieners Out Of His Trailer, which is what we used to call them. They’re trendy. Beaumont loves trendy. But trends don’t last. The craft beer craze will die down, and people will go back to drinking whatever fermented crap they were drinking before the fad exploded. Food trucks are trendy, and they’ll go back to being non-existent as soon as the new wears off and the trend winds have changed course. That’s just how things go.
No, Beaumont has real problems that need real solutions. There’s a reason it’s next to impossible to sell a home in this city, and it has nothing at all to do with how many thrift stores and art shows we have. The biggest issue killing the city right now, for example, is the corruption of the local school district. Thanks to the efforts of a bunch of old boring old people who are old (like me) who have been working on this problem for years now, it looks like it might finally be about to improve. From Texas Education Agency investigations to FBI seizures, things are finally coming to a head. With a little luck and a bit more time, the boil will be lanced and fully drained, and we can start healing the wound left by the BISD corruption. But twenty-somethings don’t think about things like schools and mortgage rates and tax appraisals. They think about getting drunk and getting laid, and pretending to understand things they don’t really know much about. Because that’s what youth does. It’s inexperienced because it lacks the experience of not having experienced very much.
But even all of that doesn’t matter. I don’t fault young people for not thinking far enough ahead to understand that the cosmetic bandages they’re slapping on to festering wounds won’t do anything to actually improve this city, and that all of their efforts are destined for failure, like all the efforts of all the young people that have come before them. That’s just how the world works.
What I do have a problem with, however, is something like the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau coming up with a painfully forced bit of social media manipulating nonsense, and then attacking anyone who sees it for what it really is: a justification of their own paychecks. They want us to think that this #Beaulivers hashtag business just sprang up out of the great well of pride young people have for our city, but really it was just something stupid concocted by someone who gets paid to come up with stupid ideas for a living. And they want you to think it’s actually working. It’s not.
The blog post I linked to earlier mentions tagboard.com, but fails to provide a link (probably in the hope that nobody will actually check the site). From the post:
Tagboard.com/Beaulievers, which assembles hashtags posted across every social media platform, is filled with Beaulievers proudly showing off their food photos, sunset shots, their pictures from concerts and crawfish boils and Neches River outings.
Well, sure. That sounds dandy! Except that “filled with Beaulivers” seems to mean a small handful of people, most of whom are either directly involved with the CVB or Cat 5, or who have some connection to it. The same few people incessantly tweeting a hashtag does not a trend make. And even then, there have only been about 15 or so tweets collected in past week. I’m not sure “filled” means what local journalist Beth Rankin thinks it means. But don’t take my word for it. Here, go check it out for yourself. I’ll actually give you the link (just as I actually linked to Beth’s blog post after mentioning it. It’s just common web courtesy any hip new media journalist should know about.)
Oh, and then there’s this, which follows mention of my initial comment about the silliness of the #Beaulievers hashtag on Twitter:
When I tried to explain that the hashtag — and the corresponding creative Renaissance that’s currently sweeping Beaumont — is indeed happening, the whole exchange devolved into the kind of social media fight we all promise ourselves we’ll never get into (and then instigate anyway).
Except that she didn’t try to explain anything, and the entire “social media fight” was all of two @replies on Twitter. Hardly the stuff of apocalyptic legend, but hey. I get it. She’s got an audience to pander to. So do I. Of course we’re both going to frame things how we think they should hang. But, just in case you’re wondering, here’s the actual exchange in its entirety:
Look, I’m a dad. I worry about dad things now, like the quality of my kid’s education and the long term sustainability of the area. I worry about property values and attracting new businesses, and I fret about tax rates and unemployment levels and the minimum wage. I care about politics and local governance and accountability. That’s what old people do. Young people have the luxury (and, I think, the right, really) to not have to worry about this stuff while they’re young. Let them worry about where they’re going to go and what or who they’re going to do on a Friday night. The horrible shackles of boring responsibility will hit them soon enough, so I say enjoy youth while you’re young. You don’t get to go back and try again.
But leave the stupid hashtags out of it. And if you’re going to try to paint me as a reality teevee loving, fast food fattie who is obviously too stupid and brainwashed by the all the whatever food poisons I’m eating or mind-numbing propaganda I’m absorbing through the warm glow of the glass teat from which I so voraciously suckle, then you’re just not paying attention. That’s what I think you are, hipster scum.
I’m just a bitter old curmudgeon who has forgotten more than you’ve learned so far in your wild about town life. I already did all the things you think you’re just discovering now, and I’ve earned the right to point at you and make fun. And you have the right to call me a cranky old bastard. I guess.
Just don’t try and convince me that a tired play on a particular bit of Justin Bieber foolishness is anything more than what it is: Just Plain Sad.
© 2013 – 2016, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.