Hipsters Are Pissing Me Off

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Anyone from the New York City area knows that it is a very large place, made up of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Many people who visit “New York” believe that the island of Manhattan is all there is to New York City, but that isn’t the case. Brooklyn, in and of itself, is more than double the size of Manhattan, but for the past few years, all attention has been focused on one small section which has been gentrified to the point of being unrecognizable.

The downtown section of Brooklyn was once a decidedly downtrodden area you didn’t venture into unless you needed to visit the courts, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or Kingdom Hall (home base for Jehovah’s Witnesses). I have special memories of that area because my father owned a factory in a building down the street from Kingdom Hall. As a child, I visited it on many occasions. The building was, shall we say, quaint, and in my younger days, I had no idea how old it was. For me, the only indication of its age was the toilet, which was of the box-and-chain variety, the significance of which I never understood until I saw “The Godfather”.

Today, the building that once housed my father’s business is likely home to hipsters who are paying a hefty price to live and/or work there. Downtown Brooklyn has undergone many changes, and I have yet to see them in person. When I finally do get the opportunity to go back there, I will probably feel like a tourist – the sights and sounds I remember will be dead and buried like so many other things from my past. I genuinely mourn them, but I honestly don’t begrudge progress. What I do have a problem with is the lack of respect hipsters have for the area they now inhabit. Many of them have no reverence for the history of the area, or what it means to individuals like myself who remember what it was like before they invaded.

I’ve started and abandoned many essays about the gentrification of Brooklyn, often feeling that I didn’t have the right to malign its metamorphoses because I haven’t lived there in over 20 years. I no longer feel that way. What I’ve learned over the years is that New York City is a place you carry with you no matter where you go. The imprint it leaves on  your mind and soul is impossible to erase no matter how many decades separate you from actually living there. It doesn’t matter which borough you’re from – you will forever be reminded of the highs and lows you experienced while living in it.

For me, Brooklyn will always be about interminably long rides on the D train to go to Yankees games with my older brother. The trip from Kings Highway to 161st Street in the Bronx felt like it lasted days instead of hours. Admittedly, riding the hot, stuffy, graffiti-covered D train was my favorite part of the experience; I am a Mets fan.

I will never forget being able to walk five blocks to Kings Plaza, the local shopping mall, or two blocks to the local candy store, dry cleaners, grocery store, and beauty parlor. My parents’ house had the best staircase for playing games of “stoop”, and we knew enough to get out of the way of oncoming cars when we played games of catch or tag in the street. One of my proudest moments in life was teaching one of my neighbor’s kids to say “fuck”. From what I’ve been able to gather, he’s now a real estate lawyer living in Los Angeles. When I was in college, I took a job at a Genovese Drug store in Bensonhurst, which was an almost two hour ride encompassing three different buses.

I could sit here for days recounting all the contributions the borough of Brooklyn made to the person I am today. I might yearn for them on occasion, but the older I get, the easier I find it to accept that the Brooklyn I grew up in no longer exists. What I do find gutting, however, is the ignorance hipster infiltrators display for the part of the borough they now inhabit. The part of Brooklyn I grew up in doesn’t share the same history as the part that is now Hipster Happy Land. And it is obvious that residents and visitors do not revere that history. The example I’ve given you is the YouTube video, which shows how little the Canadian and the Brit in it care about the place they “Ubered” from Manhattan to visit. For them, it’s all about bullshit artisanal chocolate, and overpriced Froot Loops from a trendy cereal bar. Yeah, a cereal bar. For me, the cereal bar was an aisle inside Waldbaums.

When I journeyed to the U.K. and Europe, I found it admirable and fascinating how the people in the cities I visited lived among landmarks and monuments to history. Yes, evidence of modern life was interspersed with relics of the past, but there was a balance in those places that does not exist in New York. While Europeans are adept at striking that balance, Americans steamroll over it with a “go big or go home” mentality. It saddens me that many people under 30 are no longer taught to revere the past, whether it takes the form of ideology or tangible things like buildings, neighborhoods, or hell, even the food they eat. There seems to be this overwhelming need to ignore everything that came before them, almost as if the people and places predating their existence were dropped here by bug-eyed aliens.

Do me a favor, don’t be like Estée and Aslan from YouTube. Don’t be blind consumers of all that is hip and trendy. Don’t take everything at face value. Be cultural archaeologists instead – appreciate the present, but have some respect for the past. The old farts, excuse me, people, who have been on this earth longer than you have, would greatly appreciate it. After all, if it weren’t for us, there’d be no such thing as social media for you to show off and get rich on. You’d be taking three buses to a minimum wage job, just like I did.

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