The other night in Los Angeles, I caught up with my old friend Jeremy, who’d just landed a big sales job with a wireless company. We’d decided to check out Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Henry Fonda Theater. As you get older, and adult responsibilities cake up your life like shower mold, preparing for the time-honored male-bonding ritual of seeing an indie band becomes a Byzantine task, so we were psyched. Before I flew out from New York, I’d figured that since I’d always lent Jeremy a couch to crash on in the past, when he was a struggling singer-songwriter, maybe I could save a few bucks and stay with him and his wife and kids near Laurel Canyon, and . . . well, wait. No, that wouldn’t do.
I opted for the Ritz-Carlton instead. But we would have some extra time for dinner, of course. And for a moment I thought about all the great L.A. dives that you associate with rock showsOki Dog, Señor Fish, Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgersbut that nostalgic impulse quickly morphed into Naaah, let’s go somewhere nicewhat’s the name of that amazing new sushi place near the Sunset Marquis? (It’s called Wa, and I highly recommend the tuna sashimi with truffles.)
Then there was the issue of clothing: Would my indie-rock T-shirt be appropriate at the sushi place, or would it come across as too downscale, in which case would I need to change in the car? Oh, and, my rental car looked a little putzywouldn’t it make more sense to take Jeremy’s SUV, this being L.A. and all?
Okay! Rock and roll!
Had he seen me at that show, the younger version of myselfthe one who saw the Clash at the Hollywood Palladium and once backpacked through Morocco and slept in an olive grovewould have uttered three words that were popular in the late eighties: Die, yuppie scum. And right he’d be. Twenty years after the heyday of that mockworthy monster of American affluence, I have become the enemy. Hi, my name is Jeff, and I am a yuppie. We're all yuppies now.
Of course, that term, yuppie, has fallen so out of favor that we’re not even supposed to use it anymore. We’re expected to come up with a neologisma clever 21st-century inversion of the word. But we’re not going to do that, because we don’t need to: The yuppie of 1986 and the yuppie of 2006 are so similar as to be indistinguishable. A used copy of The Yuppie Handbook recently fell into my hands. The book was published in 1984 as a jokey piece of social anthropology, and it made a slew of observations about this new American species. The yuppie’s bizarre lifestyle preferences were intended to elicit populist guffaws. Here are some of the things, according to The Yuppie Handbook, that the budding yupster could not live without: gourmet coffee, a Burberry trench coat, expensive running shoes, a Cuisinart, a renovated kitchen with a double sink, smoked mozzarella from Dean & DeLuca, a housekeeper, a mortgage, a Coach bag, a Gucci briefcase, and a Rolex. Oh, har har har, that crazy yup!