Hipsters and Homeboys: A Dramatized Conversation--Part II

"The Hipsters are coming," indeed. A pair of lifelong Arroyo residents say they're willing to accept change, but ask for a bit more respect of the Highland Park's past.

Rigo and Elias, lifelong Northeast LA residents, are walking down York Blvd in Highland Park. It’s the weekend and people are out. There are families with kids coming out of restaurants and youngsters huddled in groups, talking their private gossip. It’s dusk and Rigo and Elias are heading over to to get some huaraches. On the way, they pass the old Verdugo Pet Shop, which recently closed. Along the way they strike up a conversation with Norman, a self-described newcomer to the neighborhood. Norman talks about the

Elias: Rigo, there’s a story about newcomers to L.A. turning a deaf ear to the original inhabitants. 

Norman: I thought that the white artists in the late 18th century were Highland Park's first inhabitants. 

E: Actually, were the first Highland Park inhabitants. They arrived here 8,000 years ago.

Rijo: Yeah, and the first white residents of Northeast LA were Spanish: the Verdugo family who owned all of Northeast LA from the Arroyo Seco to Griffith Park and from the L.A. River to La Cañada. Back then all of this was called Rancho San Rafael.

N: Oh. So that's why there's that street in Mt. Washington. So what's this story anyway?

R: When the Spanish first arrived in Los Angeles, they were looking for a place to build the Mission San Gabriel. They found this site they assumed was perfect next to the Rio Santa Ana in present day Montebello. Well the Tongva told them that it was a floodplain and that they should avoid building there. The Spanish looked down at the dry riverbed and laughed. There were no watermarks that evidenced a floodplain. They went ahead and built the Mission anyway. The very next rainy season a flash flood came and washed away most of the Mission’s crops and destroyed the building. The Spanish then decided to listen and moved the mission five miles away, to its present site.

N: OK, I hear you, and I agree, we should respect the past and value the contributions of those who came before. But speaking of respecting other cultures, since when did it become OK to hate on us, call us hipsters?

R: It's not OK to hate on anyone, and I don't support calling people names.

E: Yeah. Respect goes both ways.

N: Well, thanks, guys, but I'm not sure most people in Highland Park agree with you. Since when did hipster become another way of saying “white person I don’t like”?

R: Since you just said it right now. I’ve never heard the word hipster equated with “white” before. George W. Bush is white, and I dislike him. Does that make him a hipster?

E: I don’t like John Wayne, is he a hipster?

N: Come on! You guys know what I mean.

R: Actually, I don’t, and I don’t think that white people have a monopoly on hipster. I’ve seen Latino hipsters, African-American hipsters, Filipino hipsters and indigenous hipsters.

E: Hipsters are their own thing ...

N: But, I heard that some guy was just minding his own business hanging out with his friends outside a bar one night when someone yelled at him from a passing car.

R: What did they say?

N: F--k You! Hipster!

R: Well, that's not cool.

N: Yeah, of course not, but that's what I'm saying. The guy was a white guy, just trying to live, minding his own business. Then this Latino guy comes along ...

E: Wait, so the guy in the passing car was Latino? Did you see him?

N: Well, no. But I’m sure he probably wasn’t white, why else would he yell that? I just think that young white people are being hated on because they’re new here and want to make changes to their new neighborhood. We just want to eat things we like, shop for fashion we like--why would Latinos hate us for that? What’s wrong with that? I’m not a hipster, either, so enough with the putdowns.

E: I think that hating a hipster is something that lots of people do--it’s too much to imply or assume that hipster related hatred in Highland Park is done by Latinos. There are too many people in this world who detest hipsters to reduce it to one race against another.

R: Yeah. Even hipsters hate hipsters! What is a hipster anyway, Elias? It seems like there are so many around, but no one admits to being one.

E: Douglas Haddow tried to explain this strange phenomenon in the magazine Adbusters a few years back. His idea was that hipsters were a kind of bankrupt counterculture that did nothing to challenge the status quo. He wrote that they were too busy in self-concern to be considered an authentic countercultural movement. He wrote that they were “less a subculture ...” than “a consumer group–using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.” According to him, this is why no one wants to own up to being a hipster, and it’s probably the root of why people find them so wretched. They don’t stand courageously for anything outside themselves, they feel they can buy their authenticity and they feel no connection to the places they live in.

R: Wow, no wonder. So the young newcomers who've come into our area are not all hipsters. According to what you said, if they come here and respect all that has come before and have a real connection to the place, they aren't. Many young people that I've noticed in HLP aren't trying to "buy authenticity" either. I know they've helped bolster interest in the urban agriculture movement along with other front-yard farmers and I'm into that. Hey but even hipsters aren't all that bad, they got teenagers to stop wearing baggy pants.

N: Yeah. Check out all these Franklin kids with skinny jeans!

R: Plus they seem to like to eat at “authentic” places and hang out at neighborhood spots. I’ve even seen hipsters in old time Mexicano bars. And Norman just ate at El Huarache!

