Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday morning...

...and I'm in one of those strange, dislocated moods. I can thank Lauren for part of that, as her moving and beautifully expressed thoughts on moving back to New York City have made me think about my city.

Los Angeles is really no city at all, even if it meets all the legal requirements. There's no sense of city-ness, much to the dismay of people who are spending vast sums of money -- usually taxpayers' money -- to create a "sense of city." What those misguided civic boosters never learn is that real cities are born, not made.

My own neighborhood has only two distinctions that I can think of: it was home to Charles Bukowski and is one of the few places outside the ultra-radical enclaves farther North where a monument to rabble-rousing communist labor leader Harry Bridges would be tolerated.

It's a dead neighborhood, but doesn't know it. Two of the institutions that created and supported it -- fishing and the U.S. Navy -- are gone; the only remaining viable industry is ocean shipping, and that is slowly being shifted to new ports in Mexico.

So of course yuppification is the order of the day. Dead commercial buildings are being turned into trendy, expensive "loft" housing. As of yesterday, the nearest Starbuck's was on the Western edge of the district, but I fully expect to see one popping up in the "revitalized" "downtown" within minutes.

What was once a productive seaside town is now on its way to becoming a tourist "destination," if our publicity-loving, self-centered and generally worthless City Councilperson has her way.

PARENTHETICAL NOTE: Yes, I'm using a lot of quotation marks to express sarcasm. It's an inelegant way to write, but an easy way to be scornful....

If Bukowski was still alive, he'd probably be set up in a city-owned storefront where tourists could walk by and see a "poet at work." They'd let him talk to people between noon and 3:00 pm, and bring him to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for each new civic project.

The polyglot underbelly of the neighborhood is sure to be eroded in the course of turning this into a cut-price Disneyland. We have Italian, Serb, Croatian, Dalmatian, Portuguese and Mexican communities -- in addition to a fair number of us Average White People -- but I have no doubt many of these people will be pushed away as upscaling continues. Certainly, the unshaven and toothless, the retired Merchant Marine sailors, dockworkers and fishermen and the wretched refuse of a once-teeming shore have no place in the jolly future envisioned by those who can make a buck off it.

If you've read this far, you probably wonder what the hell this is all about. I do, too.

I think it all comes down to remembering the many times I've been in New York City and contrasting the palpable energy of that city with the fake boosterism of those who are trying to sanitize a fascinating, dirty-around-the-edges little burg that once had its own unique rhythm.

I never felt I could live comfortably in NYC. Now, I'm not sure I can live comfortably here much longer.

I posted another version of this photo not long ago...

Why repeat it? Because I finally found an image of the painting I was thinking of when I saw the diner lit up and empty that night...

Please don't write in to tell me I'm no Edward Hopper.

Nor, clearly, am I Charles Bukowski. Or even Harry Bridges.

I knew that already.


John said...

Some, or all, of those may be good things not to be.
Miami changed a lot 0over the years, and without a healthy bank account, it is not a good place to live. Had to jump ship. What else can you do?

likeisaid said...

Wow, that Hooper picture is one of my favorites. It's very thought provoking. I've used it as wallpaper on my computer for a long time!

As for NYC, I loved the year I lived there. My daughter is ready to move to Connecticut now, she hates living in the city.

likeisaid said...

Of course I meant Hopper..sigh..must still be shaky. :)

MrScribbler said...

Likeisaid -- I quite enjoyed the many months I spent in Connecticut. By the same token I dug taking the train in and out of NYC. Especially the trips "home;" I hate driving after I've had a snootfull of martinis!