Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hipster Marmalade

I've always been fascinated by the hipster. The modern day hippie come yuppie that yearns for unique experiences whether real or contrived. Zany coffee shops and off-beat bars are the habitat of choice. Their mating habits are incomprehensible and consciously complicated. A challenge once perfect for a farm kid like me seeking to experience life.

As hipsters embark on their 30s, they seek normalcy through the active pursuit of the 'perfect life'. An ideal characterized by an urbane lifestyle, perfect mate and affluence that affords them the ability to indulge the latest fad and novelty in perpetuity. So much as been written about inner-city gentrification as of late. Marcus Gee is the latest champion as he witnesses his west end neighbourhood's rise in monetary value. I can appreciate that. Everyone loves to feel the validation of making a successful life investment. He also claims that his neighbourhood is improving. He's right. Crime is down, investment is up, and people are clamouring for the inner city. The streets are busy.

These are all important things to a City so concerned with its image. Toronto has never been so shiny.

I moved out of hipster central a couple of years ago. Not because I didn't enjoy urbanity, but because I did not enjoy the emerging vibe. Vanity and pretence were no longer appealing to me. As a new wave refashioned communities to suit their tastes, I felt like I was missing something more; honesty and authenticity. I took what I learned and moved home and now apply myself to improving the quality of life for residents of a mid-sized City undergoing a transformation of a different and declining kind. Sure it's not as vibrant, but at least it's not contrived and commodified; and it's interesting.

In today's 'creative cities', hipsters are the new bellwether, that key determinannt of a city's success. Indices, cultural plans and a slew of other gimmicks are being thrown abut as means for smaller communities to have their piece of the elusive and apparently rewarding hipster pie. Sure, we have punks, foodies, environmentalists and urban professionals here. But they're embedded into the larger community and that's enlightening. Conversations are meaningful and direct, marketing and spin don't factor into the lexicon. Scenes haven't been codified. Bars are for everyone. It's not uncommon to see an e-bike or smartcar beside a 4x4 at the stop light. The diversity is thick. It's refreshing.

Food is the new fad these days. A dozen cobs of corn grown out back sell here for $2.50, yet bring in over $5 in the old hipster hood. 'Locally grown' costs an extra buck. And while the ladies at the church here make marmalade and drop it around with a lovely thank you letter, hipsters make marmalade to sell at kitschy overpriced nonsense coffee shops.

Oh the irony.