Friday, August 19, 2005

The Great Divide: Townies vs. Hipsters

A low-level civil war rages continually between the residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Who knows for sure when and who started the conflict? It probably began when St. Paul lost its bid to name the Twin Cities “St. Paulopolis.” I guess, like any quite similar peoples occupying adjecent territory, the minor contrasts before long become major sources of aggression, like the English and the Scotch. And sometimes the tension bubbles to the surface, as in the conversation I overheard the other day at the Blue Moon coffee shop on Franklin in Minneapolis. To paraphrase:

Barrista: …yeah, what’s the deal with the war between Minneapolis and St. Paul?

Hipster-girl customer: Once you live in Minneapolis, you never go back.

Barrista: I know some people who moved back to St. Paul, those Townies.

“Townies” (not to be confused with “Tommies,” who tend to become Townies) are quite literally rooted in St. Paul. Townies are defined by the excessive charm they ascribe to St. Paul, especially Summit and Grand Avenues. They rarely venture to Minneapolis. Indeed, they’d rather not traverse the traffic—but, alas, hosts of jobs, museums, theatres and restaurants are located west of the Mississippi, so they grudgingly make the 10-20 minute drive to the land of “Hipsters” that is Minneapolis. "In Minneapolis," as novelist and performer Alexs Pate has observed, “hipness is as fast-footed as anywhere in the world.” From Seward to N.E., Uptown to Downtown, the Weisman to the Walker, First Ave to the Triple Rock, hipsters are everywhere: indie rockers, bike messengers, vegetarians, hippies, activists, academics, punk rockers, struggling actors, starving artists, literati, laptop rock artists, DJs, goths, gangsters, etc.

There is some truth in the self-image of both the Townie and the Hipster. There is a grain of truth in the Townies’ rose-colored view of St. Paul. The fact that there are less hipsters there suggests that it is a reasonably sweet place to live. After all, Garrison Keillor lives there. On the other hand, you are much more likely to run into someone with the New Yorker magazine and the latest album by The Hold Steady in Minneapolis, the city that served as Bob Dylan’s point of departure for New York. The contrast between Keillor and Dylan is instructive—the famous and beloved Townie that is Keillor is still in St. Paul, while the famous and enigmatic Hipster that is Dylan currently resides in Malibu, California.


Anonymous said...

ilya, ilya, have you nothing better to do,
instead of constantly sitting in coffee shops, go out for a brew;
you wax poetic, you go on and on,
but your persona is fake, you're such a con;
maybe try working, get your hands dirty,
maybe then you wouldn't have time to be so wordy

jecca said...

All those Minneapolis hispters are from the Western Suburbs and/or the 'rural' midwest; and they all come to St. Paul to smoke at the Turf Club, anyway. They are like the popular kids in Junior High who mistakenly assume that everyone wants to be their friend because they are so fun, while no one really wants to talk to them anyway because they are shallow and boring. As one of the best local St. Paul bands, Superhopper, proudly announces on their merch: I'm not a part of your scene.

Minneapolis: the original suburb.

PiedPiper said...

I presume the impetus for this post was my slight barb in Daily Meandering: "Minneapolis...St. Paul's dysfunctional big brother." Personally, I think you make hasty generalizations about both fair cities (although the one and only State Fair is in beautiful St. Paul), but that's the point, I suppose.

I will say this, though: The soul of a hipster is trite, contrarian, and vacuous. Just read a couple articles in City Pages if you disagree. If that's the soul of Minneapolis, I think I'll stay in St. Paul.

PiedPiper said...

Oh yeah, one more thing. "Townies" is a word people from small towns use to describe those folks from high school that never left and never will (believe me, I know). You may want to provide the hipsters at Second Moon (Blue Moon's on Lake Street, buddy) with this small fact. Most of them should know it, however, since I agree with jecca that more than half of Minneapolis is made up of NoDaks, SoDaks, Sconnies, and surburban kids pretending they grew up in the city. Zing!

Ilya said...

Ah ha! So much presumption and defensive words. The Townie in you Piedpiper comes out! (the more common usage of the word has been duly noted, thanks).

The impetus was the overheard conversation and the title of the book "The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America." Making such bold generalizations of course is not only an inexact science, it is quackery. Still, humans are intransigent generalizers, and generalizations on the basis of upbringing certainly have currency on this blog and elsewhere (e.g., NoDaks, SoDaks, Sconnies, etc.).

Moreover, apart from saying that Garrison is "still" in St. Paul, which perhaps implies that I'm surprised that he hasn't departed for warmer weather or something, my post is silent about which city is superior. Indeed, I try to amplify the merits of each city, making the rather commonplace remark that St. Paul is a nice city in which to live and Minneapolis to play. Though I agree with you that the City Pages is virtually unreadable, I would not go so far as to equate it with hipsters. That's a little too unkind.

Anonymous said...

i don't really give a rats ass about the origins of the word "townie" but that is a damn good poem to start out the comments section- whoever wrote that must be mensa members!!!