Monday, September 29, 2008

#11 Vice Presidents

By definition, being a vice presidential candidate is underground. It means you're probably not smooth enough, good looking enough, or smart enough to be the presidential candidate. Being awkward, ugly, and dumb are all things that make someone underground so this tends to make perfect sense. This year we're blessed to have two VP candidates who are so underground that even Canadians want to vote in our election. In case you don't know too much about our candidates, here are two brief bio's I've prepared in order to make sure that people are educated going into November.

Sarah Palin: Sarah was born in an igloo in the North Pole in 1987. She killed her first moose when she was 14 and started playing hockey when she was 2. One time she tried putting lipstick on a pitbull, but then the pitbull punched her in the head and got a two minute penalty for high-sticking. Her BFF is Katie Couric, who she met at the University of Idaho because they lived in the same hall and made out with the same boy at Matt Smith's F4 in 1991. Sarah has 7 kids who are named Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy.

Joe Biden: Joe has been bald since he was
 12. His friends call him Mike Williams. He's never killed a moose but tends to kill a joke at least once a speech. He once told a congressman in a wheelchair to stand up for recognition, which was the most embarrassing thing he did that week. He takes the train to work every day, so I don't think he can afford a car. One time when he was running for president he plagiarized a speech from an Italian politician and got in trouble and had to drop out. I think people noticed when he started talking in Itallian, so the joke's on them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#10 Bike Messengers

Being a bike messenger is extremely underground. Its so underground that try asking someone how you get a bike messenger job and they won't be able to tell you. Try going to It doesn't exist. You don't become one, you're born one. Last week I saw the most intense bike messenger I'd ever seen. He was riding his fixy, pant legs rolled up, talking on his walkie-t, drinking a stumptown, and carrying two huge boxes. One was strapped to his bag and the other was under his arm. I was pretty impressed because I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was 13.

Many skills are needed in order to become a messenger, and many of them don't come naturally to most people. You need to be able to ride a bike in an urban environment at about 50 miles per hour. You need to be able to feel comfortable in both professional office settings AND local hipster hangouts. You need to remember all names of all of the architecture firms in town, and that's like a big jumble of alphabet soup in your head.

A bike messenger needs to be able to carry and deliver anything in their bag, and I mean anything. Drawings, boxes, computers, even dogs. If people need to send it across town, they'll be looking at you.

So if you do have what it takes to become a messenger then there are certain rules that you have to live by. Always keep random pieces of paper in your back spokes. Drink coffee at least three times a day at Portland Coffee House on Alder and Broadway. Never turn your walkie talkie volume down when you walk into an office. Eat lunch sitting against a blank wall in front of the US Bancorp tower where you can make fun of people in suits. Always make fun of people in suits. Get an ironic tattoo. Talk about how everyone has fixies now and you're thinking about getting a mountain bike. If you can do that, then I have a cute little cocker spaniel I need sent across town by 5:30.

Monday, September 22, 2008

#9 Skinny Jeans

If you have ever put on a pair of jeans in under 5 minutes then they're definitely not skinny jeans. And they're probably at least 2 sizes too big. What you need to do is immediately give those pants away and head to your nearest Buffalo Exchange to get some pants that will put you on the road to underground. To understand why skinny jeans are so underground its important to understand the history of the jean. Since jeans and useless history are both underground this is a double-whammy. Don't say double-whammy too much though because that's not underground at all.

Jeans started as a form of dyed cotton material known as dungaree that was exported from India in the 16th century. Sailors would literally take a piece of this stuff and improvise a pair of pants using nothing but a huge knife, some thick rope, and a parrot. In the 1850's a German merchant guy named Levi Strauss started selling mass-produced jeans to gold miners during the gold rush in California. Like everything that hits California, the trend caught on like wildfire and pretty soon everyone was wearing "Levi's" so that they could pretend they were a gold miner and everyone would think they were cool. This is an important point in jean history because from this point on all jeans would be qualified as falling into one of two categories: cool, or un-cool.

In the 50's and 60's rock-and-rollers taught us that jeans didn't have to be loosey-goosey like a working man's pant. They told us to be proud of our junk by wearing pants that would cut off the circulation to most of our lower body. Thank you to people like Robert Plant for this very important lesson (anyone who's seen "The Song Remains the Same" knows exactly what I'm talking about).

Over the years, several uncool styles tried to distract us from this knowledge. I'm sure several of us are guilty of wearing these non-underground looks such as Jnco's, mom-jeans, bell-bottoms, or bedazzled jeans. Flash forward to 1998 we used to think that carpenter jeans were here to stay. At that point we thought that you couldn't get more underground than a pair of jeans with a loop in which to keep your hammer at all times.

