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After Work: Looking For The Hipsters

…I had a little city walk card in my hand, ready for an urban adventure. I stopped at all the “hip” places. The bookstore featured lots of graphic design magazines. The Tibetan boutique was a flurry of silk scarves. A tiny boutique displayed a froth of summer things. A jewelry store celebrated tiny, tiny pieces in gold…

Dona Gibbs goes in search of Hipsterville, NY, only to realize that it is probably to be found right back where she started from.

For more of Dona’s cool words click on After Work in our menu.

“Would you do something about the air conditioning? It’s summer. And when I get back to L.A., it’ll still be summer,” he harrumphed into his cell phone and then snapped it closed.

“Landlord,” was his one word explanation to his lunch pal.

I was sitting in a café in the heart of Hipster, Brooklyn. Well, it’s Williamsburg –now known far and wide among newcomers to New York City as a place where cheap (well, make that cheaper than Manhattan) rents, good restaurants, lively bars and music flourish. And I was looking for the hipster scene. What was it that everybody was talking about?

“How’s your mom?” the fashionably disheveled guy inquired of his lunch companion (the one with the malfunctioning air conditioner.)

“Okay, but she’s moved about an hour and a half out of L.A., so I gotta keep my place on the beach for sure. No place to crash.”

“Same with my dad. He’s way the hell out on Long Island now. Only see him on weekends.

So is this what the young and hip talk about –their parents and their inconvenient living arrangements.

I turned my attention back to my hip ham and Brie sandwich

It’s was only a lunch break in my quest to see what was happening to the young and artistic in this big city of ours. From what I read artists started coming to Williamsburg, Brooklyn back in the 1970s when the rents of Manhattan’s Soho and the East Village tightened an economic fist on affordable places to make art, especially if the art you were making was not making money.

Artists fought to have their loft studios made legal living quarters, and it was indeed a bittersweet victory. When their places became legit, even with their creaky, balky elevators, exposed pipes and machinery-marked floors, many of them couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

So they moved on.

The eighties and the nineties saw the same pack-up-the-canvas and palette routine.

Where the artists lived and worked in Soho and Tribeca, retail moved in. Big time. Name an American chain store and chances are you’ll find it in Manhattan’s Soho.

So I decided to see where the new hip had landed.

It meant crossing the East River.

The easiest and cheapest way is by subway. Hop on the L train at Union Station on 14th Street and in a few minutes you’ll be in the center of where it’s happening. Or so I thought.

The air conditioning was working just fine. The trip involved no jolting stops under the East River. And in minutes I was climbing the steps into summer sunlight.

I had a little city walk card in my hand, ready for an urban adventure. I stopped at all the “hip” places. The bookstore featured lots of graphic design magazines. The Tibetan boutique was a flurry of silk scarves. A tiny boutique displayed a froth of summer things. A jewelry store celebrated tiny, tiny pieces in gold.

There was a CD and record store called Ear Wax. Eh, eh. That’s for all the hipsters who recognized that recordings were once (long, long before their time) pressed in wax.

Did I see hipsters?

Maybe one or two.

Was I absolutely older than anybody I saw?

Yes, by 20 years at least, maybe thirty.

Did I see artistic tattoos? Yes, by the dozens. And on some the sweetest faced boys and girls that the Midwest has ever sent to New York City. Must be some kind of rite of passage.

Did I see strollers (push chairs, for you in the U.K)?

Absolutely. The doublewide kind that fit two kids. Eat up the sidewalk. And can barely fit into the door of a corner bodega (corner convenience stores for you outside NYC).

And as any hipster would tell you: first come the artists, and then come the graphic designers, then the media types and then the bankers and lawyers and then—the double strollers.

And while the little guys in the stroller might wear black Ramones' tiny t-shirts -- that is the end of hipsterville.

In my own doublewide stroller neighborhood I saw a sign in the local luncheonette:

“Unattended children will be given a free puppy And a double shot of espresso.”

And, that my friends, is hip.


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