Let's pretend, for a moment, that we inhabit a Baltimore-that-never-was–the bastard child of the sitcom Alice (“Kiss ma grits!”), the movie “Hairspray” and Elvis in his Vegas period. Put it on a postcard with a saccharine re-imagining of a working-class, small, Eastern city of the late 1950s.
Now surround it with unspeakable Lovecraftian horrors which the sane mind cannot comprehend: despairing working stiffs trying to turn a buck on a $15 pancake order; the smell of day-old lard; omelet like hockey pucks, hard nubs of cheese glued to the inside; alien pink birds; the insufferable nasal twang of rich people saying “I love it, HON!”
You have entered the Café Hon universe.
Denise Whiting's supporters say she singlehandedly gentrified Hampden. And she is a booster, to be sure, of a neighborhood once mocked, now gentrified (if you ignore the pregnant meth-addicted prostitutes in the Sev parking lot down the street, that is. I once heard one pregnant prostitute scream at another “I WAS TWICE THE WHORE YOU EVER WERE, BITCH!”–kid you not!)
And not only has she built her empire on this addled vision, but… People. Fucking. Love. It.
Yes, my friends, it's true. They flock from their tidy houses for a little safe bite of heartwarming white-folks nostalgia, dragging little Cooper and little Sophie in those SUV-sized double-wide strollers. They at the pretend blue-collar hilarity, ostentatiously ignoring those glassy-eyed tweakers and their pimps (who inevitably have tears tattooed beneath their eyes, in a white-boy appropriation of Mexican gang culture–my God, will the recursion never stop?)
And I quote from the previous reviews. Example One:
“…this place relies on your knowledge of kitcsch B-more and John Waters for success.”
While I DEARLY wish the Egg Lady would park herself–diaper, oversized crib and all–in the middle of the Café Hon, I seriously doubt this poster has seen the poo-eating scene.
But the comment is instructive for our little excursion into the deranged cultural morass that is Hon-ness. (Sorry–Hon REGISTERED TRADEMARK-ness.
” So cute, there's a ginormous flamingo plastered to the front of the restaurant and the decor inside is straight outta Hair Spray. Had the waitress' hair been done up in a “bee hive” it would have been the whole package!”
Oh, MITZI, wouldn't that have JUST BEEN PERFECT? GI-fucking NORMOUS beehives are HILARIOUS! Everyone in Baltimore has one! In Baltimore they, like, live in this weird time/space continuum? Where there's like 10 dimensions? And there are no black people? I LOVE IT!
But perhaps EXAMPLE THREE explains it best.
“personally I will take some precious hipster boutique with a twee title over a drug corner complete with junkie hookers.”
Really? ‘Cause I totally dig junkie hookers. So that must be why Café Hon makes me feel kind of crappy and sad. You know, 'cause if you don't serve rich white people a big old slice of condescension with their overpriced flamingo gear and “ironic” cats-eye glasses, the only alternative is to live in a world full of twee. (Twee! I hope you're British.) Me, on the other hand, I'll take a seventeen-going-on-seventy tweeker with no teeth any day. Yup. Because it's that, or overpriced dry hamburgers. Absolutely.
I was inspired (I guess that's the word) to write this rant when I saw that Denise Whiting, Café Hon's owner and Baltimore proprietress of all-that-is-kitsch* has trademarked the word Hon. Trade. Marked. The. Word. Hon.
I would've left it alone. I could have. I don't even think about Cafe Hon until that horrifying “Hon Fest” comes around in the fall and people I know (and actually like!) talk about how they went all Hon-drag to try and win a contest that values, above all else, absolute conformity to its founders' profoundly blinkered vision of The City That Pays Her Bills.
But she did it–she trademarked HON–and here we are, Hon, livin' the ol' Bawlmer life. Just me, you, twee boutiques, murderers, geniuses, forgotten monuments, corrupt politicians, acres of green parks filled with people fixing cars, decaying rows of formerly segregated houses (complete with riot-era brickover), trannies, a whole community from Central America, conventioneers, whites and blacks and browns and other, politicians and bloggers, writers and artists, anarchists, Republicans, living on the shore of a muddied harbor full of last year's snow and scraps of paper.
And not a Hon in sight.
*The term “kitsch” might actually be a little highbrow for what's on display here. (See Sontag.)