We are staying in a neighborhood that is very familiar to us. It is the neighborhood where we lived, met, dated, and fell in love. We ung out in the independently owned coffeeshops, danced until 4 am in the clubs, and ate tamales from the street vendors. But even back then things were changing, and even though we didn't care to face it at the time, our early presence in the neighborhood was bringing about the eventual gentrification. It was a neighborhood artists could afford to rent in, and since artists lived in the neighborhood, it became the hip place to live. The demand made rent prices increase, artists moved out in search of cheap rent, rinse and repeat in the next neighborhood over. Eventually, artists learned that to stop the cycle, they had to beg, borrow and steal enough money for a down payment, buy a building in the next neighborhood, wait for the suits to move into the area, sell the building to them for five times the original purchase price, and move out of the city with the proceeds. Artists don't make money from art; they make it in real estate. (More on this in the future.)
So, now, instead of five panhandlers on the main six-corners, there's is one. Most of the bodegas and taco stands are gone, as are the druggies and gangbangers. The are replaced by fancy restaurants, valet parking attendants and little combo coffeshop/wine store/green grocers.
The kids needed some groceries today, so I went into one of the latter establishments today. It was three blocks from the place DW and I met. She lived on the second floor, I lived on the third. The neighborhood was run by the Cobras to the north of us, and by the Mob to the south. Both stayed out of each others' way, yet the Cobras had to contend with other gangs, and as a consequence, there was often gunfire right outside of our building. More than once I had to corral my children into my daughter's bedroom, the only room that didn't have windows exposed to the street.
The woman who waited on me today at the store commented on my ball cap. I was wearing my "Dead Guy" hat. "Is that from Rogue Brewing?"
"Yes, or a latent wish."
"Or, a 'don't mess with me unless...' hat."
"Well, I suppose there is a little of that left in me. Twenty years ago I lived three blocks north of here." I wanted to reclaim a bit of what used to be.
"Quite a bit different back then."
Yes. Even the graffitti has changed. No more gang symbols or cartoon figures with doobie in hand. The taggers speak to the new residents:
The malaise of entitlement.
The ethereal 187.
Gotta love this.
In the old days taggers would write and draw over or rivals work to claim and relcaim territory. Now, they leave comments.