East side Hipster Domestication
The Path of East Side Hipster Domestication
Just as there have been several extinction events, the Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction killing the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago being the most well-known of them, hipster domestication (and migration) also had several iterations. We’re honing in on the infamous East Side Hipster – as opposed to the Williamsburg or Brooklyn Hipster, Portland(ia) Hipster or even the Westside Hipster because that type illustrates several important behaviors that are unique to the species and the process of gentrification. The West Side Hipster is a whole other animal anway. Truly.
The Early Days: Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Egads! Echo Park!
The LA East Side started out roaming wild and free somewhere in Silver Lake in the very late 1990s and early 2000s (when your only choices to eat on Sunset were Millie’s), or Los Feliz (before Cap-n-Cork was a “nice” liquor store), or maybe even Echo Park (when, as an old boyfriend said excitedly, “you can buy a hill mansion in the hood!”) And a hood it was. When we visited friends on Lake Shore in 2000, we were the only ones not sporting white knee socks, baggy khaki shorts, and Adidas athletic slippers. But OMG, the 50-cent carne asada tacos at the corner of Alvarado and Berkeley were insane! (We were afraid to park our Toyota).
The neighborhood herds developed very sophisticated mating rituals including various subtle dance moves at The Lucky Bar or interpreting the facial expressions or body language of the opposite sex at a coffee shop on Vermont called Onyx. This was pre-cell phones and people still carried journals to write their screenplays in, and books to show off their literary savoir-faire. Other popular hangouts to nonchalantly eye the opposite sex included Spaceland (because back then everyone was in a band or band-adjacent) and the Silver Lake Lounge. Funny though, because shoegazer indie rock wasn’t very conducive to making eye contact.
There were no craft cocktails or craft coffees and the rent was cheap. How did hipster males and females connect pre-Tinder? They met at house parties where people still actually danced and talked and didn’t Instagram or Snapchat or … Just imagine! Real human connection.
Hipsters had to hustle to look cool. They shunned malls and one couldn’t just order a Black Sabbath or Neil Young T-shirt on Amazon, or buy one at Urban Outfitters. Imagine the horror! There wasn’t even an Urban Outfitters in LA – yet. One had to trek to the holy grail in San Francisco, maybe stopping at Haight & Ashbury to pay respects to those who came before, the actual hip(pies) and beatniks and (hep)sters that started the whole glorious mess.
So LA East Side Hipsters lived happily in Los Feliz (which had gorgeous mansions but rent was a steal), Silver Lake and some daredevils in Echo Park, which back then felt like the end of the world, a wasteland of danger with an aura of left-over ‘80s gang violence.
Even though they were already in their late 20s and early 30s then, late-blooming East Side Hipsters had no kids, being busy with more important things like becoming a rock star or being an artist – certainly not working as a banker and making actual money. After all, many of us had trust funds, and you could still survive by working at a record store at the Sunset Junction. It was enough to do yoga at Ahimsa and buy a martini to listen to Marty and Elaine at the Dresden.
Bean burritos and street tacos were popular fare. If you wanted something healthy you had to head to Erewhon all the way past Vermont, past Highland even! Mainstream and bourgeois danger signs flashing. It was a time, though, when traffic was mild and shopping at Fred Segall’s on Melrose or all the way on Robertson Boulevard while spotting stars was a breeze. But the East Side had its own celebs. Beck sightings were common and Elliott Smith had not OD’d yet. Madonna had a house in Los Feliz!
Babies! Or: Moving on East to Eagle Rock
Anyway, we digress. A major life changing and a far-reaching incident occurred, akin to the Ice Age. The baby bump thing happened. In tabloids and burgeoning pop culture sites online, celebs were being spotted with baby bumps over their low-cut designer jeans from Seven for All Mankind, and Hipster chicks were on totally onboard. It was a season for loving and mating and producing offspring.
