Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wherever You Go, There You're Authentic

Our l'il family just got back from a quick 24-hour visit to the nation's financial capital of New York City.  We hit a street fair on 6th Ave, Central Park, the Ground Zero site (not the actual memorial though, as we did the whole thing impromptu), and got a nice little walking tour of Jackson Heights from our Best Man, who grew up next to Boston and now calls New York home, just as I now do the reverse.

I asked him about "hipsters" and he gave me some clues about how to find them, but then let me know we wouldn't have much luck in Queens, as they mainly congregate in Brooklyn.  When I asked about how I could spot them, he offered some vague clues and then added that a friend of his had attended the opening of a hipster-themed hotel in Williamsburg that featured a neon "HOTEL" sign with the "T" missing.  Mind you, this wasn't done in a Colbert sort of funny way (this 'T' wasn't donated to Hurricane Katrina victims, I presume), but was instead done to "give the place a more 'authentic' feel."  So, just like place that sells $7 PBR cans in the meatpacking district, encourages you to throw peanut shells on the floor, and just calls itself "Dive Bar," this hotel was trying so hard to be something it wasn't that it was flashing "HO EL" to the heavens.


To me, that sounds kind of like taking a sledgehammer to the side of my car in order to appear more "edgy" or setting a few cockroaches loose around my home so that I get a better sense of "how it really is."  Admittedly, I've never known anyone to do either, but how about when someone asks an "ethnic" person to rate correspondingly-themed restaurants, as if their palate were somehow a better indicator of what *real* Greek, Chinese, or Cambodian food was?  What about just eating what you like, and calling it good?  If you prefer Athenian to Olympia, how can it be any more authentic to you than what your tastebuds say?  Ditto for Tepthida vs. Red Rose, and so on, ad infinitum.

A wee bit of introspection tells me that the people I'm most drawn to and the people I *stick* with (beyond a particular situation that puts us in the same environment) are those who are genuinely curious about the world -- as I've written here before, they are the type of people who get excited about ideas, who start sentences off with, "Did you ever notice that...?" and who enjoy weighing alternate viewpoints.  Sometimes, they might be the types that get labeled as abrasive or elitist by others, but I'll take someone who deals from the top of the deck (warts and all) over someone who 'plays the game' with hedged opinions and false modesty any day of the week.

A close second, however, goes to people who are comfortable enough in their own skin not to be searching for something more authentic.  A hotel that intentionally designs its neon "T" to intentionally not work is kind of like someone who goes to a well-known tourist destination on vacation -- as a tourist -- and then comes back complaining about it being "too touristy."

One is not worth my business, and the other is not worth my time.  


kad barma said...

If they were really hip, instead of just lamely hip, they would have opted for "Hot l" instead, but I'm sure none of them running that place are old enough to remember "Hot l Baltimore". Oh well. Bostonians have long known what New Yorkers are.

Renee said...

Never visited New York, no plans either.

"Too touristy"

(except paying respects to the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty)

The idea of visiting a city for vacation, just seems not fun. Of course it could be a cultural/historic visit. I don't find cities to be relaxing.

Nick McNulty said...

That's awesome... I try telling the gentrifiers here in Greater Boston that we only drank PBR back then because it was all we could afford. Now that I'm a big boy, I think I'll order a beer that actually tastes good. Ever since the Departed, Boston is filled with Townie auteurs.