It’s Hip to be Square

By Beacon Staff

I have never been one of the “cool kids.”

I can’t blame it on anything in particular. Something in my disposition has drawn me to hobbies and actions that are typically just not cool.

As a little Italian boy growing up in Missoula, while most of my friends were putting on their first pair of ski boots and waxing their boards, I passed the frigid winter months learning to juggle. I never got good enough to use something awesome like fire or chainsaws, just balls and scarves – terribly uncool. But my parents encouraged me with blind parental love anyway.

“If you learn to juggle, you’ll never go hungry,” my mother would tell me.

And I should pause here to point out that I, as an only child, just quoted my mom in a blog. Not cool.

Thankfully I never had to earn my meals with my juggling skills, but I have had the opportunity to draw a few sneers from supermarket shoppers as I expertly lob three or four oranges around my head.

I met my best friends in the sixth grade and with a little push from our band director we started a polka band. “The Hungry Five German polka band direct from Germany” had an awesome run. Although we traded members through the years, and the number of gigs fluctuated, most of us stuck together until we graduated from college. That just about rivals the Rolling Stones for rock star endurance.

Our shtick was to play a little polka, tell a joke, play a little more polka. And, although on the surface this may be the uncool part, the kicker is we never learned more than the eight or nine songs. So when we played Oktoberfest at the Iron Horse in downtown Missoula, and they had hired us to play for three hours, we played the same nine songs over and over again – and no one noticed.

I won’t bore you readers with my stint in ballet in high school. Although I did join to meet girls – which is a pretty cool thing to do in high school – I quickly discovered that I liked it. And to defend myself a little, it is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do.

The second hardest was learning the banjo. While most of my buddies at this point were plugging in their Fender guitars or asking for a new drum kit for Christmas, I opted for the banjo. The gentleman we purchased the second-hand stringed instrument from explained to us that the weight of the instrument was directly related to the price – the heavier the banjo, the cheaper. I have never fact-checked this fella, but that’s a pretty uncool way to price something.

The uncool list goes on.

Now I’m older, more secure and proud of the things I have tried and done. All of these “uncool” things have made me a pretty cool guy – I think – with some pretty fun first-hand stories.

I’m glad to have moved past all those awkward years and be done with all things uncool. Now I can concentrate on being en vogue. And you should know that this now “very cool” guy is hand-making all his Christmas gifts this year – I’m learning how to knit.