Yesterday, I went around to New York City coffee shops and bars in the middle of the afternoon to find hipsters hanging out with seemingly nothing to do and asked what everyone wants to know: why aren't you at work?
I'm a freelancer writer. You're reading the proof right now. I spend a lot of my time working at coffee shops full of people like me in the middle of the day. Sometimes I peek over at other people's computer screens to see if they're working, too. Maybe they're trust fund kids? Maybe they're hustling for a paycheck, just like me? I wanted answers from real hipsters, and I found them at the most hipster spot on the planet, Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
1. Matteo, 32, Freelance Photographer
Starbucks @ N 7th and Bedford, 2:43pm
Matteo is a photographer who takes portraits of people in their every day life. When I asked if he ever shot weddings, he laughed as though that wasn't a form of photography.
What are you doing at a Starbucks at 2:43 on a Thursday while everyone else is at work?
"I'm a photographer but I don't have a studio. I do portraits."
Is that how you make your whole living?
"Yes, but I'm looking for a second job to make ends meet. Maybe retail like I did in London."
Where do you live/ what is your rent like?
"Brooklyn Heights, my rent is $3,800/mo."
Woah. You have been able to afford that doing portraits?
"I share the rent with my wife."
What does she do?
"She works for a big multi-national as a strategy director."
2. Alex Schroeder, 27, Cat sitter
Starbucks @ N 7th and Bedford, 2:55pm
Alex pays $900/month for rent in lower Harlem after getting priced out of her place in Bushwick. She works two jobs and is trying to save up to become a veterinary assistant.
What are you doing in a coffee shop at 3pm on a Thursday?
"I'm waiting to go to my second job as a hostess in a bar in Times Square."
What do you want to be doing?
"Animal care seems to be really important so I kinda see myself doing that. I used to be an actor, so that's probably helping with the gypsy-esque part of my life. Pretty late in life I'm trying to figure it out. I was an actor since I was 13 up until maybe last year, the year before, I started getting away from the business. Everyone has to be cookie-cutter, but different. You have to go through all these hoops, you know? It was very dehumanizing, which is ironic, when you're trying to play humans."
3. Mike Pianecki, 28, Freelance stage hand
The Charleston, N7th and Bedford, 3:06pm
I found mike drinking a beer and reading a book outside a bar. He told me he makes about $60,000/year and pays $900 for a room in Greenpoint. Mike says his job is physically demanding and isn't sure what he'll do when he gets too old to do it, maybe work on the business side of the industry. He has no plans for retirement.
Do you have a side hustle?
"No, I wish I did. Everybody always says you can make as much money as you want, but it isn't the case always. It's not like you choose, I don't run things. People ask me to do things for them. They're not asking if they have nothing going on. I can't make work up. Like, I can ask for work and stuff, but sometimes months are just slow in the industry, you know. So I save up from the really busy months. I try to plan ahead, sometimes it gets tight."
4. "Mary Magdelene," 24, Sex Worker
El Beit, N 8th and Bedford, 3:30pm
I found "Mary Magdalene" (she asked that I use that psuedonym) smoking a cigarette next to a woman and her infant outside the coffee shop. When I approached her, she was not wearing the blue lipstick or holding the sign. In truth, she looked like every other hipster on the street.
What are you doing today, how come you're not at work?
"I'm kind of a lazy ho. Or whore. I don't use the word 'ho' cause I'm white and that's not a white word. Its an an African-American vernacular sort-of word, like slang term, so I'm just a hooker. I don't want to use other people's slang—their words of empowerment. I've been doing that on and off for 8 years and that how I make money most of the time. I also do internet porn a lot, and make money that way. I make poop porn. I take videos of myself shitting and send them into this website and get paid $20 a clip. I do it as much as I can which is usually every day. I'm pretty regular, you can make about $600/month doing that. Sometimes my boss is like, 'you've been doing the same position for too long you have to do reverse cowgirl shitting.' It's like hilarious. You have to angle it the right way, they have to be two-minute videos. I show myself taking off my underwear... at the end I show my face looking surprised. Its a whole ridiculous thing."
You show your face, you're not worried about people recognizing you?
"Yeah, I've done a lot of porn so I'm not really worried about my identity in that way. There's not a lot of avante-garde, street performing, poop porn prostitutes who are 24 years old."
How much money do you make a year?
"I don't really relate to money that way. $10k a year? Maybe more, maybe less? I'm really bad at working, I'm super millennial that way. I'm homeless a lot and I travel a lot. It's hard for me to step up my ho game and say 'alright, I'm going to make five grand.' It's hard to turn tricks when you're in a relationship, but I'm working through it, and my partner is really cool about it. He's super supportive, it's more about my own shit."
You said you're homeless? Where do you sleep?
"Me and my boyfriend are staying at my friends house right now. If I wasn't traveling so much I'm sure I could find a place, but right now definitely homeless, definitely feeling that vibe."
So, you're filming these things at your friend's place? Does your friend know?
"I don't know if they know, but yeah, that's a weird thing. That's something I've been like, I feel like it's the bathroom I can do whatever I want in the bathroom. People jack off in the bathroom, people do all sorts of crazy things in the bathroom. I should be able to make money in the bathroom. Like, if anybody was against that its like why would you care. I guess I don't really tell people but, if they gave a shit I think they'd be shittier than my shit. There's a lot of puns that can be made through this stuff."
5. Shane Torres, 34, Standup Comedian
Starbucks, N7th and Bedford, 4:00pm
I went back to Starbucks for the best thing they have to offer, the bathroom. I found Shane sitting in the back and he gave me the bathroom code (36982, in case anyone needs to go). I've met Shane before because we are both comedians, and I've done shows with him. He appeared on CONAN earlier this year, which is a really big deal in the comedy world, but despite his recent success, it is still a hustle to keep his career going.
What are you doing at Starbucks, man?
"I'm actually working. I'm working on a writers packet for a show... in hopes of a job. If I sit at home I'll just eat and not change my clothes, so I have to get out of the house."
Where do you live, what's your stop?
"Off the Bedford stop, I live in a living room. The reason I can make my living as a comic right now is because I can live very low maintenance. I make my living by not spending a crazy amount. The money I make, in a way, is the money I don't spend. I make sure I eat at home before I leave, I try to spend no more than $10 a day, not counting transit and groceries."
Do you mind telling me what your yearly income is?
"I haven't filed in a few years, I got an accountant now though. I think last year it was like $19k or something."
Would you ever get a day job again if you needed to.
"Hopefully I'll never have to get a day job again, but yeah, I would. I have no ego about that. But I've been given a hard time by employers because I've requested a lot of time off because [comedy] is what I've pursued. They just assume if you call yourself a comedian, but you need a day job, that you're not a real comedian. The contrast to me is if someone said 'I'm going to school to be a therapist, I need time off to study,' [employers] assume they will be a therapist. And I get that its a hard thing to grasp because [in comedy] you beg for everything, but it is a real thing if you pursue it. Anything is a real thing if you pursue it. "
There you go: we are the Hustler Generation, and we are willing to work multiple jobs to achieve a meaningful life. We just need that coffee (or beer).