Now it was time for doulas, $1,000-plus strollers, BPA-free sippy cups and overpriced diapers and wipes from Seventh Generation plus researching zinc sunscreens that cost $30. It was a time for biodynamic baby food and organic everything.
It also meant needing more space for a rocking chair to nurse a baby and all the clutter that comes with a baby and how about a backyard and some plants and trees? How about some greenery and nature, some wholesome childhood goodness? So Hipsters migrated. En masse. And they migrated farther east.
Eagle Rock had (and luckily still does. Thank you!) a sweet small-town, Main Street vibe, and Mt. Washington boasted those curvy, steep, often sidewalk-less streets and canyons, providing a perfect backdrop for a starter home.
At first, there wasn’t much in terms of eating, drinking and doing, but things quickly got mega gentrified, as things go. Swork had good coffee. Cacao Mexicatessen had good homemade tortillas. There was a Trader Joe’s and a Target. Yes, Hipsters at Target! Once you have a family, American Rack on La Brea just won’t cut it for the kids. Also, Eagle Rock and Mt. Washington had affordable home prices.
The Altadena Upgrade
But alas, the starter home was soon outgrown by the brood as well. Hipsters needed space and more of it. And actual, real wide-enough sidewalks for meeting neighbors and teaching the little ones to ride a bike. And where was space to be found? In Altadena, of course, with all of its woodsy beauty and bucolic foothills and hiking in Eaton Canyon (This was before all of the current illicit smoking and annoying speakers playing Drake started happening.) and Mallard Falls (Pssst, don’t tell anyone.), And? Nice people, no tagging and, most importantly, great schools.
Yes, our kids were all destined to become geniuses and we didn’t want them to rub their now Polo-clad shoulders (an upgrade from cute H&M shirts and adorable skinny jeans) with starving artist type wee ones. Our kids were designed for a future at JPL and Harvard and, wait a minute… Hipsters were embracing mainstream Ivy League schools? Well no, our kids were going to go to Berkeley and study the nascent #metoo movement or maybe become, yes, an artist at Sara Lawrence or start the new Facebook or accelerate atoms at CERN. For that, they needed either an expensive Waldorf education or one of the charter schools with waitlists of 500, if you weren’t on the public school train.
Downtown Did It, Too
Even Hipsters that had migrated to Downtown and were key players in creating the very cool Arts District with its chic and metropolitan Loft living decided to ditch the urban flair for woodsy enclaves that required you to seek the advice of an arborist. In fact, now it was time for a staff: pool person, house cleaner, reliable handyman, healer, acupuncturist, private tutor, music teacher, personal assistant. Hipsters had moved up in the world.
How was this even financially feasible? Well, they remembered that they had expensive college degrees and ditched their guitars and yoga mats for real jobs that made real money. The yoga mats and guitars actually stayed, but now Hipsters had their own in-house, sound-proof music studios, man caves, home offices and yes, even yoga rooms for women’s circles and private teachers. Space was the final frontier!
Now life was about juggling multiple kid drop-offs and pickups with karate, fencing classes, horse-riding lessons, archery, acting, advanced pastels and swim team. It was about $15 green juice to get us through the day and ten dollar organic eggs. It was about Bulletproof coffee with grass-fed ghee and Brain Octane, and avoiding the treacherous siren call of gluten. Life was good. Life IS good. Very good.
Now What? Yucca Valley? Tuscany?
What’s next? Perhaps a second home in Tuscany or Yucca Valley (That’s where all the cool kids are currently moving to.)? A complete remodel? The latter is becoming a fast reality as even hipsters have aging parents that might need a grandfather unit. And importing one’s Mom and Dad from wherever the heck they live, Florida or upstate New York, Berlin or Paris, means free childcare and the benefit of having a decent-size family that goes beyond the mini nucleus so common in LA.
For while Hipsters start out as lone wolves in society-shunning, holier-than-though small packs, they too come to their senses and want a village to raise their kids. And a village, a luxurious and amenity-loaded one, is to be had in our lovely east-side neighborhoods.