by Dan Johnson
Behind “Thug,” “Hipster” is the single most imprecise, misapplied, lazy, over wrought, inaccurate, quasi-pejorative identifier active in the English language today.
It’s a catch all term by which people refer to a complex topography of youth identities under the blanket auspices of skinny jeans, moustaches and other assorted Portlandia bullshit.
Most people would be hard pressed to nail down what a hipster actually is because the word refers to a broad spectrum in which people express tempered disaffection with the status quo. It is a commercialized counter statement against late 90s/early 2000s high capitalist youth fashions and values. It builds off of grunge and alternative to weight the scales against the onslaught of glossy pop music, preppy Abercrombie polo shirts and Dawson’s Creek lobotomies that threatened to sterilize any semblance of individuality in the Western world.
In the face of mass-media streamlining, hipsterdom cascaded through the world wide web where disaffected people used early social media and message boards to disseminate esoteric sub cultures of revolt built around outbound aesthetics, contrarian values or lucky pell mell stabs at clash oriented fashion forward thinking.
Faced with 9/11 and the ensuing litany of extremely poor decisions made by the powers that be, Hipsters exploded as a function of post-terror facilitated existential crisis ennui and an overwhelming meta condition of disapproving flight from the values of homogeneity.
Hipsters are not a nation. They are a fractured landscape of disparate tribes from crunchy eco-warriors to ironic mass culture fetishizing emasculates to tattoo fiends with 1920s haircuts to phony sustainability police. Each, in its own way, has the capacity to wear its otherness as a license to act like an entitled, elitist twat. Each finds the idea of unaltered cultural generica to be repugnant. Each has a curious and often spurious relationship to perceived authenticity.
Most importantly every self-identifying or deep-in-denial hipster has this one thing in common—they are looking for an escape from a system that looks increasingly grim and offers few if any opportunities for meaningful change, not to say anything of fulfillment.
I mention this because the supposed hipster archetype has become a polarizing label amidst the revival of Downtown Los Angeles.
The Edison bulbs, the flannel, the vinyl, the PBR—these tropes have earned the scorn of old timers and conservatives of all stripes who decry an entire generation’s technologically facilitated return to the urban spaces made desolate by the failures of the 20th century.
On one level, this hate is basic anthropology. Humans thrive off of negation and the fabrication of categorical enemies. “This individual does not look like me. We do not share identical values. I will hate them until they conform to my standards.”
On another level, these suspicions are rooted in empirically backed fear of the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie variety. IE: If you let them live here cheap and unbothered, they’re going to eventually pay five dollars per square foot.
This is a logical fallacy that should be corrected to read “if you allow somewhat progressive, traditional value bucking youths to live in a neighborhood, numerous people of varying interests will find ways to brand, market and monetize that phenomena to trade those first adopting hipsters out for people with disposable income who want to look like the hipsters they see in online banner ads.”
Which is just about where we are now. You can generally identify this swing by the new glut of stylish and sparsely adorned retail locations with effusive “mission statements” that make gratuitous use of the word “artisanal” to justify products that cost somewhere around one fifth of what one’s monthly rent should be. Thanks GQ.
I hate to give you the idea that hipsters are pure and retail is the devil. Money must be made—that’s the fundamental take away from all periods in American history and, indeed, human prosperity. Further, hipsterdom is an inherently consumerist form. The articles of kitschy revolt are commodified and sold at a premium because they can somewhat accurately be marketed as material catalysts of identification.
The circle of rebellion closes in on itself when revolt from failed mainstream values molts to a point where peak authenticity (and thus revolt from stale cultural enslavement) is the sole purview of those who can afford the sticker price.
We can refer to this ever-devouring chain of causal philosophical capitalism as an ouroboros—a snake swallowing itself. This is, coincidentally, apropos of a wonderful development in the annals of Downtown hipsterdom.
The logo at South Broadway’s Mega Bodega happens to be an ouroboros that is swallowing a beer rather than its own tail. Sweet irony.
Though they are a mere block away from the Ace Hotel and two blocks from a store with an earnest sandwich board sign that reads “Timeless Products For Modern Living,” Mega Bodega appears to be of an older hipster programming.
Yes, the interior is chic to a point that some might call frivolous. Yes, they have a thorough coffee program. Yes, there are twelve craft beers on tap. Yes, multiple varieties of toast are on the menu.
Yet, this isn’t really the spot where chambray-clad “free thinkers” shart out their mouth asses about their sustainable vision for the 21st century city and creating pockets of eco-friendly, tech-adjacent collaborative space focused on solving complex urban blight with fair-trade coffee fueled disruption.
This would appear to be a somewhat affordable food and drink option in a somewhat disregarded block. The guys behind the counter wear black shirts and don’t necessarily give a shit if they make the local branding paper’s style page so long as the till’s right and the sandwich is palatable.
I got an eight dollar Sorta Torta. It’s a blend of avocado, corn and soyrizo that has been put in a sandwich press and served with a pickle. It was good. Zero complaints. It didn’t fill me up, but neither does a thirteen dollar truffle burger, so fair’s fair.
You can get a variety of other food stuffs, stimulants or liver-activating depressants for prices not too far shy of established market value.
Brutal irony time: the 8am to 10pm joint that plays like a lovechild of Spring Street Bar and Spring For Coffee was nigh on empty when I went.
Why? Because that particular block is waiting with baited breath for the two nearby Geoff Palmer buildings and the Herald Examiner reboot to open. So here we are again at a point where even affordable culture outside the mainstream depends on disposable income of high rent residents.
I find this unacceptable and grim so I will take the unprecedented step of telling all of you hungry folk to check out Mega Bodega so there is some sense of pre-Palmer community support. Need a better reason to support Mega Bodega?
For less than the cost of a Tanner Leather Goods Fob, you can have a meal at an inviting and utilitarian space whose owners had the audacity to push their business into an unlikely space.
For the cost of a Tanner Leather Goods Double Wrap Wristband, you can get absolutely shitfaced at aforementioned restaurant.
Before we fall headlong into another generation long identity crisis in which we face our essential hypocrisy and sterile tastes with misguided consumerism, maybe we can forestall what will inevitably be a catastrophic mushroom cloud of self-indulgent culture with a cheap sandwich or two and a goddamn beer.
I award Mega Bodega a “1” on the binary qualified with an honest engine threat that if I return in a year and they’re selling twenty-two dollar quail egg toast salted with the nail shavings of humanely raised tree sloths, I am going to take a handful of laxatives and top deck the toilet in the men’s room.