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Tempest in an imaginary Chamberpot
December 22, 2012 8:50 AM   Subscribe

The Hairpin publishes a (satirical) article entitled Chamberpots: A Resurgence? about a pair of Park Slope hipsters and their embrace of chamber pots and cheap rent. The article is picked up by Curbed, MSN Money, and the Daily Mail, all of whom miss the satire, and a Slate blogger uses the article to comment on the lack of affordable housing in Brooklyn.
posted by apricot (62 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read the article when it was originally published on The Hairpin. As a Brooklynite who has had her fair share of 'creative' living situations, the only thing in the story that stood out to me as suspicious was that they lived in Park Slope, and not, say Bushwick, where this kind of thing does, in fact, happen. No way would Park Slopers let anyone do such a thing. Whereas in Bushwick, that kind of lifestyle would be celebrated.
posted by greta simone at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


The article is just too pitch-perfect. I know people in park slope dangerously close to that level of smugness.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this sort of living definitely happens in places like East Williamsburg. The original article isn't really a satire so much as it is an anonymous slice of life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on December 22, 2012


Yeah, that article is pretty much dead-on, and even the fact that it says "Park Slope" can be justified with the fact that many outlets will call Prospect Heights "Park Slope" just to use a more known title. I don't blame people for picking this one up.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:06 AM on December 22, 2012


As I said earlier: if a story seems like it could come from The Onion: Stop, Collaborate and Listen.
posted by Mezentian at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


The trouble is that so much of New York's hipster culture sounds like it could come from the Onion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


I have no doubt there are lots of people living in illegal housing in Brooklyn without plumbing, but I don’t think they’re bragging about it on the Internet.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:17 AM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Every single satirical claim that could be made about brooklyn hipsters is, somewhere, somehow, entirely true.
posted by elizardbits at 9:18 AM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


From the comments section of the Daily Mail, where a few people are pointing out that this must be a hoax:

"Would the DM really post fake stories?"
posted by acidic at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


The Daily Mail seems to lift articles from US papers/wires a lot - the Sidebar of Shame often has stories about people whose reality shows etc. aren't broadcast here (Honey Boo Boo, Courtney Stodden, those people with four hundred kids and a show about them) and with words like 'diapers' or weight given in lb left unchanged. I'd find the example I saw t'other day, but I have a headcold and I can't cope with their lunacy today. They most likely just copied the MSN Money piece wholesale sans research.

In fairness, many of their readers would believe it, though, as Little Englanders think that all Americans are a) batshit crazies who eat massive burgers b) all in therapy and overly schmaltzy c) too rich to be a member of reality. While the hipster element is foreign to their readers - they've already shown they don't 'get' goth's huggier cousin - if you're of the 'Only in America' mindset, it seems almost, *almost* plausible.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like they are probably violating a bunch of regulations regarding sewage disposal.

But I myself have embraced anachronisms in the world of the post-recession urban living. I started doing a lot of my laundry by hand when I lived in a building without laundry that wasn't near a laundromat. For the vast majority of clothing it works fine and really doesn't take that much time. I got a Laundry Pod when they were on sale at Fab (otherwise not worth the price) and that makes it go a lot quicker since it's basically a giant salad spinner. I send the really dirty stuff to the wash and fold, which is $$$. The other stuff, I soak in the pod for 15 minutes to an hour with detergent, then agitate, then drain, then soak in clean water for a bit, agitate, drain, the spin, then hang up to dry with a box fan. I now live in a building with some laundry machines and I still do this.

Brooklyn really does have an affordable housing problem though. Park Slope is the capital of NIMBYism. If you are a true yuppie even, you probably still live with roommates in a building that was meant to house large families, a market that is now small. There is very little that is truly appropriate for couples and singles. There are also some surprisingly slummy apartments there. I lived on Prospect Park West, which is considered ritzy, but my building was a roach-infested slum that was literally falling apart in places. $900 a month. I shared with three other people, which is technically illegal even though it was a true four-bedroom apartment. My commute was over an hour each way. How sustainable is a place where people can't live decently even on a white-collar salary? My first entry-level job I lived in a closet in lower Park Slope, at least that building was nice. We did only have one bathroom for three people though, so I may have used chamber-pot like things occasionally (pee in a jar...pour it in the toilet when the bathroom is finally free) when I couldn't get into the bathroom. I don't miss Brooklyn very much, mainly because housing is such a nightmare. But it does make everything look nice when you move away!
posted by melissam at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I compost my own nightsoil.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every single satirical claim that could be made about brooklyn hipsters is, somewhere, somehow, entirely true.

