[Hipster scouting: Bushwick apartment shopping]
Friday, September 19, 2008
We reached the awning-less front entrance and realized the Realtor who was supposed to meet us there had not yet arrived. Desperate to get out of the rain, we yelled over to the apartment next door where a Hispanic teenage boy was perched on the porch and asked if we could wait there with him. He shrugged, so we dashed over and joined him.
We caught our breath (while simultaneously lighting cigarettes), and the journalist in me began to formulate questions to ask this young Bushwickian. He eyed our disheveled trio with skepticism and amusement. I started off asking him a few general questions to get a sense of his receptivity, and he told us he lived there with his family and he liked it well enough.
“Is this neighborhood dangerous?” I asked him.
“Over here it’s not too bad,” he replied. “But over on the other side of the train you’ll get mugged if you walk anywhere alone at night.” I glanced at the JMZ as it passed above the street of our potential new residence 50 meters away. Woo. We had landed in the Bushwick green zone!
Then I asked him something that would probably change his life forever: “Are there a lot of hipsters around here?”
“What’s a hipster?” he responded. He seemed confused and slightly embarrassed that he was unaccustomed to this term as he noticed our amused reactions. We laughed good-naturedly, although I was secretly disappointed because I knew hipster scouting would be much more of a chore in Bushwick.
“No really… what is it?” he prodded. I opened my mouth to explain, but knowing that this question often sends me in philosophical spirals, Dustin, the po-mo Realtor interjected.
“Well, a hipster is someone who… dresses kind of like me,” he said, showcasing his slip-on Pumas, V-necked shirt, and home-made khorts. (Note: khorts = kakhi shorts, a variation on the hipster favorite, “jorts”).
“Ooh!” the young local exclaimed with that satisfying realization that math teachers live for. “You mean white boys.”
Perhaps it was the knowingness in his statement that sealed my understanding of gentrification once and for all. “Yeah… I guess,” Dustin said.
After chatting about Bushwick hipsters for a bit longer, my roommate prodded me to double check the address. Turns out I had inverted two digits and we were at the complete wrong location. We bade our little friend adieu and started off to find the correct address.
As we passed underneath the elevated railway, I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t have any money in my wallet.
The actual apartment didn’t have nearly as must character as the rat graveyard. It kind of looked like something one would use for a stage set: a two-dimensional panel that I could have pushed over. The Realtor still wasn’t there, so we went across the street to a gas station, which I think is the first gas station I’ve seen in the whole time I’ve lived in New York.
Inside, my roommate and I entertained ourselves by examining a display of air freshener trees that would scent one’s theoretical car. I don’t know who exactly they were marketing to, since hipsters definitely don’t like driving, but we found one particular flavor highly amusing. Out of the 84 different varieties that all had their titles orderly printed on the bottom of the tree, this one had its title printed askew on the plastic packaging:
To whom this company thinks it is marketing this item in Bushwick, I do not know.
Once inside the apartment, which reminded me of the movie Betelgeuse for reasons I can not verbalize, our po-mo hipster Realtor friend called the Realtor trying to sell us the place out on various faults and shadiness as my roommate and I feigned interest.
I’m sure by now you are wondering why I have been referring to Dustin in this manner. You see, Dustin is only a corporate-attire wearing real estate agent by day; by night he is a khorts-wearing, binge-drinking singer/song-writer/guitarist who performs at venues like Pianos in the Lower East Side. After discussing with him the state of his hipsterdom, he told me that he only started making an effort to dress like a hipster after he was accused of being one. By acknowledging the hipster condition and realizing its stereotypes in an over-the-top manner, he effectively claims the title of post-modern hipster. Also, Dustin’s secret dream is to be a model for American Apparel and siezes every available opportunity to conduct spontaenous photo shoots for practice.
These pictures were taken in a hallway of Supreme Trading while waiting for me after the Mr and Miss Williamsburg Pageant. So you see, Dustin has the ability to pose in the most chaotic of environments. Here are some of the highlights from his personal collection:
And my personal favorite: