Thank You Hipsters

hipster

You’ve done us a great service

It’s not often that New York City hipsters get the (positive) credit they so rightfully deserve.  Whether it is because they are bereft of contributions to the city or they have such a negative stigma attached to them no one is willing to go on the record to heap praise on them I can’t tell you.  What I can tell you is that they have removed a small burden from my shoulders.

They have made me not hesitant to tell native New Yorkers I am from Jersey.

While I can’t define exactly what a hipster is for you succinctly, it would be argued by most that New York City natives are incapable of being hipsters.  I wouldn’t argue that.  Exhibit A Lena Dunham, no more questions your honor, I rest my case.  The consensus however is that the prototypical NYC hipster is from the Midwest.

(And on a side note for all intents and purposes a full fledged native New Yorker is someone raised in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx  or Queens.  Staten Island is arguably more Jersey than Jersey and too remote (no train to the city, no bridge or tunnel to the city and mostly suburban Italian).  Long Island and Westchester don’t count.  Yonkers gets an honorable mention because they pay for it.)

ANYHOO, before New York became such a sought after, desirable destination for mass amounts of non Tri State area transplants people from Jersey were the number 1 object of scorn and ridicule for people living in Manhattan.  Traditionally NYC was, for most intents and purposes, Manhattan.  Manhattan is the Big Apple, the city so nice they named it twice, the City That Never Sleeps, what Frank Sinatra wanted to be a part of and Gotham.  To this day when you say “the city” you are exclusively talking about Manhattan.

At this time being from or living in the outer boroughs was the object of its own derision.  People from Brooklyn and Staten Island were mockingly referred to as “bridge and tunnel” though that term was favored by Manhattanites  (well to do residents of Manhattan.)  This contempt was mutual, as made evident in Saturday Night Fever. There was nothing “cool” at all about being a guido, though to be fair there still isn’t.

I consider myself a naturalized New Yorker.  I’m not from New York but I’ve legitimately earned the right to call myself a New Yorker.

My first distinct memory of New York City was in the late 80’s when I rode the Staten Island Ferry all day during the filming of the Let The River Run video by Carly Simon because my brother was an extra in it.  After that I was sporadically in the city to visit my father, but that was limited because it just wasn’t worth the risk.  I remember my father asking a cabbie what the most dangerous place in New York was with him suggesting it was “Alphabet City.”  The cabbie politely let him know it was the South Bronx, where I would coincidentally later live off and on for a period of 10 years.

In the mid 90’s which coincided with New York becoming significantly safer as well as me becoming old enough to do things on my own I started coming here more often taking the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor line to see my father or go to concerts.  By the late 90’s I was already coming strictly to sin like when I went to the first Million Marijuana March, smoked trees with some guys I met there and then we all went to buy porn.  Yes kiddos, we used to actually have to get porn in a store and actually pay for it.  Then I got into raves and the sinning in NY got out of control.  This was when a fake ID that I got at the Rt 18 flea market could get me in anywhere no problem at all.

In the early 2000’s I went to an audio technical school in the city and was there daily while living in Jers.  I didn’t officially become a New Yorker until 2004 when I briefly rented a room from a Jamaican couple in Harlem, the only time I have ever lived in Manhattan.  When I moved in the husband helped me move all my shit upstairs but they kicked me out because they had to let a repair guy in my room and saw the condition of it.  Suffice to say they watched me carry all the shit downstairs when I moved out.

In my mind though I became a New York resident when I lived in Jersey City a couple years prior in an area that was more NY than plenty of places in NYC.  There was no discernible difference.  Everyone had NY accents.  In fact someone I know from Queens recently told me that was the most hood place he’s ever been to.  Of course this was when you could tell people in NY you lived in Jersey City and those that knew where like damn.

These days I live in ungentrified Brooklyn and literally have no one in my life I see in New York on any kind of regular basis, even once in a blue moon, that didn’t grow up in NY or spent decades here.  Some, if not most, natives will never accept me as a New Yorker even knowing all the previously stated, particularly “hood” New Yorkers.  But I feel more comfortable in NY than Jersey and New York accents, which initially were quite jarring to me, have now become the default accent to my ears; standard American English is what has an accent to me now and it sounds out of place.  But I get it, no part of my childhood was spent living in New York.  Not only that I didn’t even grow up living in an urban environment.  It was basically geographically and with people like you see in the movie Clerks, which is one of the greatest and most authentic depictions of non northern NJ life ever.

I don’t know when it became okay to be from Jersey or at least not as bad but let’s peg it at 2010.  By then everything hipster, it’s accouterments, it’s locations were well and long defined.  In fact I am able to concede my entire argument is simply my perception and there’s probably many New York natives laughing their ass off at this heresy.  But they just never gave it thought.

What the hipsters did was show that New Yorkers have way more in common with typical Jersyans than not and that they all have a reference point for Jersey which they lack for the Midwest.

What New Yorker has never been to the Jersey shore or Atlantic City or Giant’s Stadium?  I don’t think I know any that can say that.  Don’t tell me NY pizza is great because of the water because Jers has completely different water and bangin pizza is easy to come by.  They have the same local TV stations, watch the same local news.  If you watched Channel 9 back in the day you were watching a Jersey product.  And while New York was out of control back in the day, there is nothing in NYC as dangerous as Camden and a lot of Newark.

The two places have ironically traded places.  In large swaths of NYC it feels generic and unauthentic.  It feels fake.  But most of Jers doesn’t feel like that.  It feels like it always did, at least to me when I go randomly once in a while.  It’s still undesirable to people not from there.  Ask a hipster in New York they’ll tell you.  They would NEVER live in Jersey.

Many NY natives have never even lived anywhere else, but I spent a few years in Denver.  Believe me once you go far enough from the tri state area they see no difference in people from NJ and NY at all.  People would ask me if I was from New York and I would say I was originally from NJ and it didn’t even register to them.  To them it was like what’s the difference?

Don’t get me wrong, we know how different NYC and Jersey are and how different the people are but its because we’re looking at it under a microscope.  Go to Cali and they are looking at it zoomed out a million times and to them they can’t see the different details.

So thank you hipsters.  When NY natives ask me where I’m from, even though most people think I grew up in Queens, I don’t have any qualms or dread about telling them I’m from Jersey.  It doesn’t matter if they even see me the same as a hipster and break my balls.  New York has changed so much not only because so many other types have moved here, but so many New York natives moved away, that the goalposts have changed.  I may not be a touchdown, but I’m a field goal and at the end of the day sometimes you just need any score to win the game.

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