Street Talk: I just want to be different

In place of my usual rantings this morning, I'd like to spend this time reading you a poem that's very dear to me. Ha-ha! I'm kidding! A poem! Can you imagine? You should see your face.


Forgive my mirth. What I'd really like to do today is to strap a big ponytail onto this column. Or maybe sketch in one of those cool beards that traces the lines of the jaw. Or perhaps I could pierce the column with a silver bead or maybe give it a distinct walk.

You know. Something cool.

It's all moot, anyway. The people who put out the paper say they don't have the "technology" to do any of these things. And even if they did have the technology, it's outlandish and they won't do it. I should "grow up" and "try to write a normal column for once, or you're out on the street."

So you can see what I'm up against. My weekly column gets no funky haircut; no arm tats or anything, really, to make it stand out. Which is fitting, I suppose, because I don't have any of those things, either.

Saw a dude on Park Street the other day who was really styling. He had this long, Fabio-style hair and an array of beads hanging around his neck. If Michael Bolton and Pocahontas got together, this is what their kid would look like.

And as if that wasn't enough, the fellow was traveling with a by-God walking stick. It was a wood number with a carved horse head at the top. Or possibly it was the head of a snake. It was hard to tell, inasmuch as I was watching from behind a tree. The point is that the guy had style. He had pizazz, even if his route consisted of the sidewalks between Kennedy Park and Victor News. When he walked down the street, you noticed him.

Which, I suppose, is the point. You don't hang 30 pounds of jewelry around your neck or spend a week under the needle getting the entire side of your face tattooed because you want to blend in. When you see the guy with the three-foot spike of hair painted bright green down on Lisbon Street, it's safe to assume that he craves attention.

But it gets harder all the time to stand out. Back in the day, only gangsters, sailors and prison inmates sported tattoos. Today, almost everyone does, including policemen, school teachers and a handful of nuns.

The shock value of pierced body parts has likewise worn off. Once the domain of goths and punk rockers, nowadays you stare directly into a gleaming lip or nose ring just cashing your check at the bank or getting checked for a hernia. It ain't no thing, in the parlance of the street. The 1997 street, anyway.

Back in my day, guys wore gold neck chains in an effort to stand out. When the novelty of that wore off (it happened just before midnight, June 7, 1987) they turned to balloon pants and learned to dance like Vanilla Ice. When the clubs became saturated with that look, they tried spiky hair. Then upturned collars, sneakers with the tongues pulled way up, stonewashed jeans and Max Headroom sunglasses.

Not to mention feathered roach-clips and Day-Glo. Lots and lots of Day-Glo. After which, they mostly said the hell with it and went off and got married so they wouldn't have to care about things like style anymore.

Me, I lasted all of one night with a neck chain. I took to the balloon pants pretty well but after an incident involving a hacky sack, I had to give those up as well. Beyond those indulgences, I never bothered much with trying to assert my individuality. No distinct walk, no tattoos, no anything wrapped around my neck. If I decide I want to become a bank robber or world-class embezzler, I don't want any distinguishing features. When it happens, I'll be described in the police bulletins as "Nondescript. Perfectly bland. Kind of a dud, frankly."

I blend in and simply observe others as they strive to stand out. The soul patches, the prison jeans, the lip plates. These, too, shall pass, like the leg warmers and fingerless gloves before them. I try to guess which will be the first to fade and what will come along to replace it. Will we take to growing and styling our nostril hair? Wear clothes made of live animals? Have our teeth removed and replaced with something more eye-grabbing?

Or maybe simplicity will rule the fashion future. Maybe people will eschew the pain and effort of tattoos and piercings and just start wearing pajamas in public.

Ha-ha! Pajamas in public. I'm kidding. Can you imagine?

Mark LaFlamme was a Sun Journal staff writer, until he wrote this column. Kidding! You can ask what color pajamas he's wearing today at

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Jeff Johnson's picture


You are unique. Just like everybody else.


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