No hippychick

17 02 2013

I have never been hip.

There have been times in which I might have approached cool, but, really, I doubt I’ve ever been cool, either.

No, I run too hot: I was too eager, too earnest, too political, too angry, too depressed, too neurotic, too in-my-head, too awkward, too dismissive, too dug-in, too restless, too. . . yeah, I dunno what exactly hip is, but I was too-much (and not-enough) ever to be it.

I’m not bashing the hip, however—at least, not in the this post. Yes, when I lived in the un-hip far-out-on-the-L section of Bushwick and had to deal with the polyester-bowling-shirt-surfer-shoe-straw-hat-wearing skinny folk of the near-L-stop Williamsburg and hip-Bushwick, I met my weekly quota of sneering-at-hipsters with ease. But now, away from the L train and a bit more ensconced in my life in New York, I shrug my shoulders and think, Eh, it’s a thing.

And, honestly, while I never could have been hip or cool (or punk or goth), there was always a part of me that was/is fascinated by the performers of hip. I was waaaaay too self-conscious to have treated my life as a kind of performance, to have shown myself off with such elaborate disdain for anyone who wasn’t me and mine.

Oh, I disdained, believe me, but I could never achieve that combination of commitment and detachment necessary to the extended pose of the hip. I didn’t have the knack.

All of which is a long way toward considering yet another NYTimes Style section piece on Brooklyn hipsterdom—only this time, the hipsters have moved upstate, to what author Alex Williams calls “hipsturbia”.

There’s much to criticize about the piece, as there always is with Style section essays—the exclusive focus on above-median-income white people, the writing off of large sections of Brooklyn, the constant need to say Brooklyn is over, etc.—but I don’t know how critical I can be of those profiled in the piece.

They want their comforts at an affordable price; who doesn’t?

Sure, it sounds obnoxious to decide to live in a place because when you did a Google Map street search you found more Subarus than SUVs, but who doesn’t look for signals that a particular neighborhood might work for someone?

I don’t have much money, but even with my limited funds I had (and have) my preferences. I like my general neighborhood and am glad for my train options, but would like to be closer to Prospect Park, and a few more coffee shops/bistros/pubs would be nice. I like trees.  I’d rather live with more apartment space in Brooklyn than less in Manhattan. And since I’ve never been hip, I don’t have to worry that as Brooklyn is, pace the Times, fading in hipness, it’s no longer the place for me.

Anyway, it seems as if the problem is less with the former Brooklynites than with the Times trying to stamp its own narrative on their exits. It’s not that hard: these folks are trying to find a way to live their lives in ways that make sense to them, and are trying to figure out how to blend what they like best about Brooklyn (or, really, any place they lived and loved before) with what they can find where they are now.

Trying to figure out how to make sense ain’t a trend; that’s life.


Lack Luster, Lack Luster how can I muster

7 12 2010

I am too much and not enough in my head.

Too much: I am pinned in my chair, un-able and un-willing to do what is minimally necessary to take care of my life, much less anything beyond that.

Too little: I have lost my concentration somewhere in a cascade of anxiety and passivity, un-able and un-willing to think myself past my self.

No, this isn’t a crisis—or if it is, it’s a low-grade one.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is to note that this is happening, and to write that I won’t be writing much about this. I have to get some things straight with myself, and straightening is, frankly, boring for anyone other than the person undergoing the untwisting.

I remember when I was in the depths/throes/clutches/appropriatelyalarmingsynonymhere of my depression—I wrote and wrote and wrote about it, and little else competed with it. Once I got past the worst of it, however—once I was no longer nailed to Hamlet’s post—I gradually lost interest in noting every last blip in my emotion.

I’m not criticizing my past self—such self-monitoring was, in its own way, necessary; nor do I consider the loss of interest lamentable, as I am no longer so oppressed by my moods. The point, really, is that a record of the grind really only matters while one is being ground: after that, well, it was enough to be able to walk away.

That I’m a little ground down now is worth noting, but every damned detail of what I do to haul myself out, not so much.

I like writing this blog, and will continue to do so, but that this has become a place where I sort some things out doesn’t mean this is the appropriate forum in which to sort everything out.

But once it’s sorted? Oh, hell, I’ll jabber away.

Watching the tide roll away

6 09 2009

I am the most undisciplined person in the world. The world! The universe! The MULTIVERSE!

Okay, maybe not the multiverse. Maybe just in my apartment.

Where I live alone.

(The cats? They’re cats! They do want they want.)

Lack of discipline differs from laziness—tho’ I am, of course, also prone to laziness—in that the problem is located in the lack, not in the effort. Properly harnessed, I can work like the dickens.

Left to roam free, however, and I simply wander, nose about the field, and am apt to lie down for good, long, nap.

As an occasional phenomenon, this is not only not a problem, but even a delight. As a regular occurrence, however, it doesn’t refresh, but enervates.

Low-key folk may welcome enervation, but I am not a member of that particular tribe. It’s not—exactly—that I’m high-strung, but I am restless, ambitious, and voracious. I need to do.

I’ll avoid the whole doing-vs-being discussion (for now), noting simply the fulcrum for  balance may be set differently for me than it is for others: I need a fair amount of doing to make sense of my being.

Unfortunately, I’m shit about doing unless forced. The mere need, in other words, is insufficient motive.

Fortunately, I can respond to the flimsiest of force, especially if that force makes a kind of sense. A self-made list is indeed flimsy, but it also makes sense: Here are the things I want to accomplish. It sets out in physical form tasks I set for myself, makes it separate from me, and gives me a means of satisfaction when tasks are completed, i.e., I get to cross them off the list.

I don’t know why it’s satisfying, and I don’t care. It makes sense because it works for me, even if the underlying reasons for why it works remain murky. I don’t need endless epistemological iteration of the appeal of list-making and crossing-off, I need something to get my ass in gear.

‘Working model’ or ‘beta-version’ or ‘jury-rigged’ or ‘throwing spaghetti at the wall’—whatever. It’s a means, not an end.

Now, not everything is on the list. I don’t need to put things like ‘brush teeth’ or ‘clean litter box’ or ‘eat’—these are sufficiently habitual and/or vital that they carry their own force. (And besides, I’m not that pathetic.) Nor do I need to remind myself to read for my courses, print out notes, or grade: the requirements of teaching keep me in line. Ditto with wage-work generally.

And I don’t need any (well, not usually) prompts to keep in touch with friends. Pleasure has its own rewards.

The only kind of work for which I need no external constraints is writing. When I want to write, I do, and once I start writing, I almost always want to continue writing. I think this is partly due to knowing that I’m pretty good at writing, partly that it’s not hard for me, and largely because I write to find out what happens, i.e., I’m curious, and that’s enough to drive me on.

This is also why I don’t sketch out what I’m going to do in advance. As I paused in writing this post, I was thinking about writing my dissertation, and how different writing that was from writing my novels. Yeah, duh, but there’s something central to both types of writing: not knowing how it ends. In fact, I had a hell of a time writing my dissertation as long as I thought I knew all that I would think about the argument. I had to tell myself that I did not, in fact, know how the dissertation would ‘end’, that I had to let it play itself out. It was only then that I was actually able to sit my ass down and write the thing.

So writing I can do because writing is something I can do.

Pitching and selling what I write? That’s on the list.