The editor of the magazine that I work for has all sorts of ideas as to what a “hipster” is. If you ask the thin boy in large headphones and tight jeans on the J train what he classifies as a hipster, he might have a different answer. And, if you walk into Forever 21 and head to the rack of lockets with simulated rust and tarnish on the chains, I think their buyers would also have something to say about what, exactly, is a hipster.
I don’t have much of an answer; I just know that I am not one of them. Not only am I physically unable to troll the Internet looking for new music to listen to (I blame Elton John for making my life so comfortable), but I also find that no person in a vintage cardigan and amish-style leather boots has ever looked at me with anything but disdain.
I do not hate the hipster, and like to think I have many hipster friends. I truly appreciate those who love music and art and fancy cheeses. They are much more interesting to hang out with than people who don’t, and they tend to be better listeners because they’re waiting for a reason to think you’re cool. But I have had some unfortunate run-ins with those prickly hipsters that disagree with completely unironic love for the movie Robocop. I find their pretentiousness and the fact that they look over my forehead when I speak to them incessantly annoying. I also hate how they can eat so much lavender infused deep fried banh mi’s and still be waifs. And the males. The males are always a little unapologetically sweaty.
The magazine I work for puts on a four-day music festival throughout Brooklyn at the beginning of the summer. Modeled after Austin’s South by Southwest, the festival is four days of music, arts and film. At any given time throughout the festival, there are dozens of shows going on in venues across the trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg.
For the festival-goer, this giant clusterfuck of concerts that are overlapping creates the slightly uncomfortable feeling that one is having a good time, but could possibly have a better time somewhere else. So, said one boasts his or her location and having of a great time on Twitter to avoid any regret. The people of Williamsburg (both those who live there and those who just dress like they live there) thrive in this environment and take their stress of not knowing where they should be having a good time out on $1 tall-boys of PBR, which we are happy to provide. I know. We’re geniuses.
Since we had a staff of fifteen and were producing a festival that would entertain thousands, I took on about 29 jobs. Though my resume says I’m a team player, I most certainly am not, but I will do what it takes to just create the illusion of participating.
Early on, I decided I would take on the role of headmistress of badge pickup and headquarters. My reason for this was simple: I wouldn’t have to move. If my boss asked me to do something, I could look at him, hold up a list of checked off names and gape my mouth a little. Well I’d love to help you fill bowls of hummus in the band’s green room but I can’t just leave. Who will take on this important task of perching on a high stool and barking orders at other people? Plus, headquarters was at a bar with ceiling fans. Outside, it was hot as Richard Nixon’s armpit and I knew that there would be unlimited free beer inside the bar.
I think everyone that works at the magazine was hired because they were the kids in high school who “went to shows” on weekends and fried their bangs by straightening them to swoop across their foreheads just so. This was a trip back in time, a nostalgic re-living of the happiness that comes with standing in one place and bobbing your head. No one wanted this job at the headquarters because it went against the thrill of being part of something creative. We’d all been chained to desks but now was our time to get out there and listen to some tunes!
But by having to stay at HQ for the first two days, I would miss out on any actual fun. Sorry Sarah I can’t stay and staple press passes with you, I’m off to see the Chapped Caveman Collaboration show. Well boo, that sounds so interesting, I wish I could come see culture happening with you.
In truth, my idea of a good show is Phil Collins live at Staples Center (and it was), I didn’t know a single band playing in this festival, and I have found that I can’t take the music seriously when the band name includes the words Shark, Dinosaur, or Bear (which eliminated about 240 bands, leaving only Electric Tickle Machine and all the groups whose band names are just constanants in all caps), so I didn’t complain or pass this task onto someone else. I wanted to stay as far away from the actual festival part of the festival. I didn’t want anyone to know how much I didn’t belong and how much Urban Outfitters clothing I didn’t own.
This was a terrible idea. Not only was it smoldering inside headquarters, but because I would deny people badges who weren’t on my lists, I quickly became the most hated person in all of Williamsburg, and I had never even tortured any of these people in their respective high schools.
