In Your Neighborhood
With nothing better to do tonight, I went out for a walk and ended up, as Baudelaire says, taking a bath in the multitude. Modest Mouse was playing in McCarren Park Pool, an event of epic proportions of importance in the hipster universe in which I both fortunately and unfortunately reside.
I circled the track in McCarren Park, marking my laps in viewings of the Empire State Building and talking idly to my brother on the phone. “Isn’t it strange,” I mused. “I can tell that Modest Mouse is reaching some sort of showgasmic crescendo, but I never listen to them so it means nothing to me. But thousands of people right nearby are experiencing that elusive high you go to shows to chase, the temporary dissolution into music that makes life worth living.”
A surprising number of people were running laps at ten o’clock on a Saturday, as well as a man on a bicycle pedaling with his hands in his pockets and a toddling toddler, both moving in the opposite direction of the flow.
The show let out and hipsters began streaming from the gates of the pool. “Quick,” I said to my brother, “give me something to count.”
“That would be pointless. Give me something to count, like a thing that they wear. Something you think would be prevalent among this subculture that I can get some data on. Then I can tax-deduct this walk as a work.”
He couldn’t think of anything, so instead of counting hipsters I typed them. “Glam hipster, hippie hipster, retro hipster, fratty hipster.” A shirtless man stopped in front of me and stood silently with his hand raised, as if for a high five. I slapped it and he walked on. “Emaciated hipster, pasty hipster, shiny hipster. Flaming hipster, androgynous hipster. Afro hipster. Bald hipster. European hipster. Pre-adolescent hipster. Hipster with baby. Dork hipster, indoor hipster, outdoor hipster, hoochie hipster. Eighties hipster, seventies hipster, thirties hipster, forties hipster.”
There’s one more category of hipster in Williamsburg–inadvertent elderly hipsters. This category includes people who lived here long before the gentrification onslought who have now been subsumed into the monster of this neighborhood without ever formally succumbing to it. They are old people of Italian, Dominican or Polish extraction, watching this theater of cultural carnage play out from lawn chairs on the stoop.
My favorite inadvertent elderly hipster is one of my neighbors. He is undeniably hip. In the winter he wears a battered blue parka. In all seasons he wears Buddy Holly glasses and undershirts and listens constantly to a little radio, his own iPod analogue.
We don’t know each other’s names, but we always have pleasant interchanges. This man takes an incredible and genuine pleasure in the little things, and in this way he is not a hipster. When he is out for his walks, we wave enthusiastically at one another from across the street. If we converge on the stoop, we take out our respective headphones and make small talk.
“Beautiful day,” I’ll say.
“You enjoy it,” he’ll say.
“I can see that!”
“You enjoy it, too.”
“I always do.”
Then we smile big smiles at one another and put our headphones back in.
The other day I came upon him in the vestibule of the building, wearing shorts, dress socks, wingtips and no shirt. A hot water bottle was stuck in the back waistband of the shorts.
“When my back hurts,” he shouted, “I just put a hot water bottle in the back of my pants! Works every time!”
“Good to know!” I shouted back. “I hope it feels better!”
“It feels better already!” he shouted.
“Good!” I gave him the thumbs up.
I wondered what else he knew about life. This wisdom of an inadvertent elderly hipster, however, is not something you can pursue. It comes to you of its own accord, usually when you’re on your way out.