THEY WERE the kind of couple you know have been through deco, retro, Armani, Nautilus, free weights, rap, punk and fusion, who have postmodern furniture in the living room, lava lamps by the bed and a photograph of James Dean over the toilet.
She had hair like Elvis; he had hair like hers. She turned to him in the Korean grocery and said: "You know, we're completely out of water."
"How did that happen?"
"I don't know how it happened. I'm simply telling you that there is not a drop of water in the house."
If Benjamin Braddock were the "Graduate" today, that family friend would walk up to him poolside and give him the key to success in one word: water.
Not the kind of water that comes out of the tap. Cool water. Cool water comes in bottles. You carry it everywhere -- to the office, the gym, on buses, in the car.
You would not drink tap water. It might be full of mercury, lead, zinc, plutonium, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Besides, you would not be cool.
Cool water is made by foreigners, or Americans pretending to be foreigners. It is French or Italian or Scandinavian, and it comes in plastic bottles. It is second-generation cool water.
First came cool water with bubbles in little bottles shaped like Buddha. But soon people began ordering it at strip-mall Chinese restaurants. By the time it had a brush with benzene, it was already history.
It was succeeded by water without bubbles: tap water with delusions of grandeur, reservoir with a twist. Soon that appeared in all the best tote bags. There was no respect at any power meeting for anyone who arrived without water.
We all know what happens next. Look at black clothes. For years they were so cool that it was possible to go from a memorial service to a downtown club without changing.
Now at malls girls with hair the same color as their gum are dressed completely in black. Fifth graders come to school wearing black leggings, black sweaters and black boots. "It makes you look thinner," they moan.
In a world where class differences have become less visual, cool things make the difference between those people with money and those with style: that is, they make life one long high school hallway composed of cool people and geeks.
Cool things cannot be common. That would deny too much pleasure to waiters in pretentious restaurants, who love to say: "Tonight we have a lovely poached togo. That's a slightly fatty fish with a firm flesh. It tastes a good deal like hammerhead shark."
(It would be really cool to hear common food described that way. "Tonight we have a pretty good macaroni and cheese. The elbow macaroni is made with bleached flour, and the Velveeta is from that Safeway next to the K Mart. It tastes a bit like the macaroni and cheese the high school serves on Thursdays.")
"Twin Peaks" started out cool. Then you heard ladies in the supermarket talking about cherry pie, one-eyed jacks, and their gall bladder problems, and knew it was mainstream, which is the cool word for death on wheels.
It is only because David Lynch is so strange that he has managed to stay cool. If he had not said on the "Tonight" show that he had a chocolate shake at Bob's Big Boy at 2:30 p.m. every day for seven years, he might be making industrial films right now.
In New York there are cool dogs. But you buy one -- say, a King Charles spaniel -- and in a few years it is no longer cool. There you are with last year's dog.
This year's cool dog is called a Shar-Pei and it looks like a bulldog wearing a Great Dane's skin. It is very ugly, which is one reason why it is cool. It is probably expensive, too.
My hairdresser, the one with the bustiers, says even to use cool is not cool, that cool is corny, retro, nowhere. She says I am happening, but that's just for the sake of the tip.
She says cool things are fresh and def. But no Caucasian person of a certain age can use the words fresh and def. No Caucasian person with children can be fresh or def or cool. Children are by definition cooler than their parents, unless you have the good fortune to be Cher.
When something is cool enough for a newspaper columnist to notice, it is already not cool. Next thing you know it's in women's magazines.