What Makes the Bywater So Hipster?
hip·ster (hip'stər) – n. A person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion). – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
If you live in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, you probably hear the word "hipster" thrown around at least five times a day. The same could probably be said for the Marigny, Treme, Bayou St John, Irish Channel and any other up-and-coming neighborhood that I'm not cool enough to have the skinny on.
At first it was cute. Now it's starting to get on my nerves.
Everyone is calling us Williamsburg, as in the hipster mecca of Brooklyn, N.Y., like the HBO show "Girls" could somehow exist in our little artsy Big Easy enclave in a double shotgun instead of a trendy apartment building. As if you'd find groups of neurotic 20-something girls with no self-awareness in the Bywater. Ha! Move over "Hollywood South!" Some of us live in the "Williamsburg South.”
But what is a hipster? No one seems to want to admit to being one. Everyone scoffs at them, even the people who wear ironic T-shirts and twee A-line skirts from ModCloth. So even the hipsters are scoffing at hipsters.
One of the best blogs poking fun at hipsters that I've come across is Halloween or Williamsburg. It's funny because you can't tell if it's Halloween anymore because all these wild and crazy hipsters are wearing bunny suits on the subway and Darth Vader outfits to get their Monday morning coffee. And true, it wouldn't be that out of the ordinary to see someone wearing a bunny suit on any seemingly-ordinary day in the Bywater either, but I don't think it's quite the same thing. I mean, have you been to New Orleans? We dress up for everything.
Seriously, everything. We are like a city of perpetual Comic Con cosplayers. We think up Mardi Gras, Halloween, Jazz Fest, hell even Running of the Bulls costumes weeks, months, sometimes years in advance. And it starts young. The cutest thing I've seen all year was a bunch of toddlers dressed up as jawas in the Krewe of Chewbacchus Mardi Gras parade. That shit doesn't happen where I grew up in Grove City, Ohio.
Our Batman villain cosplay… Mardi Gras or Bywater?
So calling the Bywater "hipster" because people dress funny around here doesn't cut it. The whole city dresses funny.
Is the Bywater "hipster" because there are a lot of transplants that live here? I admit to being friends with quite a few fellow transplants, but they're all spread out from Mid-City to Harahan and most of the people I know who live on my street are from Louisiana, including my husband. And I've yet to receive my invitation to the "transplant headquarters" in the heart of the Bywater. But really, if New Orleans is going to grow and be the new hub of innovation that people are saying it is, the folks who move here to be a part of that are going to have to live somewhere. So where should we all go? The suburbs? Forgive me, but I didn't move here for that. I could have had that experience in Ohio. I wanted to live in New Orleans.
One of my favorite things to do while standing in a long line at the store or waiting for 20 minutes for a bagel with cream cheese and a $7 orange juice at Satsuma, is to read Yelp reviews on my phone. The Yelp reviews for Walmart and Burger King are pretty damn funny and entertaining, but I also like to read what people think about New Orleans staples like Commander's Palace and Café Du Monde. However, when you get to the restaurants around my hood like Maurepas Foods, for example, review after review says the same thing: "Awesome food! But, ewww, can't stand the hipsters! Their rampant use of Apple products and ironic facial hair ruined my meal."
I mean, what is that all about? It's like having to dine next to a hipster is akin to finding hair in your food. It's like finding out that the cook doesn't wash his hands after using the bathroom.
But I admit it, I myself have been that person muttering under my breath. My husband and I will be driving down one of the bumpy narrow streets of the Upper Ninth Ward with cars lining both sides so that it's impossible to pass the guy on the tall bike who's wearing a Superman cape. We'll both look at each other and say "ugh, hipsters." Except not quite that nice.
I think what it comes down to is that archaic human need to be there first, to feel like you were the original, that you marked the territory. You listened to The Black Keys first (because they're from Ohio and you saw them for $5 in a venue as big as the Hi-Ho). You watched "The Wire" when it was actually airing on HBO, you're not one of these folks who just bought all the DVDs, binge-watched every season in two weeks, and then started wearing an "Omar Rules" T-shirt. And you moved to this neighborhood when they first started calling it Bywater in the 1940s. And anyone who does any of these cool things after you? Poser! Ugh, hipster!
And it's the same with just about anything that becomes popular. Are you a Miami Heat fan who doesn't live in Miami? Ha! Fair weather fan.
There can only be so many originals. There can only be so many people who were there first, or listened first, or watched first. And there can only be so many lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fans. You get too many people claiming to be "authentic?" Ugh, hipsters. People start giving you the side-eye.
But in all seriousness, I get it. I understand not wanting your beloved city or neighborhood to change too much too fast. Sometimes I wish things could slow down a little bit. Or a lot. Because while I think it's cool to see the Bywater mentioned in The New York Times and Food & Wine Magazine, I also don't want the secret to get out that our little sanctuary on this earth is the most awesome place ever. I don't want people coming here and changing everything, because once something is observed, it is automatically changed. And I'd like a place to park my car at the end of the day, and not around the corner from my house because all the spots are taken up by people going to all the new hip restaurants.
And no, the lady does not protest too much. I'm not a hipster because, yes, I have a car – so what if it's a Volkswagen – but also because I hate Arcade Fire. It's required to love Arcade Fire to be a hipster, so I could not possibly be one. But I digress.
I don't think hipsters are the real problem. The guy riding on his tall bike down the street with his Superman cape isn't the real problem. The real problem would be the soul-sucking opportunists who just see something new and popular and want to profit from it, thus diluting what makes it great in the first place.
So down with corporate greed! We must rise against the 1 percent trying to take away what little originality we have in our lives, only to have it sold to the highest bidder!
Down with Monsanto!
Oh crap, I'm starting to talk like a hipster.
Signing off. See you next week.