By Kenneth Justice
“I just the vibe that they aren’t interested in clicking with me at all” he said
~ This past weekend I visited Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the most recent stop of my Drinking in the Culture Tour. Pittsburgh is a fascinating city. Prior to going I had imagined it was a city that had long since seen its glory days; a steel town whose best years were behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the picture I had in my mind of the city was entirely wrong.
Pittsburgh is a thriving city. Set in the backdrop of early 20th century brick architecture, new construction has popped up all over the place and the city is bustling with energy and excitement. It’s a fun city to drive around in thanks to it being situated in the mountains and surrounded by three massive rivers; beautiful bridges, awesome tunnels, and coffee shops are around every turn.
One of the people I met at coffee over the weekend is a New York transplant; a young man in his early thirties he’s been living in Pittsburgh for the past 3 years because of work,
“I really enjoy this city” he said, “Before I moved here I had a pretty negative perspective of what the place was like, but once here I was excited to find out that many of my thoughts about Pittsburgh were simply wrong. It’s not a cold place void of culture; it’s actually got a great music and arts scene and the bar district in South Side is one of the coolest places the hang out on a Friday night” he said
But all is not rosy with the young man’s experience of living in this Rust Belt city, “my only complaint is that the overwhelming majority of young adults in this city are hipsters; and they are not the most welcoming group of people. The hipster pretty much hate me because I don’t fit into their cliques” he said
If you’re not familiar with the modern vernacular description of hipster; think of other-worldly mustaches, beards, thick rimmed glasses, long sleeved flannel shirts, and the type of people who only like the bands ‘back before they became famous’ and now only listen to music you’ve never heard of before.
“I’ve always liked mainstream music” he told me, “but if I’m hanging out at a café or bar and trying to connect with strangers to make friends, explaining to them that I like Cold Play is pretty much the kiss of death in the conversation” he said
At one coffee shop I visited on the South Side the place was crawling with hipsters; retro skinny jeans, walrus mustaches, and uppity attitudes to complement their physical appearances. A couple middle aged women came in for lunch, and to borrow the colloquialism they looked like fish out of water. The two women tried smiling at a couple hipsters sitting in the corner but received nothing back but icy stares.
This is no new phenomenon to the human experience; people as old as time have banded together to form cliques. Often in the past it was a way of preserving their safety in the midst of war-mongering cultures. But now-a-days in a time when you don’t have to worry about an outsider sneaking up behind you with a wooden club and stealing your daughter away to be his wife; why the bloody hell we still form cliques is beyond my understanding.
Why are we so standoffish to each other in Western Culture? Why are so many people unlikely to open up to strangers? Are we cynical, scared, arrogant or simply stupid? Of course, my yearlong coffee house tour is in many ways the opportunity for me to highlight the positive elements of meeting strangers; so far in my travels I’ve met a lot of people and have heard many different stories. I’ve been surprised at how warm and friendly people have been towards me over the past few trips to Atlanta, Chicago, and now Pittsburgh.
But I wonder; how much has my experience traveling this year been connected to my own ability to talk to people from different walks of life? If I was more of a Sci-Fi nerd or dressed in a three piece suit or wore Wrangler jeans from the 1990’s; would strangers still be apt to talk to me and tell me stories about their city and life?
How much have my experiences on this coffee house tour been connected to my own ability at being open and transparent with strangers? The young man at coffee over the weekend explained to me that he simply didn’t know how to talk the language of hipsters, “I try listening to bands I’ve never heard of before, but when I try and talk about them with the hipsters I sound awkward and forced” he said
Do the hipsters hate me? I guess you’d have to ask them, but if they do hate me perhaps they could have a nice time talking making fun of me with the Orthodox Jewish man who turned his nose up at me over the weekend,
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society