Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On the Hipster

From Spider Kiss (1961), by Harlan Ellison

There is a kind of girl who is seen at certain (right) bars, at jazz nightclubs of the Birdland variety, at cabana clubs, who dances the merengue with the proper hip movements, whose person is all one, the same person, a type.

It is difficult to describe this type, this person - so many of this person.

A description needs specifics - and all the specifics of this person are nebulosities.  Unless you know what to look for, unless you can sense them (as the poet said: sniffing strange), see the aura that surrounds them, you will have no idea of the subjects in question.

The girls are easier to spot than the men.  The men generally have casual Peter Gunn haircuts or pomaded pompadoured hair; they usually wear Continental clothes (like the little Italian messenger boys on Madison Avenue) or they wear the one-button rolls.  They come in many shapes and shingles, but they aren't too important here.  The girls...the Girl...this girl.

This girl has fine legs that look tight and good in her straight, tight skirt.  No matter whether this girl is one hundred percent Italian or two hundred percent Yiddish, her profile is strictly Irish.  Clean-cut, Sultry, Desirable, Empty.

Surface-seeing.  Easy to covet, these girls, this girl is too easy to covet.  This girl's hair is soft, glowing and probably (today) in an artichoke.  she taps her hands when she hears the music.  She applauds at the wrong place, before the number is finished, when an unimportant, saying-nothing soloist has pyrotechnicked.

She is the girl the conga player eyes from the bandstand.

She is a hipster.

there is a great deal of difference between a truly "hip" person (that indefinable awareness of what is right, what is current, what is lasting; beyond sophistication, beyond class, it is the essence of being "with it") and a hipster.

A hipster is a pseudo.  The good-looking girl from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who feels stifled (for the wrong reasons) in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and emigrates to Chicago.  Look for the girl two months later in the bars on Chicago's Rush Street.  Look for her just off Times Square; on L.A.'s Strip.  You know her.  The sleek, well-fed, looks-to-be-good-in-the-hay chick who crosses her legs too high.  The chick who gets her meals bought, who has to worry about paying only for her extensive clothing needs and the rent.

Often, it's only the clothes.

This is the girl who thinks Don Ho is a jazz singer, who goes to Birdland to hear Herbie Mann's Afro-Jazz Sextet because he plays the kind of jazz you might (if you were a hipster) cha-cha to.  This is the girl who wears charm bracelets that jingle.

This is the empty woman, without her own standards, with a Hollywood conception of reality, the girl who talks during the sax man's solo.

See then, a cultural phenomenon.  A leech personality, singularly devoid of purpose, of substantiality.  The shadow-people.

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