This is a Public Service Announcement from The Bartender Knows (Cue Walter Winchell style typewriter key clicks and Morse Code beeps).
After countless overheard conversations at the bar, hundreds of shit-talking neighborhood dwellers, a multitude of articles, essays, and journalistic endeavors by all kinds of major news sources have attempted to answer, describe, and assimilate this immortal and endlessly fascinating question:
What the fuck is a hipster—and am I one?
If so, what can be done about such a diagnosis? Are there levels of hipsterism? Is it something treatable? Or is it an honor to be one of this clan, brandishing a badge of a select group, an allegiance to a movement that has no true definition, no ground level identity.
As a grown man living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for some years, I believe I have some kind of authority as to what a ‘hipster’ really is, since I live at Havemeyer and North 6th, dead center in a neighborhood that invented the phenomenon.
I know Echo Park and Seattle, and even Portland (nope…sorry kids) claim to have invented this.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the grand ole Aunt that created the monster that all second–tier cities merely emulate and receive our less than fortunate ex-patriots who escape New York’s grueling pace, high rents, and extraordinarily competitive culture.
A place to open their Milk Bar in peace.
Let’s just start with the basics, shall we?
“Do you wear pants small enough to fit your 12 year old sister?” (quote by S. Chang, local bartender).
“Are you so socially awkward that when someone smiles and says hello you freeze, eyes glazed, like a doe walking into the middle of a freeway?”
“Do you look like you need to eat a burger or risk exhaustion?” (again stolen from S. Chang, local bartender).
“Do you have a trust fund and buy already torn jeans?”
“Are you so removed from human emotion that when someone confesses true emotive experiences you lack the empathy to identify with their suffering?” (this recently happened to me. Seriously. Weird, and slightly scary).
Now, these are merely cheap attacks on tropes any episode of “Girls” has locked on with deadly accuracy.
Let The Bartender Knows make a statement for the court.
I fucking love Williamsburg.
I used to visit this place over a decade ago crashing at my sister’s place on Eckford and Nassau. Walking up the then mostly shuddered Bedford Avenue at 2 am, I remember certain wild evenings, jumping into strange cars, and odd demonic characters of varying ethnicity leaning in to put coke under my nose on little silver spoons.
This week, The Bartender Knows cordially presents a special two-part segment, dutifully titled: “Are you A Hipster?”
This is Part 1.
Strange luck this week. I’ve been looking through my previously erased files I lost when my bastard computer died in Paris (read here).
There were several stories I forgot I even wrote. Most writers have stored hundreds of forgotten pages somewhere now lost. Discovering them is like bumping into an old friend on the train.
In honor of this double feature celebration of the hood, I’ll enclose a small little love-letter excerpt I wrote in 2004 on a little jaunt into fair Williamsburg:
I wrote this at 27. Now I’m 35. Oh my.
It is my birthday. April 1st 2004.
In ten years I’ll be 37.
This worries me.
I hope I will still have many erections. There are only a few things men must worry about. Erections are, to me, I think the most important. Well, okay, maybe not erections but the use of the erection. At some point—somewhere.
This was the motif last night. Thinking that perhaps there are only a limited number of erections one may have and setting off to implement the erection with a willing participant. I was in New York, a city known for the usage of erections. More importantly I was in Williamsburg, which holds the highest percentage of hard-ons the world has ever seen.
Imagine Bedford Ave the shaft aimed at the bulbous wet peninsula of Manhattan. I was staying in the balls, locally known as Greenpoint. No passerby cannot smell the trace of Vodka seeping from the lips of the babushka’s and the old men that shuffle, staring off to the dirty cement remembering, I have no doubt, their lost erections.
I leave the balls and move up the shaft right into the heart of this hipster heaven. Immediately, passing the bars and shops and records stores, I soon realize that I do not have the pressed down flap of hair greasily laid upon my forehead. My clothes are not tight-fitting, I do not have slim hips. The arty girls walk easily next to their tall lanky men, cute thrift store hats pulled deep over their foreheads-unbearably cute.
The arty kids are also hot for copulation. But this copulation has nothing to do with insertion, more IMMERSION. The tale of the tape for up and coming artist havens goes like this.
Take a ghetto, a scary place, crack infested, rats living as some peoples roommates. Then take that poor son-of-a-bitch writer/painter/musician who, because of the poverty punishment set upon them by our artless culture, are forced to live in such means to still have the mind and money to create their dying forms. Now the rats crawl in—those that dress the part and wear condescension like a badge on their face and the money-makers smell shit under their pig noses. The landowner too sees the shot—and raises the rent.
Now some ‘hip’ bars are brought up, the place gets a buzz, the real artists are forced to move to whatever rat-trap is on the horizon, and the rest is festering history. Humanity is yet again destroyed, kill or be killed.
Artists are holding their bleeding asses across town.
I hear Park Slope is getting sodomized as we speak.
Yep. I think I was reading a lot of Henry Miller at the time. The story goes on for another six pages. Wow. Wow. 2004.
I’ll spare you the rest.
But for the weekend, we’ll mull over all the different types of folks who found themselves here.
And anyone who doesn’t live here, let this be a travelogue of some odd land, often emulated and mocked, but always drinking more than any of you.
Stay tuned for “Are You A Hipster? (Part 2)” this week.
I raise my glass:
“To the working class!"
OUR FAIR HAMLET. SOME PEOPLE SAY IT'S THE CENTER OF THE HIP WORLD. I HONESTLY DON'T FEEL THAT COOL.
THIS JPEG ACTUALLY WAS TITLED: "HIPSTER FUCK".
WHY THE HATE?
AND IT'S WAY BETTER THAN HANGING WITH THESE DUDES!