John Walker's Electronic House

Hip Replacement

by on May.01, 2007, under The Rest

There are regions of Chicago for which I am not nearly hip enough. I have been introduced to them by those who qualify, and then have naughtily snuck back to enjoy their wares privately, despite falling woefully short of the requirements.

One such place is a coffee shop in Wicker Park (well, let’s face it, the whole of Wicker Park is somewhere I shouldn’t really be) called Earwax. See, by name alone it should be obvious to any that someone of my nature – not geek enough, not cool enough, not street enough, not skater enough, not smart enough, nor dumb enough to fit into any appropriate niche – should be keeping well away. Of course, I want to visit such a place. And not because it’s hip – that, if anything, makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to visit it for it’s peculiar combination of dingy lighting and brightly coloured furniture, the generous service and the decent food and drink. I like that it’s so odd-looking, but it’s that very odd-looking-ness that renders it hip beyond my means.

As I sit facing the open front of the store, watching the sort of people walking past who really ought to be in such an area, I notice that the music playing is Devendra Banhart. I’ve not heard this particular album (but since he releases about five a day, that’s not too surprising), and I concoct the plan that I could ask my extremely hip waitress whether this is Devendra Banhart. I’d be slightly unsure, and she’d say, “Yes! It is! You recognised Devendra Banhart, who is a hip singer, and as such are now welcomed into our fold as one of the Hip People.” She would then tell the other staff that I was now to be recognised as hip, and I would presumably receive some sort of appropriate in-house discount.

Another member of the staff put out some napkins on a table near mine. I looked at him, then back at my book, then back at him again certain that something was wrong.

This man was no more hip than I. If anything, he was more plain, more implanted in the background than I could claim – how could he possibly have the sheer cheek to have a job here? Here in Earwax, in Wicker Park?

And then I realised. This man – this genius – was beyond anything my simple mind could grasp. His presentation, his lack of hip, was a carefully cultivated style, perfected over years, until he had reached this zenith of an anti-hip appearance. He was, by far, the most hip man in the area. He was their king.

I didn’t ask about the music, but instead paid my bill and left.

5 Comments for this entry

  • Tim R

    People have often suggested that my hipness was of the ilk, phylum or genus – hipness in disguise. Personally I only think it’s disguised if you’re not very good at seeing…

  • Suki

    The thing about hipness is, if you think you are hip, by definition you aren’t. If you don’t realise you are, but you are, then that’s ok. If you deliberately think you’re not, you might be, but then it’s wasted.

    Either way, the moment you consider yourself hip, you’ve lost it, thus hipness is a wasted state of being. One can only focus on the matter at hand, which in this case was obtaining excellent food and drink. Thus, potential hipness was obtained (unknowingly).

  • Tedi Worrier

    Thus, hipness is in the eye of the Beholder … unless looking in a mirror

  • Tim R

    Indeed, TW. I also believe that true hipness is mirrorlike – If you think that the hip are not hip, it is because you are not hip; while if you do, you are. I haven’t worked out what happens if nonhipness is also mirrorlike, or anti-mirrorlike. Probably means you shouldn’t go judging people.

    John, are you saying it’s hip to be square, and could you sing it?

  • Tedi Worrier

    …but did you generously tip the generously servicing staff? … or is that not hip?

    So, the dilemma is that to be hip, one must be ahead of definition and aside from establishment so any emporium cast in bricks and mortar (or whatever) cannot by definition be “hip” … and, indeed, anything that can be defined as hip declsres its unhipness (?unhippness? – I’m sure the two Ps looks more defined … more symmetrical somehow).

    In fact, to have been declared unhip in Earwax MUST be the epitome of compliments to your suitability to stand shoulder to shoulder with humanity.

    I seek a darkened room to lie down