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Thank you, hipsters, for improving our quality of life

Posted: September 28th, 2012 | Communities, Featured, Lifestyle, North Park, Parenting |

Andy Hinds | Parenting

Andy Hinds

If you live Uptown and have the internet, you probably saw that North Park made it onto Forbes’ inaugural “America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods” list.

I was alerted to this accolade when my brother-in-law posted the list on Facebook so he could gloat that his Los Angeles ’hood of Silver Lake was deemed hippest in the land, at which I immediately scoffed. Because Forbes said so? Really? That’s where you look for confirmation of your hipster cred?

But then I scrolled through the list and saw there, in the 13th position, was a photo of two icons I could hit with a rock from my house: the North Park sign straddling University Avenue, and the Birch North Park Theater. I ignored the irony of the prominently featured Starbucks in the picture, and commenced digitally chanting “We’re number 13! We’re number 13!” via my own Facebook status.

Then I started wondering what the author of the list had meant by “hipster neighborhoods.” Was Forbes really impressed by the number of young adults with ill-fitting pants and fixed-gear bikes in North Park? Was I? My ambivalence about the term “hipster” and the slippery connotations behind it sent me back into the article, looking for an explanation to its methodology.

It turns out that the criteria for the list were a bit more substantive than the cliché of skinny jeans and Pabst Blue Ribbon (which the author nonetheless mentioned). They took into account things like walkability, coffee shops, food trucks, Farmers Markets, locally owned bars and restaurants, and the percentage of residents who work in artistic occupations.

So the things that make North Park – and other Uptown neighborhoods, of course – a pleasant place to live and raise a family were what qualified it as hip.

Last Sunday, after my wife brought home her haul from the Hillcrest Farmers Market, we walked with the kids to the Bud Kearns pool at Morley Field and splashed around for a couple hours. After that, we walked over to Babycakes by the tennis courts and scarfed down locally made pastries while watching some doubles tournament action.

Hey, I thought, we’re hipsters!

But I didn’t really feel like a hipster. I think of hipsters as being trendy, disaffected and subversive. And I mean that in the best possible way. Our Sunday outing, on the other hand, was more like a trip back in time to some idealized small town, where the sidewalks lead to worthwhile destinations, people interact without any attitude or artifice, and local merchants cheerfully provide you with unique goods.

It was like a culturally diverse Mayberry, but with more tattoos.

I have to admit that on some level, I’ve kidded myself that I could be at least a fraction as hip as the cool kids slouching down University Avenue. I own two fedoras. I grew a mustache last year. I have a fixie in my garage.

But the hats make me look like an Austrian businessman or a square dad from the 1950s. The mustache was for charity and it just made me look like a police officer. I only ride the fixed-gear bike at the Velodrome because why the hell would you not want gears and brakes when riding your bike on the street? I tried on some skinny jeans once and embarrassed myself, even though I never wore them out of the dressing-room stall.

While it’s become popular to heap mockery on young bohemians for their dedication to the ironically predictable trappings of nonconformity, I feel like their presence helps keep our neighborhoods eclectic and vibrant. If everyone in North Park dressed like a middle-aged parent, for whom comfort is the greatest priority, there might be fewer brew pubs and locally-sourced vegan cake-pop trucks, and more Paneras and Tilted Kilts.

I can accept the hipster label if it means living in a fantasy version of old-time urban America instead of the suburban dystopia that’s the reality for most families. Instead of shying away from a label that has become passé and a term of disdain, we should thank hipsters for keeping Uptown weird.

—Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad, blogger, freelance writer, carpenter and sometimes-adjunct writing professor. He is known on the internet as Beta Dad, but you might know him as that guy in North Park whose kids ride in a dog-drawn wagon. Read his personal blog at butterbeanandcobra.blogspot.com. Reach him at betadad@gmail.com or @betadad on Twitter.

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