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The Middle Ages: Buttering up the millennials to try to understand them

Back in fancy-schmancy Santa Monica. Don’t know why I keep coming here. The service is always terrible and the populace a bit smug – too pretty, too self-aware. Yes, I’m talking about my daughters, but there are others, too.

Santa Monica always seems to offer a kooky, robust energy. On this night, Main Street glistens like a sweaty newlywed, as if there are flecks of mica in the skin. Lots of bad bars but a few good ones too, real joints that have done their time.

It’s sometimes difficult for me to live in an area that constantly reinvents itself. Over-gentrification wipes away any sort of patina or earthiness. My buddy T-Bone is even more hostile to the gentrification run rampant across American cities. He calls it “a hostile hipster colonialism.”

What bothers me is how precious and perfect a reborn neighborhood can be. Remember that supermodel with the gap in her teeth? That’s the quality I like in a city, the willingness to flaunt a flaw or two amid all the amazing musculature.

“Where are we going?” I ask the younger daughter as we stroll Main Street.

“Butter coffee,” she says. “It’s supposed to be good for you.”

There is no good explanation for why they are now putting butter into coffee in Santa Monica, other than maybe they’ve run out of other ways to shock us.

Somebody explains that it might actually be a butter known as “ghee,” as if I might understand what ghee is. It’s like two speeding trends have collided inside my head.

What I like best about Santa Monica, probably, is that it seems to attract lots of millennials, the young adults in their 20s and early 30s who I’ve championed in the past. They are like my therapy animals.

An amazing group, these millennials, especially considering they were over-mothered and under-parented all at the same time. That would seem an impossible, mutually exclusive way to raise an entire generation, but somehow America has.

I find the millennials spoiled, entitled, demanding, insular, independent, curious, strong-willed – just the sort of skill set you need to really change the world (many great presidents have had those same qualities).

Now they are out on their own, wobbling about the streets, drinking butter coffee and other sludgy drinks. If the millennials ever sought some sort of generational emblem, it would have to be the 16-ounce throwaway cup.

In Rick’s Tavern on Main, there is a whole gaggle of them, here to watch a little football and recover from the night before. As I’ve noted before, the millennials grew up thinking “Friends” was a documentary, and that single show has shaped their dating culture.

To this day, they roam in packs and prefer the comfort of large groups where they feed off of witty asides. As do I.

The service tonight is horrid, a Santa Monica tradition. We wait 30 minutes for a round of beer, and when it finally arrives, it’s warm as blood.

“In Chicago, they’d throw that glass against the wall,” I tell one of the kids.

“That’s more of an angry place,” someone says.

“Yeah, well, at least you get cold beer,” I say.

These are older millennials, now in their 30s, and they are well into careers, late to marry, hesitant to start families. I think what they love more than anything is the company of each other. Like a litter of puppies that stays together for life.

“Tell me a story, a funny one,” one of them says.

“I once woke up on (his) couch, fully clothed, cradling a watermelon,” a young woman says.

Why?

“I don’t know,” she says. “I just like sleeping in my clothes.”

Did I mention they’re putting butter in the coffee?

There is some deeper truth to be found in that, some key that will unlock this mysterious, maddening, wonderful generation.

I’m still looking.

email: chris.erskine@latimes.com