N: Hey! I’m not a hipster!

R: Just kidding, homeboy.

The three continue to walk down York Boulevard, hoping to gain a better understanding of each other and their neighborhood.

David O'Roscoe November 02, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Reies, You mentioned getting together for lunch to discuss. That sounds like fun, and if anyone else would like to join, just email me and we will see what we can arrange. My only request for you and anyone else, is that we not enter with the spirit of debate, but instead to discuss.
Reies Flores November 02, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Hi David, Sounds good to me and I agree, a debate over lunch is not enjoyable and can lead to indigestion! Discussion it is. I'll also ask Arturo if he would be interested. This week is busy for me, how's next week? We'll e-mail to sort out the where's and when's. Thanks, David.
David O'Roscoe November 02, 2011 at 04:35 PM
We'll discuss next week this week. Can I suggest brown bagging (I'm broke), maybe in a park, (easier to hear, the more the merrier, and parking), and open to all. Anyone interested email me or Reies. Looking forward to it!
Yesenia Avila November 02, 2011 at 05:39 PM
I feel like a lot of the problems people have with "Hipsters" in HLP is that they seem to be stealing some Highland Parks identity. I more then any one would like to see the neighborhood thrive and become a better version of its self but their have been plenty time i have heard the "newcomers" call Highland Park, Eagle Rock. And no offense to ER but this is no Eagle Rock. I miss so much of Highland Park before the cultural boom. Its weird to walk around some place I've lived for over 10 years and feel like a stranger.
kelly thompson November 03, 2011 at 04:23 PM
YA: I'm curious can you elaborate on what identity has been stolen and what has changed so much in 10 years. Also at what time do you think a cultural boom happened and what culture's are you talking about?
Susan C November 03, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I've been in Highland Park for 8 years, and I don't see it's identity changing... it's expanding. I can't understand why there needs to be this much strife about new things happening, old things getting embraced by new people. What exactly do you miss that you aren't seeing anymore? (I guess that's what Kelly's asking too... )
Timothy November 04, 2011 at 07:56 PM
You need to stop using the word "hipster". It is thinly veiled racism and classist at that. If you like stinky old pet stores, that's your problem. People who are ,moving into the neighborhood, buying homes and contributing to the community are not the problem. Respect is earned, not deserved. Simply because someone has lived somewhere for "a long time" does not mean they deserve the respect of "newcomers". So tired of this kind of boring, racist conversation.
John Carlucci November 05, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Change is inevitable. It's the cycle of life. The reason for the shift in demographics has more to do with the price of gasoline and our over-crowded freeways than most people realize. It's no longer practical or affordable to commute from bedroom communities like Santa Clarita, or the Inland Empire to reach jobs in LA County. People are moving closer to where they work. Highland Park is a good location because it's close to economic centers like Downtown, LA, Hollywood,Glendale & Burbank. There is common ground. It's amazing how much good will can be obtained by a smile or some small conversation. We're all the same. Working hard, raising our families, trying to get a head in life.
Nimby pimp November 05, 2011 at 01:31 AM
@Timothy. I second your impatience with this sophomoric conversation. The youngsters who provoked it have failed to contribute anything interesting to the subject. More annoying is their unwillingness to own up to their apparently abundant class and racial anger. Editor, please close comments on this circle jerk.
Timothy November 05, 2011 at 03:55 AM
@Nimby Pimp: it has nothing do to with "youngsters", it has more to do with the "oldsters" who demand unearned respect. And yes, their class and racial anger is in abundant evidence. Refer to the eastsider blog and other patch sites. Get over your old school self and embrace the future....
David Fonseca (Editor) November 05, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Timothy, I appreciate your willingness to comment--however--I think your accusation of racial anger is not going to foster a productive conversation. Thanks.
Timothy November 05, 2011 at 04:52 AM
David, the racial anger accusation was made by nimby pimp, I merely commented on it.
Reies Flores November 05, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Hi Susan C. I have a feeling that we know each other as well. I am only responding to your piece as it is the last of these three connected comments. Hello also to Kelly and to Yesenia. This will be the last comment strand I will participate in that is not related to the article, though I have been accused of racism below and I will address that. Let me start by thanking you all for commenting and joining this dialogue. Yesenis, I will have to stress and point out that while you should express your opinion, using the word "stealing" is wrong and accusitory and should not be used in this conversation. Though you may have genuine feelings of resentment about the changes, I think that you should structure your argument in a more productive way. Our "conversation" pieces were meant to bolster respect, not have people attacking each other. I think that Kelly and Susan ask some good questions that deserve responses and if you do respond, I feel that this strand can become an excellent dialogue about our changing communities. Kelly and Susan, as I stated, you ask very good questions of Yesenia and you do so respectfully. You had the right to be affronted, and you did not act so, which is very big of both of you. Thank you. I don't think that Yesenia's point was made well and her language was inappropriate, however, I think that under that is someone who has the right to feel "displaced" or like a "stranger" in her own community and these feelings should be recognized/discussed.
