I’m sitting in one of those cafes. You know, the kind that formerly housed a family grocery or hardware store, where the window front is covered in concert posters, Blik decals, and magazine cut-outs of community bestowed accolades. The now Mojito Green and Palm Springs Peach painted brick walls are thick with layers of paint with trendy names of time’s past. The tin ceiling tells us that this building has been around a lot longer than any of us have.
I’m in the Mission District, San Francisco. I’m in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. I’m in Hawthorne, Portland. I’m in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
But I’m actually sitting in Austin, TX and watching a beautiful, lanky young woman in glasses that resemble that of my great aunt Stella’s, talk very purposely to her similarly clad friend, with a cigarette in one hand, and a Lone Star beer in the other. She was the gawky twig with the overbite that kids had no option but to make fun of in 8th grade.
She gets up from her seat. The manner in which she walks says that she still is that awkward child, but the way she moves her mouth, enunciating each word perfectly, passes off as a seductiveness that she is 100% aware of.
She knows that her kind is revered now. She wouldn’t be wearing the glasses otherwise.
Behind me is a portrait of the ghost of Buster Keaton. The faint introductory beats of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” comes over the stereo and I have to laugh. In roughly 3 minutes, when the chorus kicks in, every single person in this cafe will be bobbing their heads. Every single cut-off jean wearing, vegan cupcake eating, Chuck Palahniuk reading patron will be individually thinking that their life soundtrack is playing for them and only them. That some omnipresent voice is writing their story. Or maybe some girl wearing over-sized glasses, sitting in the corner by herself, writing very purposely and trying to tell herself over and over that she is different from all of them.
But who am I kidding?
I’ve lived in Austin, Texas for one year and nine months. What originally started as a three month trial period turned into a fall-held-over-heels-in-love-with-a-city like no other. Deeper and deeper I fell as I met people just like me, people who have David Lynch-themed parties and bike-in screenings of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventures and love to dance, dance, dance to Michael Jackson and wear dresses of their great-grandmother and want to be writers, musicians, lovers, and dreamers too.
I was home.
A year went by of attending these events, meeting new people, telling and hearing stories until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was swimming in a culture where individuality mattered and nothing else. To talk and to appeal means more than doing, producing, or committing. I was not only losing my individuality in a competition for who was the most unique, but I was subsequently becoming less goal-oriented. More nonplussed.
Am I insinuating that ambivalence is synonymous with the hipster culture?
Or maybe it’s that the majority of our generation was raised to believe that each of us are so unique, that we can do anything, go anywhere, have any job, have any partner.
Think about that.
That is one heck of a load of options bestowed upon us.
I could be a producer in Los Angeles, an urban planner in New York, a writer in Austin, a world traveler, a homebody, a bachelorette, a wife, a mother, or I could just sit at this cafe, listening to my life’s soundtrack hoping that some omnipresent voice will write my story so I don’t have to.
But I think it’s time for me to get up.
you have a way with words.
One of my favourite things is sitting in a cafe, people watching. Its a great sport. Loved your post as always.
Some many options.
It is all, truly, way too overwhelming.
This article was passed on to me by a fellow life wanderer. I hope you get as much out of it as we did.
Welcome to Your Quaterlife Crisis
I loved this post 🙂 It reminded me of something…
Just wanted to say 'hi'. Back to reader mode now!
Considering we both arrived in Austin around the same time (though I lived here years before), I can completely identify with much of this.
I sometimes wonder if Austin doesn't take itself seriously enough…and the reason is because its people don't take their offering to the city serious enough.
But I just keep wondering.
You just blew my mind.
I had a strange, similar reaction upon a recent visit to my hometown (Portland).
This is a great post.
Another amazing post…I've always felt that if you struggle too hard to be an individual you'll end up being just like all the others doing that exact same thing. In San Francisco, where I live, I am acutely aware that certain people here judge you if you seem too "mainstream", but I guess hipsters are judged too. You can't live your life for others.
As for you? You are definitely an original 🙂
@n.puga- thank you so much for that!
