Monday, August 6, 2007

We Are The Hipsters!

SUNDAY: Just kidding, didn't actually go to church. Instead, Cassie and Emmett and Ashley and I crashed the Camden Market: bigger, badder, hotter, and way more crowded than Portobello (which is possible, incredibly). Between the stalls selling hanger after hanger of clever/edgy t-shirts (classy ones like "F the Gap" and one with the WB logo that read: "If you see the police, Warna Brotha") and the stalls selling pipes and cannabis lollies, we found a few gems. I bought a lovely skirt from an Australian woman (after visiting her website I discovered that she is/was an Australian soap star), and ate a Moroccan chicken kebab pita for lunch. It was delicious. Cassie and I hung about for a bit before wandering back towards our bus stop, at which point we succumbed to the siren call of... Burger King. WAIT, LET ME EXPLAIN. It was tres hot, we felt like ice cream, and suddenly the lure of the 99-pence BK Fusion (and it's advertising campaign) overcame. We had strawberry cheesecake, and I unashamedly say it was delicious and rather economical. Unlike the Burger King meals themselves, where a hamburger/fries/drink set would cost about ten American joke dollars. Strange. We boarded our bus and returned to Hughes Parry for dinner and to recover from the heat and excitement. Then eveningtime: Paul had cued us into the Shoreditch Festival, a free all-day concert in Shoreditch Park that Time Out London hailed as "the one festival you must walk into." So we took a long bus ride up to Shoreditch, disembarked, and suddenly were surrounded by an absolute sea of hipsters. THE skinniest, most skeletal jeans, THE most "casually greasy" hair, THE biggest sunglasses, THE most ostentatious Hello Kitty earrings, THE most incredible eyeshadow. And interspersed amongst said sea of sters were men in business suits, tatooed women in jumpers, punks with spiky mohawks and sparkly face paint. My favorite hairstyle was sported by one young woman in all black: her doo was spiky in the back and gave way to bangs molded into a seven-inch purple unicorn horn. Shoreditch Park was quite the scene: trash and people sprawled indiscriminately as far as the eye could see, grouped here and there around bandstands and carnival games. We meandered through the refuse and listened to a few talented groups, one with a great saxophonist and a lead singer who moved like Pete Townshend when playing guitar. As one band finished, we moved to the big tent where a headliner was performing - the songs were unfamiliar to us, but everyone else seemed to know the words. It was getting rather rowdy, and at one point, as one song had finished and there was a bit of a lull, the whole front of the tent erupted in a chorus of: "WE ARE THE MODS, WE ARE THE MODS, WE ARE, WE ARE, WE ARE THE MODS!!" I almost died. I chanted with them. Loudly. The Mods are alive and well, and we found them: apparently they just dress as hipsters now. MODS broke out a few more times, especially loudly when one concert organizer came onstage and told everyone to move back and calm down or the concert would be cancelled. Then it was particularly spirited. I felt great. Cassie and I got out before too much mayhem could go down and took a bus back to King's Cross, where we met up with Joel P. from Berkeley, whose family lives a little bit away in Hampstead Heath. We patronized the Marquis de Cornwallis, our local pub, and then went home. Camden, Shoreditch, Mods, Cornwallis. Great great great. SPECIAL NOTE: The Who's red circle inside white circle inside blue circle symbol is totally ubiquitous. It's everywhere, sometimes labeled, generally not, and in full force at Shoreditch. WAY cool.

MONDAY: Class with Professor Isenstadt, then the trip to the Design Museum, which was longer than expected and required two subways and a lovely walk across the Tower Bridge. Today was beautiful-day-in-a-row #3, and Cassie, Sarah and I grabbed lunch at the Picnic Basket Sandwich Shop just South of the bridge. Apparently it is "famous," and two funny Italian men made our sandwiches and doled out free and delicious tomato and lentil drinkable soup (which "Papa" was cooking in back). We met the group at the Design Museum for a tour of the Zaha Hadid exhibit with the curator of the museum. Hadid is pretty incredible - she has several major projects going on worldwide right now, but apparently still teaches at Yale one semester a year. We saw buildings, vases, chairs, tables, chandeliers, and a car designed by Hadid - one fibreglass chair was being sold for 7,000 pounds in the gift shop. After the Design Museum, Cassie and I took a bus over to the Barbican, an enormous and totally overwhelming concrete Brutalist structure that houses businesses and flats and a gigantic theatre complex. We were only able to wander through the huge pavilions and water features and elevated walkways for a short while, as we were tired and a bit creeped out - the entire Barbican was almost entirely abandoned. No people anywhere - it was like the film 28 Days Later, only the set was a large and ominous building experiment from the 1980's. We scurried away to the Farringdon tube station and took a train to King's Cross, then caught a bus to Hackney. We strolled through the neighborhood to a Turkish diner encouragingly called Ali Baba's, where we shared a chicken shish kebab pita (with some incredibly spicy sauce on the side) and chips in a pita. It was delicious, and we spoke with "Jim," the Turkish gentleman who was cooking and who had lived in England for five years. After dinner, we bought some incredible (but not as good as Mom's) Turkish baklava at the bakery next door. Apparently pistachios happen in Turkish baklava... mmmm. We then arrived at the Arcola for a performance of Calderon's "The Great Theatre of the World:" the script is old as Shakespeare but originally written in Spanish rhyming couplets. I was pleasantly surprised by the production: the everyman-esque play was generally very well done, with a great performance by the woman playing the Stage Manager/World. We had a very pleasant bus ride home with Professors Roach and Isenstadt, and Joe's daughter Kate. At the moment, a large contingent of adolescents is singing Oasis' "Wonderwall" nine floors down outside my window. It's rather charming.

1 comment:

Todd and Adam Stone said...


I'm a journalist in New York and I'm looking to do a story on the "hipster" culture that arguably was started in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I read your block about visiting Shoreditch and encountering a lot of hipster types.

Might you know anyone who lives in Shoreditch who I could speak to?

If so, that would be really helpful.

Also, if you respond with your name and where you're from, that would be very helpful as well.

Thanks a lot,
Todd Stone