Willaimsburg: Hipster 'Hood
"It was what Eddy called an art crowd, people who had some money and dressed sort of like they didn't, except their clothes fit right and you knew they'd bought them new."
-- William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive
Brooklyn, NY 11211
|You might find beatniks in Williamsburg, but more likely you'll find bored kids with too much money. This add, by the way, is actually from the Village Voice circa 1950-something.
That's the hood to the south of me. Williamsburg. It's a neat little place, and a lot of really nice people live there. There are hip bars and lots of art galleries and cafes and lofts that have been fully refitted in modern style. If there's anywhere where it's ostensibly "happening" in New York City, it's there. Trouble is, it's clogged with phoneys.
One time a while back I followed a woman home to her Williamsburg loft, right off Bedford avenue in fact. She was a little older -- did graduate school in San Diego -- and very much "an artist." I add the quotes not out of derision (she's got an MFA and I don't) but because of her resolutely bohemian demeanor. It just seemed a little bit laid on, like her life was a little too put together for her to be as insane and creative as she acted. Even though she definitely pulled out some zingers, the overall vibe was one of something to prove.
I guess that's what troubles me about the hipster phoneys. They're not really in it for the rock and roll, for the art, for the bohemian pirate utopia of it all. They're there because it's hip, not because of what's happening but because anything is happening in the first place. It's a lot about proving things to people, about having the right clothes, the right books (whether you've read them or not), saying the right things. It's just the same idle social masturbation that get's played out on MTV every day but on a smaller scale with a more esoteric edge. The overall IQ level is higher, methinks, but the level of the discourse often fails to rise above "I know something you don't know."
The other thing that bothers me is the casual affluence, the trust-fund density. I know on a certain level it's pure poor-boy jealousy towards people who've never had to work at it real hard. I'm not all that poor -- you know, NYU education and all -- but I had to work for it every step of the way, and now I'm working off the debts bit by bit. Because of my experience coming up with people who don't have those debts to work off I resent the ease with which some people exist. I know that's a shortcoming in myself, but I can't help but be a little cheesed by bourgeois pretensions to working-class heroism.
What it all comes down to is how intensely I resent the waste of potential. I can abide by outright failure and a certain level or horribleness, but nothing turns my crank like wasted potential. If there really are all these ostensibly smart kids down there who ostensibly want to do all these ostensibly cool things and they ostensibly have all this money, it would seem to me that the neighborhood (not to mention the world at large) could be a damn sight cooler.
I think there's an inherent catch-22 to affluence, that it often comes pre-packaged with a profound lack of purpose, a general state of boredom with the world. No matter how intelligent and creative your kid is, you give 'em all the money in the world and the odds are he'll squander it and not end up creating much at all. Wealth tends to create a lot of wind-drag. That's life I guess. But it's a hip hood. Good bars. Beautiful people... "Angels and sailors, rich girls..."