I'd like to begin by apologizing to the woman who gave me life: Mother, you bought me the sweater I'm about to disparage in print. It's a nice sweater. It's kept me warm since 1996. But darn it, it's canary yellow, and I'm just too deck for that now.
Deck? What's this deck, you ask? Well, dear Mother, now's a good time to familiarize yourself with the latest in chic shibboleths. Nothing's cool anymore. It's deck. And saying cool is not deck. It's fin. As in over. Done. Dig? You can tell by the way I sling my slang: This formerly hilfiger frado is now one potently deck juicer.
Your Merriam-Webster won't help you now. Instead, consult The Hipster Handbook (Anchor, $9.95), by 31-year-old self-described anthropologist Robert Lanham. In search of my inner hipster, I visited his apartment, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, a once-hip neighborhood recently declared passe. (He's moving to Queens.) I wore my sweater because it was cold -- just the sort of unpardonable faux pas I used to pull, back when I was hopelessly be-khakied.
To the strains of the Flaming Lips, Rob suited me up in vintage Levi's, a thrift-store Duran Duran T-shirt, polyester button-down, and pink-tinted eyeglasses the size and heft of twin TV sets. My coat, or flogger, was a weather-beaten leather bomber with a broken zipper. The piece de resistance: a mesh Motorhead baseball cap. ''The classic John Deere,'' Rob dubbed my mufti. ''But John Deere wouldn't normally wear a Duran Duran T-shirt.'' We classified my look as ''ambisexual redneck'' and departed for a night of drinking. The ground rules: We were only to observe -- and never interfere with -- hipster society. ''Kind of like...what's that thing they have on Star Trek?''
''The Prime Directive,'' I answered, a little too quickly. ''Um, does knowing that impugn my hipness?''
''Not necessarily. Star Trek is a legitimate pop-culture vice.'' But, just to be safe, Rob suggested I refrain from attending any more conventions.
There is no dinner in hipsterville. We hit the hooch hard, first cruising a classic dive called Rosemary's Greenpoint Tavern (''It's depreciating a little bit,'' notes Rob. ''They used to have a Ms. Pac-Man, and now they don't''), then moving on to the Sweetwater Tavern, a rougher watering hole frequented by bipsters, or blue-collar hipsters. But despite a prominently displayed, aggressively un-PC arcade game called Big Buck Hunter II, the joint was no Dodge City: UTFs (unemployed trust-funders) had infested it. Receiving money from one's parents, Rob explained, is a regrettable but necessary element of hipsterdom.
Rob tried to rescue the punk-rock mood by pointing out a tough-looking urban Amish, but the spell was broken. Making matters worse, I caught sight of someone dressed just like me -- and it was a girl.
Screwing my masculinity to the sticking place, I expensed a car to Manhattan. (Rob and I agreed that, while the large corporations we write for are inexcusably fin, expensing stuff is totally deck.) We headed to an exclusive party given by DFA Records at a club in the Meatpacking District. ''It's all very black-door,'' Rob said, ''There's really nothing to indicate there's a party here.'' He was right. It looked like an abandoned warehouse. But behind two unmarked doors lay more hipness than even J. Lo's jeans could encompass. Informed that ''the guy from Yeah Yeah Yeahs is behind you,'' I tried my best to hide that (a) this was Greek to me, and (b) I couldn't see anything -- my pink-lensed raphaels weren't prescription.