Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Creation Myth: Where do Hipsters Come From?

As I mentioned yesterday, I have officially shifted my consciousness to Portland, Oregon, and I couldn't be happier. Not only am I no longer forced to discuss any subject more profound than coffee, but I also garnered some attention in my now-local media. For example, something called "The Oregonian" (I think it's some kind of newsletter for oregano enthusiasts) asks:

Yes. Yes, I have.

BikePortland also reported on my move, presumably because there was a rare two-hour window yesterday in which nobody had organized any sort of naked theme ride, thus resulting in something of a slow news day:

I'm also pleased to report that BikePortland's commenters were almost universally nonplussed:

Mike March 29, 2011 at 6:21 am

I use to pay attention to this guy's blog....not anymore. Seems to me he is more negative than anything, for Christ sake it's just an F'ing bike lighten up. Myself, I don't care what kind of bike it is, how lame-o it is if it's being rode then I'm happy.

Sure, I realize my blog is deadly serious, though his comment still stung me somewhat. After all, like Mike, I also love all bikes--except for his, which is hopelessly lame.

Anyway, after reading about myself I browsed on over to Craigslist to see if I'd scored any "missed connections." I hadn't, but I did find this:

You: Pleather. Me: Lace. - w4w - 27 (The Blow of the Pony)
Date: 2011-03-28, 12:02AM PDT

My first time at "the BlowPony". You in white pleather (hopefully? I'm vegan) chaps drinking an MGD on the first level... Is strutted past you in my neon-teal snap-crotch lace onesie, hoping you'd pick up on the contextual irony. Alas, you turned towards a friend and squawked incoherently about (the music? the D.J.? the color of the walls?)

In spite of your obtusiveness, I'd really like to take you out in my Mustang (c'est la vie chalet? ring a bell?) and show you a good time... I'll buy the MGD this round.

Peace, love, and downward dog....

I totally thought it was for me at first though, since I just happened to be wearing white pleather chaps yesterday too. However, I wasn't drinking MGD and was actually quaffing a fermented beverage my organic farming roommates and I "curate" from fluid expressed from the anal glands of our chickens. (Fortunately the bar had a liberal BYOFEFTAGOC policy.) Nevertheless, I've extended an invitation to the poster to come join us at the homestead for a little soirée in which we can exchange observations of contextual irony over glasses of fermented chicken ass juice, and I'm hoping she'll accept.

I'd be lying though if I said I didn't occassionally miss my old life in New York City. The truth is that no other city boasts New York's diversity, or its rich pastiche of interesting characters. Each one of my neighbors alone could have been the starring character in a movie. For example, one of my next-door neighbors was an irascible actor living hand-to-mouth until he--get this--dressed up in drag and landed himself a starring role on a soap opera:

While my other next-door neighbor was an irascible huckster with severe respiratory problems who always hung around with a guy dressed as a cowboy:

Really, by far my most normal neighbor was the young guy who lived across the hall. He was a graduate student at Columbia who was also a pretty serious runner:

Oddly though I haven't seen him since his last dental appointment. ("Is it safe?," asked the dentist menacingly as he rolled up on his Serotta.)

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. Only in New York, and so forth.

Of course, the most important part of living in New York is constantly lamenting about how much better it was "back in the day"--you know, before Times Square was Disney-ified and you could still go see the Talking Heads play CBGB without listening to David Byrne read from his stupid book about bikes, after which you could go to an after-hours club where you'd contract hepatitis from ingesting hard drugs off a toilet seat, and then finally enjoy a nightcap of being beaten and robbed.

I also fondly remember the days when New York's streets were teeming with erudite pedestrians who alternately cracked wise and held forth on philosophy, literature, and cinema:

At least until they almost got run over by cars.

So why do the young and hopeful continue to move to New York City? Is it because they're in search of that romantic, pedantic, hepatitis-infected past? Or, to put it another way, who are hipsters, where do they come from, and how are they made? Well, the following short film about bicycle messengers (forwarded to me by the filmmaker) may at least partially answer these questions:

Zebra 022 from T. Leonardo on Vimeo.

First, the film establishes the typical hipster's mental state as the main character browses an art gallery a metaphor for creativity:

"Sometimes I think New York is a cage and I'm trapped in it. My head becomes swollen with ideas and I can't think anymore. Sometimes I wonder how free I really am."