Rule 34.8.(b)
posted by bleep at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


I peed in the backyard once, now I have a neck beard.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


> Whereas in Bushwick, that kind of lifestyle would be celebrated.

> Yeah, this sort of living definitely happens in places like East Williamsburg.

I'm sorry, I call bullshit.

People put up with a lot in Brooklyn; not having a toilet is not one of those things. I know people who live on nothing, in drafty slums, with no access to showers - they still have access to a toilet.

New York City is huge - there has to be an example of almost everything here - I'm sure that at any given time there's at least one home somewhere that has no functioning toilet. But it isn't any sort of "lifestyle" and must be extremely rare.

(Source: I've lived in Williamsburg for almost 20 years, and I have numerous friends who are "starving artists" here, and in Bushwick...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's a lot of comment on my local forum in London about 'beds in sheds' - householders build outbuildings on their property, with few actual living amenities, which are then let out at high rates (£500 each to share what is literally the size of a shed - the average rent for a double room in a shared house in this city is £500 - £600) to people who don't have the papers or the language skills to be able to complain about inadequate housing.

The only way I could see this being a 'lifestyle choice' is if the tenants were squatters, and squatters tend to try and get their amenites working if they can. (The office building opposite mine is being squatted just now - squatters tend to be crusties or anti-capitalists rather than hipsters.) I've seen some really dodgy places, and really small/overcrowded places because Antipodean travellers or new Polish immigrants are sharing rooms to save on the rent, but y'know, even outdoor toilets are rare these days.
posted by mippy at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2012


Rare yes, but not non-existent. I've known more than one person who has stayed in an illegal studio space, paying some crooked warehouse owner $200 a month for raw space that they build up themselves, shitting in buckets in the corner, showering occasionally at a friends place, and throwing parties on the weekend. And they fucking love it.

So it does happen. Not my cup of tea, though. So glad I moved out of Bushwick.
posted by greta simone at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was apartment hunting in the East Village several years ago, I went to an open house where people were lined up on the street to see the apartment before the appointed time. The broker let us in and we all trooped inside to see this "1 bedroom" (which was really more of a large closet with a window) apartment that had a bathtub in the kitchen, all for $1700 a month. People were remarking that it wasn't bad, and it was full of light and they'd consider putting in an application, and then someone said, "Hey, guys...where's the bathroom?" And that's when we figured out that the toilet was two stalls accessed through the common hallway, shared between all of the apartments on that floor.

I have never seen an open house clear out so fast.

However, I never saw the listing for that building again, so I'm assuming someone rented it that day. I couldn't understand why, as at the time it was a lot easier to find an apartment with a full bathroom in it for less than what they were asking. Maybe some people just assume all housing in NYC will be shitty and don't do their homework when looking for a place?
posted by Fuego at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "New York City is huge - there has to be an example of almost everything here - I'm sure that at any given time there's at least one home somewhere that has no functioning toilet. But it isn't any sort of "lifestyle" and must be extremely rare."

Yeah, exactly. 2.5 million people live in Brooklyn. If the NYC split up, we'd be the 3rd largest city in the US, after LA and Chicago. And aside from a handful of self-important artists, I'm pretty sure no one here shits in anything but a toilet on a regular basis.
posted by mkultra at 9:55 AM on December 22, 2012


Metafilter comments: sounds like it could come from the Onion.
posted by Fizz at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2012


I thought it was from The Hairpin but it turns out it's from The Awl, but I'm still going to post my favorite recent bit of satire: The Amazing Reformation of Mitt and Ann Romney.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd gladly shit in a bucket if it meant I could keep my current apartment but only pay $300 a month. Assuming I shit once a day that's the equivalent of someone handing me $49 every time I poop. I can deal with that. Also I'd probably end up going on fewer benders and eat healthier.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


2.5 million people live in Brooklyn. If the NYC split up, we'd be the 3rd largest city in the US, after LA and Chicago.

If that's an accurate population figure that does not appear to be true by far. According to that Wikipedia-republished data from the U.S. Census 2.5 million people would put a city/urban area somewhere beyond the 15th largest. (Even further down once the other chunks of NYC were accounted for.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have some friends who truly do use a chamber pot (found in an antique store in Europe somewhere), but they live in a dry cabin (no running water) here in Fairbanks and don't always want to go use the outhouse at 45-below.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:33 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


We must alert all of the commode-using residents of hospitals and nursing homes to how hip they are.
posted by XMLicious at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


XMLicious, that list lumps cities + their suburbs + nearby smaller cities into one area (hence, "urban areas"). Here's the list of largest cities.
posted by riruro at 10:38 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


GARDYLOO
posted by jfuller at 10:43 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes it's exactly the opposite: you get a bathroom but nothing else. Unfortunately I didn't take a screen shot, but that really was a craigslist listing. (Self-link to my defunct blog.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:48 AM on December 22, 2012


I knew a friend of a friend who lived in a detached garage here in Calgary. I'm not sure if it was heated or insulated, but it had electricity. He would pee in the yard and probably shat in a bucket. The yard was disgusting- big dead spots on the grass, like a huge dog had been tied up there for years. I doubt that setup lasted long.

