The Lowbrow Sophisticate
As of late, since occupying my new home city of Fort Collins, interested parties have asked me what the Lowbrow Sophisticate is all about: what is a Lowbrow Sophisticate? Are you born one? Can you become one? And how does lowbrow sophistication translate to a website such as this one? To be completely truthful, the chosen title took no time at all to arise, and as much as I would like to take credit for its profundity, it was a label adorned upon me beneath the prosthetic snooty guffaws of a graduate school professor of mine, escaping from behind a yellow ivory fence of crooked British teeth as he leaned forward, polishing our Bruce Wayne-sized seminar table with the sewn on tweed elbow patches of his corduroy blazer. I forget his name.
For the sake of storytelling, I had just given my quiet opinion on a now forgettable Shakespeare sonnet while surrounded by a dozen trustafarians who tried far too hard to present themselves as poor and wrongfully broken and not nearly hard enough to come across as relatable, let alone likable in any way whatsoever. My answer (also forgettable), whiffed around the room like an off-putting cologne – perhaps a bit due to my mealy-mouthed southern Wisconsin drawl – and was received with quiet condescension. The aforementioned professor made sure I was looking right at him before making the proclamation in the form of a question, “Mr. Monroe, has anyone ever told you that you are quite the lowbrow sophisticate?”
My initial reaction of course was, “Fuck you, professor,” but by the time class had ended and I was sitting in my Jeep shot-gunning my usual post class snack of Miller High Life before my next seminar (an hour and a half slot the rest of the graduate class used to sit in the cafeteria waxing the complexities of Aristotelian Metaphysics and its correlation to the Evil Dead series or who would win in a fight: Noam Chomsky or pre-homosexual Bertrand Russell), my feisty anger had been replaced with a peculiar sense of pride. I was a lowbrow sophisticate and the rest of those pinheads would never even come close.
So that’s where it came from, but what does it mean? Now assuming Professor Assface meant his label to be an inferiority complex-causing kick in the intellectual nuts, his biggest misstep was forgetting the sophisticate attribute of the insult. The “Lowbrow” aspect explains itself: we lowbrows like our drink, we like our tobacco, we like to love, and we most certainly like our diverse range of expletive language, but the “Sophisticate” aspect strengthens its predecessor by the very nature of its meaning. The sophistication in us gives our tastes value; we’ll drink our High Life and Pabst in the same sitting as we sip our favorite crafts such as Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, Delirium’s Tremens, Hofbrau’s Dunkel, and Trippel’s Trippel Karmaliet. We value our lovers and our truest friends because to know you are better when you are with the ones you love is to understand the vitality of community. We are skillful and can handle wit; enough to quote Socrates and Nabokov, but real enough to match it with the words of Bill Hicks and Woody Allen. We value knowledge and understand that as gruff and blue collar as we may appear, we transcend that due to our incorporation of thoughtfulness and compassion; the things that give the lowbrow his or her sophistication.
To answer the most intriguing of the questions: “Are you born a lowbrow sophisticate or can you become one?” Let me say this: Buddha has a notion that we are all born Buddhas and the means to reveal our Buddha nature is around us always, waiting for – perhaps even expecting us – to use them to help us realize this innate nature. I am not so naïve to infer that all sentient beings are lowbrow sophisticates chomping at the bit to lift the veils of obscurity to excuse their smoking, drinking, cursing, and loving wild, but what I will say is being cool, likable, and excellent is not mutually exclusive from being intelligent, thoughtful, and articulate. I proclaim to you all, much like my Shakespeare professor did to me, whether you label yourself as a lowbrow or a sophisticate, you can be both! My words are proclaimed with no air of condescension, silliness, or dare. Think of it rather as an evolution into excellence and satisfaction. A fellow lowbrow sophisticate, Charlie Darwin was on the right track when he said:
“In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Living in Fort Collins I have quickly learned that we are in the beer capital of the United States; surrounded by countless, glorious craft houses that serve the most amazing beer I have ever tasted. My particular favorite is a quaint craft house down the street from Colorado State University, just on the cuff of Old Town, called The Tap and Handle. As far as beer goes, it is quite literally the best bar I have ever been in.
The Lowbrow Sophisticate is starting a new series this week called The Wet Writers which celebrates the most genuine of the literary lowbrows whose over indulgence, and dare I say passion, for inebriating libations may have contributed to their deaths, but most have most certainly contributed to their art. I wanted to kick off The Wet Writers with The Tap and Handle and what better writer to pair it with than Dylan Thomas, whose, as some of you may or may not know, favorite vice was the golden, frothy post-mead Hoppy Diety called Beer.
So check in next week – it’s going to be a hell of a good time.