To Be Cooler

So you've finally resolved to be cool.

Well, too damn bad. Cool is one of those indefinable attributes, a blending of formality and comfort, attitude and contrition. Indeed, cool often appears in contradictory form. Bogart was cool when masking the scars of hard living and disaffection with a sharp suit and suave demeanor. Yet Nicolas Cage's incoherent-slob routine defines cool as well. Snoop Dogg remains hip, but so does Johnny Cash--even in death. Bugs Bunny oozed cool. Cartman, too. The Fonz epitomized it with his stereotype look and handy catchphrase, but he shares a measure of cool with the hapless Phoebe from Friends. The Crocodile Hunter retained his mystique while dangling his infant in the jaws of death. Michael get the picture.

Even worse, one person may suffer the indignation of a negative and positive image within a short space. At the beginning of Seven Years in Tibet, Brad Pitt was just a bit of self-centered Austrian pond scum. By the conclusion, he displayed more masculine serenity than Bogie himself.

This same phenomenon makes the acquisition of cool a difficult process. Most people operate on a simple principle: Drop by the right places, order the right drinks, crank the right music, mimic the right look--a sort of ipso facto cool.

(Oh, sorry. Latin isn't cool.)

"One should not suffer from 'hipatitis,' or terminal coolness," advises Chris O'Hagan, Dallas aficionado of all things alcoholic and, by proxy, an expert on anything hot. "Those who are confident and comfortable in their own skin are truly cool."

Man about town Todd Wright agrees. "It doesn't matter what you wear or where you hang out. If you feel cool and confident--not think you are, but feel you are--then you are money."

Oh, yeah. Poverty, even the metaphorical kind, is rarely hip.

Learn to differentiate confidence from braggadocio, or the remainder of this piece will just turn you into another mindless drone rotating aimlessly between Dragonfly, Sense, Republic, Candle Room, Medici...Cool people inhabit those establishments, but so do the pretenders. Aside from a proper sense of self, the other basic elements of cool are easily attainable.

Cool hangouts

Single-screen theaters with nearby food and drink. Is there anything more impressive than dinner, a movie and drinks--all within walking distance? Perhaps you prefer the jib you cut while dodging soccer mom-mobiles in a megaplex parking lot. The Angelika (northeast corner of Mockingbird Lane and Central Expressway), surrounded by Trinity Hall, Spike and other distractions, is a good place to start. The West Village is also worth a go, as a film at The Magnolia (McKinney Avenue and Blackburn Street) and a short stroll around the area's various haunts (especially across the street at The Loon) retain some sense of urbanity.

OK, so neither fits the single-screen theater motif. But it's Dallas, and we must make certain allowances.

Cool drinks

First learn how to order. Know something about the alcohol (its provenance, tasting notes and such--which may require a bit of "study") so you can scoff at trend-followers slurping Turi, stand alone with a Monopolowa and turn heads. Call for Knob Creek or Booker's instead of Jack--and skip the Coke. Pick Barbancourt rather than the Captain. Request an old-fashioned or champagne cocktail. And never, ever, ever order anything green or red in a martini glass.

Remember this as well: There is nothing sexier than a woman who orders scotch in a bar and knows exactly what she wants.

Cool places to eat

Nick & Sam's (214-871-7444) is suddenly very hip; Aurora (214-528-9400) as well. Arcodoro & Pomodoro (214-871-1924) provides an open setting (see and be seen), décor reminiscent of an old-world plaza and America's favorite cuisine--Italian. Yet there's something to be said for the ungainly place with brilliant food, such as Suze (214-350-6135), a small restaurant offering, from the outside, all the charm of an Old Navy. It's tucked into a shopping strip next to an Albertson's along Northwest Highway and Midway Road. Anything British must be hip as well, since we copy all of their TV shows. Visit The Londoner in Addison (972-458-2444) on a Saturday afternoon for a bit of greasy pub fare, a game of darts and a few pints of Guinness.

Tapas? Forget it. That's trendy, not cool.

Cool bars

Surprisingly the same as last year (as a few weeks ago, in other words): Dragonfly (214-550-9500), Candle Room (214-370-4155), Sense (214-370-4445), Republic (214-740-1111). In 2004, however, the truly hip crowd will add The Grapevine (214-522-8466), Tantra (214-821-3041) and Mike's Treehouse (214-370-0400) to their list. After all, says Brandy Bray, Mike's is a perfect place to "get drunk, make complete asses of ourselves and have an all-around good time." In addition, O'Hagan urges people to revisit the old favorites, such as Lakewood Landing (214-823-2410), The Ginger Man (214-754-8771), The Old Monk (214-821-1880), Lower Greenville and Deep Ellum.

Cool things to do

Simple pleasures rule: Waste an evening on the patio at Republic (214-740-1111); buy a ticket to the Stars, Mavs, Cowboys or Rangers--upper deck--and really watch the game. Grab a cone at Marble Slab (multiple yummy locations). Throw a wine-tasting party at home, or at least wrangle an invitation to one at someone else's home. Order the "Feed Me" menu at Green Room (214-748-7666). Make fun of people from the Mid-Cities.

Cool clothing

Although a confident person is able to pull off any look, a pretender requires the assistance of trendy lines to mimic the appearance of cool. For the confident person, anything that lends a classic silhouette will emphasize the proper attitude. Shop at Lucky Brand Dungarees (in the West Village, 214-521-4226) or Hugo Boss (in the Galleria, 972-503-4846) if you insist on paying full price. Otherwise, head up to Nordstrom Rack in Plano (972-267-1414) and then make the items work.

Cool language

There are something like 50,000 Russians and Eastern Europeans skulking around the Dallas area, undermining our capitalist way of life. Learn a few handy Russian phrases, infiltrate their gatherings, drink their vodka and...and...Just drink their vodka; it will render them helpless.