@worrier- i LOVE people watching. especially at malls. i rarely go to malls, but i'll go to buy one thing and then just people watch. that sounds creepy…
@one blonde girl- oh my god…that post is AMAZING. thank you thank you thank you…still reading it. posted on my FB wall.
@babs- hi babs! thanks for stopping and saying hello!
@joah- sigh….austin, what are we going to do with you??
@aurora- if you want your mind blown, read the link that one blonde girl linked up above…
@jessica- i just put you on my blog roll. love your writing.
@jess- your comment just made me feel great. thank you!!!
the best scene in "garden state" is when natalie portman's character jumps up and does a crazy twitchy dance like there are ants in her panties.
"This is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy throughout human existence. And if nothing else, you will be remembered as the one guy who ever did this. This one thing."
I love reading what you write.
I recently realized that I'll always be too hipster for half of my friends and way too mainstream for my hipster friends. I live in the space in-between and I think I'm A-Ok with that!
I think I have to check out Austin.
I think this goes beyond your culture. A fear of settling is just as common as the fear of the unknown, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be. We all hate brick walls.
I agree with N. Puga! Your blog posts always soothe me. Don't know why but if you write a book I'll definitely buy it! Keep me in mind! ;p
Awesome…and I love Austin too. But, don't ya have to actually do something first to be able to talk the talk?
Most days I get up and don't feel like I have any of these options at all. Nasty, jealous part of me sometimes get its guard up when someone suggests the opposite. But this was lovely.
Apathy is a problem with our hipster generation. I just went to a talk with some of the members of Warhol's Factory at the NYPL the other day, and there were two interesting things (two of many) that I really loved: 1) Baby Jane said, "He wasn't someone who just sat around being interesting. He was engaged." That hit home for me. And 2) Everyone talked about what a catalyst for work he was. He was constantly asking, "What are you doing? What are you working on?" and encouraging others to make work. They all said it was some of the most productive time in their lives.
The point of this long comment is that we, the young creative hipsters of today, need to be catalysts of work for each other. We have to encourage each other to work, to make work, and we have to help each other out. I can't remember where but I recently heard someone from back in the 60s say that nothing great has ever come from one person—one person may be the figurehead but everyone is born from collaboration. We need to collaborate more, with as many people as possible. And we need to do it offline, as difficult as it can be sometimes.
I believe we have a responsibility, as the young creative class of the 2010 decade, to be amazing. We just have to get off our asses first. Our day jobs are not out real jobs. Living is our job. Working is our job. Inspiring each other and collaborating to push the culture forward is our job…
Okay, I'm finished. Sorry I used your comments section to blog.
@Girluntitled- you know, so many people make fun of that movie, but for me, it really rang true. especially when i lived in LA. good taste, my friend.
@Adria- Thanks. That's because you are your own person.
@Maucotel- I agree. I wasn't doing a good job proving my point, but in my head, I know what I'm trying to say. 😉
@Johana- Oh man! Thank you so much!
@Urban Cowboy- Not necessarily…I know some people who talk a lot but have done so little with their lives.
@Randall- You can have as many options as you'd like to have! You're probably lucky not to feel that way.
@Zachary- I thought of your post when I was writing mine today. Your post on 20 Nothings is still one of my all-time fave posts I've read anywhere. Also, you bring up a terrific point. I completely agree. Recently I made a list of my peers that truly inspire me and I want to make sure and keep them close and hopefully I can help them as much as they help me. That talk sounds fascinating. What was it part of?
Too many options. Choice fatigue.
I think that mass hipster culture has spawned creation for the sake or creation instead of some burning desire to birth something outside of our bodies. That's the root of the ambivalence.
Not everyone should be a creator and not everyone should, or can be famous. That's why there's one LCD Soundsystem and countless replications.
But there are undeniably people still creating because that's what they do and who and they are. Not because it's a competition, or because they want to be something. Because they can't not be that something, putting pen to paper or fingetpaint onto subway car or whatever. There's an ache present in your storytelling that tells me you belong in the latter category.
