“Dude, when did this place get so f#%*ing Hip?”
An old friend of mine asked me this Saturday afternoon. He and I graduated from Manatee High together in 2006—he was the type of guy who could’ve gone to any college he wanted, but might’ve been inclined to blow it off and join a rock and roll band, and tour the world for the better part of a decade, and then retreat to the mountains for two years before showing up in town unannounced last week.
The night before, we made our way to Sarasota and back looking for New College hipster chics I’m told hang around a few nondescript bars on US-41, where they order White Russians in humid cacophony of dim lit pool hall craft beer chalkboard thrift store clothes and second hand smoke; we never did find the girls—And now we were at the Darwin Brewing Co. grand opening in downtown Bradenton, standing in the front yard sipping craft beers and watching a man play a sitar—he sat there on the ground looking like George Harrison playing the sitar, and we sipped our beers—I shrugged, and told my friend that Bradenton had only become this way very recently. “But the gears were put into motion years ago. There’s actually a lot of people working very specifically toward this end.”
My friend ran his hand through his medium-long hair and pushed his glasses back on his nose. He said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all; it’s happening all over the country—Everyone wants to be Portland.”
We sipped our beers.
I said, “Exactly. And don’t get me wrong, I dig the whole Portland thing; but modeling a city after a city like Portland comes with a very big problem, which is that nobody knows what the hell Portland is—not even Portland.”
“Exactly,” he said.
“Places like Portland get that way organically,” I said, “on their own terms—Because some group of freaks made the initial Wave, and then all the other freaks grabbed their surfboards. I don’t know what’s going to happen here—I don’t know if Floridian city officials and play-it-safe-Non Profits can spark a culture movement with form based codes written to promote bicycle riding, and outdoor poetry readings.”
[ . . . ]
“They probably can’t,” he said, “but there’s only one way to find out: Sit back and watch ‘em try.” He smiled.
“Give ‘em a push when they need it,” I added.
“Or a boot in the ass.”
We both laughed and sipped our beers. Eventually I said that I hoped they can, and my friend said he did too. When the glasses were empty we went inside and ordered more. Then we went back across the street to McKechnie Field, where we’d begun the afternoon, and recommenced sampling the many beers offered at The Lucky Dog Craft Beer Expo being held at the ballpark.
Samples were unlimited. It was a good day to try new things. Wild Root was playing, and they sounded good. According to the official website for the event, “proceeds will directly benefit the No Kill Medical Fund, which pays for heart worm treatments and other life saving medical care for Manatee County pets,” and it was good to walk about the place and sample the beers.
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