Sunday, August 2, 2009

Plymouth Rocks!

plymouth graffiti
Actually, Plymouth kind of sucks. Yesterday was gorgeous and I wanted to get out town and John wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, so we landed on Plymouth. (Wah wah.) It features a fake rock that signifies nothing (which I refused to look at) and a lot of tourists who subscribe to the tenet that conformity is its own reward.

Still, we had an excellent day. We ate lunch at a placed called The Deck with a view of the harbor; our waitress was exceptionally nice. Then we bought some too-sticky saltwater taffy and walked out to the end of the jetty in the hot hot sun. The jetty was composed of large, jagged, irregular rocks with big gaps in between, requiring the utmost concentration to avoid falling and splitting one’s chin and/or shin open. But when we got to the end we took a break and enjoyed the sea breeze.

elisa gabbert john cotter jetty
elisa gabbert john cotter jetty
The jetty is, as one meta-graffito proclaimed, “Plymouth’s Graffiti Area.” Alas, we had no spray paint with which to declare our love and existence. By the time we were back on the mainland it was the cocktail hour, so we drove north along the coast looking for a good spot to wet our whistles. We ended up at a place called Barker Tavern that had a superb wine list and more effusively friendly waitstaff who brought us crackers with homemade cheese spread and three buttered rolls even though we weren’t staying for dinner. A server even told me in passing, “You look cute,” which is such an intimate phrasing compared to something like “Cute top.” It’s something a friend would say rather than a stranger, since the implication is “You look cute for you.”

Then we moseyed along to Hingham, home to my favorite restaurant in the greater Boston area, Tasca. It’s consistently delicious with a great atmosphere and, being outside Boston proper, free of trendy restaurant hype. Kind of a perfect day, and not even tinged with sadness like the Lou Reed song.

A word about conformity and fashion: John is resistant, but I think it’s perfectly fair to prejudge people based on their clothing, and prejudge cities and towns based on the way their inhabitants dress. (Assuming, you know, you’re open to being proven wrong.) Because the highly educated, artsy-type people I prefer to surround myself with tend to wear more interesting clothes. Even nerdy, unfashionable rationalists are likely to “opt out” in a distinctive way rather than just wear the most conformist, boring thing possible. Getting dressed is mostly signaling—a way of broadcasting what you’re like. It’s almost socially dysfunctional to fully ignore those signals.

Of course it’s not a perfect system, but if you’re going to form preconceived notions about strangers (and we all do) it’s better than phrenology and racial profiling.

I have slept, I have jogged, I have showered, I have eaten an unsatisfactory breakfast of barely moist cereal, and some potato chips. Now I have to rearrange my manuscript again. There is almost no pleasure in this.

9 comments:

  1. I shudder to think what you must think about me, Elisa, re: clothing. Am I boring/conformist? I seriously don't think a lot about clothes -- in fact, I've cultivated a style that allows me not to think about it -- I get up, I put stuff on (sniffing the shirts to make sure they're clean), and go. I have a Chip "look" (I would make a recognizable action figure) -- stripey shirts, jeans, and blue Converse (although this weekend I bought some cool Saucony's with orange flourishes). It's just a style I found long ago, over time, that makes me feel perfectly comfortable and allows me to be confident that I look reasonably cool and can thus not think about things like how I look as I go to work and go about my day. Obviously I'm signaling my place in a certain group -- I would never (or no longer, anyway) wear pleated slacks, loafers, and an oxford shirt. But my clothes are by no means "interesting," and I wonder whether that would signal to you, were I stranger to you, that I was an un-interesting person. (I happen to think I'm interesting, by the way.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, Chip, I think you have an interesting/adorable personal style, somewhat boyish and retro, c.f. Chuck Taylors with everything. But the heuristic is more for judging groups of strangers than individuals. Like I think you can walk into a random bar and make a high-level judgement on the clientele/scene based on what the majority of the people are wearing. E.g. "frat boys" tend to have a canned outfit, and as such one might be able to recognize a frat boy bar. It's far more difficult to glean anything useful about one person based on their wardrobe (especially on any given day).

    In any case the moment you start talking to someone or, I don't know, read their Blogger profile you have better information to base judgments on. But in the walking-into-a-bar case, there's a scarcity of information.

    There are all sorts of complexities introduced by in-group conformism, of course ... for example in parts of Brooklyn everyone looks the same but it's not the same look as in Midtown, or in Worcester.

    ReplyDelete
  3. in other words, "interesting" is relative.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, yes, I see -- got ya. This is why I feel an instant revulsion when I accidentally walk into any bar owned by the Joshua Tree Tavern people, where the sports is loud and the dudes high-five each other and the girls wear lip gloss.

    By the way, that sounds like an amazing day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Exactly. And you should suggest to the Joshua Tree people that they adopt "Where the sports is loud" as their marketing slogan.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Plymouth sucks less than Provincetown" - William Bradford, 1620

    ReplyDelete
  7. preconceived notions are the best

    it's not "prejudging", it's just judging. you are not that much better informed after hearing their voice, or after a 5 min conversation. how much of a person remains under the waterline even after knowing them for years?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Do you think you can tell how smart a person is by how he or she walks?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Not sure if that's meant to make me feel like a horrible person.

    Already rocking "ugly" tonight, I only have so much self-loathing to go around.

    ReplyDelete