But today, the skinny has made a comeback and again it's the only jean that can officially make you cool. If you'll notice all of the previous styles that have come and gone had two significant flaws. First, they allowed for complete circulation to the legs, which is just stupid. Second, they often cover some or all of the shoe, which is pointless because hip shoes are a very important part of an underground outfit. Skinny jeans can barely fit over ankles, let alone shoes. So whatever type of skinny jean you have, remember the cardinal rule: the skinnier the better, and be proud of your junk.

P.S. Dave, I've been looking for skinny jeans with a 38" inseam all day and can't find anything. But I did find some Jnco's with a 38" inseam and 36" leg openings. Those are pretty sweet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

#8 My Friend Joe

My friend Joe is one of the least underground people I know. He's got some qualities that make him cool, but in general he's the guy you see wearing Teva sandals with socks and jean shorts. My grandma is more underground than Joe and she doesn't even speak English. Then again she's about four and a half feet tall we all know that being short is underground.

So how is this relevant? Well, its simple. The fact that Joe is so mainstream makes the rest of our friends more underground, because having mainstream friends is an essential part of being cool. He sells insurance, and that's boring. He like's to iron, and that's lame. Having Joe around gives me and my other underground friends plenty to complain about whenever we hang out.

There are some things that make Joe slightly hip. He's from Gresham, which was voted Portland's #3 most underground place to be from. He also gets most of his clothes from Value Village, which officially makes them vintage. He loves Pabst and whiskey, which are both underground.

Joe also tries to be more hip by hanging out with underground people, and that's respectable. One thing that he must realize though is that it's okay have friends that dress like pirates, grow mustaches, ride fixy bikes, and work in big pink buildings downtown. But that alone will not make you look like a pirate, it won't turn your beach cruiser into a fixy, and it will definitely not help you grow any facial hair.

Thanks for the ticket Joe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

#7 Americanos from Stumptown

If you ever want to give a hipster a heart attack, ask them if they want to go to Starbucks and get a Frappuccino. If you really want to see them freak out, buy them four Frappuccino's and deliver it to them in one of those to-go carriers that they give out at Starbucks.

The thing is that to be underground you have to be extremely particular about several things. Coffee is definitely one of those. Other things that make the list are music, vegan restaurants, bike shops, and clothing stores. We call these the "Big Five."

Coffee is like wine for people who are underground. You'll often hear them describing the flavor, body, chemistry, and roasting characteristics of a good brew. Don't be intimidated, just nod and pretend you know what they're talking about. A simple way to jump into the conversation is by asking something simple like, "so when exactly was this roasted, it smells fresh." This will usually open up the conversation and allow the person to continue talking for several more minutes. The ask, "Where are these beans from? Sumatra? Carmo de Minas? Perhaps the Loma Del Rio region of Costa Rica?" You'll sound so underground you'll make your friends spit coffee out of there noses.

Its not uncommon to spend $3 to $4 on a good cup of coffee when you're underground. If the vintage t-shirt you're wearing cost you about the same then you know you're doing something right. A typical drink that you'll want to order is the Americano. This drink is great because there's no bullshit about it. Its just espresso and water. And you'll notice that even though it sounds French or Italian, its not. Its the word American with an "O" at the end. The "O" stands for "Oh man, you're underground."

Two of my favorite places to go for a good cup in downtown Portland are Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Half & Half. If you live in NE, and I know some of you do, Random Order Coffeehouse on 18th and Alberta is great. They have muffins with bacon in them, and that's pretty badass because most of the people who go in there are vegans.

Friday, September 12, 2008

#6 Mustaches

There are a completely different set of rules that govern the hair that goes on top of your head vs. the hair that goes on the front of your face. First of all, having hair on the top of your head is optional if you want to be underground. Just look at all the badass people in history that have been bald or semi-bald; Mr. T, Mini-Me, Montel Williams. All bald, all underground.

But facial hair is a different story. Accidentally wear a baseball cap one day and all of a sudden you look like the short stop for the 1987 New York Mets. Accidentally wear a Hawaiian shirt and people think that you're Magnum P.I. Mustaches have to be carefully coordinated and thought out. They're a commitment, and growing and maintaining one should not be taken lightly.

To grow a completely underground mustache, it is recommended that you take some time off what you're doing so that you're not walking around with a half-grown mustache, or a "halfie." Anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks should be sufficient, depending on how good you are at growing facial hair. This time off is a perfect opportunity to do several underground things with your time. Volunteer for a not-for-profit in Central America, back-pack across Southeast Asia, or go on a road trip to a national park here in your own back yard. For our Swedish readers, I recommend Blå Jungfrun, its beautiful.

