When Home Turns into Hipsterville - Charlotte Adamis

            For years, my city was the kind of place where everybody wanted things to get better, but nobody wanted anything to change. I never thought of myself as one of those people. I didn’t see how we were supposed to get better without making changes. We’d been struggling through a slump since the late 1980s, ever since IBM, the area’s largest employer, pulled out.
            And while changes to our cultural and economic fabric started after 9/11, when folks started to vacate the big cities in search of smaller, friendlier, more human-scaled places, the pandemic years opened the floodgates. People couldn’t get to Kingston, New York, fast enough.
            My adopted hometown has become a mecca for hipsters. To my surprise, I find myself struggling between acceptance and resentment.
            On the one hand, I appreciate that a healthy portion of our newest residents have arrived with enough spendable income to sustain all the new amenities ‒ the upscale restaurants, the art galleries, the specialty grocery shops, the clothing boutiques. When my husband and I bought our house in this small city twenty-three years ago, you could walk down any of our commercial streets on a Sunday, close your eyes, and easily imagine tumbleweeds. Now I get to walk to an indie bookstore from my house in less than ten minutes. It’s open seven days a week, and it serves wine and beer and specialty coffees.
            On other hand, I’d like to know who can afford a $600 skirt? Or more to the point, what kind of person would pay $600 for a skirt? Not someone like me, that’s for sure.
            Then again, I am a daughter of privilege. I grew up in Scarsdale. So, I’m hardly in a position to judge. I also used to be hip. But that was forty years ago, when I was in my 20s. Back when hip meant being broke and grungy. We were the artists and writers, musicians and actors. We bought our clothing in thrift stores. We lived in abandoned warehouses in sketchy neighborhoods. I once lived on a block in Southeast Boston where I could look out the window, day or night, and see a prostitute giving a blowjob or a car being torched.
            But once investors saw the potential of our large, cheap spaces, they priced us out and moved in people with the big bucks. And now it’s happening all over again. Here. Probably in a lot of places.
            Recently, I stumbled upon a new boutique in a neighborhood where many residents in my city are still struggling economically. I would never even have noticed the shop if my son, who was visiting from Brooklyn, hadn’t said, “Hey, Mom, check it out!”
            Nothing about the exterior had announced the presence of a retail business inside the old, industrial building. I admit, the interior was gorgeous. Like something you’d see in SoHo. And it wasn’t just pricey clothing and jewelry that were being sold, but a lifestyle. What I’d call “country living for wealthy hipsters.”
            “So,” I said to the boutique owner, “What’s your business strategy?” The store had clearly not been situated for foot or vehicular traffic.
            “Think of this more like an online shopping experience,” she said. “People know where to find us.”
            WTF? Apparently I was not “people.” I’d driven past it for months without noticing her store. But my sense of outrage, also gave me pause. What did people living here think of my husband and me when we first arrived on the scene?   We worked hard to become part of the fabric. Our jobs were local. Our children went to the local public schools. I volunteered for local organizations, supported local, Democratic candidates for office, attended a myriad of protests ‒ I still do. But it’s highly probable that none of this endeared us to the locals.
            A friend of ours who has lived and worked here for decades, and who still pens columns about local issues, was once told by a born-and-bred Kingstonian, “What the fuck do you know about this city ‒ you’re from Poughkeepsie.” Poughkeepsie is only twenty miles away.
            I get it. Our identities are wrapped up in our communities. The first few years after we bought our house, the former owner would walk by and grimace at the changes we’d made. And that was before we painted the house purple. And while I have no trouble identifying with the progressive brand of activism that many of our newest residents have brought with them, I get my hackles up when they act like our city was a blank slate just waiting to be reformed ‒ by them. I want to gripe like Rodney Dangerfield, “I don’t get no respect!” Alas, the reference is passé. But that’s the way I feel some days.
            Like on the morning I went out snowshoeing with my friend, Karen, another long-time transplant, on a state trail that runs along the Hudson River. The city portion of the trail borders a piece of private property that was turned into a glamping resort. (Don’t get me going. That land should have been kept open to the public.)
            But anyway, Karen and I were just passing by the resort when we happened to see a bald eagle perched on a tree, maybe thirty yards over the property line. Yet as soon as we stepped over the line to get a better look, a young man came rushing toward us. Two, little gray-haired ladies.
            “There’s an eagle up there,” I said. “Look!”
            The property line trumped the eagle. He insisted we leave immediately. I wish I’d thought to remind him that my friend and I supported the environmental policies that made it possible for the resurgence of the bald eagles and the clean-up of the Hudson River. There wouldn’t be a glamping resort without us.
            I wonder, must we continue to be so binary when it comes to human migration? Can’t we welcome the new and find ways to make room for the old? If not, I’m pretty sure that one day there will be people reminiscing about the time they could buy a skirt for “only” $600. I won’t be among them.

Charlotte Adamis is a retired school librarian, and it makes her nuts when people ask her if she’s bored. Never. She fills her time in Kingston, N.Y., with writing, reading, gardening, birding, hiking, dancing, early a.m. swims at the Y and, during the summer months, at Minnewaska, where she can lie on her back in the lake and watch the pitch pines whisper along the ridgeline. She also believes passionately in community service and currently volunteers as a member of the city’s Ethics Board. She lives in a purple house with her husband, Tony. Their two sons live in Brooklyn, which is what happens to young people. They leave, and then they come back. Or maybe that’s just a Jewish mother’s not-so-secret wish. Charlotte is working on a memoir and her stories have appeared in Brevity Blog, Hippocampus, and HerStry. She’s also read her work on the stage for WritersRead.