For the last several summers, my street has been host to an informal block party, to which I am not invited but have to put up with because I live there. I say “block party” but what I really mean is about a dozen shirtless middle-aged guys standing around or sitting in lawn chairs, smoking, burping, and throwing crumpled Bud Lite cans into the street. None of these people seem to have any discernible source of income since they’re out there during what normal people would call “working hours” (as well as half the night). I have no idea how they have money for beer and cigarettes but they’re out there night after night, getting drunk, heckling passing cars, and urinating on anything stationary.
Or at least that was the case until this year. We’ve had pretty pleasant stand-around-and-get-loaded weather for weeks now and yet I’ve seen no more than three people getting wasted on the sidewalk at once. At night things are eerily quiet. I don’t want to jinx it or anything...but, since I’m moving next week I don’t see the harm...I think they might be gone.
Stories of Troy’s “renaissance,” “rebirth,” “revitalization,” or whatever buzzword is hot in urban planning circles these days abound in the local media. I’ve noticed a lot more young people in skinny jeans and trilbys around the neighborhood. Is it possible that the hipsterification centered on downtown Troy the last few years is finally spreading? Just yesterday I parked behind a car covered in stickers about eating local and organic, including one that read, “VINYL IS KILLING THE MP3 INDUSTRY.” Much like the hobo codes of olden times, where hobos would mark trees with symbols indicating whether a house’s occupants were friendly or hostile, I think cars like that peppering a neighborhood’s streets are codes indicating that the gentrification train is on its way.
Young, hip urbanites are the kind of people that Troy is desperately seeking to attract but now as I’m slowly being surrounded by them I’m feeling even worse about the neighborhood than I did when my sidewalk was regularly covered in beer cans and urine.
One of the things I learned about going to graduate school in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is that I really can’t stand hipsters. The insufferable arrogance and self-loathing that permeates any hipster enclave is palpable. At least the drunks on my street would sometimes offer me warm Bud Lite and attempt to engage me in conversation, even if it was incoherent. The hipsters overtaking the block are surly and aloof. Any time one of them passes me on the street I get a smug half-smile and I can tell I’m being judged:
“I can tell just by smelling it that the coffee you’re drinking isn’t fair-trade organic.”
“You probably don’t even know what farm-to-table means.”
“What are you listening to? Yeah, okay, they were cool before they sold out and got a label. I remember when they had integrity.”
My days in my current place are numbered so I don’t worry about it too much. Maybe the hipster influx will eventually be total and Troy will become a sort of paradise for them, where the fountains flow with PBR and home microbrews and kale grows on every lawn and the streets are paved in vinyl records of bands you’ve probably never heard of. If that’s the case it’s probably for the best that I’m leaving. I’d prefer to remember the neighborhood as it was...before it got cool.