This post was a home run, by the way.
@Hipstercrite: They're re-releasing "The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol" (http://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-Sex-Life-Andy-Warhol/dp/0970612613/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1), originally published in 1971, so they got a bunch of people together to talk all things Andy. It was extremely inspiring. And thanks so much for your support of my Hipster piece from last month, it means so much to me.
@Hannah While there definitely is creation for creation's sake, is it always a problem? You can feel truth in art if it is true. While I do believe some people were born to create and some were not, I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with trying. However, I will say creation for fame is flat out wrong. But I believe fame-art is hollow and people will be able to see through it. Even in something as "superficial" as television, there's a reason we have Battlestar Galactica and Nurse Jackie and Arrested Development right next to The Bachelorette and BlahBlah Getting Married and god knows what else is hot right now. Real art is truth. That's why it hurts in your core.
I think you have a way of interpreting the current climate of your peers. But one of the things that I thought was happening when I was in my 20's is that there is less 'new' to become and more 'roles' to follow.
In America, we have seem to lost our competitive zeal without any rival to struggle against. It is why I thought my group felt aimless and why I think subsequent 'teens and twenties' feel ambivalent. All the good seats are taken and the only way to even get a ticket into the show is by doing something that someone else has already done. Only you have to find the piggy that can take you to market and then you get a seat in the theater.
This is a very derivative time. It isn't about their not being any originality but what can one be original about? Stuff that shocks only shocks for so long then what?
You find out that there are reasons that tried and true ARE tried and true. You find your muse and hone in on it and keep knocking on doors until it opens, leading you to even more doors and it starts again and again.
Is original being first? Or is original being the one who persists? I mean, can 50 Cent rap or can't he? If he can't, then explain how he grew to the level of reknown that he now has??
Anywho, being first trumps being original. Observations such as yours are worthy of 'being first'. Hope to see them in a novel or book of essays.
First I want to say that I spend a lot of time in cafes people watching.
It is always interesting. Sometimes I like to make up background stories for people.
Anyways, this past semester we had a discussion in class about how many a hipster think that they are special and unique but everyone is exactly a like.
We are all fighting to be more unique and we end up all being the same. It is not a bad thing it is just something we have to live with. None of us are special, we are all just fighting to be noticed.
I am average and I am okay with that. I can be what I want for myself, and I can act how I want for myself, if someone is parallel to me, mimicking everything I do, that is fine with me, I will welcome it, because in our fight to be different we create new things that make us exactly the same, and force us to start again.
peace and Love,
Amen! Take a stand!
Great story. You have a way with the pen. I just bought a special hat to make myself look a bit different. My 18 and 16 year old boys snickered when I walked in the house. Didn't say much just had that coy smile on their face which said without words "what the fuck is pops trying to do"
I love Austin. If I wasn't in LA I would be in Austin.
i've lived this very moment that you're describing. mine happened in williamsburg. and instead of a cafe it was one of those trying-to-be-unique-dive-bars. and the thoughts you describe i remember thinking, and the general feel that you've illustrated is what i felt. you've captured it brilliantly.
i'm glad you got up.
What Zachary and Hannah said……………..
I always love your posts. You are keeping me young, child. Thanks!
ah you describe the hipster scene so well! right now i'm the "world traveler" and i can relate to that uniqueness script. that we have so many options in our life to do what we may.
Wow- so profound and fun to read – Love your voice- how you are you and yet a bit of each of us as well- up up and away girl!
I bought a book called 'The Paradox of Choice' because I was interested in this shit.
I put it on my bookshelf among the other books. And now there are so many options on my shelf that I don't feel like choosing that book to read.
Wow, how sweet is your blog!!! :))
If you get the time – and I hope you will 🙂 – please check out my blog. I think you might like it!
Hoping to hear from you soon, sweetie!
This is probably one of my all time favorite Hipstercrite posts.
Thanks for reiterating what's been circling around in my mind.
good work! btw, the "fucking hipsters" tag is lovely.