Later he lived in a gutted basement suite while it was being renovated. He had to shove his things in the corner early every morning, and there was dust everywhere, but at least there was heat, and (while I was over there, at least) a toilet.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:55 AM on December 22, 2012


Artisanal Chamberpots.

We could make millions.
posted by zarq at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


How I knew this article was satire: you can't get a bathroomless apartment for under $1500 in NYC.
posted by sutt at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The sad part is that the most unrealistic part of this story was the $300 rent.

I'd guess most bathroomless folks would use something more like this, though.
posted by akgerber at 11:01 AM on December 22, 2012


On the one hand, it is getting harder and harder to distinguish satire from reality. On the other hand, chamber pots? Seriously?
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2012


XMLicious - Here you can find the population of Brooklyn. Here you can find the population of U.S. Cities that doesn't lump NY in with Newark and Fairfield County, doesn't lump in Chicago with Gary, IN, etc. Brooklyn is the most populous borough of NYC.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:15 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know people who were paying around $300 each for their spaces in a larger communal-type space (which is unfortunately now gone, but I suspect they aren't paying much more now as they don't have it). And they did have access to more than one bathroom and a kitchen.

Their room was tiny, the place was noisy and not in a good area, but you can get such rents if you're willing to live with a lot of other people.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:18 AM on December 22, 2012


If that's an accurate population figure that does not appear to be true by far

You're comparing apples to apple crates. Brooklyn, if NYC spilt up, would be a city, not an urban area. Note that the New York urban area includes NYC, Newark, NJ, and many towns in NY, NJ and CT.

The population of the City of Los Angles is 3.7M, the City of Chicago is 2.7M. Both are large than the theoretical City of Brooklyn, or the theoretical cities of Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens or the Bronx. Together, though, NYC proper dwarfs both LA and Chicago, at 8.2M in the city.

This is different than the 18M in the NYC urban area, the 12M in the LA urban area, or the 9M in the Chicagoland area.
posted by eriko at 11:28 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the places we looked at in Greenpoint was almost this; I'm not sure what I thought about the bathroom, I was too frightened of the obviously not-up-to-code slanting raw plywood staircase you had to use to get in. It was at least a grand a month, dark as a pit, 1.5 rooms.
posted by emjaybee at 11:33 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pee in my back yard a lot (on the South Side of St. Louis), but that's because I'm trying to give the puppy the right idea when I take him out at night. (well, that and the neighbors on both sides have deer skulls decorating their garages, so it's not particularly verboten to pee outside.)
posted by notsnot at 11:36 AM on December 22, 2012


Metafilter: Handing me $49 every time I poop
posted by Anything at 11:48 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The trouble is that so much of New York's hipster culture sounds like it could come from the Onion.

I think that the problem is people reporting on our impoverished and horrifically undermployed youth as though their half-formed coping skills are some sort of fascinatingly quirky artifact of a trendy youth culture, as opposed to the thin leading edge of the grim meathook future that's coming for all of us.
posted by mhoye at 11:57 AM on December 22, 2012 [36 favorites]


I looked at a place with an ex girlfriend once, it was absurdly cheap. We got there and it was the basement. Not a furnished basement but a nook between the hot water heater and the oil tank. There was no bathroom or kitchen.

A friend of mine actually rented someone's storage closet, it had a door off the hallway but he had to hope one of his neighbors on that floor were up if he needed to use the bathroom. Needless to say it didn't last long.

Not that any of this is new.

My mom likes to tell stories about her first apartment when she moved here in 1967. She had a loft in what is now Tribecca. It was a commercial space and there was no bathroom, kitchen or garbage service. The windows were covered so you couldn't see light from the street. She claims she used the bathroom at a gas station on the west side highway blocks away, took all her garbage to various dumpsters in the neighborhood, and ate nothing that couldn't be cooked on a hot plate.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:05 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, MSN Money was not totally fooled, or they have revised their post, which now says "This seems too ridiculous to be true -- and in fact it seems likely that the posting is a parody" and "The posting on Hairpin fooled even some of its regular readers."
posted by beagle at 12:09 PM on December 22, 2012


Yeah, this sort of living definitely happens in places like East Williamsburg.

