*Written by Ben Mansoura, my good friend who visited Brooklyn recently.
Hipster; when I look it up in the dictionary: hip-ster: a person, esp. during the 1950s, characterized by a particularly strong sense of alienation from most established social activities and relationships. Now a couple of days I spent in Brooklyn, brunching, partying among the hipsters did give me the strong sense of alienation…about everywhere else I had been…except Brooklyn.
Spending time with the hipsters boosts your artistic talent. In Brooklyn, art is in the air and you grasp it with every breath. Now don’t get me wrong about Brooklyn art. This is not the noble art white people have imposed on us; the fancy French label for culture. Dead masterpieces locked up in museum confinement, rotting on shelves, decaying on walls. Brooklyn art is alive; an alien art yet with every touch of sophistication. When you set off on your scavenger hunt looking for it, you need to have the eye to spot it. A tattoo here, piercing there, an outfit, a flashing light, an exhibition in a being held out in a factory, an amazing dance being performed on the street, a graffiti masterpiece, an unwritten story being told by a writer in a Bushwick apartment or a small concert at a local club…hipsters were performing everywhere.
Hipster, the word itself sounds very artistic, yeah, hipster sounds very hip; modern. Hip-ster; the hip part make it sound sexy and could very well work for a jeans brand. I picture it on a billboard like the one for Levi’s I saw today over at Times square with a picture of three juicy booties and quoting: “All asses were not created equal” hell no! Hipsters are very different, as if pertaining to the same tribe, you can spot them, you can categorize them yet there is no conformity. It’s neither the tattoos not the piercings. There’s something about the peculiar hairstyles, the bird nests, the extremist-looking beards or the 1980 porn star moustache, but it’s not that. The clothes, the styles will definitely draw your attention. Some stylish, others seem to have walked into the thrift shop around the corner and randomly picked a $50 outfit, but I guess style is a matter of taste…and taste had no borders in Brooklyn…and unlike Paris, Rome or Milano, here, you could break all the fashion rules without getting arrested. The only one thing possibly identifying the hipsters was the spirit; the creative artistic, rebellious spirit. Modern day hippies, bohemians who settled in Brooklyn (when I asked my ex girlfriend if they had hipsters in Queens, she said no)…most of them will never make it, but they all dream the same…they all strive for success.
Ever since reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and her story about how she finds a word for each city – that word would be in the head of every person in that city and if you wanted to fit in then you had to have that word carved in the back of your mind as well – ever since then I find myself thinking of city words. You see I live in Prague, a nice, small, cozy city in Europe, rich in history, culture, and architecture…modern, medieval and ancient. Prague, a gorgeous city where the women are pretty and the beer is cheap…thus making it a perfect place for pleasure. I would definitely choose pleasure for Prague and would put that ahead of fun, sex or game. It is definitely fun, if you’re only here for a while, but after some time, pleasure stops being fun, yet it’s still pleasing, and you still find yourself doing it. Pleasure in Prague simply becomes a routine. Some find it in sex in a puritan city where everyone is so liberal, others simply find their pleasure in drinking beer and crawling pubs…here it’s just pleasure, no game, no foreplay.
In New York City the world is definitely success. And this was a tough one to figure out. And I’m not sure if this is because the city is so diverse, or if because I was trying to find one word for Manhattan and the boroughs. In Washington D.C. the task was much simpler. The word for D.C. is leadership. The fat politicians in their black suits decorated with U.S. flag pins, soldiers in their uniforms decorated with medals, foreign diplomats…they were all leading. Even those serving leaders, were second hand leaders and were therefore leading. D.C. was all about leadership. Twelve year old students were shipped to D.C. to attend leadership seminars.