Normally, I own up to my penchant for power tripping and being mean to people who are thinner and better at applying their makeup than me, but I had met my sassy match in the Williamsburg crowd. Trendsters seemed to walk in off the street and expect their stupid eight-syllable name be on one of my lists to get a free badge, despite not being in a band, knowing anyone at the magazine, or actually purchasing anything. They would look at me as if I had told them their flight to Iceland had been cancelled, then get on their phones and stand in silence, every now and then uttering the words “bear,” “shark,” and “dinosaur.”
Sometimes, they would argue with me before they called on their people. “I work at Juliett’s.” one man said with a flash of the tattoo on his rib, visible through his floppy tank top.
“Where?” I was sweating on the high stool.
“Juliett’s. On 6th? You don’t know Juliett’s?” He took off his Annie Hall bucket hat and wiped sweat from his brow. No, sir, I don’t know Juliett’s. It sounds expensive and possibly vegan, so I doubt you’ll see me there. Also, unless you’re going to come in here with an entrée from said Juliett’s and feed me because I haven’t moved from this swampy seat and I’m fucking starving, you can kiss this badge goodbye.
When I denied him of a badge, he stepped to the side and got on the phone with someone who would get him one. I noticed on our magazine’s twitter feed that a certain someone was complaining about a girl at the badge pickup with “sorority whore eyes.” I then crumbled and sheepishly gave him a badge, in hopes for him to make amends, either in real life or in cyber space. He didn’t.
The more people who came in and were mean to me, the more I was worn down. I started to give badges to people I found most intimidating, and especially, the people who wouldn’t take off their sunglasses once inside. My bosses caught on to this, and scolded me for abusing my powers. Sorry, I said, I just want people to like me. Do your job, they said.
I felt so out of place. When the headquarters was full of people, my boss would tell me to put music on for godsakes this is a festival. The only thing on my iTunes was The Best of Rod Stewart and every single No Doubt CD, even a collector’s edition of Tragic Kingdom. I played it, thinking the hipsters would find it ironic and appreciate the nostalgia that is “Spiderwebs.” No. No.
Three smelly, chubby men with beards came in and inquired about badges. I didn’t see their names anywhere and started looking extra hard as I knew my bosses were close by. I apologized, asked them to perhaps call their contacts to see where I might find their names. They were a band, so maybe their agent could call me? They didn’t take their sunglasses off, and I sweat a little bit more.
“What the FUCK.” The fattest one declared. “We’re the FUCKING headliner at this shit.” My bosses looked over, starstruck. They indeed were the most famous people at the festival. Suddenly, everyone in the room was ogling them and updating their Twitter statuses. I blushed and pretended to got a phone call.
My boss had wanted to add some outdoor shows to the festival. He found a modest space in the oily and undeveloped third world neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn called Barge Park. There, we would have a giant outdoor stage and four outdoor concerts with three big indie bands to perform.
Barge Park was close enough to Williamsburg to be trendy, but far enough away that we chartered busses to cart hipsters from the Bedford L stop in Brooklyn to this park. I would sit at the will call table, again on a high stool, desperately waiting for the whole thing to be over while waif-like men and women would emerge with eyes squinting in the sun, their minds reeling as to how they were going to stay fresh in this heat while wearing high waisted shorts and red lipstick. “Where the fuck are we?” they would ask as they saw a giant oil barge sail by behind the stage. I still don’t know where the fuck we were. No one, of the entire fifteen of us, had visited Barge Park prior to the festival. It was probably one of my jobs to do so, but I didn’t want to move.
By this point in the weekend, I had started trying to pass off all disasters to other people. This was a bad idea. Delegating powers severely stresses me out, as I found to my utter surprise that most people are infinitely stupider and less capable to make a decision that I.
