If you’re anything like me, you’ve romanticised the hell out of Williamsburg/Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is most likely because you either a) love ‘Girls’ (I’m guilty!), or b) wish you were a little bit cooler like Jenny in Gossip Girl – or basically any hip-hop star (also guilty). It’s no coincidence that two of the ‘coolest’ nights out of my life have been in Brooklyn – one was an insanely fun, legitimate Sorority party which ended in me being called ‘snowflake’ repeatedly and rapped at on the subway home (I was one of only two white women in attendance), and the other was a bit of a rock chick soiree. There’s an energy in that borough that makes you feel alive, I swear.
As you can probably tell, I’ve been out in Williamsburg itself before. It was three years ago, and I was randomly in New York, by myself, because I genuinely love to travel alone. My friends, who were in the band Rise To Remain at the time (now As Lions), had a day off from their ridiculously lengthy 9 week stint on the prestigious rock fest that is the Warped Tour. After doing the tourist stuff, they wanted to go for a drink to blow off steam. I trekked across Williamsburg to meet them, and we ended up in a little bar called Matchless.
It was fun, there was a lot of drink, music, laughs and jokes between old friends and new. I don’t care what anyone says about the area – I would happily recreate a similar night – bands, tattoos, piercings and all.
So What DO People Say About Williamsburg?
Basically, picture Shoreditch, or to a lesser extent, Camden or Hoxton. They dismiss it as full of ‘hipsters’ – a ‘hipster haven’, if you will. I personally think this kind of talk smacks of classic ‘accismus’ – a kind of feigned disdain for things that people secretly desperately want to be a part of. I’ll admit, I don’t think anyone’s exactly dying to be anti-mainstream and all that crap (except, you know, those people that are!), but I find a hilarious irony in people making fun of this group of people, who often aren’t all too different from the jokers themselves. Hypocrisy, much? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – suddenly not liking something because you’re a bit of a hipster now isn’t cool – but nor is acting exactly like that in dismissing them. It’s like hipster-ception! Yes, there’s something hilarious about the fact that being a ‘hipster’ is super popular, but so is bashing them. Anything patronizing, pretentious, or even just annoyingly smug can be a bit much for most of us, but I think before we write it all off, we have to look in the mirror.
American ‘hipsters’ in particular tend to like art and music, have tattoos and piercings, and, crucially, they love to tell everyone about how they freelance or how they write or blog. Um, hello? If I was to start acting like I was above this, I’d basically be taking shots at myself! They may well basically be graduated scene kids or goths, and they may well also be pretty privileged, but I guess I am too. Sue me! They also tend to get involved in ’causes’ – like the environment, or feminism, or LGBT rights. Shut up and do something productive before you judge stuff like that, just saying. Despite all that, I’m not going to deny that your classic ‘too cool for school’ hipster is somewhat annoying and irritating, because – duh. Anything patronizing, pretentious, or even just annoyingly smug can be a bit much for most of us, but I think before we write it all off, we have to look in the mirror.
Where Are You Going With This…?
So this post turned into a bit of a rant. I basically originally wanted to tell a funny story about how I tried to recreate the same feeling of awesomeness I had that time I went out drinking in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, except I massively failed. If you take one thing from this post, please let it be this! If you randomly get off at the first train station that your phone tells you is vaguely in Williamsburg, you will most likely fail MISERABLY in finding anywhere remotely cool.
For the best part of 45 minutes, I dragged my boyfriend around a Jewish neighborhood declaring “it’s honestly the best place ever, I promise!”, over and over. As time went on, I became less and less self assured. Eventually, when the signs in English almost completely disappeared (replaced with Hebrew), I realized I’d quite possibly (make that definitely…) got us lost like a mile from where we needed to be. Oops. By this point though, we were tired, and so we just admitted defeat, and headed home.
What I wish I had known was the name of the bar I visited in 2012. I have only since been reminded, but had I known that night, I could have used Google Maps to head straight there.
Where Should I Actually Go?
If you read nothing else in this article, read this part. I needed a quick little summary before I went, but I didn’t have it so had to make it up alone! Remember, Google Maps is your friend if you’re looking for specifics, but here’s some basic tips.
If you’re a creative type, or you like things a little alternative – hell, if you’re a full grown hipster – good for you not being in denial like the rest of them – here’s where you need to head. Take the G train on the MTA to Nassau Avenue, or Greenpoint Avenue. You can also take various buses along Bedford Avenue, and get off when you see the cool bits. Yes, this is technically Greenpoint, within Williamsburg. Yes, this is confusing. Around here, you’ll find as many bars, gig venues, coffee shops and tattoo parlors as you could possibly want to keep yourself happy to your heart’s content! As mentioned above, I do personally recommend Bar Matchless, on Manhattan Ave, but just use it as a starting point, if you want!
I Basically Just Want To Follow Lena Dunham’s Footsteps And Do A ‘Girls’ Tour…
You and me both, sister. You and me both. I actually did a bit of a pilgrimage, thanks to this Guardian article which told me where to go. ‘Girls’ is the best, if you’ve not seen it, and I really hope they make a bus tour based on the show in future! One place, Peter Luger’s steakhouse (where Jessa goes for dinner one night) was a total accident, and we went because of its reputation (not deserved, actually…). The other place, Cafe Grumpy, has been featured many times on the show, and Hannah even worked there. Here’s a little picture of me outside.
It’s funny, I can picture myself doing my writing in a place like that, and fitting in among the clientele. It’s probably not completely random that whilst I was watching the show recently, Dougie asked me “if I modelled my life on these women”. I don’t, but I do feel an affinity with their characters!
There’s my summary of Williamsburg. It both is – and isn’t – the ultimate hipsterville. Do not expect to just get off a train and see the spots you love from ‘Girls’, or beautiful tattooed men. The chances are, you will get lost in a random neighborhood, because Williamsburg, like everywhere in New York, is a beautifully diverse place. Do your research, and you will have fun though. I’ll leave you with Armor For Sleep’s song, fittingly titled Williamsburg…
WELCOME TO BROOKLYN! xx