Success…Success is the word I would use for New York City. Everybody I see here is celebrating success and the city is humming. Everyone is successful in New York City. If you’re a white collar working long hours in one of the upper floors, above the clouds, congratulations, you are successful, you made it. If you’re a businessman here in a city humming with opportunity and killing competition, congratulations, you’re successful. If you’re a scary looking foreign cab driver in Manhattan, congratulations for managing third world driving in a first world city, you’re successful. If you’re an illegal immigrant behind one of Manhattan’s many Deli kitchen sinks working from dusk to dawn, congratulations to you too buddy for hooking up a job, you are successful. If you’re unemployed in this city, looking for a job, you’ve made it here, you are successful. If you’re a pedestrian equally crossing on red and white lights and are still alive, congratulations, you are successful. If you’re a tourist here, you’re definitely successful for having made it here, visiting this city is like a pilgrimage, congratulations. If you’re a firefighter here flashing your lights and boosting your sirens so that at least the sound of you gets to the scene on time while you manage to fly over the yellow carpet spread over the avenue lanes, hey, you too are successful. If you are the illegal Egyptian immigrant selling hot dogs of a cart on 5th and 42nd while cranking up Hakeem, you ARE successful. Success here is simply everywhere, and you don’t even have to look for it. It will hit you in the face. Success is on the neon signs and giant LCDs on Time square. It is being played in Broadway shows, celebrated in rooftop house parties and danced to in the clubs. In fact, everybody is so successful, nobody seems to mind the $20 cocktails or the beer being sold at a dollar a letter (PBR – $3, Corona – $6, Heineken – $8…) and therefore even getting drunk becomes a success. In fact the vibe of success is so in the air that they even had to open an army recruitment center right on Times square. Brief, in New York City, the glass is always half full.
Of course this overwhelming vibe of success in it’s concentrated dose has a meditating effect. But coming to New York you contemplate and reflect upon your life. This could have two possible impacts one you. The overdose of success will discourage and depress you. The overwhelming atmosphere of success in the city will demeanor you, belittle you and reduce you to nothing. You will feel so insignificant in NYC that you will hate it. Of course you never liked driving on the fast lane and would rather just cruise steadily down your life…hell no, NYC is just a crazy madhouse where everyone is just running around like a chicken without a head. You feel like a total loser and all you want to do is jump of the Brooklyn bridge and take a nice cold dive into the east river or if Brooklyn bridge is not your favorite cup of coffee, maybe the Manhattan bridge or any of the many bridges or even subway stations in the city…again there’s endless opportunity.
Another possible impact is that you try to point out the success in your life. In this case NYC becomes a wholly trip and every step you take down Broadway and up 5th Avenue inspires you. You lay down on the grass at Brooklyn Bridge park, find inspiration in Central park or simply look for success in the vast horizon off the Empire state building…briefly…an empire state of mind.
Now whether you arrive to NYC, whether by boat, car, train, bus or subway, as soon as you pop out on the street it is as if you got handed a pair of 3D glasses you get at the movies and put them on. All of a sudden you’re aware of a 3rd dimension. Yet apart from the overwhelming skyscrapers, or the breathtaking concrete jungle built to be proportional with King Kong, there’s another dimension to the city. This fourth dimension is the exact opposite of what you would feel if you would visit Venice. For those of you who have experienced Venice, you might have noticed that time seems to have stopped for this town. Venice seems to be living in a totally different time zone, where the clock has stopped ticking.
NYC is on a light speed time axis, where time shrinks and all you do is keep trying to race it. In NYC, everyone is in a hurry, rush hour or not. Fast food places don’t even seem to have seats for lunch breaks and nobody waits for the white pedestrian lights. In NYC even the tourists are in a hurry…so if want to zap through your life, come spend it in this city.
Now I can’t count the times I’ve been to New York City. But I’m starting to realize that visiting NYC is just like having sex; good sex. The pleasure is indescribable, the details are volatile, but the experience is thrilling. Spending time in New York City is just like satisfying an instinct, eating after long hours of hunger or quenching thirst. The aftertaste is impressing. Every time you have it makes you look forward to the next time.
But my favorite in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge, for no particular reason. I’ve tried to observe this bridge, just to understand why. Comparing it to the other bridges, there’s nothing particularly gorgeous about its architecture neither its location. For some reason I could live and die on this bridge, make love on it and sleep underneath it. After all, it is a bridge to the hipster world…