Either way these are all places where daily or weekly showers are optional, and should offer ample opportunity for facial hair growth. By the time you get back a fresh 'stache should be in place and will practically be starting conversations for you. Next time you're at Rontom's or Rotture and someone asks, "Cool mustache, where'd you get it?" Be ready to respond with something hip like, "Oh this thing, ya I grew it while I was in Thailand. We camped on the beach for like 3 days and ate nothing but rice and banana leaves. It was so underground..."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

#5 Hand Rolled Cigarettes

The only thing more mainstream than buying your smokes off the shelf is not smoking. Rolled cigs don't have filters, so there's nothing between you and the natural flavor. Don't be fooled if you think filters make a cigarette more healthy--they don't. They're filled with all sorts of mainstream and other stuff that will make you soft. Rolling your own is not only a cheaper alternative, but its also good for the environment. Its like killing two birds with one stone. Even though its usually more hip to kill two birds with two stones, just to be underground.

When someone tries to bum a cigarette, you just pull out your zig zag and ask, "can you roll?" Trust me, they'll look like an idiot and you'll save yourself from having to share the organic tobacco you bought at Rich's cigar shop. Rich's cigar shop is underground.

If you think you're ready to get out there and roll, you're dead wrong. Don't roll in public until you can do it in the dark, because you may have to. You want your cigarette to complement your body shape, so keep them rolled thin. Rolled cigarettes can make almost any activity more underground. Riding your fixy: underground. Riding while rolling: hella underground. And nothing complements a 16 ounce PBR like a rollie.

Like many other underground things, rolling is old school. You may be able to score some papers from your grandpa, and smoking with old people is more underground than you might think. But careful, because being old is not underground.

#4 Messy Haircuts

There are basically two haircuts that you're allowed to have if you'd like to be underground. Those are the "Messy" and the "Spontaneously Messy." The "Messy" involves careful pruning skills similar to those used in the bonsai tradition to make your head look disheveled, but not sloppy. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate control over the hair. The "Spontaneous" is actually much more difficult and requires much more pruning skills in order to make it look like no pruning ever took place. 

The difference between these can be equated to the difference between a French classical garden and an English classical garden. The French attempted to demonstrate their dominance over the landscape by arranging their gardens in highly ordered and logical forms. The gardens at Versailles are a prime example of this style. In contrast, the English gardens at Prior Park in Bath, England make a huge effort in order to look like a completely natural landscape. In reality, both of these gardens are equally as man-made (landscape architecture is underground so shut up Bell).

Its very important to get your haircut at a certified underground barbershop. These places usually have some sort of novelty that defines them as hipster barbers. They either use rusty scissors or they use free-trade organic hair-spray or something. There are many places like this around town that have built their entire business plan around charging $30 to cut your hair so that it looks like you're hungover all the time. Two places I can think of off the top of my head are Rudy's and Bishops. Bishops actually gives you beer while you get your haircut, so that by the end you actually will be hungover, and that's pretty underground. Rudy's has a location on Division and another one in the Pearl. Whatever you do don't go to Rudy's Pizza & Sandwiches on 47th and Powell for a haircut because they'll look at you like an idiot and then they'll try to sell you a sandwich.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#3 Black Rimmed Glasses

An essential part of living the underground lifestyle is looking the part. Since most of the time people are looking at your head, having a cool pair of black-rimmed glasses (or "horn-rimmed" glasses if you're my mainstream little sister) is essential. These glasses need to be durable, rectangular, and free from any insignias which might tie them back to an Italian or French designer.

If you already have glasses you're in a good position to trade in those old Tommy Hilfiger wire-frames you've had since high school and get som

e cool, dark "blackies." If you don't currently wear glasses then you're going to have to go to the optometrist for an eye exam and lie about being able to see the letters on the wall. Don't worry, lying is underground.

The doctor is going to put a huge thing on your head that looks like a gigantic metal View-Master. They'll start flipping swithces and moving dials and asking things like "what looks better one, or two.? One . . . or two?" You don't want to tell the truth so just say something ambiguous like "whatever...they both suck."