We had set up a stage on what looked like a run down tennis court. The venue was something out of a family vacation with your poor boyfriends’ family; we’d resorted to cooling 1200 keg cans of Heineken with a little dry ice and elbow grease and the only power outlet in the park belonged to the taco purveyors, San Loco (Therefore, the same generator that powered the guitars also powered the carnitas). We did all this, and we were proud. Amidst the nodding at my boss while he yelled and popping of adderol pills in the port-a-potties, I only stopped to think about how unloyal I was to any of this, and never stopped to think twice about stealing tacos for my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Ten minutes before the first outdoor show, we realized all of the will call lists for the 400 people who had bought tickets were on my computer. I opened it up to find that it had about ten minutes of battery charge left on it. In my incredible ability to work under pressure and successfully delegate tasks, I handed the computer to an intern named Carly and told her to go inside the park and charge the computer for ten minutes. She clutched the computer and ran off. I gave clipboards and blank pieces of paper to two other interns, instructing them to ruffle through the papers and pretend to locate people’s name on a list when they came up to the willcall table. Then I ran and threw up in a trash can, praying that my bosses wouldn’t walk behind the interns as they pretended to locate people’s names on a blank piece of paper.
Twenty minutes later, Carly was nowhere to be found. I began to freak out that she’d taken the computer and bounced, perhaps sold it to an Italian restaurant owner or taken it home to her family in need. She was from Jersey, I had no idea what she was capable of. She wasn’t answering her phone, and one intern claimed he had seen her walk away with someone who looked like Eminem. My boss called me.
“How’s everything going?”
“Terrible, one of my interns has been kidnapped.” I ran to a trashcan, ready to puke again. An intern tapped me on the shoulder.
“Isn’t that her?”
There, through the sprinklers, was Carly, sauntering with a smile on her face, no computer.
“Where’s the computer?” I screamed. SCREAMED. People were staring. The adderol had been a very bad choice.
“It’s okay! I made a friend.”
“YOU DON’T MAKE FRIENDS IN NEW YORK CITY.” The children playing in the sprinklers were running back to their parents, but even they knew I was right, and they knew she must be from Jersey. I told Carly to take me to the computer immediately, and then I was going to fire her for being stupid.
“The computer is fine, it’s just one guy in a room…” she said as I made her jog with me. This was punishment for all the non-moving I’d done in the first days of the festival. She led me to the deli around the corner. We went to the back room where two men were bartering over a large Boar’s Head hock of ham. They stared at us, oil dripping from the well-sculpted curls in the middle of their foreheads. Carly led me behind the wall of bagels. There was the computer, plugged into a melting outlet.
“Why is this here, Carly? Why didn’t you go into the park like I asked you?” She did not look like an intern who knew she was in trouble. She looked like an intern who had a crazy boss. I began to dry heave a little.
“I thought we didn’t have any power! And I thought that by ‘San Loco’ you meant this deli.”
Indeed, the name of the deli was San Jose Deli. But I had misjudged Carly. She had not been to get tacos that morning as I had done twice already.
My hand clenched to a fist. I wanted to shake Carly and ask her what, no really what, did she think the GUITARS were going to be plugged into? Before I even opened my mouth, I heard a voice.
“Yo, Carly, everything okay?” It was her Eminem. He wore a large brimmed black Yankee hat with the sticker still on the brim and held two six packs of Brooklyn lager.
I began to cry. I was so tired. I was so messed up. And to be totally honest, I didn’t care who bought tickets or didn’t buy tickets. I knew I was going to get fired for not caring about indie music.
“What do you need?” He asked. Carly took over. “We need a printer,” she said.
“Well, fuck, I live six blocks away. And I’m a music producer so I have lots of printers.” Carly who had clearly not heard me when I said you don’t make friends in New York City, said, “Oh great! Thanks!”
I followed them, Carly and our new friend Joe the Music Producer, clutching the computer close. Joe went on about sneaker shop he and his father were opening up in Greenpoint. I thought of all the people I’d met who were into sneakers and called themselves music producers. I knew Carly and I were in for some sort of hipster version of that scene in Pulp Fiction, but I thought at least a true kidnapping would be a great distraction for my incompetence at managing the will call booth when my bosses spoke to me next.
“Yeah I was heeyuh before awwwl a’ dis” said Joe, waving his hands to show me the large array of laundromats and abandoned salt factories. “Befowuh you hipstuh folk moved in and put in all your boutiques and vegan cawfee shawps. That’s why I gotta open a sneakah stowah, too many a’ yous hipstuhs like sneakahs and I gotta keep up!” He and Carly laughed as if we all shared some sort of inside joke.