I totally "feel you" on that one. That's why I left and moved to Portland. My head was also swollen with ideas when I lived in New York. Just a few ideas I might have at any given moment included:

--Wrap the cat in cellophane;
--Take up beekeeping;
--See if Skittles would be good on a BLT;
--Turn my coat closet into a sauna;
--Change the color scheme on my "fixie."

In retrospect though there might have been other factors contributing to these ideas as well, and I'd advise the young lady in the glasses to lay off the "Wednesday weed" and see if the mental swelling persists.

Next, we see a messenger metaphor for freedom weaving through traffic:

Unlike the young lady with the glasses, his head is completely devoid of ideas. This is because, apparently, nothing matters on a bike:

"I always wanted to move fast. I wanted to get away, but I didn't know where I was going. But it doesn't matter on a bike. Nothing matters on a bike but speed and freedom."

I think the victim memorialized by that ghost bike might have a different opinion. Nothing matters when you're sitting on the couch smoking "Wednesday weed" and eating a BLT with Skittles. Everything matters when you're on a bike in the city and you're eternally one wrong move away from getting flattened by a bus.

In any case, by now we understand that hipsters are essentially people who are overwhelmed by simply being alive and are constantly looking to escape the unpleasant business of thinking for themselves that the rest of us generally refer to as "adulthood." But where do they come from? Well, Iowa apparently:

"Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to go fast, you know? I just like, I love the action and I love the adrenaline and I just--I just needed to get out of Iowa."

Wait, she loves action and adrenaline and she left Iowa? Has she never heard of RAGBRAI?!?

RAGBRAI is action and adrenaline--I think that's actually what the two "A"s stand for:

I may have to ditch Portland for Iowa.

Nevertheless, every person undergoes his or her own journey to self-discovery, which is what these train tracks mean:

"Portaging" her bike along railroad tracks means the bike is an integral part of her personal journey, and when she shifts the bicycle onto the rail it means things are going more smoothly. Or something:

And obviously, the rain symbolizes Portland.

Incidentally, railroads are a popular device in cinema, though they usually symbolize "doing it," as in the old "train entering the tunnel" metaphor:

Which is generally followed by some variation on the orgasmic "erupting geyser:"

Next, nine months later, the avian symbol arrives:

Finally, after 22 years, $150,000 in tuition, and a Bard diploma, your child moves to New York City to deliver paperwork on a color-coordinated bicycle with no brakes and you wonder where you went wrong:

Up until now, most of the film has consisted of riding footage and voice-overs, but at 5:09 the acting kicks in with a single line delivered with all the passion and enthusiasm of a surly teenager making an obligatory phone call to a grandparent:

"Picking up at 150 Varick?"

She deserves an Acada-meh Award.

Having thoroughly exhausted all the acting reserves, the film then goes back to riding footage and voice-overs, though now it's a male voice speaking in an almost indecipherable disinterested hipster patois:

"I dunno, I was just cruisin' to the city the other day, I saw some dude layin' down on the road. Like, everyone was surrounding him, definitely got hit. [mumblemumblemumble] by riding harder, by being more aggressive. You know, keep on the streets in a safe manner. I think it's definitely [mumblemumblemumble] cars come out of nowhere. You know, be a close call...car overtakes you... You know, you just gotta keep moving forward on that path [mumblemumblemumble]...."

I don't know how people make it through four years of Bard without having to completely form their mouths around words, but then again I suppose when you pay all that tuition you shouldn't be expected to have to go through the trouble of actually speaking.

Then we see breakdancers metaphors for urban creativity:

"I don't know when I'll leave New York. I kinda wanna get something done here which is obtain this dream I've had of being an artist."

Frank Sinatra famously sang of New York, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Decades later, I guess it's now a place you come to from Iowa if you "kinda wanna get something done." In terms of ambition, hipsters clearly skew towards the "If it rains takes the bus" end of the spectrum.

Fortunately though the acting in the film suddenly gets a second wind, for at 8:19 the young lady has a total "bike-gasm," complete with contended sigh:

I suppose this means she has finally attained complete communion with the rhythms of New York City traffic, and by extension the universe, and it's a testament to the director's restraint that he doesn't follow it with an obvious symbol:

So there you have it. Hipsters come from Iowa, they don't like to think, they do like to ride bikes, and they ultimately want to be artists or something. Really, though, I can't think of many places less conducive to artistic endeavors than New York City, which essentially consists of wealthy financiers and the people who serve them. And speaking of financiers, a reader informs me that the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork is now in the business of market forecasting:

Given his ability to time travel, this may qualify as insider trading.


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