After the exam you'll get your frames. Again, get a pair that fits well and are durable because you'll be wearing your glasses for everything you do that's underground . . . biking through downtown, swimming in local creeks that no one's heard about, showering thrice a week, eating local organic Thai food, etc. And believe me, you do not want to drop your new frames in your Pad Se Ew, you'll be the laughing stock of all your hipster friends. And hipsters don't like laughing, so they'll be pissed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

#2 Clipboards

Nothing is more underground than a summer job working for the environment.  While all your friends are getting their brains fried sitting in a cubicle working a 9-to-5, you can be out in the sunshine with a clipboard asking people if they give a damn about polar bears.  I read in a book that the average person standing on the corner asking for donations to a not-for-profit agency has a success rate of about 3%.  That's the success rate for charitable contributions to their cause.  The success rate for making people feel guilty about their daily lifestyle is much higher, somewhere around 83%.  

If you're going to look for one of these summer jobs for next season, there's a few things you have to keep in mind.  The first is that you can easily be fooled on college campuses by fliers promising summer jobs with great wages, about $500 per week.  Don't be fooled by these, they're probably painting jobs.  What you want is a job where you get paid on commission for getting donations that help save babies, polar bears, trees, or ice.  Second, grow dreadlocks.  Third, make sure that you have two or three good tag-lines ready to greet people as they walk by.  You'll be repeating this about 50 to 300 times per day depending on your location in the city so think of something that you won't get bored of repeating.  Good locations are in front of Powell's or Pioneer Courthouse Square, but an awesome location is 33rd and Hawthorne.  Those hippies won't see it coming...

With those things set, you're ready to start "clipboarding."  The secret is to talk to any person that makes eye contact with you.  If they've made eye contact, its their secret way of saying they have extra disposable income they would otherwise be spending on frapuccino's or Hummers.  Don't be afraid to start talking if a person is one or two blocks away, people are usually more willing to listen if they in a crosswalk avoiding the Streetcar or a bike rickshaw.

So have fun with your underground summer job.  And don't worry if someone ignores you when you ask them if they have a moment for the environment.  Just mentally give them the bird and tell yourself that at least you give a damn about a cause worth clipboarding for.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

#1 Fixed Gear Bikes

In some circles Portland is called "Fixy Town, USA."  No wonder, everyone from bike messengers to little babies in strollers have been seen rolling around in their fixed gear bikes.  And its no surprise, these bikes are by far the most efficient form of transportation known to science.   How many times have you been riding your mountain bike or road bike and thought "these brakes and extra gears are really weighing me down."  Well all you have to do is take every non-essential piece of hardware off your bike and your on your way to rolling around town at least twice as fast and three times as underground.  Nothing is more badass than riding through Portland's hills with only one gear.  The tougher the ratio, the better.  Riding through traffic is so boring when you have two working breaks.  On a fixed gear bike you don't have breaks.  You depend on your leg power to slow you down when you need to.  But nothing is more mainstream than slowing down, so the real underground way to ride a fixy is to just speed up when you get to a stop sign. 

One you've converted your road bike into a fixed gear, there are three things you have to do to separate yourself from the rest of the field: 1) get custom handlebars 2) grow a mustache 3) have a bad attitude towards other bikes.  Custom handlebars can be anything so that your bike stops looking like a road bike and starts looking like some sort of hybrid.  I recommend the handlebars from an old Razor scooter.  They're light, dangerous, and all sorts of underground.  Plus you get extra points for the throwback reference to 1998.  Second, a mustache might not not seem like a bike accessory, but it is.  It increases aerodynamics, and lets people know that you're not F-ing around.  If you're a girl and can't grow one, don't worry.  Just wear some sort of creative helmet.  I suggest an equestrian helmet or one of those old brown leather football helmets from the early 1900's.  Third, make sure that you let people know that you don't like their off-the-shelf bike whenever you have the chance.  You've put in a lot of effort in order to get your cycle up to par, and you want to carry yourself in a manner that says "Normal bikes are stupid.  Everyone should have a fixy, but not really because then everyone would have a fixy."    

Friday, September 5, 2008

What is Underground?

Lots of stuff is underground.  Its just about finding something so cool that you're the only person who knows about it.  It can also be about finding the coolness in things that other people would otherwise consider normal or creepy.  Like mustaches.  You probably haven't realized that your uncle Chuck has had a mustache for years, but as soon as your hip friend Rico grows one, it makes him that much more legit.  So try to find stuff around you that's pretty underground and then get really into it.  It will help you be the coolest one out of all your friends.  Here are som sample topics to get you started...

Fixed gear bikes
Black rimmed glasses
Not liking stuff
Stumptown Coffee
Urban Outfitters
Sarah Palin
Ambiguous band names
"Labyrinth" with David Bowie
The harpsichord
New Jersey