I got paid to write the following piece for some magazine but they decided not to use it, going with something else instead. The full text is after the jump, in case you want to read about gentrification in Highland Park. I kinda don’t want to keep the money anymore, it just doesn’t feel right, but I sure as hell ain’t giving it back! I’m thinking of spending it on something interesting, something you readers might enjoy, like maybe a round of fine beers, a tamal tasting expedition to the Eastside, or a free taco for three hundred mouths. I’m not sure what to do, thus I’m asking for your suggestions on how to creatively spend this ill-gotten money. I encourage some good ideas, the crazier the better. But please don’t suggest I donate it to some well meaning charity or cause, that just won’t do. C’mon now, how hard is it to spend other peoples money? Don’t make me use it for rent!
Click ahead for the text.
Along the Arroyo Seco corridor sits Highland Park, a largely working class Latino neighborhood being inundated by a current of change; the lumbering beast of gentrification is paddling upstream hoping to gobble up this barrio and spit out a pretty shell devoid of the working people at it’s core. The MTA Gold Line has led Westsiders and real estate agents to stake claims on housing stock that once provided affordable rentals, and prospectors always bring along their design plans for the future. Uh, oh. First they come for our housing, then they come for our shops.
I like the current mix of practical stores and restaurants, but once the gentry establishes a base camp they launch into inevitable excursions of conquest. Down the street from the deliciously affordable Huarache Azteca, a small pox of gastro-pubs scar the landscape with their valet parking and pricey menus. When a burger costs $13, who really cares if it comes with aioli? A shop named ‘Society of the Spectacle’ encompasses all that’s wrong with this current wave engulfing HLP: the title of the famed Debord book (which advocates radical social transformation beyond Capitalism) is being used to sell crappy eyewear. Stylish but temporary boutiques are the universal flag of gentrification; they provide an outlet where the middle class can shop for a pretend sense of meaning, as if they could buy their way out of vapidness.
The local robot band 8bit (myspace.com/8bit) who rap “When whitey moves in, they raise our rent” have some mostly illegal suggestions for dealing with gentrifiers, but it’s going to take more than scare tactics to deal with this issue that goes beyond race and is ultimately about economic forces. I hope the housing bubble pops before the neighborhood is drowned by the wealthy seeking another playground.