Not quite, but: when I lived in the East Williamsburg College Dormatory Industrial Park, our loft had some problems. Our window was busted open; when the heat went out for three weeks in the winter, snow fell into the apartment, and in the summer, the mosquito infestation got so bad that I started sleeping under netting. At one point, our bathroom sink fell off the wall. When we mentioned it to the super, he replied, "Huh. Yeah, that's been happening." On the bright side, we had a bathroom sink and a super, so we were grateful.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:14 PM on December 22, 2012


I compost my own nightsoil.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:26 AM on December 22 [2 favorites +] [!]


You don't pocketmulch?
posted by chavenet at 12:44 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


As an undergrad I lived in a 2 bedroom mother in law house (behind the main house) In West Denver by Sloan's Lake. Theoretically it was a 2 bedroom home but in reality some sadistic bastard put up walls in what would have been a horrible hovel of a studio. It was cold in the winter hot in the summer, the electricity was bad and not long after we moved in, the plumbing went out. However between 2 guys the rent was $300 a month, so we put up with it. We'd go to this horrid diner we called the Speed Queen because the waitress was obviously always tweaking. The landlord was always promising to fix the plumbing when he got around to it, but never did. One day, I came home from school, it was freezing, and I needed to use a toilet, BUT didn't have one to use and finally called a plumber. The landlord was angry for a couple of minutes until his wife found out how long our plumbing was out. And finally we got it fixed. And still I stayed there until my roommate moved in his satanic girlfriend. And finally moved to where I live now. In a wonderful home under the sea. Err by City Park.
posted by evilDoug at 1:21 PM on December 22, 2012


You know, as clearly satirical as the original article was, I've read about parents who use elimination communication using bedside buckets for their kids. so it's not as if chamber pots have totally gone out of style.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:34 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, those New Yorkers and "their embrace of chamber pots!"
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2012


squatters tend to be crusties or anti-capitalists rather than hipsters

This has been my observation as well. I also want to point out that squatting is a lot of work. The amount of time one spends keeping things sanitary is surprising and really puts modern 1st world living in context. Things like plumbing, heat, garbage disposal, food storage and more are constant issues.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:29 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the US Census, of the over 8 million households in New York City, 0.7%, or 47,522, lack complete plumbing facilities.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:33 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I lived in a house without a bathroom, you can bet money a trebuchet would be involved.
posted by Mcable at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


i know a man of 80 who grew up in a small english spa town. Every summer, he had to sleep in the dusty dusty loft next to the water tank (british water systems are based on 16th century firefighting: there's a water storage tank in the roofspace) while his parents rented out his bedroom
posted by maiamaia at 3:05 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I peed in the backyard once, now I have a neck beard."
I peed in someone else's backyard once; now I have an ankle monitor.
posted by Pinback at 3:12 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


trepoochet
posted by nathancaswell at 5:47 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would hope that, had I encountered this in the wild, I would have done a wholly theatrical spit-take at "sea glass".
posted by dhartung at 5:50 PM on December 22, 2012


Pretentious hipsters with their sea glass. The authentic way is to shit in a garbage-bag lined orange plastic bucket from Home Depot for four months straight while your only bathroom undergoes one remodeling disaster after another.
posted by HotToddy at 6:05 PM on December 22, 2012


"we don't have or ideologically support air conditioning"

While you people are delving into the 19th century, perhaps you should look into getting cholera.
posted by kafziel at 6:24 PM on December 22, 2012


No one has ever gotten cholera because of a lack of A/C. Improper sanitation, yes; no A/C, no.
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 PM on December 22, 2012


I'm not saying that the one leads to the other. I'm saying that the statement about the one leads to a desire to see them get the other.
posted by kafziel at 7:48 PM on December 22, 2012


If you're going to wish illness upon made-up actors in a satirical article, why not wish upon them something more imaginary? Cholera is so dull. Dream big! Your imagination is the only limit!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:29 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I laughed at MSN Money's revisionary note. "B-but even regular readers didn't realize it was satire! So therefore, it's all their fault and not ours for not fact-checking before we slapped it up! Everyone move on with their lives now!"
posted by Conspire at 11:11 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I spent a summer after college living in a manila envelope in the South Bronx. There was no plumbing or electricity in the envelope, only a sprinkling of dry sand, and I had to share the sand with a family of ground squirrels. $1700 a month, though the super agreed to knock $100 off the rent in exchange for impersonating him twice a week at his parole-mandated NA meetings. I actually ended up learning a lot about myself.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:35 AM on December 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!
posted by chavenet at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2012


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