“Yeah I’m a music prudoosah, but I don’t do any a’ dat hipstah shit.” Carly giggled and asked what music he listened to when he wasn’t picking up girls in delis. I took what I thought would be one last look at the sun.
We entered Joe’s apartment to find his father and a construction worker standing in the rough skeleton of what will be a really cool sneaker shop one day. Behind the rubble, Joe led us to his music studio, which was quite real. And he did have several printers. Perhaps you can make friends in New York City.
As the will call list began to print out, I finally relaxed. Joe’s father came in and asked us the story of how Joe had brought us back to his studio. I, back to my normal attention-seeking self, decided to tell the tale in an effort to gain the affection of everyone in the room and make myself feel better. Joe, Carly, and Joe’s dad were all laughing and slapping knees, up until the part about Joe holding two six-packs of Brooklyn Lager.
“Hold on a second,” Joe’s Dad held up a finger. At this point I was standing up with one arm miming the carrying of beer and the other hand miming a wide-brim yankee hat. I was annoyed he’d interrupted.
“YOU were buying beer?” He crossed his arms and stared angrily at his son.
“It…it wasn’t for me.” My story was ruined.
“Alright girls, get out.” We were hustled out of there faster than the pages could print. I grabbed what I could and scurried away as Joe’s dad screamed the words “un-FUCKING-believable” over and over.
“I’m just going to use the bathroom real quick.” You’ve got to hand it to Carly. Not only did she refuse to believe that you couldn’t make friends in New York City, she also refused that you could make enemies.
As she skipped off I managed to get a moment with Joe alone. I apologized for tattling, and he said it was fine, its just that, well, he was in a program. I nodded, I felt so bad.
“Oh, are you in one too?” Apparently my nodding was a little too sincere.
“Thanks for the printer.”
When I returned to Barge Park, I took a moment to cry, vomit, and then decided to drink heavily. Before I could go to the dry ice volcano for a beer, a young man in a striped tank top, suspenders, and a white milk-man’s hat wiped the sweat from his faint mustache and asked me, “Where the fuck are we?” I stuck my apartment key into a PBR and shotgunned it. Could none of these people could realize the stress I was under, that we were all under, just to give them a good time. “Give me a fucking break.” I said, but he was looking over my forehead as I said this and I do not think he heard me.
I concluded that among the musically inclined and musically talented hipsters, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. At any given moment, I knew they would bring up a band I didn’t know or an instrument of whose number of strings I was unsure of. When they asked me where I got my locket I would say “H&M” not “from an old woman I met at a bar while driving to Bonaroo.” I don’t know what I was intimidated of, because I know we’d just never see eye to eye. Perhaps it was just that all these cute guys would never like me because I had too much of a tan.
It occurred to me that throughout the whole weekend, the only time I actually caught a break from anyone was from a guy who was trying to explain to me why he himself was not a hipster, but planned to make money off of the demographic. Kind of like…me. I didn’t know it at the time, but he and I had so much in common, and I ratted him out to his dad! The universe will never forgive me for that, but I know that we both suffer from a form of feeling left out. We happened to find ourselves in a room full of well dressed people and though we don’t intend on changing out of our wide-brim Yankees hats, we have to look busy before someone notices.
The very last show was a giant performance from the band that I had denied passes to a few days before. They played one song and then screamed into the microphone asking me, girl in charge, to let in all the people who hadn’t bought tickets that were peering through the fence to watch the show. Drunk and wanting to be accepted, I stood on a chair and screamed that everyone would be let in, despite security urging me not to. My bosses were away and I figured that any good press we got from my valiant act would distract them from any revenue we lost. I ran up to people and told them to go on in, that they didn’t have to pay. No one smiled or thanked me, but I knew that wasn’t their style. It would show up on Twitter later.
I kept telling people it was the coolest thing I’d ever done. I felt awesome, and left the eight boxes of cash with the interns and danced to music I’d never heard. After the show, I made all of my interns drink like I was initiating them into a fraternity. We went to a bar and got so drunk that we all lost control of at least one bodily function later in the evening.
In the Twitterverse, no one had Tweeted my act of generosity. Instead, people wrote,“band hates the bitches at the front because they won’t let people in what the fuuuuck.”
Oh well. I tried.