Reies Flores November 05, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Hi Timothy, Thanks for your comments. I will only respond that I have not, nor will not call anyone a "hipster". I feel that you have misunderstood the piece and if you read it again (or get past the first 4 lines of the first part) you might agree. I understand that you have the right to voice your opinion, but calling me a racist and classist (yes, you used the 2nd person) is a very serious charge. One that you cannot back out of making by throwing the blame onto poor Nimby. About respect: I think that our conversation pieces attempted to promote respecting everyone. I'm sorry that you viewed that as racist. If you would like to tell me specific sections of our piece that were racist I will try to converse with you. I believe that respect is not something to be earned, but should be given to all people. I understand that we allow our emotions to get the better of us and we are all imperfect. I see that your view on respect is different from mine and that is fine. I must ask, though: Do you think you earn respect by comments like this? Thank you, look forward to your response.
Reies Flores November 05, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Hello Mr. Pimp, Thank you for commenting on our piece. I am sorry that you found it sophomoric and that you felt it did not contribute anything to the subject. We felt that it did well to address certain issues that were lacking in David O'Roscoe's piece "the hipsters are coming" and I think that eveidenced by the comment strand of part 1, our piece did contibute a lot to the subject. If there are any sections that you would like to speak to me about that you find racist and classist I am willing to talk about them, but as I wrote to Timothy, accusing someone of racial and class anger is a serious charge that should not be made lightly. I look forward to your reply, but next time, please keep your perversions to yourself.
Reies Flores November 05, 2011 at 04:42 PM
I'm not saying that it needs to be done in this strand, here and now, and by us. I just mean that these feelings are real, and I'm trying to promote empathy for both sides. No one should attack people like you Kelly or Susan, for merely trying to exist and live and value a community. I also think that Yesenia's point of view should also be valued and empathized with, rather than rejected outright as crying over spilled milk, as I feel has been done in other places in this conversation, not here by Kelly and Susan. Thanks again, I look forward to this dialogue.
Nimby pimp November 05, 2011 at 05:32 PM
@Reies. We are not going to agree about the value of this conversation and I will certainly not spend any more time in it. If the number of comments are an indication of the value of your offering, then you have indeed been successful. (You would also elicit reaction if you yelled "fire" in a crowded theater on a Friday night.) The charge of racial or class anger was not meant pejoratively. Indeed, the conflict that these feelings can inspire, often moves history forward. The Occupy movement now underfoot in our country is inspired by a class anger appropriate to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The Civil Rights era (which produced some of this country's finest accomplishments) was fired by a great deal of appropriate racial outrage. I'm OK with class and racial anger. What annoys me is the passive-aggressive way in which you fellows have conducted yourself here. It is a little insidious.
Timothy November 06, 2011 at 09:00 PM
@Reies: I believe there is a level of social respect and consideration that is given to all people. However, I think you are speaking of something different. You have created and artificial divide between "longtime residents" and newcomers, i.e. outsiders. Because of your status you think that special respect or validation should be given. Perhaps if "longtime" residents were more welcoming to new members of the community, who are investing in the neighborhood, respect would be mutual. It's a two way street.
kelly thompson November 17, 2011 at 04:39 PM
I thought this article was interesting. Look who displaced who back in the day. Long before the recent rumblings of displacement in the name of progress. Let's face it to say the word hipsters doesn't refer to white folks, artists or young professionals is bullshit to say the least passive aggressive. The word Hipster is a derogatory term given to a group by others that despise them. The term Homeboy on the other hand comes from within the community of which it represents and is an endearing term used within the community as a symbol of brotherhood and pride. I don't think there is a word in the white community that is used as racial pride and not seen as racist by others. To say that there is not a racial divide in the community or country is naive. I can only speak for myself as a white girl. If I was a racist I certainly wouldn't have moved here. I respect the community and don't want to see anyone displaced. I feel that the feeling is not always mutual. There is a fear I think among the elder Latin community members and also a hate among some of the younger militant members, understandability so in some cases. That being said I hope that this conversation can bridge some of the divides in the community. I believe there are enough people in our unique community in all sections of the color wheel that truly do want to create a harmonic community where we all have a place. http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/highland-park/rise-of-the-inner-city/avenues.html
Susan R December 04, 2011 at 06:14 AM
This is a serious issue that deserves a serious discussion. I would also like to go to lunch to discuss this issue. Or maybe the neighborhood council meetings might be a good place to get some diversity training for the neighborhood along with the city attorney's office.
John Carlucci January 14, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I saw this cartoon in today's LA Times & it reminded me of this thread. This is exactly the rhetoric that we do not need in our community. It's divisive & if any other racial nickname was used instead of the word "Hipster", the times would be inundated with complaints. But since we all know Hipster = Whitey this is suppossed to be okay? Go to the link below... http://www.gocomics.com/lacucaracha/2012/01/13


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