Until recently, I lived in what was probably the least cool area of New York City: a cluster of housing cooperatives in a tucked-away corner of Manhattan’s Lower East Side classed as a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. This unpretentious spot was full of old New Yorkers who had lived in the complex their entire lives.
It was all very charming, apart from the fact that each week there would be a sign in the lobby announcing yet another resident’s demise. When I moved in, about a decade ago, I brought home a fledgling love interest just as a dead person (natural causes) was being wheeled out of the front door.
While my area wasn’t so much “hip” as “hip replacement”, I recently learned that I lived a stone’s throw from the latest contentious It place in NYC: an unremarkable concrete triangle speckled with a few good bars that is jokingly known as “Dimes Square”. For reasons I am still trying to fathom, a new article on Dimes Square is published every five minutes by everyone from Vogue to Vanity Fair, all of them valiantly trying to unpick the cultural significance of what is – again, I can’t stress this enough – an unremarkable concrete triangle speckled with a few good bars.
Dimes Square has even got international attention: the New Statesman last month published a piece titled “New York’s hipster wars”, explaining how the area plays a starring role in the “city’s clash of cultures between progressive Brooklyn and transgressive Manhattan” and how that “marks a new era in American politics”.
Hang on a second, I thought, when I read that article. You mean to tell me that hipsters were warring? Right under my nose? Every time I walked five minutes down the road to get a sandwich or a beer, a new era in American politics was unfolding around me? And I missed all that? The world’s coolest party was going on right next to me and I, a dork in a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, was oblivious. And you know what? I am absolutely fine with that.
• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist