Monday, January 28, 2013

Hipster America

By means of that strange force called fate...invisibly lurking behind my use of google maps to program the most efficient bus route to a job interview...I took a walk along Fairfax Ave., right around my old Elementary school, Hancock Park, today.
 It had been seven years since I moved out of the neighborhood (which was five years after I stopped attending the school), so getting a sense for the changes that have occurred provided the impetus for a broader reflection.

A "wine and sandwich" now stands on the old Christmas tree lot. Two blocks down, the corner barbershop (that I never stepped inside) still boasts its colorful, traditional wheel but with a suspicious Arial lettering...

Next, a Jack-in-the-box. Then, A hallowed out modernist box structure with the poster Office Space-FOR SALE (the graffiti indicating a condition carried over from the recession). Emerging from an arbor of trees brings me face to face with a vaguely-memorable "Frank's": breakfast all-day" accompanied by an unfamiliar (also-boldfaced) Espresso shop featuring "cozy roasts" and "cats allowed." The block huddles beneath a billboard for a suburban nude strip joint and just to the right, a homeless man (oh how terrified I used to be!) bears a cardboard sign.

And all of sudden, out of nowhere, the catchy "whistle" of Florida breaks in to accompany the gait of quaint coolness

In more than one sense of the word, I was walking through "hipster America", a society of twenty-something starving college graduates (or dropouts), middle-age book-club holding "fitness moms," and any other urbanites who can pull off the gambit, striving to conform towards risqué non-conformity, supporting the bourgeois system by rebelliously parodying its "dandy" aesthethic, giving prime weight to an image-based façade while explicitly denying its importance with a stereotypically prominent "sense of irony."

Usually the image of the "hipster" is confined to specific locales-Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Portland, Oregon for instance- but as an article in today's Atlantic indicates, Center-city "gentrification" the weathervane for the process of succumbing to hipsterism, has taken place throughout the past decade in a diverse array of locales ( ) at an astonishingly swift pace. Even in those neighborhoods that aren't on the list (or lack the initial economic impoverishment that defines gentrification's transformative nature), a good deal of businesses-from the long time coffee shop to the newly-opened Starbucks or Target (the "CityTarget" in Westwood boasts a Starbucks inside!) have refurbished their lettering and added organic items to capitalize on the latest faze of cool.

The result is that I sense a briskly catchy tune as I walk past the dressed-up dogs while sipping my handcrafted latte, a pervading sense that big-city, liberal, trendy, youthful urban America has achieved a perfect consumer society: until, upon arriving at the bus stop I encounter starving homeless, a 60-something Mexican woman resting on the bench between her day and night jobs... I just keep sipping my latte though and meddle with the plastic "made-in-China" tag on my I-pod touch.

You want to know why liberal Democrats can be so obstinate on legislation for the (white) working-class, why young liberal arts students aspire towards being baristas, living off pell grants as the fight for welfare goes on elsewhere, and why organic food has done nothing to solve the fate of climate change? I feel I have an answer...

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